8 thoughts on “This mirrors my own thinking about adventure design, and the Paizo/Pathfinder approach.”

  1. I haven’t found a lot of consistency at the publisher level, so it might come down to individual adventures.

    Once you get past the kill-for-XP model, wandering monsters tend to feel like a drag, but I was struck when I ran Caverns of Thracia last week how the wandering monster tables injected the place with life. A random encounter with a mixed gnoll-lizardman patrol escorting human slaves informed the whole session, because after the party stealthily avoided them I started thinking about the patrol’s offscreen movements, and a whole lot of dynamic stuff emerged from that.

    I’m really interested in exploring a model that sets up the various “playing pieces” and gives the GM clear guidance for bringing them to life. Wandering monster tables can be a great tool to this end, but the average-to-worse ones feel ill-considered and prone to breaking suspension of disbelief. 

  2. The description of Wake the Watcher in that article reminded me of pretty much every published 4e adventure, ever.  

    Regarding random encounters: I think random encounter tables need to be very different depending on context.

    In wide-open areas with lots of blanks (like a wilderness hexcrawl, a big city, or a megadungeon), they can and should have all sorts of random crap that may or may not come up. And the threats can be largely generic (e.g. “2d6 wolves”), with a few specific references (e.g. “the wyvern from hex C4, hunting”).  These do a good job of establishing possibilities and ecosystems.

    In constrained areas, especially ones that are pre-keyed (e.g. a typical dungeon), I think random encounter tables need to be closely tied to the established denizens and they need to involve events or at least actions.  For example “1d4+1 gnolls from area 4, on patrol” or “1d8 gnolls from area 4, bored and idle” or “escaped prisoner from area 8, desperate and paranoid, trying to get out.”  

    I also think it’s important to avoid “monster generators” in constrained/keyed areas. Like, camping in that back room should not cause there to be an extra 1d8 gnolls in the tribe… those 1d8 gnolls should have come from somewhere else in the dungeon.

    Where it gets weird is in largely improved games, like Dungeon World.  There, a dungeon’s random encounters could be handled like those in a hexcrawl, but you probably want to fine-tune the flavor a little.

    Not actually sure where I’m going with this, but y’all got me thinking and typing.

  3. What I’m hearing you say is that it’s not the encounters themselves that matter, but the ties that bind them.

    While you can have random encounters, what would be of benefit would be a relationship map that the GM would build as the game was played.

    Maybe there would be a couple of pre-populated slots on the relationship map; but then as random encounters came up, those random encounters would be placed (randomly?) onto the relationship map.

    So, you could encounter 1-8 gnolls. And then determine – are they part of the rebellion faction? Are they on patrol? Are they an incursion from a neighboring tribe? Depending on where they fit on the relationship map will change the encounter immensely.

    BTW, I would hella pay for that kind of module if it was kickstarted hint hint…

  4. The mention of trash fights and filler dungeons made me cringe. And it made me appreciate finding Dungeon World. Just another reason to add to the list of reasons that make it hard for me to go back to, or play the more classic and traditional systems.

  5. Chris Shorb, some sort of relationship map would be interesting to explore in this context; I like the idea of it being partially filled in in order to allow relationships to develop through play. I’d be most curious about how to present that in a way that obviates the usual description of faction relationships, so a quick glance at the map would ideally tell you all you need to know to set the gears in motion.

    Jeremy Strandberg, after our Caverns of Thracia game I was thinking about how to handle wandering monsters in a constrained environment and one way would be to have the monster listing include a countdown or set of checkboxes to track the total creature population, and you mark one box for each creature of that type killed off. You could also build in simple conditional actions, like when there are only 5 kobolds left, they grab everything they can carry and make for the rear exit, that kind of thing.

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