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Roll up a mountaintop experience for your PCs

Roll up a mountaintop experience for your PCs

Many quests in fantasy games (such as the brand-new Tales of the Valiant roleplaying game) involve ascending a mountain top to find a mystic artifact or explore an ancient temple. The ending is sure to be exciting, but what about the travel itself?

These tables help you set up a mountaintop experience! Roll 3d8 on the Mountain Encounters table, one for each column, and combine the Scene, Creature, and Action results using your imagination to create something unique for your campaign.

Have fun with the results you get. If a result seems incongruous, ask yourself why it could be like that and embrace the strangeness.

Mountain Encounters
d8SceneCreatureAction
1A path along a ridgeStone giantsA group of creatures, one is dying
2A cave which descends deep into the mountainIce elementalsTwo creatures arguing or fighting
3A cliff which must be climbed to follow the pathTrollsSuspiciously spying on a nearby bard
4A chasm caused by an earthquakeGiant snow batsEchoes of a dirge chanted in an ancient language
5An enormous throne carved into the mountainWere (polar) bearSentient storm affecting the area
6A statue carved from iceGremlins (made of stone)Digging with mining tools
7A small hut made from deciduous tree woodMetal constructs (like a bear trap)Obsessively protecting the area
8An enormous skullCloud giant skeletonsGhostly reflections trying to communicate

Scenes

These are the areas where the encounter takes place.

The PCs are following a path along a ridge which becomes so narrow that a successful DEX check is needed to perform any tricky activity (such as combat). Creatures failing the check fall to a ridge below.

The PCs find a cave which descends deep into the mountain. The entrance is small, just large enough for a Medium creature to crawl into. A smaller creature suitable for the environment is inside the cave while a larger one arrives outside.

The path the PCs are following stops at a cliff which must be climbed to follow the path. The creature found here is at the top of the cliff looking down on the PCs.

The path crosses a chasm caused by an earthquake. Investigating shows that this earthquake happened recently. The creature here is crawling out of the chasm.

The PCs come across an enormous throne carved into the mountain. The throne looks out over the valley below. The creature will be on the throne, although a successful WIS (Insight) check will show that this creature isn’t native to the area and doesn’t understand the throne anymore than the PCs do.

The PCs find a statue carved from ice. The statue is of a creature from an ancient unknown race and it radiates elemental magic.

The path passes a small hut made from deciduous tree wood. The hut is made from woods of trees from a warmer climate far from this region. The creature is within this hut.

The PCs find an enormous skull, that of a titan (or perhaps an even larger creature). The skull is currently the home of the creature found here.

Creatures

These are the creatures present in this encounter. Decide the number of creatures based on the numbers and levels of the PCs.

These stone giants are native to the area and know the path the PCs are on very well. They carry huge mithril axes.

The ice elementals were recently summoned and know nothing of the area. They are agitated as they don’t know who summoned them or why.

The trolls are native to the area, although they live in caves below and have recently traveled up the mountain.

The giant snow bats are similar to giant bats in the Monster Vault that the PCs might have encountered before, but they have adapted to colder environments, with gray fur on their wings.

The were (polar) bear when first noticed appear as their Humanoid form, but shapechange into their polar bear form if the PCs are even slightly hostile or if they smell like fresh meat.

The gremlins (made of stone) have been in the area for hundreds of years. They were created by a warlock long ago.

The metal constructs (like a bear trap) are Small creatures that look like metal jaws with horrendously long teeth. They move with a hopping motion and attack any living creature on sight.

The cloud giant skeletons are the undead remains of giants who lived in the area centuries ago and have been undead for ages. (Check out cloud giants in non-skeletal form for another option!)

Actions

These actions describe what’s happening as the PCs approach the encounter.

The PCs find a group of creatures, one of whom is dying. The other creatures are concerned about their fallen comrade and are protective of them.

As the PCs approach the area they hear two creatures arguing or fighting. The creatures notice the PCs as they get closer, but it’s possible to surprise the creatures, as they are currently distracted.

As the PCs approach the area they hear singing in Common. The PCs find the creatures suspiciously spying on a nearby bard. The bard has not noticed the other creatures yet.

As the PCs approach, they hear echoes of a dirge chanted in an ancient language. The dirge is not voiced by the creatures found, but comes from the rocks of the mountains themselves.

The PCs find a sentient storm affecting the area. The creature found is affected by the storm. The storm does not speak except for a low moan, but can attack with effects such as a gust of wind or lightning bolt spell. The storm can be attacked as a living creature.

The creatures are found digging with mining tools. They are either trying to dig a hole or expand an existing mine, looking for something valuable.

The creatures are obsessively protecting the area, not allowing the PCs to pass saying, “the stone must be allowed to live.”

When the PCs encounter the creatures, they also see ghostly reflections trying to communicate with the creatures. These are spectral versions of the creatures, and attempt to speak, but they make no sound. They are the ghosts of the creatures’ ancestors.


about Jason Campbell

Jason Campbell is the creator and lead writer at the RPG site shadomain.com which publishes articles, reviews, interviews and news weekly. He is the author of adventures for various RPG systems. He started playing RPGs with Basic Dungeons & Dragons in 1981 and has played and written for many RPGs. 

1 thought on “Roll up a mountaintop experience for your PCs”

  1. Cassiopeia Nebula

    frigid cache: A serene grove, open to the sky but locked in by brush. No occupants, Flooded water, waist deep and brackish, posing difficult terrain for most average-sized creatures.

    but it seems youre not the only one who knows about this cache… it looks like some ropes are strewen about on the ground, leading into the sinkhole. looped pitons were hammered into nearby boulders. the loops arent large enough to thread through with the ropes.

    the muddy ground was peppered with footprints. it looks like a group was here.

    as you inspect the area, you hear approaching voices and the thudding footfalls of people approaching.

    Goading encounter. Draw out an apex predator or jealous boss by defeating 4d6 + 6 minions or offspring (each CR 0 or 1/4) quickly within 2 rounds.

    hobgoblins! a hobgoblin captain approaches, followed by ten hobbos. the hobgoblins carry what appears to be a heavy pulley.

    when they see you, they retreat behind the trees and nock their arrows, prepared to do battle. they wont come out anytime soon. perhaps you can flush them out somehow.

    with great effort, you rout the hobgoblins and take their pulley. it fits perfectly in the pitons! you attach the ropes and strain to pull up whatever they’re attached to in the water. it’s heavy, and slow going, even with your entire party pulling at full strength.

    a rusty strong box emerges from the water, and you use the pulley to drag it through the mud and onto solid ground.

    the lock had rusted shut. your rogue checks it for traps… it had a trap at one point, which had rusted away. your fighter – a smith by trade – takes a good ten minutes to safely dismantle the chest.

    inside the waterlogged chest you find various rusted trinkets, some in good condition, and 500 gold! there’s a very old, heavily tarnished silver brooch engraved with a two-headed wolf, and set with a glittering ruby. a pricey find, if you can clean it up.

    but that cantankerous mayor back in town might be interested.
    she’s the latest heir to inherit rulership of the town, and her family crest – the two-headed wolves – had long ago lost this brooch. she might reward you handsomely for its safe return.

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