Tuesday, March 27, 2018

My Own Monster Manual

Wandering monsters.

Wouldn't you love it if there was a little book with all the tables laid out properly in order to get what you need to generate a spontaneous monster encounter, without flipping around to ten different pages? Boy howdy, I would!

A rust monster ate my monitor

Since I’m doing a DM screen, I want an easy way to roll up any ol’ random dungeon room. And that means, in part, rolling random encounters - on the fly. And that means having charts with all the key monster stats by environment all on one page.

The myriad Monster Manuals make for great reading and many of them are truly excellent works. However, none of them lend themselves to idiot-proof and time-efficient use at the table while you're running the game. There just ain't such an animal in dead-tree form.


So I started by looking at how it’s done in B/X. That system is very similar to what I decided on for Treasure Hunters. In B/X, there are a couple of different procedures. 

First, dungeons. There are a couple is rolls to find the monster. The first to determine the correct table (roughly but not precisely corresponding to dungeon level), and then on the particular table to find the right monster. Then you have to go to the appropriate monster listing, generate the particulars, and then run it.

Overland is a little easier. Just roll on the appropriate table for the terrain. But again, there are at least six kinds of terrain, and more if you like to differentiate terrain more. The first roll tells you the category of monster (such as man-types or giants or dragons.) The second roll is on a table by monster type to give you the correct monster.

That’s a lot of information. Way more than you can put on a single panel on a DM screen!

The first thing I did was gather all the key info on all the monsters I want to use in one place and put it in a spreadsheet. Thanks to the excellent prep work of +Simon Bull, this was trivial.

It looks like this, only much longer.

The second thing I did was put together the master charts for dungeons. They're not laid out yet. But you can see them here:

Dungeons' Master Charts

The third thing I did was make up charts for overland monsters; first by terrain type and then by monster category. I used the same method that +Michael Thomas did in his his excellent BLUEHOLME rules.

Overland Master Charts
The next step, which I'm working on now, is to lay out one page for each of the dungeon levels and terrain types with the key monster stats for each one on its own page. Then I can make a note on the master charts which page to turn to in order to generate the specific encounter. For instance, here's Dungeon Chart 1:

I can then put the page number where it appears next to the correct listing on the Master Chart.

The only thing I've not decided on is how to generate NPCs. 

I think NPCs will have to come from their own section because each one is more than a stat block - he has spells and magic items, too, and these need to be recorded in longer form. Additionally, high-level parties will have their own henchmen and hench-animals to record.

So my sense is that one page (or more) will be devoted to detailing an entire NPC party, in order of appearance. In a practicum I did last year, it takes 15-20 minutes to generate even a bare bones NPC party (without spells), so it's not something you can really do on the fly. I will use the rules in B/X to generate them and record them in the book as well in their own section.

Sine this is just for me and not something I intend to sell or give away, I won't add art or worry too much about layout and formatting. It's an interesting problem and I'm enjoying tackling it, slowly but deliberately.

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