Lighting as Dungeon Encounter: Two Methods

David Trampier

Brendan at Necropraxis recently had a great post on using the random encounter die as a time-tracker — instead of just triggering wandering monsters, the encounter die could also lead to torches burning out or lanterns running out of oil.

As initially written, he advises just ignoring such results for the first two or three turns when it would seem unreasonable for new light sources to be dying. But it got me thinking, “What if there were a simple way to simulate time passage in the check itself?” Two ways popped into my mind, actually.

Continue reading “Lighting as Dungeon Encounter: Two Methods”

Hex Crawl Alphabet: D is for Dwarves

Viking Myke has some wonderful stuff

OK, we know that next hex over has a dwarven settlement of some sort in it. First off, what’s the general purpose of that settlement?

Dwarf Settlement Purpose (d6)
1-3: Mining
4-5: Military
6: Mercantile

Continue reading “Hex Crawl Alphabet: D is for Dwarves”

Hex Crawl Alphabet: C is for Castle

Sand castle by Sue McGrew

The PCs have stumbled across a castle in their travels. Who lives there? What are they up to? Well, I took a slightly different approach with this, and I thought the best ideas for what they are up to might come from the judge just thinking about what certain combinations of results below mean. For example, an overcrowded ruin might be home to a military force in need of a makeshift shelter. Interested to see if anyone finds these helpful or if there should be a bit more to this entry.

Continue reading “Hex Crawl Alphabet: C is for Castle”

The Night Children: Hobgoblins in the Age of Ruins

Hobgoblins are by far the most sinister and devious of the Night Children, possessing a sharp, cunning intellect to rival that of mankind. They commonly employ ranged weapons, such as bows, and many display knowledge of spellcraft — traits unique among least demons. Because of this wit, hobgoblins are frequently encountered as leaders among large groups of goblins and orcs; on rare occasions even the mostly solitary bugbears and trolls can be found serving hobgoblin masters.

Despite this accumen for command (or perhaps because of it), hobgoblins almost never gather in large groups of their own kind. They are most commonly encountered in small bands, traditionally referred to as “haunts,” consisting of a hobgoblin warlock, 3-4 warriors of diverse and complimentary combat styles, and a small swarm of common goblins. These groupings have such a fearsome reputation for brutal efficiency that itinerant human mercenaries and mages have emulated their structure since time immemorial, recruiting desperate, foolish, and greedy peasants in place of goblin swarms. This is why decent folk refer to those who choose to engage in such activities as “hob-os.”

Hobgoblins are also the only Night Children that actively seek out and summon their demonic superiors. Some sages believe that all of these traits, taken as a whole, suggest that hobgoblins are the larval stage in an unfathomably long and hideously alien lifecycle that culminates in the ascension of a demon prince.

Awesome original art by one of my players, Alex Rivera
Awesome original art by one of my players, Alex Rivera

Hobgoblin Warrior: Init +2; Atk sword +d4+1 deed melee (1d8+1) or bow +d4 deed missile (1d6); AC 15 (chain mail); HD 2d8+2; MV 30′; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60′, -1 attack in bright light, mighty deed of arms, vulnerable to fire; SV Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +0; AL C.

Mighty Deed of Arms: Hobgoblin warriors have a d4 deed die (at least) and are capable of performing deeds as members of the warrior class.

Vulnerable to Fire: Hobgoblins take an additional 1d6 damage from fire, and have a 50% chance of catching fire whenever they take damage.

Hobgoblin Warlock: Init +1; Atk balefire missile +3 (1d12); AC 10; HD 2d6+2; MV 30′; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60′, -1 attack in bright light, spellcasting, summon balefire, vulnerable to fire; SV Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +2; AL C.

Spellcasting: Hobgoblin warlocks may know wizard spells as high as 3rd level. They have a bonus to spell checks equal to HD+1.

Summon Balefire: Hobgoblin warlocks can summon and hurl orbs of sickly green flame called balefire. Though it appears as fire, balefire is deathly cold and does no damage to demons of any sort (Night Children included). In addition to attacking with balefire, warlocks can make a spell check against DC 14 to transform all natural flame in a 30′ radius into balefire.

For Savage Worlds:

  • Use the hobgoblin stats from p. 127 of SW Fantasy Companion
  • Night Children traits
  • Warriors have Fighting d10 and Parry 7, as well as 2-3 combat edges up to seasoned rank
  • Warlocks have Spellcasting d10 and can hurl balefire at a -1 caster check (2 spell points) and transform fire at a -2 caster check (2 spell points), in addition to any other spells known

Hopping Death: Frog-Men for DCC

I’ve got mad love for frog-men; I know I’m not alone in this, both Wampus Country and the HMS Apollyon feature notable frog-man races. Much like the rat-men I’ve previously covered, frog-men as a traditional fantasy gaming adversary have roots in British game publishing (though the credits actually indicate Luke and Gary Gygax created the race). I like to use them in classic chaotic humanoid mode, generally filling the niche of a rival faction in swamps otherwise dominated by lizard-men or rat-men.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to take a crack at statting them for DCC — Attack of the Frawgs certainly must have done so, and also I haven’t picked up Critters, Creatures, & Denizens which might have covered them as well. I got the inspiration to use a deed die for one of their abilities from Sepulcher of the Mountain God (which I’m running a slightly modded version of this weekend). I think it’s a neat alternative to low-DC saving throws for special abilities on low-level monsters.

deviantART by Deimos-Remus

Frog-Man: Init +0; Atk bite +1 melee (1d4), tongue +1d3 deed melee (1d3), or as weapon +1 melee; AC 13 + armor; HD 1d8; MV 15′, Jump 30′, Swim 30′; Act 1d20; SP camouflage, hop attack, tongue;  SV Fort +0, Ref +2, Will -1; AL C.

Camouflage: Frog-men easily blend into their swampy environment and always have at least a 20% chance to surprise even characters actively on the watch for them. Against less vigilant or swamp-savvy adventurers the chance of surprise is 50%.

Hop attack: After jumping at least 15′ into an attack using a piercing weapon, frog-men gain +1D to hit and score a critical on a natural 22-24.

Tongue: Frog-men use their powerful tongues in combat against foes in melee range. In addition to bludgeoning damage, frog-men roll a d3 deed die when attacking with their tongue. A frog-man may attempt to either disarm or trip the opponent on a successful deed roll (per DCC RPG pgs. 89-90).

The Ace of 3d4 Goblins: Playing Card-Based Random Encounters for Dungeons, Part 2

So you’ve decided to use playing cards instead of dice to determine random encounters in your dungeon. The next step is to create an encounter table that corresponds to your cards, so that a single draw not only tells you that there is an encounter, but it also tells you what is encountered.

Going with six cards corresponding to encounters but assuming that you don’t have an easy way to distinguish between Jokers, you’ve got 5 spots to fill. That’s not as much variety as you see on a typical dungeon encounter chart, so that’s a tradeoff — but maybe not all that much of a tradeoff.

Thanks AnyDice

There are all sorts of dungeon encounter tables out there using all sorts of dice, but I’m going to state with no supporting evidence whatsoever that 2d6 tables are a fairly common option. Looking at the distribution of 2d6, the five most common results (5-9) will come up 66.7% of the time, so you’d end up with one of those five results well more than half the time anyway.

At this point, it’s just a simple matter of filling out the encounters, remembering that the Joker encounter can come up twice. A simple first-level dungeon might look something like this:

  • Joker — 4d4 kobolds
  • Jack/Spades — 1d3 giant spiders
  • Queen/Spades — 2d4 orcs
  • King/Spades — 2d4 skeletons
  • Ace/Spades — 3d4 goblins

Personally I’d add a little “dungeon dressing” to the mix, but I would assign that to a different suit. It increases the overall chance that something is encountered, but  it doesn’t cut into the odds of running into a standard wandering monster. If the PCs keep revisiting the same dungeon level and the same dressing result keeps coming up, it’s clearly an adventure hook waiting to happen.

  • Jack/Clubs — Whispering voices seem to come from the shadows
  • Queen/Clubs — The low rumbling of earth shifting is heard overhead
  • King/Clubs — A wailing spirit appears but ignores the PCs
  • Ace/Clubs — The temperature drops suddenly, forming frost on stone and metal

You can also use this method to incorporate special hazards/effects that can potentially occur after a certain amount of time. To riff on one of my dungeon dressing effects from above, PCs exploring a mine could be risking a cave-in. You could note that for every Diamond face/ace drawn, the PCs hear rumbling and you make a mark in your notes. When the fourth Diamond comes out, a cave-in occurs around the PCs.

Finally, if you want to spice things up with an encounter that’s really tough for that dungeon level, such as an ogre in an otherwise 1st-level dungeon, it’s important to remember that encounter must always correspond to the ace of spades.

And Don’t Forget the Joker: Playing Card-Based Random Encounters for Dungeons

HeroQuest Wandering MonsterI’ve previously posted about methods using playing cards for wilderness and night travel hazards; now I’m going to take a look at using the same method for the most classic hazards of all — dungeon random encounters. There’s going to be a tiny bit of math in this post, which is to say there will be numbers, which is likely far more intimidating to me than it is to you.

First, let’s get a baseline for how common dungeon random encounters are using traditional dice-based methods. DCC RPG doesn’t provide any rules that cover this, so let’s assume the tried-and-true standard from Labyrinth Lord (i.e., B/X): For every two turns elapsed, the DM rolls 1d6 and an encounter occurs on a 1. This works out roughly to a 16.7% chance of an encounter per two turns, or roughly 8.4% per turn.

When looking at the probabilities of the cards, I’m going to assume 54 cards in the deck (Jokers left in), since that’s what I’m using for wilderness hazards. Ideally I’d like to draw a card every turn rather than every other turn; it just seems simpler to me. Check off a box for light sources, draw a card and check for encounters. Also, I don’t intend to reshuffle the deck until the PCs leave the dungeon. This means going through the full deck equates to 9 in-game hours spent dungeoneering, which makes for a really convenient way to know when the party is starting to need serious rest.

The chance of drawing any one card from a 54 card deck is 1.85%, therefore the closest results I can get to the 8.4% chance provided by the d6 are 7.4% if four cards generate encounters or 9.3% if five cards generate encounters. Of those two, I would lean toward the four-card option for simplicity sake — a face card or ace from a single suit corresponds to an encounter. Easy.

But I’m not going with either of those options. Instead, I am going to say that, at the very least, a face card or ace from a single suit and the two Jokers correspond to encounters.  This ups the chance per turn to 11.2%, an increased likelihood of 33%. Besides just wanting to beat up my players, why am I doing this? I am doing it because under the card method the chance of further random encounters changes as one draws the cards that correspond to encounters.

Using the d6 method, the odds of a random encounter on any given two turn sequence never increases or decreases. Using the card method, however, if two of the six encounter cards come out on the first two turns of exploration, then the chance of an encounter on the subsequent turn has dropped to from 11% to 7.7%. The statistical pendulum can also swing the other way, of course; if the PCs have still only faced two of the six encounters 20 turns into dungeon exploration, the chance of a random encounter on turn 21 has increased to 11.8%. If they get all the way to turn 40 and luckily manage to avoid any further random encounter beyond those first two? The chance of a random encounter on turn 41 is 28.6%.

This is one of the things I love about the card method: Given enough time exploring the dungeon, the number of random encounters is both finite and inevitable. There are only so many beasties that are wandering a given level of the dungeon at a time, but hang around down there long enough and no matter how careful you are, you’ll eventually attract their attention.

Next time I’ll look at another reason I like the card method — the same card that determines there is an encounter can also determine what is encountered.

The Unholy Aristocracy Revisited: d100 Demonic Titles

I did this once before as a d30 table, but that was clearly not a diverse enough set of options. Roll d100 for each column; there’s a 50% chance that the gender form of any title is inverted.

D100 Title of Domain
1 Ajaw Vultures
2 Anax Wasps
3 Archbishop Floods
4 Archon Locusts
5 Ard Ri Gluttony
6 Ayatollah Greed
7 Baron Sorrow
8 Basileus Vainglory
9 Boyar Forbidden Knowledge
10 Bretwalda Deceit
11 Caliph Scorpions
12 Cardinal Sloth
13 Censor Wrath
14 Chancellor Filth
15 Count Lamentation
16 Daimyo Envy
17 Danshaku Lust
18 Despot Sores
19 Duke Flies
20 Earl Worms
21 Emir Spiders
22 Emperor Tumors
23 Father The Unspeakable
24 Freiherr Pride
25 Fuhrer Usury
26 General Fornication
27 Governor Blood
28 Grand Vizier Massacres
29 Grobfurst The Stillborn
30 Hakushaku Violation
31 Hou Ooze
32 Huangdi Darkness
33 Imam Dragons
34 Imperator The Unclean
35 Jarl Rage
36 Jun Scarabs
37 Kaiser Sorcery
38 Khagan Bats
39 Khan Bile
40 King Blasphemy
41 Knyaz Rats
42 Korol Undeath
43 Koshaku Bones
44 Kung Dread
45 Legate Misery
46 Lictor Lizards
47 Lord Rot
48 Magistrate Swine
49 Maharajah Famine
50 Malik Toads
51 Margrave Slugs
52 Marquis Agony
53 Master Slime
54 Minister Snails
55 Monarch Ravens
56 Monsignor Crows
57 Morza Pestilence
58 Mufti Jackals
59 Mullah Lies
60 Mwami Skulls
61 Nan Madness
62 Nomarch Vomit
63 Overlord Corruption
64 Overseer Warlocks
65 Padishah Serpents
66 Pansoh The Flayed
67 Pasha Puss
68 Patriarch Slaughter
69 Pharaoh Drought
70 Pope Wild Beasts
71 Praetor Mutation
72 Prefect Malformities
73 Prelate Poison
74 Prince Boils
75 Progenitor Syphilis
76 Provost Lunacy
77 Raja Lepers
78 Reeve Phlegm
79 Ruhtinas Fire
80 Satrap Excrement
81 Seneschal Rust
82 Shah Maggots
83 Sheikh Grubs
84 Shishaku Cannibals
85 Shogun Plagues
86 Sovereign Murder
87 Sultan Nightmares
88 Tlatoani Hate
89 Tonghou Unknowable Geometries
90 Tribune Lice
91 Tsar Ghouls
92 Vicar Contempt
93 Viceroy Ecstacy
94 Vidame Impurity
95 Viscount Despair
96 Vizier Atrocity
97 Voivode Temptation
98 Vojvoda Gnats
99 Warlord Imps
100 Zi Hail

Saturday Morning Maps: Caves of Yth


I may be taking a respite from trying to post a map every week; I missed last week because I didn’t have time to get anything drawn and a break would give me some time to build up a reserve on those weeks I do have time. I don’t have a big back-catalog of maps to use because of several purges of my notes I’ve conducted over the years in the interest of reducing clutter. The current game, so far, is leaning toward me running pre-published modules, which fits well with the life/work schedule, but doesn’t provide me a lot of reason to be drawing maps for myself (besides the sheer enjoyment I derive from it, which is considerable).

So let’s call this the potential beginning of an indefinitely long hiatus on committing to posting one of these every week (but there may still be some weeks I do). How’s that for noncommittal?

The Night Children: Orcs of the Age of Ruins

deviantART by DKuang

After the swarming masses of goblins, orcs are the second most numerous and commonly-encountered breed of Night Children. Though all least demons are prone to mutation and malformation, the physiognomic diversity displayed by orcs is staggering. In fact, some sages with a particularly keen interest in styxozoology have suggested that rather than the five commonly accepted varieties of Night Children (goblins, hobgoblins, orcs, bugbears, and trolls), there are in actuality hundreds of different breeds, and that it is only through uneducated and ill-informed peasant tradition that all brutish warrior-types have come to be collectively categorized as orcs. To date, however, field research has proved too formidable and mortiferous to conclusively support this thesis.

Douglas Chaffee
Douglas Chaffee

Whatever physical characteristics they display, there are a few traits common to all orcs: They are strong, dim-witted, and voracious. On their own, orcs deploy little-to-no strategy in their attacks, rarely even showing enough tactical accumen to utilize ranged weapons. Under the command of clever hobgoblins or sinister mages, however, orcs can easily transform into a terrifyingly adept army; they even seem to spontaneously gain great skill at weapon and armor craft in such circumstances, only to lose the ability to construct all but the crudest armaments if the leader is removed. Unlike goblins, many orcs are capable of crudely speaking the languages of men despite their lack of intellect. Orcs have no capacity for magic of any sort.

Perhaps the most frightening characteristic of orcs is their unholy hunger. Even in the midst of battle, orcs will often disregard immediate danger to gorge upon the entrails of a fallen foe before resuming their assault. This demonic appetite causes orcs to exude an aura of dread, which is why even a well-armed force of common men will falter and flea at the sight of an orcish warband.

by neisbeis

Orc: Init +1; Atk* bite +1 melee (1d4) or as weapon +1 melee; AC 11 + armor; HD 1d8+1*; MV 30′; Act 1d20; SP infravision 60′, -1 attack in bright light, lesser fear, unholy hunger, vulnerable to fire; SV Fort +2*, Ref +0, Will -1; AL C.

*Orcs can vary wildly in size; these stats represent a roughly man-sized orc. Particularly large orcs will have an additional +1 to hit and damage in melee, to hit points, and to Fortitude saves. Likewise, particularly small orcs (about the size of a dwarf) receive a -1 to the same traits.

Lesser Fear: Whenever henchmen, hirelings, or other 0-level NPCs encounter orcs, they must make a morale check against DC 11 or attempt to flee. If the orcs have been organized under an intelligent leader such as a hobgoblin or wizard, the DC increases to 13.

Unholy Hunger: If an orc is in the vicinity of a fallen and helpless foe, they must make a Will save (DC 11) to take any action other than ripping open the enemy’s gut and devouring a few handfuls of organs before returning to combat. The orc suffers a -1 penalty to AC during the round it spends stuffing its gullet. Once a foe has been gutted it no longer poses a temptation to other orcs.

Vulnerable to Fire: Orcs take an additional 1d6 damage from fire, and have a 50% chance of catching fire whenever they take damage.

For Savage Worlds:

  • Use the orc stats from p. 138 of SWD
  • Night Children traits
  • Lesser Fear causes extras to make a Spirit Check or panic
  • Unholy Hunger requires the orc to make a Spirit check at -1