Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Random Wilderness Events

Note: MY CURRENT PLAYERS SHOULD AVOID DOWNLOADING OR READING THE "WILDERNESS ENCOUNTER TABLE" PDF MENTIONED AT SEVERAL POINTS DURING THIS POST. That pdf contains possible spoilers about what's going on in the Minochian Mountains in our current campaign timeline. Aside from that pdf, however, I have kept the rest of this post spoiler-free, so please read on and enjoy!

Generating Random Wilderness Events
In my latest session report, I mentioned a technique I have been using in my Labyrinth Lord games to generate random wilderness events. There are two methods I have used in order to randomly determine whether or not a natural event occurs during wilderness travel:

1. The "Customize the Encounter Table" Method
If you download the Minochian Mountains Encounter Table pdf, you will see that I embedded "natural event" results into the table itself. In this case, it is a d30 table, and a roll of 29 on the d30 results in a natural event rather than a monster. To determine which specific natural event occurs, simply make an additional roll on the "Natural Events Sub-Table" (see below).

This approach could be adapted for use with stock Wilderness Encounter Tables as well: simply choose one monster off the list (BEFORE rolling on the table) to swap out for the "Roll on Natural Event Sub-Table" result. For example, if I were using the "Grassland" Wilderness Monster Encounter Table on page 105 of Labyrinth Lord, I could pre-designate the "Boar" result (a roll of 3 on the d20) as my "Roll on Natural Event Sub-Table" outcome. Every time I rolled a wandering monster encounter, there would be a 1 in 20 chance of the "monster" actually being a natural event.

2. The "Extra 1 in 6 Chance" Method
As a DM I am always on the lookout for another excuse to roll d6s. There is something really satisfying for me about the "x in 6 chance" event outcome mechanic (a fact which bodes well for my interest in one day playing LotFP: WFRP, since its "skill system" is based on this very mechanic).

In the comments to that most recent session report, I mentioned that I was using the straight-up Labyrinth Lord Wilderness Encounter Tables during Session 36. The reason for this is because the custom Minochian Mountains Encounter Table mentioned above is really only appropriate for use in southern Minoch near Stonehell; for the PC's recent adventure on Blackstone Mountain in Northern Minoch, I instead used the "Mountains/Hills" Random Encounter Table on p. 105 of the LL Rulebook. But in this case I did not want to simply substitute the "Wilderness Event" result into the d20 table; I desired an even greater likelihood of a Wilderness Event on these particularly treacherous slopes! So I implemented the "Extra 1 in 6 Chance" Method.

For this method, once I have determined that a wandering monster encounter is going to take place, I impose an extra 1 in 6 chance that rather than a wandering monster, we are instead dealing with a "natural event" type encounter. Then, as usual, I use my own Wilderness Events Sub-Table (from the aforementioned pdf) to determine which specific natural event occurs.

This second method increases the chance of dangerous natural occurrences by a decent margin, but so much the better. Natural occurrences with potentially harsh outcomes make for exciting wilderness travel!

[You can read about the deadliness of my group's latest such event, a rockslide, in the Session 36 Report and DM Notes.]

The "Extra 1 in 6 Chance" Method also allows for DMs even more trigger-happy than I am to further increase the chance for a Natural Event by imposing a 2 in 6 or even a 3 in 6 chance for such an outcome after a random encounter has been indicated. I could see myself using such a tactic in a particularly seismically unstable region, for example.

Using Random Wilderness Events Sub-Tables
Since my party has been traveling in a mountainous region for the bulk of the adventure campaign so far, the Wilderness Events Sub-Table (see this pdf) I've been using since around Session 31 includes such occurrences as "Steam Geyser," "Avalanche," "Flood," "Earthquake," "Forest Fire," and even "Weird Mana Emanation" (see the pdf for full descriptions of these events).

Some suggested events for other types of wilderness regions might include:

Desert: sandstorm, drought, quicksand, flash flood, mirage

Forest/Wooded: forest fire, rainstorm, hailstorm, flood, beaver invasion, treant insurrection

Grassland: tornado, thunderstorm, insect swarm, Blood Grass

Jungle: quicksand, flood, insect swarm, tropical rainstorm, snake plague

Rivers/Lakes: current too strong, frozen, boiling

Sea: storm, whirlpool / typhoon, dead winds, seas part for a religious zealot, Ponaturi insurrection

Swamp: rainstorm, flood, drought, insect swarm, marsh gasses spontaneously explode, crocodile plague

Note that I always sneak one "wacky" or quasi-supernatural result in with the more realistic ones. That's just how I roll. Obviously, individual DMs could make their own custom Natural Event Sub-Tables for each region in their own campaign world(s).

[Thanks to The Jovial Priest for urging me to write this up.]

1 comment:

  1. No, thank you Carter this is most excellent. Do I sound like Bill or Ted? Not meaning to.

    Those mountain wandering monsters - wow, deadly. My advice to the party - keep clear!
    I'm really keen to push on with the Old School Adventure Guide, though by push on may still mean months and months, I wonder if you or Spawn could drop me an email to discuss an idea for building on the wandering monster / encounter tables.

    I'm going to add to the Adventure Guide wiki, Spawn's Horse Rules, though I hope he takes these further with the excellent comments he received, and his magic item Chime of Infallible Wayfaring. I'm hoping to add a similar themed travelling magic item soon. So many projects, so little time, but all good.