Friday, November 13, 2020

More Mountain Hexes IV

It is Friday! Here are five more Mountain Hexes! (part of my Wilderness Hexes project). We have made it to 40, so I might take a detour into the Swamps for a chance of scenery.

Browse the hexes tag on this blog for more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Voronoi Diagrams and the City Crawl

I tend to prefer using Voronoi Tesselations/Diagrams for my Urban Adventures/City Crawls instead of the traditional Grids or Hex Maps. They just feel more organic to me, and can really capture how sometimes it takes longer to move from one dense/crowded/difficulty planned area to another. Distances are seldom in a straight line in Cities, and it's easy to get turned around or lost in an unfamiliar Urban Center without a Guide. I dislike relying as much on measuring out precise distances these days, instead preferring to think of navigating Cities more in terms of resource consumption and procedural checks.

Unlike in a Standard Dungeon, Food/Water/Light should be relatively easy or at hand (provided the characters are not utterly destitute) so the resources we’re dealing with are generally TIME and MONEY. TIME to meet deadlines assocaited with hooks/rumors/adventure, and MONEY paid to Guides or for Information to reduce TIME. As the old adage goes: They are often one in the same. Also throwing another wrench in the works are Produral Checks: Bad Weather, Encounters, and other unusual Events that can breathe life into an area (a neighborhood wide Celebration clogging the streets, Hue and Cry from a Crime udnerway, etc.)

Here’s a quick way to generate a Voronoi City Map for a Crawl that produces something like this:

First, locate a map you like or create one. The example above uses this twitter account: https://twitter.com/metropologeny

(you can generally right click on an image here, and “Open in a New Tab” to obtain a URL to use in the next step).

Next, go here: http://cfbrasz.github.io/Voronoi.html

Paste the URL from the twitter account in the “Display Image with URL” box. Then, if you prefer, you can use your mouse to place points and divide the map into districts/neighborhoods/sections/quarters, or if your lazy, you can uncheck the “Update diagram on mouse move” check box, and then place a number in the Add box and click Generate until you see something that looks interesting or usable.

I like going with “20” sites, for ease of randomization with our handy, ubiquitous icosahedron, but for sparser/denser maps other site amounts might work a little better.

And there you have it: Fairly quick Voronoi City Crawl Map!

You can number the sites (those dots make them a little easier to identify), whip together some Exciting/Evocative Smells, some interesting NPCs with Professions that can help you intuit the primary shops or industry of an area, or perhaps a City Dweller Event as a “hook” or ongoing item of interest, and tailor a few Encounter/Event Tables to the different regions to give it some real flavor and flair. You could even stock them like Dungeon Rooms (Encounter, Hazard, Treasure, etc.) with some judicious reskinning.

I am very tempted to start working on a few more Tables that can help with Urban Crawls. One can never have enough random inspiration to cut down on tedious preparation!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Return of the Mountain Hexes II

Decided to dust off my Wilderness Hexes project and continue climbing towards 100 for each Terrain-type. Here are five more Mountain Hexes!

Here's a brief breakdown of what's in this draft:

  • An Intriguing Religious Ruin
  • A Well-Earned Scenic Vista
  • Blanched, Barrow-Like Crags
  • A Humongous Hermit
  • A Meeting of Massive Waterfalls

Browse the hexes tag on this blog for more.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

RC Hacks & House Rules pg 15: Turning Undead Table

Reviving these old Rules Cyclopedia posts to talk a little bit about a resolution system I’ve been intrigued by for a while now. Even though this is ostensibly a Rules Cyclopedia hack/house rule, it is naturally applicable to B/X and OSE as well.

On this page we have the table that a Cleric consults for Turning Undead. Specifically, I’ve been recently interested in Repurposing the Cleric’s Turn Undead Matrix for resolving various other tasks like “Thief Special Abilities” (I’ve discussed these in the past here). It can also be used to supplant the “Optional Ability Score Check” form of resolution for other tasks, which while convenient, is a crutch I have never particularly enjoyed employing for a variety of reasons.

Here is a quick simplified reproduction to refamiliarize you with how the table works (I’ve never been too fond of how the Rules Cyclopedia swaps the axes, and how it provides named Undead instead of HD...but I suppose that’s a nice way to telegraph some setting if you squint at it):

While not as robust or simple as the sainted Saving Rolls in Tunnels & Trolls (first universal task resolution system in an RPG!) because of the table lookup, I still think the Turning Undead Matrix checks a lot of my boxes for Task Resolution. Let us go over a few of these advantages first:

  • It accounts for Character Level
    • The often used “Optional Ability Score Check” relies on Scores that do not strictly improve in most games and is usually just a simple roll under for pass/fail. This ties competency to one of the first six rolls players make to play the game during Character Generation and I’ve always felt it unduly punishes those with low scores but sufficient Player Skill to advance in level.
  • It accounts for Task Difficulty
    • The “Optional Ability Score Check” usually has to be modified via ad hoc fiat for this (giving a “bonus” to the roll in the form of a negative number or increasing the ability score for the purposes of the roll), just as Thief Special Abilities sometimes receive that “circumstantial bonus” for a Rusty/Shoddy Lock.
    • With the Turn Undead table, there is a clear progression. Some Undead woefully outclass the Cleric at first, but with each level gained, new opportunities become available, and prior threats soon become trivial.
  • Rolling High Is Good
    • Both the “Optional Ability Check” and Thief Special Abilities rely on a Roll Under comparison for resolution, while many other conventions in the rules incentivize the player’s rolling higher for better results. I’m not fanatical for this kind of symmetry in the rules, but the momentary cognitive whiplash of having to parse a “natural 20” as “bad” frustrates some players.
  • It isn’t as “Swingy” in terms of probability (ie: it leverages the 2d6 Bell Curve distribution instead of a single d20 or d100 roll)
    • This makes median results appear more common over time (which does wonders for assuming default competency with tasks). There is seldom anything as de-protagonizing as that persistent 5% chance of a “20” on a Roll Under Check. Even with the highest natural Ability Score of 18, failing 10% of the time isn’t really reassuring.
  • It features “Degrees of Success” that are not really present outside of a few other places (such as the Reaction Roll, which is probably a close cousin to this table)
    • T for “automatic Turn” and D for “automatic Destroy” result in different outcomes, producing different situations in play.
    • Ability Score Checks/d100 Thief Special Abilities are normally a binary pass/fail.
  • It places Dice in the Player’s Hands
    • Some Thief Special Abilities are often rolled by the DM (Hear Noise, Find Traps, Move Silently, Hide In Shadows) because the results of the die roll can immediately dictate success/failure based on percentage chances or interfere with strategy (“Just because I didn’t find any traps...doesn’t mean there aren’t” etc. )
    • With the “Hazard Difficulty Level” obfuscated, the Player can still roll, while the DM consults the matrix for resolution. This is closer to the To-Hit/AC Comparison so it supports this kind of hidden information, but more importantly it doesn’t force players to witness their failure in real time, and creates an opportunity for narrated consequences rather than immediate assumptions of failure.
  • It allows the Character to Attempt things outside of their normal Level
    • A First Level Cleric can attempt to turn 2d6 Ghouls (2* HD Monsters with a very powerful and potentially devastating Special Ability) although these chances are somewhat slim (only an 8.34% chance of rolling 11+ on the 2d6) this could easily circumvent a nearly certain TPK at lower levels.
    • This incentivizes trying things that might seem out of a Character’s Scope, and I always like to encourage that.
  • Two Dice Rolled provide interesting opportunities for grafting on additional sub-systems/deriving metadata or repurposing the roll:
    • Doubles can have significance, both for “successful” doubles and “unsuccessful” doubles. This could even mandate a 2d6 roll on the automatic “T” and “D” results if you wish.
    • The highest or lowest result can be used on a simple d6 table
    • They could even be read as a d66 for an additional 36 entry table look up

So, with all these features available to us, how can we leverage the Cleric’s Turning Matrix for some Task Resolution outside of dealing with Undead? Here are some ideas:

Thief Special Abilities:

HD can be very easily re-contextualized as “Hazard Difficulty” in addition to the more common definition of “Hit Dice.” When establishing a Hazard Difficulty via fiat is not preferred or is not immediately apparent based on the fiction, one simple way to do so would be to use “level of the Dungeon” for Thief Special Abilities with a static/inanimate target (Open Locks, Find Traps, Remove Traps, etc.) or even “HD of Foe” for others that directly target a living creature (like Pick Pockets/Move Silently).

Example: A 1st Level Thief wishes to Open A Locked Dungeon Door. They have descended to the second level of the dungeon (base Hazard Difficulty 2), so a 9+ is needed on 2d6.

This does mean that a 1st level Thief travelling to the 4th level of a dungeon will be facing some pretty insurmountable odds by default (although see below for some ways to allow for players to make decisions that address this by lowering Hazard Difficulty), but this does have the side effect of telegraphing danger directly, and even emphasizing the need for caution when exploring a dangerous new area.

Let us go through the Thief Special Abilities to see how this could work. Keep in mind that I only engage a resolution mechanism for these whenever the outcome would be interesting, and failure has consequences. An example I often use is that any Thief worth their salt, given the proper tools and enough time would be able to Open just about any nonmagical lock under ideal conditions, but these kinds of conditions are seldom found in the Mythic Underworld/Adventure Environment.

Open Locks: Level of Dungeon/Threat is a good way to establish initial Hazard Difficulty here, potentially adjusting it upward/downward for particularly complex/simple locks as necessary. I generally rule that Opening A Lock takes at least 1 Turn of activity on average and rolling above the number or achieving the T result on the Matrix means the Lock opens in 1 Turn (~10 minutes). For a D, this could be Hazard Difficulty in Rounds as deft, experienced hands swiftly guide their tools to the appropriate tumblers.

Have particularly perfect Tools? Lower Hazard Difficulty. Wish to take more time on a tricky (re: Higher Level lock), each additional Turn spent lowers the Hazard Difficulty for your roll by 1 (remember to check for those Wandering Monsters). Locked doors become much less of a barrier to exploring the environment with this system, but they consume resources in the form of Time with its associated Encounter Risk. Doubles on Failure could indicate Loss of a Lockpick/Tool, jammed lock. Successful doubles: reduce the duration to 1 round.

Find Traps: Level of Dungeon/Threat can again serve to establish initial Hazard Difficulty. Similar durations to above, and more time spent carefully investigating could reduce the target. With these “Detection” based Thief Abilities (this, and Hear Noise), there has to be something there to find, naturally, and to address the ponderous “constantly searching” problem I tend to allow those “D” results to just outright reveal traps of corresponding Threat as they’re encountered (a “Level 1 - Barely concealed Trip Wire” is completely obvious to a Footpad (2nd level Thief). It’s usually the consequences of interacting with the Trap or it’s Triggers that create the interesting situation, not the de-protagonizing “Gotcha! Please make a Saving Throw!”

Remove Traps: Level of Dungeon/Threat again for initial difficulty. Similar durations to above, and more time spent carefully investigating the Trap/Triggers could potentially reduce this. Here we can leverage the 2d6 die roll in interesting ways in the event of Success/Failure if we wish to add some additional tension. Rather than just “springing the Trap” on Failure, perhaps it only springs if Failure and Doubles are rolled. Doubles on a “successful” roll could provide the Thief with the ability to subvert/repurpose the triggering conditions of the Traps.

Climb Walls: Much like Open Locks, given enough time, adequate tools, and ideal conditions Climbing is not normally something I’d require a roll to adjudicate. It’s only when these criteria aren’t met (vertically fleeing from crossbow wielding Bugbears, cascading slicks of ichor and damp, insufficient rope, etc.) that I’d look to the dice to resolve an ascent or descent. Taking additional time to “size up” the climb, secure ropes/tools, or “go carefully” etc. could reduce difficulty. A “D” could result in less time to scale the obstacle. Initial Hazard Difficulty can be based on the height here, perhaps increasing by 1 for every 20 feet.

Move Silently: As a Thief Special Ability with a “target” the HD of the target could easily serve as the default Hazard Difficulty (and this could be increased by a floor strewn with dead leaves or other such challenging conditions for Stealth). Distracted targets might lower the difficulty. Multiple Targets could be additive, or an Average of the HD could be used to establish this baseline difficulty. Particularly oblivious or attentive targets might see a modification here. Since this is usually used in conjunction with Surprise Chances or Evasion, D results could further improve these odds.

Hide In Shadows: Similar to Move Silently. Suboptimal lighting conditions could increase difficulty.

Pick Pockets: Target Hit Dice establishes Hazard Difficulty. If you are feeling lazy the sum of the 2d6 results could easily be the amount of coin pilfered.

Hear Noise: Perceivable Noise could be considered a “static” target (similar to Find Traps, there has to be a Noise To Hear), so conditions are important for establishing difficulty, but baseline Dungeon Level can work if there are no mitigating circumstances. The duration for listening is often handwaved as instantaneous, but I think the 1 Turn default (with decreases for D results) could also apply here, as could the “spend more time to lower difficulty” option. The longer you listen, the more likely it is that you hear something useful.

Taking a cue from my previous post on Thief Abilities, it could even be possible for Thieves to “Specialize” (treating them as a level higher for certain things, in exchange for being a level lower at others). I always liked the idea of a Master Pickpocket who focused his studies on that branch of thievery and wouldn’t dream of futzing with a Locked Door. Another option would be to increase the die type (d8) for Specialization.

This covers the standard Thief Special Abilities found in the earlier editions and clones, but let’s not let the Other standard Classes languish. How could this table be used for some of the things these Classes get up to?

Fighters: Need to adjudicate a Disarming attempt? Foe Hit Dice as Hazard Difficulty. Failing Doubles could cost you your armament, while doubles on success could sunder a foe’s weapon! Grappling/Tripping and other Combat Maneuvers could be likewise handled in this fashion. I’m sure that “T” and “D” results (and failing/succeeding doubles) could be reskinned into conditions imposed by Wrestling by someone appropriately inclined.

Magic-Users: Need to identify a Spell or Magical Effect? Level of Spell for Hazard Difficulty (Higher Level M-Us immediately identify the magics of the lowest orders...and maybe on a “D” they gain additional insight into the Caster?) Want to eliminate the tiresome tax of Read Magic for Scrolls? Level of Spell as Hazard Difficulty (some magics might be beyond the caster, but it does provide an option for a little bit of Over-casting...and chance of more interesting Failure/Fizzles than normal).

Need to resolve Ritual Casting? Use the “One Turn per Hazard Difficulty Level” rule, if you rush the Difficulty goes up...reduce it by taking more time/consuming expensive components/reagents, etc.

I have seen “Roll To Cast” systems utilize matrices like this before as well, which could be interestingly fiddly as a way of supplanting standard Vancian Magic (I do love the idea of being able to riskily “Overcast” higher level spells at lower levels). Doubles on Failure could indicate damage in addition to other consequences (you could sum, or more compassionately just use one of the die results). I don’t see it being too onerous as the “T” result eventually translate to an automatic success for lower level Magics. Perhaps “D” could adjust any variable parameters upward/affect more targets/provide additional benefit?

The Turn Undead Matrix could also be a good option for a desperate Caster to try to cast a Spell when their allotted slots are used, but I’d make sure that drastic consequences exist in the event of failure, and that some cost is required even with a “T” or a “D.” Again, we could leverage the results of the 2d6 or whip up a nifty d66 table with all sorts of lovely consequences (see TROIKAs Oops! Table for something handy).

Some of these options could also find their way to the Demi-Human Classes as well if you wish, or you could even implement it for resolving other common tasks: Foraging for Food (HD as Number of People You Need To Feed), Abstracting Evasion/Chases, or even crafting an Item.

Have any interesting ideas for Tasks that could benefit from the Turn Undead Matrix for resolution? Let me know!


Friday, October 9, 2020

Remarkable Bird Generator

Happy Friday!

Here’s another Random Table/Generator, this one is for creating Remarkable Birds. This one is similar to the Herb & Plant Generator, with a way to create some roughly convincing names and potentially a few interesting features for our feathered friends.

I’m very fond of sprinkling a little bit of set dressing into my Wildernesses via some interesting flora and fauna, and sometimes it can be a handy way to communicate changes in terrain, biome, and regions. As a very casual birder, these creatures have always captured my interest. They can be useful in seasoning other senses as well, through birdsong/sounds.

If you’d like to view some sample output, or prefer digital tools, here is an online generator I threw together for debugging:

Let me know how it works out for you! I hope you'll consider spicing up your skies and trees with a few of these atypical avians from time to time!

Monday, October 5, 2020

d100 Table - Locks & Lockpicks

Here is another table I have been working on. It is of distant relation to the d100 This Secret Door Opens... resource. This collection is primary geared toward providing a little embellishment for those pesky generic Locks and oft-hand-waved Lockpicks.

Sometimes naming minutia can be fun, and I have always been fond of giving specific lockpicks fanciful tradenames. A stray adjective can turn a boring and frustrating lock into something more engaging and interesting, with a bit of story and character to hopefully fire imaginations on both sides of the screen.

I’d be tempted to just let little details generated here inform the fiction and see what the players do with the information and if it results in any creative play, strategies, or emergent story, but this tends to dovetail with only certain styles of gaming.

For the more mechanically inclined or sub-system disposed, how could one use this other than decorative fluff? Well, you could transmute the Thief’s “Open Locks” roll a little bit to have it represent the chances of knowing or intuiting the “right tool for the job” and marry Traits to certain Picks. Perhaps something like this:

  • This lock is Enameled and Gummed-up, it is opened easily with a Milkmaid's teaser
  • This lock is Derivative and Kobold-made, it is handily defeated with a Crowhorn
  • This lock is Straightforward and Spinous, it is especially susceptible to a King's rocker

Here's a handy perchance.org generator based on the above table:

In the above examples, each Lock encountered has a corresponding Pick/method that opens it instantly according to the traits it’s been assigned, or more generously, specific Lock traits are linked with certain Prefixes/Suffixes respectfully, and if you have a Rooktalon that works on “Rusty and Bulky” Locks then it will also work slightly better on all locks with the “Rusty” traits (maybe via a circumstantial bonus to the roll), or perhaps “Rook-“ picks work on Rusty, and “-talon” picks are especially good at “Bulky.” I’d lean toward tracking this being at least somewhat player-facing, any book-keeping seems easily worth an occasional bacon-saving, free Knock Spell. 😊

If you are feeling a tad more parsimonious, perhaps the “right tool” (or corresponding trait/pick) allows the Thief to flip the ones-and-tens for that lock.

Another option is to have the “Open Locks” percentile roll do some double duty by leveraging it alongside this table. Successful rolls might “name” a lock-pick, granting it additional character but also some sort of persistent bonus (either against certain Lock Traits, or something incremental and tracked with tick marks...say +1% for each successful roll).

If the d100 “Open Locks” is used to reveal information about the Lock, perhaps it can serve as a way to build in a “second chance” (I failed, but now that I know this lock is “Dwarven” and my Knitter’s Nose typically works on Dwarven locks, I get another try with that pick). Could be an interesting replacement for “gaining a level” before trying again.

With my House Rules that repurpose the Cleric’s Turn Undead Table for Thief Skills, I’d probably let the a Pick associated with the corresponding Trait turn a T into a D, or maybe step down the Difficulty by a step. The particularly callous/cruel could use the “ones” place of the d100 roll to inform this Difficulty when placing the locked door on the dungeon map itself.

I am very curious about what kinds of inspirations and ideas this table might ignite. Let me know if you can think of a useful way to utilize it!

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!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Veteran

Only FIVE more Monsters left!

I’ve always been fond of the Level Titles that were present in the older editions of the game, and with this entry, we’re finished with the standard Classes that show up on the Monster List/Encounter Tables (along with Acolytes and Mediums, oddly no Apprentice for first level Thieves though, but I guess Bandits could work).

Veteran is one of my favorites of the lot though, because it seems to carry the most weight in terms of implied setting right out of the gate. These are people who have already seen and participated in battle before the game even begins! This is ripe for exploitation in world-building (and what world doesn’t have a recent or ongoing conflict to associate or shoehorn onto this). The Monster description even nods to this with “often on their way to or from war.” That’s a good start, but I couldn’t just leave it at that could I? 😊.

So here are a hundred entries for what these Veterans (be they green or grizzled) might be up to when they show up in an Encounter or if you need a little inspiration while you stock:

Friday, June 19, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Shark

Sharks!

As a child, I would often spend Summer’s near beaches with my Father. At one particular tourist trap, there was a tacky t-shirt that was emblazoned with the words “SHARK ATTACK!!!” in an obnoxiously bright typeface typical of the times, featuring said voracious Shark prominently on the front. The side of the shirt was strategically sliced several times and spattered with red “blood” to make it seem like the wearer had somehow survived this harrowing experience.

I absolutely loved that shirt.

Here are three d30 Tables for the different types of Sharks to sprinkle on your Wave Crawls! Main Title (Theme From 'Jaws') is completely optional, but almost always encouraged:

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Merchant

Here are a hundred Encounter Activities for the Merchant entry. Other tables that may be useful include the Trader table, and potentially the Mannerisms & Peculiarities table included with Normal Human.

We’re down to single digits with only NINE (9) more Monster Entries to go!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Mule

Memorable Mules are sprinkled throughout my many campaigns and sessions. There are many great tales of these pack animals surviving against unfavorable odds, dying tragically, or even occasionally saving the Party from certain doom somehow.

My somewhat mythical Mule embodies all the typical traits, ornery and stubborn, but I also tend to make them unusually clever in my games. From experience I know them to be considerably smarter than most of the Horses I’ve encountered. I always endeavor to portray their nature as incredibly charismatic creatures, and I always insist that they receive a Name as soon as their acquired by the characters (often being outright disobedient without one).

Monday, June 15, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Water Termite

I’m not sure I’ve ever used Water Termites to be perfectly honest. They seem more like a Classic “gotcha” Monster for intrepid explorers that wish to take to the Water. I was surprised at their ability to Stun, and their Inky defense and I’m still not sure if they breathe air or not with those marvelous little bubbles that some aquatic insects use.

Given the paltry (d3) Hull Point damage they inflict I imagine the idea here is to have them gradually damage a ship over time as they don’t really seem to show up in incredible numbers.

Here are three Tables for the listed types of Water Termite species whose statistics vary slightly with Terrain which is nice:

Friday, June 12, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Weasel, Giant

Giant Weasels!

I hope there is not too much overlap between these rather large tubular Vampires and Giant Ferrets, as I try not to read the prior entries before embarking on a new one. These are far nastier beasties with their automatic damage and “no detachment until the weasel or victim dies,” and they are even out of the HD range for putting to Sleep.

As an admittedly minor consolation, I tend to make their fur fetch quite a hefty price, so there’s that at least 😊.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Octopus, Giant

Monster #125 is the Giant Octopus. Arm yourself with a hundred Encounter Activities for your next Wave Crawl!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Hippogriff

Hippogriffs are pretty strange beasts. I’m not sure whether to code them as mammalian or avian, so I mix it up in this table. They are inveterately omnivorous, and to differentiate them from Griffons I tend to associate them more with poultry in terms of their bird behavior: flocking together, more easily domesticated provided they don’t come across a Pegasus. It is a fairly rare enmity to have to cope with, far less frequent than the Griffon’s tendency to attack normal Horses on sight. Buying saddle and tack for something mostly Horse-shaped is probably easier too. In fact, the Rules Cyclopedia handily lists their Barding Multiplier as x 1. 😊

I was never really fond of the idea of them being a result of Crossbreeding between Griffons and Horses, preferring them as their own species that breeds true. Here are a Hundred Encounter Activities for the Hippogriff:

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Rhagodessa

“Always count the legs,” groans the Fighter, after showing off a scar the size of a Short Sword down his back.

I freely admit that I didn’t know what to make of the Rhagodessa when I first came across them in the Monster list all those years ago. They seemed like just another made up Monster to me, and as a very seldom seen word, I felt it must’ve just been something invented just for D&D. I couldn’t find any entry for it in the old Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia we had, so it wasn’t until years later that I realized it was a type of Solifuge.

Apparently, we have those in these parts (and every continent save Antarctica and Australia even), but I’ve never actually seen one in the chitin. They go by other neat and less tongue-twisting names like Wind Scorpions and Camel Spiders. Even though it's nearly as awkward to say: I'm pretty partial to Jerrymunglum. I’m sure I’d be just as fascinated by them as any bug that crossed my path. So, this is one Monster that went full circle from D&D mythos to reality for me.

They are bigger and more formidable than most of the Giant Spiders, so they can serve as a good stand in for those when you want something evocative, but a little larger. If you’re feeling especially devious, you could always call for a Saving Throw on bite, even though these critters aren’t venomous. The automatic damage on Grab mechanic is dangerous enough though.

Monday, June 8, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Spectre

Since there is no Lich in B/X – OSE, I suppose we’ll have to make do with Spectres to somewhat fill this formidable niche. Draining two-levels per touch is pretty awful, and while not as formidable as Vampires on the surface, they lack a lot of the more traditional “short cuts” to defeat. Better have access to Magical Weapons/Magic before confronting these. A Cleric needs to be at least 5th level to have even the slightest chance of Turning them.

They’re incorporeality is notable as well and this might make them more tactically interesting: I’m imagining hit and run caresses from inside the walls of claustrophobic corridors, or simply running their ghostly fingers down the length of a footfall from below the floor. Depending on how devious you decide to make them, they can be incredibly dangerous for a party to confront due to this advantageous use of terrain. As always, I try to telegraph the danger, at least a little to the Players. It’s far more satisfying watching them wade into a mess they’re well aware of then simply springing this sort of “unexpected Spectre” on them.

To combat the “Ceaseless Spawning Cascade” that can occur with the Undead that are capable of reproducing like this, I tend to tie them to a place as guardians or bound by ancient Curses/Vows/Duties (much like I discuss with Wights and Wraiths) and am inordinately fond of having even the most benevolent Ghosts capable of sudden, dramatic transformations into Spectres if crossed or foolishly challenged. Undead should be scary after all once Skeletons/Zombies/Ghouls cease to be a challenge.

Friday, June 5, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Whale

Here are 3d30 Encounter Activity Tables for the trio of entries under Whale. Might be useful for Wave-Crawls, and I have a soft-spot for placing Cetaceans as set-dressing on ocean adventures.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Minotaur

The Minotaur!

Remember: These Monsters are some of the few that get their own Language, and therefore probably benefit greatly by having a culture (they also make an appearance on one of the Reincarnation Subtables!). Their penchant for Mazes/Labyrinths, while present in the description, is left largely vague in reason, but I tend to like to make them architects.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Wyvern

Wyverns are great Monsters. I know they see a lot of use as “training-wheel Dragons” but I always found them intriguing in their own right. Another common caper is to have the locals confuse them with a bona-fide Dragon, and have the Adventurers march off, avaricious eyes positively sparkling with expectations of Treasure Type H, only to have to make do with Treasure Type E. I’ve been guilty of doing this before, and I’ve also used Giant Tuataras for the same purpose.

As to how they relate to the hexapodal Wyrms, I tend to leave this a little bit vague, but I am certain it pertains to the former Saurian Empires that also spawned Troglodytes and Lizard Men. I keep them feral, mostly unintelligent but with a bit of cunning, borrowing a bit of personality from Vultures and Great Cats mostly.

As always I like to dress up the effects of their venom a little beyond the dreadfully “boring” Save or Die (yet another contender for my d100 Terrible Toxins & Vile Venoms Project). I also enjoy giving them suitably descriptive common names: Nightscale Divers, Crested Four-step Impalers (post-sting, four steps and you’re dead), Verdigris Screamers, etc. World War II Fighter Plane names work out alright as well in a pinch, as I almost see them fulfilling this role in a way.

Just in case you are curious, their Barding Multiplier is x 3, and load is 3,500 coins at full speed. They make wonderful Mounts for suitably heroic campaigns if domesticated properly by those who know how to do such things.

Monday, June 1, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Horse

I grew up across the street from a huge Ranch that predominantly grazed Horses. They would occasionally play Polo. Several times, my childhood life up to that point flashed before my eyes as I was mowing our lawn for chore money and hit one of those huge, hard Plastic Polo balls with a lawnmower blade. Absolutely terrifying.

One summer, to earn some extra spending money, I was drafted along with some neighbor kids and paid to help around the Ranch. Mostly mucking stables. I don’t recommend it, but I’m pretty sure I spent some of that money on D&D books, come to think of it 😊.

Here are a Hundred entries for Horses, split across a few tables due to this being a multi-monster entry:

Friday, May 29, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Normal Human

Decided to change things up a bit when I rolled Normal Human for the next Monster. Being a relatively “Normal” Human, I typically do not have as much trouble improvising what people are doing.

Usually, I handle this type of Encounter with Tables that are more tied to place types or potential hooks. I realized that I’ve already done these with posts like my These Village Folk Are… and These City-Dwellers Are… d100 Tables, so I wanted something that might help flesh these Encounters out in slightly different way.

I have professed my love for Professions previously and I was struck by this quote from the Normal Human entry in the OSE SRD:

Non-adventuring humans without a character class. Artists, beggars, children, craftspeople, farmers, fishermen, housewives, scholars, slaves.

So, I went a little overboard. Here are three-hundred various Vocations to apply to that Normal Human Encounter. First column in each set is a geared to be a little more Urban, second is Rural, and the third is kind of a catch-all. There is probably some additional utility in this table for Character Backgrounds or prior Occupations for Retainers/Henchmen if you so desire, and I always find these types of tables extra-handy for more unusual uses, like determining the function of a particular Building in a Settlement/City on the fly.

But wait, there’s more! As a spread, I’ve also included some tentatively titled “Mannerisms & Peculiarities” to help the DM breathe a little more life into these types of Encounters. Two hundred seemed like a good start. I know that Lists of NPC Personality Quirks are a dime-a-dozen, but with these I tried to focus a little more the traits that I felt might be more inclined to drive play in a memorable or at least more interesting direction. It also made sense to have something like this handy and adjacent to this Entry.

I will probably include the two City/Village tables above in a spread for the final compiled version of these Tables as well 😊. Only twenty-one more to go!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Rock Baboon

The Rock Baboon!

Aside from appearing on a few Dungeon/Wilderness Encounter tables (and interestingly: the Neutral Reincarnation Results table!), I don’t think I’ve ever really seen these utilized in an especially memorable way. Hopefully, that will change with this table handy 😊.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Herd Animal

Herd Animals may serve largely as set dressing most of the time (until an inadvertent Stampede is triggered), but these tables might also be useful for intrepid Adventurers who would like to take up Hunting to supplement those bland and flavorless Rations when travelling in the Wilderness. Someday I may even do some Hunting/Foraging d100 Tables (possibly even split up by Terrain type like I do with my Wilderness Hexes) to help expand on this, as I could see the utility of having a handy tool to quickly generate game and quarry.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Insect Swarm

Insect Swarms! Reacquainting myself with how they work, these are pretty interesting Encounters. Automatic damage within an area (no Save) is fairly unusual, and I like how they largely ignore the type of Armor and just turn it into a binary “with do 2, without do 4.” The “swatting out” mechanism is also nice. I can see recycling this for all sorts of other Hazards, like entering a burning building and so forth.

Speaking of Swarms: Every year, I try to make a point to note the date that I hear the first sputterings of the Cicadas we get around here. So far, they’re running a little late, but this might be due to inimical weather. Thankfully, we’re out of the range of the coming Prime-Number (and super sinister sounding) Brood IX, but I’ve lived in areas when particularly big broods have peeked out before. What is always strange to me is how the Cicadas from different regions have almost distinctive accents. The ones I heard further North were almost more annoying (even though they were significantly less loud), just because they didn’t have the familiarity I grew up with.

Here are 3d30 Tables to cover the different modes of locomotion for this multitudinous monster:

Friday, May 22, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Shrieker

Like the previous entry on Oozes, Puddings, Slimes I’ve always treated Shriekers as more of a “Dungeon Hazard” than a traditional Monster. Even though they are ostensibly motile, they don’t seem to show up on most Encounter Tables, which is a real shame. Rolling one could be a great way to just have them randomly blare from another area and help telegraph their presence better.

If you stock one of your dungeon rooms with Shriekers, consider having them go off periodically to introduce a more dynamic auditory element to Exploration (I’m a big proponent of adding more Sounds and Smells to dungeons at every opportunity). Depending on their proliferation, some potential triggers include doubles being rolled, tying it to a number on the Wandering Monster check, or even when a certain somewhat uncommon secret word is said at the table (almost Γ  la Pee-Wee’s Playhouse). The latter is pretty fun honestly and can engender a good-natured startle for tension. In the past I’ve kept a Kazoo or tintannabulating Egg Timer handy for just this purpose. 😊

Thursday, May 21, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Pirate

I always enjoy a good Wave Crawl!

Pirates share some of the same headspace for me as Buccaneers which were one of the early Entries in this series. Since I resisted the temptation to revisit and retread those specific waters, forgive me if there’s some similarities in this table. It’s bound to happen after hundreds of these.

These entries may cleave toward the Nautical for the most utility, so some strategic re-mixing might be necessary on-the-fly if your Pirates ply Rivers or other Waterways, but for me, the on-the-fly adjustment is part of the fun! 😊

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Medusa

Gazing back at me this entire time has been a foe I’m pretty partial to: the Majestic Medusa. My impatience to tackle this one finally got the better of me, so here we are. I unabashedly adore the more Mythological Monsters.

There’s something almost intrinsically voyeuristic about writing Entries for a Medusa, since they’re likely only witnessed via peeping on a reflection by prepared Players (don’t forget to buy that Mirror!). Though I sometimes soften this a bit…rationalizing that it is meeting the glowering GAZE or seeing the (invariably pulchritudinous) FACE that petrifies, not simply clapping eyes on them.

But by the book, it’s an interesting dilemma: What is the unwatched doing when they can’t be watched? 😊 In this case the act of watching (unaided by reflection) almost certainly influences the viewer rather than the viewed in some strange evil twin of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. SchrΓΆdinger’s gassed grimalkin aside, here are one hundred entries for one my personal favorites:

As mentioned in the prior entries for the Cockatrice, Basilisk, and Gorgons there may be more interesting ways than simply “Save or Statue” to handle Petrification, and that might be helpful here as well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Nomad

Here’s a d100 Encounter Activities Table for Nomads.

As another somewhat region dependent encounter, this might take some strategic seasoning (Desert and Steppe are specified in the description, but I’d just as soon have them show up in all climates/terrains to be honest). I love the opportunity they create to introduce new Languages, Cultures, Crafts, and even Livestock to a game, so I tend to look forward to the times when the oracular Reaction Roll lands on the less Hostile side.

Like some of the other Entries for Human Groups, Nomads have the “nothing to sneeze at” Treasure Type A Hoards in their “Lair” or Camp. Unlike Merchants however, there is no admonishment to reduce the Treasure for lower numbers. I do remember reading somewhere that turning to Banditry and robbing from the Human Sub-Table Encounters was actually a much safer strategy than Dungeon Delving in terms of risk/reward, but that has never really emerged organically in play at any of my tables. Besides, I’d likely not have most of this sort of “treasure” be easy coin, and selling stolen goods is sure to attract attention eventually.

Probably explains the Bandit encounter frequency though 😊.

Monday, May 18, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Killer Bee

Beware the Killer Bees and their tempting Healing Honey! If the Poison doesn't get you then the persistent point of damage just might.

If you have access to a patch of land for planting, consider seeding it with local Flowers to support the native Bee population in your area! Building an Air-Bee-N-Bee can even be a fun project! Our pollinators are precious.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Tyrannosaurus Rex

I simply can’t think of a more perfect capstone for Lost World Week: The tremendous and terrifying Tyrannosaurus Rex!

Friday, May 15, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Mastodon

Mastodons! Even now I often conflate them with Woolly Mammoths, and I suppose this table could be serviceable for both. As with most of the prehistoric megafauna, when inserted into a fantasy world, they become good candidates for mounts/draft animals, and with their 2 x tusk (2d6) doubling damage on a Charge, I’d steer clear of any army that employees a Mastodon Mahout cavalry for sure.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Triceratops

I have found uses for Triceratops a lot in non-Lost World contexts. They make excellent siege machines for Dwarfs/Orcs/Nomads and it doesn’t hurt that Ceratopsids come in all sorts of intriguing configurations. I was always especially smitten with the spiny-frilled Styracosaurus and have a soft spot for the sheep-sized Protoceratops as well.

This leads me to think a bit about the names of things. It would be unusual for most fantasy worlds to name things with Real-World Greek/Latin roots words, so I imagine they would develop their own naming conventions for Dinosaurs and so forth. I like giving things “common names.” Stegosaurus becomes a “Roof-back” (or maybe “Ridge Back” or “Flail Tail” but I’d likely reserve that for Ankylosaurus), Dimetrodons are “Sail Backs,” I think “Three Horn” is a suitable stand-in for Triceratops. Even the Titanothere Megacerops could go by “Yorns” (a linguistic merging of “Y” and “Horn”). I am still musing over a good stand-in name for Tyrannosaurus Rex though. 😊

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Pterosaur

Soaring Pterosaurs are almost essential to set the tone in any Lost World adventure, but I didn’t realize that this was another sneaky “dual” entry until I got around to this listing. Pteranadons are definitely the bigger threat to PCs (and would also make very interesting mounts in certain campaigns), but I am rather fond of the “Sky Kobold-ness” of the Pterodactyl. That’s a nifty stat block for a quick re-skin to render all manner of small Bird-folk.

I’ve always been super intrigued by some of the speculative anatomy/appearance that artists generate and imagine for these types of creatures, and what Wizard wouldn’t want an adorable Dimorphodon familiar?

Here are three d30 tables to help utilize these Monsters in Random Encounters or Prep:

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Titanothere

Titatontheres (perhaps more accurate termed Brontotheres) are another of the Lost World critters found in B/X and OSE. Huge, and travelling in large herds, hopefully they only come across as some set dressing and the Characters give them wide berth, as their 3d8 Trampling attack (+4 to hit) is nothing to sneeze at.

According to the fossil record, they came with all sorts of interesting horns and snout-decorations. As a child I always preferred the dual pronged Megacerops, but feel free to get creative and mix it up. Since they are distant relatives to Horses, I can see them serving almost a similar role for larger Humanoids in primitive settings.

Monday, May 11, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Stegosaurus

As a child, I was utterly fascinated by Dinosaurs. I had numerous Dinosaur toys, Dinosaur bedding, and nearly every birthday cake for several years prominently featured some kind of generic Sauropod (I remember always laying claim to the “head” for some strange reason). Even today, I still find myself occasionally doodling them in idle moments. 😊

Here is another d100 Table of Encounter Activities for the Stegosaurus for what I’m tentatively theming as “Lost World Week.” Not all of these Monsters show up at every table, but the implication of having Dinosaurs simply exist as another type of Draft Animal or Domesticated Beast is still a little thrilling after all these years.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Neanderthal (Caveman)

Neanderthals! In older versions of the game, these were much more frequently found on Encounter Tables (the “Lost World” theme was apparently a pretty popular way to populate things). I find it intriguing that they are Lawful in alignment.

This might be the start of another theme week, seeing as how I have quite a few of the “Lost World” Monsters still resting in the pile (all of the Dinosaurs for instance). Those might be a little trickier, because there’s not a lot of concrete information about “real world” behaviors to build on, but I’m sure I’ll make do with imagining things 😊.

Friday, May 8, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Griffon

Monster one-hundred-and-one is the dreaded Dalmatian! Just kidding, it’s the Griffon:

Thursday, May 7, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Trolls

With this entry, I believe we have reached ONE HUNDRED of the OSE Monsters! What better way to celebrate this milestone than with one of the foes that has been with us since the very beginning: The terrible Troll!

Mythological Trolls have interested me ever since I was incredibly young and came across an unusual book about them. It took me ages to track it down, but after several fruitless searches, a ton of blind online buys based on title alone, and a few decades later, I can confidently now say it was the one pictured here.

The book is a compilation of several stories, and surprisingly even features an excerpt from the Fellowship of the Ring that I was definitely unaware of at the time. I had only hazy memories of a particular illustration or two within it, so it is quite miraculous that I managed to definitively track it down.

While nowadays I have a soft spot for Trolls of the more Scandinavian/Norse Fairy Tale variety (particularly the Theodor Kittelsen variety and the cow-tailed Hulder as classic “gotcha monster”), I am still quite fond of the traditional D&D Troll. Usually green, tall and spindly, with that distinctive cuspated nose, I am sure that their Regeneration power has led to many a teachable moment at tables, so much so that it has nearly entered common knowledge. I occasionally still get to surprise new players with them and watch them scramble to try and figure out one of their weaknesses, but these times are now, almost tragically, much fewer and far between.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Trader

The Party is laden with lucre from their forays into a dismal Dungeon when who should they see smiling in the sun as they surface but a convenient Trader!

I love it when these itinerant tycoons show up on Random Encounters, and this table will hopefully provide some inspiration on what they are up to.

In terms of wares the Basic Fantasy Equipment Emporium is very useful for some additional ideas for Trade Goods/more unusual item prices. I tend to re-purpose the trusty Reaction Roll table a lot in my games, and it makes a handy haggling subsystem too:

2d6Result
2 or lessRefuses to deal (packs up and leaves)
3-5Insulted: Increase prices by 50%
6-8Prices normal
9-11Decrease prices by 25%
12 or moreImpressed: Decrease prices by 50%

Naturally, you can feel free to adjust prices however you see fit based on other extenuating market factors, but this can make for a quick way to spice up transactions.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Wraith

Clawing our way ever closer to one hundred entries, here is a d100 Table for the dreaded Wraith!

I believe this may be our first of the incorporeal Undead, and like the Wight, these are feared by Players for their experience-sucking draining touch. I often use these to fill the vengeful Ghost niche and have a marked tendency to tie them to a particular place or item out of habit. It can be fun to flex creativity on the spookier side of things sometimes.

Might be useful to add a little more flavor/set dressing for those of you brewing up something with Barrowmaze:

Monday, May 4, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Roc

The Roc! One of the tragically few Lawful monsters we find in B/X and OSE. I often wonder if the alignment a vestigial Tolkien “Giant Eagle” thing, or are they also extremely principled in other sources?

There’s not a lot of information to infer scale from the terse descriptions, but with the Giant Roc having 36(!) HD, on a casual glance the only other Monster that matches it in sheer number of required d8s seems to be the Sperm Whale.

So, without hard-and-fast measurements to be found, we are given quite a bit of freedom here. I tend to define the Roc by the size of the things they can Swoop and snatch, so a “Small” one can carry away something roughly Human-sized or smaller, “Large” ones could grab a Horse/Ogre, and the truly “Giant” ones…well they can get as big as you need really. You could have an entire adventure take place on the back of one (like a Dragon Turtle almost). I make Rocs of this stupendous size very rare indeed, roosting on only the tallest peaks (maybe 1-2 per continent), and everyone for miles around would know/be aware of their flights across the land hunting for prodigious prey (the aforementioned Whales, Purple Worms, or other suitably sized creatures). I prefer them impossibly huge: an Enormous Eggshell could serve as the domed roof of a Strange City, their Titanic Talons responsible for gouging Great Canyons, one of their Behemothic Pinions are large enough to serve as a Deity’s Quill, etc. Playing with scale can be fun sometimes and really helps to evoke a sense of wonder when Monsters are reduced to just foes to be defeated.

Here’s some Encounter Activities for each Size should they show up in your games:

Saturday, May 2, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Warp Beast

What is it about those Warp Beasts? Is it their hexapod body-type, their lashing tentacles, or their light-bending hide? Melanistic Panthers have always been one of my favorites of the Great Cats, so they already had that going for them. I have a hard time giving them other more variable pelage, though I do recall some particularly memorable “snow leopard” versions I sprang on some Arctic Adventurers.

I tend to prefer to call them Coeurl, in homage to their actual origins and to accommodate the verboten IP by acknowledging that most good ideas are usually borrowed/stolen, but Warp Beast works for me too. Conveying their signature ability without de-protagonizing players has always been a little tricky (I like to describe them smelling like colors and sounding like smells), but thankfully they’ve gradually become rather well-known over the years. While this ruins some of the surprise it also seems to remove a little of the “you miss” sting. Tactically speaking, I’ve seen Players work together to try and corner or corral them, and I’ll usually reward this kind of side-ways thinking by reducing the penalty they apply to the to “hit” rolls.

Hope you find something useful to off-set one of your encounters with one of these entries!

Friday, May 1, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Purple Worm

One of the highest HD Monsters in the list: The Purple Worm, rightfully terrifying Adventurers since the early days of the hobby (where I suppose they were an exotic form of Dragon?). If being swallowed whole wasn’t bad enough, you may have to contend with a Save or Die Sting as well.

I must say they haven’t showed up often in my games (they’re a threat that’s more telegraphed than told), but quite a few of the spidery tunnels and underground networks come from their ravenous ramblings. The feature prominently in the legends of several of the different civilizations that dwell primarily underground, and this is usually enough for Players to give them the widest possible berth.

I have sometimes reskinned the statblock a bit for Wyrms of a different variety (think: Flightless Titanic Dragons) in high level play. It can serve as a good baseline for when you need something extremely immense.

One hundred different activities for them may be a bit overkill when I can count the number of times I’ve used them on one hand, but I’m a sucker for symmetry.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Thoul

Ah, Thouls. Decided to tackle these unusual Humanoids after coming across them in a conversation this morning. Splicing together abilities from Ghouls and Trolls on a Hobgoblin template always struck me as a little strange. The Regeneration is nifty, but I always envisioned Ghoul paralysis as more psychological/fear based (highlighting a fear of mortality, which is why Elfs were immune to it). So is the Thoul’s Paralysis more like a toxin they secrete (similar to the Carcass Crawler)?

They’re a strange entry for sure. Gnolls at least eventually received their “Hyena Folk” niche, but you don’t really see Thouls showing up very often after B/X and BECMI. They tend to work as another type of “Gotcha!” monster, hiding among normal Hobgoblins as a nasty surprise for your Players, but consider how well they could work seeded in a pack of ravenous Ghouls as well? That Turning attempt just won’t work on these, and while they don’t have the bite, their 2 claw is nothing to sneeze at.

I tend to treat them as fairly well integrated into Hobgoblin society for the most part, sometimes preferring them more cunning/grasping than their cousins, other times more dim-witted (with the Troll-blood addling their brains). I’ve treated them as a special bloodline, blessed by the Mother Goddess of Battle, and I’ve sometimes made them a kind of scion to a more praetoran/bodyguard order within the society due to their roles as protectors of the Hobgoblin Kings. As for the actual origins, well ever notice how close the “G” and the “T” are on a QWERTY layout keyboard? It seems obvious to me that Thouls were created by the infamous Typo-mancer Etaoin Shrdlu 😊.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Unicorn

I tend to make Unicorns exceeding difficult to stumble across in order to preserve a sense of wonder. It’s fun to have something almost mythical even in a world with Dragons and Magic, and they’re often only inferred or intimated even when they do show up in Random Encounters. It’s very rare that the average party would meet their rigorous criteria for actually deigning to reveal themselves, but they’re extremely likely to watch the party closely. until they leave the area. Peppering descriptions with that unnerving sense of being “watched” can really ratchet up the tension in Wilderness Exploration.

I do make them somewhat of a MacGuffin. They can cure just about any ailment, including the ones with more Supernatural origins. They can restore XP lost to Level Drain, and potentially even Raise the Worthy Dead. This makes them the object of Quests and locating and convincing one to assist is a great source of Adventure.

So, on the odd chance the Characters are fortunate enough to come across one, here are one hundred Encounter Activities that might make them more interesting than just trotting around.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Owl Bear

The Owl Bear has stalked dank dungeons and dark forests of D&D since Greyhawk. I tend to support the theory that its real-world inspiration may have come from another re-purposing of yet another plastic China-saur. Based on the earliest depictions, there is a pretty strong resemblance, especially that Roslof frontispiece illustration in Keep on the Borderlands.

B2 is where I would end up first pitting them against Players. After the excitement of the initial encounter, we puzzled a little bit over how something like that would work: Is it oviparous? Does it hibernate? After raiding my Birding Books, I became utterly enamored with the idea of at least some of its treasure being found in massive regurgitated, and appropriately disgusting pellets. Besting the beast is just the beginning 😊.

You’ll find them more frequently in Forests than deep within a Dungeon in my games, even though they appear on the canon Dungeon Encounter Tables at Levels 4 through 7, which always struck me as strange. Still, I suppose it’s as good an opportunity as ever to improvise an alternate exit/entrance to one of these levels. Perhaps the poor thing fell into a deeper part of the dungeon from a pit above after a ceiling collapse? Providing these “short cuts” to lower levels is always useful and makes things far more dynamic than the more linear “the deeper we go, the more dangerous it is.”

Here are a hundred Encounter Activities that should be tailor-able to most Owl Bear encounters:

Monday, April 27, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Stirge

The Stirge! I often like to refer to them with the more mythological Strix, but I see Stirges more often. Good terms of venery include a Scourge, a Thirst, a Clot, or a Gush.

Ecologically, I make ‘em quite the grab bag. I suppose they’re technically monotremes in most of my games, they lay eggs, but nurse their young until the puggles are old enough to handle regurgitated blood. I also borrow a bit from those Potter Wasps that sometimes sculpt their dirty domes on my porch and those intriguing Swiftlets that make nests out of their own saliva. I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to try Stirge Nest Soup, but I bet it’d be a delicacy to Vampires.

Here’s a hundred Encounter Activities for the next time you want to inflict a swarm of these little bloodsuckers on an unsuspecting Party:

Saturday, April 25, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Goblin

Finally getting around to the perpetual Party menace at lower levels: Goblins.

Goblins are one of my favorite monsters (as hinted at in my Goblin Project posts). I have an extremely hard time just using them as frequent fodder due to my inordinate fondness for them, even though their one of the few Stat Blocks I’ve bothered to completely commit to memory. I definitely prefer a more folkloric, mythological take on them: Goblins as Unseelie Fair Folk, Bogey Men, mischievous Imps, but at least somewhat more corrupted by the evils of civilization than their sylvan bretheren.

A big touchstone for me is the movie the Labyrinth. Goblins come in all shapes, sizes, and even apparent clades. The only thing they have in common is their King, which can be literally anything.

Here’s one treatment I’ve used in the past: You see, no one’s every seen a Goblin being born, It’s almost like they just kind of spontaneously generate in dark, dank, and usually somewhat smelly places. Or maybe they come from orphaned Children, abandoned and unloved. Maybe they’re just the maggots that grow in the rotting wood of a dead Elf’s Grove. Without a King though (or should their King be slain), they typically function a little more like well-meaning, but not entirely helpful or competent Brownies. Until something happens that typically involves criticism of their disobliging, inconvenient, and sometimes unwarranted toil.

Should this occur, there is a Grand Feast and celebration. The Youngest Goblin is fed to the point of bursting (sometimes beyond). The Eldest will then consult the resultant regurgitation or entrails to interpret and divine the nature of their King. It could be an Old Shoe that the elder sees in the spew, or a Local Ogre, David Bowie, or even a Player Character.

Once these Goblins have Kings, a more formal society coalesces around them. Regardless of the King’s nature, if it’s sessile or stationary it will soon becomes motile, if it didn’t possess intelligence it will develop this. It will soon become Humanoid if it wasn’t before and capable of barking out orders to its subjects in flawless Goblin. Subjects who dream about Rabbits after a King’s coronation increase in in size and become Bodyguards. They become a more malignant, guided force that receives a somewhat equal footing with the other standard dungeon denizens. It’s also always tempting to use them to inject in a little comic relief, even if it’s sometimes on the darker side. I always make sure to give them something to sell.

There have been countless takes on Goblins over the years, so I’m sure I’m only adding to the noise here. But hopefully this d100 Encounter Table provides some inspiration for some undertakings above and beyond the standard “waiting around in a Guard Room” for the Players to interlope. Your Goblins deserve better than that!

Friday, April 24, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Sprite

Sprites!

Along with Dryads, Nixies and Pixies, Sprites are a definite “must have” for my more Sylvan adventures.

I noticed that the description specifies them as being at a foot tall, but I tend to vary them up (usually erring on the much, much smaller side…but I sometimes give the neglected d12 a little love every now and then to determine their height).

Sprites tend to be more likely to play out like a Hazard or Trap than a knockdown, drag out fight. The ▶ Pranksters bullet specifies that even if attacked, they’re more interested in their mischief making.

The Curse ability that every five can work together to produce can be interesting but difficult to improvise, so for this d100 table, the first thirty, italicized, entries can also be recycled with smaller dice and used as inspiration for some of the pranks they could play on your Players. The flavor I prefer for portraying the Fair Folk usually entails their magical powers being boundless in scope. I find them much more fun and “Fairy Tale-like” when they break “the rules” so to speak. It also helps Players develop a healthy respect and sometimes even a grudging admiration for creatures so otherworldly, fickle, and ancient.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Gorgon

Today we have a hundred activities for the Gorgon. I remember being a bit puzzled by the presence of both Medusae and Gorgons as a lad who had voraciously devoured Bulfinch's at a tender age, but now I don’t mind them as a distinctive “D&D-ism,” a quaint combination of Catoblepas and the Khalkotauroi perhaps.

During early days, after exhausting the more common literary authorities, many monsters were strip-mined from whatever sources one could lay their paws on (the Rust Monster, Bulette, and Owlbear “Chinasaurs” being another excellent example of this), and the point of origin for this one could very well be the Bestiary pictured below:

The existence of a Save category for Petrification seems to drive the special abilities of several Monsters, but I do occasionally enjoy working them in together as a thematic motif. Plus, it’s always a bonus when a Player’s stumble across one of those “extremely lifelike” statues that seem to dot fantasy landscapes and aren’t quite sure if it was Basilisk, Cockatrice, Medusa, Gorgon, a powerful Wizard, or even potentially something more “gotcha” like a Gargoyle, Living Statue, or a lonely Caryatid Column (I always picture those in pairs for some strange reason).

See some of the other stone-to-flesh critters above for more information on how to handle their Petrification abilities in novel ways.

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