View Full Version : A walk in the park

08-10-2008, 11:11 PM
I'd like to know how you DMs treat the great outdoors in terms of hazardous encounters. And what you players expect to see when wandering the countryside.

Most of my NPCs are pretty wimpy, so to keep them alive outside the walls of the castle/town, I give them a good circle of domesticated lands around their settlements. The worst encounters you'll have there are bandits, a wolf pack, or maybe a lycanthrope who has the advantage of being a normal citizen by day.

A little further out, in the king's realm or near the roads, things get a little dicier - outcast dire animals, silver slime (gray ooze), maybe an assassin vine, ogres, but nothing that a strong attachment of soldiers couldn't handle (barely survive).

Then there's the wild. The beasts know this is their land. Out here you can run into serious trouble (especially with civilization being so far away), like packs of worgs, winter wolves, plant monsters, ochre slime, dragons, druids, trolls, monstrous spiders, packs of dire animals, were-bears (and worse), and even long-lost golems.

My power balance goal here is to provide some resistance to unlimited humanoid expansion, but not make it impossible. And woe betide the traveler who travels civilized lands...in the wrong kingdom!

08-11-2008, 10:11 AM
I tend to follow this same idea for the most part. There are, however, some creatures that would need to be close to large settlements that are rather strong. It just depends on where that type of creature typically lives.

08-11-2008, 11:04 AM
I found in the last game I played in, where the PCs were given a tract of land at the remote edges of a kingdom, that the combination of different political units, including a bishop-run city, the closest civilization, and the much-too-close whacked wizard with humanoid minions, balanced very well with the court intrigue in the kingdom's capitol, far away, where nobles tried to get title to the land once it had been 'tamed,' was an excellent mix. Otherwise, a pack of wolves can be an excellent encounter, especially if the GM has a really creepy howl :lol:! But in general, monsters need to be there for a reason, so random charts need to be fairly circumscribed, and GM's need to be ready to just put in what belongs there. Finally, don't forget mudslides, earthquakes, deadfalls, and the ever-popular forest fire - the woods themselves as 'monster encounter.'

08-11-2008, 01:54 PM
The outdoors is a favorite kind of adventure in my campaign so far. Since I don't believe in most truly random encounters I let the location the PC's are in dictate to me what type of encounters they need. Won't be finding many orc's in the centaur area or the dwarven area. Likewise one will not find many packs of wolves in a highly populated areas. But being that the current crew is outside the fringes of the kingdom they get more action than if they lived closer in. My second group that is trying to get formed will be set totally outside the kingdom in a very chaotic area that will need a very heavy hand to reconquer. In both cases I have this sort of thing "planned out". So, nothing happens truly random.

Now, when they play in the population centers they don't tend to get many "monsters", though sometimes they might wish it so. Human types tend to be harder to figure out, whether or not they should be confronted, or how.

08-11-2008, 04:25 PM
As long as you answer the question, "Why haven't the baddies eaten the villagers yet?" you can throw out anything you want.

Talk to the villagers, and they tell you that the next town is to be avoided, and nobody comes back from there. Adventurers who go there find it's actually a colony of house-sized (and shaped) mimics. Anyone opening the door to the pub will find nothing inside but tongue and teeth (I think this was from an old Dragon article, with the unfortunate name of "house hunters".)

Fey creatures can live near humanity, but the villagers have their petty superstitions that they think keep the evil faeries away. Turns out that they're right- that horseshoe nailed above the door really does keep the wee folk out at night. Can't say the same about the PC's camp.

Lots of monsters are right at home in an urban setting- whack enough thugs, and the boss will come after you. No way he'll be human- think Vampire, Cambion, Doppelganger, etc.

And, evil lands? Sure- those taskmasters whipping the humans in the field are always looking for more "hired" help...

08-11-2008, 09:07 PM
Monsters and beasts are easy for showing agression to wilderness going pc's. But how aggressive do you play wild animals who are opportunistic at best. Wolves or bears (bears may root around food stuffs) will generally avoid human encampments unless starteld or starved and won't really fight to the death. Large cats may be more up for a tumble with a solitary human but not so much groups. We don't really taste very good. So how have others dealt with these encounters?

08-11-2008, 11:25 PM
thomas - ahh the old Nature As The Enemy. My only problem with them is that they're so rare, they'd only show up when caused by creatures (or gods). Doesn't mean I can't throw in a tornado during tornado season, or a typhoon here and there. Avalanches. Yup.

Adam - I pretty much leave the real nature encounters in the background: angry badgers, wandering lynx, family of deer. They're probably good for dropping PCs' guard though; pointman, you hear something up ahead in the thicket. Make a listen check. You can't tell what it is, but it's making a lot of rustling, and the noise covers a good 20 foot area...OHMIGOD IT'S A deer family. And you scared them away."
A lone creature will probably run from multiple visitors, unless it's big, and it's a predator that usually attacks groups. Like a lion. Or a dire lion. I imagine that wolves act the same way as long as they're in a pack.

Another thing that works for the DM is that modern animals (like the bear) have had several hundred more years to evolve a fear of humans. It's quite possible that, depending on your campaign's history, the animals that the PCs are meeting have never seen a humanoid in their lives. Although it's also quite possible that these animals have seen their share of mean monsters, which might or might not make PCs look like sissies.

08-12-2008, 10:11 AM
Depending on the territory, nature often attacks with subtlety. Airborne pests, large lizard/snake nests with mites, sand traps, and singing carnivorous flowers make for a good distraction. Severity depends on the GM, of course, but there is nothing like a slimy wet leaf smacking your face in the hot jungle.

Raging rapids can challenge a party trying to cross only to find a young green dragon waiting for his snack to arrive. Yep, done that.

If it's a fantasy story, the nearby fey forest will ooze strange behavior from animals.

06-01-2010, 01:52 PM
I've tried wading through the Dungeneers Guide, but it's a pain. Does anyone have a good way to incorporate weather that's A) easy to use, but B) adaptable to fit a specific environment, so snow in Phoenix isn't a 1 in 10 chance?

06-01-2010, 02:31 PM
Wild animal encounters are almost non-existent. Predators don't work harder than the must. Large groups are best avoided.

Monsters I tend to group in the animal category. How dangerous the wilderness is depends on how much wilderness there is, and how hungry the local wildlife is.