Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dark Sunday: Travelling through the Desert

Dungeons and Dragons likes to present itself with two basic concepts Dragons and Dungeons. One thing I can say about Athas is that you do not need a dungeon to run it. Well technically neither does D&D, but that is a bit besides the point.

While running Dark Sun I found that travel was a necessity for the game. Getting from point A to B should actually matter as opposed to just happening instantaneously. That is why whenever the players were travelling I always had something prepared for them on the road. Typically this was a group of raiders or an exotic local, but most of the time these played in to a major part of the storylines.

4th Edition Map of Athas
Possible Story Hooks while in the Desert:
  • Bounty Hunters looking for a particular party member.
  • The remains of travellers long dead whose possessions may be more than meets the eye.
  • A shrine to an ancient elemental looking to destroy a rival.
  • A village destroyed by a creature that isn't too far behind.
For instance, when my players decided to flee the city of Balic they were already being pursued by the son of a noble they had killed. While fleeing across the desert they came across the full might of the Gulg army looking to attack Tyr while it was having its revolution. These were not merely sidequests these storylines involved all of the players and made them forget they were hundreds of miles away from reaching their goal. Typically I like to let my players stew for a bit before they encounter a new enemy. They'll first find the remains of those who crossed its path, either get a warning from the survivors or try to scavenge for clues before it comes back.

Dark Sun is meant to be tough and deadly, where players do not know if they will make it to see the next sun rise. So I ask that you make travel meaningful don't just handwave it away. It took my players over 4 months out of game to get halfway to Tyr and they were itching to complete the journey.

Think about the last time your party travelled across vast expanses. Did you zip through it or was it an open air dungeon waiting for them to explore?

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