"KITCHEN SINK" RANDOM TABLES: Provide everything but context & description

Last time I wrote about the overloaded encounter die (OED) and "dungeon weather". Another reason I like the OED is that once a DM completely fleshes it out, you have a pretty good description of your adventure. Of course one of the biggest parts of the OED is the "Encounter!" result on a 1.

But as Delta points out in his very excellent post, the "random" in random encounter should mean "procedurally generated" and not "whatever". Delta outlines the mistake Gygax made in expanding the random encounter table from a terse 8-10 entries based on what you'd find in Greyhawk Castle in OD&D to every monster in the book in AD&D.

This is a problem because as Delta puts it:

The fundamental problem here is that the random monster tables have become disconnected from any specific adventuring environment, such as Castle Greyhawk. Rather, the tables' primary function has become an encyclopedic index to list every monster in the game (and also indicate their power level). Encountering a particular monster from these tables likely tells you nothing about the ecosystem around you; there's no reason to think an associated lair exists, and chances are basically negligible that you'll ever meet the same type a second time (so no preparation or strategic response will help you). If you were adventuring with these tables in use for wandering monsters, actually, yeah -- there would seem to be no rhyme nor reason to what was happening. 

I think understated by Delta is that: players no longer can use the knowledge gained from random encounters to learn about the environment, meditate risk, and plan optimal future incursions. It's just all risk- boring, potentially punishing, and unfun.

Let's make a random encounter table. Are 6-10 entries too small? I think no. Because once you throw in encounter reaction checks, morale rolls, and objectives other than kill everything, then you have a lot of variety. Let try an example:

I want to create a random encounter table for the bailey of The Black Keep. So levels 1-2. In my head, I picture it in a "vanilla" D&D setting as a gathering place for evil forces of Chaos. But let us see if we can keep it human-centric and limit it to 8"monsters" as per the original OD&D tables. Eight also lets us roll a 1d8 or 2d4 (but 7 entries).

Here is what the BX encounter table gets us:

So... yes to 1-3, but 4-8 I will remove because they are fairly standard. Keep 9, 11, & 16. Stirge is good but used a lot. Finally 20... naw, let's substitute with 13 because giant shrews are weird (and actually have a lot of cool abilities). So that gives us a total of 7- great 2d4 it is.

2 |  Acolyte           Lead by a cleric of higher level
3 | Bandit              Trickery
4 | Fire beetle        Underground, bite 2d4
5 | Killer bee         Poison, fly
6 | Giant Gecko    Cling
7 | Crab Spider      Poison, cling
8 | Giant Shrew    A bunch of things

The table needs to be re-ordered, but two groups brought together in The Black Keep bailey. One is insect cultists (Acolyte, beetle, bee, spider) and the other group is sorta bandit sappers who use giant shrews like war dogs? Maybe the gecko is odd man out or could be ridden by the leader of the bandits. With a little re-skinning, the shrews could become something else: "dwarven wolves".

But the point is now the encounters of the Keep have more focus because of this distillation.

DUNGEON WEATHER: For your overloaded encounter die



I really love the "overloaded encounter die" mechanic described by Necropraxis. 

When the party moves into a new area or spends time on an exploration activity, roll the encounter die and interpret the results as follows.

  1. Encounter
  2. Percept (clue, spoor)
  3. Locality (context-dependent timer)
  4. Exhaustion (rest or take penalties)
  5. Lantern
  6. Torch

In particular, I think the entry for "Locality" (if used in the outdoors "weather") is a great way to further add personality to a dungeon. But what would typical "vanilla D&D dungeon weather" be?

I say "vanilla" because I guess it helps me think about what are the typical environmental changes I would want in a dungeon and what are typical dungeon PC actions complicated by this change (or helping; after all some days are sunny). It also reinforces the idea of the mythic underworld; the dungeon as a being unto itself. Here is my list:


1 | SLAM! All doors slam shut; 3-in-6 if staked; all doors now a flat 1-in-6 to open
2 | FOG: A gray fog rises from the floor, ankle to knee height, obscuring the ground; -1 to detect traps
3 | SLIME BLOOMS: Green slime oozes from the ceiling on all hallways leading from the current room
4 | DUNGEON RIME: Armor ages unnaturally; -1 AC to non-magical armor & shields
5 | DARKNESS EXPANDS: All light operates at 1/2 strength
6 | SHADOW of DEATH: -1 to all Save rolls
7 | SPONTANEOUS GENERATION: Each PC roll d10; 5+ rations are spoiled by maggots
8 | ALTERED PERCEPTION: Secret doors +1 to locate
9 | EUPHORIC SPOOR RELEASE: +1 to all rxn encounter checks; divination/illusion spells enhanced
0 | TOO STILL: Dungeon weather effect ends

Of course, if your dungeon has a strong theme, I think it better to tailor the above list to fit the aesthetics.



The Party

Quiara- Bard

Choncho- Bard

Slyther- Underworld Beastman (Dwarf class)

Cairo- Selenic Descendant (Half-elf class)