Mapping and Wandering Monsters tweak

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Joined: 2012-03-08 06:46
Mapping and Wandering Monsters tweak

I started playing DnD when BX first came out.  And I was probably a tad too young at the time, and our group never used Wandering Monster checks or had a Mapper.  Even the group I fell in with as an adult seemed to have come from a similar background, these ideas were just ignored.  Years of playing 3e only solidified this approach.

These ideas are pretty central to the ORS playstyle and attempts to introduce them have not worked so well.  As DM, I would constantly forget to roll for wandering monsters, and sometimes when I remembered, I would sometimes ignore the results of a roll (against my better judgement) to keep the game flowing.

As far as mapping went, I could see players tune out when I would have to describe a quirk in a rooms layout that made it tough to relate to the mapping player.

 

Not sure if any others have had a similar story, but just in case, I wanted to share a couple tweaks that brought both of these back into my games nicely with good player buy in and results, and it was simply to switch around who was doing what.

For wandering monster checks, the players roll.  This ends up making it easier to integrate with the standard exploration procedure, players see clearly the consequences of their actions and danger level of the area.  It builds player trust (the DM is not sicking grudge monsters on us) and even heightens the tension as everyone watches that roll carefully, rather than it being something in the background the DM is doing behind the screen.

For mapping, as long as the party has a dedicated mapper assigned with enough light and writing supplies in hand, and moving at normal exploration speed, I draw the maps as we go, all as part of the area descriptions.  This also plays out nicely with the prior rule, as each square can be easily tracked against the party movement rate for each turn, for purposes of handling light sources and wandering monster checks.

 

This has worked well for me, and might be something to try with your group if you are having similar issues.

 

Now, any ideas how many pages of mapping 1oz of ink is good for?

 

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Great advice! I have found similar approaches to work.

1. I roll for wandering monsters in front of them.

2. I use this exact same rule. 

Other rules I've adopted to help 3.5E/4E players make the jump to lightspeed:

3. Max hit points at 1st level, re-roll 1s and 2s on hps at 2nd level, re-roll 1s at 3rd level

4. No downtime for mortal wounds or tampering from mortality until 3rd level

The last is tough to justify in-game so I just told them they were on easy mode...

 

 

SlipperiestChicken
Joined: 2016-08-04 02:05

For wandering monster checks, the players roll.  This ends up making it easier to integrate with the standard exploration procedure, players see clearly the consequences of their actions and danger level of the area.  It builds player trust (the DM is not sicking grudge monsters on us) and even heightens the tension as everyone watches that roll carefully, rather than it being something in the background the DM is doing behind the screen.


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Ooh, I like this. How much do you tell them? Do you just give them the d6 to determine if one happens, or show them the encounter table too?

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@SlipperiestChicken:I tell them the odds, here is a d6, anything but a 1 and you are good.  Though I have changed it up to a d20 rolled every turn with a variable trigger number based on how noisy/sneaky the party has been, rather than rolling every other round.  I have been keeping the encounter chart to myself.  When an encounter is triggered, generally I then roll to determine what is coming and from where, then having the check for surprise.

 

@Alex It find it very interesting to see what tweaks you make to HP rolls.  Having a bad HP roll in the early levels can be devestating.  Some groups like that, others...not so much.  I tend towards the later myself.  To that end, I use max hp at first level, and 1/2 HD at each other level (2 for d4, 3 for d6...).  As this is not quite average because I am dropping the .5, over the level range, the PCs are actually 4 short of a true average upon hitting level 9.  This struck me as a very interesting number, as a level 0 normal human has, d4 hp, so have adopted the house rule that level 0 adventurers do not reroll their HD upon obtaining level 1, but rather, they keep it (though CON adjustment is still only counted once).  I let 1st level PCs get the max of 4 for this value.

I like how this works out, it gives 1st level PCs a nice extra HP bump at level 1 that keeps their overall average HP at level 9 the same, and it also prevents one bit I always hated about the DnD progression, that your durability potentially doubles when hitting level 2.  So this provides a smoother durability increase over the levels.

 

Of course, I had to ask...why only do PCs get special treatment?  So this initial HP bonus became a mass based bonus that is applied to everything.  d4pts for Medium sized creatures, and halved/doubled for each size band lower/greater (though considering quartering/quadrupling instead lately as twice the size is really 4 times the mass).

But then, cleaving is a very important part of ACKs combat, so I worried, did I just screw up a carefully balanced and important subsystem?  Looking through D@W, I noted that level 0 conscripts have 1/2HD, Trained level 0 men: 1-1HD, and Veterans (level 1 fighters) have 1HD.  So using this mass based system, this is instead: Conscripts = d4hp, Trained = 2d4hp, and Veterans = 1d4+1d8hp.  Following this reasoning, I count the typical 1HD humanoid monsters such as Orcs as equivalent to a Trained level 0, rather than a Veteran Fighter, with 2d4 being close enough to d8.

There have been some additional cascading changes as a result, but I think I have already gone into way more detail than anyone is interested in reading through.

 

Beragon
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Joined: 2012-02-26 22:57

These are nice ideas. My players haven't complained about wandering monsters much, but I am very tempted to try making them roll for the dramatic effect I suspect it will have.

I abandoned rolling for HP each level a while ago for an approach similar to yours: Max HP at 1st, half HP each level thereafter (round down for even levels, round up for odd levels).

koewn
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Joined: 2012-07-17 20:11

Ah, well, that's comforting that other people are taking that approach. I, too, am a HP Averager. Although I do give the option to roll-to-beat every level.

For a period of time in the very first few games I ran with the kids, I also averaged damage (and monster HP), eliminating damage rolls entirely - high STR, large weapons, or fighter damage bonus would have started adding up to cause opponents to do more than "1 hit" per strike. So a Fighter 1 doing avg 4.5 damage per round striking a 1 HD creature (1d8=~4.5 hp) downs it in one hit. A high-STR Fighter X doing ~9 avg damager per round does "2 hits" per round, cleaving through 2 HD creatures, etc, etc. It was a little wiggly but I didn't really need it to be exact at the time.