20 Uneventful Days of Travel in a Desert

Not every day in an adventurer’s life is packed with excitement, battle and glory. Sometimes, nothing of note happens, but a GM wants to give some detail and substance to the nothing.

Use the table below, to describe an uneventful day’s travel through a sun-scorched desert:

  1. Around midday, a few wispy clouds scud by high up in the sky but provide no shade from the merciless sun.
  2. The day’s travel is unremarkable except for a broad swath of soft sand. With every step the PCs sink almost ankle deep into its cloying embrace; progress through the area is torturously slow.
  3. A fierce wind blows up from the south. For a few minutes, it seems a sandstorm might be in the offing, but the winds abate as quickly as they came.
  4. As the party crest a dune, its peak gives way; unwary PCs find themselves tumbling and sliding down its steep flank.
  5. Stirred up by sporadic wisps of wind, dust devils dance about the party for much of the morning. The wind drops to nothing after midday, and the dust devils do not return.
  6. High up in the sky some vast winged beast flies over the party, its shadow gliding over the hot sands. The creature does not notice the party—or if it does it ignores them.
  7. Unrelenting heat is the order of the day. The air is still—almost preternaturally still—all day; around midday the temperature reaches a new high. Travel, without magical protections, is virtually impossible.
  8. The party travel through a particularly desolate, empty stretch of desert. For the entire day, they see nothing but sand, sky and each other. It is crushingly quiet and stiflingly hot.
  9. Today, the desert is a furnace. Heat shimmers—and nothing but stark, barren sand—surround the party.
  10. This day is uneventful except for a few dark clouds slowly sliding majestically across the sky.
  11. A small pack of vultures shadow the party for much of the day. Perceptive PCs spot them circling several hundred feet away. They follow the group for much of the day—unless driven off—but lose interest as dusk falls over the burning sands.
  12. In the early afternoon, the party crosses over the tracks of another group of travellers. Skilled trackers can tell the other party were about 20 strong and most of them were mounted on camels.
  13. In this section of the desert, the dunes are particularly densely packed with steep valleys between them. Travel, consequently, is slow.
  14. In the mid-morning, the party passes a single gigantic cactus standing in the lee of a shallow, wind-swept dune.
  15. Today, the PCs discover a small oasis sheltering in the shadow of a low range of sun-blasted, unnamed hills. A few stunted trees and bushes survive about the pool’s fringes. (This is a good place to replenish the party’s water supplies.)
  16. During the early evening, the party spy a small herd of wild camels grazing on a few stubborn clumps of grass growing in the valley between two dunes. The camels are only a few hundred yards away from the party—perhaps close enough to hunt or catch!
  17. During their day’s travel, the party come across the distinctive undulating tracks of a snake in the sand. By the look of the track, it was a gigantic specimen.
  18. About midday, the party discover the steep banks of a long ago dried up river. The crumbling banks are almost 20 feet high. Unless the party can cross this barrier, they must spend several hours diverting around the deep gully.
  19. Clumps of grass struggle above the shifting sands of the relatively flat section of desert through which the party pass. Toward the end of the day, they discover the tottering ruin of a small building of baked brick built into a small stony cliff.
  20. During the early morning, the party crosses the cracked, dried up bed of a small lake. Several times during the morning they pass by small hills—once probably islands—as stark and barren as the lake bed.

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This article appears in 20 Things #24: Sun-scorched Desert.

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3 thoughts on “20 Uneventful Days of Travel in a Desert

  1. Another useful table. Whether its a encounter of import to the story or filler for an uneventful day on the trail, I find myself turning more and more to tables from Raging Swan Press to improve my D.M.ing. Thanks again, folks!