Monday, February 21, 2011

Every Monster Book Should Include Encounter Tables

By terrain type and dungeon level, utilizing all of and only the monsters contained in the book, and not those 2-20 tables - which are great for specialized tables, but the failure of the AD&D Monster Manual II is that it doesn't have the comprehensive d% encounter tables in the back like the Fiend Folio.

With the caveat that monsters books containing only a few monsters would be exempt.

With such a protocol in place a DM could easily make up encounter tables like:

d% --- Monster Book Encounter Table
01-24  Human - use Swords & Wizardry City Encounters or other resource
25-49  AD&D Fiend Folio
50       Random Esoteric Creature Generator
51-60  Arduin Trilogy
61-70  OSRIC Monsters of Myth
71-80  OSRIC Malevolent and Benign
81-90  Swords & Wizardry Monster Book
91-00  Tome of Horrors Complete

With the number of monsters listed in each book, an obsessive DM could easily assign d% probabilities according to monster book content quantities.

I think it's great that so many OSR monster books contain indexes with monster listings by dungeon level, terrain type, and so forth, I just wish that they'd take that extra step and tack some sort of arbitrary random table function onto these listings, just for "instant functionality."


  1. You just used the forbidden word ... caveat.


    Random tables are awesome for dungeon design creativity. Trying to figure out why you have those otherwise improbable monsters living side-by-side is a wonderful challenge for the DM!

  2. I was always puzzled with second edition AD&D Monstrous Manual, because despite the fact that it included really awesome monsters from Spelljammer and other weird settings, it didn't have wilderness random tables! I said puzzled because I started with AD&D 2e back in the 90's, and as a noob DM that was freaking me out...

  3. One thing I love about the Fiend Folio's is that it includes monsters from other sources so that you really only need the one book for your encounter table needs.

  4. I didn't do that in Malevolent & Benign because most of the monsters in the book are rare or very rare - they're designed more to be additions into an existing campaign than a stand-alone world-populating product.

  5. @ A Paladin: Exactly, it makes for great reverse-engineering divination and awesome villain teams lurking within dungeons.

    @ Il Male: Those bastards!

    @ Evan: If only the Monster Manual II continued with that idea...

    @ Jbrowning: I'm all for world-populating via stand-alone monster book! Regardless, I can't fault you for not subscribing to my imaginary master encounter table protocol when I can just cut and past the terrain data into a spreadsheet :)

  6. I really like the d8+d12 2-20 tables, but you're right that they work best for specific locations. General random tables need more.

  7. The Labyrinth Lord encounter tables set my group against 6 giant killer bees, and a panther on their way to the Caves of Chaos. Seems simple, but I never would have chosen on my own "6 giant bees come flying towards you out of the trees". Good times.

    I am a fan of any tools that help you people them with monsters of various horrid aspect.

  8. @ Aplus: That's exactly why comprehensive encounter tables are awesome; I like to combines disparate encounters as well, such as turning your example into an animate panther-shaped bee-hive that psychically controls the swarm of vicious killer bees within!