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Monster missions

April 26, 2016

What do monsters do all day? You know, while they’re waiting for foolhardy adventurers to come clanking down the stairs with their torches and poles and oh-so-tasty retainers? Depending on your level of Gygaxian-ness (Gygaxianity? Gygaxiosity?), your dungeon-dwelling kobolds and gnolls and ogres and whatnot might be standing guard, sleeping, drinking grog, playing dice games, sharpening their halberds or adding a pinch of snot to the giant rat stew. Or, if you favour the mythic underworld paradigm, perhaps your monsters are just lurking in some kind of folktale limbo: not sleeping, not eating, not really being – but waiting to boil up from the collective unconscious, assume corporeal form, and inflict several dice of damage on those pesky PCs.

Anyway, that’s all slightly beside my point. Yes, there is a point. I’ll get to it in a minute.

One of the things I like about Skyrealms of Jorune is its encounter tables, which – in the 2nd edition – take up seven pages of the Sholari Guide. The flavourful main table for encounters with intelligent creatures uses a d1000 roll. The granularity allows for some quite varied and specific results:

001 = 1d3 croid making weapons
244 = 1d20 thivin gambling (shambo or mayoo)
946 = 1d6 cleash cooking their own crystalline eggs
etc.

Furthermore, there are several subtables, including one that furnishes some encountered creatures with “missions”: things like trade, transport, rescue, etc.

Here’s the point (I told you there was one): I decided to make an expanded mission table for wandering monsters in D&D-style games.

Zombies and gelatinous cubes won’t be on missions. (The perennial urge to kill and/or eat adventurers is not a mission as such; it’s maybe more of a vocation.) Nor, in all likelihood, will creatures encountered in or near their lairs. Quotidian activities like hunting or patrolling the corridors don’t count. However, intelligent monsters encountered in the wilderness or wandering in dungeons without a lair nearby might well be on a mission. (Otherwise, what are they doing? Unless they’re just lost.) If the Referee rolls up an encounter with some orcs, say, and isn’t sure what they’re up to, she can roll 1d20 and consult the table below.

Some of the results are pretty vague. That’s deliberate; they raise more questions and require some fleshing out. Some results overlap slightly. That’s inevitable. I have neither the time nor the inclination to make a d1000 table covering every little detail, and you wouldn’t use it if I did. Loose though it is, this little table is intended to enliven encounters and create roleplaying opportunities. I hope it’s useful to someone somewhere (in summertime, possibly).

CLICK HERE FOR THE PDF.

1

Assassination – They are on their way to kill a specific person. Who? Why?

2

Capture – They are on their way to capture an animal or person. Are they kidnappers? Bounty hunters? Animal trainers? Vermin wranglers looking for poisonous pets?

3

Collecting – They are in this area to find rare herbs, minerals, eggs, magical ingredients, etc.

4

Crime – They are in the process of committing a criminal act. They might be highwaymen, burglars, smugglers, poachers, pickpockets, con-men, arsonists, vandals, investment bankers, etc.

5

Entertainment – They are travelling minstrels, or thespians, or circus performers, etc., on the way to their next engagement. Either that or they are eager punters travelling to a festival, exhibition, sporting engagement, or other similar event.

6

Geas/Quest – They are under magical compulsion to go somewhere and do something. If nothing springs to mind, rolling again on this table might suggest the nature of the quest.

7

Mission/Crusade – They’re on a mission from their god to convert unbelievers or destroy the infidels.

8

Personal – This could be anything: looking for a new home, seeking employment or enlightenment, on holiday, craving romance or adventure, or a hundred other things. See, I told you some results were vague.

9

Pilgrimage – They are travelling to a site of religious importance.

10

Politics – They are ambassadors from one faction, tribe, or other organisation to another. They might bear documents, seals, or other means of identification. They might also be carrying appropriate gifts or tribute. Their mission might be secret.

11

Reconnaissance – They are keeping tabs on the size and status of neighbours and/or foes, spying out sentries, traps, etc., and looking for defensive weaknesses. Is conflict brewing?

12

Retrieval – They are on their way to recover a lost or stolen object (or objects) of some kind.

13

Refugees – Not strictly a “mission”; they are fleeing some enemy or natural disaster. What happened? Where are they going? Are they pursued?

14

Rescue – They are on their way to aid a member of their group who has got lost, been abducted, or is in some other kind of trouble.

15

Research – They are out looking for information of some kind. Perhaps they are willing and able to pay for it. Perhaps they don’t want anyone else to know it, whatever it is.

16

Revenge – They seek redress (probably of the violent kind) for some wrong committed against them (or their relatives or friends). They are most likely well-armed and armoured.

17

Task – Similar to Geas/Quest above, but the compulsion is not magical. For example, an Orcish champion might have to perform a particular arduous feat (or three, or a dozen) before he can marry the Orc-princess. Perhaps he would welcome some assistance in his labours. Or maybe one of his tasks is to take home a necklace of human ears…

18

Trade – They are merchants, with goods to trade. Add 1d3 pack animals, plus 1d6 guards, or more if the goods are especially valuable, large or numerous.

19

Transport – They are couriers, on their way to deliver something somewhere, or returning after having delivered it. Add 1d6 guards, or more if the cargo is/was especially valuable.

20

Treasure Hunt – They’re after a particular treasure. Maybe they’ve heard rumours of its location, or are in possession of a map. They are unlikely to share such information with adventurers unless they need help achieving their goal.
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