One of the biggest parts of any adventure is getting where you’re going. Here are a few different ways to get your party where they need to go in style.
Travel is an interesting topic in an RPG. It can go one of two ways–you might describe the journey, and make a few checks to see what happens along the way that’s interesting. Or you might just handwave it all and show up for the adventure. Both of these come down to an understanding that we want to get to the interesting parts of the game already.
And while the right vehicle won’t fix the fact that you still have to get where you’re going, a good vehicle suggests encounters to make it feel like you’re a part of the world, rather than just seeing what you rolled up on the encounter tables this time. After all, encountering a pack of wolves should feel different if you’re walking on foot or are in a carriage. Ghosts of Saltmarsh features six different boats, but boats are (usually) only good for going somewhere by sea, or maybe by river. Today we’re taking a look at how you can use vehicles to reach land-locked locations and have fun along the way.
Ah the humble wagon. This one is a classic–a no-brainer. It’s four wheels and a horse. Get out a couple of large bases, and you’ve got your 10×20 wagon pulled by one or two horses. But there’s so much more you can do with a wagon. A wagon implies goods and services. A wagon is a great target for bandits, a thing to be searched at the gate, a place to conceal illicit goods. You can get a lot out of a wagon. It brings with it an element of danger and self-reliance.
Wagon encounters might be bandits, or marauding monsters. They might tend to be all about protecting the goods carried in them. It’s a very workhorse kind of trip.
On the opposite end of the wagon, a Carriage is all about getting there in style. Carriages are usually just for passengers, and important ones at that. A carriage, depending on your campaign, might imply wealth and status. It could suggest that the people contained within need to get where they’re going in a hurry–or are on important business.
Carriages are for wealthy merchants, nobles, spies–and the encounters around them should reflect that. Carriages are where you run into the masked, dandy bandit that demands, “My lords, my ladies, your money or your life.” They aren’t attacked by goblins, at least not unless the encounter you want to have is a fish-out-of-water sort of thing. But they’re usually attacked on purpose: intercept the spy, catch the courier, that sort of thing.
This one is an Eberron invention, but there’s no reason you can’t have something similar in your own world. It’s basically a train. Whether this is a bit of magitek or some kind of elemental construct, trains are an excellent place for any adventure to happen. They’re a bit like carriages, in that the tension can come from who the passengers are–but they’re also a bigger enclosed space that no one can get away from. They tend to be faster–so you can imply danger a little more by fighting from car to car, or climbing up on top of it for a daring swordfight.
But they are a little more modern, so you have to be very careful about how you’re deploying it. This could be out of place in your world, but if you’re looking to have a fast-paced, high-speed adventure, or conversely someplace stately for a murder mystery, this is a great vehicle for that.
If you want some of the speed and danger of a train, but aren’t necessarily ready to introduce the steam engine or bound elemental cores, or whatever other arcane tricks might power a train in your world–then you can still lean on some of that with a Mine Cart. Or any other improvised vehicle. These are less for travelling from one city to another, but I think they’re a great tool to use if you have a big adventure site and you want to get from one place to another within it. Or if you need a hasty escape, you can always pull a Temple of Doom.
Either way, a runaway mine cart is an easy and recognizable encounter. Your party either needs to figure out how to go faster or slower, they have to avoid hitting things. It can be a skill challenge, OR, it can be a fast moving and very self-contained encounter if there’s another mine cart full of enemies and the PCs are fighting while they’re rushing towards the end of the track. Good spectacle type encounters can happen here.
This is less a vehicle and more a collection of vehicles, but the encounters you’d run with a merchant or traveler caravan are a little different. You’ve got safety in numbers, so unless you’re running up against desperate or reckless bandits, or an overwhelming force, you’re probably going to be safe. That said–if you want a big fight with bandits or raiders or the like, a caravan is a great scenario for it. You can try and protect passengers, chase down thieves, there’s a ton of fun to be had.
You can also make your encounters be more about the tensions between people on the caravan–maybe the party has to try and stop someone from coming to blows. But if you want to play with the illusion of safety and have a lot of colorful scenery to set on fire, a Caravan is a great tool.
There are plenty more vehicles out there, but here’s enough for you to make your party’s next trip a memorable one.