Random Encounter Tables


My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Love 'em or Hate 'em.
I believe I have expressed my loathing for RWM's previously. It might be a combat is slower in 3e thing. It might be a, we were going somewhere and now we're doing this instead, thing. In the case of Barrowmaze it's a snowballing encounter thing (which I have to admit is fun sometimes) but can turn into a real headache of open SRD windows and printed stats as one group after another come crashing into the party.
Anyway, I hate them, but I run them anyway, because them's the rules?

That said; I sure do seem to like creating the tables.

So here's the question: What's the upper limit of extra/nested tables in a published product? Like, it's become relatively common to add an extra table to describe the condition you find the encounter in (fighting/fucking/feeding/fleeing), but what about nested tables like Hazards and Weather? What about sub-tables to control the frequency of certain types of monster; like I only want People (humans/demihumans/humanoids) to come up 1:20, but then it could be any of a variety of races/factions/NPC's?

Is it better to have say 6-8 semi-scripted random encounters on a small table and provide a more comprehensive set of RWM tables in an appendix or as bonus digital content in case the PC's wander off the narrative?


My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
yeah it's a slow day at the office. I think the server farm (or the IT dept) is having trouble recovering from the long weekend...

Following on from this. I ran the Rot Crawl in the dark spaces beneath the Shelf Fungus Mountains in Irradiated Paradox recently. I talked over the procedure with the players and asked them if they would like to do the rolling as we went along. They enjoy rolling dice, so they opted to generate their own hexes. We had a really good time for a session or two, but eventually it got old and they just wanted to find the key locations and get out. (it probably didn't help that the Rot was getting into their equipment and lungs and under their skin...) And now I'm wondering if I should have run the Quantum Hex Crawl. Like no matter which way they would have gone, they would have encountered all the key (I say 'key', but none of the randomly generated features were narratively critical) features.

On one hand, I'm trying to reward completionist players who want to find all the hidden stuff. On the other, grinding hexes gets boring for even the most curious players after a while. My solution was to crank the chance of encountering a significant Feature to 100% so there was less traveling/navigating/RWM and started dropping hooks to help them find the actual location they were searching for in the dark. That's just a DM reading and reacting to his players, but should the product reflect that? Similar to the above abridged RWM Table; should there be a Highlights Only hex crawl with a backup table elsewhere in case the PC's want to mess around?


8, 8, I forget what is for
Hex crawling never had an appeal for me either. Pre-generated points-of-interest fixed on the map is my preference, with some random encounters along the way. I think that feels more analogous to the dungeon exploration that catapulted the game at its inception.

Johnny F. Normal

A FreshHell to Contend With
Hex crawl buy-in and depth is a function of the stage of gameplay. If you are below name level moving from point of interest to the next on your way to the dungeon or whatever is the most engaging. Jacob Hurst's Dark of Hot Springs island being an excellent example. Once you reach name level you have a motivational drive to search under every rock as you are building your empire. We are using Todd Leback's wealth of hex content to great engagement.


Is RWM supposed to be Random Wandering Monster?

Hexcrawl design is still in a really primitive state, with a lot less gameplay experience and best-practices thinking out there. Personally I think that random hex generation as a source of meaningful and long-term gameplay content is a terrible way to run them, something akin to running a dungeoncrawl campaign only using random dungeon generators: technically possible but liable to be dull and obviously inferior to a deliberate and methodical pre-constructed approach. Hex features should be carefully considered for playability and entertainment and then seeded all over the place, IMO, not relying on oddities with limited player interaction (a common design approach I've noticed in hex content) and kept rare under the idea that a world can have too many interesting things.

As for table nesting, I've found that I definitely have a limit. I'm already rolling for the encounter, then there's distance and reaction, and then there's "what are the things doing". That's already more than enough: I don't want to have a pile of sub-tables for the monsters before I even get to the other tables. But I don't think you'll find anything other than personal preference here, perhaps compounded by layout (i.e. it's going to be easier to juggle more tables if they're laid out well and on, say, two facing pages rather than being scattered all over a book).
I'm not sure where the upper limit is as far as nested tables goes. For the hexcrawl I'm running, a random wilderness encounter involves five or so rolls (Is there an encounter? How far away is it? What time of day is it? What is encountered? How does it react?) And, that's been fine. Oh, and I included "roll again, keep both results" as an item on my random encounter list. It hasn't happened yet, but I hope it helps spice things up.

The Summon spell in Lamentations of the Flame Princess is definitely past the upper limit, to the point that the rest of our group eventually started talking down anyone who wanted to cast it.


My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Is RWM supposed to be Random Wandering Monster?

I agree that Hex contents should be interactive and meaningful and that if every hex has an interactive/meaningful thing in it, things get pretty cluttered. Although products like the Swordfish Isles show that this can be controlled by limiting the amount of hexes in the crawl. One of the things I found in the Rot Crawl (and the much more limited overland crawl) was that 80% of the non-essential hex features were tedious or utterly unmemorable, but when they were useful, they were SO useful. The characters would start poking around in an escape-pod they found under a bush and suddenly their questions (Where did it come from? What can I learn from the ancient navigation system?) led to 2-3 adventure hooks. Sometimes, the players will just write their own adventures based on throwaway information you extemporize on the spot based on a series of random rolls, and that is the purest D&D magic.

The Summon spell in Lamentations of the Flame Princess is definitely past the upper limit, to the point that the rest of our group eventually started talking down anyone who wanted to cast it.
Sounds like the Rolemaster critical charts... Those DCC spell-effect charts look pretty daunting as well.