Sunday 13 March 2016

More Game World Building Reaction Tables

Following on from this recent post, I got to thinking a little more about how reaction tables can build the setting and serve as sources of greater interaction, not to mention contribute to achieving a certain mood.

Here's a sample. This is part of a table for New Troy, my pseudo-English folklore setting. One of the conceits of New Troy is that in certain parts of the map (particularly forests) PCs can accidentally stray into, or out of, the Faerie realm (and Faeries can do likewise into the 'real' world of the PCs). They will frequently do this without even knowing it. In such places encounters with animals in particular will have special significance.

This is a set of 'reactions' for encounters in Faerie with the most mundane creature I could think of - a slow worm. (For those of you in North America who can't be bothered to click the link, this is a small limbless lizard.) Ordinarily slow worms are so small and unobtrusive that humans simply don't really 'encounter' them. But that's ordinary slow worms. In Faerie things are different.

I've just provided one set of results for each reaction type; in reality there will likely be 3 or 4:

The Tail of the Worm
A slow worm’s detached tail will bring luck for its saviour. (The PCs come across a badger, fox or other predator attacking a slow worm. If they chase the predator away, the slow worm leaves its detached tail behind. This is a lucky charm if carried, allowing the wearer to avoid a failed save vs death once each lunar month.)
A Plea for Aid
A small, lithe woman dressed in brown leather and with yellow irises asks for aid; she is being hunted by the three wildcat familiars of a witch who lives deep in the forest and wants her for her potions. If the PCs agree to help and kill the witch, the next morning they will be visited again by the woman, who transforms into a slow worm and will lead them to a trove of gold buried beneath a tree (300 gp).
 The Blinding Creeper
In the old tongue, men knew of the slow worm as the “blinding creeper”, because its scales are so dazzling in sunlight. On a sunny day, on an exposed rock on a heath, the sun may catch on the blinding creeper as it dashes for its burrow. (Randomly select a PC, who must successfully save versus poison or be blinded for a day.)
The Maternal Serpent
Occasionally a voice is heard in the forest, calling out for help, giggling, crying, or singing. Its source cannot be found, but it leads a traveller away from his path and strands him in the forest. This is the doing of a mother slow worm, protecting her brood by distracting threats. (For each turn the PCs spend following the sound, there is a 1 in 6 chance they become lost.)
Born of the Earth
Sometimes travellers  climbing on a steep slope, or passing through a ravine or by a rock face, are hit by falling rocks. This is the work of a slow-worm, threatened by their presence. (1d4 damage to each PC; save versus paralysation to avoid).

The idea, here, is that you would roll for a random encounter as normal, and the entry "slow worm" would direct you to its entry, where you then roll the reaction dice, As you can see from the above table, this then provides you with potentially three different things:

-The location of the encounter (on a steep slope or passing by a rock face in the case of an "attack" reaction; on an open rocky heath for a "cautious" one, etc.)
-An actual event of some kind
-Complications (getting lost in the forest for an "aggressive" reaction; possibly encountering a witch for a "neutral" reaction, etc.)

More information can also be packed into this very easily. For example, consider such a table for a standard D&D humanoid monster such as "orcs". An "attack" result might consist of "20 orc slave raiders searching for new blood". A "friendly" one might consist of "a single lost orc who obsequiously begs to be brought under the party's protection". So you get the number of creatures encountered included in the reaction table result. Other information that can be packed into the reaction dice in this way include distance - "attack" might mean that the monster is right on top of the PCs, whereas "neutral" might mean it is very far away - or even the surprise roll, with "attack", in the case of a predator, signifying surprise of the PCs, and "friendly" being the opposite.

This does require quite a bit of work, but it's worth it given the nature of the results, and it's part of the fun of creating the thing.


  1. So in this case, do you roll a d5 and give a negative modifier (moving "down" the chart, right to left) based on charisma/personality? I love this results table as a template, just trying to understand how you determine the reaction.

    1. No, you just use the normal reaction dice: 2-3 Attack, 4-6 Aggressive, 7-9 Cautious, 10-11 Neutral, 12 Friendly. This can be rejigged as appropriate. In reality there would then be 3 or 4 results you would subsequently roll for using a d3 or d4.

      I haven't made my mind up about charisma modifiers. Maybe charisma could be interpreted as representing luck or being in some sense "Faerie touched" or whatever.