Garrison Road – trickling with bandits, and bordering well-known Orc tribes in the forest. However, that is no issue for your PCs; they can most certainly handle themselves. Bandits? Ha! They laugh in the face of bandits, and Orcs exist for the sole purpose of sharpening your blades before taking on dragons, and your PCs know it. So, they decide to travel this perilous road, despite the many warnings of the dangers that lie ahead.
This is exactly what you want, because you know what is in store for them: a violent, bloody death. “Mwahahaha!” you shout as your players look warily in your direction. “Too late,” you whisper, “Down the road, you see a group of men: three wielding bows, one with a bastard sword and a light shield, and one with no visible weapon in sight. Each is dressed in various leathers and hides. They do not look friendly.”
As your players grab their dice and character sheets, readying themselves for the upcoming battle, you stop them, “They wish to make a bargain with you. A small toll. 100gp per head and you may pass peacefully. Do you accept their offer?”
PCs being what they are, you know the attempt at peaceful negotiation was pointless, but at least you can say with confidence that you gave them an out. You did not force them into their now-definite deaths. “Roll initiative!” you shout as you lay templates in front of you, ready to own some PC tail. The bandits, as you know, are motivated – not by murder, but by greed. They honestly only want the PCs’ money, and will take every opportunity to make off with it. Because of their lust for gold and silver, they have a few tricks up their sleeves: tangleroot sacks that hinder the PCs’ movements, and flashbangs to temporarily blind them. Using these tools, the bandits will attempt to cut at the purses on the PCs’ belts, and run away. Their lust, however, will not encourage them to fight to the death; they will quickly flee from a battle they are obviously losing.
The largest Orc, with his face covered in decorative blue paint, smiles grimly at the group of humans he’s found himself facing. “Looks like we’ve found some fresh meat, boys.” His Orcish tongue is gruff and threatening, even if the PCs don’t understand a word of it.
The bandits turn to the PCs with desperation in their eyes. “We’re in this together,” they plead silently as Orcs surround the group.
A variety of Orcish warriors come into the field wielding bows, swords, flails and whatnot. What do the PCs do? Do they take this small window of opportunity to try to flee, knowing that the Orcs will be after them soon, or do they stay and fight back-to-back with the bandits, knowing the extra swords will greatly increase their chances?
If the PCs run, do not be afraid to split the Orcish warband up and send half after the group, or simply send the entire warband after the PCs a few minutes later, after having neatly sliced up the bandits. If the PCs choose to stay and fight, will the bandits be grateful enough to return the PCs’ gold, or will they try to run off with it when the opportunity presents itself? Orcish warriors are not afraid to fight to the death, but the bandits still are.