Friday, October 23, 2020

Wandering Events

I've been giving a lot of thought to wandering monsters in recent months.

I always appreciated the Wandering Damage Table. It gets the fuss out of wandering monsters

And in a game like GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, where PCs are highly effective at their niche, they're not always much of a threat. This is doubly true in a game like DF Felltower, where I have 9-10 PCs at the table many times. If even half of them are front-line fighters (not unusual), any monster in a group small enough to "wander" generally is just a speedbump.

Don't get me wrong, monsters like puddings and oozes can really be an issue - and we've had a wandering monster utterly maul a PC or two and change the whole shape of a delve. But honestly, the PCs don't change their behavior based on this. They don't use Silence to avoid wandering monsters. They don't move quietly to avoid wandering monsters. They do it to avoid larger, more threatening dangers.

What I've started to incorporate is events. I managed to do so with good effect in the jungles and urban areas of The Lost City

I'm adapting that approach for Felltower, so it's not just "monster" or "fine."

A "Wandering Monster" roll becomes a periodic check for something unplanned by the GM to happen. This can be:

- a monster
- an obstacle (tree down, collapsed,
- a nuisance effect (smoke, bugs, water or other liquids on the path/floor, garbage)
- unexpected alertness on the behalf of nearby critters
- a new trap.
- Wandering Damage of some kind.

Or something of that sort.

We'll see how that effects adventures over the long term. It should spice up encounters and may cause the cost of noise, time wasting, and other time costs to effectively rise without always being a fight.


  1. In some of my adventure books, particularly Hall of Judgment but I think I used it elsewhere too, I have "Animals and Men," "Location/Weather," and "Conflict!" on a table. Six rows, three columns. In fairly settled area, the "Animals and Men" column is 1-3 on 1d, Location/weather is 4-5, and "Conflict!" is 6.

    In (say) a lizard-folk controlled area, I'd substitute "lizard-folk" for "humans."

    "Conflict" is reserved for oddball encounters. Faerie, dinosaurs, or other apex creature type stuff that pulls from the more bizarre sets of the monster books. Undead, large dragons, etc would be there.

    But especially if it's "roll each [short time frame]," I think having about one encounter in six being monstery is about right (and consistent with about 10:1 prey/predator ratio in stable systems). Also, while a lot of magic makes food and water non-issues, in systems where you can't just Conjure Food, the animal and water encounters allow you to perhaps pick up food and drink...which is useful for those outdoorsy types.

    1. I've seen it used in outdoor settings before, and did so myself. Adapting the idea to a dungeon is uncommon enough that I can't recall an example offhand. That's really what I think would help - a "wandering monster" being a subset of "things that happen over time." It's the "things" that I'm still expanding on!

  2. You should check out the journey rules in Adventures in Middle Earth.

    I have begun to adapt them for my Majestic Fantasy campaigns. I found it a superior way of handling the question of what happens during overland travels. What the rules do is a wrap a terse mini-game around a handful of encounters which represent significant EVENTS that happen along the journey. Whether it is a few days or a year.

    Your Wandering Events idea dovetails into that nicely for wandering around within a locale like a dungeon or city.

    1. It's been recommended before, but I've passed on it because honestly, I don't really like Tolkien much beyond The Hobbit. And that not enough to adventure in that world.

      From your description, though, it sounds like you need to know the overall time before you can determine what significant events fit in. In a dungeon, I really don't know how long they're in there - or how long they'll, say, rest in an area - until after it's done. Or am I misunderstanding how it is done?

  3. Right, that's why I call my chart the "Wandering Damage Chart'. It's encounters of all stripes, monsters, humanoids, traps, and other randomness, basically anything 'unscripted' that could cause a setback or use up precious resources (like time).

    Though with my adoption of the Reaction Table, I might have to find a better name, since good things can show up too now. "Wandering Encounter Chart"?


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