Tuesday, 6 December 2022

The Chill Lvl Zero Caravan Guard Adventure

 In this adventure you are level zero Caravan guards and nothing really happens, or if it does it’s taken place by the 'high end' guards, like level 1 or level 2 types, the real tough guys.

(the tough guys even have their own horses and camels you lot just follow along on foot)

Eugène Girardet - A Desert Caravan

So what would it actually be?
  • keeping watch
  • minor acts of theft
  • stopping the pilfering
  • getting to know the merchants in the caravan
  • try to stay alive if the caravan gets raided
  • try not to run away
  • or to let the raiders rob too much too easily
  • listening to tall tales from the crazy old man of the caravan
  • picking up bits and pieces of swordplay from watching the real guards
  • finding ways to not fall asleep or freeze if you are on sentry duty
  • hanging out with the other low-status types when the caravan stops 

Probably you yourselves are ex-slaves, runaway teens, beggars who ran out of rope, maybe just a citizen whose whole family died from plague. All you have is an eating knife and a spear, maybe a helmet for the leader, and a bell or rattle; "if you see anything, spin the rattle! ring the bell!" Better not give a false alarm though or you will get a clout round the ear.

Likely pressed into service as linkboys and for carrying stuff if the main guards have to go on an 'investigation', (you don't have to go, it’s not in your agreement, but you might get a silver piece out of it)

Some scholar (a mage maybe?) has paid the caravan master to take these 'detours' to sites of special interest in the deep waste. It’s sort of on the way and the caliph said you had to do it, not much time to explore each spot through, caravan has to keep moving on...

It gets fucking cold as shit in the desert at night. You want to gather round the fire but are meant to be keeping watch, the stars are unnervingly bright.  Can you even light fires in the desert? I suppose you can if you use dried camel and horse dung and guess whose job it is to pick that stuff up? Still if you do it well you might be rewarded with gratitude and a spot close to that particular fire that night.

Treasure for your group is counted in;
  • pennies
  • tobacco
  • new sandals
  • a proper fighting knife
  • a charm against bad spirits
  • a cool tattoo
  • maybe... a shield! (if you really impress a guard)

You are never going to see gold or silver on this trip except maybe at the end, or if asked to carry it by someone important. You only really go into the 'sites' once everything is over anyway, have to pull the bodies out, (better not mess with them or the real guards will be PISSED. They look after their own). A real, valid, caravan guard is a thing to aspire to, some even have recurve bows! (you are not strong enough to draw one), coats of coins from different realms, fine beards, scars, missing fingers, its a hell of a life boy.

'Adventures' include;
  • trying to stay awake
  • not getting scared of ghosts in the desert
  • finding somewhere warm to sleep
  • scheming your way out of guard duty
  • learn the ways of the desert
  • or at least how not to get bitten by a camel
  • and how not to drink all your water ration on the first day
  • not getting cheated by the guards in dice games
  • getting baked with half a weed stick the guards left behind
  • picking up arrows after a fight (its a penny each for a usable one!), (don't get shanked by a goblin wolf rider who was just playing dead); the group fighting one whole wounded goblin would be like an epic conflict for this game.
  • a camel has stopped giving a fuck, gotten into the oasis and won't come out
  • A guard gets bitten by a viper and has to be carried back to the caravan where hopefully he can get treatment, other guards are busy with a delve - if you can get him back he will owe you one, if you fail the guards will be pissed with you.

further aims;
  • survive to the end of the caravan journey
  • get paid
  • you are now level 1 PCs!
  • in a foreign city! wow!

Don't know really what ruleset to run this in, was thinking some classic not too crunchy sword and sorcery ruleset to represent the slightly storybook nature of events but with all the major conflicts over minor things like staying warm, winning a dice game, being able to trap a scorpion without it stinging you, finding your friends in the dark, running away from the wolf-riders without getting shot, getting lost and trying to get back to the caravan before it moves on, not passing out from dehydration.

What happens when some of the slaves hatch an escape scheme? You going to do anything about it? Work to get on the hunting party that goes after them? Or work to make sure you stay off it?

There are relatively few life threatening situations so what is being threatened by failure, your will go on, self-belief and developing heroic spirit. If you end the journey with a high WP then you 'graduate' and become a real PC and potential hero if not you end up back on the street, begging, or taking day labour and drinking your nights away and/or in massive debt. Or conversely, well rewarded by the caravan merchants for your excellent work, with coin, but more importantly, with contacts and reputation.

You could be the group who dragged Iqbal four miles when he was snakebit, good for a meet up and a story in a bar, nearly one of the guys, or that gang of fucking idiots who let my silk waggon get burned by the goblin raiders.

Could also be a low(ish) stakes social drama about the people who make up the caravan, a little section of pseudo-silk road culture. People do have to group together for protection, so could range across the social scales, could be a princess, or at least a nobles daughter in a covered waggon with its own set of guards who never leave, bunch of pilgrims on foot, scribe on a donkey..


  1. i would say DCC funnel but it serves as a testing ground to weed off extra 0 lvls and select the one you'll be playing. this sounds almost mellow. like mellow funnel.

  2. Could easily start with no system at all, and steadily introduce rules only as needed. Don't need any kind of initiative/combat system until the wounded goblin shows up etc.

  3. Damn, this won't even be in the book...

  4. Amazing, you just reinvented German roleplaying games like DSA. This is exactly what you do. Also, there is actually such Caravan modules: the Old Orkland Box has one that is very similar to your idea, Das Tal der tausend Blumen, IIRC. Fixing broken wheels and the social drama around fills a page...

    This style is mockingly called "Bauer-gaming".

    1. Now I am strangely fascinated. Truly there is nothing new under the sun.