Friday, December 28, 2012

Shaving yaks for fun and profit: random encounter tables for the journey to Verbobonc

Sometimes you just have to take a step back and do something fairly useless for your game as a sort of perverse GM-only enjoyment. When this happens to me, I try to make it something at least potentially useful that at the same time won't tempt me to inflict something undesirable on my players. So instead of building some intricate interlocking pieces on the philology of my world, I give you the Random Encounter Table (for travel to and from Verbobonc):

Travel encounters: (to/from Verbobonc) Roll on this table if the party scores a random encounter (check 9 or less on 3d6, or 12 or less at night, check once per day and once per night)
01-05    Gnoll band (3d10)
06-12:    Hobgoblin band (4d10)
13-17:    Highwaymen (3d10) (professionals, with horses)
18-22:    Brigands (4d10) (ill-equipped rough men of the hills)
23-27:    Outlaws (5d10) (men of a local robber-king setting up his outlaw duchy)
28-33:    Bandits, (2d10) (desperate locals, poor equipment and morale)
34-47:    Travelling group (1d50, most noncombatants)
48-54:    Gnome border patrol (18)
55-62:    Orcs (3d10)
63-68:    Bugbears (2d10)
69-77:    Elf patrol (8)
78-82:    Trolls (1d3)
82-86:    Ogres (1d6)
87-90:    Giant Eagles (1d6)
91-99:    Roll again twice more
00:         Special, roll on the Specials table


01-30:    Large Merchant Caravan (PCs may trade at the caravan for normal prices, everything except non-perishable magical goods, e.g. magic swords and armor or artefacts)
31-45:    Patrol of the Barony (1d6 knights, 40 footmen, 20 archers, 20 spearmen/halberdiers)
46-50:    Dire Wolves (4d10)
51-58:    Hill Giants (1d6)
59-66:    GURPS Bugbear lair (use DFM 1 rather than D&D bugbears)
67-70:    Hunting Slorn (1d6)
71-80:    Religious Procession (1d10 clerics, one of whom is actually a Cleric, and 1d100 pilgrims)
81-86:    Travelling Dwarves (2d10, on their way to/from the gnomes or elsewhere)
87-93:    Mercenary group (4d10, well armed and armored, may attack or hire on depending on reactions)
94-96:    Travelling group of Temple folk (like travelling group above, but from Nulb and evil - never better than 'Neutral' reaction)
97-99:    Griffins (1d6)
00:         Green Dragon

And hey, it solves another problem, which is making the journey to Verbobonc more than just an exercise in accounting. Plus, it tells me something about the Duchy of Verbobonc and the Kingdom of Furyondy generally - they're strongholds, and folks can mostly get by in their villages and the like, but houses are fortified, and people move in large groups when they move. Later ages won't be telling stories about the Pax Furyondia.

Later on, if I'm feeling aimlessly ambitious, I'll make a seasonal weather table as well (or just steal Gary's, if I can find one).

I need another one of these for the Hommlet-Nulb or Hommlet-Temple journey...


  1. Sometimes shaving the yak is the best thing about being a DM. After all you tend to loose actual encounters with the party. Anyway, tonsorial ministrations to the bovine run towards building utilities like my NPC Description Generator.

    1. That's downright awesome. Consider it bookmarked. As to utilities, I have an extensible treasure generator using DF 8 all planned out for implementation - I just need to sit down and write it.

  2. Your encounter table got me inspired to write one for my GURPS Pathfinder games I'm running. I borrowed some of your basic list information, then filled it in with some other stuff as well. put it in 1d, 1d, 1d format like the Treasure Tables. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. I'm glad to hear it. I went with the d100 format because I have a lot of d10s, but 1d,1d is definitely more canon. I hope it works well for you.

    2. yea the list looks nice.
      my plan is that anytime the party travels overland i will decide if there are any set encounters along the way and work those out, then i will roll to see if there are any random encounters in addition to that.
      i plan to make the random rolls ahead of time also so i can have a bit more time to work on the encounters as well.
      in all i ended up with close to 150 different entries to various lists and sub lists. its still in its developmental stage, but i like the way it looks.
      Thanks for sharing your initial idea!
      here is the link to it on google drive.

    3. That is a really impressive-looking table. Are you planning to use it generally, with specific tables potentially for areas whose ecology you want to differ, or is that just a template for specific tables?

      One of the things I like about the table above is that the chances tell me something about the area the characters are travelling through - namely, it's dangerous, but not unpopulated; it's the sort of place where regular bands of armed men/gnomes/elves need to sally forth to keep the peace, and they do, because people live there.