Before I go any farther, let me apologize for the dearth of posts around here lately. Though I should know better, lenten seasons (as in the 40 days prior to Christmas) and their immediate aftermath always demand more of my time than I ever expect. In addition, most of the time I have recently spent on gaming has been of the order of getting small details done for a couple projects that I have left fallow for awhile. Thus, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to post, and what I could be posting about hasn’t been all that exciting.
And here comes the However: I have been slogging through making Random Wilderness Encounter Tables for my version of Averoigne. Due to the fact that I like the mechanical feel of their structure, I have been using the same tables from S&W Complete as a model. And yet, one thing bothered me about them — dragons.
Depending on terrain type, there is about a 10% chance of having a random encounter with a dragon using the S&W Complete tables. Now, there are simple ways to radically reduce this chance — but this isn’t what bothered me. Rather, it was the very idea that I had to have a world where enough dragons were running around to justify a 10% chance of running into one.
This notion continued to grow as I found myself repeatedly placing things that the source material suggests like vampires, lamias and lycanthropes all over my encounter tables. Looking at my tables, I couldn’t help but think that my version of Averoigne must be crawling with hundreds of these nasty creatures in order to justify their presence in these tables.
As I doggedly moved forward and started to use these tables in order to come up with wilderness encounter areas, I realized something really interesting — while vampires, lamias and lycanthropes are all over my random tables, there is in actuality only one vampire, one lamia and a handful of lycanthropes (and no dragons) that currently live in Averoigne.
In other words, Random Encounter Tables do not represent what is, rather what might be and only if the PCs go exploring in the wilderness. Though dragons show up on my tables, they don’t exist until they do. Therefore, my world doesn’t have to be a world where dragons exist until they do.
This may seem to be an odd statement, but to my mind it is significant. A world crawling with vampires, lamias, lycanthropes and dragons would look and behave much differently than a world with one vampire, one lamia, a couple of lycanthropes and no dragons. The former is one where paranoia runs rampant, trade would be virtually non-existent and nearly all resources would be used to merely survive. The latter looks much more like a typical medieval society with normal superstitions and fears.
This distinction allows random encounters to impact the game world in a far more interesting and organic way. Dragons don’t exist in Averoigne. No one has ever seen one. Therefore, when the fumbling around of the PCs results in a dragon showing up in Averoigne, it is going to be a major event worthy of an adventure.
3 hours ago