I'm glad I read Vance's Dying Earth last year as it has done wonders for making my world for fantastic and more interactive. Last week I ran a game in an unspecified world and I decided to inject a bit of Vance into the setting.
Our resident Hydromancer was on a journey deep into the frozen north to speak with the great ice spirit. Along the way crossing a rickety old bridge the paneling beneath him broke and (failing his saving throw) he plunged towards the swift flowing stream below. Which is a good things since it gave the first immediate test of using the elements as he attempted to raise up the water in a well timed wave to alleviate his descent. Once down there he decided to speed things along and skim across the water traveling downstream looking for a path up through the hills.
At this point I got to thinking what would be present in a stream in Vance's world, far out in the untamed wilderness. Well the stream certainly isn't wide enough for any of the slug drawn river boats of Cugel's saga, and most other aquatic creatures were only mention not heard. So I decided on a creature grounded in our world and then made larger than life for some eye-widening fright. The creature was like an elongated eel, taller than a man at 8 feet outstretched, it was covered in long thin spines along it's body and had teeth as long as a barracuda. It's body oscillated back and forth, likely some mechanism for the eel to move against the current and devour any fish going upstream to spawn. Our friendly neighborhood Hydromancer had two of these to deal with.
This also presented a great situation to test the resource management required to bind the elements to your will when it is most difficult to concentrate. At first he tried to outrun them, but against a fish so used to catching prey moving upstream this was a futile effort. Next he tried using his trusty harpoon, which while decently effective eventually ended in a beautifully timed critical fumble where it was agreed upon that this monstrous eel would grab the harpoon mid-flight and the rope would get caught on his ankle whereupon he would trip, go skipping across the waters surface before being plunged underwater and being dragged by the eel, attacked by the other and trying to avoid drowning in the process. He attempted to strangle the eel with his rope but the spiny retaliation quickly displaced that effort. Instead he opted to blow what little essence was left in him to create choppy waves in this fast moving stream in an attempt to wash the eels up on shore. A few rounds later he was successful, he swam to the shore and gathered up the eels for a stew later.
He trekked through the hills for a bit, finally making some progress but nightfall was upon him. Making camp he began preparing the surprisingly aromatic stew. Alas, this menagerie of succulent smells was also noticed by the local wolf pack and soon the howling could be heard off in the distance. Not one to to be deterred by mangy wolves he calmly ate and waited. At this point I thought, random encounters were very frequent in Dying Earth, but more often than not they ended in negotiation rather than mortal combat. Plenty of bizarre creatures like the Deodands or Pelgranes were capable of speech so why not wolves?
A large scarred wolf with black fur entered the camp while the his pack waited in the edges forming a sea of glittering yellow eyes. The Alpha Wolf demanded to know why he tromped through their hunting grounds, upon explanation he asked if he was seeking out the great ice spirit atop the swirling snow mountain. The Alpha Wolf demanded a tribute of food, which if given would guarantee him safe passage through the area. The Cantankerous Hydromancer was unwilling to give up his stew or rations but instead offered to use his powers to wash fish out of the nearby stream. This greatly angered the old wolf who was more worldly than he looked and said to him, "Cease your exploitation, I know your kind now, you are like a locust upon the land. You take what you want, you draw more than the land can give and you leave rotting trees and empty streams in your wake. We will not be party to your destruction, you must learn to live with the land not off of it, you must learn to live as we do!" As the tribute had failed he now had an opportunity to run with the wolf pack for a time, learning their ways and possibly making a few allies in the process. Provided he could keep up of course. Instead out imperialist hydromancer decided to lash out, hoping to strike the lead wolf down and scaring off the rest of the pack. Regrettably his skill with a trident was less than stellar and the wolves were beginning to make mincemeat out of him. Sucking the land dry a pair of gigantic watery fists arose from the nearby stream knocking back wolves left and right. The scarred pack leader not wishing to endanger their lives any further called for a retreat but promised the baneful hydromancer that they would meet again. We left off here, with the leaves falling off the now dead trees and the stream dried up and the hydromancer left to his own destructive devices.