Encounters – The Spice of Life

Regardless of whether the GM is running a series of one-off, self-contained adventures or an interconnected series (campaign play), the action can lag from time to time, especially when the PC’s are traveling from place to place. Unless the Gm has planned encounter areas the PC’s will run across along their way, there really is very little to make any such trip the least bit memorable for the PC’s. Regardless of the type of play, the GM is also faced with the problem of being responsible for all the action that takes place in the gameworld around the PC’s. That covers ALOT of ground. Trying to figure out how many and how often the PC’s meet people on the road, and under what circumstances, and when all those little problems crop up from time to time in everyday life should be brought into play is very tough to orchestrate.

For this purpose, a series of tables has been devised to enable the GM to account for some of the more inconvenient aspects of life’s rich pageant.

Unlike the encounters described above, those presented here will not always involve meeting a person or persons, beast or beasts, but may be of the nature of a random event, a random windfall or setback involving gear, beasts, or whathaveyou. Those that involve NPC’s may already be in progress when encountered and may not concern the PC’s at all, although they may wish to spring into action to intervene, if only to relieve the tedium of the road.

Random Encounters can be used as an excellent tool to spice up and add depth to the game and the gameworld. The GM should be careful to use them with a judicious hand, however. If the action of the game seems to be a little thin, to lack a certain something, nothing going on around the characters despite the fact that they are surrounded with people, with burgeoning Life, many of the little encounters in these tables can provide just that little bit of sidereal action needed. While random encounters can add a great deal of color to the game, they can also present unwanted complications at the same time. When random acquaintances come around unexpectedly, for which a reason will be needed, and/or because an encounter may suggest a subplot that needs filling out, it is recommended that the GM generate all “random” encounters ahead of time and keep them on a roster, crossing them off as they are used.

However, the GM must first establish when a random encounter or event has occurred. This will depend on the local population where the character is located, and the length of time passing, regardless of the setting, in which the PC’s might have an encounter – even if they are just killing time in their rooms in an inn. Who knows who might come knocking, or at least come calling for the chamber maid to come knocking in order to announce? Or arrive in the common hall where the PC’s are drinking and dicing. Whether looking for the PC’s or not, their presence may be of interest to the PC’s.

No matter the setting, the GM should (d5 x d5) as a % chance for an encounter. For heavily populated areas, whether by humanoids or by beasts (towns/cities or forest or lush meadow lands), the GM should add 10%, for less thickly settled areas, add 5% (GM’s discretion).

In city or town environs the GM should make a check every 10 minutes of gametime that passes.

IF the character(s) are specifically wandering a bad/broken down/sparsely populated neighborhood, lonely alleys and backstreets, he should only check every mileway, BUT the quality of the encounter will generally be significantly more dangerous.

Within 3 miles of a city or town, on major highways of trade, carriage and/or pilgrimages and in villages of more than 100 households, the GM should make a check every mileway (20 min’s).

In these two environments, only one check should ever be made for the hours of dinner and supper (noon to 1pm, and 5pm to 6pm, respectively).

In quiet rural villages of less than 100 households the GM should check for encounters every 30 min’s to 2 mileways (40 min’s).

On quiet rural roads and commonly used trails within 3 miles of any village or hamlet of 100 households or fewer, on secondary (local) routes in and immediately around villages and their appendant fields and woods during the day, the GM should make encounter checks every hour.

Out in the wilderness more that 3 miles from any small villages, on little-used routes through remote country, the GM should roll 3 times for the day, once each for “morning”, “afternoon”, “evening”, and once for the “night”.

IF the populations, animal OR humanoid, is small enough, as in remote desert and wastelands, the GM may choose to make checks for encounters only once for each day, however, from sunrise to sunrise.

IF the GM has a Huntsman, he should be sure to take into account the PC’s talent for reducing the occurrence of random encounters particularly in regards to predators in the wild and the ability to spot places that are vulnerable to ambush. It may be that the character’s trade ability will allow an encounter to be postponed.

These checks should be made regardless of whither the characters go, whether they go to market, or church or to see the mayor or local lord, whether they stop in a shop or two or at a neighbor’s house or at the local blacksmith’s or armorer’s, tailor’s or scrivener’s along the way to conduct some business. Neighbors’ houses and craftsmen’s shops are not somehow immune to the occurrence of random PC events and/or encounters.

Alternately, at night (after curfew in those places where it is observed), three checks may be made, sunset to 10pm, 10pm to 2am, and 2am to sunrise. The GM may use this practice in any setting where the GM deems the level of danger is sufficient to warrant it, especially when there are foes known to be in the area, or the area is host to a number of beasts and/or monsters.

After each failed check, the GM should increase the chance of an encounter occurring should be increased by 5%, step by step, regardless of the time of day indicated or the passing of days (esp. when checks are made a limited number of times per day in the wilderness’), until an encounter has been indicated. Once the dice indicate an encounter, the GM will need to make a note of the date on which it occurs, the time of day or night it is to occur on his event sheet for that game day/night.

To determine the particulars of events/encounters, a series of tables dedicated to that purpose may found under the heading “Random Encounter Generation”, to follow. Afterwards, the GM may then return to the process of dicing for encounters, starting over with the original percentage chance.

The GM should always remember that encounters may actually be of one of three basic types, from events which will personally affect one or more of the characters and/or NPC’s gear, animals or housing, to sites on the “Special Features” table of objects and/or locations of interest, to actual encounters with one or a number of different types of people, creatures and/or beings, and may center on one or all of the PC’s in the party at the time, or may even occur to an NPC travelling with the PC’s, instead.

These will always take place on the route followed by the PC’s, no matter where it may lead or the detours they may take. Of course, if the route taken or detour made at the time the encounter occurs requires some fast adaptation to make more sense, the GM should always be ready to reinterpret the results he comes up with to make them fit as well as possible to make the results as believable as possible for the players.

The GM should always make enough encounter checks in planning and preparing for an up-coming game to cover the amount of time the PC’s are expected to get through in the up-coming game, BUT it is ALSO always a good idea to keep a sheet of spare “encounters” at hand, pre-rolled, in case the PC’s end up covering more ground than anticipated. These pre-rolled encounters and events can be real life savers.

Random encounters with strangers can be complicated by a bad Reaction, as indicated by some of the results on the Encounter Reaction Table, and those with enemies will often turn out badly, so a great number of the encounter results may result in or lead to battle. Random encounters (events, etc.) should always be generated before hand whenever possible, as recommended above, because of this fact. This does not make them any less random, especially to the PC’s who have no idea that they will occur, much less when. The encounters are still being rolled randomly, the practice merely saves time that otherwise would be taken away from the game during play, allowing things to flow right along.

When the GM cannot roll in advance (whatever the cause) due to the PC’s spending more time than anticipated in a given area, difficult at best to guess, the GM can do one of two things. First, the GM may roll a series of encounters, prepare the relevant beasts or NPC’s, and mark down the intervals at which they occur in a given area, using only those which are indicated by the duration of the PC’s stay there. Alternately, the GM can compile a resource file of hard stat’s on a number of types of beasts and fighting NPC-types of the kind most commonly occurring on his encounter tables designed for the adventure or especially the campaign at hand, anyway) so all he need do is grab one of these when the dice indicates as he makes the rolls during play. This way when the roll indicates the encounter, he is ready to proceed.

Either way, the GM should be prepared, otherwise he will have to bring the game to a sudden halt and the players will be left sitting there with nothing game-related to occupy them while he sits there and generate stat’s for beasts or NPC’s he is not even sure will actually see battle, but who need them, just in case. The GM can never know how the PC’s will react, just the initial predisposition of the beast or NPC, and to waste the entire group’s time in the mid-game for lack of preparation is truly bad form.

The GM may choose to use encounters only to fill in or spice up time periods that lack plot-driven action from the adventures or campaigns he has written, to make things a little more lively, OR use them to represent the complications of the Hand of Fate which so often brings unexpected complications into situations which are already considered difficult enough, giving rise to the adage “It never rains, but it pours”. How amusing to have a face-off with a foe in a side street off the market in town, hands on dagger hilts, and have old widow Butterfield from next door wander onto the scene – what to do? What to do when interviewing/entertaining a NPC contact of the opposite sex when the character’s mother arrives to visit from down the block and starts asking questions of her own, obviously sizing up the opportunities for a marriage match – she is not going to live forever, and she has every intention of holding a grandchild in her arms before she dies!

Random encounters and events can be used as a tool to enhance the difficulty with which the PC’s are able to get into some area they wish to investigate, especially in the form of enemy sentries and patrols, border riders, and the like. Having too many of these encounters can be discouraging or downright deadly, and so might be used as a deterrent to their getting into an area or site where they should not be, but having too few of them can dissipate interest in inaction, especially in wilderness scenarios. If the GM believes the next encounter he has rolled up and waiting for the PC’s will kill someone or dishearten the PC’s completely, especially when the party is already battered, he should either leave it out and give the characters some breathing room, OR change the nature of the encounter to one that is not physically threatening but provides them a break.

Knowing when to test the characters further and when to let them get where they need to be is part of the GM’s job. If the PC’s have fought long and hard to gain entrance to the Bad Guys’ camp or headquarters, their castle, caves, tunnel or subterranean labyrinth complex, go ahead and allow them their shot at their final objective, or give them a place to hunker down for a few minutes and catch their breath, assess their physical status. The GM should be reasonable, patient and above all use common sense.

The last word is game balance.

 

Encounters, Planned & Random

Any time the PC’s meet a NPC or beast, it is referred to as an “Encounter”. Most encounters will take place at some spot specified by the GM, or perhaps when the PC’s arrive at a location noted on the GM’s map in connection with an adventure he has written, or perhaps when certain pre-determined conditions have been fulfilled by the PC’s, no matter where they may be located. These are “Planned” or “Programmed Encounters”. When the PC’s seek out one or more NPC’s on the spur of the moment in a place and time of day that they are known to be there, they will still have an encounter with that person when they get there, but it cannot be called a planned encounter because it is not something the GM specifically prepared for them.

The locations of encounter sites may be the PCs’ homes, city streets, roads, country trails or paths, camps while on the road, or place of work, their shops or employer’s shops or manufactories, merchants’ halls, churches, markets, or other public places, or any other place at all, really. Some adventures are put together from a series of encounters experienced by the PC’s as they travel down a given road, trail or path.

When the GM has not specifically planned an event or encounter but it has been indicated by the dice to be impending purely by chance, it is called a “Random Encounter”. These occur because it simply violates all laws of probability for absolutely nothing to occur when on journeys between point A and point B, even (or perhaps especially) in the most remote wilderness or most deserted city streets and even in the dark of night, if only for the fact that the PC(s) are NOT truly all alone in the world (or only rarely). Something will occur or someone will happen by the character(s) in the way of an encounter. It must. When and where along the way is for the GM to decide.

On the other hand, this means that every once in a while the GM should allow the character(s) to get from point to point without meeting anyone or without anything untoward happening, of course, also to satisfy probability.

Some encounters are easily managed, insofar as they will find (x) NPC there doing whatever it is he. she or it does there, once the PC’s arrive at such-an-location, and the PC’s strike up a conversation and the encounter is resolved, or they arrive at such-an-location to find (x) NPC their mortal enemy or dangerously hungry beast and a battle ensues. Those are very straight forward and easily handled.

For others, the time of day may be crucial to finding them at a given location – shops being closed for the owners to go home (or upstairs if they live above) for supper at noon, servants going out in the early morning to fetch water for the household, beasts in their hunting grounds only during the hours that they are out and active, and the like.

Perhaps the NPC is only at home until Tierce, and then is en route to his offices in the merchants’ hall, where he arrives roughly within a mileway, traffic allowing. This should sound familiar to most people, as most people in the modern world have a similar set schedule of events, places they need to be at certain times throughout the day.

When this is true for the NPC’s, especially when the GM has several NPC’s involved in the same adventure with set schedules to account for, he should be sure to compile them into a single timeline so he can tell at a glance where his NPC’s are according to the time of day.

 

For example :

Tierce : Master Olidus opens his scriptorium for business.

Sext : Master Olidus walks to his mother’s house at the end of the block and eats dinner with her;

1pm : Master Olidus goes to see the paper maker, the parchment seller, and the merchants who deal in the ingredients for his ink, and the Shambles to see about getting more goose quills. Journeyman clerk Bernard oversees the work of the Improver clerks and the master’s apprentice clerk in the scriptorium until his return.

Nones : Master Olidus returns to the shop to work.

Vespers : Master Olidus closes shop and goes upstairs for a light supper.

 

Some times of day make finding NPC’s easy. After sundown all rural commoners are in taking their ease at home with friends and/or family, or visiting them if close by, perhaps at a pub, and then in bed from curfew until sunrise. They may rise if there is a need for relief in the middle of the night, but that is what chamber pots are for, so they don’t necessarily have to leave the bower – unless some suspicious noise rouses them. The wealthy and noble have more concerns to wrangle with, what with staff and business and the managing of property(-ies), and rarely go to bed before 10pm. They are willing to pay the expense of burning lamp oil or even good candles to finish their work for the day, reading reports, writing correspondence both of a personal and of a professional nature, and so on. The morning ritual of washing up, dressing and breaking one’s fast allows for a certain regularity on which the GM can usually rely, as well.

Many of the regular events of daily life are touched upon in the passage headed “A Typical Medieval Day”, which was provided for the purpose of assisting the GM in determining what events are transpiring at what times of day in the world all around the PC’s.

The GM should put together a timetable for the various locations at which NPC’s can be found in their profiles. This preparation is even more important when the GM has a bunch of NPC’s in the same village or town whom the PC’s may seek out at any time. The GM should also keep all such information on the events roster(s) and calendar(s) he uses for the rest of the action of the adventure at hand whenever possible, to keep from having to waste time flumming through pages in the rule book.

The situation can be further complicated when the NPC does NOT have a set schedule but only may be in a given location throughout the day. The time of day the PC’s arrive at a given location where they hope to meet a particular NPC can complicate the matter. The NPC may leave the location where the PC’s hope to meet him to continue on elsewhere in pursuit of further business.

NPC’s might be found in the hall hearing from visitors, or taking petitions from clients or tenants if a lord, or in their bower in the morning, hearing the household reports from their officers if a nobleman, or in the solar entertaining a friend or two, in the hall taking a meal at the designated mealtimes, or in the stables seeing to animals if a commoner in the early morning, or out in the fields through the day.

A merchant may circulate between the offices of other merchants in that hall, or go out visiting the offices of other (foreign or alien) merchants, or with foreign merchants in the inns in which they are staying, or wander over to the market (while it is open) where the goods in which he deals are displayed, on the days that it meets. The business of a nobleman can take him anywhere on his estates to review the work being done, or to the church or a local religious house he patronizes, or out for a ride or to hunt, or off to see his feudal lord, to the royal shire courts, and so on.

No timetable can really apply to these cases.

The GM will need to determine how much of his day the NPC spends at each of the places that are important to him and the business at which he works and his life, coming up with some sort of rough percentage.

The GM should come up with a list of the major and most likely locations a given NPC may be found during his day and assign each a percentage based on the relative amount of time the NPC would spend in each.

The GM will roll d100 against that percentage just prior to the PC’s arrival there to determine if he will be there when they arrive.

If the NPC spends roughly a third (33%) of his day in a particular place, any roll of 33 or less rolled just before the PC’s arrive there will indicate that they will indeed find him there.

In the event that the NPC is not at and has not yet been to the location in accordance with his custom where he is sought by the PC’s, and the PC’s decide to wait there for him, the time of his arrival must be determined.

If the other location(s) where he also might be are close by, the GM might roll every mileway or so to determine if he returns to find them waiting, adding 5% to the chance of his showing up for every check that is failed until he does indeed do so.

If farther away, the interval might be lengthened, perhaps to equal the amount of time it would take the NPC to travel between the locations, compounded if there are more than one possible locations. It might take roughly a mileway to walk a mile, but when one is dealing with the traffic in the streets of a busy city, it might take an hour to get across town having to thread through crowds and stop for a moment to be neighborly with acquaintances – the medieval era is all about personal relationships! To get across the square mile of busy London in the period of the game during the day might take more than an hour.

When the PC’s are travelling, whether along a road or trail or path, or are simply wandering about conducting some sort of search, poking about or attempting to infiltrate NPC homes, when the PC’s enter an area inhabited by a NPC or beast or monster, whether knowingly or unbeknownst to them, or in the vicinity of its lair, if the PC’s are out walking the streets or wandering the paths or halls of the core area for an adventure, a park, chase, gardens, within a building, an enclosed yard, within a defined territory or whathaveyou, in which one or a number of NPC’s or beasts or “monsters” wander, encounters can also occur randomly.

Not knowing if the NPC is home or when he will return, nor how many servants are working about the place, where they are, the GM will need to determine when or if those who are in the immediate area will walk in on the PC’s. The GM should make checks for encounters with the residents when they are passing from place to place, on staircases or in hallways or other access ways, or when the enter a room, chamber or hall to see if it is already occupied, or while they are in a place alone to see if one or more of the residents enters. The point is to stress the fact that the PC’s are not alone.

Also, it is important that the GM consider the staff and not merely the major personalities in residence, the owner of the house and his family, the lair belonging to the beast. The PC’s are far more likely to find the staff around the hallways and passageways attending to their duties in the various most-used rooms, chambers, and halls, the stables, the cellars, etc.

The same principle of servants wandering about attending to their duties in a NPC’s home also applies to guards on patrol on castle duty, sentries around an armed camp, the Night Watch in a town, border riders, the Hue and Cry fanning out to beat the bushes in pursuit, wandering pets such as potentially noisy peacocks or guard beasts such as dogs, or a foe’s henchmen fanning out to search and pursue the PC(s) through the area once they have been discovered, etc., as well. From the examples cited, the list of NPC’s individually or by type and any guards, beasts or monsters is liable to be fairly specific and always must be appropriate to the limited area for which the encounter check(s) are to made.

For NPC’s, their occupations will determine the areas in which they might be encountered – servants within the master’s house at night, in the streets running errands or in the market during the day, guards around the perimeters or roaming the halls of the house or the allures of castle walls or roofs of castle towers, or of a fortified manor, the residents/owners of houses throughout, but generally not in the service areas (except the lady of the house periodically monitoring the work of the staff), foresters and others of that ilk serving the forest law anywhere within the park, chase, or forest, or on the way back to or from the castle from which the forest is administered, the constable and bedels in the ward of the town for which they are responsible, the aldermen in their wards or about the town hall seeing to their business, and so on and so forth. In the case of beasts, both the lair and the limits of the area the beast roams, their territory or hunting grounds, should be clearly marked on the local maps for the GM’s reference. When drawing these areas on his maps, the GM should take care not to place the ranges of territorial predators of the same magnitude, competing for the same game in such a manner that they overlap. The sizes of territories roamed by predators are often noted in the descriptions in The Bestiary of the GHB II, but where they are not, there should be enough resource material in that section for the GM to make a fairly accurate guess-timate. If he is not comfortable doing this, the GM should sure to err on the side of caution and make the territory of each a little bigger, just to be sure.

All of these situations rest on the same premise, there is a foe or NPC unknown out there in the same area as the PC’s, or several of them, and the GM must determine whether the PC’s encounter one or more of them. Such checks can be made under the crowded circumstances of a town street or market just to determine if anyone of importance or known to the character, either friend or enemy, specifically crosses his path. It is quite possible that in the crush of a market day crowd friend and foe alike could pass within yards of the PC’s and never be seen.

For all of these, the GM should set a base percentage, the greater the number of NPC’s or beasts which might be encountered the greater the chances, and then determine how often he will make a check against it, which will depend on how large the area is the NPC wanders and how many of them there are.

Every time the GM makes a check and fails, the percentage should be raised by 5%, and checks should be made continuously according to the interval set as long as the PC’s remain in the area until the check is successful indicating the encounter has occurred.

IF the PC’s stay in a single place for any length of time, the chances of encountering the beast should be increased in steps of 5%

As long as they are within the beast’s territory, no matter where they should go within it, the GM will need to continue to make checks.

In these cases, the speed at which the NPC or beast is travelling or circulating should be considered first. The GM should make his encounter checks based on the amount of time it takes the NPC’s and/or beasts can travel the rough perimeter or circumference of the area in one hour at zero movement rate*. If this is more than once an hour, the GM should divide the hour down by mileways. If it is more than one hour for the circuit to be made, that will provide the interval for the checks. If more than one type of NPC or beasts are out there traveling at different rates, the GM should strike an average between them and let that suffice for these purposes.

* Zero movement rate is used here as the most logical choice for a guardsman or watchman or predator to stalk or pass relatively quietly along their way keeping a sharp eye out for malefactors or prey.

Where there are multiple NPC’s and/or beasts in the area, this interval should be divided, unless they are specifically noted as travelling in a group or pack together. When an encounter is indicated, a die should be thrown according to the possible number that might be encountered to determine how many of them should happen upon the PC’s at the same time or within the same few moments.

Regardless of the timing of interval checks, a check must be made immediately upon the PC’s arriving at the designated encounter area to see if an encounter happens right off the bat. Regardless of how that goes, the GM will make checks according to the interval determined regularly thereafter.

When the GM has multiple NPC’s or beasts located in the same area, he should compile them into a list and set up some sort of table for all in the area, whether directly involved in the adventure at hand or casual passers-by, who might conceivably be encountered, either singly or in a small group, or a number of them stumbling upon the PC’s from various directions at once, when the dice indicate that an encounter will take place.

If there are a number of NPC’s or beasts to be met in this way, or in the event the one NPC or beast still survives after the first encounter (depending on its nature or the result of the encounter), once the dice have indicated that the encounter has taken place, the percentage chance of another encounter happening (after the first has been disposed of and the PC’s have taken their leave) should be lowered again to the original percentage to be checked against at the interval chosen, starting the process all over again.

If a NPC or beast is a wanderer without a home or even semi-permanent camp, bedding down where ever he may find himself at night fall, or a beast without a den or lair, strictly a wandering hunter, the chances of the PC’s stumbling across him becomes just that, purely chance. Such beast encounters can be had nearly anywhere in the gameworld outside the immediate vicinity of a walled town. Most animals make a practice of steering clear of the races of Man, especially in the cases of smaller beasts that are prey, and for the smaller predators, as well.

In some cases, time of day might influence this, but not enough to make it a hard and fast schedule dictating specific times for encounters, only a vague schedule to be consulted to determine if the window of opportunity for encounter is open or not. The GM must check his notes to determine if the beast is active during the current time of day. If it is the beginning or end of the period during which the beast is active it is sure that, if the beast is not actually in the lair, it will be close enough by to be attracted by any untoward sounds coming from that direction.

 

The GM should be sure to make a clearly visible note or warning for himself among his notes for that area or location indicating the times at which the encounter with that NPC or beast can occur (i.e., the guard dogs are loosed to roam the grounds at sundown and are not brought in again until sunrise).

Beasts follow hard and fast schedules insofar as what time of the day or night they are most active and seek to forage for food or hunt for prey. Most eat right there where they find or take down their food, and the den is only inhabited to take care of young and to sleep.

 

Random Encounter Generation

Once the GM has determined the occurrence of an event or encounter, he should roll d10 on the following table to determine whether he is dealing with an event rather than an encounter, or perhaps has found some sort of special feature of the landscape by way of an encounter, and then on the tables following to determine the precise nature of the event or encounter.

 

Town Rural Road Type
1 1-2 1-3 Special Feature
2-4 3-6 4-8 Event
5-10 7-10 9-10 Encounter

 

The GM should use the “Town” column any time the PC’s are located in a settlement, village or hamlet of 100+ households, or within 3 mile thereof, the “Rural” column when they are travelling outlying farmlands and farmsteads more than 3 miles from a town and when located in any village or hamlet of less than 100 households or within 1 mile thereof, and the “Road” column when they are travelling lonely stretches of roads or across trackless wilderness country more than 1 mile from any settlement of less than 100 households, or more than 5 miles from one of more than 100 households.

All of the tables provided for the GM’s use here are considered to be representative of the concepts with which they deal. None of these tables are to be taken as definitive, but should be supplemented by the GM’s own entries as he comes up with novel events and encounters during the course of running his own game.

The GM should look on Events and especially the entries regarding injuries as suggestions, to be taken in a more general sense and adapted as appropriate to the flow of events in his own gameworld. They are not intended to be deadly, although there is a major element of inconvenience in a number of them. It is important that the GM take into account the making sure that the application is appropriate to the activity and the surroundings. These events can be self-inflicted, trips and falls around the house, getting in and out of the tub, slipping on a greasy puddle or vegetable peel on the floor with a carving knife in hand in the kitchens, or they may be inflicted by others, a clumsy barmaid, or drunken reveler might spill a cup of red wine on a character’s nice new white tunic, ruining it, or trip herself and send a greasy roast or bird or bowl full of gravy into a character’s lap, soaking his satin or velvet doublet with grease, sauce, and colorful spices. Rips and snags in a character’s clothing can happen as easily as catching a sleeve or cloak hem of train of a robe or a gate closure, or having an irritable pet bird reach out and nip or scratch with beak or claw. In the cases of most harness and adventure gear, some things just wear out, or they can finally wear out after extreme stress, especially following falls and snags, over-loading and other abuses. Seams can split, straps and points tear or come lose, but the damage can be as simple as a buckle coming off or its tongue breaking off, or some other closure breaking. Where a beast is carrying panniers and other harness for freight, the GM should consider those as well as any bridle and lead or reins when trying to decide how to implement the failure of livestock harness, the same in regards to a saddle and its surcingle.

As far as sickness goes, the GM is free to ignore the result entirely, if he likes, or mellow the result to a mere irritation. Conan® never caught a cold! If the character does come down with something, the GM should look to the review of common illness’ provided. Even in regards to the major illness, the GM should use the contagious maladies sparingly, unless he plans on implementing some sort of epidemic. disease control was NOT the strong suit of the period of the game, regardless of the presence of magick.

The general state of sanitation (or its lack) will make the spread of disease fast and furious, and there simply are not enough of those with the skills to battle an epidemic, healing being a specialty among an already small population of those with magickal skills, and the slow means of general communication will allow any illness to multiply to dangerous proportions before quarantines can be put in place.

Most afflictions used for events should be local difficulties such as gout, or the bleary eyes and/or runny nose of allergy season. Some afflictions may be caused by parasites (scabies, etc.), so the GM should reserve them for bodily infestations along with fleas, lice, and the like.

In determining to whom the personal events on the following table occur, the GM might well wait until the time indicated by the dice for the encounter (event) itself, and then allow the actions of the party members around that time dictate whom it will befall, including domestic staff, servants, and other hirelings. Whomever is engaged in an activity most easily adapted to or to which the event is most easily applied, that is where the event should be described as taking place.

In regards to injuries, the GM should NOT make the injury a fait accompli, presented as an event about which the player can do nothing. Whatever rolls might be allowed for AWA and/or AGL (as applicable) to prevent it should be allowed normally. Even being able to avoid the event will give the PC’s a little rush. Who knows when such acts may express the ill-will of some magick-wielder like a Witch who has cast an Evil Eye or other charm of ill-luck on the character or the party as a whole.

The minor plot hooks and subplots embodied by many of the entries on the “(Live)” Encounter tables provide the backdrop of the living world all around the PC’s reminding them that there are others about them with lives going on, as well. These events and encounters provide the depth and texture for life in the fantasy gameworld to be believable.

 

Special Features (Encounters)

Town Rural Road Type
1-4 1-3 1 Bridge, over-built by locals, religious *
5-8 4-6 2 Bridge, over-built by locals, mixed nature *
9-15 7-10 3-5 Bridge/Ferry (ignore if inappropriate) *
16 11-13 6-11 Isolated Farmstead
17-20 14-16 12-15 Chapel (Light)
21-26 17-20 16-22 Roadside Shrine (Light)
27-30 21-24 23-30 Chapel, ancient (Green Lords)
31-36 25-29 31-38 Roadside Shrine, ancient (specific Green Lord)
37-44 30-32 39-40 Citadel/Castle (ignore if inappropriate)
45-47 33-35 41-43 Fort/Citadel/Castle, adulterine **
48-51 36-39 44-47 Convent
52-53 40-42 48-49 Convent, cloistered/unusual vow †
54-57 43-46 50-54 Friary
58-60 47-49 55-57 Hermit/Recluse (singular)
61 50-52 58 Hermitage (community) ◊◊
62-65 53-55 59-61 Hospice/Hospital ◊◊
66-73 56-59 62-68 Inn/House of Call/Guesthouse †† ◊◊
74-76 60-62 69-70 Lazar House ◊◊
77 63-65 71 Lazar Community
78-83 66-69 72-76 Monastery
84-86 70-71 77-78 Monastery, cloistered/unusual vow †
87-89 72 79 Monument, recent (d10 x d20 yr-old) ***
90-91 73-74 80 Monument, old/ancient ***
93 75-77 81-82 Outlaws’ Camp, small/temporary (d10)
–– 78-79 83-84 Outlaws’ Camp, large/seasonal ◊
–– 80-81 85 Outlaws’ Den, permanent ◊
–– 82-85 86-89 Burial site, singular
–– 86-87 90-91 Burial Ground (d10 x d10 graves)
94-96 88-91 92-96 Ruin, recent (5d10 years old) †††
97-98 92-94 97-98 Ruin old/ancient (d10 x d100 years old) †††
99 95-97 99 Compound Site
00 98-00 00 roll again and add another roll

 

*The type of bridge, whether it is permanent in nature or temporary (stone or wood, pontoon-base, etc.) its age, and the condition in which it is kept is entirely up to the GM. IF the bridge is in the wilderness far from any settlement, it is unlikely to be in good repair unless there is someone resident on, under it or otherwise close by to maintain it. Bridges commonly attract settlers as traffic is channeled through the area to cross the river or ravine. If it is the site of a chapel or religious house, its remoteness dictates how much traffic it sees and whether it gets enough patronage and use to keep the bridge in good repair, if only for the use of the locals. The more remote, the lower the general level of wealth to do so unless the road is a particularly important one. In either event, if there is anyone in residence looking after the bridge, they most likely have the right, if not by charter then at least by ancient custom, to collect a toll for the use of the bridge to maintain it as well as the funds generated from the traffic crossing it allows. Tolls charged by religious foundations are generally a little cheaper than those charged by secular residents, who most likely answer to a lord who sees the toll as a source of revenue, whether farmed out by rent to the bridge keeper or collected from him every spring and autumn when the rest of the country renders estate accounts.

Those bridges that are noted as being “over-built” are wider than normal and have buildings built directly on them, clinging to the side, restricting the width of the roadway, usually sitting on any piers built to support the arches and even extending over the roadway itself making something of a tunnel out of the road, in the style of Old London Bridge. Those noted as religious generally have only a chapel overbuilt, more than one if large enough, and a house of religious (monks/nuns) also, if practical. Those noted as being of mixed use have as much of a mix of business (craftsmen and/or merchants, residences, and chapels for the residents according to the size of the bridge (GM’s discretion). A bridge chapel can stand immediately at one end or another on the bridge, or lie somewhere along its length, the same with any other structures, as indicated and practical (GM’s discretion).

 

†Cloistered orders generally refuse to allow visitors to enter, although they may actually keep a Guesthouse immediately adjacent to serve visitors and travelers. This facility is run by novices who have not yet taken their vows and/or those members of the house who are not bound by the cloistered rule in order that someone be available to take care of that business of the house which involves contact with the outside world. Unusual vows in this case distinguish orders bound by an unusual vow peculiar to the specific order, in addition to the four basic vows (Poverty, Chastity, Obedience, and Stability), such as a vow to speak seldom and only ever whisper in speech, so better to learn to listen, or a vow of continuous dedication to complete silence, or never to cut one’s hair, and the like.

 

**Adulterine castles are those built without a royal license, thereby challenging the authority of the Crown. In this way it an indirect form of a defiance, for which they can lose their fief and even their lives. Here, it is up to the GM to determine who built it and the significance of the castle, why it was built, if a band of brigands and outlaws, a rogue lord-in-exile, or a self-proclaimed lord has taken up residence in the area, maybe a “King of Thieves”, or the Lord of the West Wind” or self-made “Lord of [thus-n-such] Forest“, who might actually be of base birth. The builder may simply be claiming sovereignty for himself and his adherents from the prevailing feudal realm, or perhaps he is claiming lordship of the surrounding land and its populace, as well, perhaps he is a lord in Færie seeking to extend his rule into the mortal realm. The castles indicated here are generally considered to be smaller and more dedicated to military strength, as the owner knows full well he is flouting the authority of the lord of the soil – unless he is simply mad, of course, but the GM must decide whether the structure was actually built as a castle originally, purposefully, or is merely a stone manor that has been fortified and crenellated to become a castle, or perhaps a simple guard tower or citadel developed into a full castle, or even the remains of a castle or some other stone building complex refurbished, maybe only in part, and adapted into a castle. It may be limited in extent, only consisting of a keep or donjon on a high motte, simple curtain walls surrounding the bailey, and maybe a modest gatehouse. In particularly rough mountainous terrain, the terrain itself might make the castle more effective if the approach is staggered with various gates and wards at different levels up the side of a mountain or switching back and forth up a cliff to the keep above. The extent of the castle will be up to the GM, whether it is designed in concentric rings, has machicolated battlements, mural towers, ditches or moats, the sophistication of its defense features (batters at the bases of the outside of walls, barbicans, arrow loupes, plain stone walls topped with hoarding, etc.) , how complete, even whether it is actually built of stone or of wood, or perhaps a stone tower with a great palisade of wood with wood hoarding along the tops of the walls.

 

††As the names indicate, this is some sort of place for travellers to take their ease, which may be privately built and run by a free proprietor, an establishment built and run by a religious house (either immediately beside or not more than a few miles off), or the same established by a religious order serving the poor open to all travellers, even those too poor to pay, or may be a manor house converted to that purpose (a “house of call”) which may still be run by the bailiff in the absence of the lord in order to generate additional income, or which may have been sold to the bailiff or to a third party, its association as a house of call for travelers having ruined the house for the purposes of providing a quiet residence for the lord.

 

*** Monuments can take the forms of commemorative triumphal arches carven with bas-relief tableau and set with statuary, commemorative columns carven in wide bands of sculptural bas-relief , perhaps spiraling up from the bottom, inscribed pylons or stele, single menhirs or arrangements of megaliths, inscribed or carven with various devices, arranged in circles or partial circles, in parallel lines framing avenues of limited length, tomb-like or shrine-like in form, in the form of a great holt symbol, etc. They may mark the gift of a piece of land from a noteworthy patron, mark the location of a significant battlefield (significant either as a remembrance of great victory or a sad reminder of humiliating and heart-breaking defeat), the point up to which a great country conquered a neighboring realm, the visitation or triumphal arrival of a notable personage or attesting to the prowess of a particular division of foreign invaders or the triumph of a hardy local tribe or nobleman’s warriors, even stand as a tribute on the lands of one who once owned them of the greatness and accomplishments, though the tomb or grave may lay elsewhere entirely.

The primary point in drawing a distinction between recent era monuments and those which are old/ancient is that the “recent” monuments have been erected by the current, dominant medieval English culture in which the game is set, that any native inscriptions be in the current vulgar tongue, or the Scholar’s Tongue (Latin), or an old dialect or form that can be puzzled out with a Linguist/Literatus check on d100, if it be from the formative years of the realm (equivalent to the Anglo-Saxon period).

Ancient monuments can be survivals of any culture that once laid claim to the land prior to the current medieval culture. The point here is that any inscription is going to be in a language no longer spoken in the area, or spoken only by a steadily dwindling local population (if less than 1,000 years old), or perhaps preserved only by a small group of scholars (1-2,000 years old), giving some play to those with ancient language skills.

Since the time period from which it can originate goes so much further into the past, the means of determining the age of the monument will be open-ended. The GM should start with 2d5, but if either of these d5’s turns up a result of “5”, another d5 should be added, until no more are rolled. The result is multiplied by 10. The product from this should be multiplied by the result of a d100 roll, plus 200.

The GM can stop whenever he wishes, if he deems the age great enough, or continue until he finds where the dice have taken him. If it is old enough, there may be no visible signs of what it once was, just an impression of great age, unless it has been partially or mostly buried. perhaps some quirk of weather or a disturbance in the earth has caused the surrounding earth to shift and bare some inscription that has been hidden for millennia, or at least an un-weathered portion.

 

††† To determine the actual nature of these ruins, whether of a single structure or several, the reason for the abandoning of the site, and the degree to which they survive, the GM can turn to “Random Ruins Generation” and make use of those tables.

These ruins, regardless of how recent, should be in the nature of an abandoned site. If found in a rural area, the residents moved a short ways off or restarted their settlement right on top of the ruins and some of the remains poke up here and there among the current structures, perhaps pieces of the ancient stones visible in the structures of their housing and other domestic buildings. If found on the Road, the site was abandoned completely in favor of moving to a more hospital site, or another region entirely, perhaps because the grief or horror of what happened at the other site drove what survivors there were away, or perhaps because the cause of abandoning the site killed ALL the residents and none ever came to occupy the site again.

Recent ruins conform in age to recent monuments, above, and old/ancient ruins conform to old/ancient monuments, above.

 

◊ The seasonal camp is generally only inhabited for 3 months at a time, a single season, before being abandoned. It may be a couple of years before it is returned to or longer, so as to avoid being anticipated and a trap being laid the next time they return to it.

These permanent dens are equal to a village in size (10d20 in residents), include permanent buildings, some ramshackle, some well-made, may be seasonal in nature, inhabited only during the warm months (late Spring through early Autumn) or only during the cold months (late Autumn to early Spring). If encountered during the unoccupied months, the ramshackle housing are likely falling down and the permanent buildings sealed up as well as possible against the weather and animal life.

 

All Guesthouses, Lazar Houses, Hospices/Hospitals, and Hermitages (communities) are always attached to some sort of house of religious (monks or nuns), which must be determined/defined.

 

In many instances the encounter results listed on the tables require a little bit of thought or work here and there to provide the details that allow them to blend seamlessly into the GM’s own gameworld. He is encouraged to do so as creatively as possible so he can use these tables over and over again without repeating himself, with infinite variations so his players never really know what is next or where these events are all coming from. Some of the entries actually encompass a number of different variations in itself in the particulars of who is involved and/or why.

Although many of the entries for encounters with living beings/creatures are described in terms of a single person being encountered, the GM should not limit himself in this way. Many of the entries, if not most, lend themselves to involving groups of NPC’s, small and large. To determine the actual size of the encounter, the GM may roll on the table below. This can be modified to fit whatever he needs, according to the PCs’ surroundings, of course.

 

d10 Encounter Size
1-2 Large
3-5 Small
6-7 Individual
8-10 Medium

 

Large encounters will consist of 11-20 NPC’s (d10+10), but in certain cases, especially where such things as a train and retinue are appropriate for a great churchman or ranking noble or tenant-in-chief, this number could be doubled, trebled, or quadrupled. The GM should consult the text concerning trains and retinues in Chapter 3. of Part I. when handling noble characters, and keep in mind that the bishops and arch bishops are the earls and princes of the Church within the realm.

Medium encounters consist of 6-10 NPC’s (d5+5).

Small encounters consist of (d5 + 1) NPC’s.

Individual encounters are those that occur with a single individual, as many of the encounters are already written. In many cases where a number of people may be involved but an “individual” encounter is indicated, that individual may be the appointed representative of the rest.

In determining who the participants in many of the random encounters are, the GM must make dice checks for the class and station of those in the encounter, especially where that is specifically stated, using the tables provided in Step 2. of Player Character Generation, as those are most convenient for the purpose, already set up to dice upon. Where station is not indicated but class is, the GM should roll for station within the class noted. In the crowd scenes (“fight or scuffle”, “race”, or “visiting noble or dignitary”) no such checks are needed, as the crowd reflects the common local demographics, mostly commoners, 2% clergy, 1% noble, a healthy mix of stations among the commoners, fewer of the landbound than the free by about half. In large group encounters with nobles, only about 10% of the number in the party encountered are actually going to be titled nobility. The balance are made up of family members (also noble by blood, but having no titles) and especially household officers and retinue, honor guard of household warriors, and domestics.

Any results of “rumor” when rolling on the “Road” column depend on the PC(s) meeting up with persons from the area or elsewhere to pass the rumor to them during casual conversation as they share the road, as the GM desires, whether drawn out of them by a Courtesan or Courtier character or not. Alternately, this might wait to be passed on to them at an inn or guesthouse on the road when they stop, whether they stop for the night or just to refresh themselves.

The GM should also be sure to include a determination of the NPCs’ sexes and ages (see Chapter 3. of Part I. again), taking note of the fact that no woman will be encountered “individually” if there is any way she can at all help it, or unless she is of the lowest dregs of society, or some poor lonely beggar. Otherwise women will be encountered in groups no smaller than 2, and 3 or more will be preferred, especially for an escort among the wealthy and noble. These facts of sex and age can drastically change the way the GM will construct a given encounter and will have an even greater impact on how the PC’s react to it. When noble children are encountered, it should automatically be assumed that the great part of any group with them will be adults of lesser station, unless it is a small group of adolescents who have escaped their magisters (tutors, chaperones, escorts).

 

Personal Events (Encounters)

d20 Result
1 Accidental injury, roll on sub-table
2 A trade tool gets lost or breaks in transit/storage * (dice for which character – PC or NPC – dice for trade from among those for which the character is carrying tools, determine from among those which breaks)
3 A trade tool breaks in use (timing will wait on tool usage for character for whom this is indicated)
4 Animal housing or restraints break (hobble or tether line, etc.)
5 Animal harness breaks in use (head harness or cinch, etc.)
6 Adventure Gear/harness (weapons, armor, lanterns, ropes, poles, tarps, baskets, packs, sacks, boxes or chests, etc.) gets lost or damaged in transit, invaded by insects or rodent(s) * (chipped, cracked, gouged, dented or broken, rusted, ripped, raveled, frayed, gnawed, torn or burrowed through, contaminated with fur or scattered and marked with droppings, etc., as appropriate)
7 Adventure gear/harness (as above) damaged in use (straps compromised, buckle(s) broken, screws stripped, rivets popped, etc.)
8 A domestic household tool gets lost or breaks in transit/storage * (cleaning tools, kitchenware, tableware, drinking vessels, etc.)
9 A domestic item/furnishing (decoration) or personal effect (comb, mirror, purse, hat, glove, shoe, piece of jewelry such as ring, bracelet, necklace or hat/lapel pin, etc.) gets lost or breaks in transit/storage *
10 A domestic household tool (as above) breaks in use
11 A domestic item/furnishing (decoration) or personal effect (as above) breaks in use (falls, is dropped, sat on, bumped, hit with another object, etc.)
12 Character catches general, local, minor common malady (cold, or other similar malady less than the character’s own CND in POT))
13 Character catches significant major malady (flu or worse malady equal to or greater than the character’s CND in POT)
14 Tray, bowl, dish or cup/mug of food or drink bumped and sloshed, tipped or dropped, either against an inanimate object or in conjunction with the movements of a beast or another character in the party or their accompanying staff (as applicable), splashing or spattering either the character himself or another character in the party or their accompanying staff (as applicable) over d5 AoD’s, the articles of clothing on those AoD’s are stained
15 Character snags article of clothing on inanimate/fixed object and holes or rips and tears it, article ruined
16 Character snags article of clothing on beast or another character or its harness or perhaps on a piece of jewelry or a weapon, or it is stepped on or otherwise pinned in such a way that between them the article is holed or ripped and torn, article ruined
17 Character infested with bodily vermin, will pass to any other character sitting beside, riding with through meals or while drinking each passing day, and each character so infested will pass them on in the same way, also infesting bedrolls if shared or loaned out, until redressed by the knowledge of an Herbal, Leech or Midwife, or by the art of magick.
18 Storm damage to lodgings or camp (wind/water damage), d100 for % of overall destruction **
19 Fire breaks out in lodgings or camp, d100 for % of overall destruction, with a result of “1” on a d10 indicates the result of arson, otherwise accidental (GM’s discretion if the act of a nemesis makes it appropriate)
20 Runaway mount, domestic beast, or rampaging wild beast runs amok and crashes through camp, causing much damage to lodgings and furnishings, d100 for % of overall destruction †

 

*These results are NOT evident until the object broken has been unpacked or sought out for use.

**This result must wait on the weather, which may be enhanced in POT to justify this result.

†This result is only applicable in instances where the character’s camp and or effects are vulnerable to such an occurrence, whether in a pitched camp or still on the backs of the beasts of burden, the entire string may be spooked and run with fear with no regard for their burdens, or actively trying to shed those burdens as quickly as possible in order to flee more quickly (GM’s discretion).

 

Accidental Injuries (Personal Events)

d20 Result
1-2 Trip and Fall, or Thrown by Mount (GM’s discretion)
3-5 Trip and Twist, AGL check to keep from falling, strain/sprain (will result in lameness if an animal) †
6-8 Puncture/Splinter (no more than 1 BP in damage to BP area)
9-10 Impact injury from inanimate object, minor *
11-12 Cut/Slash, minor *
13 Bite/Sting ††
14 Burn by steam, hot liquid or domestic item or tool, minor *
15-16 Livestock inflicted injury (kicked, bit, stepped on), minor *
17 Burn by steam or liquid, major *
18 Livestock inflicted injury (kicked, bit, stepped on), major *
19 Injured by another party member, by domestic staff, or stranger, roll again ignoring rolls higher than
20 Compound, roll again ignoring rolls higher than

 

†This injury can be a result of passing up or down a staircase, mounting or dismounting from a mount, walking down a road, path, town/city street, running under any conditions, climbing, etc., in good weather as well as bad, as appropriate for the character’s activities at the time the incident is indicated.

††This results in a wound of no greater POT than (d5). A character can be bitten or stung by any number of small insects, spiders, animals large and small, from mosquitoes to bees, wasps or hornets, small pets or rats, from snakes to scorpions. In the latter cases, the GM should a d5 to determine the number of d5’s to be rolled for the (total collective) POT of the sting(s)/bite(s), although this entry isn’t generally intended to be deadly in nature, it might be made life-threatening if life has been a little too easy on the PC’s lately in the GM’s estimation, if the surroundings of the adventure or campaign warrant it, or the PC’s have a foe that might intervene to employ such a tactic. In these cases, the GM could roll d10 to determine the number of d5’s to roll in determining the POT of the venom or poison.

More information regarding poisons and implementing their effects in play is provided elsewhere, here in The GM’s Toolbox.

* “Minor wounds” indicate that a single Light wound of no greater than (d5 + 1) in POT is inflicted on the character.

“Major wounds” result in two wounds being suffered, each of (d5 + 5) in POT, the second being a Serious wound. “Major” here refers to the fact that more than wound is inflicted.