Random Encounter Charts

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Tavis
Joined: 2011-07-01 15:40
Random Encounter Charts
Wilderness encounters: - Since you need to know the % in lair chance when rolling up a wilderness encounter, it would be nice to put this in the table. - It would also be nice to list the # encountered, so that an entry might read: 1: 2-4 toejams (30%) 2: 10-30 hellcows (15%) - Do we want the % in lair to be a throw on d20 instead? I do. - The entry in the monster section implies that all monsters will have separate scores for dungeon and wilderness (see below). Not all monster entries do have this, and when they do it takes some going back and reading to see what 2-4 (1d6 x 10) means. I think it would be better to label these separately in each entry: Number appearing: 2d4 in dungeon, 1d6x10 in wilderness (x5 if lair) - As long as we're naming these, it might be evocative to give a one-word explanation about what these mean: Orc number appearing: 2d4 in dungeon patrol, 1d6x10 in wilderness warband Stirge number appearing: 1d8 in dungeon flock, 5d20 in wilderness swarm - Do we want every monster listed in the core to appear somewhere in the wilderness encounter table? I do; I feel like there is enough nooks and crannies in the different type/terrain combinations (urban/unusual) for everything to get a little love. I like the idea that rolling on the wilderness encounter charts often enough would put every monster in its proper place, and that we could calculate AD&D's "Frequency" and "Terrain" entries by looking at how often and where the monster appears in the wilderness encounter charts. Dungeon encounters: - Moldvay gives you all the stats you need in the same table you use to roll up the wandering monster. This is very convenient in play. - OD&D has a two-step process. First you roll to see whether you are encountering a monster that belongs to a level higher, lower, or the same as the level you are on. This is a cool idea - among other things, it can tell you where the monster's lair might be, whether this is a denizen or a raider, and whether if captured this monster will know a lot about the level you found it on. However, in OD&D this tends to make for lethal encounters - on dungeon level 1, there is a 66% chance you will roll on a dungeon encounter table higher than 1, and a 1 in 6 chance you will get the table that has ogres and wights - probably because on level 1, there is no table lower than that so all the variance is towards a more challenging level. Even if we fix that, this adds a step of complexity. - The wilderness monster table use of subtypes does two cool things: first, it tells you early on what to start thinking about (e.g. you roll "flyer" and start describing what the cloud conditions are like as you roll on the subtype table to see what will come out of these clouds); second it helps when making your own custom encounter tables, because if you know you want different flyers you can just change that subtype table and not have to go into a complex unitary table where the relationships aren't clear like in AD&D. - In dungeon encounters, do we need to know whether the monster is in its lair or not? We probably do, right? So there are three main steps in wilderness encounters: - determine subtype by terrain - determine creature by subtype - determine whether it's in lair by % in monster entry And in OD&D there are three, maybe four, steps: - determine which table to roll on by dungeon depth - determine which monster you encounter by table - determine whether it's in lair by % in monster entry (not explicitly stated) - determine how many appear by modifying monster entry based on party size and actual level vs. monster level (suggested as a guideline) I think we might be able to code the last of these into a table - like, on dungeon level 1 you meet 1-8 orcs, on dungeon level 4 you meet 100-300 orcs. - Wilderness --- Number Encountered: This variable range gives the number of monsters likely to be encountered in different settings. The first number gives the typical range of monsters found in a dungeon level equal to the hit dice of the monster. The Judge should alter the Number Encountered if the monster is encountered on a different dungeon level. In general, the number should be reduced if the creature is encountered on a higher level, and increased if encountered on a lower level. These adjustments account for characters of higher level exploring deeper dungeon levels, and lower level characters exploring higher (less depth) dungeon levels. If a number range in parenthesis is listed, this represents the number encountered in a monster’s lair if found in a dungeon, and/or the number of monsters encountered wandering in the wilderness. The text of the monster description may note that some monsters may also make extensive lairs in the wilderness (usually called villages). Monster lairs in the wilderness typically have 5 times the number listed for a wilderness encounter. A zero listed for either range means that the monster will not be encountered in that setting unless placed there by the Judge for a special reason. EXAMPLE: The Number Encountered for Orcs is 2d4 (1d6x10). When encountered on the 1st level of a dungeon, 2-8 orcs will be present. When found in a dungeon lair, or in the wilderness, 10-60 orcs will be encountered. But when encountered in a lair in the wilderness (an orc village), then 50-300, five times the number listed for wilderness encounter, will be present. FASHION NEWS
Charlatan
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Joined: 2011-08-08 15:20

This may be my laziness (which is considerable), but when I run games: I roll the random encounter throws with a d12; I rewrite the Wilderness Encounter by Terrain chart to use a d12; I maintain the d12 numbering of the subtables. I like having one "encounter die". I also like my d12s.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Wilderness encounters:
- Since you need to know the % in lair chance when rolling up a wilderness encounter, it would be nice to put this in the table.
- It would also be nice to list the # encountered, so that an entry might read:
1: 2-4 toejams (30%)
2: 10-30 hellcows (15%)
ALEX: I just followed the Expert set styling, which was very minimalist.
- Do we want the % in lair to be a throw on d20 instead? I do.
ALEX: In general I converted all % rolls (like Magic Resistance) into %. I had left % in Lair though because it seemed like something that was useful to understand as a frequency. For instance, to say that 20% of the time a monster is encountered it's in its lair tells me that 80% of the time it's hunting, and I can make deductions from that. If we make it "In Lair 17+" that becomes much harder to translate into a frequency, because you have to make two mental calculations to translate it back into percentages.
- The entry in the monster section implies that all monsters will have separate scores for dungeon and wilderness (see below). Not all monster entries do have this, and when they do it takes some going back and reading to see what 2-4 (1d6 x 10) means. I think it would be better to label these separately in each entry:
Number appearing: 2d4 in dungeon, 1d6x10 in wilderness (x5 if lair)
ALEX: AAAAARRGGGH. That's how the number appearing were in the OGL rules. Would you believe I re-wrote all the monster entries to remove that sort of stylization and return it to the style used in D&D and AD&D? :-\ I figured old school players would prefer old school presentation...
- As long as we're naming these, it might be evocative to give a one-word explanation about what these mean:
Orc number appearing: 2d4 in dungeon patrol, 1d6x10 in wilderness warband
Stirge number appearing: 1d8 in dungeon flock, 5d20 in wilderness swarm
ALEX: That's how 3.5 does it. It's cool, although limiting because what if it's 2d4 in a dungeon refugee camp? I prefer to just have a number.
- Do we want every monster listed in the core to appear somewhere in the wilderness encounter table? I do; I feel like there is enough nooks and crannies in the different type/terrain combinations (urban/unusual) for everything to get a little love. I like the idea that rolling on the wilderness encounter charts often enough would put every monster in its proper place, and that we could calculate AD&D's "Frequency" and "Terrain" entries by looking at how often and where the monster appears in the wilderness encounter charts.
ALEX: Every monster that lives in the wilderness and appears in the Auran Empire is on the current chart. Some monsters I simply didn't like! So I didn't assume they lived in the campaign world. (Others only live in the wilderness). I should note that this Wilderness Encouner table has had dozens of sessions of playtesting.
ALEX: As far as extracting frequencies from the table, found the math on this to yield very weird results. Because of how the subtables work, some monsters show up way more frequently than you'd expect and others almost never.
ALEX: I did a revised version of the table (for 3.5) that has more monsters and tries to account for frequency - I can send it to you if you'd like. That said, in play, the more frequency-oriented table means the same monsters show up a lot. I actually ended up preferring the original (non-frequency mapped) table.
Dungeon encounters:
- Moldvay gives you all the stats you need in the same table you use to roll up the wandering monster. This is very convenient in play.
ALEX: Yeah.
- OD&D has a two-step process. First you roll to see whether you are encountering a monster that belongs to a level higher, lower, or the same as the level you are on. This is a cool idea - among other things, it can tell you where the monster's lair might be, whether this is a denizen or a raider, and whether if captured this monster will know a lot about the level you found it on. However, in OD&D this tends to make for lethal encounters - on dungeon level 1, there is a 66% chance you will roll on a dungeon encounter table higher than 1, and a 1 in 6 chance you will get the table that has ogres and wights - probably because on level 1, there is no table lower than that so all the variance is towards a more challenging level. Even if we fix that, this adds a step of complexity.
ALEX: I'm agnostic on this.
- The wilderness monster table use of subtypes does two cool things: first, it tells you early on what to start thinking about (e.g. you roll "flyer" and start describing what the cloud conditions are like as you roll on the subtype table to see what will come out of these clouds); second it helps when making your own custom encounter tables, because if you know you want different flyers you can just change that subtype table and not have to go into a complex unitary table where the relationships aren't clear like in AD&D.
ALEX: Agreed
- In dungeon encounters, do we need to know whether the monster is in its lair or not? We probably do, right?
ALEX: I have always assumed that dungeon wandering monsters are truly wandering, while the lairs are the rooms in the dungeon with assigned beasties. Otherwise you could roll up lairs that just make no sense in a confined dungeon. I only use % in Lair indoors when I'm stocking dungeons.
Good stuff....

Undercrypt
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Joined: 2011-07-21 00:40

Do we want the % in lair to be a throw on d20 instead? I do.
Normally I'd agree since everything seems to be in lots of 5%. This particular stat is specifically referred to as a percentage, though, and it makes sense to use it that way. "% in Lair: 10%" is a much clearer expression of what's going on than "Lair Throw: 19+" I think.
I expect to see Hell Cow next to Demon Boar now.
It seems like there could be a stronger connection between the wilderness method and the dungeon method. Ideally the methods would be interchangeable, wouldn't they?

sean wills
Joined: 2011-07-07 19:39

'Otherwise you could roll up lairs that just make no sense in a confined dungeon'
I did this last night:
http://sean-n-sorcery.blogspot.com/2011/08/volume-ii-retrocloning-ready-...

Tavis
Joined: 2011-07-01 15:40

I asked Delta of Delta's D&D Hotspot for his guidance here, and he gave me permission to post his reply here:
First of all, really interesting project! Congratulations on
meeting your Kickstarter goal, I think that's really impressive.
Just in case you couldn't find them, here are links to those wandering
monster analyses from my blog (had to re-read them myself):
http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2010/08/wandering-monster-levels.html
http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2010/08/wandering-monster-tables.html
http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2010/08/wandering-monster-numbers.html
http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2010/08/wandering-monster-summary.html
I'm pretty sure when I did that in the past, I was making handwritten notes,
so I don't have spreadsheets made up for those tables. At one point I was
planning on writing up my alternative tables but didn't get around to it.
However, here's my executive-summary main points of advice on the matter:
(1) The overall idea of the OD&D wandering monsters works well for a single
megadungeon environment (like Castle Greyhawk). Not so much as a general
abstracted "anywhere" table (like in AD&D DMG). I'd recommend, if possible,
tailoring the specifics to one tentpole campaign site, and giving tips on
how players can make their own for other locales.
(2) The OD&D "...level of monster matrix" is probably too tough (by the 2nd
dungeon level, the average encounter is 3rd level, possibly as high as 5th);
you can see in AD&D that Gygax probably overcompensated in the other
direction; Holmes has it about right, nice and smoothly increasing. Attached
you'll find a spreadsheet of my alternative, OD&D-compatible, smoothed-out
matrix (feel free to use as open content?)
(3) The individual "monster level tables" can be pretty reliably setup
according average HD, as per the 2nd link above. This assumes that exotic
special powers scale up with HD like they mostly do in OD&D (i.e., no 1 HD
monsters with full-blown poison or level-drain ability). There's one or two
outliers in OD&D that I don't mind getting ironed out (which is an advantage
to making your own).
(4) The number encountered seems pretty good at 1d6 if monster level =
dungeon level. What I do is, for each difference in dungeon level, multiply
or divide the dice by 2^n (i.e., 2, 4, 8, etc.) I suppose as I write this it
might break down at the higher levels... maybe number each level "category"
1-8 (8 rows in the attached table) and use that instead, ideally. The number
encountered is kind of a theoretical construct for me so far. :-)
Just a couple other observations culled from my own blogs -- The OD&D tables
are all hostile (instant attack), there's no benign/friendly types (like
dwarves or elves). I do have my own "more generic D&D" modified tables but I
haven't written them up yet -- maybe this week & I can put them on my blog
(like, take out thouls, giants hogs, etc.; replace with Sup-I stuff like
stirges, bugbears, etc.) I like having one entry on each level for the
different NPC classes (like at level 2 an entry for warriors/swordsmen,
etc.)
I hope that's helpful?

Undercrypt
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The wilderness monster table use of subtypes does two cool things...
Yes, and that's interesting from the design point of view. It also allows for a large variety in any terrain without a 96-entry table, which is nice. There do seem to be some down sides for someone who's not familiar with them.
1. Having to consult two tables (ignoring NPC party generation) instead of one - probably with some page turning - along with an occasional 1d6 seems a bit awkward compared to a single roll.
2. It obscures the actual percentage of any particular monster that might show up, which covers up some weirdness. In swamps, for example, you're twice as likely to run into a mummy (over 4%) as an insect swarm, and mummies appear twice as frequently in swamps as in deserts. You're slightly more likely to run into Lizard Men than Mummies - 5% vs 4% - but that's not obvious.
3. In terrains without much duplication in the tables - Mountains seem like a good example - any one thing is just as likely as any other thing. Equal chance to run into a dwarf, an antelope, or a purple worm on a typical mountain pass. That seems... odd.
None of that might matter since the system obviously works and isn't broken, but I thought I'd point it out.
If I were designing wandering monster tables from scratch, I might have a somewhat larger (d20) initial table for the terrain that included the most common results (1-2 Lizard Men, 3-4 Crocodiles, 5 Insect Swarms, 6 Zombies, etc. for the Swamp), with subtables at the end of the list to fill out the rest. I think that would strike a nice balance between efficiency, predictability (if you're going into the swamp, you'd best prepare for lizard men and crocs), and variety (you might still run into brigands and wights).
I really like the Dungeon Type table in Constructing Dungeons. It would be neat if dungeon types acted like wilderness terrains and defined the default wandering monster tables for the dungeon - lots of undead in the Barrows/Catacombs/Tombs, etc.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

2. It obscures the actual percentage of any particular monster that might show up, which covers up some weirdness. In swamps, for example, you're twice as likely to run into a mummy (over 4%) as an insect swarm, and mummies appear twice as frequently in swamps as in deserts. You're slightly more likely to run into Lizard Men than Mummies - 5% vs 4% - but that's not obvious.
ALEX: Tavis and I were just discussing this. This is one of the major problems with this style of encounter table. The Cook Expert set encounter table has the same problem.
3. In terrains without much duplication in the tables - Mountains seem like a good example - any one thing is just as likely as any other thing. Equal chance to run into a dwarf, an antelope, or a purple worm on a typical mountain pass. That seems... odd.
ALEX: Yes, that's the other major problem with this type of encounter table. The virtue of this type of table is that you get a wide array of interesting monsters that are appropriate to the terrain, without a lot of hum-drum repetition. Tables that accurately reflect the probability of purple worms, for instance, means you almost never see a purple worm. It's a hard balance to strike.
If I were designing wandering monster tables from scratch, I might have a somewhat larger (d20) initial table for the terrain that included the most common results (1-2 Lizard Men, 3-4 Crocodiles, 5 Insect Swarms, 6 Zombies, etc. for the Swamp), with subtables at the end of the list to fill out the rest. I think that would strike a nice balance between efficiency, predictability (if you're going into the swamp, you'd best prepare for lizard men and crocs), and variety (you might still run into brigands and wights).
ALEX: That's a good idea. We're reviewing the encounter tables actively over the next couple weeks so your advice is timely.

Duskreign
Joined: 2011-08-10 17:22

Undercrypt: If I were designing wandering monster tables from scratch, I might have a somewhat larger (d20) initial table for the terrain that included the most common results (1-2 Lizard Men, 3-4 Crocodiles, 5 Insect Swarms, 6 Zombies, etc. for the Swamp), with subtables at the end of the list to fill out the rest. I think that would strike a nice balance between efficiency, predictability (if you're going into the swamp, you'd best prepare for lizard men and crocs), and variety (you might still run into brigands and wights).
ALEX: That's a good idea. We're reviewing the encounter tables actively over the next couple weeks so your advice is timely.
I would strongly favor this approach...

Undercrypt
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I went through the monster spreadsheet and put together a quick count of monsters by hit dice. Hit dice with plus or minus points were treated as the base hit dice, and for monsters that had a range of hit dice I used the lowest value. I ignored dragons.
HD #
<1 9
1 24
2 27
3 21
4 24
5 16
6 18
7 5
8 15
9 4
10 7
11 3
12 5
13 1
>13 9
Lots of low level variety, and the top end filled with giants and dinosaurs and the like.
While HD variety doesn't explicitly correlate with population, it would seem to make sense that the monster population has something very much like the Demographics of Heroism; a band of level 2 gnolls might credibly threaten an estate or hamlet but not a large village, while a band of frost giants might very well cause havoc in a big city. If giants were as common as gnolls, not a lot of villages would survive their first year.
Thoughts on encounter tables that might or might not relate to that:
1. A terrain might have separate encounter tables for Civilized, Borderlands, and Wilderness, with the nastier encounters (in levels or in numbers) obviously in the Wilderness. That's the whole point of being civilized, really - fewer trolls eating your villagers. If that could be done without tripling the number of tables, even better. Alternatively, Borderlands and Wilderness could lower the Encounter Throw.
2. Consider "Dungeon" (or maybe "Underground") just another type of terrain, removing the distinction between wilderness and dungeon encounters (except for encounter distance). If the rest of the terrain has the Civil/Border/Wild increasing difficulty, Dungeons easily match that with Deep/Deeper/Deepest - the basic dungeon wandering monster table collapsed to three levels.
3. I still love the idea of separate tables for each Dungeon Type (treated as different terrains), but I can see how adding another dozen+ tables to the core rules is a bit much. Maybe Dungeon Type tables, breaking them out to 6 or 10 levels deep, and fleshing out some tougher monsters would make for a good "Dungeon Delving" mini-supplement someday.
4. If things weren't already complex enough, it would be interesting to have Day vs Night variations. (They mostly come out at night... mostly...)

sean wills
Joined: 2011-07-07 19:39

Excellent stuff Undercrypt !
To keep it simple why not keep the Terrain tables, but had a +/- modifier for if the hex is Civilized, Borderlands, or Wilderness. C/B/W being defining by density of human/demi-human population.
So you end up having to go to more remote areas to search out the lairs of rare creatures rather than just hope for a certain encounter roll just outside town.
Which is totally Sinbad and therefore cool :)

jedo
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I just went through something like this for my Judges Guild table project:
JG Tables over @ Redbox
This post brings up the point that the logic of 'In Lair %' may be a bit flawed, in how EGG interpreted it.
For wilderness it seemed more logical to roll for locating a lair (a physical location) as a possibility in the encounter charts, and then at that point a second chart or probability indicates the likelihoods that the lair is abandoned, unoccupied at the moment, partially occupied, or fully occupied, made the most sense. (to me)
The mental gymnastics of rolling an encounter and then looking to see if that encounter happened in its lair or out in the open always felt counter-intuitive to me, and left no possibility of stumbling across an empty lair...

sean wills
Joined: 2011-07-07 19:39

Great work on the JG tables !

Undercrypt
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To keep it simple why not keep the Terrain tables, but had a +/- modifier for if the hex is Civilized, Borderlands, or Wilderness. C/B/W being defining by density of human/demi-human population.
So maybe a 1-20 table, roll a d12, +2 Borderlands/+4 Wilderness, +2 Known Dangerous Territory, +2 GM Discretion (player bad choice penalty/they mostly come out at night); keep the traveling merchant types around 1-2, typical inhabitants 3-9, subtables around 10-12, 13+ for the big and weird. Three subtable results give a 25% chance to branch away from the main table, maybe enough to keep things from being too repetitive. Could be interesting.
I just went through something like this for my Judges Guild table project:
Awesome tables! Would be a great app, too. I'll be using these when my group heads into Goblin territory.
This post brings up the point that the logic of 'In Lair %' may be a bit flawed, in how EGG interpreted it.
Very nice - that makes a whole lot of sense out of that number I mostly ignored. Is this how ACKS is using it?

sean wills
Joined: 2011-07-07 19:39

'So maybe a 1-20 table, roll a d12, +2 Borderlands/+4 Wilderness, +2 Known Dangerous Territory, +2 GM Discretion (player bad choice penalty/they mostly come out at night); keep the traveling merchant types around 1-2, typical inhabitants 3-9, subtables around 10-12, 13+ for the big and weird. Three subtable results give a 25% chance to branch away from the main table, maybe enough to keep things from being too repetitive.'
Nice one - it's like Gygaxian naturalism meets Classic Traveller encounters.

James S
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Joined: 2011-07-29 12:36

I think Deltas stuff has a goodly amount of wisdom in it.
Also, I'd prefer the number encountered info to not include the descriptor of what sort of group is encountered. I might be in a minority but I think that to name the thing is to constrain the thing and there's more inherent game in leaving it unknown. Forcing a GM to come up with their own reason why those orcs are there and what they're doing will, in the grandest sense, produce much more creative results.
Then again, an experienced GM will just ignore the descriptor anyway.