Friday, April 16, 2010

When the Player's Come Knocking

The party is thundering through the dungeon corridors trying to be quiet. Oh they believe they are quiet. Hell, the thief made his move silently roll, but with nearly a ton of metal armor, weapons and the hundreds or thousands of coins they are dragging along being quiet in a confined room/corridor is not an easy feat. And when the party starts beating on one of the dungeon denizens then the gig is up.

When writing adventures there is a lot of encounters where the creatures are surprised. They wait in stasis for the players to activate them so to speak. If there is a group of bandits that get monkey stomped in one room and the there are a bunch more in the next three things should happen. The bandits join the frey, the bandits set up an ambush to surprise the players as they come in or grab their family photo albums and get the hell out of there.

Player's make a lot of noise. They can't help themselves. So as GMs out there, how do you handle the noise factor of your players? When they are bashing in a door does it alert a portion of the dungeon creatures? Does it make them scurry to the noise? Set up an ambuch? Or do you keep the critter in stasis? I know a lot of it depends on the type of creatures that populate you place, but most of the critters have some sort of intelligence and mobility, what do they do when they players come knocking?


  1. First thing come to mind

    -how much noise do the monsters do themselves ?
    -are they alert guardians or simply live there?
    -would it be normal for them to here crashing doors and shouts (maybe this happens often when the BBEG is angry) ?

    If the race/creature do not have organisation skills, i assume no plan was thought out (like "bar the door and flee to this room or alert Jig'ama'Jig") and be surprised if noise is normal

    If not, are they brave or cowards ?
    Brave, then some defense is done
    Cowards, flee for a more defensable area or have bigger monsters who can protect them

  2. I've got some ideas for articles about this subject. I'd also consider light as something that can alert monsters long before a party gets to their location.

    In a game a few weeks ago our GM got it just right. We battled some goblins and, just as we were about to kill the last one, some more burst into the room. We killed them and then heard more noise from the same direction. So we ran away, and ended up having a running battle, with more of the same and their leader. We all survived, but only just, and decided it was time to leave the dungeon as quickly as possible. We probably missed out on some treasure but we play a strict 0HP = dead game, so self preservation was more important.

    Early in the adventure we'd avoided several traps and encounters but once the combat started it was clear the whole place would be joining in.

  3. It depends on what edition you're playing and how "realistic" you want your game to me.

    I mean, for all we know, the dungeon is a noisy place (with monsters killing each other and the occasional party of adventurers, etc.)...perhaps, a "surprised" monster simply wasn't aware there was anything to be worried about...until it was too late!

    In B/X play, the method of handling encounters is pretty static if you're using the rules as's up to the DM to determine why or why not something went down in a certain way (i.e. to interpret that surprise roll). 4 times out of 6 monsters aren't surprised anyway...the other times, maybe they're just dumb, or distracted eating dinner, taking a nap (why should dragons be the only sleeping monsters in the dungeon), or whatever.

    In AD&D, with Gygaxian ecology/logic...well, I used a lot fewer random dice rolls back when I was a regular AD&D DM.