En Route
Preventing an overland journey from deteriorating into a tedious succession of random encounters has always been a struggle for me as a DM. Therefore, when the player characters found themselves over 300 miles from the next plot point in the main storyline, I was keen to try out some of Penumbra's mini-adventures:

Dancin' The Night Away 
"A travelling party is charmed into serving at a pixie's dance and must escape." 

  • very harsh: all of the DC 20+ Will saves are not something that I would want to inflict on my players very often. If you take away their ability to act, then you reduce them to a passive audience. They are sure to find this trying on their patience. 
  • However, it is in keeping with the reputation of the fey as enchanters and illusionists. Gwydd and his band of cheeky tricksters are only after a bit of fun at the adventurers' expense, but their ploy stands a significant risk of backfiring. 
  • The player who heard Amadan's warning should have known better, but he fell for it hook, line and sinker. Fortunately he had the diplomacy skills to patch things up once he had realized his mistake, but not before half the party had succumbed to sleep arrows. 
  • keep in mind that, according to the Monster Manual, the pixies' sleep and memory loss arrows do not do any damage (contrary to what is stated in the text of the adventure). 
Dead Drunk 
"While visiting an inn, the party runs afoul of a drunken poltergeist that possesses one of the players."

  • a great scenario to use when one of your players skips a game (as an NPC, his drunken antics are more inexplicable) 
  • the player in question is still wondering what his character got up to in his absence - it has become something of an in-joke amongst the others. 
The Fox's Fraud 
"A small party meets a waylaid traveller alongside the road, who is really the leader of a bandit troupe that uses subterfuge to mask its small size."

  • my players were not intimidated at all by the ruse, and attacked the bandits immediately. You will need to put in a lot of effort to sell this scenario convincingly. 
  • dependent upon Spot and Listen checks for the adventuring party to know that they appear outnumbered. Many of the characters were oblivious to the fact, and acted accordingly. 
Goblin Trippin' 
"Although goblins and men rarely coexist peacefully, one particular band of goblins has more than a malicious gleam of hatred in its eyes. What has stoked these wicked creatures' fury so greatly?"

  • by interrogating the Goblins, they discovered that a nearby village's grain supply had been infested with ergot 
  • a good encounter for the druid (or any herbalist) to shine, while also providing an opportunity for heroism in warning the village 
The Hellcow 
"After a strange encounter with an old man and a cow, the party has to deal with a troublesome spirit that possesses animals."

  • the heroic ranger who rode forth to assist the farmer was suitably perturbed when the old man clutched his chest and fell to the ground 
  • there was much discussion amongst the players whether to eat the cow or leave it be 
  • a great encounter for adding a touch of humour to an overland adventure, with plenty of opportunities for the players to attempt creative solutions 
A River Runs Through It 
"Religious fanatics and a pack of mischievous pixies block the party's progress across a swollen river, demanding that they submit to an embarrassing ritual before crossing the only bridge."

  • one of the player characters submitted to having all her hair shaved off, but the others were having none of it. 
  • with only 13 hit points, Shoshanna was an easy target, standing on the bridge. She toppled into the water and Andros, her charmed bodyguard, dove in after her ... in half-plate armor 
  • the party included an elf and a half-elf, who were immune to the pixies' sleep arrows 
  • in the end, a last minute diplomatic plea from the party druid saved the day. Fortunately, none of the pixies themselves had been attacked, so their attitude was only Unfriendly and not Hostile. The druid convinced them that the joke had gone far enough, and they called a truce. 
Sideshow Of Doom 
"An evening's entertainment turns to terror when the heroes discover that the freaks in a sideshow have been created from former spectators."

  • a good scenario involving detective work. My players enjoyed piecing all of the clues together. 
  • brought out some character abilities that had previously been little used: gave the Ranger an opportunity to use tracking; the Druid put his Spellcraft to good use; and the Rogue employed Use Magic Device on Gadrian's wand, to return the sideshow freaks to normal. 
  • Circus of Fear, the Penumbra adventure due out in 2002, was never published. 
Wayfarer's Rest 
"The party stops at an out-of-the-way inn, which turns out to be owned by a bunch of murderous maniacs."

  • EL of 5 is totally misleading! Shanson is an 8th level Ranger with four companions (not including the minotaur), meaning that the EL is more like 9 or 10. 
  • Found myself fudging a lot of dice rolls, to avoid a Total Party Kill. 
  • Splitting up the party, as this adventure does, can be very cumbersome to DM. 
These are only a sampling of the many mini-adventures contained in this book and its sequels (En Route II and En Route III). An indispensible gaming resource that transforms "random" encounters into unforgettable events.


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