CRB is a repository of all the creative things that float through my mind about the RPG Pathfinder. Two major features are random character generation and building characters based on the god they worship. Anything that seems like it adds to the creative aspects of the game will pop up from time to time, including location descriptions, adventure ideas and even short stories. CRB won't just be my own creativity, it will open the floor to anyone who has an idea sparked by what I present to you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

When Animals Attack

So we’ve made your forest a more vivid locale for your players, and now it’s time to have that pack of wolves just jump out at them. But why? Wolves on the whole don’t just attack travelers going through the forest. Maybe they’re protecting a nearby den of cubs or something has been killing off the game and the wolves are starving. This not just true for wolves—even magical monsters have to have some motivation for attacking.

In most standard medieval fantasy games the characters do a lot of traveling. Even if there isn’t a ranger or scout in the party, someone needs to be able to follow a trail in the woods. Unless, of course, your woods are just full of constantly lost parties. One of the reasons the whole “X creature jumps out at you” doesn’t work for me is there should be some kind of foreshadowing. Most creature leave some kind of hint of its trail and the players would have noticed it, in some cases even without a tracker.

Carnivorous creatures will leave carrion, usually away from their lair but not always. When you come across a decomposing deer carcass you should be able to determine there are carnivores in the area. With a good tracker you can tell the difference between the marks left by the creature that made the kill and those that have just been scavenging from the fallen prey. If you’re trying to foreshadow a monster that doesn’t kill for food then an animal corpse with only the bite marks of smaller scavengers or even only the kill marks and maybe some vermin like maggots will tell a different tale. The fact that most GMs never describe these things boggles my mind.

Many animals leave marks to denote territory. For some this can be a very pungent scent delineating the edges of their territory. In other cases claw or bite marks in trees may signal “this is mine”. Even intelligent creatures that are territorial will leave landmarks such as fallen trees or small cairns of rocks. Every time an owlbear just jumps out and attacks I wonder why the players didn’t find fur or feathers caught in tree bark, or large claw marks or beak imprints in trees at its territorial borders.

Rivers, brooks, and streams bring much needed water to pretty much any creature that needs sustenance. From rabbits to big cats to dragons, if it eats and breathes it needs to drink. When traversing the forest one of the quickest ways to determine what kinds of creatures you might find is to see whose leaving prints at the local watering hole. Sets of different prints will show a thriving biome in the forest. Sometimes when you’ve got one superpredator like a wyvern or baby dragon you may only find one set of prints, and this means trouble.

The sounds of other animals will also give a clue to what’s going on in this area of the woods. When you have the shrill of birds moving back and forth through the trees you know you probably aren’t in any immediate danger. A good tracker might know the warning calls of many different animals and when hearing them can put the party on alert. When the forest goes silent a defensive posture is probably the best course of action.

The environment of the forest itself should be giving off many clues to the goings on within its confines. And sure, maybe your party is fresh-faced and lost in a wooded area they’ve never been in, but when seasoned adventurers can have creatures just jump out at them for no reason it makes the whole proposition seem off kilter. Fleshing out your encounters to actually mean something really helps with the immersion for your players, which of course is one of the reasons I steer clear of random encounter tables.

Hopefully you’ve gotten some ideas on how to enhance your encounters when traveling through the woods. These ideas can be applied to just about any wilderness environment, so don’t fret. If the CRB is helping expand upon your gaming experience please consider becoming a patron for as much or as little as you’d like. Check out the CRB on Pateron. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter where I live tweet my weekend games, and on Tumblr where I share inspiring art and thoughts on all things gaming. If you’d like to get the CRB pushed straight to your kindle check us out on kindle subscriptions.


  1. Nice! I found this extremely helpful!


  2. Nice! I found this extremely helpful!