Tuesday 14 June 2011

Fixing the Encounter Tables Part II

How tough should random encounters be?

In order to set encounters that pose the correct challenge, I've created a very average 1st level party and worked out their Monstermarks.

1st Level Fighter 2.00
1st Level Fighter 2.00
1st Level Dwarf 2.00
1st Level Cleric 1.20
1st level Thief 0.65
1st Level Magic-User 0.40

Total Party Monstermark value 8.25 (we'll round it down to 8.00)

For this party, I think random encounters with a mean value of around 4.00, and a maximum value of around 12.00 (in effect the mean is -50% of the party's power and the maximum is +50%) are ideal. There's a degree of flexibility in these ranges. Indeed, for some creatures with a very low Monstermark, the existing number encountered ranges in the monster listings may be used without modification. For example, a Kobold has a Monstermark of 0.47. The Labyrinth Lord rules give the number encountered as 4d4 giving the encounter a mean Monstermark of 4.70 and a maximum of 7.52.

Here's some examples of popular monsters and my proposed number encountered ranges:

Kobold (MM 0.47) 4-16
Goblin (MM 0.99) 2-8
Skeleton (MM 1.17) 2-7
Orc (MM 1.27) 1-6
Hobgoblin (MM 2.51) 1-4
Zombie (MM 3.48) 1-4
Gnoll (MM 5.00) 1-2
Bugbear (MM 11.27) 1

Any one of these encounters has a chance of killing an unlucky party, but experienced players might handle several of them in succession regardless of luck. Although there is the potential for encounters that outnumber and/or overpower the party on paper, the party have lots of tools and options open to them including:

  • Tactics (eg: fighting in doorways, running away, etc.)
  • A Sleep spell
  • A Cure Light Wounds spell
  • Thief skills
  • Dwarf abilities
  • Turning Undead
  • Talking

Monday 13 June 2011

Fixing the Encounter Tables Part I

Yesterday, I listed the various first level encounter tables that I'm using to generate my own Monstermark driven version.

Today, I've gone through the Labyrinth Lord rules (including the AEC), and made a list of all the monsters with a monstermark low enough for the level one table.  I may have missed a couple of monsters out, but this is still work in progress and when I've finished tables for the first few levels, I'll decide what needs to be moved up and down.  In Oubliette 6, I plan to include the master tables in the magazine, with some additional tables in the supplemental materials section which can be quickly editied to add/remove creatures, and adjust the % chance of encountering them.

Next, I'll spend some time calculating Monstermarks for creatures in the list that I haven't already worked out.  Then I can begin deciding what number encountered ranges to use, based on an average total Monstermark and the average number of saving throws a party might be required to make.

The picture is of Maow Miniature's Monster Dice

Level 1 Random Encounter List

Bat, Normal
Bat, Giant
Bee, Giant Killer
Beetle, Giant Fire
Beetle, Giant Spitting
Centipede, Giant
Dwarf, Duergar
Elf, Deep
Efl, Drow
Fly, Giant Carnivorous
Golem, Wood
Insect Swarm
Lizard, Giant Gecko
Locust, Subterranean
Man, Acolyte
Man, Berserker
Man, Brigand
Man, Slave
NPC Party
Rat, Giant
Rat, Ordinary
Rot Grub
Snake, Spitting Cobra
Spider, Giant Crab
Toad, Giant
Yellow Mold

Sunday 12 June 2011

Broken Encounter Tables

Today I've been working on my revised set of random encounter tables for Labyrinth Lord, ready for publication in Oubliette 6 next month. I'm using the Monstermark rules in the previous issue to try and make them a little more balanced. In researching the article, I've looked at various encounter tables from D&D books and modules, the AD&D DM's Guide and the ones in Labyrinth Lord itself.

Looking at them, what struck me was how varied the threat offered by some of the encounters are. Interestingly, some of the least deadly are the ones in the DM's Guide,which surprised me given the fact that AD&D characters will on average be tougher than basic D&D ones.

Out of all the first level encounters, the most deadly one - and I'm speaking from experience here* - is 1d4 of Giant Crab Spiders. Not only do these nasty beasts have a decent amount of Hit Points (2HD), they also surprise opponents on 1-4 on a d6. This means that if a first level party encounters 4 of them and are unlucky with surprise and initiative rolls, the spiders could get 8 poisonous bite attacks in before the characters make a move. After that, the spiders should easily survive a few more rounds. Unless the party magic-user has still got a sleep spell you've probably got a TPK situation.

*We met 4 of them on the first level of Stonehell. They killed my cleric - still bitter about it.

The photo is of Otherwold Miniature's way to real-looking Huge Spider

Here's the first level tables I've been using for research to save you having to look them up.

Holmes Basic D&D 
1 Kobolds 3-12
2 Goblins 2-8
3 Bandits 1-4
4 Orcs 2-5
5 Skeletons/Zombies 1-6/1-4
6 Bandits 2-5
7 Berserkers 1-4
8 Stirges 2-5
9 Orcs 1-4
10 Dwarves 2-5
11 Elves 1-6
12 Gelatinous Cube

Moldvay Basic D&D 
1 Acolyte 1-8
2 Bandit 1-8
3 Beetle, Fire
4 Dwarf 1-6
5 Gnome 1-6
6 Goblin 2-8
7 Green Slime 1-4
8 Halfling 3-18
9 Killer Bee 1-10
10 Kobold 4-16
11 Lizard, Gecko 1-3
12 Orc 2-8
13 Shrew, Giant 1-10
14 Skeleton 3-12
15 Snake, Cobra 1-6
16 Spider, Crab 1-4
17 Sprite 3-18
18 Stirge 1-10
19 Trader 1-8
20 Wolf 2-12

D&D Module B1 P8
1 Orcs 1-4
2 Giant Centipedes 1-2
3 Kobolds 1-6
4 Troglodytes 1-2
5 Giant Rats 2-5
6 Berserkers 1-2

D&D Module B1 P21
1 Troglodytes 1-4
2 Crab Spider 1
3 Kobolds 2-7
4 Orcs 1-8
5 Zombies 1-2
6 Goblins 2-7

Labyrinth Lord**
1 Bee, giant Killer
2 Beetle, Fire
3 Centipede, Giant
4 Dwarf
5 Gnome
6 Goblin
7 Green Slime
8 Halfling
9 Kobold
10 Lizard, Giant Gecko
11 Morlock
12 Orc
13 Rat, Giant
14 Snake, Spitting Cobra
15 Skeleton
16 Spider, Giant Crab
17 Stirge
18 Toad, Giant
19 Wolf
20 Zombie
**No number encountered ranges given in the LL tables.

AD&D DM's Guide
01-02 Ant, Giant 1-4
03-04 Badger 1-4
05-14 Beetle, Fire 1-4
15 Demon, Manes 1-4
16-17 Dwarf 4-14
18 Ear Seeker 1
19 Elf 3-11
20-21 Gnome 5-15
22-26 Goblin 6-15
27-28 Halfling 9-16
29-33 Hobgoblin 2-8
34-48 Human 5-15 or 3-9
49-54 Kobold 6-18
55-66 Orc 7-12
67-70 Piercer 1-3
71-83 Rat, Giant 5-20
84-85 Rot Grub 1-3
86-96 Shrieker 1-2
97-98 Skeleton 1-4
99-00 Zombie 1-3

Monday 6 June 2011

UK Games Expo 2011 Report

We had a great day out on Saturday at the UK Games Expo in Birmingham. I've attached some photos but they only show a few of the things the show had to offer. For the UK it's quite a big event, although it leans a little more towards skirmish games and board games than RPGs.

The OSR was represented by a small stand cleverly pitched opposite Otherword Miniatures. They had copies of Vornheim, which they said were selling well, along with numerous adventures and a couple of Fight On! Compilations. Leisure Games had a selection of OSR publications for sale; including the Oubliette Compilation which was nice to see. However, I didn't see a single Labyrinth Lord book and, come to think of it, I'm not even sure there was a copy of The Dungeon Alphabet either.

We reminisced with one of the guys running Talisman demos - a game we used to play as teenagers in First Edition form. We also played a cracking Gun Fight at the OK Corral game using 90mm figures and a giant scratch-built model of the town. The OK Corral game played out using some rules the guy had made up. It worked really well. He had a pack of cards with the names of characters on and he turned them over, one card at a time, and gave that character a single action. The more important the character, the more cards with their name in the deck.

We also sat in on a RPG seminar featuring; Lew Pulsipher who was good in a Grognardy sort of way, a OTT Finnish guy who was nuts but OSR friendly (it wasn't Raggi but he might have been cast from the same mould), and then a couple of others - one who'd written a setting that he really wanted to be a novel, and a lady from Cubicle 7, who had worked on Call of Cthulhu and a load of other stuff. They wasted a bit of time talking about what's great about RPGs and how kids today don't have the attention span to pick them up. They didn't talk that much about the industry, but the two publishers agreed that new products these days only have print runs of 500-1000 books.

I came away from the day full of ideas and with a bag full of goodies (mostly board games) to play with. However, I couldn't help feeling that, as far as the UK is concerned, there's a big OSR shaped gap in the hobby. Nealy all the OSR products I've picked up over the last year have come from the States, and it's not until you visit a convention that you realise the lack of representation by the UK in the OSR.

I'm planning on visiting a few more UK shows this year, but I'm already starting to formulate ideas for a stand to promote Oubliette and other OSR products at the UK shows next year.