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

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Foki Firefinger View Post
    I love random encounter charts, but I enjoy making my own so that i can add what I want including any of my own monsters or creatures. I even like making tables for random encounters by terrain and climate. Such as, for example, what would you encounter in a tropical savana or sub-artic scrublands?

    I've been working (slowly) on a program that does this for me. Basically the idea is that the monster name, climate, terrain, CR, and other details can be filtered for including which books you have available. Click the button and it gives you the creature name. Also, you could add your own encounters like a merchant village, gypsy troup, or whatever.

    Ultimately I wanted to have over 500 monsters in the database so you could make random encounters of all types.

    I haven't used random encounter tables so much. But I have grabbed a book, flipped to a random page, and used that. I always reserve the right to reject whatever comes up and try again. Since the 3.x and higher books don't seem to have their own encounter table I tend to avoid making tables (not enough time)

    ---------- Post added at 09:50 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:30 AM ----------

    One question... What constitutes an "encounter"? To me, an encounter is just that... you meet something. Just because you encounter a dragon doesn't mean its automatically hostile. Perhaps the encounter is a passing encounter like seeing a creature spying on you from a far off vantage. It can be anything from an up close and personal fight to simply watching a dragon flying over you.

    I use a sliding scale for starting mood. Usually I just pick the mood, but some times I roll. Basically you have ranges from Murderous to Guarded to Benevolent/Friendly. I use 3d6 so most encounters are guarded or close to it. A troup of goblins traveling with family will try to avoid combat, but won't be happy about humans among them. A war party though will likely just attack. Raiders won't necessarily want to kill, but will definately cut you if you get in the way.

    Then there's the level of commitment (morale). How often do your encounters turn into fights? And how many of those fight to the death? Most people realize when they are being defeated and intelligent creatures will retreat, bargain, or beg for mercy. I've been in too many games where the "monsters" fought to the death EVERY TIME! That's like wookies on Endor - it don't make no sense!
    Randal Snyder
    Sundered Epoch.org

  2. #32
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    I've recently changed completely my use of random encounters. The only random encounters i use is in travel through large areas, then i reduce it only to the creatures that wont simply hide or run. The majority of these are wild and can easily be dealt with and scared off, though urban encounters are purposeful and have a reason for focusing on the party. In short, i've nearly completely abandoned them. I script out a few potential real encounters and check to see if they happen at each step.

    Some of this is simply due to the fact of limited game time. Random encounters were the thing of the day when i was gaming 3/week - it was great filler and we all loved encountering new critters and killing them. Now it distracts from the main plot and i try and maximize the time i have and reduce the overhead.

    Incarna; Role-Playing Game System
    www.incarna.net
    Running: 3+ campaigns set in single custom milieu world.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Descronan View Post
    I've been working (slowly) on a program that does this for me. Basically the idea is that the monster name, climate, terrain, CR, and other details can be filtered for including which books you have available. Click the button and it gives you the creature name. Also, you could add your own encounters like a merchant village, gypsy troup, or whatever.

    Ultimately I wanted to have over 500 monsters in the database so you could make random encounters of all types.

    Hmm, sounds interesting. I could see this being very useful and drastically cutting down on prep time.

    I haven't used random encounter tables so much. But I have grabbed a book, flipped to a random page, and used that. I always reserve the right to reject whatever comes up and try again. Since the 3.x and higher books don't seem to have their own encounter table I tend to avoid making tables (not enough time)

    ---------- Post added at 09:50 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:30 AM ----------

    One question... What constitutes an "encounter"? To me, an encounter is just that... you meet something. Just because you encounter a dragon doesn't mean its automatically hostile. Perhaps the encounter is a passing encounter like seeing a creature spying on you from a far off vantage. It can be anything from an up close and personal fight to simply watching a dragon flying over you.

    For my game, I considered an encounter to be anything that the party, whether as a group or an individual character, comes across. For example, in my "Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" game, the ranger found a rock that had footprints in the dirt and a rope tied to it. I consider that as encounter, just the same as when the party was attacked by the group of 4 trolls.

    I use a sliding scale for starting mood. Usually I just pick the mood, but some times I roll. Basically you have ranges from Murderous to Guarded to Benevolent/Friendly. I use 3d6 so most encounters are guarded or close to it. A troup of goblins traveling with family will try to avoid combat, but won't be happy about humans among them. A war party though will likely just attack. Raiders won't necessarily want to kill, but will definately cut you if you get in the way.

    Then there's the level of commitment (morale). How often do your encounters turn into fights? And how many of those fight to the death? Most people realize when they are being defeated and intelligent creatures will retreat, bargain, or beg for mercy. I've been in too many games where the "monsters" fought to the death EVERY TIME! That's like wookies on Endor - it don't make no sense!

    Exactly, at one point, the party was traveling along a road an encountered a very large war party of Hobgoblins. The battle was waged and the party kept seeing another group of hobgoblins come around the corner to join in the fight. Finally, the 9th level mage cast fireball on the last group to come around the corner and they could hear many others that hadn't made it around yet to flee. After the party went around the corner, they could see the footprints of the hobgoblins turning and fleeing across the hills. Not every encounter is going to result in fighting every single opponent. Another example is when they came across some stone giants. Instead of attacking right away, one of the characters was able to speak stone giant so he went up and talked with them. By doing this, they got some information about the area and were able to trade some items in exchange for a scroll that the stone giants had.

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    I have a table that uses a series of 2d6 rolls to determine outcome. 2d6 is handy, because the value of 7 is the most likely to pop up, so you still have some control over probability. I first roll 2d6 to determine the hostility of the encounter, with 2 being a friendly encounter, 7 indifferent, and 12 immediately hostile. Then I determine the type of interloper, their political and social affiliation, and finally what type of monster roll they fill (is artillery, controller, etc.) Last, I have a random table for terrain the encounter occurs on, and a random hazard or trap. Sometimes I let the players roll random d6s. It's fun, makes them feel like the outcome of the roll has some real and immediate impact on their character.
    This has actually resulted in more indifferent encounters than anything, but that just adds some randomness to the role play possibilities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Descronan View Post
    Then there's the level of commitment (morale). How often do your encounters turn into fights? And how many of those fight to the death? Most people realize when they are being defeated and intelligent creatures will retreat, bargain, or beg for mercy. I've been in too many games where the "monsters" fought to the death EVERY TIME! That's like wookies on Endor - it don't make no sense!
    I agree with you that at some point you need to think about wether a reasoning creature would continue this fight. Though I will say I'm always surprised when my party does the same thing. If your getting your butts handed to you as PCs retreat is an option, but so many will choose to follow in Custer's foot steps that it boggles the mind.

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    There would be a good amount of "follow the leader" mentality in combat and in larger combats there is the fog of war that prevents you from KNOWING that you are losing. But players don't have a true life and death scenario. They have the possibility of a benevolant DM, divine intervention, and the possibility that their PC allies will survive, drag their corpse to a cleric and raise them from the dead. Monsters (usually) don't have those reassurances.

    Plus it depends on their religious views on death and the afterlife. If they believed that the afterlife is GARANTEED to be better than this life, then they would be more willing to fight to the death (vikings, fanatical terrorists, crusaders). But if their beliefs were more muddy, they would be more cowardly in combat.
    Randal Snyder
    Sundered Epoch.org

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    Random encounters are typically one or a few of a specific creature. Larger bands would seem to be "less random". I've always found most creatures in random encounters are ones scared off by the presence of several well armed and noisy PC's. Most table seem to be laughable as they do not take into account the creatures reactions and are just automatically assumed to be instantly engaging the party - with no though, cunning or self preservation worked in. A black bear? not going to bum-rush a party of even 1st level characters (how would it know what "level" they are?). Random encounters should be more run for flavor - seeing creatures at a distance, getting stalked (but not attacked), or "encountering" them outside of combat. Seems like many could be used more for flavor and effect than to whittle the party down. I guess i would just like GM's to realize that an "encounter" does not have to be combat - scare the PC's with stuff, make them lose sleep and suffer penalties, make them spend supplies setting elaborate traps and protections, be creative!

    Incarna; Role-Playing Game System
    www.incarna.net
    Running: 3+ campaigns set in single custom milieu world.

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    Random encounter tables are fine things and can be very useful when your PC's throw you a curve. I typical don't use them however. I tend to think of an area geographically on a small enough scale to have every area covered and mapped out in detail as to what is there already............oh hell that's a load of goblin dung. What I do have is a list of encounters that are going to happen it is just up to their actions to determine how and when it is going to happen. I wouldn't go so far as to say scripted, I set the stage and see what my players will do with it. Ah but that is the art of it is , at least what I strive for, some encounters seem random. They may even be random in the game world or in reality I planed to be be random. Sometimes to add foreshadowing or as a red herring.

    I have used them to get an idea for a spontaneous game in the past. I think someone even mentioned that above but I am to lazy to see who did but props to you regardless of my shortcomings.

    cheers
    SirSlither (Apocalypse beast of the root beer cooler)

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