Author: WCP

Roll for an Encounter

I was checking out my usual gaming blogs when I realized I haven’t mentioned Trollsmyth yet in my blog.  Specifically this series of articles.  I have absolutely devoured this series on hex mapping and it got me thinking about encounters.

In the olden days (waaaaaaay back in 1st and 2nd edition D&D….lol)  we used wandering monster tables and random checks while crossing wilderness hexes with quite a bit of gusto.  The interesting thing was we almost always used a D8 and low rolls meant encounters.  The result?  My players used to root for a “1” to come up…almost without exception.  They wanted something  to happen.  So most times it did.  The only time the party didn’t root for an encounter to pop up was when the party was low on healing (which happened quite a bit) or low on “big bang” wizard spells (remember prior to 4th edition the wizard was “Gladys Knight” and everyone else was “The Pips”).

I think random encounters may still have their place but I find that in 4E it takes a lot more planning.  I prefer to have “semi-random” set pieces instead of truly random encounters.  I set up three or four encounters in between gaming weeks (we play every other week as almost all of my players have children, jobs, or both) that can be used in a variety of situations.  If I end up not needing them? I just bump the levels of the critters up but keep the framework in place.  That way it’s ready for the next gaming session.


How do you handle “random” encounters?  How do you determine what’s lurking in the wilderness between dungeons?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Very Useful Stuff

Had to post this link to my man Fitz’s latest article.  Incredibly useful stuff about layout and design…a topic which I am still learning a ton about.


It’s definitely summer time and the creepy crawlers are out everywhere…time to put some into your 4e D&D game with EVGaming’s latest release…

Check this out!

My main man Billiam Babble has done it again…major cool points for drinking your favorite tea or my new fave drink “Mello Yello Zero” out of THIS mug....


Baba Yaga, perhaps the most loved/feared/respected/discussed witch in fantasy gaming history is back!  Fourth Edition fanatics need to check it out!  As noted in the pdf, the statistics for Baba Yaga’s fence are available on this site only…..

Baba Yaga’s Fence

(Terrain) – The fence occupies squares of the GM’s choosing (normally a large circle totally encompassing her hut)

The fence is comprised of stakes with skulls atop them.

Effect:  The fence is partially blocking terrain (any tiny creature can move through it as if it were difficult terrain)  It blocks movement (for small or larger than small creatures) but allows line of sight and line of effect.  If a living creature ends its turn adjacent to the fence it takes 5 necrotic damage/tier.  Baba Yaga and her undead minions are unaffected.

My Dungeon Doesn’t Even Have Corridors

Greg Bilsland (a guy I have great admiration and respect for) posted this awhile back.  I wanted to write my take on it earlier but other projects got in the way and our actual campaign has been rolling.  Bilsland talks about old-school vs. new-school dungeon design and says his dungeons aren’t just delve-style but actually contain empty rooms. You know the drill: a smashed bit of furniture, a forgotten bit of equipment, broken pottery shards, etc.  I like that old-school style, I really do…but (and you knew there would be a but) it’s time (for my players and I at least) has simply passed.  Let me explain before the flames rise up!

Bilsand talks about pacing and setting the mood as key factors in the decision to place “empty” rooms in his dungeon.  I want to really play devil’s advocate and simply argue (in a very dime-store philosopher style)  that the rooms aren’t empty…they contain mood.  Obviously not in a physical sense.  But the empty rooms are placed for a reason.  I think this is great…and I also think “old-school” dungeon design didn’t even consider the empty room for that purpose.  Gygaxian Dungeon Ecology simply stated that almost 20% of rooms were empty and so they were.  The AD&D DM’s guide (iirc) even had tables for “dungeon dressing” for empty rooms.  The empty rooms were there simply to add realism.  Not every room was going to be a jam-packed thrill-ride.  Danger really wasn’t behind every door.  It made sense.  And… I don’t run my dungeons this way…at all.

I used to.  I was the king of graph paper in middle and high school.  My players back then didn’t even ask if I had an “adventure” ready.  The question was, “Hey Bill…do u have a dungeon ready?”  Oh yeah…wandering monster chart, lettered and numbered rooms, and traps and secret doors…I was ready.  And of course there was always a room or two with that simple statement, “This room contains nothing of interest.”    Now…not so much.

Now I only build the rooms I need…my players have utter faith in me as a DM and I have faith in them as players.  Together, we cut right to the chase.  I truly understand 4e D&D’s “get to the fun” mentality.  If the dungeon is sparsely populated and three-fourths of the rooms are empty…the ones we actually encounter are full…chock to the brim with the “fun” elements.  I simply give the appropriate flavor text, “After several rooms which contain little more than blood-stains and claw marks, this oaken door creaks forward and a very startled {insert creature name}  looks your way with malice in its eyes…roll initiative!”  Now, please understand I’m not saying this is the only way to play…I am firmly in the mode that says, “If you’re having fun-you’re playing it right!”.  There is no such thing as badwrongfun.

What I am saying is the flavor texts take the place of the featureless rooms.  If the party has found nothing for half the dungeon except a few coppers and some fine examples of orcish fletching….I say so…and then we kick down the next door which actually has orcs behind it.     Again, I’m not saying Greg Bilsland is wrong, not saying old-school is wrong, just describing how we do it.  My players love that there is no frustrating mapping, no corridors,no dead ends, nothing extraneous….just set pieces with monsters to bash, npcs to get secrets from, challenges and puzzles to overcome, and loot to grab.  That’s it.  We get right to the fun and it works for us.  So no…my dungeon doesn’t have empty rooms, it doesn’t even have corridors….but it’s jam-packed with fun!

Alternate Emeraldscale Eel Attack

There’s a really neat feature that some eels possess called a pharyngeal jaw.  It’s basically a “second extending” jaw that is designed to hold prey.  Pretty badass I must say.  So if you want to give your eel that nifty bite, replace the current bite and tail flick with this single non-melee basic, standard action attack…

Pharyngeal Bite * At-Will

  • Requirement: The eel must not have a creature currently restrained.
  • Attack: Melee 1 (one creature); + 11 vs. AC
  • Hit: 2d6 +4 damage and the target is restrained until the end of the eel’s next turn.

Does this post make very little sense?  That means you don’t have your copy of Six Superb Mounts yet!  Get it here…DriveThruRPG- Six Superb Mounts

So Monte Cook Dropped Me a Line

Okay so it was just that….one line. Let me tell you why I’m hyped! I sent Monte Cook (if you don’t know who he is Google him….I’ll wait) a free copy of City Slices I: Marketplace Fun and basically thanked him for being him.  Monte Cook’s résumé is, in my opinion, without peer in the industry and his mega-supplement Ptolus is without equal on the bookshelf. Not only has Monte been an influence on my own personal design style and game philosophy, he’s also been a personal influence on my own positive outlook.

A wee bit of backstory so you can understand my excitement.  Mr. Cook didn’t know me from the ‘man on the moon’ when he took the time to speak with me at GenCon over a decade ago.  He basically offered me the “go for it and follow your dreams” talk when I asked him about writing game material.  And he also said “Call me Monte” when I addressed him as “Mr.Cook”.  It was the most brief and basic of interactions but it was a big deal to a fan of D&D in general and of the man himself specifically.

Fast forward too many years, I finally have my own tiny publishing business and I’m making pdfs and having a great time.  Reviews are coming in and people are saying, “hey….good stuff.”  So I thought, “It’s time to go back and thank some of my influences.”  Unfortunately Mr. Gygax is gone and I still have an e-mail to send to Tony Diterlizzi, but I happened to catch Monte.  I sent him an e-mail saying to the effect of, “here’s a free copy of my latest and best effort as a thank you for your efforts and your time.”  And guess what?  He did it again.  One line: “Thanks!  Looks Great!”.  That was it…he didn’t ask me to join Malhavoc Press, he didn’t invite me over for steaks on the grill.  He just took time (that I know he has in very, very finite supply)  to thank me and tell me the product looked great. I’d say it was unexpected, but after meeting Monte in Wisconsin it was exactly what I expected.  Mr. Cook hasn’t forgotten that he too was a dreamy-eyed youth and he had heroes.  He intuitively understood exactly how much an e-mail back would mean…so of course he did it.

Monte, thanks again, for the ‘shot in the arm’.  I’m going to keep pursuing the dream with my goal to one day be the one dispensing the encouragement.  I certainly won’t forget to say “Thanks” to anyone who (dare I even dream it) cites me as an influence.

Until then, I’m redoubling my efforts on my next series of products.  It’s amazing what a couple positive words can do.