How I'm doing random encounters right now

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
Post Reply
The Dread Polack
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:59 am

How I'm doing random encounters right now

Post by The Dread Polack » Sun Jul 28, 2019 6:13 am

In case anyone found it useful, I thought I'd share how I'm running random encounters in my ED4 campaign.

Personally, I like random encounters. They're fun for me as GM- something that's even a bit of a surprise for me, and a challenge to my creativity. Also, I think it's a useful tool to illustrate that things are happening in Barsaive that aren't about the lives and current goals of the PCs.

First, I borrowed a technique from Savage Worlds. For each 3 days of travel (you can determine your own increment if you want more or less encounters), I draw a card from a standard playing card deck. 2 through 10 means no encounter. Jack through ace means the party has a random encounter. You can also adjust this for more or less dangerous areas (e.g. The Wastes get encounters on 9+, only Kings and Aces near Bartertown).

The higher the card drawn, the more severe the encounter: Jacks are "easy" and Aces are "difficult". The suit determines the nature of the encounter. Spades are combat encounters- a perfect chance to use one of the roughly 200 monsters statted out for ED4 so far. a Jack would be an easier challenge for the party, while an Ace might require the party to flee. Hearts are neutral or friendly NPC encounters. I like to have higher cards be friendlier and/or more useful NPCs. Diamonds are treasure. The higher the card, the more valuable. The treasure shouldn't be laying out in the open. It should require some work to first find and then acquire. Don't be afraid of letting the PC walk past or fail to get it. If you don't let on too much about this being a major encounter, they won't feel like their missing out. You can just move on. Clubs are obstacles. This is a chance to delay or put the PCs in some amount of danger without combat.

Lastly, if you draw a joker, you can draw 2 more cards and look at the suit, combining the result. I drew a diamond and club today, and the PCs found a crashed airship at the bottom of a chasm they had to cross.

Anyway, that's what I'm doing right now. You can just roll dice instead of drawing cards. Let me know what you think, and I'd love to hear what you'd do differently.

Belenus
Posts: 121
Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2018 5:27 pm
Location: Germany
Contact:

Re: How I'm doing random encounters right now

Post by Belenus » Sun Jul 28, 2019 8:55 am

Great idea!
Think I'll try that too :D

kevsurp
Posts: 22
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2019 6:29 pm

Re: How I'm doing random encounters right now

Post by kevsurp » Sun Jul 28, 2019 3:47 pm

i have over the years made encounter charts for each terrain type ex. plain,mtns,ect.
i roll for each "watch" i broke the day down to 7 watches as follow
8am-12n= first travel period
12n-4pm=2nd travel period
4pm-6pm= set camp/dinner
6pm-10 pm=1st watch
10am-2am=2nd watch
2am-6am=3rd watch
6am-8am=breakfast/karma rituals /break down camp

roll a d10 each watch if a 10(or 9+ in dangerous areas) you have encounter
day encounters 6am-6pm roll a 2nd d10 for level 1-5 common,6-9 uncommon 10 rare
nights roll d100 on night charts for terrain


https://drive.google.com/open?id=19zdwp ... dXQi09LdTY

Telarus
Posts: 249
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2016 1:16 am

Re: How I'm doing random encounters right now

Post by Telarus » Sun Jul 28, 2019 8:16 pm

These are great guys! I have a "Hazards" system in the new airship travel rules. I also have extended it to a full Random Encounter system, but I cut that part for space. Some really neat ideas here, & I love the terrain breakdown. Panda has some notes on creatures and terrain on his blog as well.

I'll have to see how much I can share atm, but there was a really old preview (much has changed since).

Lursi
Posts: 152
Joined: Sun Jun 17, 2018 2:09 pm
Location: Münster

Re: How I'm doing random encounters right now

Post by Lursi » Wed Jul 31, 2019 7:27 pm

I like about the card variant that I can perfectly do this in silence. Dice always shake up players. This led me to the habit of randomly throwing dice...

What I don’t like about the cards is the distribution of the hazards. Weak and strong enemies are equally probable.

I would propose to draw N cards and evaluate the highest poker combo available.

The number N is equal to the surprise potential of the area.
Of all things I lost, sanity I held dearest.

The Dread Polack
Posts: 12
Joined: Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:59 am

Re: How I'm doing random encounters right now

Post by The Dread Polack » Sat Aug 03, 2019 4:48 am

Lursi wrote:
Wed Jul 31, 2019 7:27 pm
I like about the card variant that I can perfectly do this in silence. Dice always shake up players. This led me to the habit of randomly throwing dice...

What I don’t like about the cards is the distribution of the hazards. Weak and strong enemies are equally probable.

I would propose to draw N cards and evaluate the highest poker combo available.

The number N is equal to the surprise potential of the area.
It's great because there's a lot of different ways to use the cards.

As far as "...distribution of the hazards. Weak and strong enemies are equally probable." I get what you're saying. I'm using this as a very loose guideline. Once I eyeball my card draws, I do whatever makes the most sense to me in the moment. If I can't decide, I use randomizers for inspiration. There are a million of them online.

I currently have an excel sheet with 199 creature entries over all the 4E books. It lists them by name, challenge, whether they are suitable as animal companions, what sort of terrain/region they live in, and the book they're in. This helps me pick a creature quickly.

Sharkforce
Posts: 98
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2019 8:39 am

Re: How I'm doing random encounters right now

Post by Sharkforce » Sat Aug 03, 2019 6:24 am

the correlation between card number and threat level doesn't have to be on a 1 for 1 ratio, or even linear.

a jack is easy, a queen is harder... but doesn't need to be twice as hard. going from a jack to a queen might mean the same creature is there, but the terrain is favourable (for example, it might provide a good hiding place). the difference between a jack and an ace might mean that the number of creatures double; it is 3 steps above, but those steps don't have to be multiples of each other, nor do they need to be equal increases (for example, if the most dangerous possible encounter is a dozen circle 4 enemies, that doesn't mean a jack must be 3 of them, a queen is 6 of them, a king is 9 of them, and an ace is the full dozen... it could mean that the ace is 12, the king is 10, the queen is 8, and the jack is 6. or 12, 11, 10, 9. and of course, you can mix and match creatures, but again, it doesn't need to be the case that the ace is a circle 9 creature, the king is 8, the queen is 7, and the jack is 6... it can be that the ace is a circle 9 nethermancer corrupted by horrors and a retinue of cadavermen, the king is a circle 7 beastmaster with a few lower circle animal companions, the queen is a circle 5 swordsman bandit leader with around a dozen regular bandits, and the jack is those same bandits but some of them are wounded and the leader is down a few consumables that might otherwise make the fight a lot more frustrating.

these are all combat encounter examples (more or less), but the same principle can apply to non-combat challenges; there isn't an equal chance of an archmage or a lone shrieker bat; there is an equal chance of a lone shrieker bat or a small hunting group of shrieker bats, or there is the same chance of a pack of wolves or a group of shrieker bats... (and as for archmages, those should probably never be truly random encounters anyways).

Spader
Posts: 54
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 4:33 am

Re: How I'm doing random encounters right now

Post by Spader » Wed Aug 07, 2019 11:19 pm

The Dread Polack wrote:
Sat Aug 03, 2019 4:48 am
I currently have an excel sheet with 199 creature entries over all the 4E books. It lists them by name, challenge, whether they are suitable as animal companions, what sort of terrain/region they live in, and the book they're in. This helps me pick a creature quickly.
I could be interested in such a file if you care to share.

Post Reply