The PCs should not be the only things to creep through the dark of the dungeon in search of loot and/or prey. Other things lurk in the ebon shadows of the underworld waiting for foolhardy adventurers to wander by…
Wandering monsters are something that has seemingly fallen out of fashion in recent years. In the Good Old Days, every module had a table of random encounters. Sometimes for dungeons with several levels, you got several different random tables! Designed to simulate the movement of monsters around the dungeon, they were a fun facet of the game.
Nowadays, however, they seem to be somewhat less common. That’s a shame as they are a vital part of any well designed dungeon and despite popular misconception, they don’t always end in pointless combat. Clever PCs can gain great advantage from random encounters.
There are three basic types of random encounter:
- Denizens: The PCs encounter denizens of the dungeon. Combat (or a hasty parley) often ensues. Occasionally, the party might encounter slaves or an escaped prisoner. Such encounters often yield valuable intelligence about the layout of the dungeon and its inhabitants.
- Explorers: The PCs encounter another adventuring group. The other party could be friendly (or not).
- Scavengers: Some monsters are nothing more than scavengers. They may be tolerated by the other dungeon denizens, feared or actively hunted. Scavengers rarely carry appreciable treasure with them.
For the GM, wandering monsters fulfil several important functions:
- They Keep Things Random: In a game where very few or no monster wander the dungeon (or other adventuring locale) the PCs can stride the halls with relative impunity. After all they are in no danger as all the monsters are in their rooms. A party that doesn’t have to worry about wandering monsters enjoys a significant advantage over those that must consider such things.
- They Build Verisimilitude: In almost every dungeon, castle or other adventuring location its denizens move about. To have groups of monsters simply lurking in rooms waiting to be killed is ludicrous (and dare I say it unrealistic). Food and water must be procured, guards changed and so on. It stands to reason the party will encounter denizens going about their daily lives.
- They Consume Resources: Wandering monsters inevitably consume resources. Thus, they act as an incentive to move quickly and carefully. If the party spends an inordinate amount of time wandering about a dungeon or routinely spends hours searching every area they discover it stands to reason they should encounter more wandering monsters.
Wandering monsters add an extra level unpredictability into any delve. Include them in your dungeon today!
Help Fellow GMs
Do you use random encounters for another reason beyond those listed above? Share them in the comments below and help your fellow GMs use wandering monsters in their games today!