Saturday, June 9, 2012

Towards a More Complicated Dungeon Encounter Table

So I've been DMing a lot of dungeon-centric play for a while now, which has entailed a lot of farting around with different procedural dungeon generation & stocking algorithms from different sources and trying to mash towards some sort of universal dungeon generation holistically out of diverse sources.

One thing that has become apparent to me is that there is a dire need for "modular" dungeon encounter tables.

This is something I've harped on before, when I've made the demand that all monster books should contain comprehensive encounter tables utilizing the monsters in the book. The idea being that the DM can make a table like:
1-4 - use AD&D DMG encounter table
5 - use Monsters of Myth
6 - use Malevolent & Benign
7 - Use Tome of Horrors Complete
8 - Use Carcosa dice on when generating random encounters, and than use the encounter table within the individual resource/monster book. That way a DMs entire collection of monster resources (or "modules") can be available for random encounter/lair generation.

Now both OD&D and B/XD&D (as well as Labyrinth Lord & OSRIC) use modular wilderness encounter tables, you have a table like:
1- Men
2- Animals
3 - Bugs
4 - Undead
5 - Monsters
6 - Fliers

...and then tables of Men, Animal, etc. encounters with different tables used for differing terrains. What I've come to like about this schema is that it allows the DM to easily make custom encounter tables for wilderness regions in their campaign, i.e.:
1 - Men
2 - Animals
3 - Bugs
4-8 - Undead
9 - Monsters
10 - Fliers

Now I think it would be dandy if someone made up dungeon encounter tables using this method, so I was pretty happy when I came across this on Rules Roles and Rolls.

I think it's one of the best dungeon encounter tables I've seen, it has dinosaurs and froghemoths! And I particularly like this:

The encounter table is organized into rows, each with a different type of creature. Determine if the adventure area has any encounter types that should not appear, out of these:
Surface: Creatures from the outdoors
Troops: Groups of fighting creatures
Leaders: Powerful, intelligent individuals
Predators / Loners: Solitary, powerful beings
Vermin: Masses of unintelligent creatures
Unnatural (later divides into Weird, Unliving, and Planar): Supernatural and strange creatures
Decide what each excluded type will convert to.
Example: You are stocking an organized fortress area. You decide thatVermin and the Unnatural types do not belong there. You also decide thatthe Vermin types should be replaced by Troops, and Unnatural with Leaders,as those would be more commonly found in the fortress.
Now this does bring to mind 4E's monster roles, albeit done in a way that actually elegantly works with the oldschool D&D paradigm. And it also reminds me of the Tekumel procedural megadungeon generation systems from The Underwords article in The Best of the Journal: The Pettigrew Selections, which has a method for determining areas on dungeon levels and than generating their inhabitants via tables for different areas that determines not the specific monster but instead its "dungeon ecology role":
...For convenience, the possible underworld creatures are separated into the 12 categories listed below...
Bandits - Humans or intelligent nonhumans who have turned to Tomb robbery and banditry for a living...
Adventurers - Humans or intelligent nonhumans who have descended into the underworld in search of treasure and artifacts...
Undead - Corpses reanimated to serve various purpose...
Guardians - Creatures designed to protect treasure by the ancients, the priests ... and others...
Carrion Eaters - Creatures which subsist on carrion...
Demon - A large interdimensional demonic being.
Guards - Humans or intelligent nonhumans ... who are set to guard a specific place...
Water Creatures - These include most of the creatures normally encountered at sea...
Ancients - Creatures or devices created by the ancients...
Ssu - ...
Independents - Intelligent or semi-intelligent underworld creatures which function on their own...
Other - Monsters ... not included in the categories above. They should be used in special situations at the referee's discretion...
Obviously the solution is for me to go over my OSR Dungeon Encounter Tables and rework them to work with the above schema.


  1. A database might be cool for this (make a computer do something they're actually better at than books). Because monsters will always have more than one category.

    Sometimes you might be interested in a creatures "role"-- soldier, leader, loner. Other times their "kind"- reptilian, undead, insectoid. And still other times their abilities- flyer, swimmer, burrower, fire breather, psionics.

    Of course you'd have the normal power level or challenge rating. But it might be cool to be able to sift the monsters to find the most lucrative treasure types, the fastest movement rates, or largest # appearing too.

  2. The Tekumel 'dungeon ecology role' kind of reminds me of the way animals were classified in Classic Traveller.