Tuesday, December 20, 2011

3: Making Random Encounters Scary.

Firstly, sorry about being a day late. There's no excuses because, in truth, the reason I didn't do it was because I'd forgotten that it needed doing! Oh wait, there's X-Mas and New Years around the corner. It was totally the X-Mas rush. Yeah, that's right....

Well, now that the excuses and rationalisations are out of the way, to business! Those who've played videogames that spawn enemies randomly to keep things interesting or those who've played Dungeons & Dragons when the Dungeon Master rolled a dice on a percentile table with a list of monsters attached know what I'm talking about. Basically, every so often, depending on some random method of generation, a monster turns up.

It might look like this:

10 - 30: A dire tiger.
40 - 60: Three trolls.
70 - 90: Ten owlbears.
90 - 100: Unguarded treasure.

This is often used to simulate the essentially random nature of monster placement, such as when adventurers are trying to pass through a jungle to the city. Yes, there are dangers within the jungle but through sheer luck you might bypass them all. Not only does it add a sense of randomness, but it can actually be quite inspirational to a DM that likes to think on their feet. Where did those three trolls come from? And what are they doing? Basically, random encounters are suggested whenever there's no pre-scripted events or monsters to give the world a big, wild feel.

But is there a place for them in survival horror?


It fits anyplace which either spits out monsters (Silent Hill-style worlds), is full of roaming monsters that could be anywhere and in any numbers (Zombie apocalypse), or is some sort of labrynthe where mapping out the tunnels is an exercise in madness but you don't want to just string out a line of encounters because YOU want some of the excitement of random chance as well.

Especially if you make the player whose leading everyone roll the dice and thus put the onus of good or bad luck on them.

So how do you do it?

Well, percentile tables reek of High Fantasy so I decided to go with a deck of cards. I basically just cut out card paper into roughly card-like shapes and wrote on them either enemy stats (and numbers - like 5 Shamblers or 3 Walkers) or trap details (Shotgun trap or Rock Fall trap) or curious details (Apocalyptic Log - Little lost girl or Decayed stunted corpses from prior misadventures in the caves) or environmental hazards and their penalties (Narrow Passageway or Flooded Passageway). I then mixed them all up. Then, whenever it felt right and they were moving on, I would produce 7 cards. Whoever was directing them got to pick 3 of them. I would then combine those three cards into what happened next.

It gave me a lot of chances to get creative, increased the dread when they plucked the cards (the card chooser was the most nervy of the bunch of them, by the time this part was done), and also simulated the essentially random nature of their journey through the tunnels.

Of course, I put the cards aside when they reached the pre-set 'dungeon' area which was an old Lancea Sanctum temple. That place could be mapped and set up with whereabouts the enemies, traps, and oddities were likely to be so I did just that.

If anyone would like a copy of the cards, email me at Laraqua_sandgate@hotmail.com with the subject line Cave Cards and I'll scan them all and send them to you in a .pdf so you can see them for yourself. They're not pretty, but they may generate some ideas. I do warn you, though, that X-Mas is coming up so you'll probably get them in January.

Oh, also, you can find a list of the other articles in this series here.

No comments:

Post a Comment