A group of brave adventurers travel east through the wilderness, searching for the mighty Boareskyr Bridge. A pleasant surprise awaits them there: civilization! A small village of tents and lean-tos has grown around the north edge of the bridge, giving the characters a chance to rest and resupply before the next leg of their trip to Baldur’s Gate.
This week’s encounter is titled A Break at Boareskyr Bridge, but things are little bit different this week. The characters actually have a chance to spend a night or two in this settlement to recover, buy the services of mercenaries or torchbearers, and chat with NPCs before continuing on their journey. This encounter is part of the series “The Road to Baldur’s Gate,” in which a group of adventurers will travel down the Sword Coast over road and wilderness, from the gates of Waterdeep to the threshold of Baldur’s Gate. You may use this series as an introduction to the upcoming D&D storyline Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, as an expansion to the caravan sequence in the first D&D storyline adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, or piecemeal as standalone encounters.
You can keep track of this journey on this massive map of the Sword Coast, originally presented in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. The trip from Waterdeep to Baldur’s Gate covers about 750 miles of both road and off-road wilderness. A small party on horseback can cover about 24 miles per day at a casual pace, with just under two days off for rest per tenday of travel. All in all, this journey takes just over a month to complete for a small party of adventurers—assuming they’re well-prepared and no serious complications arise. And note, not every day of travel needs to be represented by an encounter; the characters may go for days with only minor encounters with passing merchants or travelers.
This is the seventh encounter along this journey. The previous encounters are:
- The Road to Baldur’s Gate
- Devil in the Details
- Danger in Daggerford
- Misty Marauders
- Detour Past Dragonspear
- Trollclaw Terrors
The characters should be at least 3rd level by the time they begin this encounter. Though this encounter series is supposed to lead directly into Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, that adventure begins its characters at 1st level. You can choose one of the following options, or create your own plan, in order to make this series flow smoothly into Descent into Avernus:
- Treat this series as a prologue, and start Descent into Avernus fresh at 1st level with new characters
- Scale up the Baldur's Gate content in Descent into Avernus from 1st to 3rd level, and slow XP gain down significantly by halving or even quartering XP values until they reach Avernus.
- Skip the Baldur's Gate content and go straight to Avernus.
Social Encounter: A Break at Boareskyr Bridge
This social encounter gives the characters a chance to hear rumors that will lead into Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus, and also resupply for the next leg of their journey.
Boareskyr Bridge stands on the Trade Way and is the only consistently safe crossing over the Winding Water for more than a hundred miles in either direction. This alone makes it remarkable, but there, in the midst of a wilderness with nothing to set it apart for greatness, a mortal man murdered Bhaal, the god of murder. This is no tall tale. Even a century after Bhaal’s blood was shed there, the river’s waters run black and foul for miles west of the bridge.
—A history of Boareskyr Bridge, from the Sword Coast Adventurers Guide
The Realm of Elturgard
The characters have reached the edge of the realm of Elturgard, a nation under the protection of the holy city of Elturel. Some turmoil has swept through Elturel of late, and as the characters travel closer and closer to Elturel, the more obvious this unrest should be. Here at Boareskyr Bridge, at the very edge of Elturgard’s dominion, the most the characters should hear the trouble in Elturel are mild discontentment with the new High Observer, Thavius Kreeg. Characters from Waterdeep or elsewhere in the Lords’ Alliance would likely be entirely unaware of Elturgardian politics. However, as their journey takes them deeper into the heart of Elturgard, they will become more and more immersed in the concerns of this young-but-mighty nation.
Fort Tamal and the Companions of Elturgard
An old fortress stands on the south end of the Boareskyr Bridge, keeping watch over the grimly majestic bridge and the lands which surround the black-watered river. To the northeast, the yuan-ti of Najara threaten invasion with their mere presence. The beasts that wander the wilds of Dragonspear could move south and threaten the bridge at any moment. Fort Tamal keeps watch over all these threats and more, occupied by a group of knights known as the Companions of Elturgard. These holy paladins are some of the strongest warriors in the realm, and many of them are confused as to why they must languish in this far-flung fortress, when they could be accomplishing greater deeds.
The Companions of Elturgard are too proud to request reassignment—save for one. A former Companion by the name of Sir Demiyen Ardor, actually requested to be released from service and serve as a knight-errant, traveling the land in search of distant evil to root out. The characters encountered this overzealous knight in an earlier encounter, Danger in Daggerford. When the characters arrive at Boareskyr Bridge, a trio of knights are relaxing with the common folk in their makeshift village. They are described in the “Northbridge Village” section, below.
At this point, all the characters need to know is that an envoy of mercenaries from Baldur’s Gate has been dispatched to Elturel, and no one knows why. The knights of Elturgard stationed here in Fort Tamal are anxious about their home.
The Trade Way has faded away into wilderness over the years, making trade between Baldur’s Gate and Waterdeep a serious challenge. Merchants who want to make the journey across the wilds of Dragonspear have to be light and agile to weave through hobgoblin patrols and past wild monsters—or, they can stop at Northbridge Village and hire a group of mercenaries to escort them through the wilderness. Northbridge Village grew up when a halfling merchant by the name of Lobrem Nast decided that the trip through the wilderness was a risk he simply wasn’t willing to make, and so he took his cart apart and built a general store north of Boareskyr Bridge. Over the last few years, dozens of other merchants have congregated around the Nast General Store, and Northbridge Village and its half-dozen inns have gained a reputation as the last safe bed a traveler can sleep in before trying to make the journey north.
As such, mercenaries gather here looking for work, and merchants lollygag here until they can summon the courage to traverse the Dragonspear Wilds. When the characters reach Northbridge Village, read or paraphrase the following:
Boareskyr Bridge peeks over the horizon. The first thing you see are the two statues that stand at either end of the bridge—two god-like warriors staring each other down, prepared to kill. In the shadow of these warriors is a sea of tents, forming a rainbow of beige and brown canvas. Scattered among the temporary tents are a handful of sturdy stone or wood buildings. Judging by the pungent scent of horses, manure, and campfire smoke, this settlement has existed for some time.
A wooden sign labeled “Northbridge Village” has been staked into the ground at the edge of this settlement. No such village exists on your map. Nevertheless, you know that the Trade Way picks up again a short way south of Boareskyr Bridge, and this ramshackle village looks like a place where you can rest and resupply before the next leg of your journey.
If the characters begin to ask questions and explore the village on their own, you can instigate an interaction at any of the locations listed below. If they don’t know where to begin, ask them what they want to do in the village, and give some examples:
Rest. One of the sturdy wooden buildings has a sign labeled “The Sawhorse Inn.” The inn is described in area 1.
Supplies. Several tents have rugs spread out in front of them, and merchants have large piles of merchandise transported from cities like Elturel and Baldur’s Gate arrayed in front of them. These tents are described in area 2.
Conversation and Rumors. The vaguely defined streets of this village are buzzing with merchants and mercenaries. The people wandering the settlement are described in area 3.
1. The Sawhorse Inn
This two-story inn is easily the biggest building in town, let alone the biggest inn. It’s run by a neutral good female brass dragonborn named Jaudra Korvilexhen, a hardy and determined carpenter who is renowned for building the inn singlehandedly in a matter of only a few tendays. Anyone who lingers in the inn’s taproom after sundown can meet all manner of people, including anyone of the DM’s choice described in area 3.
Renting a bed at the Sawhorse costs 1 sp per night, but 1 gp per person gets you access to the Dragon’s Suite, a massive room with six soft featherbeds and even a private washroom.
With so many merchants around, it’s easy to shop in Northbridge Village. Some merchants traveling from Baldur’s Gate think that it’s better to just travel up here than brave the Trade Way all the way up to Waterdeep.
Potions. Characters shopping here can find alchemists, who sell common potions for 50 gp each, uncommon potions for 175 gp each, and there’s a 20% chance on any given day that there’s a vendor selling rare potions for 500 gp each. One such merchant is a chaotic neutral male tiefling named Barbadon Styx, a shifty but honest alchemist who makes a killing selling potions at inflated rates to northward-bound mercenaries.
Scrolls. Characters shopping here can find scroll peddlers, who sell common spell scrolls (cantrip and 1st-level spells) for 50 gp each, uncommon spell scrolls (2nd- and 3rd-level spells) for 200 gp each, and there’s a 20% chance on any given day that there’s a vendor selling rare spell scrolls (4th- and 5th-level spells) for 500 gp each. One such merchant is a lawful good human cleric of Torm from Elturel named Brandt the Branded. The unholy mark of Bhaal was seared onto his face when he was captured by cultists while proselytizing in Baldur’s Gate, and he compensates for his inauspicious scar by displaying the symbol of Torm excessively on his tent and clothing.
Weapons, Armor, and Supplies. This town was built around Nast General Store, and it’s run by the one and only Lobrem Nast himself, the lawful evil male halfling bandit captain who owns this town. It’s the finest store in town, as Nast takes a 30% cut of the profits of anyone who sets up shop in “his” town. A cadre of six mercenary thugs loiters around the shop, making sure no one steals anything or tries to rough up their employer. A character can buy any weapon, armor, mount, vehicle, or piece of adventuring gear from chapter 5 of the Player’s Handbook that costs less than 300 gp at this shop.
Obviously, most folk in town snidely call it the “Nasty” General Store, but no one says it to Nast’s face.
3. Wanderers and Rumors
The muddy “streets” of this tent village are filled with all sorts of people. Characters looking for conversation can strike it up with random passersby during sunlight hours, and with patrons of the Sawhorse Inn after sundown.
Mercenaries. Jokul Grax is a male half-orc scout that leads a loose band of bards and mercenaries called the Graxroots. They are literally a band; Grax plays the drums. They can be found playing songs in the inn or on a makeshift stage at any hour of the day, with their members drifting in and out as the day goes on. However, each of these mercenaries are happy to accompany a group of travelers as far as Daggerford or Elturel, if they’re willing to pay. For either 1 gp per day, or an equal cut of any loot gained (negotiated up front), any of these mercenaries will join up as a sidekick with a level equal to the level of the characters. See the sidekick rules in the D&D Essentials Kit, or in the Unearthed Arcana “Sidekick” rules.
Rumors. A group of knights from Fort Tamal are sitting in the center of the village, striking up conversations and sharing rumors with anyone who will listen. If a character talks to anyone in town, that person will share a rumor, and might even point back to the knights. They knights are all lawful good, one a young human woman named Talfira Lakesh, one a grizzled male dwarf named Rudolph Lockheed, and one world-weary elf named Alstirie Amblefen.
No one has seen our friend Damiyen Ardor since he was made a knight-errant and sent north. (True)
Thavius Kreeg, the High Overseer of Elturel, has gone missing! (False)
A group of mercenaries from Baldur’s Gate has been seen marching towards Elturel. (True)
Cultists of a mysterious sect have been seen near Triel, just south of here. (False)
A group of yuan-ti from Najara were just killed south of the bridge a few days ago. (True)
The Hellriders from Elturel have eager for a war, and might even pick a fight with Baldur’s Gate just to rid their city of evil. (False)
Once the characters have rested, conversed, and shopped to their hearts’ content, they can cross the Boareskyr Bridge and make for the south. There’s still some way to go before the Trade Way picks up again, but once they’re on it, it’s smooth sailing to the village of Triel!
Did you like this encounter? If you want to read more adventures, take a look at the other encounters in the Encounter of the Week series! If you're looking for full adventures instead of short encounters, you can pick up the adventures I've written on the DMs Guild, such as The Temple of Shattered Minds, a suspenseful eldritch mystery with a mind flayer villain (for 3rd level characters). My most recent adventures are included in the Platinum Bestseller Tactical Maps: Adventure Atlas, a collection of 88 unique encounters created by the Guild Adepts, which can be paired with the beautiful tactical poster maps in Tactical Maps Reincarnated, recently published by Wizards of the Coast.
James Haeck is the lead writer for D&D Beyond, the co-author of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the Critical Role Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, the DM of Worlds Apart, and a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Adventurers League, and Kobold Press. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his partner Hannah and their feline adventurers Mei and Marzipan. You can usually find him wasting time on Twitter at @jamesjhaeck.