Monday, October 19, 2020

Damn You, Gygax! Part 4

Previously, I wrote a series of posts called "Damn You, Gygax!" on a theme: That in the transition from Original D&D to Advanced D&D (circa 1977-1979), Gygax stumbled several times in trying to make the system "fully abstract" (i.e., applicable to any world or milieu), thereby losing the flavor, specificity, visceralness, and game-mechanical utility of the original. 

That series had 3 parts, but was originally intended to have 4. The prior parts focused on:

  • Diseases switching from real-world named contagions, to packages of complicated symptoms and affected body parts. 
  • Ship movement switching from per-round tactical tabletop scales and points-of-sail (and specific numbers of crewmen), to units of miles-per-hour and stripped-out wind directions (as well as hazy broad ranges for crew). 
  • Overland movement switching from specific hexes-per-day on a recommended campaign map scale (with a clear rule for handling changes in terrain), to a more generalized miles-per-day which are not evenly divisible by any possible map scale (and no rule for handling the obvious case of covering multiple types in a day).

Now, eight years later, I'm at long-last filling in that final 4th part. Sometimes I get hugely delayed on important tasks, but I do generally keep track of them. My coming back to this is partly inspired by the always-excellent Justin Alexander of The Alexandrian blog, who wrote a series of posts on Twitter last week defending the wandering monster mechanic, like so:


I like that a lot; well put, as usual, Justin. However, I'll add a bit of a nuance: Arguably Gygax fell down on precisely that issue in the 1E AD&D core materials; such that if a player first became familiar with the game through those books, they might actually have a reasonable criticism about that. Digging into specifics:

Original D&D, Vol-3, Underworld & Wilderness Adventure (1974)

The initial tables for dungeon random encounters are fairly short, and look like this:


Here we see the first 4 monster level tables (out of 6) for Underworld adventures. These tables are reasonably sized: either 8 or 10 monsters listed per level. My primary point is this: These tables are specific the to the environment of Gary's Castle Greyhawk. It doesn't say that explicitly in the book, but if you compare the monsters on the Level 1 table to the first level key of Castle Greyhawk (unearthed and analyzed here earlier this year), you'll see that it's all precisely the same monsters. If they're on the wandering table, it's because they have a lair or nest on that level, and vice-versa. Every random encounter indeed gives a clue as to what the nearby lairs are about. And we know from other verbal sources that lairs and themes of other levels likewise matched the distribution of monsters on the other tables seen here. Every possible random encounters is a synthetic reflection and communication of the environment around you.

Advanced D&D, Dungeon Masters Guide (1979)

As the game expands and new monster listings expand between 1974 and 1979, Gary makes the mistake of expanding the wandering monster tables in the core rulebook to make sure that they include every monster in the game. Here are two (the Level I and Level VII lists):

 

That's, um... a lot of monsters. Frankly, way too many. (Instead of 8-12 types per table in OD&D Vol-3, we see 20-40+ listings in these tables, not counting the subtype tables). It's too many to build any cohesive theme or tone around, way too many to place lairs for all of them on the densest dungeon map I've ever seen. Every type and subtype of men, demons, devils, otyughs, and dragons (the types there likewise doubled from OD&D) are included. 

The fundamental problem here is that the random monster tables have become disconnected from any specific adventuring environment, such as Castle Greyhawk. Rather, the tables' primary function has become an encyclopedic index to list every monster in the game (and also indicate their power level). Encountering a particular monster from these tables likely tells you nothing about the ecosystem around you; there's no reason to think an associated lair exists, and chances are basically negligible that you'll ever meet the same type a second time (so no preparation or strategic response will help you). If you were adventuring with these tables in use for wandering monsters, actually, yeah -- there would seem to be no rhyme nor reason to what was happening. 

This is sort of a classic, even understandable, misstep which leads to design "bloat". You're only adding a few extra monsters at each step (e.g., OD&D Vol-3, then OD&D Supplement-I Greyhawk, followed by Supplement-III Eldritch Wizardry, then here in 1E AD&D DMG; each publication expanded the tables a little bit). What are you going to do today, paste in a few more monsters to your tables, or overhaul the entire system you've got going on? Most days and workplaces, the answer will be the former. Without tasteful editorial oversight, you get the "bloat" and loss of effective functionality.

Of course, that's just the story for the dungeon encounters; an identical story runs through the wilderness encounters. In OD&D Vol-3 they're pretty reasonable in size (like the dungeon tables, they take up just 2 digest-size pages in the book). In the AD&D DMG, every climactic zone and terrain type on Earth gets its own table with every imaginable animal and monster listed in them -- often a whole standard-size page is needed for a single table (the whole runs over 8 pages, not counting the tables for cities, castles, ethereal/astral planes, etc.) The table for Tropical areas alone has over 50 entries.

Furthermore, this bloat problem continued even further in the follow-up AD&D monster book of the Fiend Folio. Still committed to this same creaking design idiom, the authors were compelled to present all brand-new encounter tables for every dungeon level and wilderness area, again including every single monster in the entire further-expanded game. Now every single dungeon-level table requires a whole standard-sized page to fit it (e.g., the Level VII table has over 60 entries in it, plus follow-up dragon and sphinx subtables). Likewise the mammoth wilderness tables go for more and more pages. Over 15% of the whole book's page count is just the wandering monster tables, basically without any rhyme or reason. Just: Everything in the entire world, here in one place.

Advanced D&D, Monster Manual II (1983)

Now, I'll come back around and finish by giving Gygax some praise in the end: ultimately he did see the problem with this design path and made a course-correction in the Monster Manual II (this being a short 2 years before he departed TSR). Here, the new tables at the back of the book are, for the first time, cut down to a more manageable size. 



The mechanic used in all the tables here is a somewhat oddball method of 1d8 + 1d12, such that a range of 2-20 is generated (19 monsters in every list), with a "flat spot of equal probability in the 9-13 range" (as he writes), and bell-like tapering of chances down at the extremes. As usual, tables are presented for every dungeon level (I to X), outdoor climate types, aquatic zones, etc. Many iconic monsters are left out entirely (note the weirdly exotic population in the tables above); and there are no subtype tables (other than for character parties). The whole system matrix, underworld and wilderness, takes only 6 pages in the book (admittedly in a very small font, and with no art). 

More interesting is that following this is a section on, "Creating Your Own Random Encounter Tables" which explicates the mechanic and encourages the DM to make their own customized tables for specific adventure locations, as follows:

Two example are given: both wilderness tables ("Elven Forest", and "Spider Woods"), but clearly this system is meant to be used for customized dungeon areas, as well (otherwise, for example, no Giant other than the Hill variety can possibly appear in the game, etc., etc.). This is followed by 18 pages of teeny-tiny font listings of every monster indexed by every possible dungeon level, frequency class, climactic range, degree of civilization, etc. Clearly DMs are expected to pick from these (non-dice-indexed) master tables to populate their own d8 + d12 encounter tables. Finally, Gygax has written, "DMs are encouraged to tailor their encounters to their own worlds in a similar fashion".

With benefit of hindsight, is this a patently obvious thing for a DM to do? Perhaps. But it took almost the entire first decade of the game before anyone thought to write it in a rulebook. When someone picks up one of these big rulebooks, particularly as a child or teenager new to the game, one generally assumes that the structures defined in them give a reasonable play experience out-of-the-box. (If not, then exactly what are they for?) Even here, I'd opine that the d8 + d12 tables are too long at 19 monsters; as few as around seven things will likely fill up one's memory space (compare again to the OD&D tables at the top). So, I'd be happy with 2d6 or even 1d6 monster tables in my dungeons (compare to classic AD&D modules: the G1-3 and D1 series all have 1d3 or 1d4 tables; T1 and D2 have 1d6 and 1d8 tables; table size expands in later modules, etc.)

Even though Gygax finally saw the light and offered an explicit mechanic and advice for designing tables specific to a DMs' own campaign areas, I would argue -- at that point the damage had been done. Too many young people had picked up the books in the 1975-1983 era, used them as written by default, and had long series of wandering encounters that were confusing and disconnected from the adventuring environment they found themselves in. I think it's that play experience that gave random, wandering encounters a rotten smell that's lingered to this day. Anyway, that's my thesis: a whole lot of genius in those books, and also a large number of decadent semi-broken systems when Gygax tried to overly-abstract AD&D to make it the everything-game.

Phew! That was a bunch of stuff. I knew that was going to be a long one, which is why I've been trepidatious to write it lo, these many years. Big thanks to J. Alexander for kicking me back into action with a great observation on how wandering monsters definitely ought to be used, in synthesis with the immediate, specific adventuring locale. 


38 comments:

  1. Excellent, Excellent, Excellent.

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  2. Great post, as usual. I use a 2D6 table for random encounters. When I'm actually organized and well prepared, I create an encounter table for each particular area on the map. This encounter table will vary from season to season and sometimes what is going on politically at that point in the campaign. The other thing I do is make some encounters that are going to be beneficial to the party. Travelling pilgrims who share their campfire and food with the adventurers, the local lord's men patrolling and can tell the PC's where to find safety, water, or danger (if that's what they are looking for), the local healer out collecting herbs and offers assistance if someone is injured etc. I rarely see those sorts of encounters on a random table.

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    1. Nice. It's a good point about possibly friendly encounters. One thing I did in the wilderness is: on a road, swap out the "lost" die for a separate "merchant" encounter die. A couple times I've had monsters & merchants show up together, in conflict, and PCs need to decide whether to get involved or not (and on which side).

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  3. I think you're missing a clause or sentence in the para that begins "Of course, that's just the story for the dungeon encounters; an identical story runs through the wilderness encounters." Right before "Every climactic zone" there should probably be something announcing the shift from discussing OD&D Vol III to the MM?

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    1. Good catches, thanks. I made an editorial pass today and cleaned several things like that. The first one you mention, I stared at for several minutes, and unusually had no idea what I was originally try to say.

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  4. Good guidance on how to build a random table might helped me a lot when I was younger. I started out with Fiend Folio, so I was used to the idea that all dungeons potentially contained all monsters. You could run into anything, anywhere, anytime. Learning to cut back to a sensible, thought-out subset was just not part of the curriculum of learning to DM when I was young and getting started.

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  5. Thanks for this - I'm now thinking I should shrink some of my random encounter tables. I do have one trick not mentioned here: I cross out the encounter after use (some are a sentence with specific details). Should the number be rolled, I then go to the next uncrossed-out encounter instead.

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    1. Nice. For me, things on the wandering table get crossed out when the associated lair is cleared.

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  6. Excellent analysis as always. An aside: You say that Justin Alexander is "almost-always-excellent." When has he failed to be excellent? Genuinely curious.

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    1. On my edit pass today I took out that "almost". I think I meant that in the mathematical sense: "almost-always" means 100% of the time, but there may be some 0-dimensional points missing. Was trying to cover my bases, but realized that was probably too obscure. :-)

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  7. Aren't the DMG tables just communicating that the environment is really big and that this is a feature rather than a failure?

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    1. Honestly, for the wilderness tables it's a bit more forgivable, I think. But the dungeon tables are just... too big. E.g., using them in conjunction with a dungeon the size of any TSR module there would be a big disconnect.

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    2. Are not there for a home funhouse megadungeons? Just thinking.
      But i agree that the tables are big. At the expected density for occupied rooms (2/6), some monsters would appear only if you have 200 occupied rooms ... this at level 1.

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  8. A couple of notes:

    (1) the Vol. III tables also included all of the monsters in the game (or nearly so) just like the DMG and FF tables, it's only that there were so many fewer of them then. The tables work for Greyhawk Castle because Greyhawk Castle was a kitchen-sink environment that included everything - all of the humanoid types, undead, giant animals, monsters, character-types, etc.

    (2) This same topic came up somewhere else a couple months ago and I expressed surprise there that people actually used the "generic" dungeon wandering monster charts instead of creating customized tables for each dungeon. Certainly almost every module included custom tables (and those that didn't generally had a note that there were no wandering monsters - like S1) and even the sample dungeon in the DMG does. The introduction to the tables in the DMG specifically says that they're for use where "you do not have an encounter table specifically devised for the area." Couple this with the advice in the D&D Basic Sets:

    [Moldvay 1981]: "The DM may want to create special wandering monster tables for specific areas or dungeons. These might include the monsters which live in the area, patrols, and animals (vermin) which can be found there. An example would be a cave complex with goblins liv- ing in it. A wandering monster table for this area could have en- counters with normal goblins, goblin patrols and perhaps a chance of running into bats or rats."

    [Mentzer 1983]: "To finish, you should make a Wandering Monster list to fit the dungeon. Only a few monsters will be needed - from 4 to 10- but they should be selected to fit the scenario, the setting, and the map. For example, in ruins, the Wandering Monsters could all be scavenger types (carrion crawler, rats, gelatinous cube), giant beetle, and Special Monsters (1-4 hobgoblin guards, for example)."

    So between this advice and these examples, I always, from almost literally day one, created my own custom wandering monster tables for every dungeon rather than relying on the ones in the book. The book tables were still used as a reference to gauge encounter toughness and determine appropriate numbers appearing, but except for idle random solo adventures using the DMG Appendix A tables I can't recall ever using the tables in the DMG or FF to generate wandering monster encounters in a dungeon.

    Maybe my circumstances are different from other folks who started playing earlier because I saw that Moldvay and Mentzer advice early on and had a lot of examples of published modules to look to compared to people who started playing 3-4 years earlier, but even so I don't think it should've been that hard for kids in 1978-79 to see that the DMG sample dungeon and every TSR module (G1-3 and and D1-3 and B1 and S2 and T1) had customized wandering monster tables and think of doing the same thing in their own dungeons without explicitly being told to.
    Wilderness encounters are a different story and I did (and still do) use the book tables for those, but since those are organized not only by terrain type but also climate and population level (different charts for civilized/patrolled vs wild areas) and monster rarity (common vs uncommon vs rare vs very rare) they do incorporate the very sort of setting-logic that you are decrying the lack of here - much moreso than the tables in OD&D Vol. III do. And, of course, there is also consideration of whether wandering monsters encountered in the wilderness have a lair nearby - the chance of that is listed in the description of every monster. The only factor missing from those wilderness tables is consideration for time of day (day vs twilight vs night) - a lack for which we can hardly blame them since the tables already took up 20 pages.

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    1. Great comment -- As usual, I think that partly highlights the exceptional quality of advice and insight that Moldvay routinely gave us. In contrast, you don't get that same advice anywhere in OD&D or Holmes Basic, say. If you start play in the Holmes Basic dungeon or module B2 then you're referred back to the general tables where anything can show up. (Weirdly B1 has custom tables, though.) Even Moldvay's sample dungeon coming immediately after the general tables doesn't actually do that, so it's at best a mixed signal there.

      The DMG quote is great but it's buried pretty deep in the text, is very curt, doesn't have any examples, etc. By contrast the opening line in that same section/page is, "The procedures and tables for determining random monster encounters during the course of a campaign are given here", which read literally is the basic rule (and highlighted by the amount of space dedicated to those big tables).

      Anyway, score another point for Moldvay here in his nonstop dunking contest.

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    2. >>>1) the Vol. III tables also included all of the monsters in the game (or nearly so) just like the DMG and FF tables, it's only that there were so many fewer of them then...

      Um, no they don't and no it isn't. There are more than 65 monsters detailed in whole or in part in the 3lbb's. The monster tables in U&WA p 9&10 cover only about 30 of the monsters listed elsewhere. Further many additional monsters listed in the tables are specific expansions on the categories of "men", "giant animals", and "giant insects." For example, Spiders and Giant Ants are found nowhere else in the rulebooks but are surely in the "giant insects" category.

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    3. Intriguing claim, I guess I'd need to see a comprehensive listing of how you're making those counts. A real quick scan of the Vol-3 encounter tables looks like around 60 distinct monsters there to me.

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  9. I had to teach myself this lesson the hard way trying to make an encounter tables for a hex crawl. I finally abstracted it down to types -Civilized -Outlaws/Humanoids -Beasts -Critters -Monsters -Weird Stuff with a couple of sub tables to help mix it up if the first roll didnt inspire. Based on the outcome of those initial rolls, they helped dictate any future tables for that region. Rolled Spiders? Now its the Spiderwood, and the table has a theme.

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  10. Eh? The headline should read, "Damn You, Kuntz!" After all, it is his name on the abomination that is the Greyhawk supplement, that vile screed which ruined D&D.

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    1. Well... his name is listed there second after Gygax, of course.

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  11. Gygax's desire to include every monster in these tables as the game developed may have been driven in part by his other suggested use for them: random dungeon stocking (as opposed to wandering monsters). The section in OD&D Vol 3 on "Distribution of Monsters and Treasures" suggests using these tables to stock the dungeon for rooms "not already allocated". So basically an idea generator for what to put in the rooms of the dungeon. Unless each dungeon level is truly gigantic, one won't end up with every monster on the table in every dungeon. With this type of use, having as many monsters as possible on the tables is a desirable feature so that each dungeon will have a different subset of monsters inhabiting the rooms, and less repetition of monster types.

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    1. Good point. The dual-usage might make sense early on, but trying to maintain it with the larger tables breaks down the contextualization for the wandering case. At least in OD&D it's in the section on "Wandering Monsters", signaling that's the primary use-case.

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  12. The B/X retroclone Basic Fantasy RPG has some good 2d8 WM tables for wilderness encounters, where the middle entries are often NPC parties. That gives roughly the right amount of variety, and it's pretty well themed for a core book.

    Next time I do some world building, I'm inspired to make some 2d6 WM tables, where 6-8 are the defining features of that area, and maybe reserve 7 for a recurring NPC, 2 for "something really nasty", and 12 for rolling on another table (for the occasional surprise).

    I'm a fan of procedural generation (probably because I'm much better at riffing off things than coming up with new ideas from scratch - Rory's Story Cubes ftw!), and it seems to me that writing a good WM table for an area is just as important as writing the backstory, prime source of conflict, and geographical features. It brings the area to life.

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    1. That sounds awesome, I totally agree with everything you just said there! Someday I'll give up my attempts at being a "designer" and embrace the fact that I'm also better at riffing off random creations than anything else.

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  13. Interesting thoughts.

    The Gygaxian tables (DMG & FF) seem great for procedurally generating some dungeon (or wilderness) *content*. Preferably ahead of play. But as you say, would be terrible as a wandering monster overlay to be rolled in-play within an existing setting.

    Looking at the rules on territory development, I did always assume these were tables for content generation, which works ok for *wilderness* using the DMG tables and MM monsters with their % in Lair, treasure tables et al. But I see the big problem with using the *dungeon* tables, & I'm not sure I ever did that.

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    1. I think I'm pretty much of the same mind on that. The "big" dungeon tables always bothered me more than the wilderness ones (taken as a whole-world general simulator).

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  14. I think you overstate this being a "failure" for the reasons pointed out above: (1) almost every single module has its own tailored Wandering Monster table (clearly indicating you could keep context in mind, if that was a priority for you); (2) those larger tables work perfectly fine for a "gonzo" play style that was fairly popular at the time, and (3) those tables were used for helping stock dungeons as much as for "Wandering Monsters." I see this less as a sin of "abstraction" as you claim, and more just trying to offer folks another resource from which to draw on.

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  15. Modules tended to have their own tables, and we tended to follow that example, and create our own, for our homebrew dungeons; so I never saw anyone use these back in the day.

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  16. Well, finding RPG books was always hard in my hometown, here in Brazil. And they were (and still are) really expensive. For every edition that I bought (1st to 3rd, and 5e), I always only owned the core rules. Maybe I'm the exception in that matter.

    Nonetheless, I find it really important that the *core* books explain the game with clarity and give enough examples for a newbie DM, so that he can understand how the rules, tables and other tools are supposed to be used to create and run an adventure, without having to consult adventure modules to see them used in context.

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  17. Super great post Delta! Might be worth pointing out you skipped over Holmes and the wandering monster tables there - which apparently changed with each printing, but still followed the pattern you describe.

    I suppose it is interesting to contrast Arneson's practice. His debut D&D adventure, Temple of the Frog in Supplement II, gave a percent chance that a random number of monsters found normally in a given room would be wandering out of the room.

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    1. Good point of course -- I was trying to stick to books that had Gygax's name on the cover for this purpose. I've stepped in the multiple iterations of Holmes in the past and I'm a little glad I didn't get tangled with that here. :-)

      It's interesting the point about Arneson -- that idiom echoes what he suggested in FFC for wilderness encounters over which I've had a near-breakdown trying to implement. It definitely seems more feasible in the confined context of the dungeon.

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  18. This is a well balanced post with interesting comments.

    Trying not to repeat the valid conclusions I think the key word to remember in distinguishing the largely successful wilderness DMG tables, which can easily be formed into regional subtables, from the dungeon DMG tables is plausible *habitat*.

    There is literally much more room for freedom of selection in the wilderness, than the confined rooms/caves underground. The DMG random habitat subtables are more plausible above ground than below.

    However I think it is a problem of scale. In the real world you have natural habitats underground but they comprise of insects and so if you scaled the dungeon monsters down to insect size the dungeon environment would become as plausible in its DMG outcomes as the DMG wilderness. The solution as far as I can see, if you want mammal sized monsters underground is to expand space between encounters to something like the same degree as insects to mammals.

    The best way would be with long tunnels between "interesting areas" rather than empty rooms/caves.

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  19. Just came across this running commentary, and found it a fascinating read, Thank You!

    Even though we started playing D&D in 1977, we weren't really closely connected to the TSR gaming scene, only finding things out secondhand about how the rules were supposed to work, sometimes after a period of many years, from the time the rules were introduced, because we were located far from the epicenter of roleplaying games (Colorado, Yeh!).

    Initially, when we started playing we went with the random encounter tables straight from the LBB, both for Dungeons and the Wilderness random encounters, and they worked well enough for playing, right up until the time we started creating our own game worlds and fantasy campaigns, which occurred about mid-1978 for me, and I really started customizing my own personal random encounter tables by 1979 or so.

    The Greyhawk Supplement (1976) contained an updated version of random Underworld encounters, ones that we used used right up until about 1980 or so.

    The Blackmoor (1976) supplement contained new random encounter tables for water encounters, ocean encounters, and undersea encounters, as well as Dave’s writeup of the Temple of the Frog, and it’s dungeons which represents the first published adventure for D&D by TSR. There was a big blank section in the back of this supplement, the idea being, you as a GM was supposed to fill in additional details, for monsters, new monsters, and encounters.



    Additional updated random encounter tables that became available, for the first time with Eldritch Wizardry which was available in 1977, but I didn’t have a copy until after the summer of 1978. The expanded Underworld encounters for Eldritch Eizardry included encounters for the Ethereal and Astral Planes, as well as a Psionic encounter tables for the Underworld and the Outdoors. It was never made clear to us how, or in what manner we should use these tables. The way they were used, by other GMs was as a power escalation tool for Gms to rein in players that had large amounts of treasure and magic items, or who had advanced to tenth level of higher, and were griefing the GM who was running a standard fantasy campaign. I didn’t run any adventures in the Astral or Ethereal realms at any time prior to 1980, and used Psionics only super rarely because the requirements for Psionics meant the players had to have a character with an unmodified score of 15 or greater in either Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma, and then had to roll a 91 or better on % dice, to even have Psionic Potential.

    Then, in order to determine just how many psionic abilities a character had, they had to make a second percentile dice roll which would affect their chances of gaining a psionic ability (each time the character leveled). Anything less than 50 and the character had only a very reduced chance of gaining a new psionic ability. 50 to 75 was normal and the character had a 10% chance of gaining a psionic ability per level. So a first level character only has a 10% chance of gaining a psionic ability, if the p0layer rolled above 75 they got only a +1, +2 or +3% chance of gaining a psionic ability. The only good part of these rules was if a character got a psionic ability, they were virtually guaranteed to get a second ability immediately, because the chances suddenly shot up to better than 91% and an additional roll was allowed. Druids and Clerics were not allowed to be Psionics and Wizards lost a spell for every psionic ability they gained.

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  20. The practical effect of these rules was to severely hamstring players who wanted Psionic characters. I really only remember one session where we simply rolled up new 1st level characters repeatedly until we got Psionic characters with one or two abilities to start.

    The Psionic monsters were super lethal, and most of our psionic characters ended up dead pretty quickly, so we pretty much chucked the psionics rules, and played D&D for the most part, without them.

    The Wilderness encounter tables in Eldritch Wizardry were very well organized, by Terrain Type. There was a basic 25% chance across the board any encounter would be with Some type of men (going to 80%+ in the Cities), With Flyers, Giant Types, Lycanthropes, Standard or Giant Animals, Swimmers, Dragons, Miscellaneous, Undead, Demons** and Enchanted Monsters** making up the other categories of random encounters. These tables have always worked superbly well for me for creating Random Outdoor Encounter Tables for various wilderness locations in my campaigns and fantasy worlds.

    They were updated with some gimping of demihumans in the Rules Cyclopedia, however the Eldritch Wizardy Random Wilderness Tables remains a standard that I use today to create interesting locations and campaigns.

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  21. A few final comments. It was very clear to us early on, that it was up to us to create our own random underworld and outdoor encounter tables, and we did. It was customary for me, as a GM to create 3d6 random encounter tables for each terrain type that I used, and these were organized by the campaign that we played in. If anyone ever meets me at GaryCon* or Origins, or any other gaming convention I happen to attend where I’m running 0D&D, I’ll have one or more of my three ring binders with house rules as well as random encounter tables, and will be happy to give you a peek of how we did it, before there were Adventure Modules and AD&D random encounter tables.

    The other thing that was very clear, is that we designed our own monsters, and included them in the game, the reason being, is everyone had access to the TSR books and could buy them, and they were inexpensive compared to just about any other type of entertainment. GMs’ who owned these books, used these monsters, and any player, who played regularly would become familiar with various monsters and how to defeat them. Having completely new monsters in our home games and random encounters, meant even the most experienced players would be surprised, when some of their tried and true monster fighting techniques wouldn’t work. Having uniquely created monsters took the meta out of meta-gaming and reintroduced that sense of wonder and awe, that we all experienced when we first began playing. Even the veteran playes would experience that whenever they encountered something new and unfamiliar, which happens often in my Original D&D games.

    When Fiend Folio came out (1981, I think, maybe 1982), I added a bunch of monsters from that I liked to my Original D&D games, and modified my random encounter tables to include them. I also started my first Astral Plane game with Psionics, because I liked Githyanki, and Githzerai, so much. Having them as allies meant my players might actually survive an encounter with a Mind Flayer.

    * If its running, this is the convention you can find me hosting Original D&D games.

    ** These Monsters are only found in Ruins, Wastelands, or other Planes.

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