Saturday, January 16, 2010

Custom Encounter Tables

Gearing up for my campaign start later this weekend, I have been furiously banging out a few last-minute random encounter tables for areas in Ara that my PC's might just want to explore.  Since I am simply starting the PCs out in an Arandish town, Swampsedge, and baiting a few (widely varying) adventure hooks, I really have no idea which direction the party will leap, geographically or otherwise.  So I want to be ready, and for me, part of readiness is preparing my own custom wilderness encounter tables.

You see, as much as I love randomness and being surprised, as DM I like to have a say about the range of possibilities of what can randomly occur once game play starts.  I like to create a certain feel to the Arandish game world by customizing my own tables.  When taking parties into the Lands of Ara, there are certain monsters (goblins, giant lizards) I like to filter out, and others (owlbears, orcs) I like to see appear a bit more frequently.  Plus, as I've stated before, Ara is a human- and demi-human-centric world, where other types of monsters just aren't as common -- at least not out in the wilderness -- as standard D&D / Labyrinth Lord rules seem to assume.  So I stock my encounter tables with humans, NPCs, and the particular monsters I want to see pop up most in Ara, and I almost never use the stock wilderness encounter tables from any published rulebooks, except in a pinch.  Hell, even in a pinch I would probably prefer to modify one of my own tables than use the one from the book as-is. 

Allow me to state that dungeon encounter tables are a different matter, for I agree with Philotomy and others that the world of underground dungeons should be strange and uncanny and obey its own twisted "mythic underworld" type laws.  Thus I tend to stick to more standard random encounter tables in dungeon delving situations, where I think things should be more truly random.  I may use a custom table for a particular section of a given dungeon level, of course, but generally speaking, I am less picky about the parameters of my tables once the party goes underground.  Unlike on the surface of Ara, I like underground dungeon delving to be somewhat inexplicable, illogical, and weird.

But topside, I want the various regions of Ara to feel quite distinct from each other, with certain monsters prevalent in some areas and others in others.  Plus, there are some monsters I just personally don't like and/or find boring, so of course I don't want too many of those mucking up my charts.  Therefore, I am a big wilderness encounter table customizer. 

What do other DMs out there do?

1 comment:

  1. I think your reasoning is sound. I always do my own tables, and then alter them as a result of encounters and other happenings in the area (plague, foreign invasion, refugees from a war)- they are never static for long. In this way I can convey a sense of current events and that the world isn't waiting for the PCs, there is stuff occurring.

    In dungeons I sometimes generate monsters using random tables and then wing it for the descriptions.