On the Wild Wilderness

Beedo wrote a post here, decrying the difficulty of wilderness encounters.

Since the encounters are so infrequent the players can just expend all their resources against each encounter!

Primarily my experience has been with 1st edition and the encounter tables therein. This cannot address his issues with Tsojcanth. But it can explain why wilderness encounters are interesting.

Number encountered and % in Lair: Both these values are astoundingly important. First, if the monster is in their lair, then it's not just a random beast, it's a decision about crawling in a hole in the ground. Second, being that these are random encounters, the full brunt of the number appearing tables from the monster manual come into play. Which leads us to our second point. . .

Distance and surprise: Have you noticed the encounter distances are longer? Elves do not like trespassers. Elves are all proficient with ranged weapons. Say you encounter (2d10x10) 90 elves at a distance of, lets be generous and say 10".

What party can survive 90 short bow attacks per round.

In fact, in what world can going nova allow any party to survive that encounter.

Let's look at some common number encountered for wilderness encounters.

Elves: 20-200
Bandits: 20-200
Hobgoblin: 20-200
Berserkers: 10-100 (I'm sure parley will work great with these guys.)

Science forbid you run into a buccaneer! 50-300 of those guys.

Ok, what about non-humans?
Wild Boar: 1-12 . . . with a movement rate of 15. An enemy that does 3-12 damage that you can't escape from?
Bugbear: 6-36
Crocodile: 3-24
Dragon: 1-4; You come across 4 black dragons. Nova that, bitches.
Eagles, Giant: 1-20
Preyton: 2-8; No, doesn't seem like much for creatures that are immune to normal weapons, attack at +2, have 4 hit dice, fly at 21" and do 4-16 damage (average of 10) per round.
Stirge: 3-30

All of this leads to the final factor, which is Pursuit.

Thankfully, because this was actually used in play, encountering something faster then you isn't instant death. You have an 80% chance to evade something chasing you.

-20% if they are faster
-50% if you're on a plain, desert, or open water
-30% during daylight.

Just, wilderness encounters are terrifying. Some things are easy (Dinosaurs), many things are not.


  1. All good points. I had a random encounter recently, that I combined with another on the same day, to create a force of 3 frost giants and 7 ogres; against five level 1 PCs. Needless to say, they hid. It's now part of the plot too, and the heroes have a couple of days, until the giants return, to do what they came to do and get out.

  2. Dragon: 1-4; You come across 4 black dragons. Nova that, bitches.

    That almost caused me to spew coffee over my keyboard. Well done, sir.

  3. Yeah, I had the same reaction reading the original post.

    Plus, who's to say you encounter them all at once - sure go nova on the dragon, then here comes his mate and a couple of kiddos. Allowing wilderness encounters to develop in waves makes them more interesting, and more challenging.

  4. you know what i've always thought? The chances of encountering things are WAY too low. 1 in 6 chance per 6 miles you travel?? Screw that! In my games, i make it a 1 in 4 chance for every 4 miles you travel. I made all these awesome monsters and animals and bandits and charts, and I want to use them, by God! Otherwise they're never gonna encounter awesome random results like "an Owlbear trapped in quick sand" or "Dire Bear fighting a Young Adult Dragon for territory" or "band of outlaws being attacked by a Tyrannosaurus". Let the wilderness be a terrifying place swarming with the minions of evil; there's a reason nobody travels in anything other than large, well-armed groups

  5. Maybe the wilderness encounters are so tough to encourage the PCs to go into dungeons?


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