Creating random encounter tables


Homebrew

Liberty's Edge

How do you all go about populating your random encounter tables? Do you tend to flip through the Bestiary and find those monsters you think are cool? Do you look for those that fit a specific theme? If you have multiple areas of similar terrain, do you make different tables for each area, or do you make one list to cover them all?

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I typically use an existing one and modify it. Or, I roll on multiple tables and choose the most interesting result.

I find random encounter tables not very useful at the moment because the PCs are high level. Almost every result will end up with a fight so pathetically easy and unrewarding that the players will find it a waste of time.


I use provided tables, roll them beforehand and write them on my gm calendar. But I'm playing Jade Regent.

But I do remember one wery random random encounter table, it even had David Hasselhoff, but it really hadn't many other options and you had to made stats and everything yourself.


I don't remember having written a random encounter table since 2nd edition. I used a combination of finding level appropriate creatures (or whatever passed for that when I was 13) and flipping pages until I found something cool. I suppose I would use the same approach now, except that the CR system (even with all of its flaws) makes that a bit easier now.

Since those days I have only used a random encounter table when it was part of a pre-written adventure, but that is still rare. I prefer planned out encounters - even if I didn't write them.


I would create a random encounter table with a variety of CR's (probably plus or minus 3 the party's level) with monsters that would be expected to be present in the area.

I would also consider creating a weighted table. If I know my dungeon has a bunch of goblins, spiders, and a dragon running around, I might use a table where I roll 3d6. A goblin encounter in the 10 slot (roughly a 12% chance off the top of my head, I think?) should be much more likely than running into the single dragon (putting it in the 3 or 18 slot means you would get one of those results less than 1% of the time).

If you have a dungeon or area that can be broken up into sections, it makes sense to have custom tables if you really want to have random encounters. If the Halls of the Dead Drunk Dwarves has the Dwarven Ruins, the Sunken Hole, and the Mines of Leads to the Underdark, a different table for each area makes each area come alive.

Hope that answer isn't too detailed. In the end, pre-designed encounters usually offer a lot more control and can be built to be more interesting. But that's subjective, I guess.


My random encounter table is more like a "random event" table with only about half the possible outcomes involving a fight with a monster.

Typically, a skill check of some sort can eliminate or mitigate the effects, but results range from "getting lost" to "spoiled rations" or "interrupted rest" to "exhaustion".

The monster encounter part is typically divided in animals and other monsters with animal intelligence, intelligent monsters, humanoids (including giants), undead etc.

The exact nature of the adversary if left intentionally ambiguous; I choose the monsters based on the region and strength of the players. I"m not against going above the players' CR (sometimes flight and survival is "winning" the encounter), but I eliminate challenges that the party can easily defeat without investing lots of resources.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The first thing I do when making random encounter tables is decide what CR range I want it to cover, then look for monsters/creatures that fit both the CR and terrain. Theme depends on terrain, general setting, and campaign theme. If I really want a monster that fits the terrain but not the theme or CR I add a template to it. For example: I added the Beast of Chaos template to all animals on my table and the Fiendish template to all monstrous humanoids because the area is demon-infested. If all else fails, you can always make your own creatures to populate your table, but this takes some legwork on your part. And speaking of work, the area you want the table to apply to depends on how much work you want to do. I would personally stick to one table per terrain unless there's something distinct about a certain area or the areas are far apart. There are only so many monsters per terrain that you can use within your CR range if just going by the bestiaries, even with templates.

This page has links to monster lists by CR and terrain. Unfortunately there isn't an overlapping list, so you'll have to pick one criteria then go through finding monsters that fit the other. If that sounds like too much work, this page has pre-made tables by terrain AND CR, but the selections aren't as varied as making your own. Good luck and have fun!

Liberty's Edge

Thanks for the responses. I probably should have clarified that my intent for these tables is for a sandbox hexcrawl, so the randomness is part of it. Each entry would have a % chance to detects its tracks as well as a % chance to find its lair, if applicable. So an encounter won't always result in combat.

It's too bad Paizo doesn't include the frequency with creature entries to help weight the tables.


Instead of a percentage chance to find the lair, I suggest something a little more modern by instead listing a skill and a DC to find the lair. Perhaps different or multiple skills can apply. I don't think allowing perception to find everything is the best solution, unless they want to spend a long time looking everywhere. You know in the first hobbit film where they know the troll lair must be close? They knew the trolls would not venture far from it. A Knowledge monster check maybe? For another monster, they might know it likes to make its lair near a water source or at a higher elevation. Knowledge geography or history might reveal other info, but all dependent upon the specific creature.

Liberty's Edge

Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Instead of a percentage chance to find the lair, I suggest something a little more modern by instead listing a skill and a DC to find the lair. Perhaps different or multiple skills can apply. I don't think allowing perception to find everything is the best solution, unless they want to spend a long time looking everywhere. You know in the first hobbit film where they know the troll lair must be close? They knew the trolls would not venture far from it. A Knowledge monster check maybe? For another monster, they might know it likes to make its lair near a water source or at a higher elevation. Knowledge geography or history might reveal other info, but all dependent upon the specific creature.

A very reasonable suggestion.

May I direct you to this blog post to provide more context as to my end goal.

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