The Two Strangers
This post is part of a collection focusing on creating non-European centric homebrew content for D&D 5e. You can see all the posts related to this topic here.
I started my research at my local library and found Yes and No: The Intimate Folklore on Africa. Turns out the text is in the public domain, so it’s a great source to start with.
The book was written by Alta Jablow, a professor of anthropology at Brooklyn College. Jablow taught there from 1947 until 1980. The first section of the book is a collection of dilemma tales: short stories that leave an unresolved question for the reader to ponder. One of these tales is about two traveling strangers. The book doesn’t place this story, but a bit of searching located Sierra Leone as it’s place of origin.
Two strangers enter a village as night is falling and they are offered a place to rest and some food. What good fortune? Then the chief tells them:
But know that in this village there is a custom of long standing. Strangers may sleep here, but on pain of death they may not snore.
The two settle down to sleep and one stranger begins to snore. The villagers sharpen their knives. The other traveler, thinking quickly, starts singing a song above the snoring. The villagers take up the song and:
All that night one stranger snored, one stranger sang, and the townspeople danced and played.
The villagers present the two strangers with money on their way out of town to thank them for the night of song and dance. The dilemma ends asking: “How should the strangers split the money?”
The concept of finding good lodging and a meal for free and then being told, “But, uh one thing, if you snore we will kill you.” Sounds very much at home in a D&D campaign.
So let’s set up some mechanics for this encounter!
First thing’s first, you have to figure out who in the party snores. Probably better to establish this early in the campaign. Introduce it as a way to make long rests a bit more interesting.
You could simply ask people to self identify, but if no one offers themselves up as a snorer, you can use this stat.
An estimated 45 percent of adults snore occasionally, while 25 percent snore regularly—often disturbing their bed partner’s slumber and possibly their own, too. Source
Have folks roll a d20 and on a five or less they snore enough to wake the party.
Then at the start of each long rest:
- have the snorers roll a performance check
- and the rest of the party a charisma saving throw
- anyone who’s save meets or beats the performance check sleeps through it
- anyone who fails, by five or less, wakes up briefly to no effect
- anyone who fails by more than five, rolls a hit die, and starts the day less that HP from lost sleep
Then when the party rolls up on this village the mechanic get’s a twist. The DM rolls a perception check for the villagers. If they catch a snorer the party has 30 seconds to try to figure out what to do. That is, of course, if any of them are awake!