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Monday, July 28, 2014

Wandering Monsters, Random Encounters or Unplanned Events?

I've been watching the puppy interact with the cats over the last few days, and it's gotten me thinking about Wandering Monsters and Random Encounters in OSR gaming and the like. Why has it gotten me thinking this way? No idea, except for all of the high energy interactions I guess.

From my perspective, wandering monsters and even random encounters are generally missing out on events - something that occurs that the players may or may not immediately interact with. Personally, I'd like to see some foreshadowing events on those random tables.

I see wandering monsters as the simplest of the tables - all monsters, damn near all combat situations.

Random encounters take the wandering monster table and add situations where the PCs can interact without combat.

Unplanned events goes one step further and adds in events the PCs see but can't interact with and events that transpire without the PCs need to interact with, but can. This could include foreshadowing, visions and natural events such as weather and the like.

Of course, the further you go from "Wandering Monsters" the more complicated and detailed the potential tables get.

Random puppy induced thoughts...


  1. I was inspired by the random encounter chart from Better Than Any Man to create my own. My players spend a lot of time wandering from thing to thing, and the countryside encounters were a lot of fun. I have a list of 30 encounters; most are geared to be neutral, so the reaction roll will determine how friendly the encounter is. Some are more dangerous (bandits, monsters, etc.)

    What I do is roll one for each day of travel in as far advance as I know they're going to be traveling. Then I place the encounter in an area/manner that makes sense. This allows me to tailor it and provide clues when possible.

    For example, I knew they were traveling to the next town. I rolled up the "giant territorial pigeon construct." This creature doesn't make sense as something that would be on a well-traveled road, so I placed it off the road in the wilderness. One of the PCs heard it, the stealthy ones went to investigate, and they ultimately decided to leave it alone for now, but it's marked on their map in case they want to check it out more in the future.

    I like the idea of events, it might be a useful thing to include on this sort of table...

  2. I use the random encounter table combined with the encounter distance rolls to distinguish between a true random encounter and an event. For example, my players were in a dungeon room one time, investigating a mysterious spell which made a layer of coins on the floor completely invisible until they were picked up. Nothing else and no other coins were affected. Originally this was just a weird thing with some treasure to be had but they were taking their time and a wandering monster check came up. Wolves, at 300+ feet. That's a long way away in a dungeon environment. So as soon as the first character grabbed a coin from the floor and walked out of the room with it ("does it disappear outside the room?") I announced "As if from a great distance, you suddenly hear the howl of a lone wolf. But unlike any howl you've heard before, this one chills you to the bone. A closer look at the coin in your hand reveals something you didn't notice in the dim light of the room, a small and worn wolf's head stamped on the coin."

    Thus used the random encounter chart to add something new to the world. I wasn't even sure what the actual meaning of the events would end up being, but it sure got the players looking over their shoulders.

    1. I think I'm going to use that wolf coin encounter... maybe this Saturday!

  3. Essentially going from random tables to "living environment generator tables"

  4. In my most recent play session, 2 of my three players went for help while 1 stayed to care for the stranded NPCs; I decided that the most common random encounter (6-8/2d6) was going to be a pair of orcs, and if even one orc escaped the encounter, he return the next day with an entire warband, which would have spelled TPK. (Well, he was alone, so maybe 1/3PK, but you get my point.) I can't say I preplan every single random encounter, but I like them to have repercussions that effect the sandbox/narrative. Hell, it was a random encounter that killed their draft horses and marooned them in the middle of no where to begin with.

  5. All monsters seems to work OK for my table. They dont always fight them.