Game number three was about getting everyone from point A to point B, getting people in a good place to address large gains from leveling, and of course, further messing around with the characters.
Ahead of time I statted out several random and not so random encounters.
Of course, this means queue up a player rolling natural 20's for random happenings during the night. Mind you, this is our half-orc fighter, who has yet to roll any sort of critical when trying to hit something... but gets them instead for things like "does anything interesting happen tonight?"
I certainly didn't want to use my more interesting night-time encounter on the first night, so I pulled out something a little more on the random side, and had a bunch of awakened shrubs trying to dismantle the wagons. This ended up as a less than glorious fight, with neither side doing much damage to the other for the most part. The dragonborn barbarian spent the fight for the most part asleep and farting, and the gnome warlock spent it (once he woke up) laughing his ass off at his companions flailing ineffectually at shrubbery.
As for the dragonborn barbarian, my plans for him started out with some lucid dreaming. This was spread over a series of nights, so the dreams could develop and grow. Also to give more time for the character to react.
So back tracking a little to the first game, the shrine in question was to Arwan (and since I'm being lazy and not linking to all my research, here's just the Wikipedia entry on him). Things started out with just a general feeling of being watched, but no matter what the source of being watched couldn't be identified or located, and no one else noticed anything. Then the dreams started.
The first dream started off with Daqurin running through the woods, and considering his lack of night vision, he can see shockingly well. A howl rises up around him, through him, as the white hart he's chasing stumbles as the flanking hounds leap out, taking it down. As he joins the hounds in tearing into the hart he notices that the hart is staring at him directly. Then he woke up with the taste of blood in his mouth.
Dream number two starts out with running through the woods again, but this time the howl doesn't go through him but spurs him to run faster in fear. He stumbles and the hounds leap out and take him down, teeth tearing into him. He see's the hound he was the night before, tearing into his hindquarters, then wakes up. This time he walks up to the half-orc fighter and asks Halcron to punch him in the face to make sure he's actually awake.
The next night something disturbs Daqurin's sleep, a feeling of being watched. A large hound, all white with red eyes and ears stands over him. He attempts to speak to the snarling hound, realizing that there's something not normal after several nights of dreams. The hound lunges for Daqurin's face, and he wakes up.
Another day passes, and Daqurin has evening watch duty. Then he hears a voice from next to him speak up.
"So, I have to ask, are you trying to get on some sort of holy shit list?"
There's a slight woman reclining by the fire to his side, dressed in dark clothing and leather armor. He does a well on his perception check, enough to realize that the leather armor is actually dragon scale, and to get a pretty good idea that if she wanted to kill him, he'd be dead. In his defense, this NPC happens to be a high level PC from a game I played many years ago (Loren), and the barbarian is only level 2. With dragon scale armor, he's not particularly surprised.
The jist of the visitation is that amends need to be made, and that defiling a shrine isn't exactly winning him any points in his quest for redemption. Arwan might have even had some interest in Daqurin at one point. However, being in exile does not mean there is no chance of return. But nothing comes for free, and sometimes it's hard to get a god's attention. He's instructed to seek out the temple of Arwen when they reach the city they're traveling too, and if needed to tell them that he was went by Loren.
As for the rest of the party and daytime adventures, we again get a natural 20 on a largely superficial roll for talking with some random travelers, meaning they get some advanced warning about what's waiting for them down the road.
Man, boar are interesting and nasty animals. I had fun researching them for this encounter. These creatures are crafty, rabidly protective of their young (at least the mothers are...), violent, and cannibalistic.
So of course I threw in a pack of sows with piglets who decided that the riverbank right next to the bridge is a perfect place for a wallow. The encounter starts out with two sows and some piglets visible, and it starts out alright. Some damage is done by the surprise flanking attack from the third sow (seriously, these guys set up flanking attacks... also sounds of fighting often attract other boar because they like fights... and maybe snack on the loser of the fight), but they did pretty well against the boar. Things would have likely been more interesting had they not known they were riding into an encounter, but hey.
I had one big night encounter planned, the one I didn't want to use on the first night. And the fighter makes a natural 20 on his perception check... and the player was actually perceptive enough to pick up on the details.
The creature for the encounter is a pocong, for which I took a ghost (Monster Manual, p. 147) and worked it into something approximately what I was looking for and of appropriate challenge rating. Pocong appear as a shroud wrapped form, hooded and bound in cords. They're literally bound ghosts, unable to move on due to the tight cords, and can only move by hopping.
A natural 20 meant that Halcron noticed the cord, and since it wasn't acting in a clearly aggressive nature he decided to try and communicate. I was so sure they'd try to attack it. So, this encounter ended up wrapped up (or unwrapped) rather quickly without any violence.
Now to get everyone into town, and move on from there.