On Reader Mail, The Mystery of % in lair

Brian writes:

"I'm having trouble (maybe) wrapping my mind around AD&D (1e) Wandering Monsters and the percentage chance of finding a monster in it's 'Lair'. Are the Wandering Monsters only supposed to be monsters that have lairs within the dungeon? Is the '% in Lair' the chance that when a monster is encountered it is encountered in its lair, or is it the chance that after finding a monster's lair that the monster will be present (as opposed to wandering the dungeon or doing whatever else monsters do)?

It seems like there should be some correlation between the two, but I have so far been unable to find this correlation either explicitly stated or refuted."

Yeah, it's confusing.

Original procedures of play are what dictated the usefulness of this statistic. When you have a random encounter in the wilderness, is the creature wandering or did you discover the creature at its lair? It doesn't take any valuables with it out and about; at home you'll find greater riches with a consummate increase in danger!

It is never a chance that a lair is found empty. It is possible to find an empty lair, it is never found using % in lair. First you roll to discover that you have an encounter, and since you always encounter a monster, you won't encounter an empty lair, randomly, per the procedure.

That's the short version. The work is shown below:

The text of the 1st edition Monster Manual states:

"% IN LAIR indicates the chance of encountering the monster in question where it domiciles and stores its treasure (if any). If a monster encountered is not in its lair it will not have any treasure unless it carries 'individual' treasure or some form of magic. Whether or not an encounter is occurring in the monster's lair might be totally unknown to the person or persons involved until after the outcome of the encounter is resolved."

This indicates that the encounter happens before the lair determination. This leaves us with a lot of questions. Does this affect the number of monsters? Is this related to just wilderness travel or also dungeon exploration?

Arneson goes into more detail in the Judge's Guild product, the First Fantasy Campaign.

The text indicates to me he might have been a little compulsive. He determined the contents of all the hexes ahead of time. Each hex had an average of two encounters, achieved by rolling a d6 and ignoring results of six. This indicates the number of encounters in the hex. Then the types of encounters those are were indicated by random rolls on the wilderness tables.  If a monster came up more than once, it was a larger group. This indicated the type of encounters in the hex.

The % in lair was used as above. When an encounter is indicated, you roll to determine if you encounter the monsters wandering or in their lair. However, only part of the total group of monsters would be inside the lair at any given time, indicated by rolling 1d6x10%, and subtracting from 100. There's another system in place to determine where those other monsters are in relation to the lair.

The interesting thing about this is that the % in lair roll determines the players location within the hex, which seems somewhat strange. This resolves itself nicely when the whole thing is taken as a procedure to describe an activity abstractly for the purposes of a game.

The relevant text from the FFC is quoted below:

"Outdoors in Blackmoor Travel from one perilous adventure to another in a neighboring Castle can result in a great deal of frustration of the players, or al least confusion, as the road is always populated by evil creatures. After all it is supposed to be some sort of civilization and it must have some form of communications, if for no other reason than to move all the treasure around from Castle to Castle. With a little work, the Outdoor adventures can be enjoyable, and the format of an overall campaign, can lead to the pacification of area over time.
To reflect the above. the Judge should grid off the map into Sectors, also called Hexes or Squares. Each of these hexes will contain some adventures which may range from a Monster holed up in a small cave to an abandoned Castle full of Orcs. A chart is provided for laying out the basics of the area and can be modified to suit the individual taste of the Judge and his eagerness to lay out all the needed work. Each square should contain in average of say, two encounters (assuming 10 miles by 10 miles), determined by rolling 1 six-sided dice (upon a roll of six would mean that there are no adventures in the square). This will determine how many encounters live in the area.
For each encounter, consult the Encounter Matrix for the type of creature that lives at each spot. Whenever there is an encounter in the area, in the future, il will be restricted to one of those already present (see advanced method for other results). If there are four encounters you roll a four-sided die to determine which of the four has been found, all other details having already been worked out. The normal chances of the creature being in it's lair are worked out as they normally are. So if Encounter six has a 30% chance of being found in it's lair, then that percentage is used and the number of Creatures encountered will then be any number up to the total number present in the hex. Again to avoid confusion, you may wish to take the maximum number of creatures that is(sic) listed on the Monster Matrix to representative of the population in the hex for each encounter, given a plus or minus 10% to keep the players on their toes.
For each time that the creatures are found in their lairs, there will be a chance that a portion of them are out in the countryside. To determine this number, assume that 40% of the population is always in the camp and that up to 60% (10 - 60%) are always outside of the camp. Roll a die again and see how many miles (1 - 6 miles) they are away from the camp. On a roll of six. the creatures outside of camp are in two equal sized groups and you would roll again to determine how many miles away they are.
Note: Whenever sixes appear again, divide that proportion of the creatures in half again and roll for their positions. In this way, In original group of creatures starting at, say, 50 strong could first divide into two groups of 25, then 12, then 6, etc.. . .
" -First Fantasy Campaign

Note that this means a lot of important things. First, if you encounter a monster not in the lair, the ability of a character to track allows you to locate the lair, which in many other cases would be unfindable. This is particularly true of single powerful creatures like medusa and other large predators that are small in number discovered entirely outside of their lair. After all, 10% of 3 manticores is 0 manticores.  The method above allows one over time to clear out the dangers in a hex. Unsurprisingly he immediately begins describing a process to simulate population growth and monster migration to the hex after the above section.

But wait, there's more!

"TREASURE TYPE refers to the table which shows the parameters for various types of valuables which the monster in question might possess. If individual treasure is indicated, each individual monster of that type will carry, or possibly carry, the treasure shown. Otherwise, treasures are only found in the lairs of monsters, as explained above." - Monster Manual 1st edition

So in addition to only possibly finding the monster in the lair, there's only a possibility of treasure actually being in the lair. This is of course in conflict with Moldvay who redefines the procedure, removing the % in lair entirely and suggesting that treasure be given out proportionally to the monsters encountered, though this might be expected based on the basic rules focus on dungeon crawling.

Expert Dungeons & Dragons also has wilderness encounters, though no mention is made of how to randomly find lairs. There are several references to lairs and suggestions that the Dungeon Master should design several generic lairs ahead of time if one is encountered, but no random generation of lair encounters. It does note that as many as five times of the normal number of monsters show up in lairs, along with the advice that the Dungeon Master should tailor the encounter to their players. Of course this is in theme with the advice given to Dungeon Masters:

"'But I rolled it!' A common mistake most DMs make is to rely too much on random die rolls. An entire evening can be spoiled if an unplanned wilderness encounter on the way to the dungeon goes badly for the party. The DM must use good judgment in addition to random tables. Encounters should be scaled to the strength of the party and should be in harmony with the theme of the adventure." - Expert Rulebook, Page X59

The advice given in B/X (Basic/Expert) concisely communicates the volume of material written in the OSR about how to play, making it a larger part about why it's such a superior version of Dungeons & Dragons.

Random monsters are just that, random encounters with monsters, whereas wandering monsters are encounters with monsters that live nearby.

The relevant text is located here:

"Encounters: A 'monster' can be a kindly wizard or a crazed dwarf, a friendly brass dragon or a malicious manticore. Such are the possibilities of encounters in dungeon, wilderness, or town. Chance meetings are known as encounters with wandering monsters. Finding a creature where it has been placed by the referee is usually referred to as a set encounter.
 Wandering monsters can be totally random or pre-planned. A party wandering in the woods outdoors or on a deserted maze in the dungeon might run into nearly any sort of monster. If the woods were the home of a tribe of centaurs, or the dungeon level one constructed by a band of orcs, certain prescribed encounters would randomly occur, however. At prescribed intervals, your DM will generate a random number to find if any meeting with a wandering monster occurs. . . .
 Set encounters are meetings with monsters placed by your DM. All such encounters will be in, or near, the monster's (or monsters') lair; so, unlike encounters with wandering monsters, these incidents promise a fair chance for gain if the monster or monsters are successfully dealt with. A successful expedition usually is aimed at o particular monster or group of lairs discovered during previous excursions Note: a lair is wherever the monster dwells - even such places as a castle, guard house, temple or other construction.
" - Player's Handbook, 1st Edition, page 103

In conclusion, come up with a system that works for you, that puts the needs of the game and gameplay first, using the available resources as tools. In my personal experience, limiting the different types of encounters in an area to a bell curve from 2-6 to 2-8 will do the most to provide a strong character to an area.  

Thanks for writing in. Questions can be sent to campbell at oook dot cz.

This article was originally published on 7/13/15. Support me on Patreon and help 2021 be a better year for having each other in our lives!
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