Random Encounter Checks

So, random encounters.  I’ve been following discussion over at the something awful forums on the new edition of D&D, and one of the thoughts that occurs to me is the lack of adapting what are really some classic, needed rules if one is to play old school D&D.

Random encounters are one of these rules.  Now, rolling up a monster is easy, everyone and their mother has written up a random table to roll on to see what creatures the PCs encounter.

What I have seen less of, however, is how often to roll on these tables.  So I’m going to share how I decide to do so.

First off, frequency of random encounter rolls mean that there is a possibility of a random encounter, so one must first roll to see if the PCs even encounter anything.  I keep it simple; I roll a d6, and on a 1, there is a random encounter.

Frequency of rolls? Well, that’s another entirely more complicated matter.  Because it depends on the situation.  As a guideline, I usually break it down as follows:  Wilderness Areas, I roll once every eight hours.  Small urban/town areas, I roll once every twelve hours.  In large urban/town areas, I roll once every six hours, and in dungeons, I roll once every hour.

Now, circumstances can change the frequencies of these rolls.  Recently, for example, my PCs have been in a swamp that is being fought over, so random encounter rolls were made, on average, every four hours. Dungeon frequency rolls are based on the assumption that the PCs presence is unknown, so once it is discovered they are there, the frequency of random encounter checks will increase, and even this will vary depending upon how much the monsters know is going on.  If it is a large complex, and some materials are just found awry, it might only decrease to once every half hour, whereas if the PCs leave a chamber full of bloody corpses, it might well decrease to once every ten minutes, or once every five, as the entire complex is mobilized.

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