A Pathfinder Roleplaying Game GM’S RESOURCE Supplement by Creighton Broadhurst and Julian Neale
Got barely enough time to prepare the module? Want to include cool, evocative random encounters in your games, but just don’t have the time to prepare them? Bored of pointless random encounters comprising bands of generic monsters that only seem to exist to attack wandering PCs? Then Random Woodland Encounters II is for you! Presenting nine ready-to-use random encounters ranging in EL from 2-7 (and 18 stat blocks ranging from CR 1/3-5) all suitable for use in any woodland or forest,
Random Woodland Encounters II takes the pressure off the time-crunched GM, enabling him to concentrate on crafting cool, evocative adventures!
Featured encounters include:
A Fate Worse Than Death (EL 5): Two humans are trapped in a ruined farmhouse by otherworldly attackers. Without aid, they will soon undergo a horrifying transformation.
Broken Road (EL 2): During a rainstorm, a portion of the road the PCs must take collapses. When they draw closer, an unfortunate traveller caught in the collapse and now clinging to the cliff below calls for aid.
Hunters Hunted (EL 7): A powerful owlbear lurks in the wood with its ravenous young.
Master of the Yellow Cavern (EL 6):A quickling ranger of cruel mien lurks beyond a chasm in a small cave. His yellow musk creeper guardian and its zombie welcome any intruders into his home.
Riderless Horse (EL 3): A riderless warhorse canters toward the PCs. Using their wits and not their blades, they can calm the horse to gain a new mount and the contents of its saddlebags.
Sir Valio Ilmonen (EL 2): The PCs encounter a sneering, arrogant knight of the Order of the Cockatrice. He may join the party for a short while or challenge a warrior to single combat.
Spiders (EL 3): A giant spiders and its numberless young lurk in a thicket of trees in dense woodland. A ensnared and envenomed dwarf struggles weakly among their webs.
The Blades and the Staves (EL 5): The PCs encounter the survivors of an adventuring party drowning their sorrows around a campfire.
Random Woodland Encounters II is a Dual Format PDF. The product's ZIP file contains two versions, one optimised for printing and use on a normal computer and one optimised for use on a mobile device such as an iPad.
This is my first review here for the site and to kick things off I wanted to start with a product which I feel to be an excellent resource for any Pathfinder GM. More or less any campaign will come upon points throughout where a call for random encounters is made—while all too often a toss of the dice and the check of a chart leads to just that: a random mishmash stroke of combat where you duke it out, dispatch a monster and occasionally mark down some loot before heading on your way.
That may all be well and good, but if you’re moving through a storied campaign and the aim is a memorable experience, why relegate a part of that experience to percentiles and a spontaneous band of critters?
Here, Raging Swan Press has put together an excellent alternative in the way of well-made miniature set pieces chock full of flavor and the opportunity to better enhance an otherwise boring trek from point A to point B. Included in this product are eight encounters ready to roll out on the fly.
Each of the eight encounters includes an introductory write-up, flavor text for your party, tactics, area features and other pertinent information. Advice for scaling each encounter to a lower or higher CR is also included, as well as possible developments staged as an aftermath for each. Where this really shines is the presentation of this information: at a glance you’ve got crisp clear stat blocks, environmental modifiers and on-the-fly adjustments for scaling which all lend to being able to utilize these scenes on the spot with ease.
Not all of the encounters are necessarily combat, which in and of itself is a great boon; even among those oriented around such generally offer diplomatic alternatives for parties who are quick on their feet or silver-tongued. There are a bevy of excellent situations to thrust your players into throughout this book--among which I'd like to give a nod towards 'A Fate Worse Than Death', an encounter I've now run in our own group's campaign.
In 'A Fate Worse Than Death', a brother and sister who are the children of wealthy merchants have been assailed by vargouilles, nasty flying heads which deliver a terrible curse via kiss which invites the heads of their victims to join the 'flock'; the bodyguard to the children has succumbed to just such a disease while the poor pair are in the process of the terrible transformation themselves. The party comes upon the two of them terrified in a ramshackle farmhouse while a fiendish melancholic ooze swarm lingers at the front door.
From here, vargouilles emerge from hiding to attack the party and work in wicked conjunction with the ooze--which paralyzed by touch--creating a rather good synergy between the enemies for the encounter. Both also prove more interesting fare than most of what you might usually encounter in the wilderness--and with the staging of the scene as a whole, it makes for both a potentially pitched battle and a disturbing race against the clock while players attempt to save the children from a rather gruesome fate.
Included are helpful instructions for how to scale this encounter to make it easier or more difficult, as well as environmental considerations for the farmhouse and surrounding environs, suggestions for the tactics, and also a nicely written backstory for how the whole affair came to pass (invariably in this bizarre situation, a Wizard did it of course!) I found that this made for a very interesting encounter for my players which was well enjoyed and fit well into the campaign at large, allowing the introduction of the (rather grateful) merchant parents of the children as new contacts, good favor among the small community and so forth.
The other reviews present have already addressed the overall encounters in the book, so I'll leave it with that. I'd like instead to make note that I contacted Raging Swan Press with questions and comments regarding the materials presented in the book prior to running them in my campaign and that the communication there was prompt, helpful and very pleasant; the fact that added inspiration was gleaned from such served to make for a very positive experience with this product above and beyond the material itself.
In closing, whether you’re looking ahead of time to add interest to a party’s travels or are put on the spot for a sudden scene—this product has a solid variety of options at your disposal. I'd rate it five stars, and look forward to incorporating more of the encounters present into my future sessions. As well, Raging Swan Press gets high marks from me for great customer service!
This product is 32 pages long. It starts with a cover, credits, toc, and Intro. (5 pages)
Encounters (14 pages)
There is 8 encounters in this section. Each section has the stat blocks for the creatures and NPC's in them.
A Fate Worse than Death – CR5, a interesting little side trek, where the PC's can save some NPC's from monsters and more.
Broken Road – CR2, No combat in this one but a rescue against the environment.
Hunters Hunted – CR7, a pretty basic encounter.
Master of the Yellow Cavern – CR6, a simple encounter with a lot of ways to use it effectively.
Riderless Horse – CR3, more of a RP encounter.
Sir Valio Ilmonen – CR2, another RP encounter.
Spiders - CR3, A little side encounter with a surprise all wrapped up with in.
The Blades and Staves – CR5, A group of adventures, this could be a combat or RP encounter depending what the PC's do.
Stat Blocks (10 pages)
Here is the stat blocks again with just plain text. Each encounter has it's own page. I assume it is for ease of printing out the stat blocks if you wanted to. But since one would likely print the whole encounter I am not completely sure why they are listed again. In the notes it says this was done by request and to help create a NPC library. I suppose I could see it, nothing wrong with it. Just not something that appeals to me.
It ends with a OGL, ad, and back cover. (3 page)
Closing thoughts. The art work is black and white and ranges from meh to good in the case of the owlbear. Editing and layout was good, I didn't notice any errors. There is a screen and print friendly version, as well as a ereader version. The encounters where mostly interesting and well done, they tended to be inventive. But I also wasn't blown away either, they are good even very good but not great. What I would have liked for a example is on the Broken Road. There is a man trapped a ways off the road down the side of the cliff. It has been raining and still is, having washed out part of the road to cause the fall. I would have liked something like a small random table of possible mishaps with DC checks/saves that the PC's might face while climbing down to get him and bringing him back up. It was a neat idea but I felt it could have been better with something like that added. So what's my rating? I am giving it a 4 star rating. I think it is good but could have been better.
This pdf is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (including the foreword), 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 25 pages of content, so let's check out these ready-to-drop in encounters for the woods!
The basic concept is simple - provide a random encounter with environments, stats etc. that goes beyond PC fighting some creature in a undefined location. Instead, we get information of e.g. fallen trees to provide cover etc as well as information on how scale the respective encounters up and/or down..
The first encounter (EL 5) already provides a rather smart encounter - 2 poor nfortunates are caught on the upper floor of a derelict building, beseiged by vargouilles (and slowly transforming themselves) as well as a fiendish melancholic ooze swarm (which has paralyzing/entangling quality). The encounter sets the mood for this second installment of Random Woodland Encounters - the encounter not only has neat monsters, but also provides a neat moral conundrum (if they can't be saved)/rp-follow-up (if they can be saved) when talking to the survivors of the vargouille-attack.
The second encounter (EL 2) has the PCs travel a broken road to find Raine Eronen, a wizard whose horse fell from a cliff, fracturing his leg. Rescuing the wizard might provide a nice ally for the PCs - provided they manage to carry him up and succeed at the risky endeavor of climbing down to him and carrying him to the next village.
The next encounter has the PCs square off against some wlbears currently feasting on the corpses of some unfortunate adventurers. Simple, easy to drop in and features a GORGEOUS artwork of the owlbear.
The fourth encounter is probably the most uncommon one in more than one way - it comes with a nice, key-less map of the cavern in which it is set. The entry of said cavern is guarded by a yellow musk creeper as well as 3 of its victims turned musk zombies. These sentries function as the guards of the master of the cavern, a quickling ranger called Zerath. Very cool little encounter.
Next up is a small encounter (EL 3) that has the PCs meet a riderless horse, providing for a neat piece of foreshadowing for other encounters. The horse, when tamed, might also provide a replacement mount for some PCs.
Thus armed with a warhorse, the encounter (EL 2) with cavalier Vario Ilmonen of the order of the cockatrice might result in friendly jousting, all-out hostility or even a permanent alliance.
Perhaps the PCs and cavalier join forces to save the Dwarven scout, Yurval Wersten (EL 3) from his predicament - webbed up to a tree by a spider swarm and a giant spider, the weakened dwarf might make for another potential ally or provide reconnaissance/maps to the PCs.
The final encounter of the pdf (El 5) has the PCs meet the 3 survivors of an unfortunate group of adventurers that has recently lost some of their members. Whether they'll be allies or rivlas, the survivors make for a nice roleplaying-heavy encounter.
After this, we get an innovation of Raging Swan, the statblock-library. Essentially, from now on we'll get the statblocks (with headers like "fey" etc.) at the end of the book and may thus, over time, develop a library of NPC statblocks to use when spontaneously in need of one during play.
Editing and layout are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the artworks are neat. The pdf comes with bookmarks as well as a special version optimized for use with e-readers. Content-wise, I preferred this installment of Random Woodland Encounters over its predecessors in that none of the encounters are downright one-dimensional slogfests and feature often social encounters or at least the option to have some non roll-playing elements. However, there are some minor gripes I have with this pdf: While I love the NPC-library-idea, you should be aware of it - I printed out all the stats as well. I think that presenting them in a separate pdf might be a better option, especially as it would enable one to collect the library-pdfs in a separate folder Content-wise, I did prefer the encounters herein to the predecessor, but there is still room for improvement in that none of the encounters has this je-ne-sais-quoi, this iconic characteristic that lets your jaw hit the floor. While I realize that special encounters are harder to fit into a woodland, I would have loved for more ideas like the melancholic ooze swarm - it's minor modifications of creatures that make random encounters feel more unique. The series is on a good way and thus my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, unfortunately rounded down to 4 stars, as this simply doesn't feel like a full 5-stars to me.