Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Encounter hooks and chaotic advancement tables

A week ago I wrote this post about goblins. The basic idea was to let them advance fast to a certain degree and give a DM some ideas for goblins in general plus a random on-the-fly generator for any specific encounter with those misfits.

Stuff for a Monster Manual?

I have to admit, it did something to my brain. Now I think it would be a very good idea to use this method on several monsters in a loose series of posts. The way I see it, it's a streamlining process that, in combination with the basic monster stats available, allows a DM to add setting- or location-relevant encounter behaviour, gives monsters a (fast) way to advance without being to clonky and all that with only a little prep-work but high reusability.

This is nothing new per se, but I'd like to get away from using monsters as generic one-offs. Any group of monsters the players could encounter, should not only be recognizable individually, but also be able to evolve and be different if encountered again. This is one point. The limits of this advancement is another important point. Those limits define how individual groups of the same type of monster are within the same "rules". Variety is a good thing, but at a certain point it makes everything that is encountered unpredictable. And a setting full of unreliable variants paralyzes play.

Ideal Monsters for doing this

Those are the first ones I can think of. Suggestions are appreciated.


  • Zombies & skelletons - Are they fast or are they out for brain? Are they infectious? Invisible? A plant or animals? There are so many different variants for zombies, why not try and put them all in one nifty random table?
  • Ghosts - Poltergeists, level-drain, ectoplasma as weapon, gotta love the variety. But in this case I think it would be nice to have a table of origins connected with it.
  • Intelligent corporal undead - Again, a big one. Vampires, ghouls, undead out for revenge or possessed by a demons, you name it. To get all of them into one table will be a challenge, but I'll try.


  • Goblins - I did those already :)
  • Orcs & Co. - Tribal rituals (out for human flesh, strength in unity, etc.), likes and dislikes (trading, beneficial social behaviour, combat, crafts, domestication), territories (where and how they like to fight and live, settlers or nomads, architecture, stuff like that).
  • Giants, troglodytes, kobolds, etc. - Uh, this is a lot. Might keep me posting for months to come...


  • Golems - Okay, this might be a no-brainer. Materials, protections, abilities, it's all there. Just needs to be summarized and utilized for advancement (maybe like a construction manual for magic users, with upgrades and all that).
  • Aberrations - Again, more like a construction manual for the little nasties, not beholders and some such.
  • Demons - More likely usefull for the minions, have to think about this one.

The focus here should be on advancement for groups of monsters that are used more or less often and should have an impact on the setting. If forced to DM without preparation, I want to be able to wing it with a few rolls. I hope this idea has some merit for some of you out there, too.

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