Random Encounters Remastered is intended to provide GMs a detailed, comprehensive source for randomly generating unique encounters with a variety of interesting terrain features, NPCs and site-specific monsters. More than simply a bunch of tables, Random Encounters Remastered also presents rules, guidelines and advice for quickly creating interesting roleplaying and combat situations.
Each volume of Random Encounters Remastered describes a number of adventure areas. These encompass common sites such as grand marketplaces, eerie woods, and windswept plains to more unusual locales such as planar strongholds, underworld battlefields and endless caverns. The areas can be further customized by adding new terrain features and hazards described in each book. The random monster generator for each setting is setup to automatically provide a CR-appropriate challenge for a party no matter their level so a GM doesn’t have to worry about encounters that are too easy or too hard. Wherever a party finds itself, the tables and rules in this book can help a GM construct a quick, memorable encounter.
Adventure areas included: Eerie Woods, Jungle River, Planar Stronghold, Restless Volcano, Treacherous Mire, and Underworld Battlefield.
This product is 35 pages long. It starts with a cover and credits. (2 pages)
Introduction (10 pages)
It starts off talking about how to use the product and what makes a random encounter interesting and more than just combat. It is a well written start that helps one set up memorable random encounters that will be just as fun and interesting and the main adventures. With plenty of terrain write ups and other examples of things that can be added to random encounters.
Expanded Tables (19 pages)
Here is the random encounter tables they are set up for any level. How they manage this is you add to the number rolled based on the party level. The tables are below, each one also has a disposition and terrain features which was discussed in the previous chapter.
It ends with a OGL and contact info. (4 page)
Closing thoughts. The art work is black and white and pretty good. Editing and layout was very good, I didn't notice any errors. The tables and advice was really well done. Some of the choices seemed a bit odd to me as a first product. Name things like Restless Volcano and stuff, I mean really how often will it come up in a game? But they mention at the end of the product there is a bunch more tables in the works so this is the first of likely a long series of products. So my only critic of the product is I found some of the choice to be covered for a first product odd. But all the tables where outstanding along with adding in terrain and the disposition tables just added a lot of value. So despite my misgiving on the locations covered I am going to give this one a 5 star rating. What is covered is covered well. I think these are the outstanding random encounter tables.
This pdf is 35 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages of SRD, leaving 29 pages of content, so let's check them out, shall we?
If you've been following my reviews, you might know that I have a strange relationship with random encounters - I consider them essential to a campaign setting and its organic feel (and am an adherent of anything goes - if the lvl 2 adventurers think they can take the wyrm, watch them burn...). On the other hand, none of my random encounters are truly random - I have a set of tables, pre-drawn maps environmental hazards etc. to make the encounters feel less amorphous and more like they belong into the world. I was rather glad that Raging Swan's excellent random encounter-pdfs and especially Caves & caverns added greatly to that toolkit and now David Nicholas Ross offers us this toolkit:
After a rather enlightening and aptly-written discussion on what makes for an interesting random encounter and how to fix ones that are not, we delve into the vast array of additional information to add spice to your encounters via dispositions, i.e. elements like readiness, disguises etc.
The very first table deals with watery maydays and there are terrain features. Oh the terrain features. I love them. Good terrain features make not only combat much more exciting and memorable, it also rewards smart players and offers additional strategies. At the end of said features, we get a new hazard, the widowmaker (CR 5). After these tidbits, we are introduced to tables. Huge, expanded tables organized by environment that use the dispositions introduced earlier. The first table go up to 460, some go even beyond 500! They come with sources and are organized with CR-information, making them very useful indeed. We get these extended tables for eerie woods, jungle rivers, planar strongholds (including effects of wild magic and a wild magic d%-table),a restless volcano (including a CR 15 hazard and rules for lava flows etc.), treacherous mires, and underworld battlefields, which actually come with rules for bloody rivers that are tainted by the legendary Styx.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column standard and contains some neat pieces of b/w-artwork. The pdf is extensively bookmarked and small enough to be carried on an e-reader. I already talked about how I personally handle random encounters and to be honest, I was rather afraid that this pdf and RSP's books would contradict each other, when the opposite is the case: This pdf is a great toolkit that can easily be used to add depth and variety on the fly to any encounters, by they already completed ones or ones you create with the rules herein. This pdf is humble and handy to have around and delivers a lot of tables and organizes them in a way that makes this pdf rather useful, not only as a random encounter toolkit, but as a reference by (exotic) terrain. Combine it with e.g. Caves & Caverns for extra fun. Oh, yeah, I forgot the final verdict: While I would have loved to see more environmental hazards and complications, that's nothing to hold against this pdf. My final verdict for this very useful little pdf will be 5 stars.
Cleverly constructed toolbox with interesting components that are fun to use!
For a second review I wanted to show some love for Purple Duck Games and decided to follow in the vein of the encounter workshop style of product--so here we are, with this rather inventive take on creating flavorful 'random' encounters for your gaming group and campaigns. Invariably every GM will find themselves with windows throughout their adventures where the call for random adversaries arises--but this needn't boil down to a toss of the dice, a mishmash of monsters and--as put in this product itself: "announcing what creature suddenly blunders into view" which I loved. So, how does Random Encounters Remastered fare in this regard?
I'll start by stating I feel that any storied campaign ought to turn random encounters into opportunities for memorable experiences and further fleshing out the flavor of your particular game. In what is introduced as the first volume of a forthcoming series, provided here is a rather versatile toolbox for those looking accomplish just that.
The book opens with a brief introduction on the premise of creating more interesting circumstances and environs for otherwise random encounters, encouraging prospective GMs to weave such into the existing story by utilizing them as opportunities to drop plot hooks, reintegrate forgotten characters or story threads or otherwise provide some degree of motivations for the scene at hand.
After addressing and suggesting ways a random encounter might serve the plot at large, what follows are a set of considerations for a GM to question when staging the encounter--such as whether or not it allows all the members of the party to shine in fun ways, if the encounter provides interesting opportunities for roleplaying and what the players might hope for as a result of the encounter. Should an obstacle arise in the staging step, there is a series of suggestions for fixes to potential problems that may arise.
These, among the others considerations, are fine things to keep in mind--and a sidebar included among the material here offers suggestions for the staging of non-combat random encounters. Afterward, the book presents a thorough explanation of how to utilize its remainder mechanically--starting with what I felt was a very clever way of addressing an enormous range of potential CR on charts with near to five hundred entries through the addition of a multiplied average party level to your percentile roll.
Explained in detail as well are encounter elements (such as the disposition of those involved in the encounter and potential terrain features to take into consideration) as well as how to handle the conclusion of an encounter--suggesting that not all combats need necessarily end with the total destruction of one party or another. Sage advice!
Next is the fleshed out dispositions section which includes a variety of inventive wildcards for adding flavor to your generated encounter. Examples range from straightforward twists such as the encounter either pursuing or being pursued by another element to more involved situations--such as a 'watery mayday' scenario wherein one or more NPCs are experiencing trouble on the water (which includes its own random chart if you're so inclined, for potential dilemmas).
Most of the dispositions presented hold pertinence to the environments this volume of product focuses on (eerie wilderness, jungle river, etc.) But many could be extrapolated easily to other environs. There are eight presented here; I suspect future volumes will serve to further expand the options of this section, but those presented here nevertheless are a great start to the concept and can potentially add a lot of flavor!
Terrain Features follows next and are presented with quite a wide variety of options to integrate into an encounter; each entry includes a bit of at-a-glance crunch to help a GM stage a map for the encounter (such as quick dimensions for an alleyway, a cavern or the division of difficult terrain in a section of shrubland.)
There are also modifiers which can be applied to the CR of an encounter included here, some of which may make an encounter either more or less difficult depending on the circumstances (such as lighting conditions which might affect those without appropriate vision), while others serve as battlefield obstacles and hazards (such as noxious fumes).
With nearly fifty terrain features presented in this section (a number of which even include sub-features, tables and other variables), I feel that this could well serve as its own product--and presented with the rest of the included material is an excellent resource. The mechanics are presented in a clear fashion usable easily at-a-glance--a fantastic way to swiftly spice up a scene or add interesting variables to what are all too often 'fight this random critter in a clearing' circumstances. Fantastic stuff which I hope to see more of in future volumes!
At the tail end of the terrain features section you're presented with a new hazard / trap combo in the 'Widowmaker'--a CR 5 collapsing tree which can be spied through survival as well for wilderness-savvy PCs. A nice little bonus--I'd certainly like to see it expanded into its own full section in future volumes as I think combining such a resource with the prior terrain features would make for a great complete package.
Finally, we're presented with the expanded tables--the real 'meat' of the rest of the product. As mentioned earlier, these tables are enormous--clocking in between 360 - 540 percentile results each and ranging from fractional CR to CR 25. Each themed table is precluded by a breakdown of minimum and maximum CR ranges as well as encounter frequency. Accompanying each of the expanded tables are smaller disposition and terrain feature tables appropriate for the associated environs, allowing you to quickly roll through once you've selected the stage.
In this volume there is a rather interesting variety to the themes presented: Eerie Woods, Jungle Rivers, Planar Strongholds, Restless Volcanoes, Treacherous Mires and Underworld Battlefields. For fans of flavor or those seeking ad-hoc inspiration, the collection here is just oozing with opportunities to both--with many of the entries including out of the ordinary and interesting creatures to be included in your encounters.
I was eager to take the material for a spin for my own campaign and to test drive the mechanics, so I went with the Eerie Woods for a more 'straightforward' example to see just what it could come up with. The very first results out the gate developed a Dullahan in a foggy glade--which really to me creates an immediate and compelling visual to set a scene combined with a rather interesting adversary; potential for roleplaying, a tough brawl, the works. Very cool!
Overall: This product is 35 pages, with two for the cover and credits and four for copyrights, OGL and the like; this leaves you with 29 pages which are, frankly, chock full of excellent content! There is minimal wasted space and I did not encounter any glaring editing errors--while mechanically, the formula for conjuring up a CR-appropriate encounter range worked consistently for me in practice. Six pieces of black and white artwork for setting a general mood which were fairly solid--the bulk and meat of the product is in the mechanics.
At the price point, if you're looking for a tool to build more compelling encounters for your campaign I feel that this first volume is an excellent value; the composition is solid and the materials on terrain features alone would have made for a valuable asset in any GM's reference library. Even if you may not foresee a need for some of the more exotic environs presented in the material here there are solid building blocks with which to expand upon a broader variety of encounters.
I give this a solid 4.5 stars, rounded to 5 from finding several fantastic encounters turned story opportunities; more importantly, it was -fun- to use! If you are particularly concerned about not finding a fit for the environs presented or the price, I would instead suggest 4 stars.