Random Encounter? Anyone?

Episode 9 Way back in the day, when dragons roamed the realms and slightly deranged wizards sought to alter reality, there was a far stranger and more erratic power at play terrorizing the minds of hapless adventurers- the random encounter table. Hidden behind DM screens, polyhedrals produced unimaginable circumstances for parties already expecting the unexpected.  While each edition has produced its own take on the Random Encounter Table, none will ever achieve the mesmerizing mind-numbing miasma of monsters that is Appendix C of the 1st edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. I’m quite sure my grandma had no idea that the genie she unleashed when gifting me with that magical tome one xmas morning would keep me occupied for many days and nights through middle school and eventually resurface almost 30 years later.random encounter wilderness
To those who are unfamiliar with Appendix C it is twenty pages of small font typeface that details the encounter possibilities for hundreds of possible circumstances in multiple tables- a percentile dice tossers wet dream! Second Edition AD&D didn’t even try to replicate this feat, with a paltry ten pages of mostly text (perhaps a half dozen random tables). And 4th edition takes a completely different approach by offering a suggestion on how one might go about creating their own random encounter generator.Random encounter monsters pg177
It seems as though Gary Gygax could envision what would become hordes of players huddled around kitchen tables, scarfing pizza and soda rolling dice and battling an endlessly advancing line of adversaries; and he knew that he would have to provide young DM’s with the tools necessary to keep the bloodthirsty PC’s satisfied.
BND009 – Hungry Like the Wolf (live play starts at 11:00)

4 thoughts on “Random Encounter? Anyone?”

  1. I don’t particularly like random encounters. At least to me it has always felt like XP padding, in design and at the table. It may be because I no longer use XP to determine when the party levels and instead just when they reach down time and a level climb seems appropriate.

    Of course I could just be missing something. What is it that you like about random encounters?

  2. Well I don’t plan on using random encounters in my campaigns, I threw in a random encounter (or what amounted to a random encounter, even though it wasn’t all that random) in this latest episode for reasons stated in the episode. It takes a bit of time to layout an encounter in Roll20, so just throwing an encounter in the party’s path is not practical during gametime. I agree that random encounters themselves are really just XP padding like you say, I’m more in awe of Gary Gygax’s thoroughness in developing the random encounter tables for AD&D. The amount of potential energy stored in those tables is unquantifiable! find Appendix C and you will see what I mean.

  3. Random Encounters were never XP padding. They were, originally, the opposite. Once Treasure ceased to be the main source of XP (which wandering monsters had little of), it threw the whole system out of whack. And the whole point of the system was to make stopping and faffing about dangerous, as Wandering Monsters would drain you of resources for little reward. In original D&D, you avoided anything that had the capacity for doing that. It is because modern players lost sight of this that all the ‘boring’ elements of D&D, like pixel-bitching for traps and the 15 minute adventuring day, came into being.

  4. Random tables are part of the inherent dynamic of a game world and provide a useful tool to simulate a given “reality” without resorting to arbitrariness on the side of the DM. Sure, some are more useful than others and not everything needs to be rolled on random tables. Still, when you’re looking at, say, a random encounter table for “Hills of Hidden Horrors” then you’re looking at part of the game world reality.

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