2020-08-11 Hazard system

Lich Van Winkle wrote a blog post about his experience using wandering monsters.

In the comments, Ruprecht mentioned hazard rolls and I was reminded of the Hazard system as described by Necropraxis. I don’t use it, but I like it every time I read it. Something for the time keeper in a game, I guess. Lich Van Winkle then replied and said he felt “this system is more suitable to a fantasy board game than a narrative-generating role-playing game” – and perhaps he’s right.

I think the attraction for me is that I don’t actually have to do any tracking: I roll the die, and that’s it. This is as true for wandering monsters as for many other things: assuming that monsters are moving about, I could either try and know whether the various groups are, or I could just have them show up at random, which is nearly as good from a player perspective, a lot less work from the referee perspective, and also more exciting for the referee since you also get to be surprised by encounters. At least those are the benefits to me.

To illustrate, I sometimes feel like I have to balance many things as a referee: tell my players to scratch off some light resources; tell my players to recompute encumbrance; tell my players to scratch off rations; remind them of nearby dangers by occasionally remarking on spoors left by monsters; run occasional encounters; scratch off ammunition used, and so on. Now, if I had a process that would tell me “now do this, now do that” without me feeling like a servant to a machine, allowing me to delay, to improvise and to change as required but still suggest something like “how about some spoors to be found” or “how about some monsters now” or “how about they’re exhausted now” (let’s have some inter-character small talk as the characters rest and readjust), then that would seem ideal. It doesn’t solve all my problems, but it linearises and randomises all these things that are on my mind, all of them at the same time. That’s what I like about the Hazard System, that’s why it doesn’t feel like a boardgame to me.

Now, perhaps you don’t want to run such a game, and that’s fine. Personally, I rarely worry about arrows spent or encumbrance, for example. I do feel like I’d like more inter-character small talk (like those flashbacks in Lady Blackbird!) or more spoors and other hints about the environment, and the Hazard System would provide all that.


I too like reading the Hazard System.

However, I also feel like the problem it tries to solve first and foremost (reduce book-keeping) can be mitigated by having a cheat sheet that outlines all the necessary procedures. In other words, I think people tend to forget marking rations, torches, and whatnot is because no reminders are in front of them. Of course, once the procedures are ingrained, there’s less need to have cheat sheets, but sufficient boxes where you can mark resources would still be necessary (I mean, you need dedicated space on your character sheet for recording HP and XP, too, right?).

Ynas Midgard 2020-08-11 18:09 UTC

Nice link, I guess that’s where Megadungeon got it. It felt awkward to point something out that required someone to buy the magazine to understand the point. Plus your link has far more detail.

I like the hazard table because I can add things such as torch goes out (why? Water from the roof, someone keeps dropping it and it got wet, etc) in addition to normal tracking of torches. Rations disappearing doesn’t have to mean they were eaten, they might mean that someone just noticed (small hole in the backpack indicates it was sliced and rations stolen, the backpack is covered by spiders Indiana Jones style and they left some liquid on the rations, etc). The idea really opens up the Encounter Table to enable a living breathing environment.

Plus noises, smells, and footprints should be on encounter tables.

Ruprecht 2020-08-11 19:00 UTC

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