Telcanter had a post recently about “Wandering Monsters” that has me inspired to talk about how I do wandering monsters a bit more.
I know I mentioned earlier that I used to have unique wandering monsters charts for each area of my world. I created these using the base table format from the Monster Manual II, but done with the idea that I wanted my encounters to be something that I could roll while people were hunting or wandering about, and actually represent what they ran into. So, in the vast majority of places things like “Rabbits” and “Birds” and “Squirrels” were the common encounters. I would also have a table for “Road Encounters” as well as one for “Unique Beings” – a Very Rare encounter that let you randomly run into “Important People”. I could also include things like “Goblin Hunting Party” and “Goblin War Band” and “Troll Raiding Party” that the party would soon learn to dread depending upon what level they were.
But to this day, “Rams and Sheep” resounds in my head as synonymous with “Nothing of Interest”.
I really need to buckle down and do some of these again. I still have some of my old ones, but not many and it’s an odd selection. I’m kind of wondering what drove my decision to save them and not others. But here’s a newly created example of what I’m talking about:
The Barrow Downs:
- 2 – Moonwolves (2-20)
- 3 – Hill Trolls (1-6)
- 4 – Ogres (1d4+2)
- 5 – Goblin Scouting Party (1d6+12)
- 6 – Black Bear (1 or 1d3)
- 7 – Bandits (2d6+6 Men)
- 8 – Wolves (2-20)
- 9 – Rabbits
- 10 – Deer
- 11 – Birds
- 12 – Rams and Sheep
- 13 – Rabbits
- 14 – Skunk
- 15 – Hunting Party (2d4+2 Men)
- 16 – Wild Boar (1d4)
- 17 – Old Faith Party (Rangers and/or Druids, 1d4+1)
- 18 – Dire Wolves (2-12)
- 19 – Ghouls (2d6)
- 20 – Drake (Fire or Forest, 1)
The key to using a table like this is to also have the good sense to be reasonable – my general “rule” was to roll every fours of travel and every six hours of rest. But certain things indicated a “No Encounter” – roll “Ghouls” during the day and generally that meant no encounter (they don’t like the light!) and the same thing with “Hunting Party- Men” at night if you were encamped. The men aren’t wandering around at night any more than the party was! Also, while there is a fair amount of “goodluck/badluck” in these rolls, assuming the party is trying to be careful, or has some outdoorsy types, I’ll usually give them some chance to get some sort of warning about a bad or “out of their depth” encounter – tracks, spoor, whatever. This doesn’t mean they’ll automatically get out of the encounter, but if they play their cards right they may not have quite so bad a time of it.
On the other hand, I’ve never been a real fan of “Wandering Monster” charts for dungeons – unless it is a megadungeon of some sort. Of course, I don’t have many places that are really “dungeons” in my game world. The players are more likely to be fighting and tracking down bandits or goblins, or sneaking into or assaulting someone’s stronghold. In those latter situations I’m more likely to use some sort of random roll for bad luck rather that just roll a “wandering encounter” of some sort – I know that it is essentially the same thing, but the name just irks me.
You’re more likely to run into some person going to the jakes or trying to sneak into or out of someones bedroom than a “wandering patrol” or some random giant rats in somebody’s house, y’know?