Let’s try this on for size as a system-neutral, almost genre-neutral (easily suitable for fantasy or western worlds)…
You’ve been on the road for a few days on foot and have only seen a few people traveling either direction. The people you’ve met so far have been taciturn, keeping to themselves and moving right along without giving you so much as the time of day. Locals by the look of them, but you’ve not been in this part of the country before so you may have guessed incorrectly. You almost get the feeling that they’re not telling you something important, possibly even avoiding you simply because you’re strangers.
Just when you’re beginning to wonder if you smell worse than you think you do, you run into a group of three folks coming the other direction just about sunset. They ask if they can share your campfire for the evening and you share your meal, a bit of drink, and polite conversation until it’s time to rest for the night. The nice folks even offer to take a watch, which you happily take them up on.
Three possibilities occur during the night:
- The nice folks steal everything that’s not nailed down and disappear by first light.
- The nice folks knock you out and have you trussed up by morning. You find yourself dressed in their clothes and if there were more than three of you, only three of you remain.
- The nice folks disappear at some point and are gone when you get up.
It’s the next morning as you’re dealing with the morning’s circumstances that things get truly out of hand. A group of six official and angry-looking folks come tearing down the road, charging right into the middle of your camp. At the end of a weapon, you are instructed to drop your own weapons, lie face down on the ground, and put your hands behind your head.
You quickly learn that the three individuals you encountered last night happen to have escaped from a local prison. They are wanted fugitives.
Adapting the Scene
As a GM, this can be played out multiple ways. Whether you choose to rough up the PCs during the night’s events or only during the encounter with the posse is entirely up to you. If “The Friendlies” truss up the party and change their appearance, it’s quite possible they stash any extra people at a distance (also bound and gagged). But unless you deem it necessary, the party should be relatively unharmed by the time the second group arrives on the scene.
The “Friendlies” could be good people escaping a bad situation or bad people simply trying to do more bad before they’re caught or killed. Whichever way you choose to go, the “Unfriendlies” are on the opposite side of the equation. It’s possible the posse is simply doing their jobs and trying to return people to jail to serve their time. Or they may have their own secrets and ulterior motives.
But this can be a great way to introduce a particular situation to the PCs along the road before they get to a new place. Transition material!
My question for you – would you like to see more of these scenes? Maybe one a week? Let me know in the comments or on social media!