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Friday, April 13, 2012

Random Encounter Fun! (REF)

Let's build an encounter!

For giggles, I'm going to try and take a truly random monster and build as interesting a "set-piece" encounter as I can, more or less within the Rules As Written (RAW).

I think I'll try a wilderness encounter for greater randomness. In Cook Expert, there are ten "terrain types": 
  1. Clear/Grassland
  2. Woods
  3. River
  4. Swamp
  5. Barren/Mts./Hills
  6. Desert
  7. Inhabited
  8. City
  9. Ocean
  10. Jungle

Let's start slinging some polyhedrons!

So we'll just roll a d10 and see what we get. 
roll, roll

A two! That's "Woods."

Next up, let's roll a d8 for the monster.

roll, roll
A five! That's "Unusual." Oooo! This could get fun.

Now it's off to the Unusual Subtable. That's a d12.

roll, roll
Four! "Displacer Beast." Neat!

Off we go to the monster listings.

We have 1-4 of them (roll, roll). A four! Getting scary!

Okay, they have six HD. What I'm going to do is roll twice for hit points, they larger of the two totals is for the pack leader, the other three each get the smaller total.

roll, roll

25 & 27

So we have a leader with 2 more hit points than the other three. 

They have treasure type D, so let's figure out their loot.

roll, roll, roll, roll, roll, roll
  • 3,000gp
  • Shield +3 (Wow!)
  • Potion of Speed
  • Potion of Invisibility

Not a bad haul.

Okay, so ten minutes of rolling and scribbling later, we've got a handle on what we're dealing with. Now let's make the encounter FUN!

(This is the sort of stuff that fills my head instead of sport scores and getting work done!)

A pack of four displacer beasts live in the forest. At some point in the past, a young knight and his squire were traveling through the woods. Sir Bannon had only recently won his spurs. He was charged with safely delivering a payment from his lord to another nobleman in the next province. The knight and his squire were attacked. The squire and the pack horse were killed. Sir Bannon's horse bolted. Since he was using his great-sword (2H), his shield was on the packhorse. It was a family heirloom from his grandfather's time and bears the family crest. 

The beasts dragged the bodies (with the saddlebags) back to the lair, devouring the horse & boy. The goods are still intact and tumbled in among the gnawed bones. In the saddlebag with the coin is a letter charging Sir Bannon with delivering the cash.

Between losing the money, the magic shield, and appearing to run, Sir Bannon was disgraced. He is now a shell of his former self and badly in debt to his lord. If the PCs were to recover his shield and/or the money and return them to him, they would gain a true friend among the gentry.

The beasts are quite cunning, if not actually "intelligent." They not only use their displacement power, they take advantage of the forest's undergrowth and the trees for cover and ambush. They also prefer attacking under cover of darkness when possible (see below). A favored tactic is to hide in the middle branches and strike their victims from above with their tentacles. They also sometimes lower themselves with their tentacles, attacking with teeth and claws* then pull themselves back up into the canopy again. 

The beasts also move through the branches from tree to tree. This affords them good cover and concealment while stalking their prey.

Small targets (halfling-sized or smaller) might be hauled up into a tree with a tentacle and killed in the branches, then the displacer beast takes its prize back to the lair. They are also intelligent enough to double back on themselves and take to the trees occasionally to make tracking them back to their lair quite difficult. They feel no need for a standup fight. The pack is perfectly happy trailing a group for days, picking them off one or two at a time or killing a horse and hiding until the group moves on, leaving the dead animal behind.

The beasts' territory extends for miles and it takes a group walking or riding through the dense forest at least a few days to get clear. Horses and the like grow hard to control when they scent the creatures (morale checks for mounts and DEX rolls to keep control of a spooked horse). If the party camps at night, the beasts may try to panic the picketed mounts into fleeing before fading back into the forest. That way they can hunt the horses down later one by one. The displacer beasts also love wear down their prey by hanging back from the camp at night, roaring and screaming and making enough noise to prevent the characters from resting (or regaining spells!). 

*The RAW only describe DBs as attacking with tentacles, but it says they resemble six-legged pumas. So, OPTIONALLY, you might give them some claw/bite attacks. As long as the damage and the number of attacks per round are the same, it shouldn't matter, balance-wise, and it would let them use their tentacles as prehensile limbs. Or, you can just run it as written.

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