Overnight, there are two chances of a random encounter; they would definitely explore the corpse, and Abel needs to check Focus (CR 8), with advantage from the rope, to wake up and be aware of the encounter. There is a 2 in 6 chance each check. 1. That’s a heck yes to an encounter.
Is the first with spiders? Possible. 6. No Is it with the gnomes? 3. Yes. Okay then. How many gnomes? 4. Are they riding their giant grasshoppers? 6. No. Are they looking for what killed their giant grasshoppers? Yes. Abel attempts his Focus check and gets 7 (even with advantage). He wakes up to find four gnomes pointing their javelins at him and asking what he’s up to.
Focus check for reaction; he rolls 11, which is MUCH better. He explains who he is, telling about his mission (kill bad guys), where he’s going (city of bad guys), and why (vengeance). He also says that he recovered a ring from the dead body of a gnome like them, and gives it to the gnome he is speaking with. He says he planned to bring it to the gnomes if he lived that long. They accept it. They deliberate among themselves. How much help they offer depends… I’ll roll 1D6. A low roll is less help (but still something - like a map through the tunnels to the city so he doesn’t get lost) while a 6 will be welcoming him to their stronghold and giving him help as he gets to the city. 1. They say that they are grateful for his help and returning the ring. They do not allow outsiders in their community, but they are grateful for the ring (it belonged to a missing friend they had been looking for), and wish him well on his journey. They give him a map that will mean he does not need to check for getting lost again. There’s a 1 in 6 chance they also give him a potion; I roll 1. They give him an elixir of levitation. Mm-kay.
He has to travel 34 miles (that’s two days of travel in these tunnels), and still needs to check 17 times for encounters. Going forward, there is only a 2 in 6 chance of an encounter, and the first check will always be for gnomes, since this is more gnome-controlled than the first set of passages were. I presume that the bridge area marked an important boundary for the gnomes, and he has now just crossed it.
These tunnels will also be darker and deeper, with no natural light. He’s going by torchlight the whole time. There is no encounter at mile 12 (rolled 6), at 14 (5), at 16 (4), or at 18 (5). Sometime between miles 19 and 20, there is an encounter (rolled 2). I roll a 1, so this is a patrol of gnomes. Again, Abel hails them when he sees them. There are four again, and these are mounted on grasshoppers (FINALLY the grasshoppers appear). He attempts a Focus check again with Advantage (since he has a map, knows the names of some gnomes, and can clearly explain his purpose). He gets an 8, which is just BARELY enough to succeed with the check. They do not attack him or try to take him prisoner, but they are suspicious. The most likely outcome is that they escort him beyond this area (since he is near their sanctuary). This is likely; I roll 5. No. The next option is that they require him to use a side tunnel (that will add a little time to his journey) to hew away from the sanctuary. 4. No. They may require him to appear before their lord and receive his approval for this action; 2. That’s the play. The leader of this patrol is concerned that Abel will somehow implicate the gnomes or bring attention upon them, and their action of helping him may put them in danger. They ask him to agree to be blindfolded and taken to the lord or turn back. He agrees to their terms (the other gnomes seemed friendly enough, and if they wanted to kill him they’d have already tried).
NOTE: As a Paladin, Abel should be able to detect evil, but the game has no official mechanism for this. I haven’t wanted it until now, but suddenly it seems very valuable. Might have a new house rule coming...
They travel for a bit, and Abel rides atop a grasshopper (that struggles under his weight) while the original rider goes with another rider on his grasshopper.
I could roll for what this fortress is like, but I already have an image in my head. There is a place where several underground streams meet and an underground island sits on the circular point where these streams merge. I almost think of it as a roundabout in a street with streams flowing in and out, and the island in the middle. The island is only (I roll this, 1d6 x100’ and get 1) 100’ across, so the fortress is very narrow, filling the entire island and rising to meet the roof of the cavern (2d6 x10’ and get 80), which is 80” overhead. This is a gnome-scale fort, so the roofs would be maybe 7’ high, with 1’ wide floors, so this could have ten levels to it. Most levels would be largely open areas. There are a few places in the roof where sunlight comes in at sharp angles, and moonlight filters in as well when it's out. The fortress is octagonal. I suddenly want to map it.
I will assume he is taken to a level at least 3 floors up… the stairs go around the outside of the fortress, and entrances are set along the exterior walls. Doors are left open most of the time, but can be quickly sealed if danger presents itself. The first floor might be a largely open-air stable area for the grasshoppers. They take him up to level 3, where there is a feast hall. The leader of the gnomes greets him. This could get tricky. He needs to check Focus, and gets 9. Whew. That’s barely enough for a decent success, but again does not give him any special benefits. I do think it’s likely that they’d want to escort him to the edges of gnome lands, and would make him promise to never tell of their existence to others. The leader would recognize his shield. Did the leader get a dream from the Seventh Goddess? Very unlikely… I roll a 1. It happened. Wow. Okay, that changes things a little. I’m going to re-roll the check when the leader sees the shield, granting Abel advantage on the Focus check because he has revealed his holy symbol and identity. I roll and get 7… yes, the leader got the dream, but it freaked him out rather than inspiring him to be helpful. He was told by the goddess to help Abel on his way, and he will in the minimal way possible. An escort will take him to the edge of gnome territory, but he must turn over the map (since it has gnome markings). The gnomes who gave him the map will face some minor discipline for helping him without checking with him first, even though Abel pleads on their behalf. Abel offers to return the potion of levitation that they gave him, and this allows for another Focus check, which is an 11. This softens the leader’s stance a little bit. Abel is permitted to sleep here overnight, and when he resumes (after the escort), he will have 2d6 miles of tunnel to traverse (I roll 5), but these will be inhabited by darker things that dwell near the city. He also is told about a secret door that leads into the sewers beneath the city, but navigating the sewers is not something that they can help with; they have not gone far into these themselves, but know of the entrance.
Abel gets the 2 hero points he needs to increase his Renown to 2, since he is now a friend (as much as one can be) to the albino gnomes. There is a 1 in 6 chance that he gets another relic right now, delivered by the goddess to help him on his path; I roll 5. She helped him enough for now :) I put my character point in attack. He’s now HEROIC! In this game's economy, he's a pretty powerful character now. I'd consider this 'mid-level', the equivalent of maybe 5th to 7th level in BX D+D... in my 'head canon', it converts as:
Renown 0 = Levels 1-2
Renown 1 = Levels 3-4
Renown 2 = Levels 5-7
Renown 3 = Levels 8-11
Renown 4 = Levels 12+
Abel the Heroic Human Paladin (Renown 2) Hero Points 25
Attack +4 | Defend +4 | Focus +1 | Resolve 5
90 coins; elixirs of heroism, invisibility, levitation, water breathing; scroll of fireball
Relic: Shield of the Final Templar (+1 Defense and +1 Focus)
On a Defend result of 13+ in combat, Abel can choose to either recover 1 Resolve point or receive advantage on his next Attack.