Thursday, September 17, 2020

OSE Encounter Activity Table List/Page

Set up a New Page to house links to all the OSE Encounter Activity Tables!

Better than linking to the label/tag because it makes it easier to find specific entries. 😊

OSE Encounter Activity Tables

Thursday, September 10, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Blue Dragon

Have another set of Chromatic Dragon’s Activity Tables while I periodically furtle with layout, pagination, and publication. This time: Blue.

Monday, July 13, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Black Dragon (Compilation Sneak Peek)

Work continues on compiling my OSE Encounter Activity Table Project into a single, unified reference document. Wrangling the tables into contiguous spreads where necessary and fiddling with font-size/etc. has been going well.

Here's a single page sneak peek of the current state of things (nothing is really finalized at this stage) with one of the Namesake Monsters: the alphabetical first of the Chromatic Dragons: The swamp-dwelling Black Dragon!

Since “Activities” for these Monsters probably are not as varied from Dragon to Dragon as I would like, these are designed to function almost a bit more like “Rumor” tables or as a way to bestow a more bespoke Black Dragon for your tables. Hopefully by fleshing them about a bit in this fashion, it will make these types of terrifying encounters a little more interesting!

Monday, June 29, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Orc

We have reached entry #137: The Orc, the final one before I begin the process of compiling all these together under a unified layout and do a little proof-reading/editing. During this time, I’ll also be finishing up the multi-page entries for Dragons (since it’s 7 Monsters masquerading under one Entry, and I’ve decided to treat them a little differently and I want to make sure I can accommodate them appropriately in cohesive spreads).

This is another Monster entry I started on a while back, but just as I was putting the finishing touches on it, some interesting discussions developed in my periphery that had me second guessing myself on how best to handle the Entry for Orc. But hey, I did the distasteful Dervish, so we trundle onward.

Like the humble Halfling, I typically do not employ Orcs very often in my games these days. They’re simply just not as mythologically rich as most of the other Humanoid Monsters, and most of the attempts to make them more interesting still leave me a little cold. Mostly these days, it’s just a remixable stat block for me whenever I need a 1 HD, Humanoid Creature.

Others, much more clever than me, have agitated more and better electrons on the subject, but in the interest of transparency, I’ve included my own complicated history with the Orc below the table.

Here we have the final d100 Encounter Activity table, based on a reading of the Monster description for the broadest possible utility. You may also find a few of the following useful, depending on how you use Orcs in your games: Veterans, Mediums, Acolytes, Bandits, Normal Humans, Pirates, Buccaneers, Nomads, Merchants, Dervishes, Traders, Nobles, Brigands, and Berserkers.

Decades ago, when I started running D&D games for my friends, I was still in the target demographic for Saturday Morning Cartoons and Sugary Cereals with prizes inside. I had read a bit of The Hobbit, but not yet tackled the Lord of The Rings trilogy. I had extraordinarily little information on what Orcs were outside of the occasionally tantalizing Pig-Faced illustration. They were tougher than Goblins and Kobolds, but there still wasn’t much to go on touchstone-wise, so at the kitchen tables we began to weave our own mythologies for them, informed by our exposure to various pop culture tropes at the time.

From the media we collectively consumed as children, in order to be adequately “heroic,” heroes needed a lot of nameless Evil fodder to mow through: Stormtroopers in Star Wars, COBRA Vipers, etc. In these callow times, Orcs served this role relatively well. They became my go-to for generic and numerous, monolithically Chaotic Monsters that my players could eradicate without compunctions or consequences.

But this started to gradually change. After running B2 a few times through, it started to chafe a bit with my burgeoning sensibilities. I’m sure most veterans are familiar with the inhabitants of those awkward “COMMON ROOM” encounters. I might imagine that the “9 young (who do not fight)” were intentionally placed by a grinning Gygax in a fit of unrestrained, slightly sadistic naturalism, but their presence had the side effect of introducing considerable complications to our tales. What do we, the “Heroes” of these stories we are telling, do with a bunch of sobbing Orc young after slaughtering their parents?

With the many sorties to the Caves of Chaos I ran, I had all sorts of players end up doing all sorts of things when confronted with this clumsy morality test, running the gamut from utterly awful to unexpected adoption, but none of them really sat right with me. So I eventually ruled that Orcs didn’t reproduce. They were just there, a pervasive, possibly parthenogenic incarnation of Chaos, and I quietly scrubbed those kinds of complicating references whenever I came across them. The Cauldron-Born from Lloyd Alexander were probably a close analog I employed at the time, and I think at some point I went something similar to the Warhammer “Fungus” concept.

This worked well and good for a few years, until we grew a little older, and the mythologies we were making started to subtly shift once more. I started to have players that wanted to make Half-Orc Characters, throwing my lazy “fix” out the window. We wanted to tell more stories about “anti-heroes,” and were drawn to all the associated grey-areas and edge. We’d “matured” to the stage of Graphic Novels, Horror Movies, the associated More Mature Themes, and a grittier, uglier pop-culture. Orcs needed to have much more dimension to find their place in these new stories. There needed to be room for tragically sympathetic figures, and brooding/misunderstood individuals. They progressively stopped being monolithic and started becoming a People.

But this created it’s own problems. I’m pretty sure that almost any DM from these days is guilty of the same kind of kludge. Being original is often hard. Imagining things whole cloth out of nothing and convincingly conveying them is challenging, if not impossible at times. So, in times like these we relied on similar shorthands to front-load a ton of “believable” information instantaneously.

We stole from our underdeveloped and incomplete knowledges of reality/history, maybe filing off a few of the rougher edges, but the results were largely the same: These are Aztec Orcs. These are Mongol Orcs. These Orcs are basically Vikings. These Orcs are embodiments of our jejune and highly problematic interpretations of the “Noble Savage” ideal. Decades ago, at the tables of my teenage years, there was never any intentional malice driving any of this, just sheer laziness and that desire to furnish Orcs with a culture and more dimension as we attempted to try and tell richer, more meaningful stories.

It would seem that this creative laziness has still managed to become somewhat entwined with some of the current Orc stylings I come across. Resisting the urge to regress to the old habits of careless appropriation is still something I struggle with. I admit, I am sometimes sorely tempted to return, full-circle, to the Monolithically Opposed to Order, vat-spawned Orcs bereft of culture and depth. But this too, is lazy. It never hurts to challenge oneself and one’s old habits.

Other than my admonishments against lazy appropriation, I don’t have a fix or solution to offer. You will need to find your Orc on your own, and it should be one that works for your table and the stories you are working together to tell.

Friday, June 26, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Invisible Stalker

I freely admit that this was a pretty tricky one. I’ve been steadily plinking away at the table for a few weeks now, even starting from scratch more than once. It’s surprisingly challenging to create a table of entries to depict “what a Monster is doing” when this is something the Player Characters can’t conventionally perceive through standard observation.

So, there’s a little bit of compromise here. It was difficult, but I managed to resist the temptation to succumb to some of my more humorous impulses. I decided against a few of my original ideas (the blank table cop-out, selectively changing the text color to match backgrounds and frustrate, etc.) in favor of something at least somewhat useful.😊

The first 30 Entries on this table can be rolled on separately to provide DM’s with a quicker, potentially more actionable “dead giveaway,” but there are still one hundred entries total to play with, and I hope that at least a few of them come in handy for this Monster, as it is one of the knottier ones to depict and describe.

With that, I humbly present the Invisible Stalker:

Thursday, June 25, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Hawk

I can barely believe it: ONLY THREE MORE MONSTERS TO GO!!!!

Here's the Encounter Activity Tables (3d30) for the Hawk:

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Salamander

Perhaps a signal of what was to come later, Salamanders are some of the few Elemental creatures in this version of the game. I find it strange that they don’t have a listed language and they are at least semi-intelligent in later editions where Intelligence scores are listed. Their damaging d8 auras almost necessitate some sort of resistance magic, and their Mundane damage Immunity makes them quite challenging.

I always picture Flame Salamanders as the more intelligent and industrious of the two (nearly always conflating them with or relating them to Fire Newts), while Frost Salamanders were more feral, and served as a good foil in frozen lands…I usually used them in a role similar to a popular culture Wendigo.

I could not decide if I wanted to do 3d30 or some other variation for the two Entries under this listing (Flame and Frost), so I just went ahead and populated two d100 tables, one for each 😊:

Four more to go! Three more before I begin the arduous process of compiling/laying all these out in a single document!


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