A5 Gamers' Grid/Hex Notebooks

Dungeon Master's Little Black Book -- Kicktraq Mini

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

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