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Thread: Ask a GM [09/08/2008]: Random Encounters

  1. #16
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    I agree with Nijineko. I often will make my own encounter, but in times where I don't have anything planed I will fall back on the random encounter table and make up on the spot the reason for animals or monsters to be there in the first place. If I mannage to get something that makes absolutly no sence to be there and nothing imidetly comes to mind for why they would be there then I re-roll. As for the treasure I often will throw in items of note that are unknow to the players and let them discover that the tresure they found is more than just their new source of income. With magic items I love for them to have stories, histories, and be of unique nature so I end up making up alot of my own or cutominzing the premade ones so that they to have some flavor. It gets old when you find the same +1 short sword over and over again.

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    I'm along the lines of Tarot, above. I prefer to make some decisions ahead of time about what sorts of things might be encountered in a given area...what lives there, be it wild animals, tribes of orcs, a motorcycle gang, or what-have-you. (Actually, the what-have-yous are pretty dangerous, so I try not to use them much. ) Then, I can always roll encounter checks and pull out something handy if one comes up positive. Doing a complete random encounter on the fly...figuring out what, how many, hit points, and so on...is an incredible drag on any kind of momentum in the session.
    I'm not stupid, I'm not expendable, and I'm not going! (But I'll happily be the GM...)

  3. #18
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    I used to really like both custom and published tables for wandering monsters. I played in a lot of hack 'n slash games in the seventies, which were games that had a forensic bias. The players slay the monsters and take their stuff. Once it was reasonably safe, they would search around and learn the most useful clues. Those were fun games, but it's no longer my style of play.

    Currently, my goal is that each encounter should introduce information that moves the plot forward, so my bias is towards social encounters. In order to balance out the overall flow of the game, my random encounters are still combat heavy. However, I pre-generate the random encounters to ensure that each has a clear purpose. I can pick one when I need to reinforce some key point.

    Having a clear objective is important, because there are two serious drawbacks to throwing in even a single wandering monster.

    First, random encounters increase the risk that a character's death will fail to significantly advance the plot. As a player, I want my character to live at least long enough to fight against an evil minion.

    Second, I find that random encounters can introduce a distracting tangent. Core and spontaneous encounters are born of the storyline, while my random encounters are more related to the setting. Once in a while the setting should hold the spotlight, but most of the time the setting is in the background.

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    Quote Originally Posted by raven21 View Post
    It gets old when you find the same +1 short sword over and over again.
    unless that short sword has a reason for continuing to come back to haunt the party.... =D i can think of a few.....
    Last edited by nijineko; 09-29-2008 at 04:18 PM.
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  5. #20
    Arch Lich Thoth-Amon is offline Cursed by the Gods
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    Quote Originally Posted by nijineko View Post
    unless that short sword has a reason for continuing to come back to haunt the party.... =D i can think of a few.....
    Yeah, maybe it's cursed. LOL
    Thoth-Amon, Lord of the Underworld and the Undead
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  6. #21
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    Not exactly what I ment by the same +1 short sword over and over again, but that is a good point. I do like to trow in cursed items they make the game more interesting.

  7. #22
    Arch Lich Thoth-Amon is offline Cursed by the Gods
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    Quote Originally Posted by raven21 View Post
    Not exactly what I ment by the same +1 short sword over and over again, but that is a good point. I do like to trow in cursed items they make the game more interesting.
    I realize, for you were clear enough, raven21. Just making a joke.
    Thoth-Amon, Lord of the Underworld and the Undead
    Once you know what the magician knows, it's not magick. It's a 'tool of Creation'. -Archmagus H.H.
    The first step to expanding your reality is to discard the tendency to exclude things from possibility. - Meridjet

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thoth-Amon View Post

    I realize, for you were clear enough, raven21. Just making a joke.
    I figured as much just pointing out that you do make a good point also even if it was or started as a joke.

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    I don't mind a DM using random encounters from the chart because some of them need all the help they can get, others do fine without them. I prefer making a rough sketch of my encounters and toss them in a game in order to spice up the boring 100 mile walk scene. With just an outline I can tailor the encounter to the group and the players. and some groups just aren't much into role playing so extra hack and slash satisfies their lust for blood. I can cut back on encounters if the group likes to wander the city role playing and I give credit for that too so they don't have to bloody their cudgel to gain XP. Besides my random city encounters aren't even recognized as encounters half the time. Chart, I don't need no steenkin' chart.

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    I love randomness in a game. I find that rolling for lots of things adds a bit of spice to the game. As a GM you may think you know where the campaign is heading but not only are the players going to throw curve balls at your plot lines but a good set of random encounter tables will also add things to the game that you don't expect. The key to not getting the same thing all the time is bigger tables. I like a good d10,000 Random Encounter Chart myself...
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    In 3.5 I always made them myself, because i found the ones in the book worthless...

    In 4e life is easy for DMs, so much so, that I can rest happy.

  12. #27
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    Despite my advance campaign planning, I actually use these a lot.

    Especially for things like:

    What Ships do the PC encounter in a port, or in space.

    What animals will pcs encounter on a planet.

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    Random only when planned

    I used to rely on them heavily in my DnD days, especially as character got more powerful and planned encounters got easier - they were a way to whittle the party down and inject some risk into final or planned battles. But my style evolved over time and now i feel random encounters tend to wear down parties and suck away resources and most of the time just don't make that much sense. I never use them unless the players are moving through a large area and encounters truly are "random". Otherwise, i list "possible encounters" for an area then just cross them off so they do not repeat. These encounters have a little description text to make sure there is some uniqueness about them to make them enjoyable and maintain continuity as needed.

    Randomizing encounters sucks away resources you may be counting on the characters having when they hit the planned encounters... so i would say use random encounters carefully and sparingly... use the setting and plot fro drama instead of constant combat - but thats a stylistic choice. In grittier, more realistic systems random encounters can be introducing a lot of negative aspects... so adapt your use of random encounters to the style preferred.

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  14. #29
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    I, like many others on this thread, use the random encounters tables infrequently. I tend to design several "random" encounters and roll to determine when they occur. I also like to occasionally throw in higher difficulty creatures and see if the PCs can either figure out an innovative way of dealing with the creature/situation (often the best choice is to run and/or hide).

  15. #30
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    I use random encounter tables infrequently but believe they provide an good basis of creatures that "may" lurk in the area. It doesn't matter how often I game, I forget about some of the baddies out there and the RE tables can help. What I do is pregenerate 6 to 12 random encounters, which I always have with me, in case there is a random encounter. This cuts down on in-game time rolling up of NPCs or creatures.

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