Thursday, February 6, 2014

Encounters in the House of Hours

Three Encounters From the House of Hours

Reaction rolls should be rolled when the monster reacts to the party (either on its first round of combat or after the PCs have had a chance to speak a few words to it) with a 2d6 roll.  Apply all modifiers then.  Weapons in hand = -1 to Reaction roll.  Suspicious stuff like spell casting = -2 to Reaction roll.  Prepping for combat = -3 to Reaction roll.  Warmth & Politeness = +1.  Charisma Bonus = +bonus.  Monsters will also have Reaction modifiers unique to themselves, with a negative number indicating greater hostility.

Neutral (instinctual) reactions are in the 6-8 range.  Higher results are friendlier/beneficial, etc.  Reactions are not just a gradient between combat and friendship.  Bargaining, fleeing, and immediate surrender are options.

This IV rack killed 2 PCs.

Hospital Golems (always hostile, except to hospital staff)
Seven feet tall, spindly, made of stainless steel.  The bottom of their torso is a five-wheeled base, ending in wheels, which makes them very fast (horse speed) on flat surfaces but puts them at an immense disadvantage on stairs or when climbing.  They have two long arms (each 5' long), each terminating in a "hand" that is little more than a highly articulated cluster of hypodermic needles.  Their metal skeleton is draped with saline bags (and other solutions) that flap around and slosh while it fights, and are connected to it's needle-fingers.  It's head is a clipboard, filled with pages of arcane script, that (a) incompletely describes the procedure required to bind an elemental spirit into a construct, (b) a patient with uncontrolled aggression and poor impulse control, and (c) recommended drug schedules for this patient.

HD 6
AC 4 [15]
Atk Needlefingers +6 (1d6+1 and Injection)
Move human x 2 on flat ground, human / 2 on everything else
Save 9 [11 if roll-under] but also has Golem Immunities
Injection: On a hit, the golem injects its target with horrible substances.  Roll a d4:
  1 - 8L of saline, -1 to hit, -25% speed until you squeeze it all out.
  2 - 3ml of 0.2% perchloromyrmidene, save or massive synesthesia (treat as blindness) for 1d6 hours.
  3 - 3ml of mutagen, save or gain a mutation from your DM's favorite table.
  4 - 3ml of morphine solution, save or stun 1 round and the DM keeps track of your (now secret) HP total for 1d6 hours.

Broncus the Piggybacker (Reaction +2)
This is a friendly, retarded, giant of a man.  He looks a bit like Frankenstein's monster, to his detriment.  All he wants in life is to give piggyback rides, and on a positive Reaction roll, he will do exactly that.  His other instincts are shyness and fear.  Broncus is beloved by a certain person in the dungeon.  Broncus has complete knowledge of a certain area of the dungeon, including layout and traps.  He has the stats of an ogre.

In the G+ game, Broncus put Professor Snorley on his shoulders and tried to piggyback-abduct him away from the party, but was killed before he got too far.  Still, I'm convinced that a friendly, idiot giant who happily careens through the dungeon with a kidnapped PC on his head is a viable threat.  Maybe I should've given him more HP?

River of Worms (no reaction)
The River of Worms flows throughout the dungeon, intent on whatever business a river of worms concerns itself with.  It is composed of 18,600 tons of worms, and moves about 100' every hour.  This is enough worms to fill a 10' x 10' hallway for 600'.  The river is more or less cohesive.  If you are watching it pass, it will take 6 hours.  However, in a dungeon or other enclosed space, the River of Worms will always appear behind you, move through the PCs area, and take a random route from there on out.

The interior of the worm-mass feels cold.  Anything that is completely submerged in the River of Worms is subtly teleported to the Chamber of Worms.  The worms themselves are just harmless worms, about 3" to 5" long.

The House

I don't know why I made the random encounter table for the House of Hours so strange, but I did.

It has 30 entries, mostly events and NPCs.  Depending on the reaction roll, some of these might be neutral or positive interactions.  The events are mostly just strange happenings (at least at first blush).

Every encounter is linked to some other part of the dungeon, either a specific room or event from the dungeon's formation.  Even the bizarre ones, like the River of Worms.

Lastly, the random encounter table evolves over the lifetime of the dungeon.  A lot.  NPCs or Unique encounters that are killed are replaced with new stuff.  Entries will mutate based on what the players do in the dungeon (or completely randomly--YOU DON'T KNOW).


There's a lot of room in random encounter tables for a little bit of embellishment.  Many published modules have beautiful, detailed dungeons with a paltry 1d6 random encounter table.  And that's fine.  I know that a good DM can inject a hell of a lot of context into "2d6 goblins", but that same degree of elaboration can be inserted at the designer side of things as well.

Random encounters can (1) give players previews of distant parts of the dungeon, (2) insights into the interactions between two parts of the dungeon (group-group, or group-environment), (3) visible products of the dungeon's history, or (4) restate the whatever cool themes you are trying to impart with this dungeon.

You could even argue a random encounter should do one of those 4 things.  Whenever a DM throws some random centipedes at his players, there's a missed opportunity to throw something more flavorful and context-specific at the PCs.

Maybe random encounters should get more attention and details than the average room description.  Random encounters stand to be pretty memorable, and they definitely might come up more than once.

Especially consider making non-combat encounters.  This can be (1) a noise from a distant room, (2) a sighting of a combat encounter, possibly where the creature just runs away, (3) signs of a combat encounter, such as debris or spoor, (4) just NPCs (merchants, potential hostages, or just monstrous offspring).


  1. Yeah, I definitely prefer random encounters with about the same level of detail as a room. Maybe not all of them, but definitely some of them.

    I wonder, do you think there is anything to be said for too much flavor? To some degree, I think you need some more mundane encounters to make others stand out. The oasis being defined by the desert and all.

    By the way, nice work particularly on the IV rack golems and river of worms.

  2. @Brendan: Thanks!

    Re too much flavor: There's no such thing as too much flavor. Not everything can be fantastic or exotic, but it should at least be fun and/or exciting. Even 2d6 goblins should get a healthy amount of design. Let the goblins connect the party to the dungeon, or the plot; let them say interesting things, let them say useful things; or at the very least, give one of them a ridiculous hat.

  3. Oh man, I'm just a week too late to use the IV golems :(

  4. I kind of disagree on the random encounter bit.

    On one hand, yeah, it an be great for coherence and verisimilitude to have encounters that are tied to something somewhere else or otherwise tied to a theme. It's definitely a good idea to have non-combat encounters: sounds, smells, scenes, weather, etc.

    On the other hand, do you need to know that these 2d6 goblins are from room 17a, and delete them in your notes, every time? Do you need to have a Centipede Room before you can allow yourself to put centipedes on the random encounter table? Do you really need to be communicating anything beyond "goblins wander the halls freely here" or "the place is infested with vermin"?

    Random encounter tables have two functions beyond the "random (and therefore surprising)" part: first, they allow you to increase the density of stuff in the dungeon without needing to craft and write out every encounter in advance (which your assertions seem to negate), and second, they help characterize the hallways and other interstitial spaces (and times!) in and of themselves in ways that room keys can't handle very well (meaning, again, that it seems a little counterproductive to have to tie them to something else somewhere else).

    as usual, though, this is some great creative stuff. Keep it up!

  5. @Confanity: There's no "need" to explain the presence of goblins, centipedes, etc. but it can only be productive to do so.

    So, like, you've got 2d6 goblins. Maybe they don't come from room 17a, or any room at all. Maybe their lair is nowhere near this dungeon. If it isn't, where the hell do they sleep? These considerations are important because sometimes PCs won't just beat the snot out of them. As a player, if I'm outnumbered and an enemy speaks my language, I'll probably try to talk to it. Why are they wandering the halls? Are they patrolling them? Does that mean they live here? If not, who are they patrolling for? Dealing with these questions doesn't necessarily require a lot of work:

    "1. 2d6 goblins" becomes

    "1. 2d6 goblins from distant mountain home, seeking the Scepter of the Uncompromising Mandate but will only say so under duress or intoxication"

    Maybe the players have never ever heard of the Scepter of the Uncompromising Mandate. They're in here looking for the Monstrance of Immaculate Revelation. Suddenly 2d6 goblins plus a reaction roll holds a lot more potential for interesting encounters besides "do you fight or run?"