There was a pretty inspiring discussion over at Dreams in the Lich House about what Random Encounters are up to. Lots and lots of good ideas. I was thinking about die-drop-charts a lot lately, but never found a satisfying solution (other than the ones already around, obviously). Then I read Porky's comment and had a revelation (thanks!).
So Porky wrote:
"One simple approach to improvisation is to make the encounter roll on a sheet of paper and interpret the result. Just the same encounter roll, not an extra one yet.And I was like:
If a die lands close to the centre, the encounter is on a home or at least claimed territory. The halo region around the centre suggests a patrol or an invasion, based on the map and who's territory it might actually be. Landing near a long edge suggests a trek, near a short edge a search. A corner indicates isolation. The upper half suggests higher reasons like doing penance or self-discovery, the lower baser reasons like scheming or simply natural functions. Even if you're not rolling more than one die, you can combine them.
For example, a die falling on a longer edge, but slightly closer to a lower corner could suggest the group encountered is roving far away from home for a new food source. Maybe they're hungry, preoccupied, grumpy, demoralised. If they're wild, they might crave the party, if civilised resort to wiles or beg for help, all of which can help in interpreting the reaction roll. It also sets up a cascade of branching possibilities, maybe right across the region."
Or something down that line. So as soon as my schedule allowed it, I tried and made a drop chart to see what a Random Encounter might be doing when they cross paths with the characters. Result:
|Random Encounter Status (drop-chart)|
That's just a .png for now (I wonder what the best way is to make a .pdf online available... Any suggestions?).
How to use it
As soon as a Random Encounter occurs, roll 1d20 (+HD, modified as implicated)) on this drop-chart. The result of the d20 shows how aware the encounter is of the group, the position indicates what he's up to (or what they are up to, etc.). Interpretation is according to what encounter it is (civilised, wild, undead, etc.) and where it's happening. The further away the die drops from the center, the more imminent is the need to interact with the group (if he's aware of them...).
Let's say the encounter is a group of bandits (6 bandits with 3 HD, a leader with 4 HD) in a forest. The die lands on the grey frame in the upper left corner, showing a 5. The group is lead through the forest by a scout (let's say level 3), has beasts of burden and a watchdog.
The bandits are content, moving towards their homebase after a succesfull mission regarding the security of their camp. They're aware of the group (5+11+2+3+5-5-5 = 16* vs. 15 (forest)) and will engage (them being bandits and in a good mood, I'd go with the a Reaction Table and see what happens).
Upper right corner, in the grey frame, would mean, the bandits are out for treasure and the characters are the next target. More to the center could mean they are in the process of robbing someone else, very close to HB could mean they are torturing a captive right now, to get information about a treasure. Etc..
If the group in this example would have travelled cautious or without beasts of burden, the bandits would have been busy with whatever they were doing, without noticing the group, giving them the chance to ignore or intercept the encounter.
Of course I'd offer to make this available as a free pdf. Alas, as mentioned above, I'd have to check my options first. And see how the feedback is.
I wonder if somebody did something like that already. So if you know of somebody, I'd be very interested in the results!
*As a little side note, I'd say one of those bandits is aware of the group (one more as the difficulty). With a result of 18 it would have been 3, etc..