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Random Encounter Table

Dee Yun Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2005-10-28 02:08:58

You roll...a natural DOOM!

RPG writers are fond of interminably cabalistic charts and tables. Chief among these is the "Random Encounter Table". Basically, this chart has a lengthy list of things a group of adventurers might encounter while traveling from point A to point B. Each entry on the chart has a corresponding number, and a dice roll determines which particular entry is encountered.

These "random encounters", in my opinion, are stupid. For one, it's a crutch for Game Masters. It's not that difficult to come up with, "You are ambushed by bandits," or "It begins to rain heavily, slowing your journey." What I do for my random encounters is to roll dice for each leg of a journey, which is typically one day's travel. If it's a middling roll, nothing happens and we move the day along. If it's low, something beneficial happens. If the roll is high, horror ensues. The degree of help or detriment is determined by how low or high the roll was, but I decide what it actually is.

More importantly, the GM is the chief architect of the plot. They need to be cognizant about the pace of the story, and the interplay between tension and resolution. How good would a book or movie be if it got constantly bogged down with pointless conflict? It behooves the GM to keep the game moving and interesting by cutting the unnecessary, just like how the film The Ten Commandments doesn't have an actual running time of 40 years.

Now I'm not saying GMs should skip every journey and just jump to existing plot. Adventuring worlds are fraught with danger after all. I'm advocating putting a face to these encounters: make them matter to the story. For example, let's take those bandits. Who are they? Are they simply faceless cutthroats who need to be brought to justice? Instead, they could be slavers who have prisoners languishing somewhere, or starving vassals who have taken up arms because their lord doesn't provide for them. Perhaps they're actually mercenaries who have been hired to eliminate the party, or a posse that has mistaken the party as bandits. Any of these possibilities could lead to a slew of adventures. Even straightforward bandits have a story behind them; they have names and dreams and families and lovers and friends. There's tremendous potential for role playing as long as the GM doesn't treat these antagonists as cardboard cutouts.

David Vargas David Vargas: (dave-deleteme[at]-deleteme-squishycomics [dot] com) 2005-10-28 17:55:42


I don't know why, but that clown feels like it made this strip.

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