The roads are dangerous for travellers, and a roaring campfire is always a welcome sight. However, heroes should be wary of those who approach their tents at night. Flame may ward off wolves, but it attracts the most unusual company.
Use the table below, to bring to life travellers who want to share the PC’s campfire.
- Burlop the Brave (CG male human fighter 8) and Jinnid (LG male human paladin 4): Burlop can be heard from at least a mile off. His bravado, rowdy guffaws and joyous proclamations carry through the air like the trumpet of an elephant. Six-foot tall and built like a bear, Burlop is clad in muddy hide armor and a feathered helmet. His giant smile and vivacious charm are visible beneath a thick layer of dirt and scruff. Beside him trails Jinnid, his mute and faithful squire. Burlop immediately identifies the PCs as fellow adventurers (accurately or not). As Jinnid cooks a rabbit, Burlop helps himself to the party’s drink and food. He brags loudly of his own (admittedly impressive) accomplishments, asks of the PCs’ quests, before quickly segueing back into his own deeds. If confronted, Burlop is cowed and embarrassed, and flounders into a glum silence. If praised, however, he shares valuable contacts in the nearest city, or informs the PCs of a treasure he is too busy to collect.
- Jennan Royce (LN female human commoner 1): Jennan approaches the fire silently and shell shocked. Her clothes are torn, and her face is dirty except where tears have cleaned it away. To her breast she clutches a baby wrapped in brown cloth. Jennan is on the run from some threat appropriate to the PCs’ level (bandits, a rampaging troll, a vindictive dragon or the like). She escaped with her child, but the rest of her village was massacred. Jennan accepts food and care distractedly and without thanks. However, if any PC moves to touch her child, she swats them away. Sadly, their help comes too late. The child died in the attacks, and Jennan is deep in denial.
- Gryzob (LN female orc fighter 5): Gryzob swaggers into the firelight, all snarl and scowl and tusk. She stands menacingly for a few moments, then warms herself by the flame without so much as a “hello.” Gryzob was hired muscle for a travelling elven merchant until racial tensions proved too much for the pairing. The orc lost the fight, and fled fuming into the darkness to happen across the PCs. She is injured, holding pressure to a small but deep rapier wound to the stomach. If untreated, the wound festers and kills her in days. Gryzob is surly and does not desire conversation. If angered (an easy feat), she challenges her perceived aggressor to a duel. After all, she must regain some pride after losing to an elf.
- Zopher Zyznana (NG male half-elf expert 3): Zopher can be heard by the clacking of pots and the ringing of bells which hang from his overlarge pack. A tinker and trader, the half-elf is an excellent conversationalist and lively camp-mate. He peddles a range of mundane but unusual goods, from witching bells to shrunken heads to glass dolls, all while blowing marvelous smoke shapes from his pipe.
- Potlam Geldstone (CN male human commoner 1): Potlam quietly approaches the fire, and politely asks permission to join the party. A child of nine, he speaks with a nobleman’s lilt and wears dusty but expensive clothes. He has no pack, no weapons and no travelling equipment. A slightly spoiled but otherwise rambunctious and likeable boy, Potlam ran away from home three days ago to see the world. Annoyed at his parent’s overprotection, he is eager to take part in adventure. He begs to join the PCs, but fetches a hefty reward if returned to his family.
- Yezcha Silverhair (CE F halfling rogue 3): Yezcha is an unassuming older hobbit, her long black hair streaked with grey. She carries a small pack, and claims to be making a short journey to visit her son, a wealthy merchant in a nearby town. She reads a book and keeps mostly to herself, but asks to sleep in camp for the night. However, there is no son. Yezcha is a thief, and takes the first opportunity to steal a valuable item and disappear into the darkness.
- Basson Clayhanger (CN M halfling commoner ghost 2): A shivering halfling approaches the fire, and moves to warm his blue hands by the flame. He is oblivious to the PCs, consumed by a fruitless effort to absorb some of the campfire’s heat. Basson is icy cold, and his breath mists in the air. If confronted, he dissolves into an icy vapor which floats from the campground. Should the PCs follow the freezing ectoplasm, they come across an old campsite and a frozen halfling corpse (regardless of the current temperature). Unless the PCs burn the body to give the poor soul rest, the ghost returns to their campfire every night they remain in the area.
- Tuppus Smmendyyn (LG female gnome wizard 6): A crack of thunder and lightning in the near distance precede Tuppus’ arrival by minutes. She is comically misdressed for the weather, and her robes and beard are singed. Apparently dazed, she asks odd questions as to her location and nearby ley-lines, and mumbles arcane nonsense with every response. After some confused deliberation, she determines her experimental teleportation spell went somewhat amiss. Tuppus requests escort to the nearest town or city, and promises the PCs some arcane favor in return.
- Milnan (NE male human commoner 2): Milnan steps into the firelight, dagger drawn. He is gaunt and sweating, with black veins webbing his pale flesh. Stuttering, he demands gold from the party between involuntary face spasms. Milnan is a skez head, completely addicted to the drug. Desperate and willing to do whatever it takes for his next hit, he is none-the-less unlikely to pose a real threat to the PCs.
- Unlucky Petar (NG male half-orc bard 4): Unlucky Petar politely hails the group from a distance. He is dressed as an adventurer, complete with leather armor, a short sword and an unpainted hide buckler. He makes pleasant conversation as he eats his trail rations, and inquires into recent news. His own story is a comedy of disasters. Employed by no fewer than six adventuring companies, he watched as each one fell prey to some unlucky mishap. From each, Petar emerged the sole survivor. Petar is making his way back to civilization from such a misadventure, and offers his services for pay if the PCs seem friendly (and competent).
This article will appear in GM’s Miscellany: 20 Things II, available in March 2017.
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Jeff Gomez’s steady migration has taken him from sunny California to snowy Boston, and then back again. Now the proud owner of a self-sustaining online business, he devotes his time to his blog, Zenith Games, and freelance writing for RPG publishers. In addition to products on his website, such as Jacob’s Tower, Jeff has written adventures, edited universes, collaborated on classes, and line directed source books (over 1 million words in in two years alone).