Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Workable Encounters: God's Workbench Part 6

Getting ready for Gary Con IX suspended work for a couple of months. Don't fret, I am still here, still beating the proverbial dead horse. The encounter mechanics have been lying idle and picking them up last week, something bothered me about them. They were...clunky. First the Crypt Lord had to figure out how often to check for an encounter depending on circumstances and then roll for each interval to see if there was an actual encounter.  There had to a better way. Once again, I sat down with my dice and some graph paper…

I tried all kinds of crazy stuff to cram several random results into one die roll. It can be done, but you would have to go through some crazy mental gyrations and cut holes in cardboard. The trick was keeping things as simple as possible.

What I wanted was a standardized roll that had built into it both frequency and whether there was an encounter or not.  The dice should show this without having to look at any tables. Here is it is: Roll 3d8 at the start of each OTU (8 hours). If you roll either a pair or three of a kind, there is an encounter. The number rolled indicates the hour of the OTU it takes place. Further, if there is a greater chance of encounter, add one d8, (for a total of 4d8), which increases the odds dramatically.  If there is a much reduced chance, subtract a d8 (roll two d8). I wanted to easily mod this roll to take into account areas in which encounters were more or less likely.

In the design there were a couple of things I wanted to keep. First, the time interval. The outdoor movement time division is the OTU, or Overland Travel Unit which is 8 hours long. This will prove to be quite useful as the number of hours corresponds to a d8 roll and a day is logically broken up into 3 OTU. The second bit of infrastructure is a modular 24 row table and it's corresponding Thumbtrix.

In it’s simplest form the table is designed around a d12 and has two banks of 12 fields each, for a total of 24 slots. To use you roll a d6 "controller" and a d12 for the result. It is designed to be modular so it can be plugged into any game subsystem to generate results. You can generate either completely random or weighted results depending on the current need. I took the same the same 24 fields and rearranged them into a different format, or what I call a Thumbtrix. The Thumbtrix allows the user quickly generate multiple results without rolling any dice.

Example: I roll 3d8 at the beginning of an OTU and get a pair of 3's. This means there is an encounter and it's during the third hour. The card above is an overview/cheat sheet.

It so happens we are in the magical land of Pewlon, so I grab the encounter card for that region and roll a d6 and d12. The d6 is a "controller" and the result indicates the column (1-3 left or 1-12 and 4-6 right or 13-24). This is a pretty traditional way to roll a result off a table.

Using further tables I can determine other elements of the encounter. The blank cards allow me to easily customize for different terrains, towns and regions.

Here are the same tables (above) with the same information, but now in Thumbtrix format. The disc has 12 results, 1-6 twice (one set is "repeat" the other "consecutive").

The Thumbtrix are stacked and spun or rotated (usually under the table in a random manner). After spinning them around, line up the stack.

The number up on the disc tells you which result number to start on (there are 6 in each quadrant) and if you repeat or go consecutive. Notice that you get a lot of information all at once. In this instance I got "2" and "consecutive", so the first Thumbtrix starts at 2, the second at 3 and so on. Once you have these, they are totally reusable and great for urban encounters when you need stuff on the fly.

I usually have a few encounters generated beforehand. Here are notes for the one shown above. I treat the encounter as a kind of mini table top miniatures game. Some are elaborate, others not. The system allows for great flexibility. Having a bunch of key word elements jazzes things up. I have a simple method for determining which group in the encounter has the "Upper Hand", that group gets to control some of the set up.

So that's the encounter system, next time I'll show how I worked "Epic" encounters into it. These are the reoccurring narrative non player characters...