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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Titan in the Playground
    Yora's Avatar

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    Apr 2009

    Default Numbers encountered, Wandering Monsters, and Lairs

    I've started D&D with 3rd edition, which introduced encounter building based on challenge rating, party size, PC levels, and so on, and you got XP for defeating them in battle (which everyone read as "killing"). So when I occasionally saw monster stats for Basic or AD&D that said orcs have "No. appearing 30-300", or 2-16 hill giants as random encounters, that seemed just nonsensical and something that surely everyone always ignored.

    But when you bring reaction rolls (about 50-50 chance that there will be a fight), morale checks (don't have to kill all to win the fight), and XP for treasure (don't have to fight at all to get your reward) into the picture, things of course really change quite a lot. Now that I am gearing up for another B/X campaign, intending to use the rules in the ways they were designed for, I want to dive into this topic again and see if I can work out how these things are supposed to actually work.

    This post is kind of my explanation of how I currently understand it myself, which just might be useful or interesting to some as it is, but I'm really looking forward to hear any corrections, additions, or suggestions to make this whole aspect of the game work better.

    Quote Originally Posted by Basic Rules, p. B30: "Monsters"
    No. Appearing (Number Appearing) gives the suggested number of that monster type which will appear when encountered on the same dungeon level as that monster's hit dice (or monster level). [...] When the same monster is met on levels greater than the monster's level, more monsters should be encountered or when encountered on levels less than the monster's level, fewer monsters should be found. The exact number is left to the DM's choice. [...] The numbers given in parentheses after the No. Appearing is the suggested number (if any) of that monster which might be met in the monster's lair (home) or in the wilderness [...]. Monster lairs in wilderness will usually be 5 times the number normally met in dungeons.
    The assumption here is that different areas have different difficulty levels. While it's generally assumed that each dungeon level corresponds to each floor of the dungeon, to make it clearly visible for players that they move into a more dangerous area, that doesn't have to be the case. You can have a more dangerous dungeon where the first floor is "dungeon level 3", the second floor "dungeon level 4", and so on. Or you can have a ruined castle where the whole lower keep is "dungeon level 1", the upper keep "dungeon level 2", and the basements beneath the upper keep "dungeon level 3". Having every dungeon laid out like a parking garage with the same critters on the top level would get pretty boring. (Which I suspect is where the concept of megadungeons comes from. Don't start a new dungeon, just keep going deeper forever.)

    I think it's also important to note, because that part often seems to be glossed over, that there are really four different numbers for different situations.
    • Dungeon Wandering (i.e. 2-8 orc warriors)
    • Dungeon Lair (i.e. 10-60 orc adults plus 10-60 children)
    • Wilderness Wandering (i.e. 10-60 orc warriors)
    • Wilderness Lair (i.e. 50-300 orcadults, plus 50-300 children)

    600 orcs is not what you get in a random encounter between two rooms in a dungeon. 600 orcs is a village.

    Quote Originally Posted by Expert Rules, p.X54: "Designing a Wilderness"
    Finally, the DM may also want to prepare several typical caves or lairs but not locate them on the map. This way, should the players encounter a lair the DM has not had time to describe individually, he or she may use the predrawn cave or lair as needed. [...]
    Here I am a bit uncertain what the original intention might have been. It seems like parties traveling in the wilderness might randomly come across lairs. But there appears to be no mention anywhere on when to make a wilderness encounter Wandering Monsters or a Lair. Entirely possible that it's left completely up to the GM to roll a wandering group or a lair, but I'm still curious for what the assumed practice would have been.

    Quote Originally Posted by Basic Rules, p. B30: "Monsters"
    Treasure Type gives the letter of the treasure type which can then be used to determine any treasure in the monster's possession, using the Treasure Types table on pages B45-46. Not all monsters have treasure! Unintelligent animals rarely have treasure, through some animals might collect bright shiny objects, and any meat-eating creature might have recently killed someone who was carrying treasure. In general, treasure is usually found in a monster's lair (home). Wandering monsters are therefore less likely to be carrying treasure than monsters which have homes in the dungeon.
    Quote Originally Posted by Basic Rules, p. B53: "Wanderig Monsters"
    Besides the monsters which live in rooms, characters may encounter monsters which wander about the dungeon. [...] Wandering monsters may be determined at random or selected by the DM. The Wandering Monster tables (below) give a balanced mixture of monsters for the dungeon levels. The DM may create his or her own tables. The dungeon may have certain areas where Wandering Monsters are encountered more often. [...] Wandering Monsters should appear more often if the party is making a lot of noise or light, but should not be frequent if the party spends a long time in one out-of-the-way place (if they stop in a room for the night, for example).

    The DM may want to create special wandering monster tables for specific areas or dungeons. These might include the monsters which live in the area, patrols, and animals (vermin) which can be found there. An example would be a cave complex with goblins living in it. A wandering monster table for this area could have encounters with normal goblins, goblin patrols and perhaps a chance of running into bats or rats.
    While it doesn't actually say so, I think it seems really sensible to say that if the dungeon includes a goblin lair somewhere, then all wandering goblins are part of that lair but currently on patrol, exploring, or hunting. Creatures of types that have no lairs in the dungeon would simply be exploring or hunting temporarily in the dungeon.
    I areas close to the lair, the corresponding creatures should be more likely to encounter as Wandering Monsters than they are in other parts of the dungeon.

    What are your thoughts on Wilderness Lairs, though? Should they be something that can be randomly encountered while traveling through the wilderness? Given that there's a 3% chance that randomly encountered creatures are friendly to the PCs (or much higher if the leader has good Charisma), I could see a wandering patrol or hunting band invite the party to come to their village to rest or resupply. And then being able to have a ready made wilderness lair that you can pull out of your sleeve would be really handy.
    Or you defeat a group of hostile wanderers, or spot them while remaining undetected, and then follow them back to their lair. I think those could make for really awesome spontaneous adventures.
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Dwarf in the Playground
    Join Date
    Nov 2009

    Default Re: Numbers encountered, Wandering Monsters, and Lairs

    I can't say how other people addressed this, but I would generally choose to place a lair within an environment, either wilderness or dungeon, as a conscious decision.

    Once I place a lair in a region, I would ensure that I would have an increased chance in my random encounter tables, usually by creating multiple entries of the same creature with different flavour noted in the table (differing weapon set, reaction adjustments, etc).

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Firbolg in the Playground
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default Re: Numbers encountered, Wandering Monsters, and Lairs

    While I am no expert, here is how I usually dealt with this situation.

    You are right, those numbers are not intended for wandering monster encounters. You wouldn't roll for a random encounter, then roll 30d10 to see how many orcs were there. Even with a mid level party, that would be a bit much all at once. Rather, those numbers were more intended for when putting together a dungeon or small one-session campaign. You'd say "I want this to involve orcs and worgs" then roll to see how many there were. 297 orcs and perhaps 59 worgs, for example. Then roll treasure for the group.

    There's going to be some sort of home base for the group - perhaps a cave or warcamp, depending on why they are there or what they are doing. The most important creature would have the most important gear, so the orc chief would have the +1 longsword and the +2 chainmail. Maybe a +1 harness on the lead worg, as well. Other important enemies would have other important gear, perhaps including a shaman or similar if there is magic items in the stash. (Although not necessarily - the orc chief might just have the scrolls and no way to use them.) The rest of the group has standard treasure - coins and the like - out of the stash, then whatever is left is the chief's hoard. It means that killing individual orcs and worgs isn't worthless, just that the majority of the treasure is in the main base. Where players would expect it to be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yora View Post
    Here I am a bit uncertain what the original intention might have been. It seems like parties traveling in the wilderness might randomly come across lairs. But there appears to be no mention anywhere on when to make a wilderness encounter Wandering Monsters or a Lair. Entirely possible that it's left completely up to the GM to roll a wandering group or a lair, but I'm still curious for what the assumed practice would have been.
    Wilderness travel is a bit different from dungeon travel, although I've not really used the rules for such. Dungeons involved a closed box with corridors and limited access to other rooms. In general, if there's 100 orcs in a dungeon, you're probably going to be fighting through 100 orcs (or close to it) to get through the dungeon. Perhaps you find a circular route to bypass some of them, but it's pretty likely that a party will run into the orcs there.

    In a wilderness, though, players have a large area they can move around in. They're free to fully retreat after the first encounter with a scouting group if they don't want to mess with orcs. They can simply get up and leave the area, and unless the orcs feel like pursuing en masse (or are just moving that direction) then the encounter is over. Moving around the orc group might take some time, but it's entirely possible to get to the end of the wilderness trek by avoiding the problem orcs entirely. This is mostly why the wilderness encounter is so much larger than the dungeon one: it is a large camp or even a functional town, while the dungeon encounter is closer to a bandit camp hiding in a cave.

    Plus, I'll note that the presence of non-combatants means that the encounter might not even be a dangerous one. Just because they're an orc war party doesn't mean they're going to object to an adventuring party selling a +1 weapon for something the orcs have available, either information or non-useful magic items.
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