Monday, September 16, 2013

Random Encounters and Reaction Rolls: RERR?

My current D&D Next playtest campaign:  Dwarves, is a semi-sandbox.  By that I mean that the world is generally open for exploration, but I've developed a number of adventure hooks/events in most of the neighboring areas.  This gives the party quite a bit of freedom to explore the map and get into trouble, but also gives me some narrative structures that I can use to build encounters and areas.

Each area adjacent to the PC's starting area (Goldenhills Hall) has site-based, random and "story" based elements.  That means that any random encounters table has to pull double-duty.  It has to contain random encounters, true, but the encounters need to be linked to the story elements and to the site-based elements as well.

As a DM, I tend to work on the "you CAN talk to most things, but sometimes they don't want to talk to you" basis.  Having encounters that end in ways other than combat is an essential step towards creating a world that gives the characters options besides "I hit it with the rock!"  But realistically, not everything wants to talk.  AND you can't really use charisma is all circumstances.  You might be a charming motherfucking pig, but the Cave Lion don't care...

So that means that encounter tables have to carry quite a bit of weight.  I use a standard 2d6 reaction dice, but each encounter has a modification, and also notes whether Charisma can be used.  Temper all this stuff with a generous dose of common sense.  Obviously you need some way to communicate, even if it's lighting torches and throwing them at said Cave Lion (universal human symbol for "Fuck Off").

Encounters are rolled daily and nightly with a d6.  1 indicates an encounter.  I tend to add +1 or +2 to the actual encounter roll (d20) at night, since I keep fairly positive encounters at the low end of the list - nighttime encounters tend to be more hostile as a result. 

Encounter reaction table:  Roll 2d6 and modify, encounters with Cha can be modified by characters Cha bonus IF they can communicate.  Characters with Animal Handling can add their modified bonus to reaction rolls involving animals.

1-           Immediate Attack
2-3          Hostile, will attack if opportunity presents
4-5          Suspicious, will attack if threatened or try to flee.
6-8          Neutral, will talk, attack or flee depending on interactions
9-10       Wary, but willing to listen.  Won’t let guard down.
11-12     Curious, interested in talking, will approach.
13+         Friendly, interested, will approach and offer assistance.

This system is structured to work with a possible encounter bonus of around +/- 4 or so at the extreme.  A +/- 8 modifier would mean a purely hostile or peaceful encounter.

Currently, the party is exploring the Saltwind Flats.  The area is prairie and rolling grassy and rocky hills.  The main local inhabitants are the Ahten Nomads, who are currently under attack by the followers of Doresain, King of Ghouls, who have taken up residence in a local ruin/dungeon. 

Saltwind Flats Plains and Foothills encounters
Roll
Encounter
# Appearing
Reaction Modifier (2d6)
1
Ahten Nomads – Herders with stock and families
2d10
+4 (cha)
2
Ahten Nomads – Hunting Party
d6
+3 (cha)
3
Ahten Nomads – War party – well-armed nomads
d12
+2 (cha)
4
Animal Herd (1-2 Buffalo, 3-4 Wild Horses, 5-6 Wild Cattle)
d100
0
5
Plains lion pride – plains lions.
d4
0
6
Wolf pack
D10
0
7
Ghul skulkers, looking to carry off the unwary
D4
-8
8
Gnoll raiders, looking to kill and eat something
2d6
-4 (cha)
9
Air elemental, playful, but rough.
1
0
10
Slavers out of Hellonde
D10
-2 (cha)
11
Lizardman Raiders on raptor mounts.
D6
-4 (cha)
12
Giant snake out hunting.  It ain’t picky.
D2
0
13
Griffons on the wing.
D4
0
14
Ankheg nest.  It’s usually hungry
1
-4
15
Manticore.  It likes to eat people most of all
1
-6
16
Perytons out looking for something to kill
D4
-8
17
Wendigo.  Cannibalistic air spirits only come out at night.
1
-8
18
Roll again, you find that group recently dead.


19
Roll twice, and the two groups have just met.


20
Special



I keep a separate table for Special encounters.  Those are the weird, different stuff.

I find this system gives me a good spread of random encounters with a range of possible outcomes, tied to both the story elements and the regional "feel" that I'm looking for.