Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Random encounters and Signs of the Apocalypses

You like surprises? Like the man said - if you love your world, set it free and introduce an Apocalypse. Indeed, why stop at one? Integrated into my random encounter table because I like to be surprised.

I could plan out a campaign that ends with the end of the world as they know it...but I could also be lazy and have a random table do the work for me. And so in addition to buried horrors on the map, I've added slow burning "background events" to my encounter table. Every time these omens come up, the world moves another step closer to disaster. Seed these events with hints to a larger conspiracy, cult, plot, etc.

First though, what does the weather look like?

Because there's only so many times you can do the Dark and Stormy Night description.


My last weather table (bottom of post) had radiation storms and ghost winds. This one is more tame. Your campaign is set mid-latitudes, not too far from the ocean? Thought so. Every day, check the weather with a d4: 1 advances to the next category, 4 indicates extreme weather. This technique copied from Pits & Perilous.

extreme (4 on d4)
Clear / partly cloudy
NE - E
cooler than
extremely still, fog banks
Partly / mostly cloudy
E - SE
hail, lightning, high winds
Cloudy / precipitation*
extreme swing
storm, lightning, blizzard
gale, floods
Clear / partly cloudy
high winds

* Spring: snow/rain - Summer: rain - Autumn: rain - Winter: rain/snow


At night or at rest, roll d4.
For every 4 hours of travel or other activity, roll d6.

  1. Time passes
  2. Conflict or opportunity (d12)
  3. Sign of creature (d30)
  4. Creature encounter (d30)
  5. Mundane encounter (d20 & d6)
  6. Backdrop development (d6 & d10)

1. Time passes
Torches burn out, lanterns burn halfway, long running spells end, the horses need feeding, you need to take a leak.

2. Conflict or opportunity (d12)While time passes (as 1), roll on Goblin Punch's list of 6x2 = 12 possible encounters in camp, on the way, between NPCs and so on.

3-4. Sign of creature or creature
A sign (3) can be a sighting at a distance, tracks or waste, a lair and so on. Encountering a creature (4) means checking for surprise, a reaction roll to find if it wants to eat you, hug you, take you home for funsies, and so on.

  1. Solitary grizzly bear. Oh fuck are those its cubs?
  2. Colony of 2d4 (exploding) giant spiders
  3. Pack of 3d4 wolves
  4. Group of 2d4 boars
  5. Very territorial group of deer.
  6. 2d3 Ankheg and their nest
  7. Raiding party: 3d4+4 (exploding) goblins
  8. 1d6+2 orc challengers on rite of passage
  9. 1d4 ogres and their dire wolf
  10. Troll playing with a blink dog
  11. Manticore in cliff lair with 2d6 vicious stirges
  12. Hag with a cockatrice, warg and ogre
  13. Hunter family of 2+3 werewolves
  14. Warlock in mill: humunculus, nothic
  15. Death knight or other dangerous challenger on ancient bridge
  16. Rust monster nest of 2d4, ancient smithy
  17. Forgotten graveyard with d4+4 ghouls
  18. 2d4 skeletons and 1d6+2 zombies
  19. Wraith in tomb guarded by 3 flameskulls
  20. Nymph in a glade with chimera and unicorn pets/suitors
  21. Succulent deer being hunted by griffon
  22. Bog with 3 weary mummies
  23. Mimic road shrine
  24. Flight of 3d4 harpies
  25. Treant used as hoof sharpener by pegasus
  26. (Aboleth) river spirit, d4 bandit slaves
  27. Hunting bulette harrassing dryad grove
  28. Hydra guarding a buried treasure
  29. Nest of d2 owlbears + d3 cubs
  30. Flight of 1d3 wyverns

5. Mundane encounter (d20 & d6)

  1. bedraggled...refugees / beggars / lepers / robbery victims / hunters / escaped serfs 
  2. / monks / nobles / warlocks / carnival / wedding 
  3. place...monastery / graveyard / coach stop / horse trader / market / roadside inn 
  4. marker...shrine / land owner / ancient dead / druid / warlock / thieves 
  5. hermit...shepherd / goat herd / swine herd / lone sage / very soft-handed d3 / crone 
  6. merchant...herbalist / foodstuff / clothes and hides / metalwork / woodcraft / alchemist 
  7. cabin with / cauldron / butchery / herb garden / smoking shack / wood shed
  8. tree markings...hunter / pilgrim / beggar / druid / outlaw / bandit / warlock
  9. / tower / mill / inn / stables / mine / bridge
  10. crossing of...river / lake / marsh / canyon / cliff / broken ground
  11. letters / warrant / battle report / falsified orders / secret alliance / spy
  12. / today / recent / historical / ancient / eldritch
  13. the law...toll / watchtower / smuggler inspection / taxes / prison transport / execution
  14. victims...robbery / murder / kidnapping / blackmail / sabotage / curse
  15. broken down...messenger / carnival / merchant / tax collector / noble carriage / siege train
  16. eldritch...escaped homunculus / hacked shield guardian / pack of ghouls / hell hounds / warlock circle / maddened elemental
  17. religious...Ferragun reliquary escort / Leaden Order excorcist / Ivory Candle witchfinder / Carnellian preacher / Gustavinian investigator / 3rd Lantern vampire hunter
  18. nobility...hunting party / fĂȘte / court / duel / tournament / challenge
  19. far away...spice caravan / perfumed ambassador / curtained sorcerer's carriage /  opium merchant / furclad Vaeringjar / dragon priests
  20. half-fae...dwarf trader, mercenary / elf procession, dousing / gnome, half-elf, half-orc wandered / goblin plunder band / orc quester / cowled dragonborn, tiefling

And now...

6. Backdrop development (d6 & d10)
Maximum of one Backdrop development per day - either connect back to the earlier encounter or event, or treat as 1 (time passes).

This table holds setting-specific details, like maybe there's a war on, or the plague is about to begin, or some nobles are scheming, or wizards have been snorting coffee again, or there's a sweet lady here to take all the pain away, or eldritch shit is going down. Some categories switch to nastier tables after the first initial encounters.

1. Plague
(10 omens, then 10 early encounters, then 10 late encounters. Bring your cough medicine.)

2. War
(minor/far away encounters, or major/close by encounters)

3. Intrigue
There's something here you can turn to your advantage or to a whole lot of unwanted attention.

d6 - Who are involved
  1. Court (d4): 1) local, 2) other barony, 3) Arrayne, 4) Stone Principality
  2. Toadling barons of Ballumbie and Old Fulwood
  3. Sibling baronets of Emlyn
  4. Religious order
  5. Wizard order
  6. Trade guild

d8 What's happening
  1. honour - intercepted a letter reminding of an old, humiliating defeat
  2. debt - crushing obligation about to be repaid
  3. gift - rich and splenderous treasure being transported
  4. love - love letters and tokens being exchanged in secret
  5. marriage - bride to be traveling for political union, stopping it will break an alliance
  6. sabotage - stronghold, weapon or asset guarded badly, vulnerable
  7. betrayal - bunch of pikemen discussing how they'll turn coat on their baron
  8. assassination - bunch of actors about to give private performance

4. Awakened

After 10 warning signs, move to infections

d10 Stage 1: warning signs
(Yeah, these are a bit shit - I generated them with an excel sheet)

  1. Nightmares gave the engineer paranoia and now they are drunk somewhere.
  2. Chronic pain gave the porter depression and now they got into a fight.
  3. Festivities gave the guard memory loss and now they locked themselves in.
  4. Mountain of work gave the merchant hallucinations and now they keep seeing invisible angels.
  5. Debt worries gave the scribe tremors and now they found themselves miles from home.
  6. Green comet exposure gave the clockmaker disorientation and now they missed work.
  7. Nightmares gave the farmer loss of time and now they want to take their own life.
  8. Chronic pain drove the scribe to excessive drinking and now they have palsy.
  9. A haunting gave the hunter depression and now they think their spouse is a doppelganger.
  10. Coffee addiction made the blacksmith hyperactive and now they caused an accident.

d10 Stage 2: infection

  1. Monastery has gone silent, ringing its bells but keeping its doors closed.
  2. Confessors at the wretched Church in Stenton are going sleepless.
  3. Fishermen worked to the bone did not return from full week run in a storm.
  4. Woodloggers haven't sent new lumber after flaring green falling star.
  5. Harvest burned down in village feud-linked with neighbours.
  6. Pamflets with everyone's dirty secrets circulating in town.
  7. Nobleman is light on taxes, cannot make upkeep, now working serfs until they bleed.
  8. Harrowed sailors party themselves to exhaustion after sleep-deprived voyage.
  9. Market visitors and stall keepers exhausted, confess to sleepnlessness.
  10. Pilgrims in euphoric sleep deprivation start a day-and-night prayer.

5. Death Cult
After rolling 10 Influences of the Dawn, move on to 10 Actions of the Dawn.

d10 Influences of the Dawn
  1. a new potion promises to protect against pregnancy
  2. a known leper returns from a long absence, cured and limbs restored
  3. a farming family has suffocated its livestock and prepares for suicide
  4. a group of painful plague sufferers is found dead, at peace
  5. a fortune teller talks about the many evils in the world
  6. a village has seen no childbirth or livestock impregnation since a year
  7. a ghoul band has been cleared from the cemetary after blinding white-gold light
  8. a string of families is found killed after welcoming a traveler
  9. a white-haired girl arrives with supplies after a natural disaster
  10. a veteran soldier is found dead without a wound on him

d10 Actions of the Dawn
  1. a luminous fog drifts into town, causing painless death
  2. a hospital is attacked with gas that causes sleep, then death
  3. a suicide attack sinks a ship of famine refugees - the attacker has genitals nor anus
  4. a family is waiting for the return of their soldier son. Three white-robed people show up
  5. a child finds a sunlit gem that leaves its light in her palm. It spreads by touch
  6. a traveler unleashed painless death at a joust by kneeling and praying
  7. a friend of the party has gone to live with the Immaculate Cult and wishes to die
  8. a sad smiled wisewoman will lift a curse or disease - if you agree to become sterile
  9. a Warlock summoning is interrupted by white-clothed tome stealers
  10. a faith healer is accosted by Kurelda inquisitors and self-immolates in white light

6. The Exile
You will receive 3d6 Signs of the Exile, then experience 2d6 Seasons of Darkness, then 1d6 times will Chaos Reign, then go back to Signs of the Exile and release a major demon or horror into your campaign world. Entries copied below from their original blogs for convenience. I can't remember where I found (or wrote?) the Seasons of Darkness.

d10 Signs of the Exile
A reminder that Someone has their eye on you. After 3d6 of these, move on to Seasons of Darkness.

  1. Snake choking on a rat, both still alive.
  2. Brief view of a doe bounding away. A fox is left behind, eyes split by the doe's tiny hooves.
  3. Too many feathers. Small speckles of blood. Doves?
  4. Grey skies. A roll of thunder that goes on for minutes, but no lightning.
  5. A fox dragging a loop of intestine from its belly. Falls over and dies, and a single fly exits its mouth.
  6. Stag, with another stag's severed head, their antlers locked together.
  7. Wolf with a broken jaw, dying of dehydration.
  8. Some has crucified hundreds of squirrels. Tiny wooden crucifix-fetishes dangle from the branches.
  9. Moss-backed moose beats head against tree until bird's nest falls down, then casually eats hatchlings.
  10. In the morning, cloven footprints discovered throughout the campsite.

d8 Season of Darkness
Roll d3 to find out how many days the effect lasts. It extends three times as many miles from the local Dark Heart of the Woods. A rite of contriton or cleansing at this site can end the Season early. After 2d6 Seasons of Darkness, move on to Chaos Reigns.

  1. Thousands and thousands of bats swarm the skies. Bring rabies, carry off small wildlife.
  2. After death, all corpses turn their heads and eyes to look towards the Dark Heart of the Woods.
  3. Prey animals rise up against their predators, trampling fox and farmer in cunning, bleating hatred.
  4. The dead rise. The woods are filled with zombie animals and bloody skeletons of the same. They congregate in the Dark Heart of the Woods during the new moon, where they dance for a night and a day. Afterwards they disperse to hunt the living.
  5. Zombies have 10x their normal HP. They sense and hunt the nearest sentient creature.
  6. Trees bleed. The ground moans when it is struck.
  7. The sun fails to rise. It hovers behind the horizon for ~12 hours, creating an unnatural twilight.
  8. All food rots in the mouth, and if swallowed, is poisonous. All water tastes bitter, but is functionally clean. Starvation is rapid and dramatic. The first animals to starve are probably the smaller ones with crazy metabolisms, like shrews and hummingbirds, then mice, etc.

d6 Chaos Reigns
Lasts for 3d6 days in a 3d6 mile radius from the Heart of Darkness. Can be stopped only by a Hallow spell cast at the Heart of Darkness, which will be rife with servants of the Exile. After 1d6 of these, release a major demon or horror into your campaign world and go back to Signs of the Exile.

  1. The Sun fades away, becoming an immense red rimmed eye. You can see it staring at you no matter what, even if you are inside or underground or are otherwise blinded. The Eye’s cyclopean regard fills you with guilt; once an hour every hour until sunset, you must Save vs Paralysis or spend a turn describing 10 terrible thing you have done that you have not yet described. Lasts until sunset.
  2. The full Moon rises and begins to sing. Animals begin to act aggressively and with vicious cunning, madmen become violent and adept at escape, monarchs begin to plot invasion, and the general populace is driven to fear, paranoia, and despair. The tides are erratic and extreme. Lasts 2d4 weeks.
  3. The Stars flare to life in the sky, then vanish. Navigation by night becomes impossible, roads lead astray, and currents lead to strange seas. Lasts 2d4 weeks.
  4. A thunderous voice narrates everything anyone does, says, or thinks for the next d4 hours.
  5. Whenever it rains, it rains (d4) 1 sticky black tar; 2 bitter water that causes nightmares when drunk (or ingested via plants); 3 a hail with broken birds inside each stone; 4 blood.
  6. All present in the area make a Will save. Anyone failing this save is afflicted with a wasting sickness that will eat at their Strength at 1 damage per day, withering their muscles beneath their skin. This affliction lasts until the person commits an atrocity, defined as something completely contrary to their morals. Alternatively, the curse can be removed by a blessing with a Will save of 13 + number of Strength damage taken.