11 June 2012

Wandering Monster Tables

One of the most fun things, conceptually, about my retroclone of the HeroQuest system from earlier this year is the wandering monster tables. I know: wandering monsters? Really? How is that exciting? Well let me tell you!

In the original game, wandering monsters were handled by a short stack of cards, which you pulled from when the players searched around. They had a large chance to find a random trap or wandering monster, and a smaller chance to find actually useful treasure. If you drew a hazard of some sort, you put the card back in and then shuffled, but if you got treasure, you kept it out. This created an elegant solution to both pacing and treasure distribution. In the beginning of the game, when Body Points and resources were greater, it was easier to find treasure, and even if you pulled a hazard out of the deck, it was ok. No big deal. So you lose one or two health- you've got plenty, and you probably have a couple of potions hanging around. It's ok.

On the other hand, later on in the game, when your heroes are limping across the floor and narrowly staving off defeat, the treasures are mostly gone and when you can't afford to face yet another damn zombie, it's time for you to get out. No more searching for treasures, no more poking around the rooms- it's time to run. It doesn't matter if there's a chest in the corner, or if there are loose stones in the wall. You can't afford to find out today. You just need to get out of here!

How many times are they going to stick a zombie in fake treasure chests?

So I took the same idea, and put it into dice terms. I'm not interested in printing out cards for every dungeon that I'm going to design (although I might, at some point, for those of you with fancy cardstock printers). Since the game only uses six sided dice, I'm restricted a little in the random table- but not as much as you might think at first. Between using the sum (d6+d6), or as a fake percentile dice, you're more than spoiled for choice. Here's how it works with the second option.

When your players search an object (or even just in general), roll 2d6. The first die tells you what table to look on. The second die tells you the result. Cross off results of "Treasure" and "Events," but don't cross off any other result. When you get a result you'd crossed off, reroll the first die to select a new table. If that's already crossed off too, just pick something. Don't forget to tailor the result to fit the situation. If it blatantly doesn't fit, just remember it for later and add it in as soon as you can.

Here's some sample tables so you can see what I mean.

Table 1: Treasure
Cross these off after rolling.
1: Stuffed into a fraying cloth bag is a handful of bluish gems. Together they're worth 50 gold.
2: What looked like worthless trash was actually ancient silver! 50 gold.
3: A statue made entirely of jade, with gorgeous rubies for eyes. 100 gold.
4: Some scummy gold coins that smell faintly of feet. 25 gold.
5: What appears to be a ceremonial helmet, although it could be a very fancy kettle. 50 gold.
6: Jackpot! Platinum from an age gone by. 200 gold.

Table 2: Events
Cross these off after rolling.
1: Orcish warband on its way out stumbles upon you. 2d6 orcs appear, fully armed and hostile.
2: The room you are in rotates 90 degrees clockwise, doors and all.
3: A statue in the center of the room comes to life. It's not very friendly.
4: A fountain in the middle of the room. What appears to be water is acidic ooze. Drinking deals 2 damage.
5: A pot of really hearty stew. No game effects, but it's delicious.
6: This room's doors are on its ceiling, except for the one you just came in through.

Table 3: Wandering Monsters
Do not cross these off after rolling.
1: 1d6 zombies
2: Specter
3: 2-4 orcs
4: A winterbog riding a large pig
5: Frogman
6: Ettercap

Table 4: Traps
Do not cross these off after rolling.
1: Pit opens up underneath the searcher. Roll 1d6- anything but 6 falls in.
2: Mechanical crossbow shoots an arrow. Make an attack with 3 dice.
3: Contact poison! Roll 1d6- result of 5 or 6 reduces maximum Body Points until the end of the adventure.
4: Magma trap! The entire room is flooding with lava. Failure to escape in time spells immediate doom.
5: Rolling boulder, Indiana Jones style. Anybody in the path rolls 1d6- 6s suffer 3 Body Points as they're crushed.
6: Explosion trap. 2 damage to the searcher, 1 damage to anybody nearby.

Rolls of 5 or 6 indicate nothing was found, and nothing happens (but roll the second die anyways, keep the players on their toes.)

Something like that. Really, this was just an excuse to write about my HeroQuest project, and get some time writing up random tables. I like random tables!


  1. I like this a lot. It reminds me of some kind of 6x6 matrix mechanic from Houses of the Blooded. Oracles?? Mind you, I don't know anything about that game -- LOL -- but something about a random matrix of elements that you mix into a game -- not all monsters, but events, treasures, etc. -- has a lot of appeal to me. Basically, the matrix *flavors* the session or game or whatever. YMMV. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I'm glad you mentioned Houses of the Blooded, I actually have a gifted PDF of that I'd forgotten about. I'll check it out and see if it can't help me refine my idea.

    I'm glad you like it, though!