Jazzing Up Random Encounters

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Persimmon
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Jazzing Up Random Encounters

Post by Persimmon »

One thing I've really worked on as a CK/DM the past few years is designing more interesting random encounters. In addition to wandering monsters I put clues, weird sounds and discoveries like footprints, wood knocks, bloody backpacks, etc. in there. Weather encounters and hazards too. So for a wilderness trek to a dungeon there might be things along the way that could help or hinder the party later. In a dungeon or the Underdark, they might find a cache of supplies or a minor item that some previous adventurer dropped. Some might be entirely atmospheric, but could set up the party for something more dangerous later.

For longer campaigns I often create a master campaign table where I'll put events, signs, monsters, recurring NPCs, etc. in to kind of remind players of the bigger picture. So the party might hear rumors that could prove useful later or they could just be red herrings. These sometimes involve mini side adventures. The Swords & Wizardry monster books usually include a mini adventure or hook for each monster and I've dropped lots of these right into my own games. Super easy and far more interesting than "You see 5 ogres. Roll for initiative."

Curious as to strategies used by others. Or do you jettison random encounters altogether?
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Lurker
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Re: Jazzing Up Random Encounters

Post by Lurker »

Funny you mention it. I'm doing a similar thing myself.

I'm converting and modifying the Ole Keep on the Borderlands module for my girls Tolkienesk game. Right now I'm focused on getting them set up to head to the ruined village I'm setting up as where the keep is located. Oh yeah, since it is in the far north of the area I've slapped on some mammoths, spotted lions, dire wolves, dire boars, cave bears, Irish deer, and the like. So a lot of the random encounters are giving them hints that if they head further N they may stumble onto some of those creatures. Also lots of abandoned camps of bandits, wolf worshiping hill men, and the like. LOTS of fore shadowing for what will be around the keep/village. Of course there are the normal orc etc and some fey and harpy types to spice it up. Oh yeah it is Tolkien so some Rangers of the North random and their caches etc. (one girl is playing an elf ranger, so that will be a lot of tie ins for her in the future)

Like your idea on campaign random encounters. consider it yonked! I'll have to add it say when they are about 50% finished with the Keep's clearing of the caves.
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bulletmeat
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Re: Jazzing Up Random Encounters

Post by bulletmeat »

For dungeons I like burrowing bugs, large or swarms. Those are great during rest periods since they don't care about the locked door, just the loose floor tile.
I also think prisoners are a great tool. Could be as simple as 'my family has a few gold to give you for me' to 'Great, now we can work together to find the treasure on this map I've been hiding up my keester.'

jahydin
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Re: Jazzing Up Random Encounters

Post by jahydin »

In Knock #1 (an awesome OSR 'zine that's definitely worth checking out btw!), Nobboc suggests linking a random event table to every entry on a typical wandering monster table to spice things up.

Two examples from his chart:
1) Giant Centipedes (1d4): (1) Tracing letters in the dust. (2) Laying eggs in a dead body. (3) Wrapped around a meditating monk. (4) Sloughing their old skin and mutating to larger size.
4) Skeletons (1d6): (1) Trying to eat food. (2) Swapping skulls. (3) Reading Hamlet aloud. (4) Playing dead.

Pretty neat idea!

Fizz
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Re: Jazzing Up Random Encounters

Post by Fizz »

jahydin wrote:
Tue May 25, 2021 11:39 am
Two examples from his chart:
1) Giant Centipedes (1d4): (1) Tracing letters in the dust. (2) Laying eggs in a dead body. (3) Wrapped around a meditating monk. (4) Sloughing their old skin and mutating to larger size.
4) Skeletons (1d6): (1) Trying to eat food. (2) Swapping skulls. (3) Reading Hamlet aloud. (4) Playing dead.

Pretty neat idea!
Those are neat. I like them. I may have to look that up.

-Fizz

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Persimmon
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Re: Jazzing Up Random Encounters

Post by Persimmon »

Reminiscent of Tegel Manor for you old timers.
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serleran
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Re: Jazzing Up Random Encounters

Post by serleran »

Sometimes, when I remember, I use a deck of playing cards, complete with the Jokers.

This is just a very basic idea. I try to not get too detailed in it as that is more limiting, I feel.

Draw three cards after shuffling, all face down. Flip one face up. That is the one used.

The value determines the severity of the reaction.

The suit determines general tendency (and this is very much not intended as "complete" and uses some commonly accepted symbolism.)

Heart: Life, Love, Spring activities, Water, Renewal/Regrowth
Club: Winter activities, Nighttime activities, Fire, Wealth (Gaming/Gambling), Happiness
Diamond: Light, Day activities, Courage, Annoyance, Earth
Spade: Air, Death, Secretiveness, Violence
(etc. - historically, each of the suits was also linked to a societal pillar which could be done in C&C as well like Fighter, Cleric, Thief, and Mage with attendant activities one might want.)

Joker - if revealed, also use the side cards (all three). In the case of both Jokers thus shown, draw two more cards for a total of 4.

Its very subjective and takes some getting used to.

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Captain_K
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Re: Jazzing Up Random Encounters

Post by Captain_K »

Sounds like a great way or chance to bring a Tarot deck into the game...
Wow, Another Natural One! You guys are a sink hole for luck. Stay away from my dice.

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Captain_K
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Re: Jazzing Up Random Encounters

Post by Captain_K »

Is anything random? Even if it was to you, it will be seen as having or should having a pattern.... some players will see patterns others will not want to and just roll and kill everything.

I like a base story, it always evolves, I just run with it now. One guy I used to play with would DM with just a few sheets of notes... nothing more. Always great fun.
Wow, Another Natural One! You guys are a sink hole for luck. Stay away from my dice.

serleran
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Re: Jazzing Up Random Encounters

Post by serleran »

Captain_K wrote:
Sat Jun 12, 2021 12:31 pm
Sounds like a great way or chance to bring a Tarot deck into the game...
Sure, and for that, I was actually writing a whole thing up The Tarot Plot which was to allow one to roll dice rather than use the physical cards. Rather fun at the time to determine how to give 78 cards an equal 1:1 using percentages... that was not "if you roll over 78, roll again."

Anyway, there are many options for jazzing up encounters, as it were. Maybe come up with 10-20 for any given monster type and then randomly determine, erasing one to fill with something else. Keep those you really like.

Point is generally that whatever the Castle Keeper can think of to make the game fun and interesting should be encouraged. Heck, ask the players for thoughts on "what do goblins do in their downtime?" and use it on them later.

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