Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Not so random encounters (Part III)

Rolling your own – the actual rolling...

Continuing the theme we started here...

So – back to the encounter generation thing. You know what your party of wannabe heroes looks like – you know the kind of attitude they have – so you can pick the kind of bandits that will be of interest and suit your location. Do this in a broad kind of way to begin with.

Let’s carry on with that example example we exemplified last post and add in some actual details. The heroes are a bog standard group of a wizard, warrior, dwarf and an elf (with a pointy hat). They are travelling though the wilds where few people go. So what options have we got? A toll booth is out of the question, there’s no point if no-one comes this way. In fact, there’s very little chance of meeting any significant force of bandits out here as there’s very little to prey on. So a small group, keeping well out of the way of civilized folks. They’re probably nomadic, because there’s little out here to keep them in one place. They’re probably quite desperate too, why else would they be out here in the middle of nowhere? So they’re good scavengers, good on the land – sneaky – survivalists. They know how to use the wilds in their favour – they know how to track, hunt and not be seen. They may be on there way somewhere in particular or they may be roaming aimlessly, at this point it doesn’t matter a great deal because until they interact with the heroes you’re still at liberty to change your mind. In fact, even after they’ve interacted you can change your mind about most things.

So you’ve got an idea for a bandit(s) – now you need to lay a slimy plot tentacle somewhere the heroes might notice it and see if you get a bite.

Since our bandits are, at this point, a small group of poorly armed and equipped survivalists they are unlikely to try to ambush a party of folks that look as dangerous as the heroes. They’re not the lost travellers or foolhardy explorers that the bandits would usually prey on. However – the bandits must be interested, or we don’t have an encounter. So let’s say the bandits spy the heroes and clock up all that tasty looking adventuring gear. Jimminy, that’s a lot of cool looking shizzle! There must also be food and water supplies and all that kind of stuff to be had too. But they can’t just attack – it’s too risky. So they track the party of heroes at a safe distance until they stop for a rest¹. If the heroes aren’t in the habit of posting a lookout then you’ve got them cold. The bandits can slip in and lighten all those heavy packs with relative ease. However, your heroes are clever enough to keep a watch. Many parties of heroes are of the blasé opinion that sleep is pretty unimportant and so don’t mind having a sleeping break of only about 6 hours – given that they have to spend an hour and a half on watch each too this means that even if they manage to fall asleep instantly as they stop walking they’ll only be getting four and a half hours of interrupted sleep a night. In which case they’ll be tired the whole time and this makes the bandit’s job a bit easier. (Remember though that if the bandits have to keep up with the heroes, they might have to go a little lean on the shut-eye too)

Still, the heroes don’t even know that there are any bandits yet, so none of this has come into play. Then in session you make one of the heroes (whoever is on watch one night) take a perceptive type check. (Usually I do this on the behalf of said lookout so that if they fail, they are none the wiser) There’s a bandito trying to sneak in and lift a pack of supplies - just play it out and see what happens. If no-one notices – the bandits may try for another pack later. However let’s say that they catch the poor blighter with the bag in his hands. They may kill him, they may interrogate him. If they decide to interrogate him you’re going to have to think fast – just make shit up. You have a pretty good idea why he’s there, pick a random name if they ask it – make him try to weasel out of it – spin a sob story about his starving family in the wilds or something. The heroes might even buy it and let him go. Regardless, make the bandit behave in a very human and believable way – rationalize his behaviour. What happens next is really down to the heroes – but whatever they do, you just react in a measured way. Since you haven’t spent much time setting this thief up, it doesn’t matter if they kill him off or they let him go or whatever. Just roll with it.

Because you’ve based the encounter on some initial thinking (rather than just rolling and die and finding out that there’s bandits about) you’re in a good position to roleplay out the encounter. You’ll be surprised at how much good stuff you can come up with on the fly given a small amount of preparation.

Of course, because this encounter has depth and interest – it’s not necessarily over once the fat lady starts warbling... there’s often mop-up and to deal with too...

That’ll be the subject of the next part – keeping the ball rolling...

Till then. Sit tight. Eat fruit . Don’t play with squirrels.

¹ Even mighty heroes rest when they think no one is looking

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