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 Post subject: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 2:45 pm 
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One thing that struck me when I first picked up my first adventures for DCC like Doom of the Savage Kings and Sailors on the Starless Sea, were the absence of wandering monster tables.

All the scenarios I have played up to and including Emerald Enchanter are very well constructed with their allocation of various threats placed throughout the map so I assume that including wandering monster checks and encounters would unbalance the adventure.

Of course, wandering monster tables go a long way back to early D&D but does anyone use them in their DCC games? They always seemed to represent the danger and risk of playing old D&D games to me. With DCC's rather deadly combat do they make the adventures too deadly? Are wandering monster checks and encounters even necessary?


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 4:07 pm 
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Flexi wrote:

Of course, wandering monster tables go a long way back to early D&D but does anyone use them in their DCC games? They always seemed to represent the danger and risk of playing old D&D games to me. With DCC's rather deadly combat do they make the adventures too deadly? Are wandering monster checks and encounters even necessary?


I think these work best in "dungeon crawl" type scenarios -- so far it seems that the dungeons in DCC modules are generally shorter than your standard dungeon crawl. From a meta-level, wandering monsters are supposed to keep the party moving, drain their resources, and keep an element of suspense high. I think the current set of DCC adventures do that without wandering monsters -- you have fewer resources to start with, the party is generally compelled to keep moving and suspense hasn't been a problem.

With an old school mega-dungeon (thinking Barrowmaze, but there's lots of others), wandering monsters are compulsory... And I like a table that includes random events (monsters+traps+other weirdness).

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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 5:06 pm 
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I use wandering monsters where I think it is appropriate.

Note the encounter table while wandering the mire in Doom. Some cool stuff there!

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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 5:19 pm 
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And remember that monsters aren't "stuck" in their respective room.
I don't advocate every-monster-in-the-whole-dungeon-goes-after-the-party-after-the-alarm play ("à la" Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun...) but monsters can certainly be "roaming" from place to place, instead of suddenly "appearing" as wandering monsters!


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 6:32 pm 
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I have never believed in the idea of wandering monsters as presented in old-school D&D products. I feel that either you decide there is a monster, or decide their isn't - using dice to determine if a "random" monster is going to show up at any given point has always felt like a refusal to acknowledge you are in control of the game... and every edition that had wandering monsters also had the advice to ignore die rolls when you felt like it, leading many of the DMs I've run across to ignore wandering monsters except as an excuse for saying "I didn't kill you on purpose, it was a wandering monster."

So yeah, I hate the things and hate the idea as previously presented...

There are, however, lots of monsters already in the dungeon - have them move around a bit and you are golden.


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 7:24 pm 
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Presumably, when you created the wandering monster table, you were taking responsibility for your creation.

Random elements in the game, be they mercurial magic rolls or attack rolls or checks for wandering monsters, are appropriate or inappropriate based upon circumstances. Wandering encounters should (IMHO) exist to enhance the feeling of a dynamic setting. The judge should not have to know where each swamp jackal is in the Great Marsh.

Reynard on EN World once did an excellent series of blog posts on why to use random encounters, and (more importantly) how to use them well. I don't have a link for you, however. :cry:

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Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2012 7:58 pm 
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Raven_Crowking wrote:
Presumably, when you created the wandering monster table, you were taking responsibility for your creation.

Random elements in the game, be they mercurial magic rolls or attack rolls or checks for wandering monsters, are appropriate or inappropriate based upon circumstances. Wandering encounters should (IMHO) exist to enhance the feeling of a dynamic setting. The judge should not have to know where each swamp jackal is in the Great Marsh.

Reynard on EN World once did an excellent series of blog posts on why to use random encounters, and (more importantly) how to use them well. I don't have a link for you, however. :cry:

There is a difference between randomly determining when a pre-determined event will happen, such as rolling to see when it is that the party encounters one of the many swamp jackals or other threats while traversing the Great Marsh, and the set up suggested for wandering monsters by old-school D&D.

I just feel that there is really no such thing as a "random encounter," because either the Judge has placed it there on purpose without rolling any dice, or he has put the encounter there on purpose but included random die rolls. In the case of following old-school advice, the Judge would even ignore those random dice rolls if he felt like it... making the wandering monster situation even less random.

What I advocate is for Judges to be honest about it: you either planned that encounter to happen and it did, or you planned for it not to happen and it didn't - there is no such thing as an un-planned encounter that happened anyway (despite that some encounters might be planned very quickly at the table in response to player actions or the outcome of other events).


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 1:32 am 
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Raven_Crowking wrote:
Note the encounter table while wandering the mire in Doom. Some cool stuff there!


Ah, well spotted RC, I forgot about that one!
Maybe this kinda thing fits better, a unified table of random events (monsters, traps, weird events etc) as Ragboy said, rather than just pure random wandering monster tables.


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:55 am 
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TheNobleDrake wrote:
There is a difference between randomly determining when a pre-determined event will happen, such as rolling to see when it is that the party encounters one of the many swamp jackals or other threats while traversing the Great Marsh, and the set up suggested for wandering monsters by old-school D&D.

Are we being a little strict about the use of the term 'random'? I think all of that falls under a general use by most folks of the term 'random' in regards to RPGs.

The "old-school' wandering monster set up I know of featured a set structure whereby something would happen, and the dice told you when -- "randomly determining when a pre-determined event will happen", as you say. Though I am sure there were variations, and maybe what you're referencing is a variant I am not familiar with...

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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:21 pm 
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Count me in as a guy that prefers his dungeons (and adventures) to have wandering monsters and other random encounters. As both the DM and player I like the way these can completely change the game and take it in unexpected ways. My tables are never as simple as "1d6 rats, 1d8 skeletons etc). Certainly enounters like that will exist, but so will much more dynamic ones (including things like weather and even potential allies).

A recent game we played had the PCs encounter a group of tomb raiders who (by pure luck of the dice) were hauling out a massive treasure. We could have flubbed their treasure rolls (it was a crazy haul for such low level PCs if they could steal it) but it was decided that we would "trust" the dice. Afterall, we don't flub crits or fails so why do it here? A great battle ensued as one of the greedier players decided to rush and sneak attack the raiders for their goods before the party could discuss the merits of his plan. The PCs were torn between the morality of the action and their loyalty to their "friend". In the end the PCs barely won but the "goodly" clerics in the group found their deities entirely displeased by their actions. Another character was foolish enough to wear the engraved armour of the leader in to town and an angry mob gathered and demanded to know where the missing owner (a popular local) was. The PCs fubbed a story about finding him dead in the tomb but the townsfolks are very suspicious now. Oh and there is also an NPC running around that knows the truth and was paid off (rather than murdered in cold blood) with gems to keep his mouth shut. The PCs are now very concerned he will blab...

This was not a planned encounter, it greatly enriched our game and all kinds of side stories developed from it. As a DM this makes the game that much more fun to play for me. It's also why I haven't really embraced the current modules offered by DCC as they don't seem to embrace this style of play. I don't want to start a debate on this though as it's been done to death on other forums. Just understand that some of us love this sort of thing and don't see them only as "resource drains" (though that is a nice benefit).


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 2:29 pm 
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That's what makes a tabletop game much more interesting than an online one... there's the possibility of the sort of morality lesson that you might learn from reading a good novel. You ain't gonna get that on WoW, EQ, or whatever.

I'm completely stealing this idea too, btw. Guess mine maybe won't be random.

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2: Detect Invisible, Levitate (extremely difficult, d14), Mirror Image (20% chance to raise/lower luck by 1d3 points).
Equip: Ring of the Sand Djinn: +2 AC/saves, Invisibility for 1min/spellburn point, or unmake for great, unknown effect. Padded Armor, Longsword, Longbow, quiver w/20 steel-tipped arrows, 10 silver-tipped arrows, backpack, spellbook, quill and ink, sturdy parchment (10 sheets), 5 days rations, high leather boots, belt w/ belt pouch, gray robe, dark gray hooded cloak. Also carries 3 small mechanical toys: wind-up mouse, wooden puzzle cube, small jewelry box that plays a little tune.


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:50 pm 
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With wilderness settings, I do "planned random encounters." These are detailed encounters that I apply randomly -- either dice roll or pick one -- that may or may not be related to the party's overall goal, and may or may not lead to some other set piece in the world (dungeon, ruin, town, etc). I use these in conjunction with straight random encounters (predators, monsters, random animals, etc). In a wilderness setting, for some reason, random encounters feel more appropriate.

But, in the context of a living dungeon, random encounters should be integral to the game -- especially in a mega-dungeon type setting. Keeping the pressure on the characters, by denying rest, soaking up healing, preventing escape, etc. serves an important purpose in my opinion -- Dungeons are not ever safe. Characters should never be comfortable there. The later edition play style of "three encounters and rest to recover spells and hit points" is not my style. My style is: "Get in there, loot what you can, kill what you have to, and get the hell out!"

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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 3:53 pm 
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bholmes4 wrote:
Just understand that some of us love this sort of thing and don't see them only as "resource drains" (though that is a nice benefit).


I agree -- random encounters often lead to whole random paths of roleplaying that the DM never intended. Another reason to love them. I didn't mean that random encounters were only there to be a resource drain.

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In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer: 12 Short Adventures for DCC!
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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:22 pm 
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TheNobleDrake wrote:
Raven_Crowking wrote:
Presumably, when you created the wandering monster table, you were taking responsibility for your creation.

Random elements in the game, be they mercurial magic rolls or attack rolls or checks for wandering monsters, are appropriate or inappropriate based upon circumstances. Wandering encounters should (IMHO) exist to enhance the feeling of a dynamic setting. The judge should not have to know where each swamp jackal is in the Great Marsh.

Reynard on EN World once did an excellent series of blog posts on why to use random encounters, and (more importantly) how to use them well. I don't have a link for you, however. :cry:

There is a difference between randomly determining when a pre-determined event will happen, such as rolling to see when it is that the party encounters one of the many swamp jackals or other threats while traversing the Great Marsh, and the set up suggested for wandering monsters by old-school D&D.


Not the way I read old-school D&D. Maybe I am not Old-School Enough, though. :D

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Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 9:48 pm 
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Raven_Crowking wrote:
TheNobleDrake wrote:
Raven_Crowking wrote:
Presumably, when you created the wandering monster table, you were taking responsibility for your creation.

Random elements in the game, be they mercurial magic rolls or attack rolls or checks for wandering monsters, are appropriate or inappropriate based upon circumstances. Wandering encounters should (IMHO) exist to enhance the feeling of a dynamic setting. The judge should not have to know where each swamp jackal is in the Great Marsh.

Reynard on EN World once did an excellent series of blog posts on why to use random encounters, and (more importantly) how to use them well. I don't have a link for you, however. :cry:

There is a difference between randomly determining when a pre-determined event will happen, such as rolling to see when it is that the party encounters one of the many swamp jackals or other threats while traversing the Great Marsh, and the set up suggested for wandering monsters by old-school D&D.


Not the way I read old-school D&D. Maybe I am not Old-School Enough, though. :D


I am being a bit strict with my definition of Judge arbitration... and a bit judgmental of the AD&D wandering/random monster chart advice.

The chart (the d12+d8 roll type) presented in the book suggested that you fill in common monsters around the middle, and rarer monsters towards either end of the chart - with the added advice that a more potent monster could be treated as rarer so that you can actually fill in the chart.

That typically resulted in either an incomplete chart (a good thing to run with, in my opinion) or a chart that involved encounters the party was not likely to be able to handle no matter when they happened... and these are things that you are rolling to see if/when happen, so that makes the party have even less of a chance of actually being prepared.

...but, there was other advice in the book that made this "okay" - ignore or change the rules whenever you fell like it.

Basically, the advice was to include super-tough and randomly occurring encounters... unless you didn't want to use them when you rolled them on the chart. I simply feel that skipping the middle man and going straight to picking out the encounters that will happen is quicker, and more "fair" to the players as they will have an encounter designed in a specific way occur, rather than a "you are walking up the path when... *die rolls* a dragon appears!" The Judge randomly having a dragon (or other monster) show up is going to play that monster a specific sort of "canned" way, rather than having thought through why that monster is there and its particular motivation upon being encountered like he would have had he instead planned the encounter.

I'm not saying that there should be no wandering monsters or monsters encountered seemingly at random during the "travel montage" portion of a game - I'm saying that rolling randomly to determine which monsters are encountered is almost never more enjoyable than deliberately choosing them.


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Wed Jul 25, 2012 10:54 pm 
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bholmes4 wrote:
This was not a planned encounter, it greatly enriched our game and all kinds of side stories developed from it. As a DM this makes the game that much more fun to play for me. It's also why I haven't really embraced the current modules offered by DCC as they don't seem to embrace this style of play. I don't want to start a debate on this though as it's been done to death on other forums. Just understand that some of us love this sort of thing and don't see them only as "resource drains" (though that is a nice benefit).


That's an awesome play report bholmes. Sounds like a lot of fun.


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2012 3:42 am 
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TheNobleDrake wrote:
I am being a bit strict with my definition of Judge arbitration... and a bit judgmental of the AD&D wandering/random monster chart advice.

The chart (the d12+d8 roll type) presented in the book suggested that you fill in common monsters around the middle, and rarer monsters towards either end of the chart - with the added advice that a more potent monster could be treated as rarer so that you can actually fill in the chart.


You mean the advice in the Monster Manual II here, right? Because, before that, a %-based chart was suggested.

Yes, such a wandering monster chart needs to be created with the supposition that certain creatures are in (or are likely to wander into) the area that is being explored. And, yes, the judge is absolutely responsible for choosing what those creatures are.

Knowing that you can encounter things outside your "fight range" is good for the game, I think. But it is wrong to imagine that, simply because something is being rolled for, the area description should not take its "footprint" into account. If there are basilisks wandering around, there should be some indication that basilisks might be wandering around that area. Old and broken statuary, for instance, is going to be encountered far more often than the critters themselves. This is no different than, living in bear country, one encounters bear scat and prints more often than one encounters bears.

Quote:
I'm not saying that there should be no wandering monsters or monsters encountered seemingly at random during the "travel montage" portion of a game - I'm saying that rolling randomly to determine which monsters are encountered is almost never more enjoyable than deliberately choosing them.


Both have their merits and their drawbacks. Different folks, different strokes.


RC

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Cathbad the Meek (herbalist Wizard 1): AC 9; 4 hp; S 7, A 7, St 10, P 17, I 13, L 8; Neutral; Club, herbs, 50' rope, 50 cp; -1 to melee attack rolls. Hideous scar.


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:34 am 
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I tend to roll for wandering monsters when the party stops to rest, but not so much when they are in motion.

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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2012 7:49 am 
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I should add that I don't always do this but when possible I try to pre-generate a bunch of encounters before hand. Before doing so I will often create thematic tables for the game that I then roll on, with the possibility for unexpected results, dynamic encounters and DM specials built in. A goblin forest may have simple entries like "goblin patrol (2d6 goblins)", "1d20 giant spiders", extreme entries like "green dragon" and "wizard of the wood", events and such like "heavy fog", "snare trap" or "roll twice" (ex. if I roll goblin patrol and giant spiders I may interpret this as the goblins cocooned in trees by the spider), and finally I have "Unique monster" (something that shouldn't normally be there or a special monster I create) and "DM special". This last entry is a key one to me. When this is rolled I try to quickly come up with something fun or interesting and run with it, even if it doesn't make sense. If for some reason the first thing that comes to my mind is a knight in robotic power armour, hanging upside down from a snare trap well, I'm not quite sure how that fits our theme but lets roll with it. When I roll "DM Special" again a few rolls later maybe I decide that an area of the forest is smoking from what looks like a mini-asteroid strike, if the players investigate they find his spaceship. Cool, things are starting to make more sense and we have a potential side adventure or hook for later. Of course they may never run in to the knight or his spaceship either.

Anyway when this is done I then put them all together on a table to be rolled randomly in-game or on cards which I shuffle and pull as needed. I inform the players that I have pre-rolled them beforehand but they at least know that I did so randomly. There is no railroading going on here. It's quite possible none or all of these will be encountered by the players, and if they are, I have no idea in which order it will occur.

If the players continue in an area next session I will replace any "used" encounters with new ones so that I always have more than enough.


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 Post subject: Re: Wandering monsters
PostPosted: Tue Sep 04, 2012 2:11 pm 
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I will typically have just a handfull of random encounters prepared, usually on the order of 3 to 5 or maybe 6. That gives me the ability to put a little more thought into each one ahead of time, which helps me run the encounter better if it comes up and also to make sure they fit the flavor of what you would expect to be wandering around this area (though sometimes I will have exceptions to this, like something really out of it's element that is just trying survive and get to a place it would consider safe). It's also easier to create random encounters that are different and distinct from one another if you don't have a lot of choices. 2d10 encounters makes it a real challenge to keep them all different. I know it's supposed to be random, but few players enjoy dealing with the same thing over and over again, especially if they are similar to the planned encounters you have in the dungeon.

I usually only use random encounters if things seem to be stalled out, like if the party is dragging out a ridiculous arguement for more than a minute or two about whether or not it's moral to kill a goblin that surrendered, or deliberating for too long about which way to go, or something like that. I also always check for wandering monsters when the party chooses to spend the night to try to rest up and recover, with double the chances when they do it early in the day if it seems like they are trying to hit all the encounters at full, or nearly, full strength. If a party every tries to rest in an area heavily populated with monsters, the random encounter has a 100% chance of occuring, so the only random part might be which one and when does it happen.


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