I'm running a 4E sandbox game soon and I'm trying to build some random encounter tables. This is my first sandbox style game, I usually run plot driven games, so I'm a little new to random encounters.
Specifically, this is going to be a wilderness exploration campaign. I'll have a variety of regions of varying difficulty (level) and I want random encounter tables for each area.
I've got down the basic jist of how to build the encounter table, what I'm struggling with is the "probability" of an encounter actually happening. Do I base it on time? Distance traveled? Other factors?
How do I determine that an encounter even takes place? When do I roll for the encounter table? Etc...
Any help/advice would be great.
And, any general advice on random encounters is also appreciated.
Shane Leahy wrote:
I think that's a great idea.
P.H. Dungeon wrote:
I just noticed in the PHB II that with the vicious mockery at will power you can literally tease your enemy to death... Sorry, but that just seems kind of stupid. No more "sticks and stone can break my bones, but words will never hurt me".
I envision it as a secret arcane cant that tears at your soul.
Aubrey the Malformed wrote:
I'm having terrific problems actually trying to subscribe - I tried tonight and the site didn't seem to register my purchase, and wouldn't let me pay. Is anyone else having problems like this?
Check out the WotC D&D Insider forums - I believe they have some topics stickied for people in your situation.
Can you give us the skinny on character creation so we can go ahead and get a character ready?
Pt Buy? Array? Starting Level? Starting Gold? Sources (PHB, MM, FRCG, FRPG, Martial Power, Draconimicon, Dungeon/Dragon Magazine?) to draw from?
I'm just really interested in the 2nd Edition stuff. Please email me at :firstname.lastname@example.org:
I would love this stuff. But are you sure you don't want to sell them on Ebay or something?
Count me in. I'll have stats up shortly.
This, for me, illustrates why Paizo didn't make a mistake in not going with 4E. Monsters are not just interesting combat options or XP bumps in Paizo adventures--the Golarion Goblin I think is a prime example. I know the combat-focused stat blocks of 4E do not prohibit RP, as the DM can simply make up whatever he likes or use material from other sources, but at the same time for many it seems they do not inspire RP. Paizo is focused on delivering a specific type of gaming product, one that focuses on a wide-angle view of the material, and they have found 3E/Pathfinder allows them the greatest opportunity to produce that material.
But you are comparing a campaign specific "goblin" to a default "goblin". I think this is exactly why WotC didn't try to bog down the Monster Manual with pages and pages of fluff. Instead, leave the fluff to specific campaigns or DMs.
You speak about the "Golarion Goblin", but 4th Edition has the "Forgotten Realms Goblin" and the "Eberron Goblin" and both of those are just as viable and interesting and make a much better comparison.
So you are right - Paizo is delivering a specific type of material, one that focuses on THEIR campaign world.
WotC is delivering material designed to be used in ANY campaign world, including their own published ones.
Scott Betts wrote:
When I wrote that, I was thinking specifically of a Paizo statblock in Pathfinder 15 (except the basketweaving thing, I just threw that in there) versus a WOTC statblock in Keep on the Shadowfell. I'm not trying to pull anyone's chain, and I apologize if I have; I remain a dedicated tri-editionist. The stats in a 3.5 statblock is more likely to make me think creative thoughts about flavor for that individual creature. The stats in a 4E statblock is more likely to make me think creative thoughts about how to use that individual creature in combat. I think these are both strengths. I wish there was some way to have those strengths together in both editions' adventure statblock, but there you go.
I'm not so sure that both are strengths. The reality of Dungeons & Dragons gameplay (and one that the 4th Edition design team took heed of) is that the vast majority of monsters see very little to no play outside of combat. Sure, it's nice for that goblin to have a +6 to Profession (make voodoo doll) but if that goblin is practically guaranteed to get cut down in the middle of combat there's very little point to providing that information to the DM when the priority could instead be placed on making that goblin interesting in the combat he's actually featured in.
Yes, for a handful of creatures or NPCs having relevant non-combat information available can occasionally be handy. Most of the time, however, it's simply a waste of text that could be otherwise spent.
I agree Scott, and let's not forget about the great monsters who will eventually be played by PCs who might want some society information. There have been several "Dragon" articles detailing this information, such as Playing Gnolls, by Keith Baker.
Yes. Yes I do. For every "basketweaver" in my party who should have had skill points in "Hide" or "Move Silently"! Damn you!
When I wrote that, I was thinking specifically of a Paizo statblock in Pathfinder 15 (except the basketweaving thing, I just threw that in there) versus a WOTC statblock in Keep on the Shadowfell. I'm not trying to pull anyone's chain, and I apologize if I have; I remain a dedicated tri-editionist. The stats in a 3.5 statblock is more likely to make me think creative thoughts about flavor for that individual creature. The stats in a 4E statblock is more likely to make me think creative thoughts about how to use that individual creature in combat. I think these are both strengths. I wish there was some way to have those strengths together in both editions' adventure statblock, but there you go. Paizo's "tactics" addition to the 3.5 statblock is a good attempt, within the limitation of the system
Right on man, I never meant to cause a disturbance. I probably seemed a little reactionary after KaeYoss's blatant lies about 4th Edition, but I honestly don't have anything against 3.x, Pathfinder, or 4th Edition. I just like to keep the facts straight.
Actually, I think I do get it. He mentioned specifically a SKILL giving him inspiration for creativity (i.e. Basketweaving). That's in the "stat block", which was also said. Stat means Statistics. Not fluff.
But, if they are using "stat-block" to define the entire monster entry, I do apologize, my comments were specifically for the monster STAT block.
I wasn't trying to say 3.x or Pathfinder were "better" at all. I was simply correcting misinformation and asking for examples as evidence.
Never once did I mention one system was "better" than the other. Obviously that's going to be subjective to each person. But to say that one system is "only good for combat" as a FACT. Ha! That's b#+#$!&*.
If I want a system that's only good for combat and has no rules for anything except combat, I won't blow 90 bucks on three core books. The D&D Minis Skirmish game rules are available for free on the net, and they offer the same roleplaying potential.
I wonder if the "4E haters" are just misinformed, have their blinders on, or just simply want to lie about the system.
Actually, 4E has rules for resolving actions outside of combat. They are called SKILLS. And, in addition to the basic mechanics for resolving skill checks, a more complex approach to roleplay mechanics is presented called "Skill Challenges" that can be part of a combat or a stand-alone encounter system.
In addition, 4E has another robust system for magical effects outside of combat called "Rituals". These are magical effects that can produce a variety of problem solving measures, and can most definitely be used creatively and outside the box.
So tell me, how is 4E "only good for combat" any more than 3.x or Pathfinder? Please give me concise examples as evidence of such a statement.
When I read a 4E stat block, my thoughts tend to run along the lines of what the guy will do in combat - 1st this then this, and I appreciate how easy it will be to probably play at the time.
That's funny, because whenever I read a 3.x stat block (which is rarely these days...) I find myself thinking "wow... I wish this guy had some cool ability like in 4th Edition" or "what the hell?? why does this ogre have basketweaving?? ah... right... this is 3.x and they had to fill out all the little meaningless check boxes of level-based monster creation..."
Seriously, if you want a creature to be a basketweaver in 4th Edition, you don't need to scan your MM for a creature that has the basketweaving skill - you just SAY that particular monster has basketweaving.
If anything 4E promotes using your imagination more than 3.x because as a DM you can make anything up you want for a 4E monster's "fluff". In 3.x you had to follow rigid guidelines... "Well, I want this kobold to be amazing at basketweaving, but I only have 4 skill points to spend, and I'd have to make his feat skill focus..." etc...
Anyways, to each his own I guess. I just want to point out that it's not a problem with the system, but a problem with the way you look at the system.
It's a balance, but bear in mind I adjust the HP's during the encounter if the encounter is taking too long which has probably stretched the PC's more than it should anyhow.
The main things I am looking to accomplish in a typical encounter are:
1) Force the PCs to expend resources; whether they be healing surges, consumable items, encounter and daily powers, etc... If a PC makes it through your typical encounter without expending a decent amount of resources, then something is wrong. Now, depending on the level of challenge, the actual amount of resources can vary dramatically. They should be expending resources ever encounter though.
2) The fight shouldn't consume the entire game session, and should leave plenty of time for non-combat gaming. I think there's a "sweet spot" to encounter length. Generally, if I can keep most of my combats around 6 to 10 rounds (with 10 rounds being a BIG battle), I am happy. Under 6 rounds and I feel the players don't feel challenged, and over 10 I think the players start to get anxious for the encounter to be over.
3) Intensity. I want my players to feel like they are fighting for their life every time they get into a combat scenario. FEEL is the keyword. They don't necessarily have to be on the verge of death, but having a feeling of suspense makes combat more intense. That's improved greatly with minions, as I can swarm the PCs with tons of minions and they can feel an incredible threat - yet, generally they just mow them down, which leads into number four.
4) Make the PCs feel powerful and as if they are advancing the plot. Random encounters can be good to get your PCs adrenaline flowing, but I like to have most of my combat encounter deliver an advancement in plot - whether it be a clue, or an item they need, etc... I like to use weak foes and powerful foes. Minions make great weak foes the party can get their pride up as they take them down easily. Powerful, challenging foes that cause the PCs to get down to their last surge or daily or whatever, make the PCs feel like they have accomplished something by beating such a dangerous enemy.
Now, the problem with 4th Edition is that it seems like a lot of the battles can linger on after the 4 things above have been accomplished. That's why I use the "half-HP" rule and "double-die" rule outlined above. I think it shortens the combat slightly, but makes that shorter combat filled with much more suspense.
You're kidding right? 4th Edition monster powers are WAY more thematic and interesting than 3.x's monster abilities...
One problem I've had with 4e is the following: it seems like in every battle there's one or two monsters who get left to the end, and they just won't die. It turns into a bit of a tedious slog: the party defender already has the critter locked down, the strikers keep attacking, the leader makes sure that the defender says healed, and they just have to wear the creature's HP to zero. This isn't a big problem, but it is an annoyance, and it seems to happen very often (last session, it happened in three of the four battles we ran.) I'm starting to think that the "last creature" should just surrender or run away, or if it's a creature that wouldn't do that, I could just have a "cut scene" where the party beats the thing to death. I'm wondering, is this just an aspect of 4e, or is it bad encounter design on my part? Has anyone else experienced this? If so, what did you do to solve it?
I've noticed this problem too. So, I've kind of had to wing it occasionally in order for the slogfest to end.
Basically, I've noticed that this usually happens when the PCs aren't using their dailies in the battle versus the last couple big guys. So, what I like to do is cut the HP for non-minion monsters in half (just look at their "Bloodied" number to find that out) unless it's a BBEG fight, or some other battle I WANT to last a while.
Unfortunately, if you cut the monster HP in half, it does tend to give your PCs a huge advantage as the fight is shorter and they are going to get hit less than if you'd had the monster at full HP and combat take longer. To combat this problem, I up the monster damage as well - usually by an additional die (so if they normally deal 1d8 + 3, I make it 2d8 + 3). This keeps the battles shorter - but more intense.
Hope this helps.
Xaaon of Xen'Drik wrote:
We'll see what happens to 4e...I know even the people in my group who were open minded about 4e have dropped it now...
For every story like this, there's 10 that speak of everyone they know abandoning old editions and playing only 4th Edition. The only thing this anecdote has evidence of is the fact that you play with like-minded gamers.
Xaaon of Xen'Drik wrote:
...one sold his books to another, and that one has finally dropped the idea of running a 4e game.
Sounds like at least ONE of your gaming group is interested in 4th Edition... Considering he paid for the "other's" books...
Xaaon of Xen'Drik wrote:
D&Di is a supplment to 4th Edition. It's not necessary to play 4E D&D. Also, WotC has had many art directors and them laying off one doesn't spell doom for D&D at all...
Xaaon of Xen'Drik wrote:
I think you can already tell how it's doing, just look at the layoffs they handed out...
These layoffs were people who worked under the D&D Insider initiative, which has been lackluster thus far. You won't find any of the 4E developers on that list (Rob Heinsoo, Andy Collins, James Wyatt, Mike Mearls, Stephen Schubert, etc...) with the possible exception of Dave Noonan.
And considering the failure of the D&D Insider initiative up to this point compared to their goals, it would make sense to do some "reorganizing" in that department.
Haven't posted in a LONG while. And, earlier in this thread I said that I wanted to subscribe, but found the content lacking - especially in the "online tool" department.
Well, all that has changed. I got my hands on a copy of the Character Builder Beta (I won't say how) and took it for a test run. What can I say? This tool is AMAZING, and WELL worth the $5 admission when you throw in the Compendium, Magazines, and Bonus Tools.
I subscribed a couple nights ago and locked in the $5 a month price point for a year as this subscription rate won't change for me for a year even if they release more tools and increase the price.
I'm waiting eagerly for the full version of the Character Builder to come out, and if they can do the Visualizer, Dungeon Designer, and Game Table as well as this tool, I think WotC has a goldmine on their hands.
I believe exile goes there now and again, we both live in Kentucky but i have never been up there.
I live here.
Check out: www.louisvillerpg.com
It's a wonderful site for Louisville roleplayers.
There's a couple stores around town that are good for gamers. Most notably, The Book and Music Exchange on Preston Highway and one on Bardstown Road. There's also the Louisville Game Store, which does a lot of wargaming I think, and it's also on Bardstown Road.
Honestly, I want to subscribe, as I have enjoyed most of the online offerings so far, but I just can't find it in my heart to pay $8 a month for the online stuff that was basically free for the most part prior to D&Di.
I think I'll wait until they release a full and running version of the character builder.
Exactly. People don't get this for some reason.
Maybe you should just hand over the DM responsibilities to someone else and go back to being a player.
Once again Scott, you do an amazing job of helping people understand this edition more clearly. A lot of the powers are up to the DM to interpret. Sneak attacking constructs, undead, and oozes are a good example. I personally like having this type of freedom to describe how the attacks and powers work.
I agree. Scott Betts is an asset to this forum.
Hey thanks for the lesson HoustonDerek. I feel better informed now and appreciate your time to talk it out to me. Thanks.
Jal Dorak wrote:
... So the argument from Chris that 3rd Edition did not recognize this is false - it did, it just didn't have hard and fast rules for it...
I don't think anyone is trying to argue that you couldn't have interesting encounters that utilize terrain, monsters and obstacles in 3rd Edition. As Betts has pointed out, the author said you could do that in 3rd Edition.
The difference being argued is that in 3rd Edition that wasn't the standard - NOW it is.
KOTS should have had some sort of thing to pressure the PCs into acting quicker. Perhaps when they found out about the whole story, maybe a large storm cloud over the ruins that kept growing larger, creating the sense of what's his name's progress... or something.
Noir le Lotus wrote:
Moreover, I see more and more players asking for a way to cast rituals faster, making them usable enven in combat situations.
As long as this doesn't happen, it'll be impossible for Rituals to shine in combat.
As for the rogue picking locks instead of the knock ritual, every time in 3.5 Edition when we had a mage, knock totally stole the role of the rogue. Nowadays, in 4th Edition, you have to stop and take a 10 minute break to get into that locked door. Not necessarily something you want to do in a dangerous place filled with denizens, or if you are being chased.