About a month ago, James Raggi posted about the now-underway LotFP Free RPG Day Kickstarter. The module ("Better than Any Man") is a hexcrawl around Karlstadt during the Thirty Years War, and he put out a call for "'random' and placed wilderness encounters that aren't connected to the main ideas of the adventure but that support the atmosphere."
Since I'm theoretically running a game that takes place in Germany during the Thirty Years War, I've got a notebook full of Stuff To Do... so I pinged him and offered to throw together a few.
The Kickstarter's closed out (successfully! yay!), and it looks like they're not getting used (and, to be honest, I didn't really expect them to), so I figured I'd post 'em here. Silly to let content go to waste when I've got a blog that's starved for attention.
A village sits near the edge of a field. It's unnervingly quiet: no voices are heard, no sound of livestock, no smoke rising form chimneys. In the field, certainly a place for local celebrations and fairs years ago, stands large tree. Dozens of nude corpses are hanged from it, like foul fruit.
The village is thoroughly looted. All of the bodies are adult and male, but there are no other people to be found. Similarly, all of the livestock is missing.
(Mostly this is just an excuse to reference Callot's Les Grandes Misères de la guerre: #11 - The Hanging which is, to me, one of the most evocative pieces about the period.)
A few miles away, there's a group riders in the colors of [Karlstadt], armed dangerously. They've noticed you and are galloping your way, readying their weapons!
These riders are looking for trouble: they're searching for scouts from the Swedish army to capture or kill. They'll likely assume that's what the party is. If they're not traitorous, heretical troops, what are they doing wandering the German countryside when they should be in Karlstadt, preparing to fight off the same.
(I'm saying [Karlstadt] because I've forgotten who's supposed to be in control of it. Someone Hapsburg, I expect, but Tilly? Wallenstein?)
A lone farmhouse quietly sits on the edge of a ragged, poorly tended field. No smoke rises from the chimney, but there are faint sounds of movement coming from within.
The house is wreathed in a strong, foul odor which. The sounds are from rats, feasting on a family's worth of corpses arrayed throughout the house. The corpses are but a few days old: an ill-advised examination of the bodies will reveal large, tumescent buboes in the armpits and groins of the bodies. The Plague!
(I have no idea if you think it's a good idea for the PCs to catch the plague. I'm assuming not. Besides, it's been my experience that PCs run, fast and hard and immediately, from anything that looks like it might be the plague… so it doesn't really matter if I want them to be able to catch it or not.)
Looking for Pic-a-nic Baskets
While camping for the night, a large snuffling shape wobbles and shuffles in from the darkness: a mangy, gaunt bear begins pawing at one of your packs!
People aren't the only things starving in the Palatinate. This animal is hungry enough to brave a group of people to rummage for anything to eat. It will certainly attack anyone who attempts to stop it from tearing through packs and eating anything it smells and, depending on how much food it's able to rummage out of those packs, it might attack the party anyway.
(Sorry; I've got to throw this one out here. This encounter killed nearly half of the party in my game; nothing fancy, just bears and death. :) )
"The war will feed itself."
Screams and cries can be heard coming from a village: soldiers in Swedish colors are butchering its residents. They're too preoccupied in visiting misery upon their victims to notice you… yet.
These are scouts for the Swedish army, riding ahead of the main force. They're taking food because they're hungry, shelter because they plan to camp here for the evening, and lives because of the horror of Magdeburg. They'll be wary of any interlopers, but will quickly become friendly to the party if they can prove themselves to be Protestant. They will attack if they believe the party to be Catholic, however, fighting with an unusual ferocity and offering no quarter… just "Magdeburg Justice."
It was a fun exercise to try to take what's in the notebook (which tends to not be much more than or ) and expand it out into more detail.
Also, regardless of not contributing in terms of words, I'm still very much excited about the campaign. I'm in for more print copies than is probably advisable, but even at the lowest it was a great freaking deal and should turn up a lot of great stuff.