With the prologue out of the way, its time to get things started. I'm not a novelist, so am doing this on my own limited understanding on how to freak the fuck out of my players. I know its hard, but challenging stuff can also be fun. Even if they dont get spooked, I imagine they'll still get a kick out of killing nameless horrors from eventually beyond the stars. I want to avoid the players running into the actual threat, especially at the start, just to keep them wondering what the hell "it" is. You know, let their imaginations ferment and cook up their own speculations.
So, the first encounter on the agenda is a goblin ambush. Standard fare, which is intentional since A) goblins make sense in the Shadow Marches, and B) they are level 1. Hopefully it'll give them a surprise twist since they are likely expecting to run into some sort of gibbering monster from their own mental machinations.
Encounter 1: Goblin Raiders
- 1 goblin hexer (level 3 controller)
- 1 fire beetle (level 1 brute)
- 6 goblin cutters (level 1 minion)
- 1 goblin warrior (level 1 skirmisher)
I rounded out the roles really well, and if the party had a sixth member I'd toss in a blackblade for some backstabbing fun. To make the encounter more interesting, it takes place near a really swampy part that has some deep water for the goblins to hide in, while the hexer uses a charm to control the fire beetle, and waits on the other side.
The idea is that for the first round, the goblins take an attack penalty from fire attacks due to them being submerged in the water. This allows me to better use the fire beetle's breath attack with less worry about vaporizing my minions. Otherwise it includes most of the terrain features I mentioned in the past, so hopefully makes for a dynamic encounter with large trees being set on fire.
Encounter 2: Centipedes
This encounter is something I want to throw at them as dusk sets in, but before they settle for the night (or perhaps after they pitch camp). Whatever happens, I want them to get in an extended rest before pressing on. In the night, I expect that they wont be able to fully ascertain the attackers, so they can play up their imagination briefly.
- 2 centipede scuttlers (level 4 skirmisher)
- 1 centipede swarm (level 2 brute)
Encounter 3: Shallow Grave
Their journey almost done, the party notices a dead body in the deep water. It has the treasure parcel of the character that lived the longest during the prologue, and is "guarded" by two visejaw crocs. After the encounter if they examine the body a Heal check reveals that he/she was dead before the crocs got to him/her (dun dun duuuuun). Oh, and there is also lootage.
- 2 visejaw crocodiles
Next Time: Shardpit
Aaand thats it for the trip there. Mostly want to build up some suspense and try to fake them out until they get to the village where all the shit went down. Most of the encounters are appropriate for their level, or lower. I want to give them a chance to get one level under their belt before they face off against the final encounter, so we'll just call this "XP padding with another agenda."