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, August 9, 2017

(Not so) Random Acts of Violence

Why I Dislike Random Encounters

So everyone has that one thing, or more than one, that irks them and I’m no different. Sometimes the thing you dislike might be unpopular opinion but you have to put it out there anyway. One of the things I absolutely can’t stand is random encounters. Just the very idea of them bothers the crap out of me.

Alright I’ve said it, so bear with me here why I explain why. I think very encounter should have purpose, even if that purpose is just to illustrate how dangerous a place is. If the dark forest is rife with evil fey I will prepare a dark fey encounter. It is not random. It may seem random to the players, but I know it’s coming. And the encounter exists for a purpose. If you’re travelling down a road known to have bandits, if you want an bandit encounter to show that the danger is there just make one.

I like to think of games I’m running as stories. When I read a book everything that happens within the book has purpose. Why are you going to waste a chapter or even a page on something that doesn’t mean anything? I hold that the same should be true for games. No encounter should be a wasted moment, everything that happens in the confines of the game should mean something.

And I get that some people like their tables for random encounters. But why make a whole table when you can just choose what you want to throw at your players? You can add the same things you would on your table to your game directly, just choose the ones that make the most sense. And If you’re one of those people who subscribe to the idea that encounters don’t need to be level appropriate then just add that CR 12 dragon as an encounter for your 4th level party to see.

One of the other things that bothers me with random encounters is when they come up too often. I say this is as a GM, not a player. When you’ve thrown your fourth or fifth random encounter at a party before they’ve gotten near anything that has to do with the actual plot it gets a little annoying, at least for me. But if you’ve got a 20% chance of an encounter and you keep rolling under that you end up with a string of meaningless encounters.

I never really cared for random encounters early in my gaming career but now they’ve become even more of an annoyance. Because most of my gaming is done online now doing random encounters is even harder. I have to have a map ready just in case. I also need to make icons and sheets for all the monsters I want to use on roll20 so I need to have every possible creature set up. This is another reason I just look at the random encounter table and set up a few of the encounters I think will emphasize that a location is dangerous.

Do you enjoy random encounters? Or do you prefer to plan everything out? Do you think random encounters mean something to a game? How do you prep for random encounters? Do you have spare maps laying around just to use for them? If you play online how is prepping for randomness different than at a live table?

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  1. What about encounters designed to slow down travel? I don't think they should all involve combat, but how many creatures or groups of creatures do the players realistically encounter between points A and B?

    1. This is actually another thing. Not every encounter should be a combat encounter and random encounter tables tend to all be combat. But if I want to add things like showing the road is well traveled by adding traders, or even other adventurers on the road I'll just add them. If I want to show the area is rife with wildlife maybe I'll have the ranger find spore or tracks of these animals. If I want to show that the area is really dangerous have a flight of wyverns or a dragon fly overhead without actually going into combat. But none of that stuff needs to be random.

      And then there are things that aren't creatures. I wrote a whole other article on natural hazards at one point. A fallen tree. a washed out road, you can have any number of things. But I see no reason for them to be random.

  2. I feel the same way about random encounters, they slow down everything. I find it better to decide, in advance, what the PCs could encounter in an area, and have NPC's prebuilt. That makes the flow better, because I've already "rehearsed" the NPCs and can make a more believable encounter.

    1. This is definitely another good reason to preplan.