You may not be familiar with my campaign cornerstones project.
The basic idea goes like this:
– A 2d10 encounter table has 19 entries.
– The 3 entries in the middle should be NPCs.
– The 16 entries can be broken down into groups of 4.
Here, I’ll show you:
There, that . . . was so much easier than using words.
I should use graphics more often. Seriously.
Anyway, the idea here is to update and expand the idea of an encounter table. Figure your campaign starts with one of these, and early prep is based around filling it up with interesting things to kill.
Now if you can slot thematic groups of monsters into your encounter table, you’re free to create the NPCs that will occupy the remaining encounters.
Summarizing some suspicions from some of my more recent ruminations regarding regions (holy alliteration Batman!), rarer critters should be more reliably located in their lairs. You know, beholders and dragons and stuff.
So, creatures on the encounter table add locations to your region, and locations in the region add creatures to your encounter table.
Well, what I found while doing a little ecosystem research, was a lot of really amazing stuff about the diversity of life. And! I was fascinated to learn more about convergent evolution among various animal species.
What this helped me do though, was begin organizing monsters — and animals, but mostly monsters — by practical geographic boundaries. So when you use my region generator, it will provide you with landscape AND wildlife!
Come to think of it, did any of the editions of D&D before or after 3e actually provide terrain / climate information for monsters? I don’t have a 2e Monster Manual or I’d look it up myself.
Belay that — I found a 2e monster wiki online — there is terrain and climate information provided for monsters. Now what I would really like to know is whatever happened to the proud and noble wolveraven?
If you want to fill one of these yourself, I figure the more common monsters ought to be lower-level varieties, right? If you’re using a 20-level system, then monsters levels 1-5 are ideal. Rarer monsters range from levels 6-10.
Unfortunately, I just don’t have enough information to work with at this point. I’ve been reviewing encounter tables from 1e and other sources, and I don’t see any discernible patterns. That led me to create some hard limits.
For starters, you don’t typically get random encounters in the wild more than half the level cap. For the most part, they range anywhere from level/CR 1 to let’s say 12-13 in a 20-level system. You can go over without hurting anyone. Much.
You may have noticed there are like, eight slots on one half of the table and between 10-12 levels to cover. Some “cornerstones” skip levels. Not everything is as clean-cut as goblins –> hobgoblins –> bugbears. That’s okay.
In fact, if you want to fill a lower-tier slot with critters levels 3, 5, 6, 8 . . . that should be fine too. You might want to give your players a heads’ up though.
Or not. Either way.
So. Cornerstones will be designed to fit in one or two slots. There may even be some designed to occupy an entire campaign — that’d fill up all four of these encounter table slots — like demons. That might be a lot of fun.