The PCs are traveling between towns, no big deal. It’s just a regular day, maybe it’s raining or snowing. Maybe the wind foreshadows some bad weather ahead. Maybe they’re just noticing that they haven’t seen the sun all day. Or, maybe it’s just a bright day and the butterflies are flying and the birds are chirping.
Things are just dandy until they run into a patch on the road that indicates a recent fight (Easy Spot DC). Blood splattered around, chunks of armor scattered about, torn clothing. What’s interesting, it appears to have been a fight between about five men against one (Medium/Easy whatever DC) Orc (Medium whatever DC). From that spot, a trail left by a wheeled device leads in the direction the PCs were headed, followed by five sets of footprints (Medium whatever DC) three of which were limping (Hard DC).
A short ways down the road trouble brews when a band of Orcs ambushes the PCs from behind rocks and bushes. At first with slings, but once the encounter becomes melee, they fight with powerful clubs and raw force of strength. They are enraged, stopping at nothing to slaughter the PCs, failure means death for either side in this encounter. It is known that Orcs will eat the flesh of their victims once they’ve been defeated, even cannibalizing their own kind.
This fight should be challenging, but not very difficult or overpowering. For a small group of 3-4 there should be one Orc for each member of the party and the Orcs should be tough, but not unbeatable in a 1-on-1 fight. Ganging up on an Orc should spell defeat for it.
For a larger group of 5-6 there should be one fewer Orc than party members (4-5) and the Orcs should be a bit tougher, almost unbeatable in a 1-on-1 fight. Ganging up on an Orc should be the key to victory.
The Orcs are not trained warriors and will not focus their attacks on any one PC. They will sometimes gang up and sometimes disperse, moving between targets before finishing any off. They are wild barbarians and should fight as such. Do not keep one Orc standing still, fighting one PC for the encounter.
Once the Orcs are defeated, there is little treasure to be found on their bodies. They had clubs and slings and their clothes. You can add a few trinkets if you wish.
“Wow,” your players might think as their PCs continue their travels, “I wonder what provoked such a vicious attack.”
Try to disguise your manaical chuckling as they spot the final enraged Orc charging towards them from down the road, club in hand.
This should be another challenging fight, for it is against the chieftain of the Orcs. He wears a headdress and wields a heavy spiked club and wears tattered leather armor for protection. He should be a match for the PCs, even injured as he is, but shouldn’t be as difficult as the fight before.
Remember that his rage makes him agile and strong, he will get a number of initiatives equal to half the number of PCs, rounded down (4-5PCs=2 initiatives, 6PCs=3 initiatives). His hits should hurt to the point that a PC is afraid of being hit. He should also be able to withstand an assault of arrows and sling pellets from afar and a couple rounds of combat, but this fight should not drag on.
Now, it is time for the PCs to be rewarded for their troubles. The Orc chief, when felled, will be carrying a powerful totem that grants him Strength or Speed or Toughness, something to explain his powerful combat prowess. It is also known that the chieftain’s headdress is a valuable prize.
Down the road, the PCs will find the result of another combat, similar to the marks on the patch of road from earlier, only this time there are the corpses of five of the city guard. One of which was a sergeant, as he was carrying his seal. The guards had some decent equipment, maybe better than the PCs. They also carried some gold. Beside them is a wrecked cage sitting on two wheels and made of iron. The sergeant is carrying a log detailing their tracking and live capture of the Orc chief, with plans to interrogate him as to the whereabouts of his tribe.
Bringing the sergeant’s seal to the lieutenant or captain or higher up of the guard will reward the PCs with a hefty sum of gold, showing the headdress will grant them even more rewards.
This encounter is made as a simple replacement for a random encounter in your game, much like the Garrison Road Encounter. It’s a fun little sidetrack from your normal story or dungeon crawl. A simple distraction for a group craving some action.