(Day / Night)
“There’s nothing for it. We have to take this road. It’s the quickest, and while I prefer taking the long-way ’round the troubles to the north make that complicated. Truth be told though this is the much quieter route. Only trouble is this switchback here…”
by Ethan Hudgens Twitter The North Seat
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“It’s the only reasonable way through the hills, and we ain’t the only ones privy to that piece of information. The Sawtooth’s haunt the place hoping to make easy pickings from travelers taking the shortcut. The trail isn’t like going straight up the side of a mountain, but its close. We’ll be moving slow, getting tired. They’ll swoop in from above, using numbers against us.
“You ever see a Sawtooth? They’re the ones with those big rusty cleavers. Even those that escape from them don’t manage to live long. There’s something pestilent about their blades that’ll bring you fever and harden your joints.
“But like I said, it can’t be avoided. The most we can do is prepare accordingly and take some expendable sword-arms along. Oh, I know they’ve been listening in. Hey! You folks looking for work? Yeah you. Sit down, grab a drink and let’s talk some business.”
– Caravan Master Zaida
Switchbacks make for interesting encounters due to the natural advantage one side has over the other. They benefit from having cover and can easily rain down projectiles on caravans while guards would have to either attempt to climb the steep slope or waste time running the path. Common encounters might include bandits, barbarians, assassins, or maybe a hill giant just practicing his shot-put.
If the advantage is the players’, consider making their targets more difficult and reward their tactics by making the defenders scramble and waste a few turns attempting to reach them. If the GM is at advantage, consider what benefit your creatures gain from the tactical advantage before determining their difficulty rating.