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Author Topic: Random encounter tables - some random thoughts  (Read 130 times)


  • Dice Bagman
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Random encounter tables - some random thoughts
« on: July 21, 2020, 03:07:05 PM »
I've been thinking about random encounter tables recently, and I have come up with some ponderables* about granularity as follows:

Say you have a 2d10 system (or at least, it uses d10s as part of the mechanics). You thus have the choice of making a 1d10 or a 2d10 table. If you create a 1d10 table, you have up to ten results. As I see it, you now have several options.
1) Ten different events: wild animals; monster; magical tree; informative passer-by etc.
2) Ten different event types, as above, but for each result you roll a d6, say, to grade the event and/or attach a valence to it. Let's say you roll a 3 on your 1d10, which gives you weather. You then roll your d6, and you get a 4. Supposing i) evens are positive and odds negative, and ii) the event is on a scale of 1-6 where 1/2 is minimal and 5/6 maximal. This means that the party experience extremely clement weather. If they're on a ship they make good progress and the Sun is shining etc.  

Now imagine you roll a 7, which on your table is a bunch of random NPCs. You roll the d6 and get a 3, so they're antagonistic – bandits maybe – but low-ranking, so your PCs should be able to dispatch them without too much difficulty.

If you create a 2d10 table, you have up to nineteen possibilities, which means you can make the table much more granular, incorporating some of the variations of (2) above, so...
1)   You could group the results under categories, forex 2-5 weather, 6-9 wild animals, 10-13 magical items (#10 spell-binds, #11 grants enormous power to the user, #12 is cursed, etc.), 14-16 are random NPCs and 17-19 types of terrain up ahead.
2)   Same as above, but instead of your table being 2-19, it's 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 2-3, 3-1, 3-3 etc., which gives you so many possibilities you'll spend the rest of your life coming up with them, so maybe too many.
3)   You keep the results at 2-19, but on a double something extra happens: if the event is generally positive a double could give it a negative twist (sort of yes, but), and vice versa on a negative result (no, but). If you were using 3d6 ofc, you would have the possibility of trebles.

Finally, something I'm thinking of incorporating in some of my games, an XdX table with consequences for either no-one or a specific member of the party. Prior to the game you distribute cards with 1-n on them, where n=number of players, so a party of four would get cards with 1-4, and a party of six cards with 1-6, etc. You have in your GM's quiver a bunch of similarly-themed random encounter tables, with six, eight, ten and twelve results respectively. The key difference though is that these tables only kick in on rolls where the result is the same as the number on one of the cards, the rest being blank.

Forex you have four players, so at an appropriate juncture you whip out your 1d8 table. On a 5-8 nothing happens; on a 1-4 something happens to a specific player. You can either stop there, with a pre-arranged thing happening, or you can go down a similar path as 1d10 (2) above, i.e. the table is random NPC(s) - you roll a 1, so the event happens to Player 1; you then roll a 4 on a d6, so your player encounters an NPC or group of NPCs who are friendly and helpful, buy them a drink and give them info about something relevant to the mission. If you roll a 3 they cut up ugly and go for the hapless player, who then has to lay about them with whatever weapon they might have on their person (including their person).

Of course, this means you have to come to a session armed with a sheaf of RETs, but on the plus side, once you've come up with a bunch of generic tables you can use session after session, they are, as Keats put it, a thing of beauty that's a joy forever.

So, thoughts?

*No, that was the Ponderosa.

[EDIT] I'm mainly concerned here with whether folks prefer their granularity within the table itself (forex the d100 one), or via a smaller dX + mods.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2020, 06:51:50 PM by catty_big »
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