Sunday, April 5, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Snake

I was a bit torn with Snakes since they are such a great and surprisingly common encounter. Since there were five entries, I was originally planning on just a d20 table apiece, but I got a little carried away and was able to expand this to thirty (so this Monster gets a total of 150 entries). Sadly, this does mean spanning a spread, but I’ll deal with that when I get around to doing a “real” layout when I compile these entries.

Seeing all these Save or Dies definitely had me entertaining ideas for that d100 Table of Unusual Venoms once more 😊.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Shrew, Giant

Just how big is a Giant Shrew anyway? After scouring several sources, I couldn’t come up with anything definitive. After discussing this on discord, we arrived at a consensus of somewhere between one and three feet long, roughly the size I picture for a Giant Rat.

So next time rookie Players are confronted with that hackneyed old “Big Rats in the Cellar” hook, they might be in for a terrifying surprise… Giant Shrews are nothing to sneeze at mechanically: Two d6 Bite Attacks (the first always winning initiative, and the second getting a +1 bonus), a devastating Save or Skedaddle effect (even a so-called Swordmaster of 3 HD shakes in their boots), a Morale of 10 (TEN!), and Echolocation allowing them to take full advantage of the cover of darkness. As pointed out in discord: That’s a whole lot of trouble for a measly 10 XP (and zilch in the Treasure Type) in OSE.

Deinogalerix was first described in 1972

I don’t know if it was just out of an abundance of caution, or lack of inspiration that has prevented me from using Giant Shrews very often, but after doing this deep dive, I’m pretty sure they’ll show up on more of my Encounter Tables. I love it when players underestimate a foe, and these are a prime candidate for that. Must remember to pepper some Tavern Tales/Rumor Tables with stories of near-Heroes, now humiliated from ingloriously turning tail after stirring up a nest of these brutal beasts!

Friday, April 3, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Spider, Giant

With this entry, we reach a few milestones! We’re over halfway through the Monsters in OSE (seventy down, sixty-eight more to go)! Also, here we have our first “pun monster.”

Giant Spiders make great dungeons denizens. Their webbing makes for delightful decoration, and they’re a dead-simple way to slightly squick out most people due to their alien nature (too many eyes, too many legs, inscrutable goals, etc).

As I’ve admonished before, should you find yourself playing with someone who is genuinely terrified of them, they can easily be edited out and avoided completely. They’re hardly essential monsters and it really doesn’t serve the spirit of fun to intentionally play upon a Player’s phobias. I know I’d immediately leave any table with a Referee this petty and pointlessly cruel. If a Player looks uncomfortable, it never hurts to stop and ask them if they are okay. You’re game will be better for it.

That being said, I do personally love Spiders. Like Ghouls, they’re excellent “teaching monsters” and Crab Spiders even give your Players a slight boost to their Save versus Poison and potentially a few frantic turns to come up with an antidote. No one wants to be bitten by a Spider, so there’s usually a little caution when encountering them, which is essential to telegraph for this hardier style of play.

I don’t think I’ve ever used a Tarantella, but I love little artifacts like these. Of course, they’re based on the misconception of Tarantism, where it was thought a Wolf Spider’s bite and venom induced manic dancing in the victim. Outbreaks of dancing plagues were surprisingly common it seems, so be sure to add the old St. Vitus Shuffle to your Town Events tables 😊.

Instead of Tarantula, the monster is named after those fast folk dances. I believe this is the first “word play” monster that I’ve made it to so far, and so naturally I couldn’t help but lean a little bit into to the silly with it to celebrate. The contagious effect a single failed Save could have on onlookers are surprisingly terrifying though and could easily take out an entire Adventuring Party. While the dance can last for up to a dozen turns (2 hours), according to the rules the dancers collapse after five. What an ignominious yet humorous way to accidentally arrange a TPK.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Lizard, Giant

Continuing the theme of “Giant” week, here are the Giant Lizards in OSE and B/X (the Rules Cyclopedia contains the same beasts, and only really adds their load and Barding Multiplier). They all make for interesting mounts honestly, imagine Blowgun bearing Hobgoblins astride soaring Dracos, Second-story Gnomes strapped to the backs of their vertical Geckos, an Illusionist and her faithful Horned Chameleon, or a battle hardened War Tuatara with a special spine accommodating saddle.

I’ve run campaigns where Horses didn’t exist, and Giant Lizards were the primary draft animal and transportation, so these stat-blocks saw considerable use. They’re ripe for re-skin as well: who doesn’t want Giant Venomous Gila Monsters strutting about, shell-armored Merfolk mounted on massive Marine Iguana, or Dwarf-trained gold seam-seeking super Skinks?

I was undoubtedly inspired by this iconic David Sutherland illustration from Holmes

Like many, my childhood fascination with Dinosaurs extended to the closest living relative I could clap my eyes on (this was well before the Avian Dinosaur debate was included in the books I read). I fondly recall those big brown lizards with brilliant blue belly stripes that sunned themselves on our fence, doing the occasional push-up. I remember the alarming effect of getting squirted with eye-blood (and being admonished for ruining a brand-new shirt) from picking up a startled Horny Toad. Later, when I’d visit more tropical regions, I’d chase after brilliant chartreuse Anoles with their Fly Agaric-themed dewlaps.

To this day, I still have to strongly resist that ingrained urge of “See Lizard! Grab Lizard!” when I spot one sunning itself on my walks. Lizards are just so lovely.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Leech, Giant

There’s something primal about the generally universal revulsion to Leeches. The facial expressions of most people immediately shift to disgust just thinking about them. I don’t think my Players will ever forgive me for the several sessions they were forced to spend traipsing about Swamps, where these slimy bloodsuckers (both in their Small and Giant forms) made for frequent encounters.

Blood-loss as HP damage is generally an acceptable way to handle it, but I tend to sometimes prefer to have them attack Ability Scores directly (usually Constitution, but Strength could also work if those sneaky Shadows hadn’t already secured that niche). I’ve always been a little less rigid with the “Must Be Killed” before detaching rule and encourage the kind of frantic creativity that comes from disgusted Players. Keep in mind other methods may cause the Leech to vomit up their stomach contents, which could be (should be 😊?) rife with all sorts of prepossessing parasites or delightful diseases.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Squid, Giant

Since OSE seems to be sadly lacking in the Kraken department, I suppose these over-sized cephalopod might serve as substitutes in a pinch.

Monday, March 30, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Scorpion, Giant

I have a fondness for Scorpions of all sizes. Apocryphally, when I was only a year or so old, our home was invaded by these arachnids one sweltering summer. The intruders likely belonged to the Striped Bark species, which is common around those parts. I was crawling about the boringly beige shag carpet mostly naked due to the heat, when I apparently found a few new friends and started playing with the Scorpions like toys. Dangling them by their tails and swinging them around giggling according to witnesses. Following family lore, this continued until my father came in from working outside and smashed them with a shoe, with much sobbing, wailing, and weeping on my part. I was somehow un-stung, but absolutely heartbroken that my toys had been so unceremoniously squished.

Nowadays, I’m not certain I’d be so inclined to treat them so casually, but I haven’t come across one in ages outside of pet-store cages. I do recall desperately wanting one of those beautiful ebony Emperor Scorpions that seemed to be pretty popular as pets during the eighties, but the mere thought of having one in the house was anathema to my mother, who was not a fan of creepy-crawlies.

In D&D terms, they’re much more interesting to me than Giant Spiders (it’s the deadly sting and menacing claws that make for such memorable mêlées), and I enjoy the bonus they engender to their sting on a successful Claw attack in OSE. Their deadly venom is definitely another tick mark in favor of an eventual d100 Unusual Venoms/Horrible Fates More Interesting than Death table.

I find it interesting that instead of being Neutral like most Vermin/Animals, they’re listed as Chaotic (perhaps some bias from the writers has crept in here), though I must admit they seem perfectly at home prowling around abandoned Temples and Evil Shrines. Since their real-world counterparts are on every continent save Antarctica, I see no trouble with slotting them into just about any terrain, although I have a certain fondness for placing them in Deserts, and there’s a one that plays a key role in my Desert Hexes. I find it hard to control myself sometimes and restrict them just to Giant-size (the bigger the better, and I often fondly recall a dreaded Arduin titanic Scorpion that levels towns).

Sunday, March 29, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Giant

Giants make for fearsome foes and even more useful allies if canny Players can find a way to into their good graces.

This is the first of the entries to necessitate a full spread (instead of just a single sheet), because there are half-a-dozen Giant types, and seeing as how they all differ somewhat, I decided to treat them all to a separate d30 table.

There’s always a bit of a “scale” problem when it comes to fisticuffs with these massive Monsters. I have a hard time believing a Human-sized dagger would do more harm than a hatpin in some situations, so another option is to borrow from video games like “Shadow of the Colossus” for truly tremendous Giants, and treat them more like an “Adventure Location” with “Puzzles to defeat.” Flashing “weak points” are optional of course, but there is something deliciously tense about clinging to/climbing on them as enormous obstacles.

All of my favorite folklore stories about Giants always seem to revolve around them being bilked or bamboozled by the Heroes in some way (like bleeding themselves out into a crevasse that connects to the sea, or being “Fin McCool fooled” in a pram), so I like to encourage creative problem solving outside of combat for these encounters. Same could be said for Cyclopes, honestly. Not to mention the utility some Giants might have for Human-sized hands: Their massive fortresses likely have a dire need for Giant Rat pest-control, and who better to squeeze into those massive mouse-holes than the Adventurers (an excellent opportunity to explore scale with some Lilliputian or “The Borrowers” type adventures)? It also must be awfully tricky to count their hoard of coins when they’re the size of the tiny paper circles left over from a hole-punch. 😊

Friday, March 27, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Robber Fly

Robber Flies! I recycle and re-skin this stat block for all manner of big flying bugs, from massive moths to daunting dragonflies. It’s a pretty useful “all purpose” large vermin Monster.

Once more, these are “Surprisers,” so it may be seldom that a party has the opportunity to witness what they’re doing (this is a very common theme in Dungeons, and really captures an adversarial Mythic Underworld that’s out to get any interlopers), but Giant Spiders/Toads have to have something to eat!

I sometimes see their smaller counterparts perched around looking for prey on my walks, and it’s important to remember that not all of them are “Killer Bee” mimics. That “trick” really only works once on Players, and is of questionable utility for the table: Killer Bees kill when they sting, whereas Robber Flies just have more HP. I suppose if the Party is trying to track down some of that lovely Healing Honey, then maybe you could fool them once, but I’m just as likely to describe them as enormous Horse Flies, Mosquitos, or some other insect.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Wight

Another Undead entry for those who might be running an Undead-themed Megadungeon such as Barrowmaze. Since themed dungeons can result in the same types of foes being encountered again and again, anything to make an occurrence stand out, even just a little bit, can really spice things up and make a Monster more memorable.

Here are a hundred entries for the Wight. I also tend to be a bit of a traditionalist and generally have them haunting or guarding places: duty-bound to Ancient Barrows or Catacombs. However, they can serve double-duty as decent Draugr as well. While they don’t quite qualify for the Liege/Pawn rules found tucked away in the Rules Cyclopedia, I like to establish at least some semblance of symbiosis between them and any Skeletons, Zombies, or even Ghouls that might have manifested in their area. These are a less single-minded, more intelligent Undead, but fortunately their scheming and span of influence is somewhat restricted.

Even if sequestered away like this, their Weapon Immunity and Energy Drain can make them quite imposing encounters for only 3 HD, so some of these entries are intended to help telegraph the dangerous nature to unwary or inexperienced Players.

A single suitably determined Wight would quickly decimate a phalanx of Veterans equipped with only mundane armaments, and the ensuing infestation of Wights that follows in 1d4 days could rapidly scour an entire continent of any remaining life. All the more reason why I usually prefer to keep them locked away or compelled to stay in and protect their Crypts and Tombs!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Pixie

Unperceivable Pixies! The Fair Folk can be both fun and frightening. I really like to stress the importance of using Euphemistic Names in my games. I even have Players that refuse to refer to them by anything else after facing their fickle wrath.

Typically invisible (I do like how Tall Tales of the Wee Folk handled this with it’s Invisibility to Mortals), so it may be tricky for a party to actually witness any of these activities unless they are gifted with something akin to Second Sight or peer through a naturally bored hole in a pebble or stone. It’s another table for when the tables are turned, I suppose: When the party surprises the suprisers 😊, but still feels useful for breathing some life into the encounter, even if it’s only in the mind’s eye of the DM. Come to think of it, I might try something a little different with Invisible Stalker.

I’m sure this table could prove useful for other types of Kindly Neighbors, but don’t worry. I fully intend to do a separate one for Sprites, since they receive their own listing among the Monsters.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Boar

Finally backtracking to complete the “Bs” here are a hundred Encounter Activities for Boars.

Something that’s always stuck with me about using these animals is a bit of commentary from Rolemaster’s Arms/Claw Law attempting to justify the large Hit Point totals for animals. There was a blurb about a single Boar utterly savaging a typically mixed adventuring party (by Rolemaster standards), and how proper Boar Hunting was performed by several individuals armed with very specific weapons (Boar Spears with backwardly barbed heads to prevent the animal from charging up the shaft toward the hunter). If you wish to give your Boars a boost, you may consider cribbing from the “Battle Rage” feature when wounded or threatened (such as the one found under Berserkers in the book).

They are thankfully not nearly as dangerous in OSE or B/X but considering the frequency with which they show up on the Encounter Tables, they might end up being a pretty prevalent presence in Wilderness adventures, so this might be a useful table to keep handy for general Hunting/Foraging, and I must remember to earmark it for an eventual entry on the Lycanthrope (Wereboar).

Monday, March 23, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Ferret, Giant

My main experience with encountering Ferrets is limited to a single occasion I spent at a friend’s house who had a few as rather irascible pets. While we listened to Warren Zevon records, they somehow managed to find their way into the restroom and thoroughly demolish several rolls of Toilet Paper in mere minutes, making a marvelous mess.

But they’re a Monster on the List, so they still deserve a table! Here’s a hundred Encounter Activities for these slinky mega-Mustelids.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Nixie

I am pleased to present an Encounter Activity Table that’s mostly interchangeable with Nixies, Naiads, Nereids, and even some of the more nautical Nymphs. Potentially pilferable for Kami, Melusine, Sirens, some Huldra, and maybe even Undines with a little strategic substitution.

Friday, March 20, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Manticore

Hope everyone is having a Happy Friday. Today I’ve done a table for those ornery Manticora.

I find it’s sometimes tricky to really differentiate these dastardly devils, so I try to make them a little more intelligent and give them very strange things to hoard among their other treasures.

For a surprise I sometimes give them Giant Scorpion stings or lace their spines with feculence and filth in order to foster infection. Or if one were feeling even eviller, there’s no rule against combining both the spines and a potent stinger. For other interesting venom types, feel free to crib from my table for Giant Centipedes (I really should just put together a d100 on Unusual Venoms at some point 😊).

Particularly nasty and loathsome encounters can sometimes be more memorable, so I’ve endeavored to lean a little toward their plain old rottenness.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Hellhound

Here are a hundred Encounter Activities for those malevolent mutts: the horrible Hellhound.

Pretty situational monsters, with a very unusual HD spread. Perhaps they come in differently sized breeds from Chihuahua to Bull Mastiff? Now I can’t shake the thought of a fire-spewing French Poodle, or a diabolical Dachshund. I'd imagine they don't make 'em in Dalmatian.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Ghoul

Those ghastly Ghouls! Feel free to tune down the gore if it’s not to your tables’ liking or if it doesn’t mesh with your style of play. I kind of prefer to make mine gross and accentuate their eating habits a bit.

For me Ghouls fulfill the role of “Fast Zombies” with a bestial cunning/actual culture and intelligence, and their devastating Claw/Claw/Bite Routine has paralyzed many a player. Better bring an Elf along!

Monday, March 16, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Gelatinous Cube

Tremble with terror from the relentlessly encroaching Gelatinous Cube!

I was awfully surprised I was able to come up with enough for a d100 table for these Monsters (seeing as how they’re mostly just a wandering Trap with no real agency or culture), but I think my previous work on Puddings, Slimes, Oozes, and Moulds helped a bit here. The key to a memorable Cube Encounter has more to do with placing them in interesting and catchy situations (if they’re even spotted first). Although I do enjoy the visual of a bunch of indigestible metal and gems, or partially liquescent skeletons “levitating” towards the Party, that does give them away a bit, and requires a little bit of prep work to pull off well: it always helps to have some pre-generated Treasure Type V’s handy, and I might end up working on something like this down the road. I still have an old tin Index Card box where I lovingly hand-crafted several hoards of Treasure by Types back in the 80s, but nowadays I’d be just as inclined to use results from this handy Generator as a starting point (it’s a little generic naturally, so I’d spruce things up a bit 😊).

Saturday, March 14, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Merman

Undersea adventures can be somewhat difficult to adjudicate, but should your game find itself beneath the waves, here are one hundred Encounter Activities for any Merpersons that might swim by!

Friday, March 13, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Ogre

Another Humanoid with their own language! Ogres provide a good challenge to lower-level parties, and in droves they can make for some fun encounters. I often wonder what the implication is for their hatred of Neanderthals. Is it simply cave competition, or are Ogres some other divergent species?

I usually portray them as pretty doltish and dim-witted, saving the smarter ones for a special surprise now and then (or using the sadly-absent-from-OSE Ogre Magi to fill that role). This particular table was definitely populated with this kind of lumbering oaf in mind:

Thursday, March 12, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Centipede, Giant (#50!)

This is my fiftieth Monster, and what better way to celebrate the half-century mark than scuttling back to give the Giant Centipede their due!

Being only about a foot long these actually have counterparts in the real-world, the Scolopendra gigantea can apparently reach a length of up to a dozen inches! I generally stick to this size in the table even if I tend to prefer them a bit bigger. For a really huge one, I would probably re-skin Caecilia, or for something truly titanic: a Purple Worm! As highly alien-looking arthropods, creatures like Centipedes definitely have a pretty high “squick” factor for some. I see two potentially neologistic names for the specific fear: Scolopendrphobia or Chilopodophobia, but avoiding the gratuitous use of Spiders when gaming with an Arachnophobic player is probably a much more common situation. As the intention at most tables is to have fun, purposefully unsettling Players that possess these kinds of phobias is far too boorish and crude for my tastes, but for a typical table the instinctive revulsion “creepy crawlies” can create is fertile and fair game.

Personally, I’m more than a little fascinated by the way they move about with all those spindly, synchronized legs, but seeing how I grew up in the distribution range of the agonizingly venomous and painfully gorgeous Giant Redhead Centipede, I don’t exactly go picking them up to play with them when I luck into spotting one.

I was intrigued to learn that Centipedes don’t technically bite their prey, but instead they use a pair of modified legs (called foripules) to pierce and inject their venom. I don’t think that does much to make them less menacing to part of our reptile brains though.

In one of the first games I ever ran, I hid a Giant Centipede in a treasure chest as a Trap, and through a less-than-thorough reading of the rules, I gave it a venerable Save or Die bite. One of the inaugural D&D deaths at a game I was running occurred thanks to this critter and my lack of experience DMing (sorry about that Glom the Mighty).

Reacquainting myself with the actual rules, the venom (I notice that it’s listed Poison in OSE, probably to cut down on confusion so it dovetails with the Saving Throw category) makes you sick for 10 days, with no physical activity possible except half-speed movement. That might as well be a death sentence in certain dungeons, but I’m fond of keeping players on their toes by giving my monsters a few unanticipated tricks now and then: so the first twenty entries in this table can be used to assign your Giant Centipedes some more unfamiliar forcipule aftermaths.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Living Statue

These overlap quite a bit with other automata like Golems or gotcha! Monsters like Gargoyles, but with a few interesting differences: First each is specifically aligned, which almost seems to imply an innate conflict between them, or perhaps a legacy of their creators. Lawful Magic-Users can only create Crystal Living Statues, etc.

I almost like the idea of them not being “Created” so much but summoned and bound into a substance from another Plane where they wage and endless war between each other. Plucked out of their lives and forced to toil here, they still rigidly cling to the philosophical trappings of their former lives. Or perhaps only the Lawful/Neutral ones are ever truly desired (these seem like they’d make the best servitors/guardians after all), but the Rock Living Statues are the result of a ritual failure/corrupting force.

While immune to Sleep spells, it would seem that Crystal and Iron Living Statues could be susceptible to Charm Person and Hold Person (Rock would need Charm Monster due to its HD), as it’s not specifically called out in their Immunity as with Golems. Is this an implication of more sentience, or a weakness that leads more powerful Magic-Users/Clerics to explore true Golemcraft? They are also susceptible to attacks from non-magical weapons (although the Iron Living Statue makes this more difficult, better have some backups).

While I have occasionally used some of the Living Statues that eventually showed up in the Creature Catalog (Jade, Rock/Ooze, Silver, and Steel), I don’t believe I’ve ever followed the recommendation in the monster description to invent brand new types with more unusual materials, but I have simply “re-skinned” the stat blocks to have them serve as Antediluvian Robots, Elf Amusements, and Caryatid Columns when I didn’t have any other compatible monster books on hand. It could even be fun to recycle them as a Player character Class that gradually gains some of the more impressive powers as they advance.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Hydra

One Hundred Hydra Activities! The first twenty can also be used to give your many-headed monster a little extra oomph since the mythology associated with them can sometimes make them a little bit too predictable. I tend to lean toward using them as more one-of-a-kind critters anyway.

Monday, March 9, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Gnoll

Dunsian Gnoles almost seem like they slot better as Bugbears, so I often use Gnoll statistics as a stand in for a variety of different Beast Men, sometimes even mixing-and-matching groups of theriocephallic foes in the same encounter. For the activities in the table below I’ve cleaved closer to the traditional Hyena-folk. Using them this way gives me a chance to practice unsettling laughter, and I like to draw from nature wherever possible, so I usually make their nomadic societies matriarchal.

I never was quite sure what to make of the whole Gnome/Troll magical mixture rumors, but it does smack of the kind of unreliable information one might stumble across in a tome recording the second-hand observations of an unreliable Sage. More monsters might benefit from these kinds of speculative nonsensical origins. Maybe it’s a classification built out of some odd loophole convenience or incomplete observation, like the Barnacle Goose.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Treant

How about an encounter table for our fire-fearing forest friend, the Treant? Just as with Dryads, it really works wonders to pair them with some kind of specific species. If you find yourself stumped, feel free to use my Fantasy Tree Generator tables. This could also potentially be useful for generating the names of individuals, come to think of it.

Friday, March 6, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Vampire

By my math, I’m now officially 33.3% through! Here’s a table for the Vampire!

Draining two-levels with a touch is something every hardened Player should fear, and it’s vital to telegraph this danger to new players. There should be plenty of stories overheard in local rathskellers about run-ins resulting in even the hardiest Veterans withering with a single touch. Thankfully, most of their folkloric weaknesses are pretty well-known and replicated in the rules.

Though they tend to make better “big bads” or long-term villains, you never know when a random roll might invite one to your table, especially if using randomly generated tombs/crypts in massive megadungeons like the Barrowmaze. Hopefully this list will help provide some additional inspiration for making these encounters more memorable!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Gargoyle

Rapidly encroaching on a third of the way through! I’ll celebrate with a monster I enjoy: Gargoyles.

It should go without saying to anyone familiar with them that Gargoyles can be quite a nasty encounter to spring on an unprepared party. Their stealthy camouflage among other statuary is perhaps a bit overplayed, but it’s really their immunity to non-magic weapons that can make a fight rapidly turn into flight if the adventurers lack the appropriate tools to defeat them. In some ways, they can serve as Traps/Hazards and I always give the Dwarf their due bonus in recognizing them for what they are.

Remember that they have a tongue among the canonical twenty “Other Languages,” so this almost seems to imply that they aren’t merely Constructs and possess some sort of culture. I tend to default into running them with somewhat feline tendencies for some reason, maybe it’s their propensity for ambush?

As far as their origins, I play with a few options below, but you might have more original notions. Are they hewn from stone by Magic-Users in need of territorial guardians? Perhaps Gargoyles are Elemental transients, or maybe they evolved mimesis over eons like other gotcha-dungeon-dressing monsters like Mimics? How do they reproduce? Are they particularly religious, being found near Churches and Cathedrals so often? I love monsters that make me ask questions, and sometimes it’s even more fun to leave these answers up to my players.

Here are a hundred goings on for those grimacing grotesques and hunchback hunky punks!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Fish, Giant

Giant Fishes! I decided to do five tables of twenty for these ponderous piscine opponents.

Worthy of many an exaggerated tale of the one that (thankfully) got away, hopefully these will help make for more exciting crossings and travel on lakes, rivers, or even across coral covered seabeds.

Monday, March 2, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Djinni & Efreeti

Decided it might be best to combine Djinni and Efreeti since there’s quite a bit of overlap in these types of Encounters. While I always enjoy getting to flex my brain in order to warp the occasional Wish, I don’t use either of these nearly enough.

Since motivations for these Monsters are often dictated by their Masters, I’ve included a bonus 1d30 sub-table just in case you find yourself needing someone to fetter them to and some additional inspiration for what they might be up to when they deign to show themselves:

Sunday, March 1, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Hobgoblins

I’m not sure if it was the tactics and advice outlined in B2 that first made me decide to go with a more militarily focused Hobgoblin, but I’m pretty sure it was the depiction of what I suspected were Hobgoblins on the cover of that module that made me insist on orange skin and Lamellar armor. There was a paucity of color illustration to fire the imagination in those days, so like many newly-minted DMs, one gleaned whatever scraps one could from the few scattered clues.

I use them to fill the role of a brutally disciplined Chaotic force (I never saw that as a contradiction). They make for excellent soldiers and incredible generals, and many an army has fallen to their clever strategies and war-minded philosophy. Some of the decisions they make and standing orders they obey may seem unusual at first, but to the Hobgoblin these are tried and true means of achieving victory over the enemy and constant war for war’s sake. Law has a harder time finding a footing during times of strife.

Unaffected by sunlight, I don’t stick them down in Dungeons too often these days, but that’s not to say you couldn’t keep them locked away like that. I think they’re at their best when there’s a world either at war or with one a-brewing.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Toad, Giant

Still hopping around the list a bit. Just in time for Leap Day, here’s a table for those batrachian behemoths: The Giant Toad!

Friday, February 28, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Skeleton

To celebrate the completion of a quarter of the monsters, I decided to skip around a little bit for a change of pace. Here are one hundred Encounter Activities for some more first-level fodder favorites: Skeletons!

I’m unabashedly addicted to making my Skeletons a little more stop-motion Harryhausen at every available opportunity. Sometimes I’ll surprise Players by giving one or all of them an X in 6 chance to simply re-animate until completely annihilated in a more creative fashion than banal bashing. The occasional relentless and indefatigable “Living Skeleton” is always a rattling revelation. I also enjoy how perplexing and unsettling it can be to portray these low-level Undead as eternally trapped and idling away endless hours parodying the activities they performed in life. One can finely tune the level of fright they incite, though these days with the over-saturation of Halloween decorations, it is a little more challenging to make confronting our osseous remains truly chilling. Curiously, I’ve found that humanizing them in ways that go unexplained can actually help leaven an otherwise lusterless encounter with a bit more horror and dread.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Elemental

Four for the price of one (well, technically twelve if you count all the types), this entry provides statistics for the different power levels of Elemental (Lesser, Intermediate, Grater) as well as differences based on their composition.

I’ve always preferred a more “anthropomorphized” or vaguely humanoid miens for my Elementals, but as creatures from other Planes, I tend to give them somewhat inscrutable behaviors and personalities. They are truly alien to this world, and certain situations we’d construe as prosaic are simply frustrating, confusing, or just plain terrifying for them. Imagine for a moment how things would work if you visited a world aflame or with radically different fundamental laws and physics, wouldn’t really be much of a picnic, would it?

Most of them are compelled to perform tasks through powerful magical forces, so give some thought to who/what summoned them and what their underlying duties may be if it’s not specified in an entry. I’m sure that they do occasionally “go rogue” or slay their summoners without securing a return-trip home, so this probably makes them even more aggravated and unpredictable.

Another thing I often import from later versions are even “Smaller” Elementals. I love the idea of a Wizard lighting her pipe with a living wisp of fire, a roiling potion bottle of crystal-clear water that remains cool at any temperature, a surprisingly smooth boulder dutifully rolling behind them, or an orbiting orb-like breeze to flare or billow the occasional robe. OSE Statistic-wise, I’d be tempted to just use Sprites.

Had to do a little font-size shrinking to get them all to play nice on a single page. When I get into less casual “layout” territory for a compiled resource, these might end up on separate spreads.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Driver Ant

Driver Ants!

These Myrmicine Monsters are easy to model, as Ant Behavior is something most people are familiar with. Although thankfully not present in the hundreds of thousands that you’d find in a typical anthill, I still like to borrow heavily from the natural world and give them a Queen, eggs, and larvae to tend to.

Since seeds and grain are probably not enough to sustain and feed a colony of critters this large (six foot ants!), I also imagine that, like Leaf Cutter Ants, they cultivate a variety of Fungi to feed on within their underground layers. This also gives you an excuse to come up with some interesting mushrooms and their effects!

If you find yourself in need of a quick “Giant Ant” mound for your players to explore, I made some contributions to Hex Describe that seem to handle them fairly well (although I’d definitely like to revisit the tables here again to incorporate some of the the brainfood that this Encounter Activity table might provide). This link should provide you with ten [giant ant lairs] relatively instantaneously.

Hope you have as much fun with these Formic Foes as they were to write up!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Dragon Turtle/Shell Crawl

I’m temporarily skipping over the regular Dragons for now. Their role as titular Monsters means I need to do them proper justice, and I’m still deciding if I want to do an “All Dragons + Dragon Color” combo-tables or attempt to give each Color its own table. If you have a preference, let me know in the Comments!

In the interim, I’ve decided to tackle the chelonian challenge that is the Dragon Turtle. These are arguably the most powerful Monster in B/X or OSE, with incredibly high Hit Dice and a nearly unique arduous Armor Class to overcome. Since their Breath Weapon hinges on Hit Points, it can easily be one of the most damaging adversaries in the game. In fact, glancing at my trusty Rules Cyclopedia to compare for potential power creep, I spied the following note:

Note: Dragon turtles are extremely powerful creatures that should not be used unless the player characters are of very high level.

Could this be the very first interstitial admonishment for Encounter Balance? Are Dragon Turtles at least a little bit responsible for later developments like Challenge Rating? I found it interesting 😊.

I was a little torn (or perhaps I took the advice above subconsciously to heart): I don’t typically use these as antagonists for combat, but instead my mind is consistently drawn to the wonder-invoking illustration for the Zaratan in the 2nd AD&D Edition Monster Manual. Something this massive can serve as a better set piece to explore or clamber over…a bit like the Colossi in Shadow Of The Colossus. Perhaps they conceal their commensurately formidable treasures in caches and crevasses throughout their backs (defended by dermal plate denizens, of course).

So I decided a compromise was in order, I’m still providing a d30 for Encounter Activities, but also a bonus “Shell Crawl” Table after realizing that the scutes on a Turtle’s carapace are surprisingly hexagonal. You can populate the various plates on-the-fly or in advance, and feel free to scale the area up or down to your liking. I think I prefer to take the ⯈ Mistaken for island bullet in OSE to heart by making them positively massive.

If you need more ideas/inspiration for the Shell Crawl “Hexes” some of my Wilderness Hexes might fit in with a little filing. There's a score of Sea-based ones as well if you are planning a more maritime jaunt!

Monday, February 24, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Doppelgänger (d100)

Oh, dear do I love a good Doppelgänger-based encounter. They’re purpose-built for infiltrating the factions of both friendlies and foes alike with their complex, duplicitous schemes.

Using them cleverly can be immensely rewarding when one can orchestrate that tricky but ever-so satisfying “big reveal.” I’m not necessarily talking about your silly Scooby-Doo unmasking (“Old Man Potter was just a Doppelgänger all along!”), more the fruition of careful plotting and positioning spanning an entire campaign (or at least several sessions). They make consummate nemeses and the perfect recurring foils.

I have some Players that have developed a deep-seated animosity towards Doppelgängers, and for good reason. They were a perennial foe in one of my longer running campaigns, and it didn’t hurt that I’d engineered some rather duplicitous situations to help me home in on their full potential.

To feed and foster the inherent Paranoia of being “Pod Personed,” after introducing them and their concepts, I took each player aside periodically before games to ask them if they’d like to volunteer to play a Doppelgänger for a session.

I recommend assuring them that their actual character would remain safe and eventually return, maybe even dangling some additional Experience for a session well-played. Emphasize the importance of keeping their choice and the conversation secret from the other players for maximum effect.

I suppose one could select and brief a willing confederate if one has any players that are up to the task (sometimes a little light PvP can be fun after all and the best kinds of party sabotage are self-inflicted), but it’s far more devious to just mention that you’ll mull any volunteering over and provide your answer with a pre-arranged note-passing in-game. Then proceed to play the session with private notes-a-flying to all participants (taker and non-taker players) alike. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the more devilish DM whether one actually ends up needing to select a Doppelgänger from any “takers” to have the desired effect.😊

As far as Encounter Activities go, you could just as easily roll on the table of the Humanoid they’re impersonating to get an idea of what they’re doing “right now.” This table might be more useful to inspire in terms of plotting out their underlying insidious plans and over-arching villainous machinations.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Cave Locust (d100)

Circling back to plug one a few holes that have cropped up in the list: Here’s a d100 Encounter Activity table for a frequent-flier dungeon pest of mine: The lowly and skittish Cave Locust. Startling many a party with a sudden clumsy leap from concealment, I always envision them as somewhat resembling the creepy little Mole Crickets I would occasionally see as a child.

If you need some assistance describing the smell their stinking spittle: I have a table for that 😊. Some of the “Ugly” smells from my Three Hundred Smells & Scents might manage to wrinkle a few noses.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Dervish (d100)

Here’s a Monster entry that hasn’t aged too well. It really shines a steady light on the whole “armchair history buff” roots of the hobby. Dervishes are quite obviously based on an over-simplification/misunderstanding of real-world counterparts, and when these kinds of clumsy stand-ins are used in this way, the reductive treatment has a high likelihood of only ending up troubling and insensitive. This is a true shame, because Lawful opponents can be a refreshing change of pace over more monolithic “Evil” and the pervasiveness of Chaotic foes.

I suppose if you need zealous Holy Warriors, then this entry can fit the bill. Curiously, you could simply substitute the more occidentally-inclined appellation “Crusader” here should your setting need something similar and run them without any modification. Stereotypes and tropes, sides of the same XP coin and all that.

The primary situation that encounters with Dervishes seem designed to scrutinize is the implication is that not all Lawful alignments are the same. World-building-wise the undertone is that there are factions/cultures that exist in the world that may have a different interpretation of Lawful behavior from the characters.

A run-in with Dervishes as written tries to facilitate exploring these differences through exaggeration and over-simplification. This is something the Good/Evil axis in later games seeks to unscramble but usually ends up muddling by only creating even more boilerplate behaviors. I do find it curious that the intended interaction seems to only really be possible thanks to the much-maligned Alignment Languages (I absolutely adore them…anything that puts words in the mouths of Monsters is awesome in my book, but that’s really something better saved for a future post).

Moral quandaries can be fun to pose to some players at some tables, but I don’t think they are as satisfying when they end up being as one-dimensional as these. But my goal remains to do a table for each Monster entry, distasteful warts and all:

Friday, February 21, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Cyclops (d100)

Poor Polyphemus! I always felt a little bad for that blinded bloke. It does seem that most Monster Manual entries for the Cyclops can trace its origins to this mythological counterpart. For this table I’ve included entries that highlight the viniculture and sheep-herding tidbits in the description.

Statistics-wise they seem to make for fairly challenging foes, but the Slow-witted caveat seems ripe for exploitation by players, and with all that Treasure sitting around, they seem like a pretty solid way for clever players to swindle some not inconsiderable XP. I’d just be more than a little concerned about those 5% that can Curse.

As with the Caecillia, I’ve nested another little treat in this table: The first twenty, italicized entries can also serve as a handy-dandy-bespoke-curse generator if you find the standard penalties/effects a little lacking or less flavorful. Just as with Potions and Magic Swords, a simple bonus or minus is seldom as satisfying for me. A table with one-hundred custom-tailored Curses is definitely something to put on the pile for later 😊.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Pudding, Oooze, Slime, Jelly, Mould (5d20)

Puddings, Oozes, and Slimes, oh my!

I had a ton of fun helping Alex with creating some tables for his excellent Hex Describe for procedurally generating these types of critters. Here’s some sample output of what the random generator comes up with:

To try it yourself, click here or go to the Hex Describe (no map), place [slimes] as many times as you’d like in the top box on separate lines and hit Submit. To demonstrate just how amazing this tool is, I heartily recommend checking out what it is capable of producing on-the-fly for random dungeons. I look forward to adding more content to this tool again soon, and some of it might even come from these tables (the Hex Describe syntax can easily exponentially expand one of my standard d100 tables by randomizing within the random results)!

But back to our blobs… While Black Puddings and Ochre Jellies could be considered combat-leaning encounters, I generally see the others as more akin to Traps or Hazards. Maybe it’s their slow movements/near sessility, their concealed natures/deceptive appearances, or the need for the right “tool” to overcome any resistances. I think the key to creating an at least semi-rewarding encounter with these is being generous with clues to their presence. Often the absence of other monsters in an area is a pretty good give-away: the local dungeon denizens, save maybe some Undead, will often give them a pretty wide berth. A dungeon colonized by these gooey boarders is bound to be a lot more clean and barren (the corrosion of wood, cloth, and/or metal…not to mention the side-effect “sweeping motion” of ravenous and indiscriminate amorphous glops sliding about in search of prey), with few intact furnishings and doors depending on how long they’ve been about. Over centuries, a sufficiently fed ooze could polish and shine the flagstones of a dungeon to a shimmering sparkle.

I was able to fit five on a single page (this might change once I wrangle the document into spreads), and I’ve given each a score of activities to consider below:

I couldn't quite squeeze the Gelatinous Cube in here, but I think I’d like to dedicate a larger table to them anyway. I believe that this puts us at thirty completed tables!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Crocodiles (3d30)

When I’m populating Random Encounter Tables for Swamps, Bayous and Marshes, Alligators and Crocodiles definitely receive pride of place on the lists. Both as moody set-dressing and for their satisfyingly sudden, snapping strikes.

There’s just something about their eerie, antediluvian gaze staring with slitted pupils among the vibrant green duckweed or fragrant lotus blossoms, barely above the waterline. As apex ambush predators and consummate survivors, an unprepared Adventuring Party wading through their world has the odds stacked against them.

I almost inextricably associate them with Swamps, but of course they could show up in Savannas, at Sea, or even basking on Desert Deltas (this might require a little jury-rigging of the tables below, Swamps are only second to Forests in my favored terrains). While I was studying the stats, I rediscovered just how terrifyingly formidable Giant Crocodiles are! They give even the game's namesake (Dragons) a run for their money HD-wise, and all for a Treasure Type of “None” to boot!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Cockatrice (d100)

Another flying foe, Cockatrices overlap a bit with the baleful Basilisk, but are a little less fearsome. Fortunately for clever Players, it takes physical contact (not just a glance or gout of foul miasmic breath) for their petrification power to trigger a saving throw. The OSE illustration is absolutely marvelous for this Monster.

If you’ve ever had the privilege of dealing with Roosters, you might have an idea at just how territorial and cantankerous they can be. Their dinosaur ancestry is terribly apparent and if you were to amplify that with some serious threat-eliminating power like petrification, I imagine you would get a pretty cocky critter.

I’m partial to a “slowly turning to stone” type of petrification for Cockatrices. I relish the idea of spidery calcification radiating slowly from the point of injury in crumbling, chalky seams. Gradually stiffening cemented joints, and eventually belaboring breathing by encasing the lungs. Timers really ratchet up tension.

Perhaps the poor pecked PC has a number of rounds of leaden action equal to the margin at which they missed their throw, or maybe even equal to an Ability Score (you could use Strength or Constitution for this, but I prefer to use Charisma for this as an ersatz “force of personality in the face of reality” as a high score here is often under-rewarded).

This slight delay might give them a little more time to come up with a cure, help slay the beast, or at least strike a suitably heroic (or more easily portaged) pose. I’d be happy to watch them waste additional resources to slow or stave it off further (maybe a Cleric’s Cure spell can grant 1d6+1 additional rounds).

Another option I quite like is adapted from Emmy Allen’s utterly superb product The Gardens of Ynn (reviewed here). From the entry for her take on the Basilisk: On each failed save, the Character loses 1d12 points of Dexterity. This loss represents petrification; the more lost, the more of the victim’s body is turned to stone, until they become a statue at 0 DEX. This has the added feature of modelling the sluggishness by making them easier to hit as they shed any AC bonuses and gradually gain maluses.

You could make any loss above 0 temporary, perhaps crumbling off like dusty, dried mud over a weeks’ time. Or the DEX loss could be stone-cold permanent, giving veteran Cockatrice hunters tell-tale limps and stiffened gaits. It all depends on your table and tastes. I do enjoy the notion that eating the gizzard of a Cockatrice might restore some of the Dexterity lost in this way by a random amount.

Monday, February 17, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Chimera (d100)

Those horrid Chimeras! I always must fight the urge to pronounce them is “Chim-uh-ra” instead of the correct “Ky-mer-a.” There ought to be a word for words you only learned from reading in books and persistently mispronounce. Bonus points if it’s misleadingly spelled.

Give a little thought to how these merged monstrosities came about. Are they Magical Experiments gone wrong but breeding true? Is their genesis simply a curse laid on mankind by the Gods? Perhaps they are heraldry inadvertently animated by magic? Or maybe they’re the product of Titans attempting to build the perfect animal: one with the Perseverance of the Goat, the Majesty of the Lion and the Cunning of the Dragon, but instead they got Stubbornness, Ferocity, and Miserliness for their trouble? Are the real origins of these dreadful beasts something else entirely?

Also, I like to mix them up a bit: replacing the Goat with a Ram or Oryx, tinkering with a Tiger or substituting a Smilodon head instead, and I have been known to dabble with Dragons of different colors (and breath weapons) occasionally. The “center” head is usually the one in charge and reflects the primary personality, and if it just so happens to be the Dragon one, I give them a chance for speech and spells (foes with the gift of gab are always more fun for me). Never shy away from surprising Veteran players with remixes of your own devising.

Here are a hundred dastardly doings for these foul amalgamations:

Sunday, February 16, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Centaur (d100)

Today’s table is for Centaurs. I do enjoy a good Wilderness Adventure, and as far as semi-civilized sylvan dwellers go, Centaurs are really fun to run. Although you can always do the “drunken bride-napping louts” routine from classic mythology, I prefer to give them a little more depth and culture. It never hurts to familiarize yourself with Equine Coat Colors, and don’t be afraid to mix things up. I’ve enjoyed concocting exotic Zebra and cryptic Okapi “Centaurs” in Yoon-Suin for instance.

They seem to serve as a natural bridge between Elfs and Dwarfs due to their dependencies on iron for shoes. One idea I lean into heavily is just how crucial a herd’s Anvil must be for its survival and ability to thrive, and farriering must be a fairly frequent essential pastime for the overall wellness of the members.

I always love a Monster that can be as friendly or stand-offish as the oracular Reaction Roll dictates, although I must admit that encounters with them don’t often devolve in an all-out-melee. If you get in their bad books, they’re far more likely to stalk and hunt you down with no regard for distance. Fleet hooves and terrain familiarity make for fearsome foes, and as they are usually allied with some of the more powerful denizens of the wilds, the Party that angers a herd of Centaurs may have much more to contend with down the road.

I can hardly wait to give these folk the Gorgon Trail treatment eventually 😊, and almost considered making them the default demi-humans.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Cat, Great (d20)

Here’s another “Multi-table” for our fine feline friends. As with Bears, the first ten entries apply to any of them, but for more species-specific results, you can either use a d20 or roll directly on the sub-tables:

Friday, February 14, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Carcass Crawler (d100)

The Carcass Crawler. Eight (8) attacks! Eight (8) Saving throws versus paralysis! 2d4 turns of not doing much on an increasingly likely fail, other than potentially being eaten somehow of course…the rules aren’t really clear on how it ends up actually damaging it’s victims, so perhaps this is really just an excruciatingly drawn out “Save or Die” after all.

Big pushover that I am, I usually rule that they’ll try to drag the tastiest (completely subjective) target somewhere safe to eat, somewhat reducing the chances for a TPK. If I were truly evil, I’d emphasize how they actually prefer their food to be ripe, rank, and rotten, so they typically just re-sting the paralyzed party every so often until it dies of starvation. Then after a suitable amount of decay sets in, they dig in. Gross stuff!

I vaguely recall one of these (well, it’s precursor) having an appearance in one of the starter dungeons in the Mentzer Basic Set? They are a pretty brutal lesson on risk management for players just embarking on adventure. Was there a Deus ex Machina built in? I gotta go dig that up now…

Interestingly, as this is our first IP dodging critter: I don’t think my players have ever called them by their “name” (official or otherwise). I’ve heard them called “Stun Grubs,” “Creepy Crawlies,” “Corpse Eaters,” “Those nasty Dungeon Bugs,” and all sorts of other evocative, experientially generated names. Something to consider if the names of things troubles you: Things have more meaning when they’re named by the players, and one simple way to preserve the mystery of a Monster and the thrill of discovery is to refrain from calling it by its name. A good description should get their brains bubbling with something to call it as a shorthand soon enough.

Here's a hundred little vignettes to choose from when these nasty little beasties decide to show their jelly-fish faces:

Thursday, February 13, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Caecilia (d100)

I think this just might be our first B/X-specific beastie! I can’t say that I’ve ever really used a Caecilia in a game, which is a darn shame. They seem that they’d work exceedingly well for Wilderness Tier adventures not ready for the challenge of the puissant Purple Worm. Or better yet: They could make excellent ersatz Graboids à la the film Tremors, or you can always build less pop-culturally on things like the legend of the Lambton Worm.

They can also serve as a significant threat to a cherished base of operations, a way to generate slithering shortcuts between different levels in a dungeon delve, and of course a means of generating the evergreen fun of the post-combat stomach searching performed by savvy players. Littering dank darkened hallways with the occasional huge, wiry wormcast or having them erupt from the earth following a particularly heavy rain sounds lovely too.

For their one-hundred entries, I’ve departed a bit by placing some special items among the initial thirty. These can serve as interesting discoveries in the gullets of defeated Caceilia by simply using a d30 in addition to providing a little insight into what the critter may have been up to recently.

I’m likely going to leap over Camels for now and bumble straight into Carcass Crawlers. I have some ideas for handling some of the Herd/Livestock animals a little later.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Bugbear (d100)

Did you hear something? No? Then it’s probably Bugbears. The description in OSE only really tells us a few things: Large, Hairy, Ungainly, Goblins. Their penchant for surprise, and exceptional odds in this regard (1-3 out of 6!) mean that this table may not end up seeing very much use. Spying on something so sneaky seems like it might be tricky.

I like to use them to fill the role of the classic Bogeyman. “The Bugbear will get you, if you don’t do/keep doing X” sort of thing. Many of the entries reflect this usage if you need some inspiration for what they’re doing before they get the drop on the PCs half the time!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Dryads (d100)

I received a request for Dryads, and I felt that they’d be fun to fill a table for. Since B/X – OSE doesn’t contain Nymphs, Dryads can occupy a portion of that niche nicely. There’s an interesting “Save or Die” feature, which while not as flavorful as blindness, still makes them incredibly dangerous. Rescuing a hapless victim of the Dryad’s Charm from their arboreal prison could make for a neat adventure in itself.

I always endeavor to give them a special, distinctive Tree since it’s so central to their existence. I have another Generator that might be useful to give a Dryad’s Tree a more botanically flavorful name. The encounter is far more memorable if the Dryad dwells within a towering Cradlenut Maple, the looming roots of a Bloodflower Mulberry in bloom, or clinging to a cliffside in a jachelt Gravemantle Cherry, so it’s worth taking a few moments to flesh this out. Besides, that’s where she’s sure to store her treasures, and greedy murder-hobos will be digging up the entire forest otherwise!

Honestly though, I can only think of a handful of times that a Dryad encounter has devolved into some kind of combat. Most of the time they serve as flavorful, fairy tale-ish social obstacles. As a kind of genius loci, they can be very knowledgeable sources of information in their territory. Networked together through tantalizingly vast rhizome and root systems, they could really save a lost party’s bacon. I hope these entries help encourage you to plant one somewhere in your next Forest Hex.

Monday, February 10, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Buccaneers (d100)

Avast! Much like the Bandit to Brigand relationship, Buccaneers and Pirates demonstrate some interesting overlap.

I tend use these more as Privateers, Vikings or Coastal raiders. Some of the more “seaborne” entries might be a little tricky to incorporate on the fly depending on the circumstances of the encounter (I briefly considered splitting this up into River/Lake, Coastal and Open Water…but that was a bit fiddly), so you may need to use some of these as more of a springboard. When in doubt, or if nothing is leaping into your mind and stoking your imagination, roll again, flip the d100 digits, or simply select another nearby entry that tickles your fancy:

Sunday, February 9, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Brigands (d100)

Although I tend to use them more like rapacious Mercenary Companies, some of the entries on the Bandits table could also be considered somewhat interchangeable.

Here are a hundred Encounter Activities should your Player Characters encounter some Brigands:

Saturday, February 8, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Bears (d20)

Backtracking to bring you Bears. I’ve placed each type on a single sheet, with ten Ursine entries apiece along with a table for “all Bears” so a d20 can be used. Might expand this later once I start hammering out a proper layout. Bears might deserve two spreads:

Friday, February 7, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Kobold (d100)

From another request, here are some Encounter Activities for the lowly Kobold, even though I really resent that distinction 😊. I suppose I end up running them as the more pernicious Tucker clade: often underestimated and always scheming to wrench some small advantage from a world where nearly everything has more Hit Points.

I’m also an inveterate Kobold purist: only snarling, scaly dog-men need apply. Some almost resemble snub-nosed pugilistic Pugs; others are closer to panting, mangy Chihuahuas. I recommend taking a breed of dog as inspiration to make each Kobold tribe distinctive (the more unusual the better, I like to take them into full on “so ugly their cute” Chinese Crested territory as this only seems to accentuate the likelihood that they’ll be underestimated by the Players).

Teeny tiny dragon-men only succeed in padding an already over-saturated niche occupied by slithering Ophidians, the larger Lizard Men, those fun and funky Troglodytes, and even Draconians and Dragonborn in later days. They deserve a place of their own, and it goes a long way to making the Monster more memorable.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Zombie (d100)

Just a quick detour directly to the Monster at the end of most manuals! I know it’s the last one in OSE at least.

I received an interstitial request to create one of these Encounter Activity tables for the dreadful Zombie and was able to complete a d100 table for them fairly quickly. Shambling my way all the way through to the letter “Z” before reaching these oft-used Monsters would have been almost cruel.

Zombies are an exceedingly frequent fail-safe when it comes to Dungeon stocking. What Terrifying Tomb, Creepy Crypt, or Crumbling Catacomb would be complete without a few shambling corpses to give the Cleric something to try and Turn?

Here are a hundred activities you can have your Hungry, Hollow Husks undertake:

OSE Encounter Activities - Blink Dog (d100)

Every Dog has it’s day, and today is for Blink Dogs!

One of very few Lawful creatures in the standard critter list (Did you realize that Neanderthals share this alignment? That’s pretty neat!), encounters with these magical mutts are almost always guaranteed to be unusual and/or tense. I’d try to give them needs, wants, and motivations, but the lack of language might make for some challenging role-playing opportunities. Negotiating is the far better course however, because by-the-book, their pack tactics and namesake ability make for some seriously frustrating foes if fought. I like to give their “blinking” ability a signature sound per pack: Champagne cork popping, paper-tearing, door slamming, etc.

I really can’t peg any mythological antecedents for these creatures, and they may have just been added to create symmetry with the IP-displacing “Warp Beast” after all. I leaned a little heavily into their Lawful nature here, because it certainly makes them more intriguing:

Next, I’ll be working on a request to get together a table for the ubiquitous Zombie, and since they would normally shamble in at the very end of the list alphabetically, bumping them up is probably for the best. I’m also procrastinating on the Pudding since they don't exactly have a lot of personality to go on, and therefore are a little less appetizing. It might need to share space with some of the other “clean-up crew” oozes/slimes.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Berserker (d100)

I’m fairly certain that the venerable Quasqueton was my introduction to the concept of Berserkers traipsing about dungeon halls to harry players. Their presence in the description at that initial intersection is still ingenious after all these years, and many forays In Search Of The Unknown have started with a little CSI because of it.

Come to think of it, that encounter a prime example of what I’d love to accomplish with these tables: Creating opportunities for play to progress in completely unexpected directions with a little bit of additional information to spark player interest.

Filled out in a foaming frenzy, here are one-hundred Berserker activities for if and when they end up encountered by your players:

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Beetles (3d30)

Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beetles!

I’ve always been fascinated by the ecological implications of insects growing this large, and as a casual observer of local coleoptera I’m always surprised at how expressive a bumbling beetle can be. Marching across the ground with gruff territorial determination, climbing and falling from the same slick surface over and over, or even just careening into the same porch lightbulb all night long.

Bio-luminescent beetles are tragically rare nowadays where I live thanks to light pollution :(, but I recall the fireflies from my childhood fondly. Bombardier beetles with their corrosive cocktails are marvels of internal chemistry, and the at least one tribe of Tiger Beetle we have around these parts is just plain gorgeous in shimmering, shiny green.

Hope you consider upping their frequency on your Encounter Tables! These three really just scratch the surface of potentially interesting species: Imagine enormous scarabs rolling boulder sized dung-balls, truly Goliath mandibles capable of crushing Elephants, or even plodding slowly across the countryside on the carmine carapace of a colossal Ladybug!

Monday, February 3, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Bats (3d30)

Release the Bats!

These are a staple set dressing for any kind of cavern exploration, but I need to remember to use swarms of them in Forests/Dungeons more. There’s something primally unnerving about a high ceiling extending into darkness, but teeming with chattering life. As a bonus, almost everyone I have ever spoken with is mortified at the prospect of getting them tangled in their tresses for some instinctive reason.

Since these are animal behaviors, I’ve split them up into a trio of d30 tables instead of devoting a single d100 to each (oh brother!) or trying to come up with behaviors that were applicable to all three types:

As always, you can suggest the next entry in the comments. Bears might get a similar treatment (perhaps four d20 tables), unless I need a brief break from mammals and decide move on to Beetles.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Basilisk (d100)

Although I prefer the octopod, lizard-like Basilisk, some gaming tables lean hard into the serpentine. Mine prefer to petrify their victims to preserve them (much how a spider trusses up a fly) and have a substance in their saliva that slowly reverts Stone to Flesh so that they can dine at their leisure (harvesting this spittle can take the statuesque sting out of an unlucky encounter, but I’m an inveterate softie, and don’t really relish encounters that grind play to a halt). Feel free to adjust some entries if they don’t quite fit your mythological vision, but I tried to cover quite a few bases here.

Without further ado, I present the OSE Encounter Activities for the baleful Basilisk, bane of many a fortune-hunter:

Might split up the Bat entry into a triptych of d30 tables depending on how fertile I’m feeling.

Friday, January 31, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Bandits (d100)

Stand and Deliver! Here are one hundred lawless undertakings to embellish your Bandit encounters.

Bandits have been fairly frequent entries on Wilderness Encounter Tables since the very beginning (the typical Outdoor Survival board was practically crawling with Outlaws and ne’er do-wells) and they still seem to crop up regularly in later interpretations. There’s a world-building implication somewhere in there I’m sure.

I hope there are some DMs that get some mileage out of this list and that it leads to more interesting situations. As always, I love to hear about how these tables work out at your table!

Don’t forget the wealth of additional framing that can be added with Encounter Distance, Surprise, and by remembering to throw those crucial Reaction Roll dice! And always remember to check Morale so that they can flee and live to fight another day! Bandits can make for excellent recurring foils but can also be a useful faction to ally with in the Wilderness.

I believe our buddy the Basilisk is up next, which might be a little challenging!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Lizard Man (d100)

What are those scaly and squamous folk up to? Old School Essential’s lovely and laconic layout tells us of only two preferences: one of armament and the other of appetite. So here’s a hundred digressions to dress up any lacertilian rendezvous:

Alphabetically, Bandits are next (and I figure they’ll be easy enough, as I’ve used them plenty in the past), but if you’d like to interrupt the running order with a request, drop it in the Comments and I’ll see what I can whip together.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Ape, White (d100)

Here’s another entry in the OSE Encounter Activities project: the dreaded White Ape!

Sufficiently variable animal activities and behaviors might prove difficult to fill up an entire 1d100 table for some of the other entries, so in the future I might do smaller tables (d20, d30) for entries like this (it’s often more fun to remix more pedestrian animal encounters with another encounter: Bear menacing a Troll, Bats harassing a Gelatinous Cube, etc.). It’s the Monsters that generally get the imagination firing on all cylinders after all, and I doubt any DMs have had to contend with a party of primatologists, but should this come up, this might be a handy table to have!

Working on a request for Lizard Men next, but let me know if there's an OSE Monster you'd like to see sooner than the alphabet allows!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

OSE Encounter Activities - Acolytes (d100)

While leafing through Old School Essentials the other day, I was struck by another project idea: wouldn't it be wonderful to have at hand a few "Encounter Activity" tables for each of the Monsters in the Classic Fantasy Monsters tome in the same vein as my These Wood Elfs Are... and These Dwarfs Are... tables?

So I started with the first one:

Hopefully this will add a little additional flavoring to those randomly encountered or placed foes. I could also see some of the entries applying to the mysterious Drune of Dolemnwood fairly well. If there's enough interest, I might muddle my way through more as I get the chance. I welcome any suggestions for which Monster I should try to tackle next in the comments!

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