Random Encounters Tweaked to Perfection

Yesterday I briefly talked about something that is a sore subject among my fellow Dungeon Masters, the evil RANDOM ENCOUNTERS TABLES (RET). Now Third edition D&D is such a complicated pile, that it makes RET’s worthless. From what I understand, it’s been done away with. However since we who cling to our faithful 2e like a bottle of old scotch, we still have access to monsters that we can create with a handful of d8’s.

Lots of DM’s curse these ancient things, calling them filthy names that I dare not post of a family friendly blogspace such as this one! Just rest assured that they get called lots of bad stuff, and on top of it all, COMPLETELY IGNORED TOO!

Before I go any further, I just want to explain something to the lot of you: We DM’s play test things a lot! Sometimes these tests are successful, and sometimes they aren’t. The key is to find things that work for you and get rid of the stuff that doesn’t. Many DM’s play tested RET’s and found that it didn’t work . . . However, I on the other hand, was able to tweak these little lists, because I was convinced that they had potential, and really got them to the point where they not only function, but actually are one of the staples in my games!

The key to making RET’s work, is that you remember that they are tools, and we mustn’t become slaves to our tools. Random Encounters come with their own rules, and these too must be broken to make the thing function like they should.

Their basic function, is that RET’s liven up a scene that would otherwise be dead. These things help with speeding up prep time, and I shouldn’t hear any bitching from the back row about that! They are only used when characters are moving about from point A to point B. If we have a planned encounter, say NPC Thieves have created an ambush on the road, then we aren’t going to use our RET’s. Neither are we ever going to use RET’s when characters need every hp that they got to survive a massive encounter, nor will we use them when they are healing from coming out of one. THINK LIKE A PLAYER!!! It’s one thing to die during a grand encounter, sacrificing yourself so that your team can survive, however it is something entirely different to die during a random encounter.

Let’s look at one of mine. A simple one, I want to show you how simple you should get with these. Of course these are all checked with a 1d100. . . .


01-20---------1d4 Farmers
21-40---------1d3 Merchants
41-70--------- No Encounter
71-80---------1d4+2 Goblins
81-90---------1d4 Wild Dogs
91-95---------1 Wild Boar
96-00---------1 Poisonous Snake

Now grasslands are fairly safe, and the RET reflects that; it can also change at night all by itself because farmers and merchants won’t be traveling the roads at that time, which would make all rolls under 71 no encounters. The Goblins are also variable, this was just what I had originally created the list for, the goblins were the bad guys henchmen, thus if I was telling a story about a Necromancer, then it would be Zombies, or even a Dragon hunt, it could be something as simple as a dragon paw print being found next to a half eaten body. It doesn’t always have to be a combat encounter. The farmers aren’t going to go mad and start throwing poop at the characters, they are just fluff. Proof that there is a living breathing world. It also helps me as a DM, I don’t want anything random about my story, but this stuff adds just the right amount of chaos to the mix. If I see somebody at the table getting bored, or if I’m getting bored, a simple Random Encounter can really break the foul mood and get everybody back into the game!

I also want you to look what is on the list. It is all stuff right out of the Monsterous Manual and it’s all unmodified. All you have to do is roll hp and the monster is done. Don’t put anything on there that takes more then rolling up hp for. No wizards, because you won’t have time to generate a spell list for him. If you do put a classed creature onto the list, be specific as possible! 2d4 2nd level soldiers for example. You know their all of them will have the same AC, and use weapons that you know by heart.

All Random Encounters will also be treated like attacks of opportunity, no strategy, and all frontal assaults, and as a general rule: Should always be resolved in under 5 minutes, unless, of course, your players are really itching to toss some dice, and you’ve got nothing lined up for them.

Take a look at the inside of your Dungeon Masters Shield, most of the tables on the back of that thing are specifically there for you to quickly run RET’s. They are the Salt and Pepper of any good campaign, they add flavor to what normally would be a boring day’s march, and you can also get a chance to put some wildlife in there for them to interact with. Instead of just calling a wood, Haunted, with RET’s you can quickly populate an entire area. The danger will be REAL! And you don’t have to write 2,000 page essays on crafted encounters, which allows you to focus even more energy on crafting your stories. Where is the negative to Random Encounter Tables again? I forget!


Anonymous said...

(Actually, d20 is sufficient for that particular table.)

I think random encounters are useful if travelling is supposed to be dangerous. A large table might also be useful if lots of encounters are needed; otherwise, one is likely to start repeating oneself, which is not particularly fun.

Also, one use I like: Failed your tracking check? Random encounter. Failed the roll to find a safe hiding place in hostile territory: Random encounter, but at night, not quite immediately.

RipperX said...

Also, one use I like: Failed your tracking check? Random encounter. Failed the roll to find a safe hiding place in hostile territory: Random encounter, but at night, not quite immediately.

That is absolutely ingenious! I had never thought about doing that before. It is definitely something to consider, things that would set up a Random Encounter.

I also agree with your point that you don't want to repeat yourself, this is my personal list, so everything on here is a variable to me. I have an idea about what other similar wild beasts are living off the land as well, and can quickly adapt. Thank you for pointing this out, I KNEW that I was forgetting something.

Thank you for commenting thanuir, I really appreciate it. BTW, I hope that you don't mind that I added your site to my links page. I noticed a couple of hits coming from your site (THANKS FOR THE LINK!) and thought that I'd return the favor. I was going to email you, but . . . well, I didn't.

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