Monday, February 18, 2013

Challenges for Low Level Characters: The Iditarod Scenario

In 1925 Nome, Alaska suffered from  a diphtheria outbreak that threatened to cause a considerable number of deaths.  Due to the winter weather, the only reliable method to deliver the diphtheria serum was for mushers and their dogs to make the trip on the Iditarod trail.  Several mushers passed the serum in a relay up the trail, through extreme weather and dangerous conditions.   The serum was delivered and disaster averted.  Several of the mushers and their lead dogs were hailed as heros and traveled the country showing off their animal companions.

Many old school games take place in a wilderness or on the edges of it.  This set up give the DM a number of potential scenarios that give your players a break from the dungeon and give you a chance to turn the PC's into local heroes and celebrities.    The borderlands town has been all but shut down by disease.  A curative is available but someone has to bring it to the town.  The trip to deliver the medicine will be difficult and dangerous.  The people will die if the adventurers fail.

Ways to challenge characters as they travel:

Difficult terrain: Some terrain requires lots of extra gear or special gear, climbing/dex checks, special animals to travel (sled dogs) and so forth. extra water (desert)… you can use a special mechanic to deal damage to players, slow their rate of travel due to exhaustion or equipment failure.

Difficult weather:   The characters may need to buy warmer cloths, tents, extra furs or fabric impregnated with bee wax just to stay alive let alone accomplish the mission.  During the serum run, several mushers had frostbite and hypothermia.  A number of dogs died.  The temperatures were as cold as -70 F and the wind cut visibility to the point that the musher couldn't see the dogs.  Managing resources and henchmen could be the difference between life and death for the party.

Difficult people:  Could be that bandits and highway men have an interest or even a need for healing for their own people, exorbitant tolls by local lords, rival adventuring parties trying to take the mcguffin to claim the reward and glory for themselves or large bands of refugees fleeing from the disaster may get in the way and slow down progress.  

Monsters: Maybe the reason why adventurers are the only people who can get to the town is because the town so far out in the boonies that you have to pass a gauntlet of monsters trying to eat you.

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