• D&D Overland Travel Encounter Table Template

    My Storm King’s Thunder campaign has moved to the underdark for a bit, and as such I need a new random encounter table as the characters tromp miles and miles in the dark, instead of their usual tromping miles and miles over mountains or across the plains. 😉 But it seems to me this is as good a time as any to work up an encounter table “template” for making these tables easier to build in the future.

    I’ve been taking a lot of inspiration from Adventures in Middle-earth and including such things as world events, interesting terrain bits, and even just “mood swings” in my encounter tables to give the journey more character than just “you fight owlbears/you fight orcs” etc. That also means there are “empty spaces” on the encounter table so the party doesn’t automatically have a hostile encounter every time they enter a new overland hex.

    Feel free to use this template for your own games, if you like. I’m pretty pleased with the result in my own.

    1d12+1d8 Encounter
    2 Major Benevolent Power. Your party happens upon your campaign’s equivalent to Gandalf, a powerful metallic dragon, or something similar. This power may be traveling incognito– the party may entertain angels unawares. On Repeat: No encounter.
     
    3 Easy Encounter. Random creatures appropriate to the terrain. On Repeat: No encounter.
     
    4 Resources. Your party finds plentiful game, a grove of mushrooms, wild healing herbs, a valuable mineral deposit, or even a small buried treasure or cache of supplies left by previous wayfarers. On Repeat: Fair weather changes to rain, or vice versa.
     
    5 Medium Encounter. Random creatures appropriate to the terrain. On Repeat: Cloudy, windy conditions.
     
    6 Fellow Travelers. Pilgrims, miners, friendly locals, wanderers. Will happily share news and maybe a meal. On Repeat: Fair weather changes to rain, or vice versa.
     
    7 Help! Fellow travelers, as described above, being menaced by hostile creatures making up a medium or hard encounter. If rescued, the travelers will be grateful and provide aid or reward to the party. On Repeat: Medium Encounter.
     
    8 Fair Roads and Favorable Conditions. Your party finds shortcuts, ample sources of clean and refreshing water or shade, and makes excellent time. Your travel speed is increased by 50% for four hours. On Repeat: Same encounter again once, “No Encounter” from then on.
     
    9 Medium Encounter. Random creatures appropriate to the terrain. On Repeat: No Encounter.
     
    10 A Skill Test. Fallen trees, a collapsed bridge over a swift river, or other something similar have blocked the road and the party must devise a way past it, or perhaps the party’s mounts are spooked by something and must be calmed down. Have each player describe their intended action in turn and resolve with a skill check or simply narrate likely results. If there are more successes than failures, the party moves on. If there are more failures than successes, the party loses four hours of progress. If all checks are failures, everyone in the party must make a DC 10 Constitution save or gain one level of exhaustion. On Repeat: No Encounter.
     
    11 A Moment. The party comes upon a gorgeous vista, a mysterious ring of standing stones, crumbling statues from a fallen kingdom of old, a spectacular sunset, or other inspiring moment. Everyone in the party makes a Wisdom saving throw (DC 10-15 depending on the surroundings). If successful, they are filled with hope and gain Inspiration. If they fail, they simply shrug and keep marching. If they fail by 5 or more, they see only the fleeting nature of life and become morose, gaining a level of exhaustion. On Repeat: No Encounter.
     
    12 The Wearisome Toil of Many Leagues. Trails lead nowhere or dry up. Progress is hampered and rocks turn underfoot. The scout must succeed on a Survival check (DC 10-15 depending on terrain) or you lose 4 hours of progress. If this roll fails, everyone in the party must make a DC 10 Constitution save or gain one level of exhaustion. On Repeat: Rainy conditions.
     
    13 Hard Encounter. Random creatures appropriate to the terrain. On Repeat: No Encounter.
     
    14 (Undefined. Default to “No Encounter” or “Medium Encounter.”)
     
    15 (Undefined. Default to “No Encounter” or “Medium Encounter.”)
     
    16 The Very World Seems Against Us. Your intended route is blocked by flooding, rockslide, enemy action, or an overwhelming hostile force. Lose 4 hours of progress. Everyone in the party must make a DC 15 Constitution save or gain one level of exhaustion. On Repeat: Stormy conditions.
     
    17 Deadly Encounter. Random creatures appropriate to the terrain.
     
    18 (Undefined. Default to “No Encounter” or “Medium Encounter.”)
     
    19 (Undefined. Default to “No Encounter” or “Hard Encounter.”)
     
    20 Major Malignant Power. Your party happens upon your campaign’s equivalent to Saruman, a powerful chromatic dragon, or something similar. This power probably has minions and is up to no good, but may regard the characters as beneath their notice and move on unless the party starts something. On Repeat: Stormy conditions.
     

    During Prep: Pre-populate encounters with appropriate creatures. Place regional-, campaign-, or adventure-specific encounters in the Undefined entries.

    At the Table: Roll (or have the party scout roll) when characters enter a new overland hex, or once per 4-hour watch while camped. Travel speed is not a factor: difficult terrain slows down monsters just as much as it does player characters. Roll more often (at least once per four hours of travel) in dangerous or heavily-infested areas, such as cursed jungles teeming with monsters.

    Variations: Roll 1d12+1 during daylight and 1d12+1d8 at night to create a “don’t travel in the dark” atmosphere.

    I hope you find this useful! It’s the core engine I use for my overland travel adventures, and I find it works well.

    -The Gneech

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  • Worldbuilding Wednesday: Jeeves and Wooster for 5E

    jeeveswooster

    Bertram Wilberforce “Bertie” Wooster

    Medium humanoid (human), neutral good
    Armor Class 12
    Hit Points 9 (2d8)
    Speed 30′
    Str 10/+0; Dex 14/+2; Con 10/+0; Int 14/+2; Wis 7/-2; Cha 15/+2
    Skills Athletics +2, History +4, Performance +4, Persuasion +4, Religion +4
    Proficiencies Automobile, Banjolele, Golf Clubs, Piano, Playing Cards, Trombone
    Senses passive Perception 8
    Languages English, French, Latin
    Challenge 1/8 (25 XP)
    Noblesse Oblige. Bertie has high social status and a substantial fortune inherited from his Uncle George.
    Prompt Action Through Proper Channels. Bertie has advantage on ability checks and saving throws made to avoid or escape grapples.
    Shimmy. Bertie has advantage on Athletics checks made to climb up or down drainpipes, knotted sheets, or other improvised climbing tools, or up onto furniture.
    The Work of a Moment. Bertie may act on his initiative even when surprised, but only to move and take Dash or Disengage actions.

    Actions

    Distraction. Bertie attempts to befuddle a creature within 15′ that can comprehend a language he speaks. The creature must make a DC 14 Intelligence save. Success: The creature is unaffected. Failure: The creature becomes Stunned until the beginning of its next turn.

    ——————

    Reginald Jeeves

    Medium humanoid (human), lawful good
    Armor Class 10
    Hit Points 28 (5d8+5)
    Speed 30′
    Str 12/+1; Dex 10/+0; Con 12/+1; Int 18/+4; Wis 16/+3; Cha 10/+0
    Skills Deception +4, History +8, Insight +7, Intimidation +4, Investigation +8, Perception +7, Sleight of Hand +4, Stealth +4
    Proficiencies Automobile, Darts, Fishing Tackle, Serving Tray, Sewing Tools
    Senses passive Perception 17
    Languages English, French, Latin
    Challenge 1 (200 XP)
    Concoction. Jeeves can brew up to three potions of vitality at will. Jeeves must have a long rest before he can use this ability again.
    Discretion. Jeeves can escape notice at will. He may use the Hide action even when in plain sight as long as there is some form of distraction, and has advantage on Sleight of Hand or Stealth checks against members of the upper classes.
    The Psychology of the Individual. Jeeves has advantage on a Deception, Insight, or Intimidation check made against a creature who is not a stranger to him. Jeeves must have a long rest before he can use this ability again.
    Tact and Resource. By spending 10 minutes to study a problem, Jeeves gains advantage on an Insight, Investigation, or Perception check regarding it. Jeeves must have a long rest before he can use this ability again.

    Actions

    Kosh. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5′, one creature. Hit: 4 (1d4+1) damage, +18 (5d6) sneak attack damage if applicable, and the target must make a Constitution save with a DC equal to the damage dealt. Failure: The target is Stunned until the end of its next turn. If the target is reduced to 0 hit points by the attack, they are knocked unconscious, rather than killed.
    Baffling Snare. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5′, one creature. Hit: The creature is blinded by being wrapped in a coat or other object around its head until the beginning of its next turn and must make a DC 12 Dexterity save. Failure: The creature is blinded and restrained until it succeeds at this saving throw. It can make a new attempt at the end of each of its turns.

    -The Gneech

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  • Worldbuilding Wednesday: Baselines

    Sometime a while back I happened upon some articles about worldbuilding with the Monster Manual, and I’ve been doing some thinking about it on my own since then, particularly in regards to the “normal people” of a D&D world.

    Somewhere lost in the dim mists of the edition wars, there was an interesting article about the balance of 3.x, and how DCs, skill ranks, and ability scores all worked perfectly to simulate a realistic setting if you assumed that almost every person in the average D&D world is an NPC classed character of level 1-5 or so with ability scores ranging from 8-12. Even the paltry 1d4 damage of a dagger is deadly if you only have 4 hit points, and on that scale is the 5d6 damage of a fireball any more dangerous than the 2d6+3 battleaxe of an orc? Not really. To a low-level 3.x NPC, anything that has a positive attack bonus is likely to kill them with one or two shots.

    With that discussion in mind, I started looking at the NPC stat blocks in the 5E Monster Manual to see what I could deduce about the “normal” population. Here’s what I found.

    • Still sucks to be the 99%. Commoners (CR 0) have 10s across the board, 4 hit points, and a +2 proficiency bonus (but no proficiencies). Racial bonuses and any training you wish to give them will make the biggest difference– a racial stat bump and proficiency in a given skill will get them all the way up to the dizzying heights of +3 at something.
    • Constabulary/soldiery quality varies widely. A Guard (CR 1/8) is almost three times as durable as a commoner, with 11 hit points and of course armor that makes them very difficult for the unwashed rabble to hit in the first place– but they are positively outclassed by the Thug (CR 1/2), whose 32 hit points and multiattack with their mace put the guard in big danger if the thug manages to win initiative. The guard still outclasses the Tribal Warrior (CR 1/8) by virtue solely of their better gear, but all three of them look like amateurs compared to the Veteran (CR 3) or the Knight (CR 3). The Gladiator (CR 5) is probably the scariest “normal” opponent, with a sturdy AC 16, 112(!) hit points, and three attacks.
    • As I am a gentleman, sirrah, I beg of you, “Not to the face.” The Noble (CR 1/8) is fragile, with a mere 9 hp and only his parry to protect him. Even surrounded by guards a noble is well-advised to surrender to the Bandit Captain (CR 2) solo, with his three attacks and 65 hit points, much less one who’s surrounded by, y’know, his Bandits (CR 1/8), who are akin to tribal warriors in ferocity. Knights by comparison are much more fearsome, being well protected (AC 18), durable (hp 52), and can probably take the Bandit Captain one-on-one plus is a better leader.
    • No, Mr. Bond, you are only CR 1. The Spy (CR 1) is roughly on par with a 2nd or 3rd level rogue, quite dangerous even to the Thug if they can get in a sneak attack or two, but not much danger to the Veteran in a straight-up fight. The Scout (CR 1/2) is tougher than a Guard or a Bandit but not by much.
    • Using magic is cheating! Spellcasters weird the CR system. The Mage (CR 6) is a 9th level wizard, with 12 AC, 40 hit points, and one cone of cold, making it a glass cannon. The Priest (CL 2) is a 5th level cleric, and the Druid (CR 2) is a 4th level druid. 5E calculates CR almost entirely as a factor of hit points and damage output assuming a solo encounter, so the fragile mage and the not-really-a-combat-specialist priest end up being fairly low on the CR totem pole for the amount of impact they can have as part of a well-crafted team. But then we look at the Archmage (CR 12), who is an 18th level wizard. These crazy-powerful reshapers-of-the-universe who can stop time or grant a wish still don’t rate as powerful as a single storm giant because they “only” have 99 hit points and can only fire off cone of cold three times.

    So when you look at these figures for the “baseline” populace, you start to see some trends. First off, hit points are all over the map. An assassin going after the king might have to be able to kill someone with 9 hit points, 52 hit points, or more depending on if that king is a mighty warrior or a feeble aristocrat. Still, it would appear that most members of the “normal” populace have about 5-30 hit points, which means that they’d fare wildly differently against a goblin’s knife but roast equally in the breath weapon of an adult dragon. It’s only when you get to the most battle-hardened NPCs (the Bandit Captain, the Gladiator, the Knight, the Veteran) that facing that kind of threat becomes even feasible, much less having any chance of success.

    It also means that an NPC “adventuring party” consisting of a Veteran (fighter), Spy (rogue), Mage (wizard), and Priest (cleric) would be a “hard” encounter for a party of four 8th level PCs and “deadly” for anything lower. If we assume “hard” to be roughly where groups come into parity, that puts a generic group of adventurers solidly in the “heroes of the realm” tier.

    If you look at skill levels as measured by proficiency, most skilled experts have about a +3 to +5 with their most tricked-out ability, and somewhere around +1 with everything else due to their ability scores. Few NPCs have saving throws to speak of, maybe a +2 or +3 with their best ability. A few outliers buck these trends, having +6 or up to +10 with one or two things.

    Thus, an “average” person in 5E has something like AC 13, 20 hp, +5 with their best skill and +1 with any others, +3 to their best saving throw and +1 with the rest, and can do somewhere around 10 points of damage in a round of combat with their primary attack. In an average-person-vs-average-person fight, whichever one wins initiative and makes better use of situational advantages will probably defeat the other in 2-4 rounds, probably getting fairly beat up themselves in the process.

    It also means that player characters start outclassing “average” people somewhere around 3rd level probably… which is just about right.

    -The Gneech

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