2009-06-19 Beyond Challenge Rating

In my D&D 3.5 Alder King game the 4th level party ran into a young adult blue dragon, twice. My random encounter charts are location specific. I look at the current hex and its surrounding hexes, and quickly jot down a chart when the session starts. Usually it has eight entries and I roll a d6. At night, I add +2. Thus, 1-2 are diurnal and 7-8 are nocturnal encounters.

Was this “fair”? Of course not, if you assume the challenge rating assumptions in the DMG are the definition of fair. But as suggested on Never Have a Plan, “I didn’t have a plan. I never have a plan. I didn’t know whether they’d sneak around it, or figure out a way to kill it, or just charge in and get themselves all killed. I hadn’t even given much thought to how they’d deal with it.”

That’s how I like to play. It pushes me to improvise.

After all, the encounter did not come with instructions saying: “The dragon charges immediately and fights until slain.”

I knew the dragon was out to protect its territory, and it would always welcome a chance to find some magic item loot. So I had the dragon try and intimidate the party into giving up magic items, and the party tried their very best to walk the dangerous line of saving their stuff and not provoking the dragon into a fight. And it worked. And I got to introduce yet another character into the game – and the party already has strong opinions about it. The dragon could be used to beat the Dark Talon lizards if the party told it about the magic sword the lizard king recently aquired (the party having lost it to some Dark Talon lizards), and the dragon’s greed already aggravates them. Conflict and possibilities – I like!

If I’d keep planning the encounters along the average party level ±2 encounter level suggestions, then scenes such as these would be impossible. Why limit myself?

I also enjoy the planning that follows such situations. I like to listen to the players talk, and I like to add my own ideas on how to overcome challenges. You could try this! Or this! Wouldn’t it be cool if you’d try this? This is how I like to provide background information as well. I’ll say “actually, your player would know that there have been no dwarven settlements in the area in recent decades” or “the dragon did seem way too powerful, it’s true.” Yet another fun element of the game.

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Comments

After all, the encounter did not come with instructions saying: “The dragon charges immediately and fights until slain.”

Heh. Nice.

I like your random encounter system. I’ll have to borrow that whenever I get a hex map campaign running.

Oddysey 2009-06-20 03:23 UTC


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