Sean realizes just how complicated running an RPG encounter can be for anyone, but especially those new to the hobby. This and Random Encounters!


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Random Encounter

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As I was running the group through this crazy prepublished module, it dawned on me. There are a lot of things that we do as GM’s that we really need to think about on the fly and have it make sense. Now you may be saying “uh, duh, Sean…you should already know this.” But here’s the thing. Everyone knows I run prepublished stuff, but even those robust description and rules of a game trips up GM’s – beginner or advanced. The latter may just have a quicker way to devise a mini-system to make an encounter work. How many GMs get to an encounter and say “oh shit, how am i going to do this?”

I’ll give you an example.

You enter a room. There’s an object that triggers a trap. Say, it’s “if a pc picks up a goblet off the altar it triggers this trap.” No problem. Pretty easy. Either someone detects it and then disables it, foregoes it, or triggers it.

Say it’s triggered. There are 10 secret doors that now open and release 10 beasties into the room. The room is a bit more robust, a teleportation mechanism moves the character into a space without another pc. You have teleportation spot, and once teleported, THAT pc then figures out how to teleport back into the room. So you have PC’s appearing and disappearing, while some are not, and the 10 beasties going after whomever they can.

But how do you as a GM manage this? Do you have all 10 swarm one person. Is that fair? Beasties have, I think, 4-6 INT, so they’re not that bright. I’m also doing this all theater of the mind, while pointing on a small grid/map “this is where this is, this is where this is.” I came up with an approach, as we do, but how many would stumped. The environment is laid out well, but how to handle all the moving pieces was not.

Forrest Aguirre comments on 275, GM books in your toolbox

Stealing Cthulhu, one of my faves, was mentioned. Surprised no one mentioned Vornheim, which is a table-ready aid that I carry with me in my gaming bag all the time. Create cities on the fly with zero prep. Seriously, zero prep. I also like (and use) other random-generators at the table: Yoon Suin, various tables from Metal Gods of Ur Hadad, Fever-Dreaming Marlinko, etc.

But most of my inspiration comes from Discover Magazine, To The Best of Our Knowledge, Stuff to Blow Your Mind, and a bevy of non-fiction and fiction that I read. I’m not much of a TV or movie watcher. Or, rather, my TV and movie watching is, frankly, hard to gamify: Twilight Zone (the original series), movies by David Lynch and The Brother’s Quay – I try to integrate elements of these into my games, but have yet to be able to fully immerse a game in these weird spaces, though I did come close with a Call of Cthulhu scenario I based on David Lynch’s short film “Rabbits”.

What I wouldn’t give to run or play in a session of Eraserhead . . .

Tom comments on 275, GM books in your toolbox

I have a couple of entertaining random roll books I’ll check every now and then if I want something unusual or unpredictable tossed in. Encounters, treasures, motivations, etc. (‘Roll XX’, and ‘The Starship from Hell’)

I also like incorporating the concept of primal magic from the Primal Order books by Wizards of the Coast (before they acquired D&D or published M:tG.) It’s a capstone system with conversions for the major games of the time. It was a way to give deity level creatures a real boost, magic-wise. It also provided guidelines for building pantheons with several interesting examples, and ways that mortals might acquire Primal Magic. (It also includes a bestiary book, although you wouldn’t want groups of less than 20th level or so to meet the weakest of them.)

Die Roll

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About the Author
The 'S' of Gaming and BS podcast. Besides producing and hosting the show, Sean enjoys long walks on the beach, running rpg's, and killing player...characters.