Adventures often spend days or even weeks in the wilderness. Whether they are searching for a lost burial crypt from an elder civilisation or exploring the land at the behest of their noble employer it is inevitable they’ll camp out in the wilds at some point.
Wise adventurers post a watch during the night. Dangerous, hungry things often lurk in the wilderlands and like nothing more than snacking on a sleeping adventurer. However, most nights either pass peacefully—the GM failed to roll a random encounter—or something attacks the camp. There is very rarely any middle ground—a minor encounter that is interesting but doesn’t end in combat.
Use the table below, to add minor points of interest or excitement to an overnight camp. Some can be nothing but a random minor distraction; others could presage an encounter or foreshadow some future event.
- A light sprinkling of rain falls on the camp. Little more than a drizzle, it falls for an hour or so.
- One of the larger sticks in the party’s campfire burns through the middle, and its bits fall into the fire throwing up a sudden cloud of sparks.
- A faint rustling in the bushes reaches the guard’s ear. It stops and starts several times over a period of about ten minutes. Investigations reveal a badger and her young.
- A sudden wind blows up through the camp plucking at the guard’s cloak and fanning the campfire. If the guard is unlucky, the wind might even blow a few embers from the fire onto a tent or sleeping adventurer. If the unfortunate guard is also inattentive, a small fire could result.
- Clouds pass over the moon, plunging the campsite into even deeper darkness. As deep shadows gather about the camp, the temperature drops several degrees.
- An owl perches on a tree near the camp and starts to hoot. Unless driven off, the owl continues to hoot on and off for hours potential disrupting slumbering characters’ sleep.
- A small, non-venomous snake slithers through the camp in search of prey. It is timid and flees if attacked. Inattentive guards may not see it until it gets quite close to them. Alternatively, those not wise in the ways of nature may assume the snake is poisonous and rouse their comrades for nothing.
- A faint drumming sound drifts through the night air. It comes from some unknown distant point and continues for several hours before eventually stopping.
- The guard develops the distinct impression someone or something is watching the camp. Investigations reveal no apparent signs of such a watcher, but the feeling refuses to fade.
- One of the slumbering adventurers—or attendant NPC—has a nightmare. He tosses, turns and murmurs in his sleep. Eventually, he wakes up screaming.
- The warmth of the campfire and the sonorous snoring of his companions begin to lull the guard to sleep. He jolts himself awake a few moments later; no-one notices his infraction, and no ill-harm seems to have come to the camp.
- Somewhere off in the distance, an animal shrieks in pain.
- The wind whistles through the campsite. The branches of nearby trees creak, groan and loudly clack against one another.
- A fox scurries through the campsite, clutching a small, limp mouse in its mouth.
- A crashing sound in the distant heralds a rotten branch falling from a nearby tree. It’s a thick branch and makes a hell of a crash.
- One of the party begins to talk in his sleep. The speech seems to be complete gibberish. Disturbingly, he occasionally pauses—as if listening to a response from some unknown source.
- Suddenly—and for seemingly no reason—a rope on one of the party’s tents snaps. It immediately begins to sag, which wakes up at least one of its occupants.
- Clouds scud across the sky, the moon’s light eerily shining through them. Deep shadows dance amongst the party’s tents. A paranoid or over-anxious guard might believe the shadows cluster about one particular spot in the camp.
- It gets unusually cold for the season in the depths of the night. Ill-equipped adventurers wake up shivering in the night.
- The guard falls asleep and slumbers through the entire night. Consequently, he does not wake any of the PCs to take their shift. Nothing fell befalls the party as a consequence of the guard’s error, but the guard does remember feeling suddenly and inexplicably sleepy just before the end of his vigil.
This article appears in 20 Things #21: Wilderness Camping.
Get the PDF
For more free content, check out our Free Resources page.
If you’d like to support Raging Swan Press, please join our Patreon campaign. Pledge what you want. Cancel when you want. Get cheap books. Even a $1 pledge is epic and helps us pay our freelancers a decent rate!