Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Wandering monsters

Recently I added a simple stop watch to my sunday Labyrinth Lord gaming sessions. I set the timer for 45 minutes and start it going at some point during the game. Whenever the alarm goes off - no matter where the heroes are or what they are doing, I roll for wandering monsters.

This has led to some interesting encounters as you can probably imagine. One time the heroes were battling carrion crawlers in an abandoned temple and suddenly a bunch of skeletons and ghouls joined the fight.

I like the unpredictability of approaches like this. Imagine if the heroes were in a tavern in town and the alarm goes off. I have to work that into the story some how. Did the skeletons suddenly break through from the cellar, or is the town itself under attack? It is good to stretch yourself as a DM a little with things like this I find.

I've been thinking about expanding this idea from just wandering monsters. Sometimes in game sessions there is a lot of fighting already. On the previous game session, for instance, we had a pitched battle against fifteen bugbears because the heroes did not want to pay an extortionate amount of gold to cross a bridge and the following combat was against four efreets. In that session, I did not want to lengthen the combat further with more monsters arriving. So sometimes there is a need to do something else with the wandering monster results.

I have a trap dice and I think I will start including that in my wandering monster rolls, essentially, having the party run into a trap. Traps are encounters too, especially if they may be detectable before hand from either a thief or a clue in a description and can be fun to disarm or work around... providing they are of course not deadly.

This got me thinking further. As one definition for the word encounter is a problem, I wonder what other types of problems could be thrown the heroes way on a wandering monster roll. Social problems, the ones that you must talk through, spring to mind, and would require considerable thought but could be fun. I wonder what other classes of problem would be fun to throw into the mix?


Noumenon said...

I'm just gonna paste some ideas I copied from somewhere else:

Spoor: signs of one of the monsters from the chart for the area. This might warn them of the presence of something particularly dangerous before they actually encounter it, or provide them with the opportunity to stock their larder. A successful Tracking roll (or whatever, depending on system) can turn this into an encounter with that creature if they desire.
way is blocked: (ravine/stream/fallen tree/stinging ants
notable: waterfall with grotto, road-side shrine
hazard: quicksand, erupting geyser, hunter's deadfall trap
clue: trail, glimpse through clouds
setback: lost equipment (monkeys), twist an ankle, sick from water
good fortune

thanuir said...

I'd recommend a soundtrack with mostly background music (moody dribbing and wind howling and other ambient or game music, say) but some notable songs included. Make a computer play it in random order.

Norman Harman said...

That's a really cool idea. I don't think I'd use it as my sole wandering monster mechanic as I like to inflict checks for noisy, etc behavior by the party. Neat adjunct though.

@thanuir I assume you mean that when notable song comes up it's time for an encounter.

The Recursion King said...

The linking encounters to songs sounds good. For the longest time I have played music during the sessions, but the ones this year I have not.

Music is interesting, is can give tone and set mood, but sometimes you compete with it for attention if the music is saying something very different than you are, for example if the music is fast and exciting but you are trying to relay a spooky atmosphere.

An interesting suggestion all the same though, as are Noemenon's.

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