20
Aug

Side Quest: Tangle Bridge

Here is a short side-quest (map included!) designed for low-level characters for any game system where wagons and overland travel would feel appropriate. It works as a quick mission or random encounter that can be dropped into any adventure. To use it in your own game, simply fill in whatever details are needed and set any ability or skill checks that you feel would be necessary. To escalate the challenge, add an enemy ambush, false rumors, more natural obstacles, or increase the danger of falling off the tangle bridge.

 

OVERVIEW

Game Master: A wagon traveling between two locations has gone missing and the individual expecting a delivery seeks help from the players to locate it.

GM Notes are highlighted in Green.

GM Secrets are highlighted in Red.

Descriptions that are to be read to players are highlighted in Blue.

THE SETUP

You are approached by a woman of middle-age. She wears quality clothing with many pockets and pouches, as well as an array of rings, pins, and other small jewelry that looks as though it has been collected from many different regions. Her wardrobe at first suggests upper class, but her worn boots, rolled-back sleeves, and sun-baked face seem to indicate a wealth earned through work. She raises a calloused hand in greeting and speaks in a loud voice that could be heard over the din of a busy market.

“My name is Maundlyn Ritter. Merchant and trader of fine goods. I’m looking to hire a crew. You seem an able lot and I hate to see skilled folk sit idle with no work to do. So, I’ll make my offer plain. Three days ago, a wagon of mine was supposed to arrive here with a shipment of items for some of my shops. It didn’t. I sent a rider on a fast horse down the road to check on their progress but he found no sign of them. I need a team to track them down figure out what went wrong. What say you?”

At this point, Maundlyn will answer questions and negotiate pay. She is willing to offer a small payment up front to cover costs, but is a shrewd merchant and will not overpay. If the party comes back empty-handed, she will pay them nothing more. If they return with only information about what they find, she will give them a small reward. If they come back with at least some of the lost goods, the reward will be triple that amount. And if they manage to return the entire wagon, horse, and driver, they will instead earn ten times the small reward. Rewards should be based on the party level and their negotiating skills.

WHAT SHE KNOWS

  • The wagon driver is named Glim and he is a loyal worker with no vices to speak of.
  • The wagon itself is a simple farm wagon – flat-bed with iron axles and raised sides.
  • She paid for an oiled canvas and plenty of rope to protect the shipment from rain.
  • The wagon can be pulled by either one or two horses, but the shipment was a light one.
  • The wagon was supposed to start the trip five days ago, travel two days, and arrive here.
  • She set the trip up over two weeks ago and did not receive any additional news since then.
  • The shipment manifest includes: 2 weaver’s looms (disassembled), 20 tanned ox-hides, 15 bales of raw wool, 12 bolts of dyed linen, 12 bolts of black oil-cloth, 40 skeins of coarse thread, 20 skeins of fine thread, 2 boxes of iron needles, 1 hat-maker’s mold, 1 brick of pressed beeswax, 1 brick of tanner’s soap, and 1 crate of assorted fabric dyes.
  • (Secret: The crate of fabric dyes is especially valuable and Maundlyn would be willing to pay more to retrieve the undamaged crate, but she will not give this secret away easily.)

 

THE INVESTIGATION

The party can search the road between the two settlements and will find a spot near the half-way point where Glim camped overnight at the side of the road. There, he made a small cookfire, fed grain to his horse, and slept under the wagon. Further along his trip, he turned off the road and into the woods at a large, split boulder. The wagon ruts can be spotted with moderate difficulty if they are being looked for. The trail into the woods is fairly easy to follow.

If the investigators go all the way back to the previous town, they may learn that Glim stayed in the stables of the inn. There, he chatted with the stable-boy who told him about a shortcut to the next town in the woods. The shortcut can be found by going off the road at a split boulder and along an old, abandoned trail. Townsfolk will say that Glim left on schedule with one horse, no passengers, and a stack of cargo covered with a canvas and ropes. Nothing seemed amiss.

TANGLE BRIDGE

You hear an echo of running water and the creak and clap of gnarled ropes and boards. The trees alongside the old trail have been chopped down long ago to form a clearing. The weedy remains of a rarely-used camp site sit at the edge of a rocky ravine with cliff-like, granite walls. A rope-and-log bridge, grayed and weathered by time, dangles precariously over the cleft in the earth – half fallen and twisting in the breeze. A farm wagon hangs from one, bent wheel on what remains of the old bridge, suspended above the rock-strewn shallow creek that trickles far below. The tangle of ropes, logs, and canvas are just barely hanging on to a tumbled stack of cargo. There is no sign of horse or driver.

Several of the main bridge ropes have snapped and the wagon is entangled in them. The remnants of the bridge can be used to climb across, but will begin to untwist and fray if they are disturbed too many times. One person climbing across to the wagon counts as one disturbance. Climbing back counts as a second. After five such disturbances, the wagon shifts abruptly and begins to twist, forcing anyone holding onto the bridge to make an appropriate check to hang on. If they fail, they fall into the gorge and land hard in the water. This should do enough damage to be nearly deadly, but perhaps not instantly fatal (unless you want a more dangerous encounter).

Additional stress on the rope bridge or the wagon should result in a random roll from the GM to see if the whole suspended wreck crashes downward. This may begin at about a 1-in-10 chance that increases by 1 after each subsequent disturbance. If the investigators figure out a way to stabilize the bridge or the wagon, they may reduce these odds. The wagon falling will probably deal lethal damage to anyone who falls with it and certainly to anyone beneath it. Those who have a chance to save themselves at the last moment should be allowed some kind of saving throw or check to avoid disaster.

At the beginning of the Tangle Bridge encounter, everything on the manifest is still entangled in the canvas and ropes on the wagon. After each disturbance, the GM may choose an item or roll randomly to determine what (if anything) falls into the creek below, suffering whatever damage would be appropriate. Some fallen items can be retrieved if the party finds a way safely down into the gorge, but the wagon is probably un-salvageable without some very clever thinking, absurdly high skill tests, or magic.

(Secret: If the group do make their way to the bottom of the gorge, they may be able to find evidence that the horse and driver survived their fall. They have broken legs and have been crawling along the stream bank since the accident. If the investigators can find them quickly enough, they can save both. Assume that the horse dies of exhaustion three days after they are given the mission and Glim dies two days after that.)

 

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