Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Food Chain Competition in game play

Watching one of those National Geographic shows about food-chain competition on the African savana really got me thinking. Monster combat in the D&D world would certainly not be a "one and done" event.

If you are a cheatah on the savanna, you have mere minutes to feast on your kill before some tougher beasts arrive to take it from you. It can really go in cycles too, and depend on numbers, leading to a number of "chain battles".

The vulture pack might show up first, but then the dogs. Then the lions. Then the hyenas. Anywhere near water? Crocs are a sure bet to be on the prowl too. See what I mean? A bunch of different groups arrive at once and it turns into a total clusterfuck. A D&D world is going to be even more competitive and full of would-be alpha predators.

The rule book recommends a 1 in 6 chance of a random night time encounter, checked once per night. But how does that stack up against your experience, for example, camping in a forest? Better not have any food in your tent, because bears WILL sniff it out. How much more danger would you face in a magically-enhanced forest, full of magical uber-predators??? I'd say at least one encounter a night is guaranteed, especially if the party didn't take means to cloak their presence.

Anyway, after a deadly battle with animals or monsters in the wilderness, you can EXPECT the alpha predators to show up, it is GUARANTEED. Simply roll a 1d20 for rounds till they get there, and a 1d12 for type of monster. Roll 1d4 for how many times this will happen, i.e. how many different alpha predators will show up.

Alpha predator table

1 - Humanoid/barbarian hunting party
2 - Bear family (incl. werebears, Aurumvorax, etc.)
3 - giant Insects (incl. Thri-Kreen, Formians, etc.)
4 - Canine pack (dogs, wolves, werewolves, wolfweres, etc)
5 - Lion pride (incl. Wemics)
6 - Giant (incl. ogres, trolls, etc.)
7 - random monster
8 - Dragon
9 - giant Birds (incl. bats, Harpies, Vulchlings, etc)
10- undead
11- giant Snake (incl. Behir, Boalisk, etc)
12 - giant Rats

Note, the alpha predator will probably just be interested in some food, i.e. dead meat at the scene. Intelligent alpha predators may also be interested in treasure, which means the PCs escape may be complicated....


Matt said...

I really like this idea! Probably best for groups that really focus on overland journeys as integral to the game - for folks who just want to go from town to dungeon it would introduce more complications than the Ref or players wanted.

Justin said...

Thanks for your comments, Matt. I agree, it really is designed for a holistic campaign, not just periodic dungeon delves.

Maybe by making it more fun and challenging, people won't be so hesitant to use wilderness episodes.

Anonymous said...

I think it's great for forcing players to stay on the move. I'd just roll for random encounters for each round of combat instead of per turn (so if your game says to roll once per three turns, then roll once per three rounds). Whoever comes has some choices.

1: Wait around and fight the winner or wait until the winner leaves and pick at the scraps. This is typically what players do, in my experience, smugly sitting back to watch their enemies beat each other up.

2: Jump in and fight the people they think will win. Monsters would do this if they think other monsters will come and make things complicated if the fight doesn't end soon.

3: Jump in and fight whoever they hate more. This would be Goblins attacking Gnomes, or Elves attacking Orcs. It could also be intelligent monsters attacking PCs because they're new to the area and the other monster is at least a local.

4: Sit back and wait until everything dies down and choose who to attack then. Maybe attack the first scavengers to secure the kill, or stalk the initial winner who is injured and probably carried off the choicest loot.

5: Attack the weaker side, hoping to curry favor with the stronger ones.

6: Attack the stronger side in the hopes of keeping general competition down.