Friday, October 24, 2008

“Five minutes to curtain, Mr. Vargouille.”

I’m a big fan of the custom random encounter table. I think p. 138 from the Monster Manual II pretty much makes the book worth owning even if you never use any creature from within its pages. Using a d8 + d12 to generate a bell-curve distribution of results allows the DM to add some pretty weird and/or massively over-powered creatures to the random table without worrying about threatening the party’s over-all chances of survival at every turn. Plus, this method can be easily modified for other uses.

Without giving too much away, below in the Wandering Monster Table for Level Three of Ol’ Nameless. I’ve removed any indication of “# appearing,” so potential adventurers will have no idea whether they may run into 1d4 of these creatures or 2d20 of them. The monsters on the list comprise both creatures that have lairs on Level Three, as well as nomadic wanderers and visitors from other levels and sub-levels.

2 – Special
3 – Necrophidius
4 – Zombie, Juju
5 – Devil, Lemure
6 – Cyclopskin
7 – Ochre Jelly
8 – Snake, constrictor
9 – Ogre
10 – Bugbear
11 – Spider, Huge/Large
12 – Ghoul
13 – Toad, Poisonous
14 – Lizard, giant
15 – Gelatinous Cube
16 – Troglodyte
17 – Land Urchin
18 – Vargouille
19 – Heucuva
20 – Iron Cobra

I’d like to say that there’s a method to the madness behind all the weird choices on the list, but there’s not. Not to all of them, anyway. Some appear because of features of the level, but many show up because I have a fondness for them and “I’ve learned to stop worrying and love the dungeon.”



Jonathan said...

I too am a huge fan of the "custom" random encounter. Instead of wandering monsters, i usually build a set of encounters for an area and drop them into a table like the one you use above (although I use 2d10 instead of the slightly skewed 1d12+1d8). I usually set up areas (dungeons, wilderness regions, town quarters, etc) as have a 'default' encounter level and then decide how risky do I want to make the table - with the most dangerous zones have encounters on the tails of the bell curve (roll a 2 or 20) that are +4 EL above the default for the zone.

thanks for pointing to the MMII table.. i'll have to go refresh my memory now.

entertheoctopus said...

"I've learned to stop worrying and love the dungeon."
Classic! A good guiding philosophy toward this game of ours.

Amityville Mike said...

@jonathan:I think I prefer the d8+d12 method simply because I get to use the much overlooked d12 more often.

@entertheoctopus: That's become my new mantra during the design phase. Hopefully the pleasure I'm getting out of the initial layout work will bleed through to the player's enjoyment once I'm done.