The Journal of
Konus of Knosa
JOURNAL OF KONUS OF KNOSA
"in combat, the details make a difference."
As the day dwindles to its last few hours we arrive on a likely site to settle for the night. The tree cover is sparse and stunted in this high, rocky terrain so we make camp with our backs to a wall of fissured stone four spears high and twenty wide. Beldain and Dominia secure a protected alcove for the horses and gear. The she-elf oversees the monk’s choice of thorny branches and brush that are interlaced to form a barrier to corral the mounts and keep any curious predators at bay. Our saddle and pack horses are much more than a convenience traveling this far from the trade road and high in the hills. I would not relish this stony path marching in full armor with a heavy pack. Amongst this group I would surely be the mule toting the group rations and sundries.
Valinor and I set out to gather firewood and clear sight lines to the likely approaches from lower ground. It is also an opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the general lay of the land. We can see much even in darkness but the fine details are often lost and, in combat, the details make a difference. Draper attends to the fire, preparing coals to spit-roast the fat mountain hares delivered by our druid along with some aromatic herbs to be used for stuffing. Our ranking priest has also found a small sack’s worth of mushrooms growing in the shade by a decaying oak. Into the cook pot they go, along with a hat full of freshly dug small white roots, some wine and a generous pinch of the spices he carries in a carved wooden box. In no time a fine stew is bubbling.The party is drawn to the fire by the enticing fragrance of the cooking fare. On a blanket near the cook fire is arrayed some dark bread and hard, sharp cheese with a few skins of wine. I am suddenly aware of my hunger and find a seat on a log too big to burn.
Draper has already unfolded his prized folding wood and cloth seat that he had crafted in one of the larger towns we have visited. A more dignified perch than my stump, to be sure. Not to be outdone, Valinor unveils from a cloth sleeve his own seat. This contraption seems to be made of an impossibly thin, dull metal with a seat woven of material so sheer it can be seen through. He informs us that it is of gnomish manufacture and ridiculously expensive. He carries on for some time with more details but I lose track of his speech as it is overwhelmed by the sound of my chewing. Soon enough we have all eaten our fill with the exception of Daneel. In my experience he attends nearly every meal but rarely eats. I must guess that he takes his sustenance while in animal form, an efficient but rather unappetizing approach.
It has been a strenuous stretch of travel. We made good time and managed to mostly stay in the saddle following the steep and rocky remnants of the old tangent although it was barely discernible on many occasions. Without our raptor to guide us we certainly would have spent hours backtracking and likely tending to a lame horse or two. In the quiet post-supper lull a series of rumbles and crashes of stone rings off in the distance. Perhaps a landslide or just the old bones of the mountain settling.
Daneel chooses this moment to inform us that he was able to soar high in the mountain air and see that the old trail we follow rises sharply before traversing the peak for a span. In a sheltered canyon somewhat off the highest point he spotted signs of habitation. This piques our attention and we all hold our questions as he describes in his soft monotone the piles of stone, bones and other waste visible from the sky. That ominous debris marks the lair of Giants. Our druid calmly estimates a clan of oversized beasts make the mountain top their home. And for good measure, it seems that the terrain acts as a natural funnel forcing any that travel over this mountain to pass uncomfortably close to their home. It seems unlikely that enough travelers pass this way in these times to provide sustenance, in either gold or meat, for a clan of Giants. Instead the lair must serve as a secure headquarters to launch raids into unprotected farmsteads and lightly patrolled stretches of road. We will have to consider our chances of stealthily making our way under the Giant’s very noses balanced against backtracking and finding another route. That decision will wait till morning when additional scouting and a good night’s sleep will give clarity. The shadows grow longer as we stow our things and secure the camp, dousing the fire early so the smoke and smells of our supper don’t carry to unfriendly noses.
The difficulties of wilderness travel are often glossed over by a GM, as it should be much of the time. But this shouldn’t always be the case. Overland travel adds an important element to a campaign and makes a very good stage for a GM to enrich the player’s world. When undertaking longer journeys, mounts are needed to carry all the gear that adventurers carry. When the variant encumbrance rules are used (5th Edition System Reference Document), mounts become absolutely necessary and players quickly learn to defend their mounts. This introduces an element of realism as players must decide how to react to endangered mounts and provide for their protection during a long rest. The way they deal with these situations often provide unexpected and enjoyable results.
Selecting and preparing a proper camp is an important part of overland travel. Establishing a safe, comfortable camp requires the completion of numerous tasks, such as hunting, cooking, fire building, animal husbandry, shelter preparation, security and much more. Having the characters sometimes get involved in this process gives them a way to exercise their various skills. Camp tasks become challenges that must be overcome before the party can properly rest. The GM sets the DC to accomplish a task, which can become harder under certain conditions. Characters that dramatically fail a check often experience harmful or embarrassing situations. A dinner that sickens everyone, or a miserable, sleepless night can all be memorable character moments.
Some players welcome the chance to find and acquire special items that afford them comfort when traveling in the field. Acquiring these things gives players a chance to spend their gold on something special, and to develop their characters a bit in the process. One such item is the gnomish fanny saddle. It is a chair that folds neatly into a protective sleeve for easy transport. Made by gnome tinkers and costing a fortune, it works quite well most of the time. At the least, it provides a sturdy and comfortable place to sit, but the magic used by the gnomes to enchant it doesn't always work, causing unpredictable results.
The incredible power of a druid's wild shape ability can make overland travel much safer and quicker. Many animal forms offer stealthful features that make the scouting capability of a form-changed druid unsurpassed. An indigenous animal seldom raises the suspicion of a lookout or guard. In the proper form, a druid can detect safe routes through difficult terrain and can avoid many difficulties. Wild shape forms often grant keen senses, superior hunting skills, and nocturnal or aquatic features allowing the druid to get into places that would otherwise be considered unreachable. A GM always has the discretion to make things difficult for a form-changed druid. Druid’s that spend too much time in wild shape often develop odd habits, such as consuming uncooked game, or desires to frolic with certain species.This can create some real enjoyable game highlights.
You can use a camp challenge to get players involved with preparing a camp. A good time to do this is when the party must establish a camp in darkness, in secrecy, under duress, or in extreme conditions. Players choose the skills they will use to complete a given task. Establish the DC of the task using the table below as a guide. As example; a camp prepared in a temperate region (DC 8), in darkness (+2), during a light rain (+1) would be a DC 11. A check that fails by more than 5 points can result in a poor outcome, such as food poisoning from bad cooking, exhaustion from insufficient sleep, a missing mount from poor stabling, or any other condition you feel fits with the failed skill check.*
* Scroll for Description Block
Gnomish Fanny Saddle; Camp Challenge.
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The Journal of Konus of Knosa