Monday, November 10, 2014

Wandering Monsters: Totals and Origin Points

Two things I like in published adventures:

Wandering Monster Totals, and Origin Points.


When I was reviewing A1 The Slave Pits of the Undercity I remarked on something it did that I like - it gives totals of the possible numbers of all monsters you can encounter as wandering monsters. You can only encounter X orcs, or Y ghouls, or unlimited green slime.

This makes it feel like the monsters aren't just appearing out of nowhere as a tax on time consumption or just as wandering damage. They are as subject to attrition as you are.

Wandering monsters - at least - were like this in SSI's The Eternal Dagger. You could literally wipe out all of the Dwarven patrols, for example, or whittle down the most dangerous monsters.

I make some use of this in my own game - some critters are unlimited (there are too many to be worth counting, or reproduce too quickly) and others limited.


I also like to know where the monsters are coming from. Not in a general sense, but specifically - 1d6 goblins from the barracks on level 2, room 15. Rats from the rat-filled rooms, level 1 rooms 3,4, and 5. Big John the Troll from room 22.

That also makes wandering monsters feel more organic, more natural, and more rooted in the area. They aren't just sweeping in from nowhere. If you don't stumble into them in a hallway or while looting a room or searching a forested hill for that dungeon entrance, you'll find them eventually exploring.

These aren't big things, really, but they change a vanilla wandering monster table into a way of directly interacting with the population of the area. I like when published work uses these.


  1. I did that with my Blingdenstone enhanced stuff back in the early playtest. I set up a tick-list for orc and gnome numbers and tied some large-scale actions to numbers. So the orcs pull in perimeter patrols and stop attacking the barricades when their numbers drop to a certain point, for example.

    I also like to add keyed monsters to wandering monster tables, identifying that if they are encountered/killed as a wandering monster, they won't show up in area x or whatever.

    1. That's exactly the kind of stuff I like to see.

  2. I'm reminded of Top Secret! adventures in Dragon which would have a big table of where all the NPCs were, during the day or the night (including "patrolling upper level" or whatever). That's the sort of thing that I always find useful.

    1. I forgot about those, but you're right - that's stuff I find useful as well. "Where are the bad guys now?" I'm a bigger fan of "8 pm - 9 pm - patrolling the upper level" than of "on a 1, he's patrolling the upper level."

  3. I think that having wandering monsters come from some part of the dungeon instead of just having them appear out of no where is part of a broader topic of wanting the adventure to make sense. I agree with you that it is nice to have the wandering monsters come from some part of the dungeon where they originally were instead of just monsters just coming into existence because of a dice role. I like dungeons to make sense and also to have the adventure make sense because it is more satisfying to me.


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