Friday, March 31, 2023

Random Encounters: Love Them!

Picture swiped for my own purposes from Random Encounter. I want this sticker!

It's been a while since my last entry. More health issues. More computer issues. More blah blah uninteresting shit. This week, my wife grabbed me a new writing laptop that allows me to work where ever I roam. My old laptop had the battery life of a one pump chump on prom night. I upgraded and got back to work on my much delinquent Kickstarter, The Many Crypts of Lady Ingrade.

I like the idea of a woman of minor nobility obsessed with the thought of her crypt plundered by adventurers. I mean, you can't call her paranoid when it will probably happen. So her way of combating that issue is to build several crypts with deadly traps and creatures. To murderize those blasphemous adventurers who dare to disturb her eternal rest and take all her shit. 

I grabbed a lot of inspiration from Countess Elizabeth Bathory. The Blood Countess as she is known. If you go to her Wikipedia page it calls her an alleged serial killer. She had her servants help her out. Allegedly, they killed hundreds of girls over a twenty year period. I'm not sure how many experience points you get for a village girl. I imagine it'll take a lot of them to get you to the next level.

I'm writing a small crypt adventure to include in the zine. I want to add more crypts than I have. When you use 'many' in the title you should have more than a few. I'm in the beginning of writing it, and have an idea of where it'll go. But tonight, at the bookstore, with my new laptop, I started working on the Kickstarter Adventure and got to the random encounter section.

A quick history about random encounters and myself. I was not a fan of random encounters in the past. I didn't like the bland 1d6 tables with 1d4 orcs, 1d6 goblins, and so on. It was just a time sink. Eh. Boring. It wasn't until a few moons back, when I started using them. I love to write adventures and decided to mold this aspect of gaming to what I like. It's nothing new, but I gave each random encounter context. When the party encounters the random encounter something is going on. In media res. This encounter had purpose other than to waste time and resources. Also, I don't make all the random encounters negative. I want there to be a chance they benefits from the randomness of the world. Perhaps a traveling peddler that happens to have information about where they're going to reduce the party's chance of becoming lost. Or maybe he has something tangible to assist them, such as a potion or equipment. It adds a nice element of randomness to the random encounters. 

Here's what I like to do with the random encounters and yes, I understand this may make it less random, but it works for me, I roll the random encounters before the game when the opportunity presents itself. Not always, but I like to do this to integrate the random encounter into the night's adventure without seams. As if it were a planned encounter.  I want to remove the meta-game aspect. Example, when the party starts yapping about their next genius plan they will abandon as soon as they encounter the enemy, the GM rolls dice without saying a word. They know. They know the GM is ready to bring down some sort of random thunder on their little imaginary heads. They way I do it, the thunder happens without notice.

I get there are ways to check for random encounter without notifying the party, but this gives me a chance to work it into the adventure. 

Say I roll a couple of random encounters for tonight's game. The party is traveling from Hounds Head to the nearest Northman barrow field because they spent all their money on defective Hugo's Healing Potions. I prepare those random encounters, but I may not use them. If it doesn't fit the flow of the adventure I am not going to bog down play, trying to fit in an encounter. 

Let's go back to the topic of creating a random encounter in context. The con of that is, these encounters are usually unique. If I roll the same encounter then I would need to reroll. Some of the encounters have enough flexibility that you can develop a small plotline, if you chose, about the series of encounters. But most of them are one and done.

If I create an encounter with context that provides meaning. Something as a GM I can run with and find the voice and tone of that encounter. In my Starter Adventures there's a random encounter where the players find a drunk goblin. The drunk goblin pulls down his pants, slaps his ass, and starts making kissing noises. The goblin had a 50% survival rate.  Some thought he was funny enough to spare, where other murder hobos specifically said they are shooting the goblin in his bare ass with an arrow. Either choice it was fun to set that scene. But at the same time, I don't want to have three encounters with kiss my butt drunken goblins. Although now that I'm thinking about it that might be fun.

Alright, enough of this! Let's get to some actual encounters. I share a few I've written in the past and a couple I came up with tonight.

Giant Killer

The trees shake and bend. An 8’ humanoid emerges from beneath the trees. Yellow skin with green patches, jagged nails on oversized hands rip through a trunk of a nearby tree. It lurches as it releases a guttural noise. It staggers into the opening and falls face forward into the ground with a large spear in its back.

There is a moment of silence when another 8’ creature wearing patchwork armor, steps out to grab the spear with both hands and shoves it deeper until bones crack. 

Boc-Tu's are native creatures to the Komor Forest. They are hostile to any life. Even their own kind. If it sees the party it attacks. Tactics are basic and brutal. If it doesn't see the party it takes a large, stone skinning knife and flays the meat off the bones and stuffs it into a empty sack it wore on its belt.

The Boc-Tu has few trinkets tied to the belt it wears. Most are bones from various creatures, but there is a pair of hard silver bracers (100sp). These bracers are not magical, but provide a +1 AC against undead and demonic creatures.

The spear is too unwieldy to use unless a character has an 18 strength and a 13 dexterity to keep from controlling it. The spear does d10 damage.

This random encounter is an example of how I set the tone of the area surrounding the adventure. My Komor Forest is a brutal setting with a fallen civilization and primordial and eldritch creatures. It's dangerous as hell and I try to provide a sense of wonder. As in, I wonder what's going on. I show what's happening. Not explain it. 

Giant Centipedes

(1) A swarm of giant centipedes feast on a plump corpse of a giant spider. In the trees is a mass of webbing. A humanoid-shape is encased in the web. Inside is a desiccated gnoll. It carries 11sp strung on a necklace. 

(2) A single giant centipede emerges from the forest undergrowth and attacks.

(3) Three giant centipedes have treed a screaming halfling. In two rounds the centipedes can attack. The halfling, Orion Patterpith, says he traveled with a group he met in Hounds Head, but they were killed while exploring a barrow. In truth, he ran when the corpses attacked. He doesn't know if they lived or died.

(4) Four giant centipede drop from the branches, surprising those below.
This is an entry from my zine Hunters in Death. It is a simple entry for giant centipedes, but I provide options. Or at least inspiration to run with the encounter. It's important to have random encounters connect with the setting and not just throw away events. I am aware that two of the options are simple attacks, but they fall from a tree or from the underbrush. That should count a little. 

Also, with Orion as an option, he could have important information to provide the party about the location of this or that. Maybe he'll have an interesting trinket or piece of equipment that benefits the party. 

Giranyu Gate

A natural arched stone formation has an ancient sentience. The Northmen called it Giranyu, meaning  Path to Where. When the gate is encountered the arch has a strange luminescence that pulsates with light. When a person stands before Giranyu they may state where they wish to go, even if it's a different plane of existence of  a different time. This is a one-way journey.

This encounter is an example of how some encounters are not hostile. It could be helpful. It could be a push the big red button moment if they decide to travel to the plane of elemental fire. You never know what the hell players are going to do.


In the highest branches is a nest of harpies. Their song filters down and all those below must make a save or fall under their charm. These harpies have other creatures charmed (1) goblins (2) ogres (3) gnolls (4) bandits - to fetch them food and defend the nest. There are 2d4 harpies in the nest at one time. As a side note, each harpy possesses a red feather located on their throats. It is used to create Charm Person scrolls. 

My last example is a straight random encounter, but with a variety. The GM can chose how difficult the charmed guardians are or like a good old school GM, roll randomly. Then I provide something useful they can harvest from the corpses of the harpies. 

I've given my spiel about random encounters. An interesting part of the game. One that can distract an entire session. As a GM if that's the trail my players want to go, why not? Let's roll with it. Random encounters can be simple, no-nonsense way of keeping the party moving. Providing a sense of urgency that if we don't get our asses moving, the journey is going to kill us before we even get to the adventure. And lastly, they can provide a sense of context to your campaign. Add flavor to an situation. Become an unexpected boon. Players don't expect good things to happen during a random encounter. Being a kind and merciful GM confuses them. Makes them worry. I like that. 

That's it for now. I hope to be back soon with more insights. Take care. 

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