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  1. So you and the Players are moving fast. They're on their way to investigate some ruin, or explore some place, and on the road they meet ... someone. Something. Only, the moment you announce the encounter, the Players decide to sidestep the whole thing or to hide until it passes. How do you involve the Adventurers in the encounter without shoehorning them in or railroading them? Bring in elements, such as hooks and shoves, which draw them in or shove them in the direction you want them to go. Roping In The Adventurers The point of presenting an event on the road is to give the Adventurers something to do on the way to, or sometimes from, an adventure. Random encounters which simply present a bunch of monsters for the Adventurers to fight is simply not good enough. Modern gaming requires that encounters should have a point, which is of relevance to the adventure, or to the Adventurers. Note: This article is not about creating tables describing who or what the Adventurers encounter, whether it be a pack of 1d4 kobolds or a bunch of bandits. This is about why the Adventurers should get involved with these beings. Hooks A hook is something which draws in the Adventurers and involves them in the action. The point of a hook is to engage the Adventurers and give them some sort of reward for participating in the scene - which could be an allegory for the Adventurers' real adventure, or foreshadowing, or simply a chance for them to restock on supplies and find out some kind of relevant information. Shoves A shove, on the other hand, gives the Adventurers something to avoid doing, or sends them off in a direction of the Games Master's choosing - which could either be a brief diversion, or the real point of the adventure. The Adventurers must do something to avoid something bad happening - for instance, to avoid being spotted by a band of marauders, or to avoid being struck down by lightning during a heavy storm. Constructing Tables for Encounters Who Is Involved Roll separately on each column on the following table, or choose. Hooks and Shoves The key to any hook or shove is motivation. Something is behind the encounter, which either draws the Adventurers in to become involved, or which drives them to seek a different direction, approach, or even a whole different adventure. Roll on the table below, or just choose. Example: The Adventurers encounter a minor character in the current adventure. They are trading with a third party. The motivation table indicates secrets. Whose secrets are being traded? Canny Adventurers would want to know, particularly if the third party was a Rival of theirs who might use the information traded to beat them to the punch. Example: The Adventurers encounter an Ally, perhaps one they haven't seen for several adventures. The roll indicates that they are trying to rescue a stuck comrade. The Adventurers pitch in to help - but the comrade is one of their Enemies! Worse, the Enemy has vital information about the place they are travelling to! The Twist Table The Twist Table is used to determine whether or not a particular encounter is as it seems. Games Master, only use this table if you want things to be truly random, or if you can't make up your mind whether or not to throw in the unexpected into what might seem to be an ordinary encounter. Note that this is the only time that an encounter could lead to a combat scene. Note how different dice rolled can alter the probability of a given outcome. It is so much harder for something unexpected to occur if you roll on a 1d100, for instance, than on a d4. So choose the die you want to roll, and roll it, and see what result occurs on the Twist Table below. Or just choose the result. Something unexpected The Adventurers are engrossed in some activity, perhaps helping out, when something happens to disrupt the scene and change it completely. Examples: A volcano erupts, threatening to spill a vast pyroclastic cloud upon everyone's heads; an earthquake shakes the ground; the bad weather worsens, and hailstones the size of peaches begin to fall; or a rock falls from the sky and impacts a short distance from the encounter, knocking everybody off their feet from the force of the impact. Even just something as simple as the weather turning is enough to send the adventure spinning off in a completely different direction, as they might be forced to take shelter with a sworn Enemy against a harsh blizzard which would kill them if they tried to venture through it. Nothing is as it seems The Adventurers discover something which turns the encounter on its head. Perhaps they are helping refugees who turn out to be from an enemy nation or worshipping an evil deity. Perhaps they are not refugees at all, but something else. Or maybe it is a trap, and armed bandits are lying in wait nearby, hoping someone would take the bait. Everything is as it seems No surprises. This turns out to be a "what you see is what you get" scene. Variety Always keep referring to tables like these for variety. No two encounters should ever be exactly the same. even if the encounter table indicated "1d4 priests" or "2d6 soldiers" each time. With experience, you could start creating your own, designed for different environments, different settings, and even different circumstances in the same places. Keep them varied. Keep them memorable. Keep the Players guessing.
  2. An integral part of enjoying any roleplaying game is encountering other beings. Since the Adventurers will all be together, every single encounter will be with a non-player character. This entire blog post is dedicated to the Games Master. There are no secrets to be kept from the Players - but if you want to learn the Games Master's art, you can listen in and learn. The Art of The Encounter Encounters are what Games Masters do. And like everything else, it is an art form which Games Masters need to learn to get good at. Mere repetition is not enough. You can get just as bored by yet another orc raiding party, whether they are equipped with orcish falchions or spears, nets or flails. If all you know of encounters is their numbers, their stats, their weapons, and battle till their Hit Points reach zero, then you are missing out on what is possibly one of the most spectacular Games Master arts. Old Skool Encounters Initially, encounter tables were random lists of wandering monsters. They turn up, the characters slaughter them, the adventure moves on to the next encounter. However, hack'n'slash is not really the default in roleplaying games any more. Games Masters can now create far richer kinds of encounters - ones which are part of the story, or part of the characters' growth and development, or which somehow showcase the setting. Here are some considerations for the encounters you can set up. Who Most encounters are going to be with people, rather than combat with some random mindless, slavering monsters. Once the characters are out on the road, they will be meeting other people - other adventurers, their own Rivals or Allies, patrols, pilgrims ... there is a variety of these different kinds of parties. The nature of these groups typically determines the likeliest thing they are going to do when the characters heave into view of them. What This is generally asking what these wanderers want - their motive. And whether or not it involves the characers in any way. A band of pilgrims might want to stop at the characters' campfire and share food and talk about their pilgrimage, and a hunting party might show off their catches. Traders might sell or exchange, or provide information about the road they have just come down, and so on. It depends on what they want - whether it is to just go home, or to warn the characters of a hazard. Or indeed to ambush the characters, leading to a combat. Yes, there is always that possibility - but it is not the only outcome any more. Sometimes, what refers to animal encounters. Traveller excelled at animal encounters, presenting a broad list of animal encounter types such as Pouncers (such as big cats, which strike at their targets with a leap), Trackers (such as wolves, which pursue their prey by scent) or Gatherers (omnivores like humans, who forage for food). The kinds of animals encountered can determine what kind of encounter it will be, whether it is fending off hungry wolves or sitting on top of a rocky outcrop to wait out the vast herd of migratory aurochs which is cutting across the road. Where The location fo the encounter is important, as in the local terrain. Are the characters encountering a hazard such as an encroaching landslide? If they are, what is the terrain behind them like? Are the directions of movement restricted? In the case of a landslide, they might only be able to go forwards or backwards, and the option to go forwards might only be time sensitive until the rocks or the avalanche cuts off the way ahead. When What time the encounter takes place is hugely important. A party which encounters wanderers coming up to their campfire in the middle of the night is bound to be a lot more wary than two groups of wanderers running into one another in the road at midday. How How an encounter happens can be as simple a matter as how much warning the characters have to prepare for it. A stealthy predatory animal stalking the characters will try to ambush them and take them by surprise. In contrast, a band of pilgrims might give away their position half an hour before they turn up, announcing their presence with loud hymnals and music as they approach. Why This is probably the most important question. Why these people, here, now? Why have they targeted the characters? Why is this more significant than a "ships passing in the night" encounter where the adventurers just breeze past the beings encountered on the road, without interaction? Some example reasons follow below. Abduction - the beings encountered abduct travellers and take them elsewhere for some unknown purpose Ambush - the beings have set up a roadblock or ambush for some reason, which might not necessarily mean robbery. Challenge - a puzzle, riddle, or test: the characters are being tested for worthiness by an agent of the person they are seeking, or perhaps an Avatar of a deity testing the party member who believes in that deity and follows their religion. Connections - the encountered beings are known to the characters, either as Allies, Contacts, Rivals, Enemies, family, and so on. Event - something unexpected and interesting happens along the way. Guardian - a sentinel is placed in the characters' way, not to test them but to halt their progress. Hazard - some environmental hazard, whether it is terrain, wildlife, or weather. Hunt - the beings encountered are after someone or something that is not the characters. They are either on an actual hunt (tracking some beast for its flesh or pelt), or they are a posse sent after a miscreant. Labourers - the encountered beings are workers from a local settlement, on their way to or from work. Location - the characters stumble upon a notable location or terrain feature. Lost - the beings have become separaed from their unit. They could be young Nomads, or a child from a nearby settlement. See Rescue. Nomads - the beings are a wandering, self-sufficient group of people, and they are following their traditional route. Patrol - the encountered beings are patrolling the periphery of a nearby settlement. They have the right to challenge strangers, acting as they are in defence of the settlement. Pilgrimage - the beings are on some sort of quest or pilgrimage, either to some destination to confirm their faith, or on a journey to test their faith. Rescue - the beings are tracking someone who has gone missing: a search or rescue party. The missing person should be nearby. Road Gang - the beings are prisoners being escorted by guards, or on site labour maintaining the road under supervision of the guards. Runaways - the beings are running from someone or something - or they are running to someone or something. Settlement - the characters stumble across a settlement of some beings. They are just people, trying to live their lives; or they could be hostile in some way. Shadow - the beings could be being shadowed by an elusive being or group of beings, who are following the characters for some unknown purpose. Trade - the beings could be traders en route to a market. They can share food, exchange gossip and information, and so on. They could also be robbers, who might choose the characters as their next victims. We have not come to the end of the discussion of encounters. There will be more next time, including suggestions for tables you can use in a game.
  3. Here is a table of 1d20 random events that I created for my Brightwater game set in the River of Cradles. They owe a fair bit to King of Dragon Pass! Every one of the 20 is a hook for further action of a number of sorts. Depending on how it is presented, the 'hook' can act as quest, or reward, or opportunity - kicking off different kinds of adventure depending on how the characters respond to it. For example, entry #1 could be a dire portent of a raid delivered by a wandering shaman, a warning that a great spirit has awakened an attempt by the shaman to extort money or treasure, even a warning of the coming of a horde of whirlvishes. Roll 1d20. You may then be called upon to roll again on d6, d4 etc. If an X appears after a dice notation, any dice "explode" on the maximum value (a 6 or d6) - roll exploding dice agains,a dding them to the total. A wandering shaman appears, warning of dire spirits in the area. Nomads appear offering animals for sale [Roll 1d6: 1 – stolen, 2 – their own, 3 – poor quality, 4 High quality, 5 - Diseased, 6 – magical]. Cultists of the Death God, Humakt, come to your stead, claim guest-right and ask for aid in hunting undead nearby [Roll 1d6: 1 – Zombies, 2 - Ghouls, 3 - Vampire, 4 – Wight, 5 – Spirit, 6 – Necromancers]. What, or who will you contribute? Your hunters discovered strange bones in the wilderness nearby [Roll 1d4: 1 – Troll, 2 – Centaur, 3 – Giant, 4 – Dragon]. There is a 50% chance that the bones are unusual in a second way [roll 1d3: 1 – Magical; 2 – The bones are Black; 3 -Fossilized]. River folk approach, complaining of a nearby hungry lizard that attacked and stole their fish. Cultists of Uralda, the Herd Mother, appear with a fine looking bull for sale [Roll 1d6: 1 – genuinely high-quality bull, 2 – VERY territorial, 3 – Slow to breed, 4 – Prolific Breeder, 5 Sired by a Skybull, 6 – Near human intelligence]. A sizable tribe of people nears your settlement, their warriors alert, every sign of the entire group having seen many miles of hard road. Emissaries approach: [Roll 1d6: 1 - They hope to trade for food, offering some of their rather road-worn goods and thralls in return, 2 – They need medicines or a shaman to heal their sick, but have nothing to trade, 3 – Out of desperation, they hope to lure some important folk amongst them, then take the hostage to trade for food and cattle, 4 – The whole band is a tribe of brigands who will say whatever they must to get through the settlement without trouble. They will trade equably for supplies in the way of food and weapons, intending to take their profit as they leave the settlement’s lands. 1d2 days after they are gone, pursuers appear with stories of their depredations. 5 – The tribe wants to settle nearby and is willing to offer a portion of their produce in tribute once they are established. 6 – One of their Champions offers to fight one of yours, putting up a well-born young woman of the tribe’s hand in wedlock as prize, demanding you put up gold and cattle: Winner takes all]. Someone or something has put holes in the bottoms of several of your boats or your granaries, or brewery, or looted your larders, or roll again. Yinkin cultists appear, offering to lead the local alynxes in a ritual that will make them better mousers, for a fee. They also will sell a litter of alynxe kits and their mother if they can be assured of their good treatment. A giant predator attacked the herd, slaughtering several and making off with another [Roll 1d6: 1 – Giant insect escaped from trolls, 2 – Wyvern; 3 – Wyrm, 4 – Lunar warbeast, 5 – An unearthed demon, 6 - Dragon]. Hunters spotted a brilliant white beast and shot at it in hopes of taking the omen for the tribe. They appear to have wounded the beast and sent it fleeing. They lost its tracks but wonder what they should do to appease the Hunter [Roll 1d3: 1 - Sun Elk, 2 – Aurochs, 3 – no one could agree on the nature of the beast, only that it was bright white – and its blood appears to be magical in some way.] A herd of 3d6x fine dun horses was spotted in an island in the Great Bog, but they ran like gazelles when approached. A broo, wretched and outcast from his tribe, approaches some of your folk, offering information on the bullies in exchange for food and magical aid. Settlers arrive from afar, asking for land and cattle in exchange for their loyalty and service [Roll 1d6; 1 – Pavis, 2 – Garhound, 3 – The Rubble, 4 – Sartar, 5 – Tarsh, 6 – Holy Country]. A Lunar soldier, weaponless and wounded, wanders close to the encampment [Roll 1d6: 1 – a spy sent by his superiors, 2-3 – only survivor of a disaster: boat sank, camp was attacked, patrol wiped out by brigands, etc; 4 – a squad member who got lost on patrol, 5 – Possessed by a madness spirit, 6 – Possessed by a disease spirit]. Neighboring folk have rustled some of 2d6x animals from your herd [Roll 1d6 for the culprits: 1 – Praxians, 2 – Brigands, 3 – Broo, 4 – Centaurs, 5 – Horsemen, 6 – Lunars]. Your hunters find tracks and evidence of strangers poaching on your land [Roll 1d6: 1 – Praxians, 2 – Brigands, 3 – Broo, 4 – Centaurs, 5 – Horsemen, 6 – Lunars]. Changing river flow nearby has revealed a wonder [Roll 1d6: 1 – a cave entrance previously under water, 2 – an ancient shrine/ obelisk/ statue, 3 – the remains of a magnificent set of stairs descending into the earth, 4 – An exposed grave, 5 – A Chaos Stone, 6 – The petrified body of a beast from the Godtime]. A madman staggers into camp, raving about raven banners, ghostly horsemen, a black sword, and fire everywhere. Explorers from your camp return, claiming to have heard a large white stone in the middle of the Bog speak. The words were unknown to them, but it seemed clear that the Stone uttered them. The Link to the original article: http://d-infinity.net/game-content/runequest-thursday-67-1d20-random-settlement-events-glorantha And a link to over one hundred Runequest Thursday Articles (sadly not in order): http://d-infinity.net/search/node/Runequest Thursday
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