Apr 212017

Have these situations ever happened to you?

  • You’re in a dungeon and because the enemies were a bit tougher than you thought that they would be, the PCs either have to retreat back to town to restock up on supplies or get equipment that would make it easier to defeat them.
  • Or the PCs are at the end of a dungeon and find the clues of where to go next to solve the mystery, but they have to return to town to spend some of the loot they gained, to get training, and/or rest up.

If either of these situations have come up in a game, then you know how frustrating they can be and how delaying they can be to the story line. But just because the town’s a narrative hop, skip, and a jump away doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to do things this way. Consider the following 12 alternatives…

1. Storerooms and stashes are a classic way to have the players stumble upon extra needed supplies and equipment. This could be as simple as a larder or a kitchen to something on the order of a filled silo or emergency shelter/ safe room stash. However it’s represented, it should have a variety of supplies that the players can raid. If there are instructional manuals on various topics, such things can count as training for the characters as well.

2. Hidden/ Abandoned Temples are another choice in when trying to resupply or to be able to equip your players in unusual places. It can be something as simple as a hidden shrine to one of the deities that one of the PCs worships to an entire temple complex deep within a dungeon or archeological dig. This can even be an enemy temple, but the priests, clerics, and other shrine workers still need to be able to eat and defend themselves against an enemy.

3. Neutral Salespeople often show up in video games as people who are conveniently just standing out of harm’s way waiting for players to come by and view their wares. Why not have a person be in the dungeon doing such a thing. To make it interesting they could be always be in an appropriate place by a magic item, a curse, or by the fact the monsters happen to like dealing with him. If the salesperson is able to move, she might even join the party for a while to be able to get out of the dungeon.

4. Vending Machine is another type of a trope that shows up quite a lot in video games, particularly the “zombie apocalypse” type – and works the same way that it does in real life. Put in your money, make your selection, and out comes what you bought. Similar to real life you could have a particular item be out. For instance if the monsters bought all the “healing potions” from the machine to be able to better defend their territory.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be one way. You can have a magical (or technological) vending machine be set up where it can determine what an item is and will buy it from the players.

If you decide to use vending machines in your game, keep in mind the prices are normally exorbitant. Also remember that on great occasion what’s inside can get stuck… or if someone’s stupid enough to crawl inside such a device they could get stuck as well!

5. Other Adventuring Parties are another way that players can get much needed-equipment and supplies. Maybe they’re just simply better prepared and are willing to simply give what the PCs need, or more likely they’ll sell or exchange it for money, information, or even an evening of entertainment (or to have a willing audience if the other party is a traveling troupe). If they’re of equal or higher level, they could even provide training for the characters so they can get the benefits of their experience.

6. Barring these choices other choices, the PCs could stumble into Another Dimension where they can rest, get training, and the supplies that they need. The doorway could be such that only the PCs or those of an appropriate alignment, class, allegiance, or other feature can see it. The good part of such a feature is that when they get done they simply walk back through the doorway to where they left off at in the dungeon. If the other dimension has a drastically different time flow than the dimension that the characters are coming from, who knows what changes could have taken place in the interim.

7. If the PCs treat someone with kindness and respect that they would normally treat as an enemy, you might come across a Traitor to the Cause in which in a dire circumstance those selfsame feelings might be returned.

This can happen in a number of ways or for any number of reasons. For instance, you might get an unexpected help in the form of a key in your gruel or look the other way while someone slips a cake with a file in it in order to remove the prison bars

Another reason might be that they are a different alignment than the rest of their comrades and they don’t agree with how the PCs are being treated and want to give them a chance of escaping even if they themselves don’t want to be endangered by helping them directly.

8. In the course of their adventuring the players could come across supplies and equipment in an abandoned or currently used a Public/ Private Institution like a museum, greenhouse, library, restaurant, or gas station. When playing in a modern setting you could have the setting be an abandoned police or fire station, military base, or hospital. In a modern day setting, this can be set up to be especially creepy in that the “normal” NPCs don’t know, can’t see what is going on around them and are unaware of the dangers around them.

If the location’s abandoned and vacant, who’s going to nay-say your taking what you find there?

9. What’s a dungeon without Traps? If the PCs defeat a trap, whatever’s left from those that came before them should be left behind, and if those items are a bit squished, burned, battered, or broken – it’s better than nothing because otherwise they’d have to backtrack all the way to town.

10. Items that the PCs might need might also be Laying Around the Dungeon just waiting to be found if they are smart, patient, or interested enough to search. Even in a pile of trash treasures can sometimes be found because it was inedible, the other stuff is broken but this or that somehow survived or the items could simply be a part of the monster’s stash due to the simple fact that it was shiny.

Conversely, needed equipment or supplies might be in an Enemies’ Possession, ready to be claimed after defeating them. The players might want to be careful though *how* they defeat the enemies because if they’re not, the equipment and supplies they think they just obtained might just go up in smoke!

11. Environmental Hazards are another method of getting the PCs needed items, if such are a bit “icky” from their contamination. For instance, in an area that has swampland in it, there could be someone who died trying to cross it. If the PCs are brave enough to venture into the swamp they can retrieve it.

Similarly, they can retrieve equipment or supplies from the aftermath of an environmental hazard. For instance if there was a fire or flood. What’s left behind might still be good, but the occupant or original owner never got to use it because they’re dead.

12. A final way that PCs might be able to stumble upon supplies and equipment is for them to find it in the Wilderness. In real life you might put up your backpack up in trees in order to keep it safe from bears. What’s to say that in your game something similar can’t happen in a game where someone’s backpack ends up in a tree, and those that put it there meet an untimely end because they’re eaten by something dangerous or simply keel over, dead.

When contemplating whether or not these ideas are a fit for your game, think about the following:
– Do the players really need to remain on course?
– Is there some reason why that the players cannot escape the situation?
– Are there time sensitive events that would continue to be going on in the absence of the PCs?
– Is it going to create a problem to narrate the players leaving and returning to town due to the distance between the town and it?
– Can they even leave the situation they’re in? (in some cases the answer might be ‘no’)

If the answer is yes, then consider using one of the above ways to help the players out.

Next time you’re faced with a choice of having the players head back to the nearest town or seek out one ahead, or be thwarted by their lack of supplies or proper equipment, consider using one of the items on this list to add interest to the story line and perhaps give the PCs a new plot hook in the process.

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Jesse C Cohoon

Jesse Cohoon is a serial entrepreneur, who enjoys RPGs. He's been a DM and player of 12+ years. His experience includes various editions of D&D, white wolf, BESM, amongst others. His strength comes his examination of games using science fiction/ fantasy, popular culture (video games, anime/ manga, movies), & more. His blog can be found here. If you want to have him be a guest on your blog or want to contact him to hire him to write you an article, he may be contacted at cohojes@iit.edu.

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