1 Introduction
2 The Deck of Orcs
3 The Deck of Goblins and Kobolds
4 The Deck of Beggars and Bugbears
5 The Deck of Cats and Centaurs
6 The Deck of Dryads, Gargoyles, and Ghouls
7 The Deck of Gnolls and Hobgoblins
8 The Deck of Horses, Insects, and Imps
9 The Deck of Invisible Stalkers, Immigration Officials, Lizardmen, Lurkers, and Lycanthropes
10 The Deck of Merpeople, Minotaurs, and Nymphs
11 The Deck of Ogres and Owlbears
12 The Deck of People, Polecats, and Rats
13 The Deck of Sahaugin, Satyrs, Social Norms, and Spells
14 The Deck of Small Children, Skeletons, and Spiders
15 The Deck of Sprites, Stones, Tritons, and Troglodytes
16 The Deck of Undead, Unnecessarily Annoying Bullshit, and Unicorns
17 The Deck of Mystery and Marching Bands
18 The Deck of Fairy Tales
19 The Deck of NPCs
20 The Deck of Hitchcock Movies and Supervillains
21 The Deck of Normal People and Hunting Gods
22 The Deck of Traps and Serial Killers
23 The Deck of Bumpkins, Thieves, and Goddamn Dragons
24 The Deck of Crime, Intrigue, and Balors
25 The Deck of Halflings and Henchmen
26 The Deck of Arcanes, Abishai, and Banshees
27 The Deck of Basilisks, Beholders, Believers, and Bugbears
28 The Deck of Bulettes, Centaurs, Chimera, Dinosaurs, and Displacer Beasts
29 The Deck of Dopplegangers, Dragons, Elementals, and Ettercaps
30 The Deck of Fish, Gargoyles, and Ghosts
31 The Deck of Invisible Stalkers, Irritated Wizards, and Infant Tanar’ri
32 The Deck of Ghouls, Giants, Gnolls, and Gnomes
33 The Deck of Golems, Grell, Griffons, and Greenhags
34 The Deck of Harpies, Haunts, and Hell Hounds
35 The Deck of Hippogriffs, Hook Horrors, Hydration, and Hydras
36 The Deck of Invisible Stalkers, Jackalweres, and Kuo-Toa
37 The Deck of Leucrotta, Locathah, and Mammals
38 The Deck of Minor Annoyances, Mitzvahs, Manticores, Medusas, and Misandry
39 The Deck of Maedar, Murlynd, Mermen, Mimics, Mind Flayers, and Modern Literature
40 The Deck of Maladies, Minotaurs, Mummies, and Naga
41 The Deck of Neogi and Nightmares
42 The Deck of Ogres, Oases, and Owlbears
43 The Deck of Pegasi, Pteryons, Polymorphed Wizards, and Piercers
44 The Deck of Puddings, (Tomie De) Paola, and PC Fatalities
45 The Deck of Players, Plants, and Remorhaz
46 The Deck of Ropers, Rust Monsters, and Selkies
47 The Deck of Shadows and Spells
48 The Deck of Slugs and Spectres
49 The Deck of Spiders, Storage Devices, Tanar’ri, and Tasloi
50 The Deck of Tritons, Tableaus and Time Bombs
51 The Deck of Trolls and Tainted Water
52 The Deck of Umber Hulks, Unicorns, Vampires, and Wolfweres
53 The Deck of Wererats, Werewolves, and Werebears
54 The Deck of Wars and Worms
55 The Deck of Wraiths and Behirs
56 The Deck of Wights and Wyverns
57 The Deck of Xorns and Yeti
58 The Deck of Yuan-ti and Troglodytes
59 The Deck of Graveyards and Wizards’ Towers
60 The Deck of Wishing Wells and Wild Magic
61 The Deck of Death Knights, More Wishing Wells, and More Wild Magic
62 The Deck of GMPCs
63 The Deck of Aboleths, Baatezu, and Beholders
64 The Deck of Baatezu, Chimera, and Dinosaurs
65 The Deck of Dracoliches and Dragons
66 The Deck of Genies and Giants
67 The Deck of Dragons, Golems, and Giveaways
68 The Deck of Hags, Ixitachitl, and Leucrotta
69 The Deck of Mind Flayers, Mummies, and Naga
70 The Deck of Neogi, Otyughs, Rakshasa, and Rocs
71 The Deck of Sphinxes, Tag Sales, and Tanar’ri
72 The Deck of Treants, Vampires, and Whales
73 The Deck of Will O’Wisps, Worms, Wyverns, and Zombies
74 The Deck of Machines, Zones, and Press Gangs
75 The Deck of Water, Weapons, and Wheel of Fortune
76 The Deck of Avatars, Clones, and Dentists
77 The Deck of Arcane, Bulettes, and Elementals
78 The Deck of Elementals and Elves
79 The Deck of Liches and Witches
80 The Deck of Drunks and Jerks
81 The Deck of Nostalgia and Fudging
82 Retrospective
83 The Deck of Missed Connections


posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Let’s see, you’re in a dank corner of the internet, on a forum, and you’re low level. Let me draw a card… okay, looks like you run into

The Deck of Encounters Set One: Introduction

The Deck of Encounters, Set One posted:

The road rounds a bend. A glitter catches your eye. There's something in the ditch, and it looks like gold…

Now—endless encounters! This is a treasure chest full of over 400 encounters in all kinds of terrain, for AD&D® 2nd Edition game player characters of all levels. Encounters with monsters, traps, and tricks. Encounters requiring brawn and a quick sword. Encounters requiring quick wits, courage, and imagination.

The front of each card details the basics of the encounter—danger level, terrain, climate, character attributes needed for success, encounter types, and the experience-point value for rapid reference. Each detail has its own icon, making the task of selecting just the right encounter even easier.

Concentrate on your campaign and leave the encounters to the Deck of Encounters!

This thing came out in 1994, about a year before wee elementary school-age me got into the game through the Introduction to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons box set (a reissue of First Quest). I not only owned this deck, I used it in the terrible campaign that I ran for years for my brother and a couple of our friends. This era in general is extremely nostalgic to me, and I’m interested in seeing what kind of random encounters TSR thought would improve an AD&D campaign. My expectations are not high.

The lead designer was Colin McComb, who would later put his Philosophy BA to work as one of the co-creators of Planescape. The credited additional designers were Dustin Browder (who worked on Starcraft II and some V:tM stuff over the years), Michele Carter (later involved in developing the 4th Edition cosmology), Andrew Morris, and Teeuwynn Woodruff (who’s worked on a variety of stuff for TSR/Wizards, including Betrayal at House on the Hill, for which this experience seems potentially relevant).

What are the first cards? Well, they have credits and information on how to use the deck itself. Let's go over them.

1. Using These Cards, 1 of 3

The introduction to the deck begins by claiming you can use these cards as random encounters, incorporate ones you like in a longer campaign, or use them "to design an entire campaign." That's a mighty tall claim, Deck of Encounters. What kind of campaign can we build out of these cards? A terrible one, I suspect.

It goes on to explain that you can sort the cards as you like - by danger level, climate, terrain, type of problem, etc. Fair enough. It notes that some cards are two- or three-parters, though it doesn't really explain how that works. (It depends; some are essentially one encounter split across two cards, and some are intended to be a first encounter and then a later follow-up.) And finally,

Using These Cards, 1 of 3 posted:

It is recommended that you read the cards, so you can be sure to select only the appropriate cards for your game.

Very important advice. I recall doing exactly that back in the day: going through the cards and sorting out the ones I wanted to use. As such, after looking at each card, I’ll be deciding to keep it in my theoretical random encounter deck, or to pass on it… or occasionally to put it forth to you, the jury, to pass judgement on.

2. Using These Cards, 2 of 3

This card explains the reference categories. Danger level (low is for levels 1-4, medium for 5-9, high for 10+), climate (they note it's mostly "temperate" because that's where most D&D campaigns are set), Terrain (forest, rough terrain, mountains, dungeon, urban, arctic, etc.), Attribute ("how the encounter would best be resolved," oddly labeled by ability score: "Strength indicates combat, Charisma indicates negotiation, and so forth." There are no encounters that should be solved through Constitution), Encounter (monster, device, or NPC), XP value, and "Additional Info" (where to look for more information on the topic - nine times out of ten, this is labeled MM for Monstrous Manual.)

All of these would be a lot more useful if they were positioned on the tops of the cards so you could see them clearly while flipping through the deck. Color-coding would have helped, too. As it is, you can sort them out into piles beforehand, but it’s pretty awkward to find, say, a medium-level arctic encounter if you haven’t organized them very well ahead of time.

3. Using These Cards, 3 of 3

The designers note that you can expand upon an encounter - if the PCs are really curious about where those ghouls came from that were wandering around in the city after dark, make up a necromancer who's terrorizing the city from within or whatever. Sound advice!

The next paragraph suggests that if the players are "obsessing on a single encounter" and ignoring your awesome adventure that you have planned, you should just cut off the story line. "For example, you could decree that the ghouls... were the unnatural byproduct of the graveyard and leave it at that." Bonus overbearing DM points for use of the word "decree."

(Of course, if I was a good-intentioned PC, I might respond, "Damn, graveyards randomly spawn undead? Someone's got to do something about this! Let's ransack every graveyard in the area and crush all the skulls! We'll be doing a public service!")

Cards 4 through 12

These are simply cards that demonstrate the icons for terrain, difficulty, and so on, and then the checklists themselves. Tune in next time for our first real batch of encounters!

The Deck of Orcs

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

In the afternoon of the second day of your journey, you encounter

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 2: The Deck of Orcs

Cards in this product are sometimes (but not always) numerically grouped by theme or featured creature. That doesn’t particularly matter when you’re drawing from the deck and using the product as intended, but it means that we’re going to read a whole bunch of orc encounters at once, then a run of goblins, and so on.

13. The Ice-Bound Orcs

Our first real card! This one time, let’s see what they look like in full, front and back:

I have some questions about the content. How do you live in a “snow mound”? Are "Ice-Bound Orcs" a tribe, or some kind of sub-race? Either way, why are they apparently so bad at living in this climate that they're named after? It says they moved here in part to "avoid other Orcs" - why are they so determined to do that, even to the point of starvation?

However, as written, none of this matters, because the orcs attack the party as soon as they walk into ambush range. The PCs will kill the orcs in short order, take their loot, and wonder why they don't see any more signs of orcs for the rest of their trip. (Because they just committed genocide.) I’m passing on this, because in actual play it doesn’t seem like it would be noticeably more interesting than if I’d rolled “6 orcs” on a random encounter table. Raise the bar slightly higher, Deck of Encounters.

14. Pilgrims, Part 1 of 2

The PCs come around a bend in the hills and see four orcs in grey robes by a looted wagon with dead horses. They're pacifists (to the point of just "watching sadly" if you cut down their companions! I don't think that's how pacifism works, buddy!), and they're looking for the Temple of Bribancus. (Who?)

I understand that the encounter is playing against stereotypes, but dang, these are some absurdly passive NPCs. Make them deliver streams of withering, profanity-ridden insults to attackers and bad Samitarians, and this encounter description just got noticeably better.

I'll keep it, because now I want to run these foul-mouthed pacifist orcs. I also like that it could lead into a little side-quest, though I’d appreciate one more sentence about what would make the temple an interesting adventure location.

15. Pilgrims, Part 2 of 2

Six orcs by another looted wagon, questioning an old man. They're looking for the pilgrims from the previous encounter, who are heretics who defiled a shrine of Gruumsh. They have no treasure, and they definitely don't have any compelling reason for the PCs to cooperate with them. The encounter will end in combat. All six orcs will die, and so will the 1st-level mage with two hit points if they made the mistake of memorizing Magic Missile instead of Sleep. Not terribly interesting, but I do appreciate the follow-up from the previous encounter. Keep.

16. The Hostile Forest

The PCs are in a forest, and feel watched. Because they are being watched, by a dozen Jerk ElvesWood Elves. They don't want the PCs to continue on their current course, so they fire a warning volley of arrows, emerge from the trees, and demand the PCs turn around. "They will not listen to negotiations and will fight if the PCs do not leave post-haste." So, you know, there are absolutely no opportunities for meaningful interaction.

This card uses far, far too many words to describe a bog-standard Wood Elf encounter, while completely failing to say anything about what the elves are guarding, which is obviously the interesting part. And I, the GM who is drawing random encounters to spice up my game, don't feel like coming up with anything cool. Pass.

P.S. Why is this sitting in the middle of the orc encounters? Are these wood elves secretly orcs? Because that would be much more interesting.

17. Orcs on the Rise, Part 1 of 2

The PCs are passing through a ravine by DM fiat, and are ambushed by seven orcs with bows, who threaten them from a bluff overhead. The leader will ask the PCs to surrender their weapons and valuables in exchange for their lives. The orcs will keep their word, but who cares? There is ZERO chance the PCs are actually going to surrender. Not even outnumbered 1st-level PCs who might actually be in danger. It's a handful of orcs! It's the principle of the thing!

The most notable thing here is the long description of the scenery that leads into the ambush. The main purpose is to justify how the PCs wandered into a ravine: “The trail winds between two bluffs, rising so gradually from the rest of the forest that the PCs will barely notice that they are in a defile 100 feet deep until it is too late.” Thank you, impartial and non-adversarial DM.

But at the same time, the description notes that “there is a faint aura of menace emanating from the thick undergrowth.” If you mention anything of the sort to the PCs, I would expect weapons would be drawn, buffs would be cast, and some sort of scout would be sent out before you could say "immersive description."

I suppose this would work OK if you give the PCs checks to notice that they’re starting to enter a ravine and respond appropriately? But it seems a little awkward. I’m going to pass.

18. Orcs on the Rise, Part 2 of 2

This card takes place in a similar place to the first. There are two orcs who are trying to shake down travelers, explicitly copying the methods of the orcs from the previous encounter, a "more established group." The exploits of those seven orcs with bows are famed throughout the land, it seems. These two try to make it seem like they're more numerous than they are, of course.

The PCs, who absolutely did not surrender the first time around, are once again going to attack the orcs and crush them. Since these two particular orcs are "not seriously malicious, and will grovel and whine for their lives if they must," everyone will then be forced to have an uncomfortable exchange about whether it's OK to murder helpless captive orcs or not. Pass.

The Deck of Goblins and Kobolds

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Welcome to AD&D, game of limitless possibilities. Adventure! Excitement! Intrigue! Low-level humanoids!

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 3: The Deck of Goblins and Kobolds

Look, you’re an AD&D PC. What did you think you were going to encounter?

19: Toll Bridge?

Low danger, happens in a forest "next to a ravine 100 feet deep. There is only a single, rickety bridge to cross the ravine for miles in any direction." Obviously.

Anyway, the bridge is rickety, and 10 goblins are there threatening to destroy it if passerby don't pay a five-copper toll. How much traffic comes through here, goblins? And what are you going to do with the loose coinage? How about going and raiding farmhouses for chickens, instead? These logistical questions are breaking my immersion.

The only good part is that if the PCs do decide to pay (much to the goblins' relief), and try to pay with anything larger than a silver piece, the leader gets publicly embarrassed over not having enough cash on hand to make change, and just waves them on. Cute, but that's not what's going to happen in play. Pass.

20: The Summoning

So the PCs are doing whatever, and suddenly appear on a tundra to fight 10 goblins on behalf of a wizard who cast monster summoning I. They must do so. If they take out the goblins quick, though, the wizard gives them each a gem, apologizing because she "didn't know she could summon adventurers."

And indeed, the metaphysics of AD&D 2E say that she cannot. (Unless they’re planar adventurers). I don't think summoned creatures can bring stuff back with them, either. So...

I’d keep it, except that the PCs are summoned to an ever-shifting field of screaming crystalline faces by a giant slug bedecked with strange ornaments to fight a bunch of slow but relentless faceless metal golems. Try to knock them into the screaming faces so they get bitten and pulled down into the depths of the earth! Also, the gems (although made of a material perfectly common on the PCs' world) are engraved with what appears to be tiny, intricate writing. So given that I just had to rewrite the entire card, I guess that’s actually a pass.

21: Changeling

In a thick forest, the players hear a rustling ahead, and a wailing wicker basket pushed out on the road. They'll see a short figure fleeing through the forest, and if they pursue it, it will disappear into a small hole "that only halflings and gnomes would have any chance of climbing into and going down."

In the basket is a one year-old goblin baby. "When it sees the PCs, it stops its screaming and begins to coo and whimper with hope."

Something about this seems off. First, a year old? That's pretty old for foisting off an unwanted baby; I would have done it earlier if I was a single goblin mother or whatever. Secondly, do goblins live in holes in the forest?

And finally, the card acts like the PCs’ only options are abandoning the baby, taking it into town to find another family for, or adopting it as their own... but I'd put my money on the the PCs going down that mysterious hole. If they don't have any gnomes, halflings, or long-lasting reduce effects now, I'll bet they will in the future. This hole is going on the map.

I’m not thrilled about improvising what’s down the hole, but I’m a sucker for random goblin babies. Keep.

22: The Goblin and the Ogre

On a natural trail through rough terrain, the PCs hear a crashing noise from ahead followed by an ogre. When it spots the PCs, it throws itself at their feet and pleads with them to save it. A goblin comes around the bend, wiggles its fingers at the ogre, and disintegrates it painfully. Then it demands the party's treasure.

The ogre is actually an illusion created by the perfectly ordinary goblin's ring of spell storing. Cute trick, goblin. But, uh, you can only do it once, ever. I hope this scam works out for you!

And look, I know high-level wizards are dangerous, but a single spellcaster is still easy prey for a whole group of opponents, and the PCs know that. They are not surrendering their treasure. In fact, the PCs are never going to surrender their treasure in an encounter like this! They are going to kill this goblin (probably before it has a chance to open its mouth), and they are going to get a free ring of spell storing. Maybe middle-school Monty Haul GM me would have been okay with that, but adult me isn't thrilled. Pass.

23: On the Warpath

Okay, so it’s hilly and lightly forested, and the PCs hear drums in the distance coming over the hill. It’s a group of 20 goblins force marching through the woods, painted for war. They’re on their way somewhere, and won’t notice the PCs unless they attack. Where are they going?

I like the mystery, and the fact that it doesn’t force the PCs to fight. Keep.

24: Kobold Raiding Party

A group of kobolds has come to raid a tiny farming community for food, money, and livestock. The PCs are supposed to show up after they’ve already looted and burned two homes, and killed three farmers. They’re well-organized and well-armed (I mean, they’ve got four bows and enough short swords for everyone. That’s pretty good for kobolds). They’ll retreat, grabbing whatever they can carry, if they think they’re outmatched.

The card gives a short description of the layout of the town, which I like - it’s just enough for me to draw some shapes on a piece of paper or whiteboard and say “here’s the animal pens, here’s the meeting area around the well, these are houses, those two are on fire.” I also appreciate that the PCs aren’t forced to stick out their necks any more than they want to. Keep.

25: Ambush

A low-danger monster encounter. Six kobolds from Kobold Raiding Party have... wait a minute, the same kobolds? Why isn't this labeled a Part 1/Part 2 encounter like with the pilgrims?

Anyway, those surviving kobolds have set themselves up on the road, demanding a toll of one silver each, if the PCs refuse they give a show of force and are ready to fight, yada yada.

What’s with all these low-level humanoids in the Deck of Encounters practicing highway robbery? Well, maybe we can build a whole campaign out of this, like the intro claimed. Here's our first setting element: the human kingdom's power has fallen dramatically since its height, and there's either not the military force or the political will to ensure safe travel between distant, well-fortified cities. Rival humanoid mafias control different stretches of road, and paying them is simply an established and accepted cost of travel - it's cheaper and less of a gamble than paying for caravan guards.

Unless that’s an idea I really want to run with, however, pass.

26: Rite of Passage

There’s a bare gnollknoll in the hills, on top of which is a bonfire being fed by six kobolds, and around which are tents and cookfires of more kobolds. Forty-six total. They’re singing and dancing and such, celebrating the rite of passage of ten young males. (They need to run a gauntlet, presumably representing the fact that the universe has it in for kobolds.) The PCs could crash it, of course, but they could also loot the camp while the kobolds are all distracted up on the hill.

I approve of this brief taste of kobold culture. Keep.

The Deck of Beggars and Bugbears

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Look, you guys were shouting and clanking around in plate armor. Of course I’m going to draw from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 4: The Deck of Beggars and Bugbears

27: Dispute

The PCs are passing farm houses on either side of the road. There’s some description, but let me cut to the chase - two farmers are feuding over water rights to the stream that passes between their land. It’s not enough to irrigate both, apparently. The situation is on the verge of violence. The farmers ask the PCs to be arbitrators/judges (why them?) and agree to live by their decision.

“There is, unfortunately, no easy decision aside from the use of magic.” I wonder what magic they were thinking of here…?

I like the idea in theory, but there’s zero basis for rendering any kind of judgement, so I can’t imagine the roleplaying that ensues would be too interesting. I’d prefer if each farmer had a different sort of claim, but I’m probably not going to think up anything good off the top of my head. As such, as a random encounter, I’ll pass.

28: The Prince or the Pauper

In the poor area of town, the PCs notice an elven beggar who has no legs. A burly rich dude kicks over his offering bowl maliciously, then tries to shake him off when the beggar grabs his leg.

The beggar is actually an elven prince, and the other man an accomplice, and this is some kind of avant-garde interactive public theater thing (or, in other words, a test of character). If the PCs intervene in defense of the beggar, he will reveal himself to them as Prince ~Thidouris Starmantle~ and say he might have need of their services later. Great, dude, thanks. You could at least have bought us lunch.

Surprisingly, the card does not specify that the disguise was magic and that the prince has functioning legs after all. A Glorfindel-style badass legless F7/W8 elven prince and his brawny aide? I would use those supporting NPCs in a heartbeat. Keep.

29: The Golden Ring

In a quiet, out of the way area in a city, without too many passerby, the PCs notice a ring glinting on the ground. Just as they are (presumably) leaning in to pick it up, a shabbily-dressed guy goes after it too, claiming he was on his way to pawn it to get food for his family and dropped it. He tries to sell it to the PCs for 20 gold. He’s a con-man, obviously, and the ring is copper with a thin gold plating.

I’ve got no complaints. It’d be nice if the encounter gave a ballpark estimate of what such a ring would cost if it was really gold, because that’s the first thing the PCs are going to ask. But keep.

30: Prankster

The PCs wander into a pixie’s glen in the forest. The pixie doesn’t like strangers in general, and is especially militant because someone’s been harvesting pixie wings for dust of disappearing. Of course, the pixie version of being aggressive is to use illusions to make people run into trees while fleeing from bees and such. It’ll giggle audibly if its tricks work. If they reason with it and convince it they’re not wing-harvesters, it’ll “give any PC it has injured a potion of extra-healing. (!)

Sure, that's fine. Keep.

31: The Trees of the Forest

Low-danger monster encounter in the forest. A bugbear has set a trap - a tripwire-activated net... to try to catch its dinner. The PCs came make a Dex-4 check to avoid it, and those that fail have fight at a penalty when it races out to kill them. When they defeat it, they can find its hovel nearby, which has a bunch of weapons and armor that it’s collected, including dwarf-sized plate mail +1 and a long sword +2.

A decent hook, and it’s short and to the point. I'll say ke...


Sigh. I’ll still say keep, but I’m dropping the long sword +2 at the very least, and the +1 dwarf armor is inscribed with highly-visible clan runes that cannot be removed without breaking the enchantment. Sure, dwarf PC, you can totally wear this magic armor you found. It’s not your clan’s, though. Your call, nobody’s forcing your hand.

32: Raiding Party

Not to be confused with #24, Kobold Raiding Party. This is a different raiding party.

Plains with tall grass and small potholes. If the PCs make their WIS-3 check, they notice movement in the grass that’s not from the breeze. It’s a Pokemonfour to eight Bugbears, split off from a raiding party in hopes of finding their own treasure. “The DM can therefore adjust the number of bugbears to fit the abilities of the party.”

At this point, I stopped reading. What? I’m the DM, of course I can adjust the number of bugbears if I want. But no other card has ever given me explicit permission to do so. They’ve just said “there are six bugbears.” Why is this one different? Then I thought, aha! This must be some kind of Gygaxian naturalism thing. Bugbears must ordinarily be found in larger groups! The card must be giving me the “split off from a raiding party” backstory to in order to justify there being fewer bugbears than normal. That’s why it says that I can choose how many there are, when otherwise, it would be unrealistic.

Smug in my RPG insight, I checked the Bugbear entry in the Monstrous Manual. Number appearing: 2-8. So four to eight is, in fact, 100% within the bounds of an ordinary bugbear encounter.

Anyway, the bugbears want treasure, they’ll fight until only 25% of them still stand, then they’ll flee. Fine, I guess. I like the tall grass environment, anyway, and it’s good to know that there’s a larger bugbear raiding party around. It means there’s some useful information if the PCs interrogate bugbear captives. Keep.

The Deck of Cats and Centaurs

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

You’re in a flying jungle made of fire? Uh… let’s see if I can find anything appropriate in

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 5: The Deck of Cats and Centaurs

33: The Lion's Thorn

Takes place in grassland at least 20 miles from civilization. The PCs notice a bunch of dead lions, camel tracks, and human weapons scattered around an oasis. As they’re taking that in, they notice one of the young male lions “hobbling around, nuzzling some of the dead [ones].” It’s got a few arrows sticking out of it. It growls at the PCs.

Druid or ranger, it’s your time to shine! Animal friendship this lion down or whatever you do, heal it, and get 420 experience points and potentially a lion friend. Keep.

34: Hunters and Hunted

“The PCs may be hired in any city for this adventure.” Uh, I thought this was a random encounter. No? It’s an adventure? OK then...

The PCs are hired by a wizard to go capture a great cat “for research purposes.” They need to bring it back intact. They reach their brush-filled destination and find the animal’s tracks. It’s a smilodon. Soon it pounces on the PCs. They’re supposed to have difficulty because of the thick brush and undergrowth that makes movement and shooting difficult. “The PCs become the hunted and must escape with their lives.”

Unusable as a random encounter, which is what I’m trying to use the deck for. Pass.

35: Catfood

In a deep, beautiful, old growth forest, an elven cat approaches the PCs for food (there’s another one who’s using its tree ability to hang back. If it gets fed something good, the cats will switch places and the other one will come take a turn, too. Then “the cats will guide the PCs through the forest to their destination, keeping them away from the danger spots.” The PCs can try to catch the cats, but they won’t both be out in the open at once, will try to rescue each other, and “all the woodland creatures in this forest will ever thereafter react negatively to the PCs.”

Straightforward fairy cats. I guess it’s a keep.

P.S. XP Awards: “500 for feeding and befriending the cats, 1,300 for killing them (though this is not encouraged.” If you don’t want to encourage the PCs to kill the cats, maybe don’t give them two and a half times as many experience points for doing so?

36: Drunken Centaur

As the PCs enter a village tavern, the proprietor runs to them and asks them to help with a rowdy, drunken centaur adventurer. He’s shouting for more ale, breaking tables, and generally being a 2,000 pound public nuisance. If the PCs help subdue him they get 350 xp and probably a bunch of free drinks, if they kill him it’s just worth 175 xp. Also, the centaur will be extremely chagrined the next morning “and will apologize profusely to everyone involved.” I think that’s cute. Keep.

37: Centaur Vengeance

The PCs hear the sound of galloping hooves. Six centaurs ride up, pissed and with weapons at the ready. They're looking for "the killers of their foals," who came from whatever direction the PCs are going. If the PCs convince them of their innocence, they can send the centaurs on their way or try to join in the hunt.

Um... okay, that's the start of a plot hook, but as a DM, I'm looking for these cards to reduce the amount of entertaining ideas I need to come up with on the spot. Now I've gotta come up with all kinds of stuff. Can't you tell me a little bit about how the foals were killed, so the PCs can go all Phoenix Wright and say "OBJECTION! Our archer uses arrows, not crossbow bolts!" Or a sentence about who killed them and why?

It’s simply lacking too much key info. I think I need to pass.

P.S. I didn’t mention it before, but card #32: Raiding Party said at the end: “If the DM desires, this card may be linked to the Centaur Vengeance card.” I would have preferred if they’d said that on the Centaur Vengeance card. After this encounter, the PCs may wonder “so who killed the centaur kids?” After the Raiding Party encounter, nobody is going to wonder “I wonder if these bugbears killed any centaur kids recently?”

The Deck of Dryads, Gargoyles, and Ghouls

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

The finest minds of TSR are once again ready to liven up your stagnant, brackish AD&D game with

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 6: The Deck of Date RapistsDryads, Gargoyles, and Ghouls

38: A Charming Day in the Woods

In a calm, lovely, wooded glade. A dryad comes out and presents herself (“assuming that the party contains at least one male”; this dryad is a 0 on the Kinsey scale), offers them rest and comfort, and tries to charm the male with the highest Charisma. She’ll run if threatened. She’s not malicious, just horny. Her tree is not the one in the glen, and under no circumstances will she tell them where it is.

Yep, that sure is a Dryad encounter. Any sex-obsessed twelve-year old DM would be able to run this off the top of their head, without help from this card. Pass.

39: Dryad Love

The villagers in a small farming village are upset, gathered around the edge of a wood but not daring to enter. A young man went too deep inside while hunting & wood gathering, and was charmed by the local dryad. Tracking him down is not hard. The dryad will initially deny he’s there, but again, the tracks are right there. Obviously the guy doesn’t want to go because magic. The dryad will cry when the PCs demand the boy’s return, but I assume they’re crocodile tears? Dryads must know exactly how charm magic works, and the card says she’ll “relinquish her hold on the boy in return for gold or gets (at least 100 gp worth) or a small magical item).” She’ll also try to charm PC males with 16+ Charisma, and dimension door out if there’s danger.

Soooooo, AD&D writers, do dryads do anything besides rape men? No? Just checking. Anyway, deeply-embedded sexism aside, this is marginally more interesting than the previous dryad card. I guess I’ll keep it for that reason.

40: Mistaken Identity, Version 1

At some point after the PCs have been somewhere with gargoyles (the decorative statues), a gargoyle (the animated monster) comes screaming down from the sky, shouting incoherently about revenge. It thinks a PC chipped its wing, but it was actually some vandals. “Despite whatever the PCs tell it, it will not stop attacking until they are dead, or it is.” (The card does remind the DM not to use this unless the PCs have +1 weapons.)

According to the card, you could continue the encounter by bringing in “the creature’s master (an evil wizard) who demands reparation, either in magical items or in service. This is an excellent way to begin a quest!” Is it, though? You think the PCs are going to go along with that when they are 0% at fault? I mean, they might, just to lull the evil wizard into a false sense of security so they can ambush him later. I guess that’s something.

“Creature attacks the PCs and they must fight it to the death” is my least favorite kind of encounter. Pass.

41: Hobbies, Part 1 of 2

In a small village, someone’s been digging up the graves and the folks are kind of freaked out about it. They can’t offer money, just local fame. It’s not hard to find out what’s happening - if you just go to the graveyard at night you see a ghoul digging up the graves. If the PCs kill it, a zombie will show up later looking for it. If they kill the zombie too, nothing else happens.

If they wait and follow, it turns out the ghoul brings the corpses to the home of the village priest. There are other zombies who crawl into fresh graves behind the house as dawn breaks.

...Okay, and? Clearly this did not fit on one card. I disapprove, since I think each card should stand on its own, but let’s see where they’re going with this.

42: Hobbies, Part 2 of 2

If they confront the priest, they find that he’s neutral and has taken up necromancy out of boredom. He controlled the ghoul and used it to help him make some harmless zombies. He promises to keep them on a tight leash. If they threaten to expose him, he will fight, though.

Eh, it’s hard to eke good drama out of an old dude’s hobbies, but I guess I’ll keep it as a quick side-plot. If the PCs let the guy be and come back through town later, there are some easy ways to follow up on it. (The priest is besieged by angry townsfolk! The priest has gone mad! The priest has convinced the town to let their ancestors help them work the fields, and they've set up a zombie-based socialist collective!)

The Deck of Gnolls and Hobgoblins

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

What? You say you’re tired of encountering boring old orcs and goblins all the time? Fine, fine. I’ll liven things up with some much more interesting cards from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 7: The Deck of Gnolls and Hobgoblins

This is just like that KoDT story where Hard 8 Enterprises puts out a megadungeon and, to save time, stocks it with every monster from the Hacklopedia of Beasts in alphabetical order.

43: Consequences, Part 1 of 2

A rough cave in an otherwise quiet hilly terrain houses a large group of 15 gnolls. They've hunted out the area, and are hungry and getting ready to move, but when the PCs wander in they try to ambush them. "Their desperation makes them reckless and they will not break from combat, even in the face of overwhelming odds - after all, they are hungry!"

I can just imagine the tedium at the table. "No, they won't flee or surrender. You've got to fight all fifteen to the death! Haven't you experienced the limitless courage and tenacity that accompanies starvation?" Pass.

44: Consequences, Part 2 of 2

There’s a caravan of humanoids winding across this “empty, desolate plain.” They’re gnoll women (7) and cubs (16). Their males were killed either by a large predator or, if the previous card was used, by the PCs. They’re also starving, but won’t provoke a fight out of fear for the safety of their young. They’ll grudgingly accept help, especially food.

In an AD&D context, with about a million different humanoid races running around, I suppose this encounter is fine. Keep.

P.S. The XP awards here are 245 for killing them, 490 for helping. Are we allergic to round numbers here or something?

45: Gnoll Cubs, Part 1 of 2

Takes place in the foothills, after a rain. The card specifically notes the PCs might slip and get a few grass stains. Verisimilitude!

Anyway, the party crests a hill and sees “seven dog-like, humanoid babies” with no parents in sight. They’re crying. Babies! Puppy babies! They’ll cry more when the PCs approach, because the PCs are scary ape-men.

Then half of the card is spent reminding the DM that killing babies is evil and grants no experience points even though the gnolls “will undoubtedly grow to be evil.”

Well, the “Orc Babies” problem is notoriously un-fun, but at least these aren’t the babies of gnolls that the PCs just slaughtered, which makes this an opportunity for heroism rather than a betrayal of the violent premises of the sword-and-sorcery genre. Let’s see where they’re going with this.

P.S. The card gives stats for the babies. Why? I could have worked out that they have no attacks, AC 10, THAC0 20, and no fucking magic resistance. I guess MV 3 could potentially be relevant.

46: Gnoll Cubs, Part 2 of 2

Within 400 yards of the first encounter, there’s another hill with “bloodstains decorating the grassy knolls”... and, given the info on the previous card, grass stains decorating the bloody gnolls.

Because, uh, there are 15 dead gnolls here, in two distinct groups with different fashion choices.

One black-furred gnoll is still hanging on, but dying from “large wounds it has sustained in the fighting.” Cure light wounds? No, you can’t heal him, he’s too far gone. Dead? Well no, he’s not dead yet, he’s going to say something. He’s just dying, okay? He’s… poisoned. His enemy’s weapons were poisoned, so he’s going to die any second! ...No, you try, but you can’t cure the poison, either. No, you don’t find any more vials of uncurable super-poison on the dead gnolls. Look, I have a death speech to read, okay?

Anyway the gnoll lives long enough to recognize the PCs as people of honor, because they're carrying 1.5 gnoll babies each on average. He charges them to raise the cubs “in true gnoll fashion” and in return, grants them “the bauble over which the Blacks and the Ears were fighting.” It’s a battle axe +2. Bauble indeed. At least it’s not +1.

You know, I think some groups would be into this. But it’s a little more disruptive than a single goblin baby, and the death speech cutscene leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Jury?

47: Southbound Express

In jagged foothills, the PCs hear echoing feet. A hobgoblin chieftain breaks around a bend in front of them, running south as fast as he can. He doesn’t respond, and doesn’t attack if he’s not forced to - he’s on his own business. He looks grimy but unwinded, and is carrying two long swords +1. (He’s also 4 HD. This being a low-level encounter, he could easily kill some folks in melee with a little luck, if the PCs weren’t going to cast sleep on him.)

Well, it’s kind of pointless, and I hate undifferentiated +1 weapons. But it's easy enough to unenchant this dude's swords, and I do appreciate the stab at demonstrating that the world doesn’t revolve around the PCs. Keep.

48: The Crystal Ball

There’s a woodland cave in the forest, covered by shrubs. It’s still easy to find, though, because there’s clear foot traffic in and out. The two hobgoblins inside recently stole a “globe of multifaceted crystal” in a raid on a nearby village, and are busy trying to “unlock its secrets.” It’s easy to sneak in and surprise them. The globe is nonmagical and worth about 2,000 gp, but it was a symbol of the nearby village, and they certainly won’t be able to sell it there. (Unlike in most villages, which have high demand for 2,000 gp crystal orbs).

Okay… not dangerous, but a nice windfall for the PCs with a possible future plot hook.Keep.

The Deck of Horses, Insects, and Imps

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

You only need 50 more XP to level? Alright, before we call it a night, let’s grab something from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 8: The Deck of Horses, Insects, and Imps

49: Bee-Sting

Labeled as a "monster" encounter. A PC's horse is stung repeatedly by a wasp, and they need to make the 2nd Edition version of riding checks to stay on and not get scraped up.

I'm not sure if this is amusingly banal or just incredibly lame, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. I mean, at least it wouldn't take much game time away from more interesting stuff. Keep.

50: Grass Fire

The PCs are on a grassy plain, with a stream nearby. The PCs see a large cloud of black smoke on the horizon, then a herd of wild horses galloping straight towards them in a panic! They need to divert the horses or be trampled. And then a grass fire is headed their way as well, though for that one at least there’s the stream at hand (complete with reeds to breathe through. I guess it wouldn’t be too smokey up above?)

I’m a little hesitant because I know nothing about stampedes or brush fires, but I guess all I’d really be looking for is for the PCs to improvise some clever or reasonable-sounding reaction. So yeah, okay, keep.

51: Unbroken

Leaving town, the PCs run into a horse standing on the side of the road. It’s shoed but has no other gear. It’ll allow itself to be fed, but will break and run at any sign of a saddle or rope. If they don’t do that, it’ll start following around the PCs, and if they treat it well for three weeks, it’ll choose a PC to adopt and let them ride it bareback. It’ll also become incredibly loyal, to the point of fighting to save a person.

Who doesn’t like a cool fantasy horse sidekick encounter? Keep.

52: The Swarm

Traveling through a tropical plain, the PCs end up in the path of a swarm of army ants. Basically they need to run fast, or else utilize some good AOE effects that won’t set the plains afire and get them into even more trouble.

The most likely scenario is that the PCs do indeed run, which isn’t particularly interesting in play. However, even if the danger is easily evaded, you can still describe the devastation in the ants' wake, which could be some good environmental flavor. [/b]Keep[/b].

53: Buzzed

In the forest, giant wasps attack! Before the PCs can react! And by the way, “this encounter is designed for cockier PCs who believe that no ‘normal’ monster could possibly hurt them.” If they destroy the wasps without anyone being paralyzed and dragged off, “the DM should have more wasps attack. The encounter should force them to go into the wasp’s hive to rescue at least one of their number. The hive will contain at least 3 more giant wasps, regardless of how many the PCs have already faced. Furthermore, this experience will teach them the folly of regarding natural threats as unchallenging.”

Hey, you know what’s a challenging combat encounter? INFINITE NUMBERS OF GIANT WASPS ANYTHING. Have you learned a valuable lesson yet? No? You must need MORE WASPS. Pass pass pass.

P.S. Pass.

54: Malevolent Watcher

The PCs feel like they’re being watched, and will notice a large raven “eying them hungrily.” It’s a polymorphed imp whose wizard master has died and who is traveling around causing mischief. It’ll turn into a spider in the PCs’ sleeping bags, fly over them cawing ominously, use suggestion to turn them against each other, and try to steal their smaller magic items.

Not completely unreasonable, but it seems annoying to the PCs and annoying for me to run. I’d prefer a more concrete scenario rather than just “an imp starts fucking with the PCs, lol.” I’ll pass.

The Deck of Invisible Stalkers, Immigration Officials, Lizardmen, Lurkers, and Lycanthropes

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Thank you. That helps salve the pain.

And now, having exhausted all opportunities for adventure on this floor, we descend into a lower level of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 8: The Deck of Invisible Stalkers, Immigration Officials, Lizardmen, Lurkers, and Lycanthropes

55: Airy Guardian

So, there's this invisible stalker guarding a passage in a tunnel of some kind. Its orders are to attack anyone who doesn't say the password as they go by, but in a "fuck you" to its summoner, it has faintly carved the password onto the wall, and tries to draw people's attention to it with ripples of air. It is still "generally annoying" even if you do say the password, tousling hair and clothes and so on. Signs of affection?

This is decent fodder for crazy PC plans and running retreats in the dungeon. I'll keep it.

56: Sign-In

At the gates of a large city. The guards force visitors to sign in as they enter, and list where they’re going to stay in the city. When the PCs do, they may (WIS+3 check) notice “the name of one of their old enemies entered just a few names before theirs.”

It goes on for another long paragraph, but that’s really it. But that’s a fine hook. Keep.

P.S.: “This is an encounter that the DM must adjudicate carefully; the encounter will not work if the PCs have never met an enemy they have not killed.”

57: Scout's Honor

In a swampy zone, the PCs are being trailed by two lizardman scouts. When the PCs fall when traversing a “narrow, submerged, natural causeway that occasionally gives way,” the lizardfolk take the opportunity to strike. They throw javelins, then submerge themselves until their next attack.

I guess if the PCs are moving through a swamp, this is kind of thing I’d expect to happen. But I really can’t stand forced combat, and the water submerging thing sounds really annoying without some kind of firm mechanical effect. In 4th Edition, keep; here, I suppose I’ll pass.

58: Lurker Above

The PCs are hired in a large city to go to an ex-large city - a place that was razed by a dragon and is now very well-looted ruins. A noble wants them to retrieve a ring that will prove his status and secure some land rights for him somehow. He knows exactly where it should be, since he had a wizard scry for it. It’s in a pile of lurker droppings. The wizard wants the lurker’s gas sacs for a potion of levitation while they’re at it. There’s a good 900 gp worth of other treasure in the lurker’s lair as well.

The deck calls this a “Dungeon” encounter, but really it’s a quest. A Deck of Random Quests would be a different product. If I draw a random encounter in a dungeon, I need to be able to use it in that dungeon. Pass.

59: Disciple

Takes place in a city. “There are three parts to this encounter.” First, a wererat named Wylkin follows the party in rat form and chooses the most rat-like among them (broadly speaking, the smallest). That’s hardly part of an encounter, because the PCs aren’t given the chance to notice him at this point.

Second, Wylkin stalks the PCs for three days, with the PC having a 25% chance of noticing but needing a WIS-6 check to “determine the source.” Uh, okay? Anyway, Wlykin flees if detected.

Finally, Wylkin sneaks into their room at night and tries to gnaw on them to transform them into a wererat. The odds are really not that high, but if he succeeds, he’ll approach them friendly-like and try to mentor them.

Some of the details are awkwardly-written, but sure, keep. Odds are high, however, that the PCs fight and capture Wylkin, hear him out, and decide "so I have full control over my transformations, and get a form that's immune to normal weapons? Heck yeah, I'll be a wererat. Gnaw me some more!"

The Deck of Merpeople, Minotaurs, and Nymphs

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

We hack our way through Greek myth in today’s edition of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 9: The Deck of Merpeople, Minotaurs, and Nymphs

60: The Bridegroom

The PCs are on a ship, but hit very stormy weather, and the ship crashes into a large, barren rock. At least let them make some appropriate proficiency check, card! Anyway, later a merman chieftain sticks his head up and offers to aid them if one of them agrees to marry his daughter, who has a curse on her that says she must marry a surface dweller or die. They’ll follow through if someone accepts. “The DM is encouraged to develop this encounter further.” You mean, like, with a merman divorce ceremony as soon as the conditions of the curse are fulfilled? Because that seems like the obvious course of action.

I don’t like the railroading required to get the PCs onto a desert island. I’m not going to destroy the PCs’ ship by fiat just for mermatrimonials. Pass.

61: The Message

An oceanside village does some trading with the merpeople. Since they’ve got a relationship set up, a merman comes to them with a task - they need a message sent VERY QUICKLY to another tribe of merpeople, but the fastest route is over land. Also they don’t write it down or anything, the messenger needs to go in person. The villagers ask these brawny-looking PC strangers if they’ll help transport the mermessenger. If they do they’ll be rewarded with “pearls and rare, expensive shells” with no stated GP value.

Mostly it’s a logistical problem of transporting a water-breather over land. I like that the messenger is both grateful and “resentful of their aid, because his weaknesses are exposed.” Yeah, I’d be pissy too if I was getting toted through a hostile environment in a large tub filled with water floating on the back of a Tenser’s floating disc, or whatever nonsense the PCs come up with. Keep.

62: Labyrinth

“The PCs visit a city controlled by a cruel and unjust tyrant. While there, they commit a minor 'offense' (not bowing low enough to an official, violating curfew, or any similar misdeed). Before the PCs can flee, they are arrested by a superior force and thrown into the intricately constructed labyrinth that serves as the monarch’s prison."

This is not a random encounter. This is the plot synopsis for an extremely railroady adventure. Pass.

Oh right, there’s more. Guess what? There’s a maze. Useful spells don’t work. “The maze twists and turns within itself, requiring Intelligence checks to avoid going in circles. Eventually, however, the PCs will reach the center.” THERE ARE NO CONSEQUENCES OR CHOICES. ROLL TO SEE HOW MUCH TEDIUM YOU MUST ENDURE.

At the center is a large cage with a minotaur. “Just as the PCs enter the area, the cage door opens and the minotaur immediately attacks the party.” They’ve got to kill it to escape, and it will never flee because it’s been starved and wants to eat them. Great. Forced combat with no opportunities for evasion, negotiation, or retreat. My favorite.

WAIT THERE’S MORE. When they kill the monster, it shimmers and turns back into a human man. “The PCs have won their freedom, but they should realise that the tyrant will only replace the minotaur with another polymorphed human.” WHO IS THE REAL MONSTER HERE?

The author. Pass again.

63: Shaman

The PCs come across a clean-cut minotaur wearing a medallion being attacked by a group of gnolls. In a cinematic cutscene, the minotaur breaks away, casts entangle on them, and finishes them off. Then it notices the PC. It’ll attack if they’re aggressive, but otherwise will approach the largest, most male-presenting fighter in the party. It seeks a certain rare herb for spells and rituals, and asks them if they’ve seen it but doesn’t otherwise want help from “lesser creatures.” It’s a third-level shaman.

There’s really nothing for the PCs to do here as written, but let them intervene in the fight if they want, and make the minotaur more willing to help reciprocally, and it becomes a little more gameable. Keep.

64: Blinded, Part 1 of 2

The party stumbles on a nymph picking flowers. Save or go blind! Could be worse, she could have been bathing.

If the party is evil, mostly neutral, or threatening, the nymph runs. “If they are good-aligned or have a druid with them,” she apologizes and offers to help them with that blindness and lead them to a “forgotten treasure trove!” …if they go kill five orcs for her. That’s right - five orcs. They’re… camped out over there. Go murder them to progress to Part 2.

65: Blinded, Part 2 of 2

The nymph’s promised treasure trove is in the back of a cave, but there’s an ogre that lives there. Go murder another humanoid, murderhobos! Once that’s done, they find orc bones, filthy leather armor, and “four gleaming short swords” that are +2 but only in the hands of an orc. Do they all have fancy names? (“The runes name Randirist, the Adventurer-cleaver.”) Are these what those five orcs were after? Were they a group of classless, 1-HD orcs on an epic quest? Was this their 0-level DCC funnel, and did we just cause a TPK?

The nymph is like “whoops guess you can’t use the treasure after all lol” and disappears into the forest, then sends a sprite with a 500 gp large gem to give them by way of apology.

I like the Swords of Orc Gondolin, but this is just random humanoid-slaughtering that doesn’t really go anywhere. Pass.

The Deck of Ogres and Owlbears

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Upon reaching 9th level, a DM will automatically attract the attention of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 10: The Deck of Ogres and Owlbears

66: Ogre Bridge

[sigh] ...look, it’s another bridge over another ravine with another creature standing there demanding a toll. An ogre, in this case. “Though most ogres are reputed to be tremendously stupid, this one seems calm and self assured, with none of the stupid miasma common to many ogres evident in his eyes.” Dude, their intelligence is 8. Talking about “stupid miasma” is pretty harsh.

He’s holding a javelin to throw the minute someone casts a spell, and demands 20 gp a head to cross. He’s “a calm and reasonable ogre,” happy to let them climb, fly, or hike around - he’s laying claim to the bridge rights, and those only.

This is #19: Toll Bridge?, but with an ogre instead of goblins. Not a fan of these toll encounters. They’re just… so… boring. Pass.

67: The Beauty and the Beast

A beautiful wooded dell houses a nymph. As the PCs enter it, she warns them to look away, and if they don't, save vs blindness. She asks them for their help with an ogre who's fallen in love with her. (She's a seventh-level spellcaster with an at-will save-or-suck effect, I think she can handle herself.) The PCs don't actually have much of a choice in the matter, because the ogre immediately comes bellowing in trying to kill them.

Well, this is ham-handed, sexist, and dumb. I do like that if they save her, the nymph "promises to assist them in their own quest." I can only imagine the crazy plans PCs would come up with to abuse her weaponized beauty. But I couldn’t run it without wanting to slap myself in the face. Pass.

68: With a Friend Like This…

In a hilly area near civilization, an ogre, Groog, approaches the party. He wants to be an adventurer. “He just knows he’d be pretty good at it - after all, he’s pretty good at killing things already.” Indeed. He’ll threaten them if he doesn’t let them join. Of course, the card says he’s going to cause trouble, like, all the time, being temper-prone, impetuous, greedy, and possessing repulsive eating habits. Basically it’s telling the DM to punish the PCs for taking him on as a party member.

I suppose that’s acceptably gameable. I wish Groog had a couple of redeeming features as well, though. Let’s say that while he does possess all the above flaws, he’s also deeply grateful to the PCs for giving him a chance, dedicated to becoming a great adventurer, and wise enough to not make the same mistake twice three times. (His dialogue is written like “Groog smash all,” but the card also points out that his Intelligence is 10 - clearly he’s just a beginning CLL (Common Language Learner) and his language skill will improve over time.)

Those modifications in place, I’ll keep it.

69: Owlbear Lair

The PCs have wandered into some owlbears’ territory. Two of them attack the party, fighting until dead. The PCs can find their lair. In the lair are the remains of victims and 200 pp.

It says there can be three immature owlbears in the lair also, if you wish. In stark defiance of everything I know about baby bears and baby owls, the owlbear cubs “are not very cute,” and they will also attack.

Throw this one on the “exactly what I would have run if I’d rolled “2 owlbears on a random encounter table” pile. Pass.

70: Trophy

On the arctic edge of civilization, the PCs hear rumors of a huge, rare arctic owlbear, and are recruited by a big-game hunter to help him hunt it and carry it home (but absolutely not to help fight it, since he’s doing this for the bragging rights). The hunter is “basically a good guy” but talks incessantly about his old hunts. He’s startled when the owlbear attacks, though, slips and hits his head, and falls unconscious.

I’m not sure what motivation the PCs have to go along with this guy besides curiosity, but maybe he can serve as a guide to get them somewhere in return. Besides, they don’t have to take him up on the offer if they don’t want to. Keep.

The Deck of People, Polecats, and Rats

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Unless you’re specialized, you take a -2/-4 penalty when dual-wielding

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 11: The Deck of People, Polecats, and Rats

71: Heretics

As the PCs move through a high-class area of the city, they see “flickering lights as if from candles flickering around the corners of a poorly-drawn curtain.” When they investigate (because the DM never mentions details like that unless they’re important), they hear chanting and stumble into 10 evil cultists worshipping an illegal evil god. The cultists are surprised, then charge the PCs howling for their death. “The PCs now have an enemy looking for them, in the form of a fanatical, underground religious organization.”

The Enemy Within, it ain’t. Those are some badly-hidden evil cultists. Also, hidden cultist plots tend to fall apart in the face of charm person. I’ll keep this, but make a few changes. The cult is not illegal (that would insult the evil god, which the government does not want to do) - it’s just socially embarrassing, like being a Satanist in the U.S. The cult members are more likely to be verbally defensive than physically aggressive.

72: Town Watch

...I’m going to reproduce this one in full.

Town Watch posted:

Area: This encounter can take place anywhere in town, at any time the PCs are in dire need of assistance. Should disaster befall them on the city streets, this card may be used to extract them from the situation (if that is what the DM desires).

Situation: The DM can use this card to save the PCs when the party has gotten itself into too much trouble. Whether they are being chased by an angry mob, or have been involved in a bar fight with someone who intends to carry it further, this card indicates that the town watch has happened along at a fortuitous moment. The watch is comprised of 2-20 men, each armed with the prevailing weaponry of the district (spears, swords, maces, or whatever weapon the folks this town normally use).

If the PCs are clearly the wrongdoers in this situation, the watch will arrest them and drag them away from the scene. If there is no clear villain in the case, the watchmen make sure that everyone disperses, and they will deal harshly with those who resist their orders.

Quick Stats: Town Watch: MV 9; AC 5; F3, F1 (8); hp 22,7 (a); THACO 18.20; #Att 1; Dmg by weapon MR Nil

What we have here is a fundamental disagreement between me and the author over the purpose of these cards. And not just with me - this card is at odds with the entire rest of the deck so far.

Let’s look at the most repeatable, least detailed card we’ve seen. Maybe #49: Bee Sting? But that’s still a specific thing that happens. I can pick it up during a game, look at it, and say “You’re all riding along peacefully when suddenly, Eliana’s horse rears up in a panic. Roll DEX.” The card introduces a brief scenario to spice up the action and add a little unpredictability.

THIS card is written under the assumption that the card will go back into the deck afterwards - basically that the deck will function as a glorified random table that can be rolled on again and again. But that’s absolutely not the case with most of the other cards in the deck. The PCs in a campaign are not going to encounter two ring of spell storing-packing goblin hustlers (I hope). Even if someone’s horse is stung by a bee twice in one campaign, I would raise an eyebrow as a player.

I don’t get it. I don’t need a card to say that the town watch might show up in town if there’s some kind of disruption. That’s just obvious. Pass.

73: Hunted to Extinction

In the mountains, there are lots of little animal hidey-hole caves around. The PCs notice little eyes peeking at them, and if they remain still, some critters come out to investigate. With an INT-3 check, they can tell they’re not just large ferrets, but feresals, “ferret-like creatures widely believed to be extinct.” There are six in all.

“The PCs can make over 1,000 gp if they bring one to the attention of a local bestiary; they can earn 1,000 XP by allowing the creatures to live in peace.” Well, that was the easiest 1,000 XP ever.

Wonky XP award aside, I guess that’s a reasonable random encounter. I mean, it attributes a modern understanding of taxonomy and species endangerment to PCs who should probably have a less scientific worldview, but that’s AD&D 2E for you. Keep, I suppose.

74: Rat Plague

In a large city, the PCs see a lot more rats than usual scurrying around. As in, they’re ALL OVER. The residents are in a panic. The same thing happened a century ago, when the city “purchased a rare magical item to control the vermin.” The building that houses said item (a ring that works like a potion of animal control with a much wider effect) is now surrounded by hordes of rats, which the card claims the PCs will have to fight through. The card suggests that once they activate the ring, they can lead the rats into a nearby swamp.

There’s a magical solution to the problem, but where are the rats coming from in the first place? Did someone leave the rat faucet on?

There are lots of questions here, but at least they’re entertaining ones. Keep.

By the way, before you get any ideas about stealing this artifact and becoming the RAT LORD OF THE WORLD, “Note that the ring only works within a 5-mile radius of the city.” I guess they must have had it commissioned. Thus, your PC will just have to use their new rat army to rule this city with an iron fist.

75: Knotty Problem

In a tavern, a large rat jumps on the PCs’ table and starts waving its arms. It’s a polymorphed wizard, using pantomime. It has a little necklace of knotted string. If it can be untied (probably by a thief), the spell will be reversed. “The alignment of the wizard is left to the DM's discretion; if good, he might reward the PCs.”

I was on board until the end there. The interactions with the wizard are going to be the most significant part of this encounter; the knotted string is only a hook. I don’t really want to come up with an interesting wizard and a potential reward off the top of my head, card. Pass.

The Deck of Sahaugin, Satyrs, Social Norms, and Spells

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

First, you must declare how many cards you intend to draw from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 12: The Deck of Sahaugin, Satyrs, Social Norms, and Spells

76: Sea Food

There’s a paragraph of description of a ramshackle coastal town. It’s stormy. When the PCs enter the inn, they find 10 fishermen clutching spears, quite on edge but relieved to see that the visitors are (demi-)human(oid). The village has been getting attacked by sahaugin every time the weather turns stormy. The families are gathered in the inn for protection. Lightning strikes and the sahaugin start coming right about…. Now! (There are 25 of them.)

I’m a sucker for village defense scenarios, so normally I would keep this one even though it’s pretty bland, but, uh... let’s look at the next one, too.

77: Invasion

A village on the sea is being invaded by 15 sahaugin! Yep! Just like last encounter! These ones are renegades, tired of their priestesses always telling them to wait until “the stars are right” to attack the surface-dwellers. They’re just gonna DO it, and when they’re successful everyone will see that they were right.

The card is pretty vague on the details - the villagers will help, but are mostly 0-level NPCs, maybe a couple 1st-level fighters. The sahaugin have a lieutenant who, if killed, will force a morale check. The lieutenant has a pearl-encrusted necklace.

It’s okay. I wish there were one or two more interesting hooks. The only thing going on here other than “monsters attack!” is the sahaugin backstory that will probably not come up unless a PC retroactively decides that one of their bonus languages was sahaugin.

Now, I don’t need two “village is being attacked by sahaugin” cards. So the question is, is it more interesting to run an off-the-cuff attack on a fortified inn, or an off-the-cuff attack on a town where the PCs are going to need to run around more? Or don’t use either? I don’t know. Jury?

78: Satyr, Part 1 of 2

Satyr? I hardly even Okay, so the PCs are travelling in a forest when they hear some cheery piping. Six satyrs and assorted woodland creatures are “having a frolic.” If the PCs can contribute wine, good food, and/or music, they’ll be welcomed to join. Oh, and also they need to leave their weapons outside the clearing. The satyrs are friendly, good conversationalists, and will be “especially attentive to female PCs,” presumably because they were having plenty of male-on-male sex before the PCs arrived and are hoping for a change of pace.

After the night of partying, the card assumes the PCs are all going to drift off to sleep in the clearing. At which point...

79: Satyr, Part 2 of 2

...they wake up and all their weapons and stuff are missing. If they track down the satyrs (which is easy enough), they say they have no idea what happened to them. As the PCs get frustrated, they hear the giggling of the real perps, three fremlin. They come out and admit they took the stuff just to see if the PCs have a sense of humor. (When it comes to their equipment, I’m 100% certain they do not.) They’ll return the stuff for a bribe of food.

Works for me. It’s just a satyr party that could be a good character moment for some of the PCs. And if they’re careful with their equipment, I’d ignore this second part. Keep.

80: Local Taboos

This is just like Town Watch: a crime against random encounter cards. To paraphrase, it says that the PCs run afoul of some local custom of some kind, and get in trouble! Maybe they’ll be able to appeal their case to someone reasonable. Or maybe not? There are probably some punishments, like getting scolded... or perhaps getting killed!

Yes, thank you. That’s absolutely worthless to me as a random encounter card. It’s not even useful to me in adventure planning. It even has the gall to say “This is a card that can be used repeatedly, whenever the DM wants to get the PCs into a small bit of trouble.” I’m the DM - I don’t need your permission to introduce local customs! Unless they mean I can brandish this card like a cudgel and say “no, you totally just screwed up a local custom and are in big trouble. See? I drew this card that says so! Pass.

81: The Talking Tree

There’s some nice scenic description at the start of this card, ending in an old abandoned trail that used to lead into a forest, but is now overgrown past a certain point. Walk to the end of the trail, and the magic mouth spell on the tree there announces “This is the cursed forest of Arnjil the Doomed. Doom and despair are the lot of all who enter here. Turn back now, else abandon hope and die.” If you move away and come back, it’ll repeat the message - a 16th-level wizard blew a point of CON to permanency this. Odd - most wizards would have just burned down the forest if they had a problem with it.

That’s a plot hook, but now I have to make all kinds of forest-related decisions. Please understand, Deck of Encounters! I bought you to do the heavy lifting for me! Pass.

The Deck of Small Children, Skeletons, and Spiders

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Your home-brewed encounters may be lame, but after acquiring 20,000 EXP and 40,000 gp worth of rare spell components, they can undergo a ritual that will transform them into

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 13: The Deck of Small Children, Skeletons, and Spiders

82: The Follies of Youth

In a town where the PCs are known as heroes or prestigious adventurers (or at least where they’ve boasted as such), a small girl comes running to them just as they’re setting out. Her name is Katie, and she has a backpack full of what is, no doubt, incredibly awesome and useful equipment, and she insists on coming with the PCs. If they just tell her she can’t, she’ll try to follow them anyway. The card says the best course of action is to find out where she lives and drag her home immediately. If badly handled, they’ll “earn themselves the hatred of one small girl.” Keep for that phrase alone.

83: A Bone in the Throat

A weird mini-set-piece combat in a dungeon. Outside a heavy door in a 100-foot hallway, there’s a skeleton with all its limbs shackled to the door by light chains. When the PCs get 30 feet away it jerks to life, tries to head toward them but can only go 5 feet, then starts firing its knuckles and fingers at them! They’re magic missiles, basically - unerring and dealing 1d4+1 damage, and it can fire two per round. Turning is ineffective because it has nowhere to flee.

Well, if you’re going to fight a single skeleton in a dungeon, it may as well be a bizarre rocket-punching one! Keep.

84: A Skeleton in the Closet

In “an unoccupied dungeon room big enough to hold four skeletons,” there are... four skeletons. They’re standing motionlessly around a chest, holding broadswords, and wearing ruby pendants. They’ll only fight if someone gets within 5 feet or attacks them. The ruby pendants are engraved with the symbol of an evil god, and make the skeletons difficult to turn (as wraiths).

In the chest is 300 gp of treasure, and a dagger +1, +2 vs tiny or small creatures. Nice, that’ll come in handy when the PCs take that quest to collect 7 rat tails. Oh, and other than making these (extremely fragile, AC 7, 4 HP) skeletons highly resistant to turning, “the pendants are otherwise worthless.” Aren’t they set with rubies?

There’s almost something interesting here, but in the end, it’s just four skeletons guarding a treasure chest. I’d rather have a room that’s an anti-turning pendant factory, with skeletons working assembly-line style and one of them at the end praying to the evil god entirely in tooth-chattering noises. Pass.

85: Bad to the Bone

Near a graveyard, in a large city. The graveyard is “poorly maintained,” to the point of having “open, ravaged pits where graverobbers have carelessly left the souvenirs of their trade lying about.”

As the PCs walk by, six skeletons with rusted long swords leap up and attack. The swords “carry tetanus, which can cause gangrene.” With rules for that included, of course.

Meh. It’s a “boring creatures attack in a normal way in their normal environment” encounter. I do like the implicit story that these skeletons drove away or killed some graverobbers, and now are salty towards life in general, but it’s not quite enough for me. Pass.

86: Step Into My Parlor

In a steamy tropical swamp that seems alien and dangerous, the PCs find “a relatively high, flat piece of ground, a seeming ‘oasis’ of safety in the swamp.” Then four giant trap door spiders leap out and attack them. “If the characters seem to be winning too easily, the sounds of battle can draw other swamp dwellers to the scene.” You know, large alligators or whatever. The stuff of legends.

There’s not much here. Is the staging enough to justify this card’s existence over simply rolling “giant trap door spiders” on a random table? I think not. Pass.

87: Sword Strokes

While in a jungle, a sword spider attacks one of the PCs at random! I’m sure that’ll end well for it. Good hunting instincts. [/sarcasm] The rest of the card is just the spider’s tactics, which are... not interesting. (Drag away a dead person quickly! Finish off a wounded person! Retreat if there’s danger!) There’s no content here to speak of. Pass.

The Deck of Sprites, Stones, Tritons, and Troglodytes

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

A fallen paladin can atone and redeem themselves by praying before

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 14: The Deck of Sprites, Stones, Tritons, and Troglodytes

Try to keep your expectations extra low for this batch, folks.

88: Slumber Party

The PCs hear snoring in a lovely meadow. It’s six orcs deep in magical slumber. Investigation will turn up tiny arrows, which druids and rangers will recognize as those used by sprites. The sprites are still around, watching invisibly. If the PCs kill the orcs, the sprites get upset but don’t attack; if a ranger or druid addresses them, the sprites’ spokesperson just asks them to leave.

So there are no interesting choices or interactions for the PCs here at all? Is that what we’re saying? Then I’m not going to bother. Pass.

89: Swimming Hole

The PCs are approaching a lake. “The DM should emphasize that the area is peaceful and serene, with no dangers anywhere apparent,” because the DM really wants the players to never trust them again. There are 40 nixies in the pool who try to charm four PCs and lure them into the water to serve them for a year. Other party members might be able to trade favors/mini-quests to the nixies to get party members back.

A by-the-book nixie encounter. Is there value in just reminding me that nixies exist and that this is what they do? Not enough, no. Pass.

90: Intruders

A storm hits the PCs’ ship and blows it into triton territory. Seven of them will ride up on giant sea horses and interrogate the PCs round-robin style (they’re fairly democratic, apparently, with no firm leader). “The characters will need to exercise all of the charm and diplomatic skill they possess to avoid being stripped of ail their possessions and set adrift, at the mercy of the sea.”

Other than the storm by fiat, this is another straight-out-of-the-MM encounter. Also, it has false tension - after arbitrarily declaring that the PCs’ ship has been blown off course, is the DM really going to be such a dick that the tritons won’t just let the PCs go in the end? Talking their way out just feels like a chore for the PCs and the DM. Pass.

91: A Light in the Darkness

Camping in a forest at night, a PC might notice light coming from the west. It’s a steady glow. They find it in the hands of a skeleton outside the mouth of the cave. It’s a stone with continual light cast on it, that AD&D flashlight-replacing staple of adventurers and anachronistic fantasy city streetlamps.

“What the cave might hold is something for the DM to decide. It might lead into mysterious dungeons, be a secret passage to the castle of the local noble, or simply be an old bear cave, the bear having moved on months ago.”

So… basically there’s no encounter at all. No gameplay besides “the PCs pick up a rock.” The card is saying, “hey, you could put something interesting in front of the PCs now! Or not. Whatever.” Pass.

92: Ambush

Not to be confused with #25: Ambush. This is a different ambush.

Anyway, there’s a mountain pass, and the PCs are attacked by 16 camouflaged troglodytes. If the PCs kill more than half, they’ll retreat, but will probably attack again, “coming in increasing numbers.” They’ll use rockslides if necessary. The PCs are supposed to realize that they should probably book it out of the mountains.

Per the Monstrous Manual, “Their favorite tactic is to pick a well-trod mountain or subterranean path and then use their chameleon power to blend in with the surrounding rocks.” So this card is just telling me that troglodytes attack, in their favored terrain, using their favored tactics. Pass.

The Deck of Undead, Unnecessarily Annoying Bullshit, and Unicorns

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

You may not utilize card-based random encounters unless you have proficiency with

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 15: The Deck of Undead, Unnecessarily Annoying Bullshit, and Unicorns

These next three cards could all be R.L. Stine book titles. And just a day late for Halloween...

93: Zombie Zoo

A secret collector of zombie animals (?) has allowed his collection to break free, and they’re roaming the streets of a walled city. Five zombie dogs, six zombie cats, and a zombie wolf.

The card intends for the PCs to be the ones personally responsible for cleaning up the situation (being hired by the city, or just out of the Lawful Goodness of their hearts), but I don’t see that that’s necessary. It can just be something that’s the talk of the town if the PCs don’t want to get involved. There’s a nice plot hook at the end, that having lost his collection, “their creator may decide to start creating more ‘interesting’ zombies.” Keep.

94: Lost My Head

In a tavern in a small town, the townsfolk are telling tall tales about evil creatures. If the PCs don’t seem to take them seriously, they mention “Ol’ Headless,” the town’s very own monster. The innkeeper rebukes them. That night, they see a headless zombie wandering through the streets, bumping into things as it looks for its head. If they try to attack it, the innkeeper runs out and shouts at them to stop. It’s sort of a good-luck charm.

Yeah… okay, sure. That might build a little bit of player fondness for the town. Keep.

95: The Repulsive Ring

Okay. So. There’s a 10x10 room with a square table in the middle and an open window (leading to…?) on the far end. On the table is a ring, which is worthless, but has continual light on it, so it looks like it could be magic and important. Another spell that’s been cast on it? Avoidance. If someone reaches for the ring, it bounces off the table and “hovers in the air,” actually on an invisible plank that leads to the window.

If the PCs lunge for the ring, it will bounce out the window and be lost. Even if they get it off the plank, the PCs can’t pick it up, since their hands are turned aside a foot away. If they get it in a bag, the ring inside will still be repelled by them. They can dispel it, but “if they cast this spell, both the avoidance spell and continual light will be lost; the ring is worth only 5 sp without the spells.” Yes, because it’s clearly extremely valuable as it is now.

The reward for getting the ring? A paltry 100 xp. The real treasure is the feeling of satisfaction you get when you slug your DM in the face for pulling this annoying, pointless bullshit. Pass.

96: Buried Treasure

At a rural crossroad between farms, with an oak tree growing. “Ideally, the PCs should have recently left a village where all the talk has been of a vampire that was slain and buried at a crossroads outside of town.” (Because that prevents them from rising again.) Annoying setup, but at least the card is labeled an “urban” encounter, so presumably I would have drawn it in town and planted those rumors then.

They see that a patch of earth has been disturbed. Buried underneath is a beheaded, staked body. And buried under that is a chest with the name “Nathaniel” on it with some coinage and an emerald.

It’s not a vampire, it’s part of a “plot” by local miserly farmer Nathaniel. “He buried his chest under a traveler he murdered. He then spread the rumor” about the vampire.

What? He did that so… people wouldn’t dig up the chest? Why not just… bury it somewhere else? And his name is on it? Either I’m missing something, or this is complete nonsense. Pass.

97: A Friend in Need

The encounter takes place “in a small forest clearing, close to a road.” A small forest fire has started in “a large section of very old, dry forest.” A unicorn who hasn’t been able to put it out comes to the PCs for help, because apparently it’s been observing them for kicks before the fire started, and has, “one hopes,” found them “respectful of the forest.” Even though they’ve just been traveling down a road, apparently?

Then there are weird mechanics for how long it takes PCs to fight the fire and how much damage they take doing so, even though it also says they’re going to need a plan to fight it at all. And if they don’t help, a lot of the forest will burn down and the unicorn will vow revenge on them personally, attacking them later for their “malicious indifference.” Dude, aren’t wildfires a natural part of the forest ecology?

I dunno about this one. It doesn’t seem to hang together. Pass.

The Deck of Mystery and Marching Bands

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Floating in the Ethereal is the infamous Demiplane of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 16: The Deck of Mystery and Marching Bands

We’ve reached a milestone! No Wyverns, Xorns, or, Zaratans at the moment - that Unicorn encounter was the last of the alphabetical monster encounter cards. What wonders might occur next? Even I do not know. That’s the beauty of... the Deck of Encounters.

98: Dangerous Crossing

There’s a huge, 50-foot deep chasm in a sparsely-travelled region. And obviously there’s a rickety little bridge going over it that hasn’t been maintained for decades but is ready to start breaking apart right now when the PCs put more than 1000 pounds of weight on it (“a light horse and a rider,” says the text). At least it doesn’t collapse immediately unless there’s more than 1250 pounds (a fat horse and a rider, or a light horse and a fat rider).

Wholly uninteresting. Pass.

99: The Talking Well

A town square, surrounded by shops but feeling strangely empty. There’s a covered stone well in the center. A talking frog (escaped magical experiment) fell down it and can’t get out. When he called up to the townsfolk, they thought the well was haunted, even though the things he’s calling up are “could one of you please lower the bucket?” and so on. In fact, the card says the PCs should save vs Paralysis (at +4) or flee when they hear the voice echoing out of the well! That seems fairly ridiculous.

The main question here is, do you want to introduce a powerless but talking frog as a NPC? For the kind of goofy AD&D 2E campaign implied by many of these cards, I’m leaning towards “yes.” Keep.

100: The Marching Band

There’s a dungeon corridor with a silver and gold (marching) baton stuck upright in the middle of the hall. If the PCs pick it up, two portals open, one on each wall, and a 20th-century marching band starts walking out of one and through the other, playing music. Sharp-eyed observers will notice that any given performer reappears out of the first portal about five rounds after leaving through the second.

Okay, you say, that’s ordinary enough. Happens all the time. But here’s where it gets weird.

The Marching Band posted:

If the PCs try to move through the strange band, they must each make a Dexterity check at -4. If they succeed, they manage to force their way through the crowd; if they fail, they are forced into the right-hand portal. Only their bodies go through the portal. Their minds are instantly transported into the body of one of the band members. The PCs can continue through the crowd, but must make a Dexterity check at -8. Each time the body passes through the portal, their minds are transported into a new body. It takes 1d20 rounds to get back into the original body, and the PCs may force their way through the crowd without further danger of being forced through the portal. Any borrowed body eventually reverts to the PC's old body.

What? What? This is almost like something out of Anomalous Subsurface Environment, which I love, but it’s even more gonzo and is executed incredibly awkwardly, confusingly, and somehow with no consequences whatsoever. Pass, because there’s no way in hell I’d actually run this, and I’m not even sure I understand it. But at least it’s not boring.

101: Wrapped Around Your Finger

There’s a heavily travelled road with drainage ditches along the side. The PCs notice a glint of metal down in said ditch. It looks like it’s gold, but is actually copper plated with a thin veneer gold and is worthless.

The card goes on and on about how the gold will chip off if the PCs wear it, how they might think it’s magic but it’s not, how they could unscrupulously try to unload it onto a “self-important merchant” on the road, etc. Yes, I know - all of that follows logically from the existence of a gilded ring. They even add a “Quick Stats” subheading (usually reserved for monsters) to repeat that “The ring has no redeeming characteristics, it is perfectly ordinary and quite worthless.”

Pass, as protest against the incredibly inflated wordcount. Besides, we already did this schtick back in 29: The Golden Ring.

The Deck of Fairy Tales

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

And there was a great lamentation among the people, and they cried out, “Talking frogs! We need more talking frog encounters!” And lo, their prayers were answered, by

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 17: The Deck of Fairy Tales

102: To Kiss a Frog, Version 1

So there’s a frog in a swamp, staring at the PCs intently. If they notice it (with a Wisdom check), she’ll explain that she’s the daughter of a duke, turned into a frog, and needs to be kissed to return to her original form. She can’t promise a reward, though, since the duchy is very poor. Actually she’s a peasant woman who angered a witch, and couldn’t get passerby to kiss her, so she made up a more appealing story. She hopes they’ll forgive her for the deception.

Uh, sure. I suppose it’s an interesting enough quick diversion, and we can keep it. That WIsdom check is totally unnecessary, though. No way is the DM going to secretly make those rolls, see that they failed, and declare “No encounter happens. Carry on.”

103: To Kiss a Frog, Version 2

There’s a frog in a foul-smelling swamp. It’s gross. It belches and explains that he’s a prince turned into a frog, just like in that fairy tale, and if one of them will “plant one right on me ol’ kisser,” it’ll reward them when it turns back. If it weasels kisses out of the PCs, it jumps away calling out “Suckers!”

Keep. Why not?

104: Dwarven Nightmare

In a lightly forested area, near a swamp at the base of some hills where there are mines. The PCs see four trolls march out from the swamps carrying picks and shovels, and singing a dwarven marching song. They are actually dwarves polymorphed into trolls. The rest of the dwarves were killed by an attacking wizard’s magic; these four lived but “were not quite fast enough to escape all of the effects [of the wizard’s spells].” Uh… okay? Why was this wizard trying to transform their opponents into larger, more dangerous creatures? Let’s just say it was a wild mage and move on.

The trolls dwarves trolls of dwarven heritage have no real business with the PCs or vice-versa, but they’ll chat and tell their story. Random, and there’s not much PC engagement, but it adds a little color to the world. I’ll keep it.

P.S.: XP rewards: “5,600 for killing the trolls, 1,500 for not jumping right into combat.” Optimal PC behavior: don’t jump right into combat, listen to the trolls’ story, and then kill them all.

105: Paladin Trolls

But not dwarven paladin trolls; that would defy several highly important laws of nature.

Near a small hilly village, the PCs see four humans, grunting and clutching chunks of meat, running from two trolls, who are shouting at them to stop. “Stop those trolls!” they shout, while refusing to explain things more clearly. Two paladins were fighting four trolls who had eaten some peasants, when some random wild magic switched their forms, like it does, I guess. That’s the whole situation.

Two “polymorphed into trolls” encounters are one too many. This one loses because you have to hack away at completely harmless humans with 43 HP each, which would be tedious. Pass.

106: Mistaken Identity, Version 2

When the PCs come to a new village, a large angry crowd turns out to meet them, saying “how dare you come back here after what you did” and so on. A group of con artists had previously seen the PCs, “developed masks that resembled the PCs faces” (!) and pretended to be them while scamming this village.

I’m... gonna assume that there was some magic involved in these masks. And why would you steal the identities of a bunch of heavily-armed, notably violent, magic-wielding roaming adventurers? Surely there are less dangerous choices!

Also, I appreciate the premise, but without further development this card is boring. Now I need to figure out who these con artists are and what they’re doing, and make it entertaining rather than just “Hey, you! Stop doing that!” . Too much work for me. Pass.

The Deck of NPCs

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Why would you play in Dark Sun, Al-Qadim, Spelljammer, or Planescape when you could be in a bog-standard fantasy realm and utilize

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 18: The Deck of NPCs

107: The Near-Sighted Paladin

Just after leaving town, a paladin (Kelvran Orcsbane, Level 7) rides up from behind the PCs and produces a warrant for the arrest of a gang of bandits working for the Witch Queen. The descriptions are similar to the PCs but different in details. As per the card title, the dude’s eyesight is bad and he knows it, so it probably won’t be that hard to talk him down.

I like this well enough, since it gives me a reason to whip up a set of evil PC semi-dopplegangers and have them show up at some later date… but I also don’t need to be creative right now, on the spot. Keep.

108: The Little Runaways

Everyone’s gathered in the late evening in the town square of a little rural town, because two boys have gone missing. Search parties are being organized. The PCs may participate, in which case they just happen to find the kids (well, with a successful Wisdom-2 check); they fell down a ravine and one broke his leg and was knocked unconscious.

A totally ordinary encounter that gives a chance for the PCs to become a little invested in a town. I’ll keep it.

109: Frame

As the PCs enter a village square, there’s a speaker firing up a mob to go after an accused murderer. The PCs can come along to join this posse, which fans out into the forest (where apparently they know this guy is hiding?) Four successful Tracking proficiency checks in a row (the first one at -3! Yeesh!) lets a PC find them. He says he was framed by the speaker, earlier, but can’t prove it. The PCs need to decide what to do. “Gramad abides by their decision.”

Wait, who’s Gramad? Oh, apparently that’s the accused man, because that’s the name on the stat block at the end of the card. Well, I’ll tell you what - I’m playing Gramad as The Dude from the Big Lebowski, and I now like this encounter 100% better. Keep.

“Gramad abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. Gramad. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners.”

I’d tone down those Tracking checks, though.

110: The Hit, Part 1 of 2

A crowded city square. A local government representative of whatever type is appropriate is giving a speech behind a dias, his voice magically amplified. Everybody gets to make a Wisdom check to notice a shadow figure on a building nearby aiming a heavy crossbow at the mayor/regent/whatever, and they get one single round to do something about it. If the assassin isn’t stopped, they’ll shoot the politician through the throat (and gain a lot of NPC experience points). Keep.

111: The Hit, Part 2 of 2

If the PCs foiled the assassination attempt, the mayor (or whatever) gives a feast in their honor… though really there’s not much attention paid to them. It’s more of a political event “to thank his benefactors.” It’s in an outdoor amphitheater, with guards posted all around the rim.

“The PC who was most instrumental in saving the mayor’s life is seated next to a shifty-eyed individual,” who is of course an assassin who tries to slip poison in their food. Even assuming all PCs aren’t already starting fixedly at this person from the very moment the DM described them as “shifty-eyed,” all they need is a Wisdom check to spot this attempt.

Seriously, assassin’s guild (or whoever)? Why would you send good assassins after bad? These are dangerous adventurers! What’s the point of trying to kill one of them and maybe drawing their wrath down on you? And why did you deploy Frank for this mission, everybody knows he’s got shifty eyes! (To be fair, this guy is just a level 1 Thief - maybe they’re simply bad assassins.)

Here’s what I do like about the encounter: obviously if the PCs waste this assassin in the middle of the political fundraiser, whatever political goodwill they’ve gained will swiftly evaporate. The mayor is going to just want them out of his life before they murderhobo it up further. It’s possible the PCs could even parlay that into something they want. Or, if they’re smarter about dealing with the assassin, they could build a closer relationship with the mayor. None of this is suggested in the card, of course, but it could lead into good gameplay. Keep.

The Deck of Hitchcock Movies and Supervillains

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Suddenly and with no reason, you are attacked by a swarm of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 19: The Deck of Hitchcock Movies and Supervillains

112: Birds of a Feather

This can happen anywhere, but ideally when the PCs are out in the open but have access to cover within running distance.
Sometime when the PCs are out in the open…. a swarm of three hundred sparrows! They swoop in to peck them to death, gain altitude, then come back for another go. 1d12 damage (save vs petrification for ½ damage) for three rounds until the PCs reach cover. Or, if they throw themselves flat on the ground and crawl, 1d4 damage for 8 rounds. (For reference, that’s 20 base damage instead of 19.5. It’s a worse deal even if the DM still allows you to roll saving throws on the ground.) Once the PCs reach cover, The Birds lose interest.

“The DM can link this into a campaign or leave as [sic] an unsolved mystery.”

Birds attack, everyone dies. Don’t be this DM. Pass.

113: The Fishing Dispute

Two fishermen are in a feud arising from fishing competitiveness. When the PCs show up, first one, then the other accuses them of being hirelings in the employ of their rival.

“The PCs can try to talk to the two combatants, but there is little chance that they will see reason.” Okay. Any suggestions about how the PCs might get involved, then? Or any reasons why they’d want to? No? Then Pass.

114: The Highwayman

On a twisting road between rocky mounds and wooded hills, a good twenty arrows strike around the PCs, and a Robin-Hood-looking highwayman demands that they throw down their valuables. They’ll fire another warning volley if the PCs start to draw weapons or anything.

Actually it’s all an illusion. The guy is an illusionist (level 3). He’s got a scroll of [invisibility[/i] if he needs to make an escape.

Conceptually, this is exactly the same as #23: The Goblin and the Ogre. It’s less memorable, but it’s also not handing the PCs a free ring of spell storing. So keep? I dunno. Maybe I should have just kept the earlier one and declared that the goblin was an illusionist?

115: The Speedster

Okay, brace yourself.

The PCs are in an uncrowded street when something streaks by and they’re hit with a sonic boom (2d6 damage, save for half). It is, I shit you not, an elven thief (level 10) under the effects of boots of speed, a potion of speed, and a haste spell, all of which explicitly stack according to this encounter card. (As an elf, he just sucks up the two years of aging from haste whenever he does this. The question of who is creating the potions of speed and casting haste is not addressed.) Per the text: “the combination of these items gives him a movement rate of 96; when he runs, his movement rate increases to 480.” Which is faster than the speed of sound, apparently?

Guards come running after him. They’ll let the PCs know that this guy is wanted - there’s a 10,000 gp reward (!) on his head. Well, that’s motivating! And the text assures us that not only will the city pay, they’ll give the PCs a medal. “If interested, the party must discover how to capture the thief.”

So suddenly this AD&D game is going to be a Batman comic for a little while. This is incredibly dumb, but hey, I’m amused. If this didn’t set a precedent that you can break the sound barrier using magic items straight from the DMG (the rarer of which you can loot from this very encounter), I might keep it. Should I just go full superhero comic and say “yeah, this elf is Hermes’s grandkid, only he can move this fast” or something? Jury?

P.S.: The elf’s name is Benjath Yoansen, but I think he needs a better supervillain name. Thoughts?

116: On the Wings of Eagles

In the jewelers’ and moneylenders’ section of a city, which has lots of guards and magical alarms. The PCs are there for whatever reason, and get to make Wisdom checks to notice someone stop outside a jeweler’s shop, surreptitiously chug a flask, and go in. Then in a couple minutes alarms go off, guards run towards the shop, and the thief flies out carrying a bag of jewels. The PCs will get a 5,000 gp reward if they catch him. The thief is 9th level and carries six potions of flying, a ring of feather falling, and a ring of jumping. (Are the rings really necessary?)

Back-to-back with the last encounter, it’s another comic book supervillain in our AD&D game! But I find this one less fun than the last. “Benjath Yoansen” moves at absurd speeds, which means the PCs would have to lay a trap for him. This guy is just flying at a speed of 18, which means a mage on the ground should have time to cast a hold spell on him or whatever and call it a day. But if I’m not willing to indulge myself with the previous encounter, I suppose I might keep this one as a consolation prize.

P.S.: The thief’s name this time is Fliegen. That’s an appropriately comic book-y given name for a guy who flies, but we need a supervillain name for him, too.

The Deck of Normal People and Hunting Gods

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

You are magically compelled to

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 20: The Deck of Normal People and Hunting Gods

117: The Contract

There’s a bard entertaining in a crowded bar, directing her songs toward the PCs. She’s an assassin. After her set, she’ll order a pitcher of wine for their table and bribe the serving boy to slip powder into it. She’ll take a pre-emptive antidote for the Type K poison (onset 1-4 minutes, 20 damage/death). After sharing a drink with them, she’ll leave to work the bar for tips, and slip out the back.

“The PCs may make a wisdom check to notice that the wine seems a little murky, but what they choose to make of this is up to them.” News flash - if anything is notable about a drink after some kind of check, the PCs ain’t drinking it.

So this seems fine. The PCs won’t die if you let them notice the wine, and the anger they feel at their assassin-hiring enemies will help drive them forward. Keep.

118: The Wild Hunt

Near some standing stones in the forest, during stormy weather. Lightning strikes the stones, knocking PCs to the ground unless they make a Strength check (note: this doesn’t matter at all). When their eyes clear they see a tall, dark-skinned man with an antlered helmet, with dogs with flaming eyes and tongues. Anyone with a good alignment needs to save or join in the hunt. They’ll run without tiring, “though it all seems dream-like later.”

The hunt falls on a group of 30 travellers who wear an evil god’s sigil, including a level 14 evil cleric, and they fight. Nice and folkloric, though I don’t usually think of fairie hunts as a good vs evil thing. Keep, though I would probably give the good-aligned PCs a choice rather than make it a save-based effect.

119: Charlatan

A local thief in a small town tried to steal from a wizard and got cursed with a babble spell. Aaaaaand also permanency. The people decided that she’s touched by the gods, and she’s been milking it for all its worth. She’ll still try to steal from the PCs when they visit, but if they notice and take action against her, the villagers will drive them out of town. They’ll also be annoyed if someone removes thebabble spell, “thinking that this means that the gods no longer smile upon them.” Not many interesting PC choices here, but keep.

120: The Rumor Mill

The PCs come back to their home base town and find slanderous rumors circulating about them. Lots of acquaintances give them strange looks or worse. Good friends will be able to explain the rumors to them. “An intense campaign of do-gooding” or a confession from their enemies will clear their name. Some possible accusations: “the PCs worship an evil god, kill farmers, commit unspeakable acts with animals, have bad morals, breath, or the like.” OK then.

I dunno… it takes a little too much effort on my part to think up the PCs’ rumor-mongering enemies and make it interesting for them to track down. But if this is their home base, maybe I already have some candidates in place. Keep, since I can always throw it back when drawn if it doesn’t feel appropriate.

121: Bread and Fish

The PCs are in a crowded marketplace. A WIS-2 check allows them to notice a woman stealing bread from a merchant. “It vanishes into her coat, though it looks as if there is not enough room in the coat.” (It’s a bag of holding, of course - a “light-weight” one that carries up to 250 lbs or 30 cubic feet.) If they keep watching, she steals more food. If they follow her, she is of course the mother of hungry children and has a sob story. (Can’t get a job because people assume she’s “shiftless and lazy,” etc.)

The card says “the PCs must decide whether to hand her over to the city guards.” Tell me, what PC isn’t going to just buy the bag off of her? (Answer: the ones who are going to rob and/or murder her for it.)

Anyway, I guess it’s interesting enough. Keep.

The Deck of Traps and Serial Killers

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Hostile V posted:

What you're doing is fine, Dallbun, just go at a pace that keeps you invested but not burning yourself ou.lt.
No worries there, I had 250 cards written up before I made a single post. Here we go, then!

Even a strong opponent can be overborne by a large enough swarm of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 21: The Deck of Traps and Serial Killers

122: Posse

The PCs are entering a lightly forested area near a large town, when they meet a posse of 20 villagers coming down the road with weapons. They’re led by a “grizzled ranger,” and looking for a 6’1, ~200 kb man with an eyepatch and long red hair - Salier the woodman. (Is that the most detailed physical description any NPC has gotten in the whole deck so far?) They’ll try to hire the PCs to bring him in dead or alive for 3000 gp (!). He’s hiding out in the forests and has loaded the area with traps designed to kill.

OK, that’s fine. Keep.

123: The Village

A small village is “curiously divided right down the middle of the street.” One side is stone, one is wood, and the people are dressed differently on each. The village is dominated by two families, the McLains and Borguns. When the PCs enter, representatives from both sides stand on their side of the street and beg the PCs to join their side. How can they help? Well, apparently most of their feud involves sending someone to the other side of the village to get something only available there. They will be pranked and trapped mercilessly by the opposing side while they’re there. “Many of the traps are harmful both emotionally and physically.”

Eh, I don’t like it. Obviously they’re going for a Hatfield/McCoy vibe, but the way this rivalry plays out is just off. This isn’t how people act. Who would maintain an ongoing trap-based prank feud without it escalating into full-on violence?

Oh wait let’s just say they’re all gnomes. Boom! Better. Keep.

124: Springheel

In a posh neighborhood at night, the streets are mostly deserted, but a figure in a “non-reflective golden cloak” jumps over a 10-foot wall and levels a strange weapon at them. Its face looks scaly and reptilian. It gestures at their money with its weapon (a “6-shot repeating hand-held crossbow,” with sleeping poison on the quarrels”). If crossed, it fires once at them and retreats back over the wall.

It’s not a lizardman, it’s actually Old Man Willis from the hotel a half-elf thief named Springheel wearing a disguise. He also has a ring of jumping and a short sword +2.

Is… this a reference to something? Is it supposed to be Spring-heeled Jack? Was he famously a lizard person? Anyway, I might like this guy fine if he’d just been seen around town and had his own agenda, but I don’t like him as a total moron who tries to mug groups of heavily-armed, dangerous-looking people. Pass.

125: The Night of the Knife

It’s a foggy night in town. The streets are mostly deserted. The PCs hear a scuffle up ahead, then a thump, a muffled curse, and footsteps. A tall man walks past the PCs, doffs his hat, and says “Evening.” He’s polite and charming but tries to avoid showing his face. The PCs could accost the man at this moment (though the card complains that “they have little grounds for this action”), but after that it’s too late - he’s gone. After they pass him, they will find the mutilated body of his victim, a human man, and a bootprint leading back towards where they came.

(The man’s name is Jack. He’s a level 10 thief, settling a question that has confounded Ripperologists for more than a hundred years.)

What is going on with these encounters? Do we put Jack the serial killer in our AD&D game as a random encounter? Well... not like this. There’s no real hook - the PCs are likely to encounter the dead body and say “...okay? And?” Also, it’s poor form to make a point of introducing an NPC, and then try to stop the PCs from following them or whatever because their characters wouldn’t have a reason to. Pass for me.

The Deck of Bumpkins, Thieves, and Goddamn Dragons

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

The backwards, superstitious locals mutter darkly about

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 22: The Deck of Bumpkins, Thieves, and Goddamn Dragons

126: The Haunted Tree

On the border of a small rural community. “The locals are rustic and superstitious, easily given to fears of ghosts and witches.” You… do realize that those are actual, 100% real, highly-dangerous things that exist in this world?

Anyway, a local asks them for help. He built his home around a huge old tree (like, literally around it - the tree grows out through a hole in the roof), but he says he’s seen the tree groan and move at night, and rip pieces off the roof. He wants the PCs to expunge the evil and save his house, and offers them “his grandfather’s flame tongue +2 if they do.” Dang, nice!

The PCs “quickly see that [the tree] is a slumbering treant,” presumably because they are intelligent and educated people, not like these ignorant hillbillies who believe in ghosts and witches. It’ll inevitably tear apart the house when it wakes up fully and decides to leave. “The man will not accept this, and demands that the PCs ensure that the treant never move. What the PCs choose to make of this is up to them.”

I’m not big on the assumed superiority of PCs over the common D&D man, but I like that the house owner is kind of an asshole about the situation. True to life. The reward seems a little disproportionate, but that’s easily adjusted if the DM wants. Keep.

127: The Pacifist

Medium danger, in rough terrain - the card specifies that there are boulders, and little trees - “numerous vantage points from which PCs or monsters can launch an offensive.” There’s a holy-looking man with a holy symbol (5th level) backing away from four hell hounds. They’re sort of playing with their food before they eat it. He’ll be grateful if they help, and can cast cure spells, “even risking his own life to drag them out of combat.”

If they save him he’ll be grateful and tag along as their healbot, but won’t fight because he’s a pacifist, and will “continually deplore the party’s use of force if they accept him; he will leave as soon as they reach civilization.”

Why, card! Are you assuming that the PCs are some kind of violent psychopaths? ...well, yeah, that’s a safe assumption. Anyway, we can keep this one.

128: ‘Orace and Wilbur

Two comic relief NPCs have been hired to kill the PCs by someone who would do such a thing. They will set traps that rebound on them comically. “If [they] run into the PCs in a town, they inadvertently reveal the plans for their next scheme, slap each other around, and hope that the PCs will ignore what they’ve just said.” They’re like the burglars from Home Alone with a dash of the Three Stooges and Wile E. Coyote.

They’ll be reoccurring villains because they’ll keep to their contract, but they could also be befriended or bought off. Oddly, the card doesn’t raise the idea of the PCs just fucking killing them.

It’s more of a sketchy outline of some NPCs than an encounter. But it certainly paints a vivid picture, and the DM doesn’t have to think up any good murder plans on the spot, just a terrible, badly-thought out one. I’ll take it. Keep.

129: A Dragon and His Orc

Out in farmland at the foot of mountains, the PCs see a dragon scorching crops. It’s a juvenile bronze dragon. “Whaaaat!?” say the PCs. “But skin color is hugely deterministic of morality and behavior, and that is especially true for dragons!” Fear not, players - as you assume, there is indeed an explanation! An orc shaman found a small bronze sphere in which the dragon “stored its life force” (pretty impressive magic for a juvenile) and is using it to control its actions. Oh, an orc. Those are evil. Now it all makes sense.

One nice touch is that if the PCs follow the dragon, it will deliberately fly slowly so they have time to follow it back to the high aerie where the orc is set up.

I mean, I guess if you’re following the D&D paradigm this is reasonable, but the “a good thing is acting bad! No wait it’s an bad thing after all” just rubs me the wrong way. What do you think, jury?

P.S. I would aim higher than crop burning, Mr. Shaman. Can’t you rally an army behind you and go on a conquering spree or something? Especially since the dragon is presumably less vulnerable to harm than one with its life force in the usual place?

130: Apprentices

In a busy part of a city, the PCs are chosen as a target by a gang of five Thieves’ Guild apprentices (each Level 1). The exercise is “to pick a mark clean.” They try to pickpocket small, valuable items, but not, the card stresses, anything heavy like weapons. They each only have a 35% Pick Pockets chance, but there are five of them: if the PCs catch one and don’t call the guard, they’ll “take the opportunity to steal from the PCs while the PCs lecture the failed thief.” Nice. If they call the guard or leave the crowds, the thieves will stop.

The card says the DM can “use” the encounter “to rid the PCs of some powerful item,” which is too adversarial for my style. But I like the possibility that the PCs might get pissed off at the local Thieves’ Guild or vice versa. Keep.

The Deck of Crime, Intrigue, and Balors

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Inscribed on the wall is a rune that will teleport all who look on it into

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 23: The Deck of Crime, Intrigue, and Balors

131: Mistaken Identity, Version 3

The PCs wander into a small village, and everybody seems to recognize one of them. Someone tries to pay them back 100 gp, a tavern proprietor offers them the usual (which, if accepted, is the PC’s favorite food), and everyone’s extremely obsequious towards them. They even have a lovely wife who says it’s been so long and tries to drag them home, at which point they run into the PC’s double coming out of their fine house.

“How the encounter is resolved is up to the DM: it can be a doppelganger, a long lost twin brother, or anything else. Whatever the case, it is sure to be amusing.”

Will it, though? Off the top of my head, I’m not coming up with anything more interesting than the suggested options, and neither seems particularly entertaining in practice. ("Hey, I've got a long lost twin brother! ...cool, I guess?") Myself, I’ll pass.

132: The Fugitive

In a high mountain pass. It’s a beautiful day. Way down below, in the distance, they can see dust kicked up by a group of galloping horses on a distant road. Up here, they find an old man trying to fix the broken wheel on his cart. The mule’s not being cooperative. He asks for the PCs help, says he’s a famous artist, and promises to paint for them if they escort him across the mountain. Actually he’s a fraud who uses cantrip to “paint” temporary art and sell it, and which is why he has to run before the relentless pursuit of the police lieutenant obsessed with his capture flee from the knights in the distance. I guess knights are fantasy cops. Keep.

133: Hazardous Passage

Medium danger in a dungeon. It’s a long passageway. There’s a summoning circle taking up the entire width of it, and inside is a balor. But it’s invisible, because that’s a thing balors can do, of course. It says the circle is “too large for the PCs to simply step over its boundary along the wall,” though I’d probably let them try with DEX checks. It suggests levitation or whatever - it’s safe as long as you don’t disturb the magical dust that’s making up the circle on the ground and keeping the thing imprisoned.

Interesting, though potentially incredibly dangerous. I guess I’ll keep it.

Incidentally, the card notes that the encounter is worth 500 XP for passing the circle, or 46,000 XP “in the unlikely event the PCs defeat the balor.” Haha, wow. The Monstrous Manual XP value is only 26,000...

134: April Fools

A “gaily bedecked” normal town. Everyone has little smirks on their faces. It’s a festival celebrating the local trickster god, so everyone plays pranks on each other all day. The PCs will be targets, though unfortunately the examples given are a little passé: giving wrong directions, or dumping mud on them from a second-story. If the PCs take this badly, they’ll earn ill will. If they get in on the pranking themselves, they’ll gain good will. Keep.

135: Hostages

So the PCs have attracted the attention of a wizard kidnapper, Fargone (Thief 9, Wizard 9). He’s made a cell that’s only accessible by teleportation (but has a slot for food and air), and he tries to pop over to the PCs with a helm of teleportation, grab someone, teleport back to the prison, and teleport out by himself. Then he’ll send a ransom note to the others.

This is one of those weird encounters that really runs with the implications of the setting. If there’s reliable teleportation magic wielded by self-interested people, then this encounter does logically follow. I’m not sure I like that flavor of fantasy, but it’s certainly very AD&D. I'm also reluctant to keep it, though, because whenever you have an NPC use a permanent magical item, that item will likely end up in the hands of the PCs by the end. And teleportation is a pain that I want to reduce the incidence of. Pass for me, I suppose.

P.S.: It’s a shame. In another life, this wizard could have put his teleportation magic to good purposes, but in the end he was just too… Fargone.

136: The Hunter

There’s a cabin in the forest decorated with the mounted heads of good-aligned creatures (unicorns, pegasi, blink dogs, a pixie, etc). Their skins are hung inside. The weapon racks inside are empty. The hunter will return eventually, dragging two aarakokra. He’ll attack without any conversation if he sees them. He’s a level 12 fighter.

Works for me. Keep.

The Deck of Halflings and Henchmen

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Every 24 hours, you must refresh the duration of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 24: The Deck of Halflings and Henchmen

137: Dispelling Doubts

The PCs wander into a dispel magic zone that nullifies magic effects for 1 hour (do spells resume after that?) and stops mages from casting spells for 1d6 rounds. Magic items get a save as per the spell.

“This is an ideal card to play directly outside the main villain's door. It is sure to brighten the players' days when they learn that their favorite magic is gone.” Uh, wait - is this a random encounter, or an idea to use when planning a dungeon? If it’s the former, I don’t choose to play a card like it’s Magic: the Gathering, I draw one randomly (and why would I do that outside a villain’s front door?) If it’s the latter, I don’t need to play a card, I just have it planned!

Then the card goes into musing about why such a zone might be there, but all the ideas are boring. Look, don't leave it completely to me - just give me one good concrete reason. An avatar of the God of Magic got dumped by their mortal paramour on that spot and cursed it, how about that?

Regardless, I suppose a random antimagic zone could be interesting, either as an arbitrary inconvenience the PCs or for them to later go back and build a keep on. Keep.

138: The Question Game

The PCs run into Fawling, a level 7 halfling thief who’s traveling the world to see the sights, and steals to “supplement his food and income.” So he’ll probably steal some food and money from the PCs if they hang out with him (but not from other halflings).

He’s constantly playing “the question game,” where you try to respond to your conversational partner with a question.

Dang, this guy seems annoying! Just… 100% irritating. I don’t really want to inflict him on my players, so pass.

139: Birthday Party

In a medium-sized halfling community, the PCs basically wander into Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday party (actually, it says it’s “the birthday of no less than three of [sic] citizens of the village.” Bilbo, Frodo, and…?). There are streamers, fireworks that spook horses, etc. They’ll be invited to join in.

They will, however, be pickpocketed 1d6 times by a small halfling boy who, if caught, “just wanted to look at it for a while.” If the PCs are a good sport about this, the townsfolk will like them, but “if the PCs turn ugly, the halflings will, too.”

We’re treading dangerously close to kender territory with these halfling encounters. However, attending a hobbit birthday party is the secret dream of every D&D nerd. I can’t deny that to my players. Keep.

140: The Failed Paladin (Tavern Series)

Oh boy, fallen Paladins. Everybody’s favorite part of the AD&D alignment system.

In a tavern that the PCs hang out at, there’s a man brooding at the bar who’s been drinking heavily. He’s got a shield with a LG deity’s symbol on it. Local thugs move in to bully him and he wrecks them, tosses money at the bar, grabs his stuff and leaves. He heads to the PCs and asks to join up with them, he only needs enough money to live on.

The poor guy lost his paladin status “when he allowed three pompous clerics of his church to perish, instead of sacrificing his only son. Now no cleric of the church will allow him to atone.” He’s looking to redeem himself adventuring.

If it makes you feel any better, dude, the DM would have found some justification for you to fall even if you had sacrificed your son. Don’t be a paladin in 2E. I’ll keep the encounter, though. Edit: pass, actually I don't want to engage in the AD&D alignment & Paladin systems any more than necessary.

141: The Voiceless Bard (Tavern Series)

In a seedy but well-run tavern, the PCs hear a bard playing the lute like a virtuoso, but not singing along. When he does open his mouth to sing, it’s godawful. He’ll come to the PCs after. “He speaks with an outrageous accent and apologizes for his poor voice, explaining that his throat was seared by eating too much hot food.” He’s a former adventurer, is nostalgic for it, and wants to join them. His name’s Dyvad UeMulle and he’s 9th level.

I don’t know about that outrageous accent, but I like the idea in this series of cards that other random adventurers might occasionally try to join the PCs. Keep.

142: The Man in Black (Tavern Series)

In an upper-class tavern, the normal evening patrons haven’t shown up, but there’s Strider a mysterious man dressed in black, seated in the darkest corner. He’s trying to watch the PCs surreptitiously (notice with a Wisdom check). He’ll look away briefly if noticed. Once more patrons come in, her starts watching them too.

His name is Rilifin, and he’s actually “quite an engaging fellow,” a fighter 6/mage 6 hired by the owner to sit there, look menacing, and help the bouncer if necessary. I guess to add a touch of danger to this upscale place, so folks can feel like they’re slumming it? Rilifin is just in it for the money, and will join an adventure if there’s good returns. He’s pretty well-equipped, too: long sword +3, bracers AC 2, ring of blinking. Also about 1600 gp worth of wealth, so I’m not sure why he’s being underemployed here. Keep, anyway.

The Deck of Arcanes, Abishai, and Banshees

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

In order to inject a carefully-allocated measure of randomness into the routine of the plane of Mechanus, each day a Monodrone enters a sealed chamber and draws a single card from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 25: The Deck of Arcanes, Abishai, and Banshees

So, I thought only the first part of the deck was listed alphabetically by monster. But no, here we go again.

143: Arcane Knowledge

The PCs hear it through the grapevine that a blue-skinned giant is hiring bodyguards/servitors. The giant is an Arcane, and it’s assumed that the PCs aren’t familiar with the race. It’s looking for rare equipment to fix its spelljamming ship. It offers a “more than fair“ price and doesn’t haggle or answer questions about itself or its purpose.

If the PCs impress it favorably, it will ask them if they want to extend their service by bodyguarding it on its way back to its ship. The card notes that this could lead into a spelljamming campaign.

It could use another hook, like someone trying to rob or murder the Arcane. But I love these mercantile weirdos, and assuming that I’m willing to introduce spelljamming into the campaign through a random encounter card, this is fine. Keep.

144: The Guardian

In a small magical circle in a cavern, there’s a chest and a red abishai throwing itself against the binding spell keeping it there. He says that a wizard bound it to protect the chest for 10 years as revenge for attacking them. It offers to split the treasure with the PCs if they free it, but obviously it’s lying and will try to kill them (if they seem weak) or flee with the treasure (if they seem too strong). The DM needs to come up with the large treasure, though. (Also, why is it just being left in a chest in the middle of nowhere, anyway? I guess I can have the room be secret, or the passageway only recently uncovered, or something.)

It's kind of a pain that they offload the treasure on to me, but I guess if I needed to I would just give it a treasure type and roll within sight of the players. That always gets them excited. OK, keep.

145: By Spell Bound

Basically the PCs follow some growls of rage and find a summoning circle containing a black abishai. (The summoner had a heart attack when he saw it, and died.) That's it, though obviously the abishai will start trying to make deals for its release. Since it's a Lawful supernatural creature, that could even be tempting to some.

In a vacuum, I’d be fine with this. However, it’s PREEEETY similar to the previous encounter, except with even less of a hook. I guess that one was for a dungeon, and this one is for hills, so… that’s something? But pass anyway.

146: Sorrow

A banshee is going to approach any elven PCs to tell them a story! She was an elf (as were all AD&D banshees), and she and her fiance were killed by barbarian humans - him first, in front of her. Now she’s undead because she’s pissed… though she’s not as cold and rageful as most other banshees. She wants elven PCs to help give her fiance a good burial, and also maybe have someone go murder the barbarians in revenge. Then she’ll dissolve into mist and rejoin her beloved, leaving behind only 8.000 experience points.

Keep, I guess, though the body of this scenario might be tracking down the murderers, about whom the card gives essentially no information, which would make this hard to run in practice. But hey, maybe I have somewhere I want to point the PCs to anyway. Easy enough to replace “barbarian humans” with whatever group I want.

147: Rage

The PCs hear rumors of a terrible spirit hiding in the nearby hills! (This card is marked as a Hill encounter, though, not a town one - I guess a pair of wandering monkey woodcutters will tell them.) It’s a banshee, a former drow priestess who came here leading a warband and got offed by a multispecies group of adventurers. Now she hangs out in a blighted area killing anyone she can. She’s cunning but can be goaded into anger easily.

I like it. There’s no innate reason for self-centered PCs to go after her, but that’s not a problem in the least. The players can choose to pursue what interests them. Keep.

The Deck of Basilisks, Beholders, Believers, and Bugbears

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

No! Don’t look this in the eye! Now you need make a save or your favorite D&D adventure will be polymorphed into

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 25: The Deck of Basilisks, Beholders, Believers, and Bugbears

148: Looks Can Kill, Part 1 of 2

In a city, the PCs are invited to dinner by an eccentric noble, who questions them over dinner about the strange creatures they’ve encountered. Then he shows them his garden, which is filled with incredibly-detailed stone statues of all kinds of creatures.

Then the PCs murder the noble.

A servant brings news. The noble invites the PCs to watch from an overlooking room as the servants drag out a displacer beast in a cage, put it in a good spot, and it turns to stone. Then the noble proudly shows them the enclosure with a fat, blindfolded basilisk. If they’re upset, he threatens them with his political influence if they try to expose him.

Then the PCs REALLY murder the noble.

Fine, fine, let’s see where they’re going with this.

149: Looks Can Kill, Part 2 of 2

Having not murdered the noble, the PCs are summoned back to him at a later date. His basilisk escaped, and he wants their help killing it before it can be tracked back to him. He’ll pay them big, unspecified bucks. If the PCs tell anyone it was his, he’ll counter that they brought it into the city to kill him.

The PCs say fuck you and probably murder him will find it easy to track the creature by the trail of statues of animals and people. It’s also fat and slow from captivity, and they know it’s coming, so you know they’ll have mirrors a’plenty.

I guess these cards are fine. They give the PCs a chance to exact swift justice, take down corrupt government jerks, or gain influence through blackmail, depending on what sorts of folks they are. Keep.

150: The Eye Tyrant

The PCs enter a large, open cavern with ten gas spores and one beholder in it. “The beholder comes here to play with the spores and to pretend that it is a master orb, with the gas spores as its servants.” It moves them around with telekinesis, bosses them around, etc. It’s careful not to come within 20 yards of them, of course. If it sees the PCs, it’ll TK the spores towards them as weapons. The card specifies that the TK beam is invisible, and of course there’s a 90% chance they’ll mistake gas spores for beholders themselves at first...

Kind of a cruel encounter to the players, but adorable. Who’s a precious megalomaniacal xenophobic genius horrorbeast? You are. Keep.

151: The Stoning

Small-down villagers accost the PCs and start grilling them on their religious beliefs - are they "true believers in the second coming of the great prophet Zerkwon"? If so, "Reformed, or Orthodox?" So far, this is fun! Less fun is that "no matter what answer the PCs give, it is the wrong answer and the wrong faction."

Then they run into the opposite faction shortly after, except these ones "will fall upon them with clubs" if they're given the wrong answer (which was formerly the right answer). Religious people, am I right?

Presumably, after the slaughter is over, the DM will then announce that the party Paladin has fallen because he murdered innocent villagers who were trying to club them to death over vaguely-defined religious zealotry that came out of nowhere and has no significance in the game world.

This encounter has no interesting gameplay, and is actually quite offensive. Pass.

152: Undesired Servants

Some caves in the mountains house bugbears. The bugbears (just five) are getting ready to move. They’re gathering their stuff and herding goblin slaves (eight of them). They attack the PCs on sight but won’t stick around if they’re obviously outgunned. The slaves will be left behind, and will promise to serve the PCs. “The goblins cannot be dissuaded from this, as they’ve been slaves of the bugbears for a long time and their spirits have been thoroughly broken.” Even if driven off, they’ll follow the PCs, clean their campsites, and catch small animals.

Geez, I don’t want to run these goblins. It’s weird and uncomfortable that they’re apparently so enslaved and abused that they’re now... completely selfless? I’ll keep the encounter, but the obsequiousness is a front - the goblins are really just trying to stick as close as possible to the heavily-armed PCs so they can get out of the mountains and back to whatever passes for safety for goblins.

The Deck of Bulettes, Centaurs, Chimera, Dinosaurs, and Displacer Beasts

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Upon its death, the spirit of your middle school AD&D game ascended to the Outer Planes and merged with

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 26: The Deck of Bulettes, Centaurs, Chimera, Dinosaurs, and Displacer Beasts

153: Landshark Attack

In a human town, a halfling runs in, exhausted, from a nearby halfling town that has been wrecked by a bulette. He’s looking for aid. They’ve pooled their money to hire some murderhobos if they can. The PCs can probably track the bulette down, or wait for it to return. It’ll try to flee if too wounded, but the halflings won’t accept anything less than its death. Keep.

154: Suspicion

Moving through a forest, the PCs enter a glade with eight of pissed-off centaurs, some wounded. They were just attacked by human bandits and will move aggressively toward the PCs. If the PCs put up arms, they fight - if they talk peace, they can probably avoid it. If they do, the centaurs will accept help, especially from elves and clerics, and be grateful.

Too conceptually similar to #37: Centaur Vengeance. I suppose it has the advantage of telling me who attacked the centaurs, which was one of my major complaints about that one, even if the answer is terminally boring. Keep, but it doesn’t particularly excite me. I might send it back into the deck if I actually drew it in play..

155: Look to the Skies!

The PCs are on a wide, grassy plain near some mountains. They’re watching the clouds because it looks like it might rain, when they see a flying creature drawing near. It’s a chimera, flying from the mountains! It’s here to eat them.

The card says they should be about 200 feet from the cover of trees when it comes, and be able to run about 150 feet before it reaches them, and that furthermore it will try to burn them out if they hide. But those are pretty thin additions to a “monster attacks!” encounter. Boring. Pass.

156: A Tasty Snack

In a thick jungle, the PCs hacking away at the undergrowth draws the attention of two young male ceratosaurs, who attack. There’s no other interesting content to speak of. Pass.

157: The Imprint, Part 1 of 2

In the high mountains, the PCs pass a cave with a mother displacer beast. "Regardless of what the PCs do, the displacer beast is intent on protecting her cubs and she ferociously attacks the PCs." In the cave is a long sword +2, a ring of protection +1, and four l'il displacer beast cubs that will imprint on the first PC they see, "adopting him or her as a new parent." You know, like baby animals generally do after you slaughter their mother within earshot.

Forced combat with no room for PC ingenuity? Check. Proliferation of boring magical items? Check. Pass? Check.

158: The Imprint, Part 2 of 2

“This encounter takes place three days after the first encounter.” Basically, wherever they are, three adult displacer beasts track them down. They wait for one person to separate from the group, ideally at night, and then… one of the three goes after that person, while the other two attack the camp and try to distract them so they can’t help. Huh? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just take the separated person down quickly, surrounding them so they can’t escape, then withdraw?

The beasts also want to snatch back the cubs, and they’ll also try to kill their adopted mother before any other PCs, so they’ve got like three or four different goals here. I find it confusing. Pass.

The Deck of Dopplegangers, Dragons, Elementals, and Ettercaps

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

You must save at -2 or tremble in instinctual fear and awe at the sight of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 27: The Deck of Dopplegangers, Dragons, Elementals, and Ettercaps

159: The Dead Walk Again

“This encounter requires that the PCs have killed some humans or demihumans recently.” I dunno, man, sounds like a stretch to me.

Those individuals the PCs killed were actually dopplegangers who “had held those forms for so long, they did not immediately revert to their original forms.” Well, that certainly is bullshit. Anyway, these people were key to some doppleganger plan, so other dopplegangers have replaced them and carried on their lives. If the PCs interrogate them, they claim that they were replaced by dopplegangers trying to “ruin their good names.” If the PCs seem suspicious, the dopplegangers will try to murder them later.

Hmm, I don’t know. It makes me tired to have to come up with a reason why dopplegangers needed whatever random NPCs the PCs killed enough to copy them twice. And mysteries like this don’t tend to hold up in the face of magic and PC bull-headedness. And the encounter relies on ignoring a commonly-understood rule about how dopplegangers work. Actually, I do know. Pass.

160: False Friend

A doppleganger has been hired by an enemy to kill the PCs. When they separate in the city, it tails a PC (they might notice if they have the Alertness proficiency… that was a proficiency?), waits for a good opportunity, and tries to murder them.

It doesn’t seem incredibly dangerous - it’s a medium-danger encounter, so the PCs will be a decent level, and a single doppleganger in melee isn’t much. But it could be fun to ambush a wizard and watch them scramble, and this could motivate the PCs to go on the offensive against some of their enemies. Keep.

161: Double Image

In a town where the PCs have become a visible presence, a doppleganger has been imitating one of them. They’re running up bar tabs, picking up commissioned items on their behalf, etc. It’s not hard to solve the mystery, since the doppleganger hasn’t exactly been subtle. It’ll try to skip town when the PCs return and are on to it.

This is a pretty uncreative, by-the-book doppleganger situation, but I suppose there’s a little value having card to randomly determine when it happens? Keep?

162: A Chilling Experience

The PCs are on an open arctic plain dotted with hillocks (not hills, hillocks), one of which is a young adult white dragon looking to gain gold and glory by killing adventurers. It breaks free of its cover of snow when they get near, which actually is like a reverse surprise round because it needs a round to shake the snow off itself. Then it breathes on them and takes flight.

“It fights to the death, for it cannot bear the thought of the shame it would feel if it was routed by mere humans.” I... suppose that’s as good a reason as any? And it’s got no hoard in its lair, since it was just trying to start one.

It more or less hangs together conceptually, but when I rephrase it as “a dragon attacks you out of nowhere, never flees, and has no treasure” it just sounds like DM fuckery. Pass.

163: Lost Child

In a classy, fountain-filled city, the PCs hear crying from a fountain. It's a baby water elemental "conjured by mistake by an inept mage who set the fountain's everflowing spell. It talks like a child, and can be vindictive or clingy depending on how the PCs react. The best idea, claims the card, is to get it to a large ocean or inland sea, where there might be other elementals.

Or, you know, since this is the sort of magical ren-faire city where every fountain is the equivalent of a decanter of endless water, maybe they can find some way to safely abjure it? Seems a lot more direct of a solution. Either way, it's not super interesting. But it's conceivable that it could play out in fun ways. Keep.

164: Silken Strands

So the PCs are in a thick forest, and as they go along they “may notice strands of a fine silvery, thread-like material “occasionally wound between and over the trees.” But wait, it doesn’t matter whether they do or not, because “even if the PCs notice the strands, before they can react,” there’s a big web net over them. It was thrown by an ettercap. Its strategy is to poison any trapped characters, then run off and wait for them to die. Yeah, save-or-die poison can be pretty brutal.

BUT WAIT, that doesn’t matter either, because “due to the extreme toxicity of the ettercap’s poison, the DM may wish to have a druid or a ranger ‘on hand’ to save a bitten PC if the party has no method of healing the wounded character.” Sigh. At least that’s a “may wish to,” and not a directive.

All that aside, this is mostly just a reworded version of the ettercap description in the Monstrous Manual. Pass.

The Deck of Fish, Gargoyles, and Ghosts

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Each forum thread has a 10% chance to contain

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 28: The Deck of Fish, Gargoyles, and Ghosts

165: Feeding Frenzy

“The warm tropical waters of a jungle lake seems [sic] to invite the characters. There are no signs of danger, and the PCs go for a dip. As they swim, splash, and play, the water begins to boil around them and they feel the sharp stings of hundreds of vicious little teeth.” Piranhas.

I’m not sure which is worse - the DM declaring that the PCs take a swim and are attacked by piranhas, or the DM suggesting that the PCs go for a swim, emphasizing that the lake is inviting and has “no signs of danger,” and then having them be attacked by piranhas. Pass.

166: Shark Attack

“While on a fishing expedition in deep water…” Wait, hold it right there. Who has ever, ever had a game where their PCs went on a fishing expedition? Show of hands? That’s what I thought. (Okay, it happens regularly in a Mad Lands campaign, but this is AD&D, not GURPS.)

Anyway, sharks attack their boat, Jaws-style. They’ll even “chew through the hull to get at the characters”! And it reminds the DM that if PCs get too close to the water, “the sharks can heave themselves toward the PCs with astounding speed.” Yeesh!

Then it says the attack might draw the attention of a group of sahaugin (but not to do that unless you think the PCs can handle it). Honestly, this encounter makes a lot more sense if the sahaugin are controlling the sharks. I’d go with that if I was keeping the card. Which I’m not, since it’s just “animals attack (unnaturally) in a situation that will never come up”! Pass.

167: Look, It's Talking

The PCs are fishing in a stream when they pull up a fish that talks! All it says is “Hey! Put me down!” and “I’m gonna tell my master on you.” The voice is actually coming from a ring that the fish swallowed, which is enchanted with a permanent magic mouth. It has a command word engraved inside the ring that lets you change the, uh, recorded message. It’s a “small but potentially useful magic item.”

I’m fairly sure I used this card back in the day. I don’t recall the ring coming in handy, but it’s the kind of thing that sits at the bottom of someone’s character sheet until they’re brainstorming about how to pull off some harebrained scheme. That’s my favorite part of D&D, so keep.

168: Life Quest, Part 1 of 2

Most of this card is backstory. An evil wizard started crafting a guardian gargoyle, but it was only animate when the moon is half full or more (and only at night?), and also seemed distinctly good-aligned! Horrors! So he left it in some city. When it’s animate, it sees the PCs and asks for their help. It needs to be brushed by the freshly-plucked feather of a pegasus to be animate 24/7. Quest: accepted? Let’s see where they go with this in part 2.

169: Life Quest, Part 2 of 2

The card notes that the PCs will need to figure out how to travel with the gargoyle - they need to take it along because they need the pegasus feather fresh. Then the body of the adventure is hand-waved away - "the PCs will have to search out the reclusive pegasus," but "if they are having no luck, a friendly druid may appear and, hearing their quest, direct them to a pegasus's grove.” Then the pegasus will eventually decide to help if asked carefully by a good-aligned character.

The whole thing is a boring fetch-quest and has almost no conflict or interesting decision-making. If I, the DM, want to hurry things along and say, “yeah, yeah, you travel a bunch, you find the pegasus, whatever, let’s get to more fun stuff,” there’s a problem. Even the promise of having a gargoyle buddy, which is admittedly awesome, doesn’t quite save it. Pass.

170: Deadly Greed

A greedy, cowardly merchant was killed at this abandoned crossroads years ago, and his ghost haunts it, demanding treasure when people pass. The PCs will see it in its piles of gold, moving its hands through them like an ethereal, hand-bathing Scrooge McDuck. It’ll flee if it thinks it might be destroyed, leaving its treasure behind.

“Due to the extreme amount of potential treasure in this encounter, the DM is encouraged to take some of it from the PCs; a good way might be a curse laid on the gold from its simple proximity to the ghost all these years.” Look, is there a curse on the treasure or not, card? What does this curse do? And how much treasure is there in the first place? It’s completely unspecified.

I like the potential for the greedy ghost to flee and return later with some kind of underhanded ghost money-making scheme, but everything about the treasure in this encounter is awkward. Jury?

The Deck of Invisible Stalkers, Irritated Wizards, and Infant Tanar’ri

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Seeing that you are clearly hardy adventurers, a shabbily-dressed peasant asks for your aid in fighting

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 29: The Deck of Invisible Stalkers, Irritated Wizards, and Infant Tanar’ri

171: Guard Duty

A wizard in the city hires the PCs to guard him in his tower for one night. He’s doing an important ritual for which he needs to turn off all his normal defenses, and he thinks a rival will try to attack him then. He’s right - the PCs will have to face an invisible stalker. If the PCs manage to destroy it and protect the wizard, he’ll reward them with a valuable potion or minor magic item.

Works for me. Unlike some other quest-type cards, it’s easy to drop this plot hook in a city, and have the PCs follow up on it (or not) without going far, far out of their way. Keep.

172: The Stench (The Irritated Wizard, Part 1 of 2)

A 20-foot cube of rolling horrible vapors approaches the PCs. There’s a human figure inside, dimly. It’s a man who pissed off a wizard, who put a cursed ring on him that produces a permanent stinking cloud. He needs a remove curse.

There’s not much here so far, but let’s see the second part.

173: Invisible Woman (The Irritated Wizard, Part 2 of 2)

An... invisible woman… taps the PCs on the shoulder in town. She’s heard through the grapevine that they can remove curses. She was cursed with permanent invisibility by the same wizard as the last guy, for spurning his advances. To help, “the PCs will have to figure out some way to remove the curse on her necklace, which is the item that keeps her permanently invisible.” Uh… you mean some way like remove curse? Which was the explicit solution last time? Is this supposed to be a puzzle?

Anyway, the only thing is, if they remove this curse too, word might get back to the wizard and he might be annoyed that someone’s messing with his elaborate revenge ploys/wizard fetish activities. He’ll probably try to send them a cursed item. (I don’t see how that will be effective, since the PCs will still have access to remove curse.)

A cursed necklace of invisibility? Dang, curse me up. Give me a cursed ring of regeneration and some cursed boots of speed while you’re at it. We should probably make these things not truly permanent magical items, but foci that make the wizard’s spells last indefinitely on their targets. (Could this woman have broken the spell herself just by punching someone?)

I’ll keep these two. I like the idea of a high-level wizard poking around the setting who isn’t pursuing any major agendas, but is just a vindictive asshole.

174: In the Phantom's Wake

It’s a random ghost ship encounter on the foggy sea. 20 skeletons, 10 aquatic ghouls, and it’s captained by a spectre. The spectre won’t join in the boarding action, but if it’s destroyed, the ghost ship falls apart and sinks.

I’d love a little more evocative description here. Are the undead chanting anything? Is there some particular flag flying? What does the spectre captain look like? As a ghost ship encounter, it’s pretty bland. Also, it’s a forced combat. But I like ghost ships enough that I’ll keep it anyway.

175: Birth Pangs

In an isolated abandoned farmhouse, the PCs find a crying baby! It's a baby cambion (i.e., a half-demon). When they touch it, or after two rounds, an adult cambion appears to retrieve it (Why right this instant? No reason, just to screw over the PCs.) It assumes the PCs are baatezu agents here to baby-nap, and attacks. "It will not listen to reason." Great. Super interesting.

The forced combat is lazy and boring, but a baby Cambion has more story potential than a baby goblin, and I said OK to #21: Changeling. I guess it’s a keep, but I might just let them take the baby without an immediate struggle, and only bring in fiendish forces trying to retrieve it later. (Probably it’s the child of a big-shot tanar’ri, and various planar factions are all going to have an interest in it.)

176: A Watery Death

In a dusty bowl the mountains, there’s a small sluggish stream. It seems new and small and weak. It’s weird because this area is known for its rainfall, and this recession should probably have been a natural reservoir.

Actually it’s because a high-level wizard got sick from eating a fish here, and cast transmute water to dust “several times” to destroy the lake. Detection will reveal that the dust radiates alteration magic. If you dispel it, all the dust will turn back to water: “the entire district is a natural conductor of magic, and the whole lake, several hundred tons of water, will spontaneously reappear.” (A lake holds a lot more than several hundred tons of water, but let’s not quibble over details here.)

Player: “Doesn’t dispel magic only affect a 30-foot cube?” DM: “Ordinarily, yes, but in this case, fuck you.”

If that happens, everyone makes a save vs petrification to avoid inhaling the water. “Those who fail begin to drown and will be unable to cast spells or swim for 1d4 turns” which almost certainly means drowning to death, I would think. It reminds the DM that they’ll need Swimming proficiency checks (hahaha, sure) and/or to “drop all their possessions to survive.”

Unfair. The main pleasure that I get from reading this is imagining how the PCs would then try to exploit a “district” that extends the AOE of spells cast within it to the whole area. Pass.

The Deck of Ghouls, Giants, Gnolls, and Gnomes

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

You have a 2/6 chance of becoming infected when clawed or bitten by

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 30: The Deck of Ghouls, Giants, Gnolls, and Gnomes

177: Grave Robbers

In a dark graveyard, a dozen ghouls are trying to break into a fresh tomb to eat a family that recently died of plague. The PCs will wander past and see them clawing at the door. The ghouls are territorial over the tomb, but otherwise not looking for a fight. The remaining family would reward them 100 gp if they drive off or kill the ghouls and can prove it, however.

I like this well enough. The PCs can approach the situation however they want, or avoid it entirely. Keep.

P.S. “There is little treasure in the tomb itself; PCs who loot the tombs of the dead are little better than ghouls anyway, so do not award any experience points if that is the course they choose to take.“ Uh, I understand the sentiment, but isn’t looting the tombs of the dead a time-honored PC activity? Just not usually the recently dead.

178: The Cursed

The town secretly has a major ghoul infestation. The guard have been hunting them for weeks, and they’re starting to panic. They’re trying to pass on their curse to raise their numbers, and for some reason think the PCs are good candidates. (Seriously, ghouls, go attack the miller or something instead.) They’ll jump out, focus attacks on one PC, and flee, and they’ll do the same to other NPCs across the city if not stopped.

Keep; there are some cool plot hooks here, as long as I’m not a jerk about the ghoul ambush and give the PCs a fair chance to notice or respond to it.

Note: The XP values on the front of the card seem to have been mixed up between this encounter and the previous one. This card lists: “XP Value: 1,050 for eliminating the ghouls and informing the surviving family members, 0 for looting the tomb.”

179: The Giant's Baby

A thick fog descends on the PCs when they’re up in the mountains. A storm giant comes up to them and asks if they’ve seen his child, offering 10,000 gp in worked silver jewelry (!) for her safe return. The giant points them in the direction he last saw the kid (wait, if he knows that, why is he dispatching expensive human-sized mercenaries?). The giant girl has wandered into the plains, sowing childish destruction. Finding her isn’t hard, convincing her to come back is.

I dunno. The reward seems disproportionate and I don’t really get why the job is being outsourced at all. It’s be better if the PCs just found a rampaging giant baby, deal with it however they wanted, and justify their actions to the parent later when they showed up. However, to play it that way, it would need to be not a "mountain" terrain encounter card. As presented, pass.

180: Warband Divided

Gnolls are quarrelling. The gnoll chieftain ended up dead somehow (there are also dead orcs here, so that had something to do with it), and two factions each blame the other. “When the PCs enter the clearing, one of the would-be gnoll leaders points to the PCs and says that they are spies coming to make a deal with his rival who is obviously a cowardly human-lover.”

If the PCs support this accusation or do nothing, the accused rival leader will be butchered in one round, then the remaining gnolls will fall on them. If they fuck with the gnoll who made this accusation by greeting it like a friend or ally, then the warband will fall into confusion and tear itself apart, the survivors fleeing. All in a day’s work for PC harbingers of chaos and destruction. Keep.

181: Gnomes on a Holiday

Spriggans have set up a trap in the mountains. They're hanging around partying outside of a cave, pretending to be gnomes of a racial type that the PCs do not hold violently racist attitudes towards (snirfeblin, specifically), and they invite the characters to join in.

Here's the twist - the spriggans are actually in their giant size, drinking potions of diminuation, so when the PCs share their drinks, they'll shrink down, and THEN the gnomes will attack! GENIUS!

Some of these encounters tread a fine line between enjoyably dumb and just really, really stupid. For me, this falls on the pass side of that line.

The Deck of Golems, Grell, Griffons, and Greenhags

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

A Type O hoard has a 50% chance to contain 1d100 cards from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 31: The Deck of Golems, Grell, Griffons, and Greenhags

182: Fool's Guardian

In a cold and narrow mountain pass, there’s a wizard’s apprentice with a terrible fever collapsed in the middle of the road, and a flesh golem guarding him. (The apprentice is carrying an important spell component, hence the security.) The dude told the golem to “guard him from everything” before he lost consciousness. If they manage to bring the apprentice back, the wizard will let them copy a spell from his spellbook; if they didn’t kill the golem in the process, they get a minor magic item, too.

Open-ended problem, multiple ways to solve it with varying degrees of success, and the PCs don’t even have to get involved if they don’t want to. I’m cool with it. Keep.

183: Death from Above

There’s a grell hiding way up high in a dungeon with a high ceiling held up by pillars. It’ll drop on the last member of the party, and if it’s successful paralyzing them, whisk them back up to the ceiling without a sound and to consume them. “The party may not even know what happened to their friend for some time.”

So, in other words, grells gonna grell. And what do I do? Pass.

184: Hungry Hatchlings

Grell babies have just hatched from eggs in nooks in the ceiling. (Grell abandon their babies to fend for themselves from birth.) They swarm a PC “like a swarm of bloated locusts.” There are eight of them, and hitting them is tricky without damaging the PC. If they take half their HP in damage (3), they’ll detach and flee.

If it’s a certain kind of game, I would expect the PCs to be trying to capture the grell babies alive. And in fact, backing up and casting a single sleep spell centered on the PC would solve this problem in short order. So it might not be that interesting in practice. But keep.

185: First Flight

A young griffin decided it was time to learn how to fly, jumped off its rocky nest, crashed through trees, and broke its wing. Its mother will show up in 1d6 rounds to search for it. If she finds it being accosted, she’ll screech for help from 1d6 more griffins who show up in 2d6 rounds.

Obviously (so obviously the card explicitly mentions it), the PCs will be tempted to babynap the griffin to raise it as a mount. I like the idea of them evading a pack of angry griffins while also hauling a heavy, possibly struggling young’un. Keep.

186: Flock of Hunters

A pack of six griffons swoop down and attack one of the PC’s horses, pulling it to the ground and starting to feed. They’ll try to intimidate any PCs who try to stop them, but all they really want is to chow down on horseflesh. According to the card, the best move for the PC who was riding the horse is just to slip from their saddle and cautiously get the hell out of there. A humanoid who runs away in a panic might start to look like a tasty snack, however.

Keep, I guess - there’s just enough detail here that it’s more useful than reading the MM entry.

187: Green Heart

In a swampy area, the PCs find a young maiden drowning in a pool.

It's a trap. The girl is actually a greenhag who needs the “heart of a hero to cast a curse on the small, nearby hamlet she believes has harmed her.” She’s found the PCs. I don’t know if there are any heroes among them, but this is AD&D 2E, so her odds are probably better than they would be in B/X. She used change self. She’ll deliberately miss ropes thrown at her to try to force someone to jump into the water, drag them under, drown them, and try to “slip away among the water reeds.”

There’s a few rewards from the local village if you kill her, and “searching for [the hag’s hideout] may prove to be a source of adventure” (except no, searching for it is the boring part).

This is one one of those many, many “apparently attractive young woman in distress who is actually a murderous demon/old person” monsters. Not my thing. Pass.

The Deck of Harpies, Haunts, and Hell Hounds

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Mordenkainen and Elminster hang out at Ed Greenwood’s house every month to feast, swap spells, and share the secrets of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 32: The Deck of Harpies, Haunts, and Hell Hounds

188: A Foul Wind, Part 1 of 2

A desolate, rocky coastline. Ten harpies attack a fishing boat within sight of the PCs. If they try to reach the boat, four harpies will break off and attack them with their charm song.

There’s some nice detail about how long it takes the harpies to reach the boat, when they start singing, how many fishermen fail their save, and how long it takes the uncharmed ones to lose the fight, etc. I read it as “if the PCs don’t intervene, this is what will happen,” though I suspect the card-writer might have meant “make sure this happens!” which is less cool.

Assuming the harpies get away with a couple captives, “the fishermen will offer an entire day’s catch (worth about 20 gp) if the PCs save their comrades.” Is that worth the risk? Hahaha heck no. But nobody said the PCs have to butt in. Keep.

189: A Foul Wind, Part 2 of 2

So, the PCs may be pursuing the harpies to their lair in a cave above a rocky shoreline. It’s easy to spot, what with all the bones and refuse outside. The fishermen are standing around being charmed while the remaining harpies argue over who gets the biggest pieces. They’ve got about 8,500 gp worth of coinage and gems (boring), and the ring of a noble which can be turned in for a 100 gp reward since it’s proof of his death (eh, at 100 gp it’s hardly worth the side trip).

These two cards together are a reasonable side encounter that the PCs can meddle in. Keep.

190: Late Vengeance

Near an ancient ruined castle. “Duke Rucher, called the Black Duke, swore on the day of his death that he would smash Holdings Castle to the foundation. However, Sir Unther, master of Holdings Castle, slew Duke Rucher in battle in front of the castle. Now Rucher haunts the castle looking for a physical form with which to complete his mission.”

As a haunt, Rucher appears as a will’o’wisp on the walls at night. He’ll try to possess a PC and then destroy the castle. Which is already in ruins. So, destroy it more? I guess he wants no wall left standing or something. The card suggests that siege engines might help, if the PCs are trying to lay his spirit to rest the cooperative way. Keep.

191: Dead Justice

A bounty hunter pursued the evil Red Bandit across three kingdoms, but was ambushed and killed with his companions. Now he’s a haunt, who will try to possess a PC to finish the job. (The Red Bandit, having successfully killed his pursuers, is sauntering down the road a few hours away, probably whistling a tune).

The haunt doesn’t need to bring the Red Bandit to justice, just capture him, to be satisfied. I like that the PCs might very well want to drag him back to where he came from anyway for the (apparently highly motivating) reward. Keep.

192: The Sleep of the Dead

The villagers in a seaside town offer the PCs 5000 gp to get rid of the ghost of a seaman who’s running from the port to the graveyard every week at midnight. When it reaches its grave, its arms fall off, it looks at the PCs in horror, and it dissolves. It’ll attack them if they dig up its grave at night. If they do so during the day, they see its coffin was too small and its arms had to be cut off to make it fit. It’ll move on if they rebury it in a bigger coffin.

I suppose the hard part here is solving the case without someone being hit with supernatural aging. Keep.

193: The Call of the Wild

Medium danger, in the arctic. It’s snowing heavily, and the PCs hear a hollow, mournful baying that they may recognize as coming from hell hounds. It’s a small pack of them, struggling through the snow. They “broke their bondage from an arctic shaman and fled into the snowy wastes.” At this moment, “two of the smaller ones have fallen into deep drifts, and the other hounds are trying to get out.”

If the PCs leave them be, the trapped hounds will struggle out, and then they’ll attack the PCs. If the PCs go to help… they’ll attack the PCs. Look, they’re demons, okay?

I guess this is fine. It provides an unusual arctic encounter, and there’s probably a chance for the PCs to evade them if they want. Keep.

194: Wizard's Fires

Two wizards in the city had a feud. One called up a pack of hell hounds to destroy their rival, which they did, then came back and killed the first wizard. So there’s a pack of hell hounds loose in the city, eating and burning things. They sleep in the ruins of the house where they were summoned by day. They don’t fight to the death; they try to fight smart. “They are smart enough to remember a face or a name.”

This isn’t quite an encounter as such - the card gives no indication about how the PCs might run into the hounds or anything - but it’s a reasonable mini-scenario that could be happening in a major city. Keep.

The Deck of Hippogriffs, Hook Horrors, Hydration, and Hydras

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

As champions of Law and Good, flumphs are mortal enemies of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 33: The Deck of Hippogriffs, Hook Horrors, Hydration, and Hydras

195: Preening

There’s an open grassy meadow up in the mountains (the card gives more description than that). A hippogriff is chilling there, preening. It glares at the PCs if they start to enter the meadow, about 100 feet away. It attacks them if they come closer, fighting to the death. Why? Because there’s a baby hippogriff sleeping in the shadow of one of the boulders. I’m sure it’s adorable.

Lots of babies in this deck, aren’t there? This one is a little too close to 185: First Flight, except it’s a hippogriff instead of a gryphon, and the setup makes less sense. Why is this baby sleeping in a place that’s accessible by non-fliers, anyway? Overall, I’ll pass.

196: Under the Claw

Out in the woods where the peasants hunt for dinner, a hunter shot down a hippogriff, but didn’t quite kill it. When the man went to investigate, the wounded and delirious hippogriff pinned him, but for some reason isn’t killing him. The man is screaming, and the PCs hear him. There are several ways they could address this, but if the party gets too close or wounds the hippogriff further but doesn’t finish it off, the hunter is toast. Also, the rest of the hippogriff’s pack (seven in number) will eventually show up and chow down. The hunter will offer lodging If they save him. Keep.

197: Hook Family

The PCs find a cave to rest in for the night. A family of hook horrors lives there. They’re sleeping in nooks near the ceiling. There are other holes in the walls (for the horrors to climb down), but not big enough for anything dangerous to apparently move through.

When the horrors wake up, their first move is to try to scare the PCs out with rasping noises from rubbing their arms together. They’ll attack if necessary, though the “dominant female” will stay behind. There are seven combatants.

It’s not particularly interesting to me. Either the PCs flee (which they should, because there’s little to be gained), or we get bogged down in a fight with a whole bunch of melee creatures. Either way, I personally don’t want to commit the game time to the encounter that it would require. I’m passing.

198: Truth

There’s a spring in a town on the dusty plains with a spring that heals you of everything, but forces you to tell only the truth for one hour per HP healed, lest your wounds/diseases/curses reappear full force. Obviously, the town uses it for judicial proceedings, one of which the PCs stumble upon. (The accused gets stabbed in the stomach, healed, and is then questioned.)

The card suggests that the PCs might get accused of a crime while in town and need to go through a Truth Stabbin’, but in reality the PCs are going to instantly drop everything they’re doing and start scheming how to best use/control this incredibly amazing resource. Honestly, I have no idea how there’s not some kind of keep, armed monastery, or city built up here already. Maybe it’s a relatively recent phenomenon, and word hasn't spread yet. Keep.

199: Waking Snakes

In a jungle, the PCs find an old pit trap that a hydra is sleeping in to keep cool. It's not immediately obvious that it's a hydra, for some reason - do hydra heads really look just like large snakes? Only one head is awake, and has to manually wake up the others. Also it's hard for the hydra to get out of the pit. So really, it's rather heavily handicapped if the PCs choose to attack it. And it has a single emerald down in the pit.

Well, it's not amazing, but it’s not a forced combat, and there's some opportunity for the PCs to seize the initiative and feel like badasses. I'll keep it.

200: Bathing Beauty

There’s a rocky hill in snowy wastes, and a cryohyrda lives in it. The PCs round a bend on a “little-used trail,” they see the hydra start to emerge to bathe outside, and it attacks. Thaaaat’s it. Uh, it keeps two heads watching its flanks if it has any to spare. And there’s a skeleton in the cave with a long sword +2.

A hydra attacks! I’m not inspired. Pass.

The Deck of Invisible Stalkers, Jackalweres, and Kuo-Toa

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

A stranger at the next table over hails you and orders you all a round of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 34: The Deck of Invisible Stalkers, Jackalweres, and Kuo-Toa

201: Difficult Doorman

In castle ruins or the equivalent. Long ago, a wizard bound an invisible stalker to help people at the door. Now when you go through it tries to violently dusts you off and tries to remove your bags and outer clothes, throwing them around randomly once they’re off. It’s also supposed to guard the gate, so it will defend itself if attacked. (However, it’ll dawdle and not try very hard, since it’d love to be killed and sent back to the Plane of Air). Oh, and there’s a long sword +1 (ugh) lying around the courtyard.

Short, sweet, and flavorful if the PCs figure out what’s going on. Keep.

202: Fierce Wind

An orc shaman bound an invisible stalker to destroy his rivals, but it broke free of his control and is killed the whole tribe of 30. The PCs wander into this just after it finished, and it’s still lurking around looking for victims. They can find the large cracked diamond the shaman used to summon it, as well. I like that there’s nothing stopping the PCs from just saying “nope” and turning around when they see all the dead bodies, but curiosity will definitely make them poke around. Keep.

203: Sly Jackal

In the desert, four jackalweres find the PCs. Two of them turn into humans, get gnawed on a little for effect, and come running in screaming for help. The two pursuers pretend to be scared off by the PCs’ camp, but are just going to circle back as soon as the two moles can gaze some or all the PCs. The card notes that the PCs might become suspicious because jackalweres usually move in groups of more than two (am I supposed to volunteer that information as DM, or do we assume the PCs have obsessively memorized the Monster Manual?), or because these two “humans” are by themselves in the middle of the desert with no equipment.

Potentially brutal, but not boring. Keep.

204: A Dangerous Guide

Probably happens in a city with a “sinister or treacherous” reputation. You know, where folk can’t be trusted! Not like the decent folks back home! (I’d probably have it happen in the biggest, most important “bastion of civilization”-type city, instead.)

Anyway, there are jackalweres here who try to lure victims to quiet locations, gaze them to sleep, then loot and eat them. The PCs meet one such person, the guide Kanda. He’ll show them around to inns and taverns. He’ll try to separate one PC, but if that’s impossible he’ll just lead them into an alley where five other jackalweres are waiting, and try to gaze the toughest fighter quickly.

The playability of an encounter like this really depends on whether the DM ever introduces NPC city guides who are not horrible monsters, and plays out tourism that doesn’t lead to an ambush. If it’s going to be that kind of game, then sure, keep. Otherwise it’s just more fuel for PC paranoia.

205: To Put Out the Sun

In a shallow cave in a dungeon, in the dead of night, 10 unarmed kuo-toa show up and attack the PCs with their claws. "As a final gesture," (assuming he gets the chance), the leader throws a vial of fermenting fungus that causes a disease that kills within 2d3 days (save vs poison).

OK - but most of the card is devoted to backstory that doesn't affect the encounter in the slightest. The leader is a crazy religious demagogue, claiming that his vial of water is enchanted, and they were going to use it to try to put out the sun so that the land-dwellers will die out. 2/3rds of them have died along the way, and they've lost all their useful equipment. For some reason they won't actually enter sunlight, but lurk around at night looking for land-dwelling humanoids to murder ("for these are the enemies of all kuo-toan life").

From a player’s perspective, it’s just that a bunch of kuo-toa attack, and then there’s a weird save-or-die parting shot that comes out of absolutely nowhere. Pass.

206: Ritual Hunters

In “a deep dungeon far from the light of day,” there’s a group of 20 kuo-toa doing a ritual hunt for mind flayers. They’re not interested in the PCs (I mean, assuming the PCs are not mind flayers), but they’ll step up if the PCs are spoilin’ for a fight.

There’s some description of the procession, which involves a big banner, drummers, a chanting priest, and a gagged drow who is “meant to be a lure for the mind flayer.” (Are elven brains extra tasty or something?)

I don’t get it. Mind flayers are not dumb. These kuo-toa are making a shit-ton of noise and clearly indicating “HEY WE ARE COMING TO KILL YOU.” How do they think they’re ever going to find a mind flayer?

Or maybe the idea is to ritually demonstrate their bravery while minimizing the risk of actually encountering any mind flayers. Actually, that makes a ton of sense and I kind of love it. Keep.

The Deck of Leucrotta, Locathah, and Mammals

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Instead of gods, the clerics of Athas worship

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 35: The Deck of Leucrotta, Locathah, and Mammals

207: Silky Poison

Uh, so there’s this spy operating in a major city, using a blowgun with poison that has an oddly specific effect: it temporarily makes someone do what he tells them, and then makes them forget what they did when under its effects. The spy uses this on important officials, merchants, and wizards and the like, then sidles up to them in the street and whispers to them to come to him later in the night and tell him their secrets.

Fair enough, I guess, but the encounter card is really vague and hard to use. The PCs “come to this place,” meaning the city, but then what? “The PCs may discover his plot at any time or they may become targets themselves if they Iook sufficiently wealthy and influential.” Okay? But if I have a PC hit by a blowgun and then specifically note that someone comes up close to them, the PCs will stop that shit cold; there will be no mystery. And what’s this guy’s goal, anyway? It’s just too hard to run off-the-cuff and have it be interesting. Pass.

208: Terror in the Wood

Some hunters were going after stags but accidentally followed the tracks of a leucrotta, which killed one and mortally wounded another. When the PCs show up it backs up and hides in the brush, making noises like a wounded human to draw them in… though if they heal the near-dead hunter first, he’ll warn them what’s going on. That hunter, Allan, will give them room and board if they save him. And also a mule.

A leucrotta? I read the Monstrous Manual a lot as a kid, but this is the first time that a monster has rung zero bells. Well, this encounter introduces most of the relevant facts: their tracks look like a stag’s, they can imitate sounds, and they want to kill you. Sure, fine. Keep.

209: Hungry Fish

A group of 20 locathah have just moved to a new area and are low on food. Noticing the PCs passing by above the water, they’ll go ask for a toll in foodstuffs. They’ll be defensive if attacked, and come back and try to steal food at night if denied. They’ll accept surface-person foods, but will be extra happy and volunteer useful information if the PCs can give them a lot of fish.

I like that they could end up enemies, allies, or just a bunch of fish people the PCs don’t care about. Keep.

210: Bitter Lord

A carnivorous ape, formerly leader of its pack, was ousted by a younger male and basically banished. It’s very hungry and goes through the PCs’ packs at night. If it’s driven off, it’ll come back and ambush the guard later. If they give it food, it’ll depart, but if they stay in the area it will come back each night for more food. That’s why you don’t feed the wild carnivorous apes! Soon it’ll be harassing tourists for bagels. Anyway, this guy could make a great druid/ranger friend. Keep.

211: The White Stag

The PCs catch a glimpse of a white stag. "Rumor has it that anyone who catches a white stag without wounding it will learn great secrets of the forest." A little awkward that the PCs suddenly retroactively have heard those rumors, but we can roll with that.

The rumor is half-true: actually, "anyone who can capture a stag without wounding it will learn a great deal about the forest in the process." The magic was inside you all along. The card suggests letting the PCs make checks to pick up hunting-related non-weapon proficiencies if they show they're putting in enough effort. Because players are totally going to have their unskilled PCs try to hunt something that’s famously hard to catch.

So... there's nothing magic about this encounter, right? They're just learning proficiencies by doing them? If they can do that here, why can't they just sit down and learn carpentry by trying to build a house? That might be reasonable, but it's not how the AD&D 2E proficiency system is set up.

The mechanical stuff is awkward, but I'll keep this encounter as an opportunity for a hunter-type character to earn some fame if they're motivated and lucky. Or for other PCs to murder it with overkill magic like the unsportsmanlike bastards that they are.

212: Innocent 'til Proven Guilty

Enemies of the PCs (bandits or whatever) flee into a little town, Loch Delphan. If the PCs come in and let on that they’re looking for these people out of revenge, the villagers will be singularly unhelpful, up to and including forming a mob to back up the enemies. “The enemy has done good things for the village, donating money to charities, helping with the farm labor, and so forth.”

I like the concept, but this seems rather unhelpful as a random encounter card. How many times am I going to draw it when the PCs are pursuing an enemy through the countryside, but with enough of a lead that they could have ingratiated themselves to the community? It just doesn’t seem functional. Pass Zereth pointed out that the obvious way to run this encounter is that the enemies/bandits have used the town as a home base before, and built up this goodwill in the past. That makes it much more usable, if still a little niche. Keep.

213: Tusks

The PCs wander into the territory of a boar family. They’ve eaten berries, overturned logs for insects, etc. If they don’t recognize the signs (probably with the help of a druid or ranger) and get out of there, the four male boars will probably get territorial and attack.

This is so boring, no pun intended. I don’t want to waste time having the PCs fight boars. And if they notice the boar tracks and get out of there quickly, that’s boring too. Pass.

The Deck of Minor Annoyances, Mitzvahs, Manticores, Medusas, and Misandry

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

You can extract 1d10x100 gp worth of pure diamonds from the hide of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 36: The Deck of Minor Annoyances, Mitzvahs, Manticores, Medusas, and Misandry

214: Down the Hole

While camping or marching in a cold climate, a PC drops a small valuable item like a ring or dagger down a hole. All the players roll their eyes at the DM decreeing this annoyance. If someone puts their hand down the whole, they find that a wolverine lives down there and nips them: “it may even bite off a finger.” Then it emerges to drive them off. (This is for low-level folks, obviously.) If they use fire, the wolverine will retreat deeper in, but the permafrost will melt, make the ground muddy, and make the item harder to fish around for (20% chance of finding it per round; the wolverine will return in 1d6 rounds. Very fiddly mechanics for what it is.)

This would be petty adversarial bullshit unless we’re using Skills and Powers and a PC has taken Clumsy or, especially, Unlucky as a disadvantage. If that’s the case, this should totally happen to them randomly some time, and I’ll Keep it in the deck.

215: Divine Intervention

A “dour little mountain town” is full of suspicious, close-mouthed folk. They’re “impersonal and suspicious, keeping their mouths shut unless are spoken to. When someone speaks to them, they answer in curt, clipped tones, revealing no more than they have to.“ They all wear the same religious emblem on necklaces. Apparently they beseeched their Lawful Good deity to bless the town and “make their lives more as he would wish them”, and the god did. Whenever anyone does something not Lawful Good, something goes awry. The example given is if a PC tells a “little white lie,” a window breaks, and the owner will be angry at them for breaking it. “The DM is encouraged to be inventive; however, no PC should be stricken dead without using an NPC as an example first.”

I’m down with the idea of a cursed (blessed?) town where bad luck strikes whenever people take immoral or unethical actions. However, as soon as visitors enter, wouldn’t the townies be eager to explain the rules to them? For one thing, isn’t that essential to their safety? And what’s Lawful Good about not giving people warning or welcoming them to the local customs? Why wouldn’t they eagerly praise the benevolence of their god in ensuring their Lawful Good lifestyles? Freaking alignments, man.

I’ll pass on using this as a card - it won’t be interesting unless the PCs have some specific reason to be there, rather than just stumbling across it as a random encounter. But I might place something like this on the map, maybe near a megadungeon entrance. Seems like it could survive very well further from civilization - nothing intelligent enough to make choices about right and wrong would be able to attack them easily, assuming at least some of the bad luck targets the sinner.

216: Flyn's Fear

An arrogant hunter recruits the PCs to hunt a manticore, offering a share of the bounty and profits on the sale of its body parts to wizards. (Since intact manticore hides are worth 10,000 gp, this could be motivating.) They find the manticore hunting, with its mate nearby. If they get in combat, the hunter will flee, terrified, back to town (manticores are scarier than bears), and claim he never met the PCs.

Eh, it’s extremely close to #70: Trophy, with the big arctic owlbear. I suppose it’s OK in this case, though. They’re for different PC power levels, and if I’d used one previously, I would just throw back the other if I drew it. Keep.

217: Ungrateful Steed

Takes place "near the domain of an evil knight or lord." An unfortunate knight or lord, because the PCs find a manticore feeding on their remains; said knight tried to train it as a steed and it didn't work out. The manticore dropped the knight to his death and "is flipping him around on some rocks, trying to crack open his armor to get at the raw meat inside." Nice.

The manticore is still pretty pissed at its master, so it won't immediately attack the PCs. It "can't be driven off," so the card seems to think that killing it is the only option to get rid of it... but wouldn't the best thing to do is back off, wait for the manticore to leave, and then loot the remains? In any case, the body had +1 plate mail (utterly ripped to shreds), a +1 long sword, and several pages of notes about "the habitat and behavior of manticores."

Ugh, +1 weapon proliferation is the worst, but other than that I like the setup, and the implication that there's now a power vacuum in a nearby domain. I'll keep it.

Also, please note: the evil knight "fell 30 feet to the ground, to his death." Dude. That's 3d6 damage. Maybe try training a manticore when you're higher than 2nd level.

218: Circus Trouble

A circus owner, who usually just straps horns on a horse or whatever for his sideshow, came across a torpid manticore in the forest and managed to capture it. Then he brought it into the city marketplace because he’s a goddamned moron, after which the manticore woke up, broke its cage, ate the circus owner, and is running amok. If the PCs do a good job, the ruler of the city will thank them, the city folk will be very grateful, etc. Okay. Keep.

219: Mad Maid

There’s a ruined villa not far outside of a town, and in the basement lives a medusa. She tries to lure men in and take them as lovers, hiding her face with a veil. Her excuse is that she wants people to love her for her brain, not her looks (though the card makes a point of noting her “well-formed” body). And why are there all these statues around that are clearly petrified people? They were witch hunters, and she, a (good) witch, stoned them out of self-defense. Her witchness is also why she’s living in ruins. She wants her lovers to stay with her, but she’ll turn them to stone to keep them with her forever if they find out what she is and try to flee. (Or, occasionally, by accident.)

Well, this falls squarely into D&D sexism, where generally a monster will only be female if they’re trying to seduce human men. And obviously the PCs are going to see right through her excuses. However, I like that her motivation isn’t entirely malicious. She’ll petrify you out of abandonment issues, or potentially out of fear that you’d reveal and endanger her, but she doesn’t just attack the party. I give it fifty-fifty odds that one of the PCs ends up in a committed relationship with this medusa, and I’m all for it. Keep.

P.S. She has no name. That’s a pretty weird omission for a social encounter.

220: Sculpture Garden

The PCs are in some rich person’s castle or mansion. The master of the house used to be an explorer or merchant, at at one point all their companions were turned to stone by a medusa. He plead for his life and they worked out a deal where she moved into his garden. He brings in victims for her to feed on occasionally. The master explains the life-like statues as having been made by a mad sculptor.

Wait, stoning and feeding are totally different things, aren’t they? Maedar explicitly un-stone victims so they and their mate can eat, but there’s no particular reason the medusa here needs to turn people to stone, right? You could just cook her a ham roast.

Anyway, I’m passing - this seems hard to use as a random encounter, since there’s no real hook and the motivations seem a little off. Besides, we already had the same broad scenario with a basilisk back in 148-149: Looks Can Kill.

221: Sadieville

As the PCs enter a small town far from civilization, they notice that the farmers in the fields aren’t as burly as elsewhere, and that the carts are driven by women. In fact the whole down is “dominated” by women. “The men are in subservient positions, tending to the nursing and care of children, sewing, doing the housework, and in general staying at home and maintaining the quality of life for the women.”

Some burly (female) toughs will come to insult and probably rough up any (male) PCs. The (female) sheriff will break it up if she thinks anyone is going to be killed.

...It’s not clever, it’s not subversive, it’s not even speculative. All the laziest western gender tropes are on display, but flipped! I’ll pass.

The Deck of Maedar, Murlynd, Mermen, Mimics, Mind Flayers, and Modern Literature

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Sages can only speculate about the origins of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 37: The Deck of Maedar, Murlynd, Mermen, Mimics, Mind Flayers, and Modern Literature

Prism's infodump on the leucrotta has reminded me that I should probably link the AD&D 2E monster manual entries to each relevant post. So I'll try to do that from now on.

222: Snake's Revenge

This could happen anywhere, but requires that the PCs have slain a medusa at some point.

A maedar is out for revenge for its mate. He murders to get money for weapons and armor, then tries to sign on as a henchman or hireling to the PCs. If that works, he’ll turn on them at a key point, killing women first as revenge for his wife. If joining them is impossible, he’ll just ambush them at some point. Good luck with that, dude - your offensive capabilities are pretty meager.

Well, it’s not incredibly interesting, but I like it when actions have consequences. Keep.

223: The Gunslinger

The PCs flee across the desert, and the Gunslinger follows. In a gulch in some rough hills, there’s a dead woman. The card gives a fantasy PC-aimed description, but essentially she’s a western gunslinger, complete with sweet hat. The implication is that her pistol exploded for some reason when she fired, destroying it and taking off her hand and face. A tracker can find her tent, though, where there’s a barrel of this gunpowder (useless for weapons, but a 10d6 damage explosive if used together) and some gold nuggets.

Murlynd salutes you, oh nameless gunslinger, apparently murdered by the different physics of this fantasy realm. Keep.

224: Rights of Fishermen

Mermen have blockaded a coastal town for excessive fishing in the adjoining bay. (They swim up from the deeps to fish the same area.) The PCs want to charter a ship out. The mermen will give the ship a warning not to proceed. The card says it’s probably easier to talk your way out - for example, by pointing out that what’s going to put pressure on the town is stopping ships from coming in, not stopping them from going out.

I like that this is a medium-sized event that the PCs are in no way responsible for, or probably interested in, solving. They just need to get by themselves. Keep.

225: Sticky Seat

A rowdy tavern is completely packed, except for one seat. It’s actually Herbie, a mimic that works for the tavern as a bouncer. Somehow I never knew that mimics are intelligent and can learn to talk, but they can. Live and learn!

All the locals know the mimic, of course. It’ll glue a PC's butt to it if anyone sits on it, which gives everyone a laugh. The glue comes off with alcohol. Everyone will defend it if some crazy murderhobo attacks it.

Is this stupid, or cool? Both. Keep.

226: Home for Dinner

There’s a treasure chest (actually a mimic) in a dungeon. Around it are humanoid clothes scraps and armor, the remains of a hobgoblin it ate. In fact, it just ate, is stuffed, and will not move or attack for about a week. It can't be opened, of course. If the PCs bring it out of the dungeon to try to “open” later, they might notice that it quivers when it enters sunlight the first time.

OK, this could become a fun anecdote. Keep.

227: Cornered Flayer

A mind flayer is lost in the dungeon. It’s out of the range of its elder-brain and has to rely on its own senses and knowledge, which is kind of panicking it and freaking it out. That’s cool, but the way that plays out is that it’s drawn to the PCs by their thoughts, gets paranoid when it sees they’re from the surface, and decides to hide in a nook and ambush them with a mind blast.

So, in summary: a mind flayer attacks! None of the background matters, because do you think the PCs are going to ask for this thing’s life story? No. They are going to kill it and take its stuff (a couple useful potions, and a wizard scroll with two random 5th-level spells. Can mind flayers use scrolls?)

Try harder to make your scenarios gameable, Deck of Encounters! Pass.

228: The Lottery

...by Shirley Jackson.

Pass, for the blatant ripoff.

P.S. Almost half of the card is devoted to the game mechanics involved in a crowd stoning you to death, to be used here and never again. Oh, AD&D 2E.

The Deck of Maladies, Minotaurs, Mummies, and Naga

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

At any given time, in all the planes, there exist exactly 3 copies of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 38: The Deck of Maladies, Minotaurs, Mummies, and Naga

229: Treat the Sick...

The PCs encounter a "dusty little desert town" (though the card says it can be in any climate?) that's being stricken by a disease. A sick villager staggers out to tell them the story - they dug a well and started letting the cattle drink from the old pond they used to use. Then everyone started getting sick. "The villagers fear that they have angered the gods." Actually the well water is tainted (apparently because the cattle are using the pond, and it and the well are fed from the same spring? I don't quite get it, but I don’t know anything about agricultural water use), and they need to start boiling their water and keeping the cows away from the pond.

The card suggests that to learn what's happening, "the PCs might heal the woman, only to see her sick again a few days after drinking the water." Hahaha no. The PCs are going to be shouting "THEN DON'T USE THE NEW WELL, IDIOTS" before the poor woman is even done talking. 6000 XP for "finding the cause and helping the village."

I just don't see the gameplay here being interesting. Pass.

230: Lost

In a relatively open, clear, jungle, the PCs enter a clearing at the same time as two minotaurs. They’re hungry and charge, but will try to flee back to their maze if they take 30 hp of damage between them (they have 45 each). Apparently they came out of their maze to look for food and got lost. Wouldn’t minotaurs be very good at not getting lost? And how can they flee back to their maze if they’re lost? And what’s up with this maze in the middle of the jungle that they live in, anyway? The situation is a little too confusing for me to run off the cuff, and it’s not worth the effort for a fight against two minotaurs. Pass.

231: Black Labyrinth

Not to be confused with 62: Labyrinth. This is a different, blacker labyrinth.

In a rocky moor, there’s a labyrinth raised from great slabs of stone, “looking like a very complex Stonehenge.” That's a great image, very evocative. Minotaurs enslaved beastmen and forced them to help build it, then killed most of them and scattered the rest.

Then the largest minotaur killed the others and took exclusive control of the maze. Uh. Okay, I’ll accept that minotaurs have a maze fetish that looks like insanity to other sapients. “For some time a local town would send criminals into the dreaded maw, but that rarely happens anymore.” So I guess that point doesn’t particularly matter?

That's about all. The minotaur lurks in the labyrinth with some treasure and tries to kill PCs who enter. Despite having little interest in running a minotaur-in-a-maze encounter, I’ll keep it on the strength of the imagery. Let's say criminals are still sent into it, just to keep another possible plot point.

232: Lost Treasure

There’s an ancient tomb, probably in rocky desert cliffs. Grave robbers disturbed a pharaoh's tomb, then retreated from the vengeful mummy into deeper caves. Those caves had no other exit to the outside, and the robbers died of thirst. The mummy is still wandering around the tomb, pissed off. The PCs could kill it, or return most of its treasure (gems, statues, art objects) to keep it happy. It won't miss a couple of small objects if the PCs pocket them.

But remember, as #177: Grave Robbers told us, “PCs who loot the tombs of the dead are little better than ghouls anyway, so do not award any experience points if that is the course they choose to take.“ Haha, just kidding, that only applies to tombs from Western-based cultures. Looting non-Western cultures is just natural. Bring on the EXP!

Anyway, it’s fine, I guess. Keep.

233: Below Decks

A ship sails into port carrying the contents of a recently looted explored tomb. Among the stuff was a heavy gold sarcophagus that the captain and grave robber explorer assumed must be solid or empty (since they couldn’t find a way to open it), but which actually held a mummy. When the thief explorer went down to check the cargo, there were screams, he didn’t return, and the sailors fled. A crowd has gathered, and the captain is offering a free trip to anywhere for people who will fetch the valuable cargo from the hold. Keep.

234: Ancient Wisdom

A guardian naga sleeps on a rock over a cave, guarding “the Endless Stair” that descends deep into the earth. The naga is chatty and knowledgeable, especially about extremely old items. It’ll let PCs through if convinced of their good intentions (“it’s very good at sensing lies”) and if entertained by stories of their journeys and heroic deeds. (It “enjoys a good story, even if the PCs take a few 'poetic liberties' with the truth.")

Now this is a winner. Keep.

The Deck of Neogi and Nightmares

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

There exists an entire species of spelljamming merchants who live only to buy, sell, and trade cards from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 39: The Deck of Neogi and Nightmares

235: Escaped Slave

A neogi spelljammer ship has set down for supplies, and one of their umber hulk slaves has escaped. It finds the PCs and pleads with them nonverbally for help; six neogi come after it to retrieve it. The neogi will attack if the PCs try to protect the umber hulk, or if they just look like weak, enslavable folks. The umber hulk will gladly fight with the PCs, but will become erratic and dangerous afterwards.

If I’m willing to introduce spelljamming to the game (or already have), then this works fine for me. I appreciate that the PCs can easily avoid trouble if they want by handing over the umber hulk, not that I’d expect them to do so. Keep.

236: Sinking Ship

A horrible neogi ship is floating atop a lake. (Optionally, the PCs may see it fall from the sky in flames and crash there.) It was boarded by another ship, looted, and pushed into the atmosphere of the PCs’ world. Most of the neogi inside are dead, but the captain and a few others hid during the fighting, and are now checking to see if the ship is secure. The card says they’ll try to take off in 1d10 rounds, and that it has a 30% chance of working if no more damage is done to the ship (otherwise it sinks).

That seems weird, though. Surely if an enemy boarded the ship and killed all opposition, they would have taken the helm? Even if they don’t want to use a lifejammer, you can sell that shit! And if they’re ideologically opposed to it, surely they would have destroyed it rather than send it down to crash on a random Prime world.

Whatever. I would just say the death helm was stolen or destroyed, and the ship will inevitably sink. We can keep it, again assuming I’m willing to introduce spelljamming to the game.

237: Spiders and Flies

A neogi ship is planning to engage another spelljammer in space around the PCs’ world - it descends on the town or hamlet they’re into conscript slaves to fight. It’s a town defense type scenario, albeit with few details. What I like is that “If the PCs make the whole situation too difficult, the neogi will fly somewhere else and try there.” And if they kill the raiders, the ship will fly off rather than be captured. Fair enough - keep.

238: A Nightmare on Four Feet

After some ominous flavor text involving the sound of hooves in the night, two wraiths riding nightmares attack! “They accept no quarter, and they will give no quarter. They are emissaries of the Lower Planes, come to claim the lives of the PCs for their intrusions in the workings of evil.”

Things attack! You must kill them... or they will kill you. Boring. Pass.

239: Tiger by the Tail

An evil wizard has summoned a nightmare and bound it with a magic bridle! And now it’s… stabled next to the PCs’ horses at an inn while the evil wizard has a drink. The PCs will probably notice it and understand what it is right away. (Of course, I’m not sure why they’d necessarily see it at all, because wouldn’t a servant stable their horses? Whatever.)

If the PCs free it, it will flee and come back in the night to murder the wizard. If the PCs attack it, it’ll fight back and scream for help from its hated master. (Not suggested as an option by the card: if they go find the evil wizard and buy him a drink, I’m sure it’ll be a memorable night.)

I like that it’s open-ended. Keep.

The Deck of Ogres, Oases, and Owlbears

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

You need at least a 13 INT and a 15 WIS to fully appreciate the majesty of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 40: The Deck of Ogres, Oases, and Owlbears

240: Dividing the Spoils

Seven ogres (a group of four and a group of three) are arguing over who gets to eat which of the six captive human peasants. The PCs could attack them, or try to Gandalf them into killing each other or whatever. One of the peasants is actually a noble in disguise, come to check how the crops were doing. He’ll reward the PCs with fine horses if saved.

It’s basically just Bert, Tom, and William. I guess we can keep it, but what comedically exaggerated dialect would we give them? I’m thinking upper-class Victorian, obsequiously trying to implore the other side to partake first.

241: Wild Hunt

Not to be confused with #118: The Wild Hunt. This is a different wild hunt.

Six ogres are hunting for food, very loudly, so all the wildlife is running away from them. They'll pick a fight with the PCs if they don't make themselves scarce, or take some draft animals if they're offered or left behind.

So that's pretty boring. It's basically what I would have happen if I rolled "1d6 ogres" on a random encounter table and then rolled a "6."

But at least the PCs might be able to evade the fight. And the ogres will flee if one or two of them die, "preferring not to die on a simple hunt." Hallelujah, a basic sense of self-preservation! And the card notes that if the ogres don't find anything, they'll return to their lair, which has a good vantage point, and will notice any camp fires in the area the next night. Logical consequences for PC actions are always good. Keep.

242: Asking for a Raise

An orc warlord is away from his army camp with six ogre bodyguards, and runs across the PCs. He approaches and tries to set them on the PCs, but the ogres (facing heavily-armed murderhobos) decide to negotiate for a raise (they’re currently getting 10 sp a week, plus room, board, and looting rights). If the PCs speak orcish they can listen in easily enough, and probably beat the orc’s offer (though he’ll lie and promise more than he intends to pay later). If they do employ the ogres, they’ll serve for a couple of days until they notice the PCs are (probably) incredibly loaded, then try to kill them and take all their money at once. Keep.

243: Icy Desert

There’s an oasis in the desert that’s just completely frozen solid. It’ll melt with sufficient magical fire, but not from ordinary fire or heat. Despite that, it doesn’t radiate magic or melt if dispelled. (It’s also very bizarre that there are grasses and trees growing around it, though the card doesn’t call that out specifically.) The card says it’s up to the DM to determine why this is happening, though it offers a few vague suggestions: curse, trap by “denizens of the underworld” (how is this a trap?), or weird natural property.

This is an OK hook, but without providing any explanations, it’s asking too much work of me to make it gameable. Pass.

244: The Clutch

Basically the PCs are in a forest, wander too close to a hill with a cave, and an owlbear rushes out trying to murder them. It’s a father, and in the cave is a mother and four young, who will also fight if the PCs go in (complete with ‘mama bear’ +2 to hit and damage for the mother if the youngsters are threatened).

There are four “shallow graves” in the cave for the owlbears’ previous recent victims. (Do bears do this? Do... owls?) These four had about 500 gp worth of treasure and a dagger +3. That’s both a surprisingly powerful weapon to lie around in an owlbear cave, and a very boring one.

Isn’t this just a repeat of #69: Owlbear Lair, with slightly different emphasis? Boring “monster attacks!” setup, uninteresting execution. I passed on that one, and I’ll pass on this one, too.

245: Big Birds

Two owlbears laid a clutch of eggs and are going hunting for food that the chicks will need when they hatch. They’re dragging back a buck when the PCs run across the nest of eggs.

The card puts what follows next in absolute terms: “While the PCs are wondering at the eggs and discussing what kind of carnivorous bird laid them, the owlbears come back with their prey. They are not pleased to find intruders at the nest and thus attack without mercy.” (And with attack bonuses.) Obviously, this is the extremely boring, railroady way to present the encounter. It should be that the PCs only have a minute or two before the owlbears return… but if they act quick they can get the hell out of dodge, steal the eggs and run (though if they’re hoping to sell them, they’ll be thrown when the eggs hatch within the hour), or back up and find places to hide to observe what’s going on.

That’s an easy fix, and it makes it better than the previous encounter, at least. Keep.

The Deck of Pegasi, Pteryons, Polymorphed Wizards, and Piercers

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Goons have a natural 80% resistance to

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 41: The Deck of Pegasi, Pteryons, Polymorphed Wizards, and Piercers

246: Captured Beauty

A pegasus has gotten caught by a mechanical bear trap-type thing placed by a hunter. It’s panicking, struggling, and getting itself hurt more. It’s likely to inadvertently kick and trample any PCs who try to get close to the trap to free it. It will be grateful if freed, though, and come to their aid whenever they’re within 10 miles of that location. Which might be smack-dab out in the middle of nowhere, but I guess that’s how it goes.

Fine. I’d say keep, but...

247: Damsel in Distress

The PCs are in a forest, and find a pegasus with its back leg trapped between two tree roots. She’s injured herself trying to escape. The pegasus is panicked, but if they can help her, she’ll offer to grab some buddies and fly them where they’re going.

Hold on a minute, this is basically the same encounter as the last one! Down to the details! They’re both Medium Temperate Forest Monster Encounters. They both award 250 XP for helping the pegasus, and 0 XP (and an hour-long argument over whether people are “playing their alignments” properly”) if you kill the pegasus. They’re even adjacent numbers on the checklist! What happened here?

I guess I’ll keep this version because flying the PCs somewhere is a better reward? It’s as good a reason as any, and I’m certainly not keeping both.

248: Heart's Hunters

The PCs are walking along the side of a mountain or rocky hill. It’s one of those trails with a sheer cliff on one side. It’s actually not perfectly vertical, but slopes inward, apparently: there’s a 10-foot wide “sheltered area,” somewhat concealed with vines, at its base. There’s a peryton nest down there. The perytons attack the party two at a time, the three males trying to drive off or kill folks, the one female trying to grab someone and drag them down to the nest. Killing the female will cause the others to break, but they’ll stalk the PCs for revenge later. There’s about 270 gp in mostly small coinage (who carries around 1200 copper pieces other than PCs?) and a dagger +1 down in the nest.

Well, it’s just a random combat encounter, but at least there’s a little terrain to make it (somewhat) more interesting. Points taken off for +1 weapon proliferation, as well. Keep, but just barely.

249: Scammed

When the PCs are near a wizard’s tower, they are approached by the spellcaster himself, who, apparently not understanding basic economics, wants to hire them for 10,000 gp to retrieve a jade circlet worth 5,000 gp as a material component for a spell. He knows that a young dragon who lives in a cave nearby has one.

The cave is “scattered with golden coins, various weapons, and scrolls,” (all of them actually “worthless copper and ordinary junk”) and the circlet is prominently displayed in the back. When the PCs go in, a HUGE dragon (actually the shapechanged wizard) lands outside. It offers to trade them the circlet and their lives in exchange for, basically, everything else they own. It’ll flee if attacked.

What the hell, man? You’re an 18th-level wizard, and this elaborate, highly-dangerous scam is how you’re deciding to spend your time?

Incidentally, the jade circlet (which was the material component for the shapechange) “blackens and cracks within two turns after [the PCs] leave.” My, that’s a very idiosyncratic interpretation of how material components work. And one that, strangely, helps the DM pull one over on the PCs in this one specific instance! Weird! I stand corrected by Prism - this is explicitly how shapechange works. And I thought I knew my obscure D&D trivia.

I imagine the players would pile on the dragon and kill it, causing their asshole DM to go red in the face. Then they’d go loot the tower. And honestly, even though I'm not a fan of the premise of this encounter, that is a pretty nice lead-in to a wizard’s tower dungeon. Is it worth it? Jury?

250: Piercers at the Gate

There’s a ancient portcullis at the entrance to a “ruined castle or underground fortress.” It’s raised, and it’s been there so long that many of the teeth have been encrusted with stone. Some have broken off over the years. Many of them are actually piercers, but they’re not that good at staying exactly in a row, so it’ll look very strange to any PCs who study it. They’ll also notice a big gap in the teeth on the left side that they can safely pass under.

It needs a rather specific setup, but other than that I like it fine. Keep.

251: Troubled Waters

There’s an underground lake or river, and there must be no bridge over it, since the PCs are going over it on a boat. The ceiling is covered with piercers, who will drop and attack; if they miss, they may punch holes in the boat. Under the water are the remains of other victims, about 1500 gp in coinage and gems, and a potion of healing.

“Piercers are mollusks and have no trouble existing underwater.” So… they’re so dense that they’ll punch holes in wooden rowboats, but they can swim? Seems strange. EDIT: It's been suggested that they must crawl along the bottom of the water and then up the walls. Makes sense, especially if they're above a relatively narrow underground river rather than a huge lake. And I would add some visible boat wreckage to give the PCs a clue. That in mind, I guess I it’s a keep.

The Deck of Puddings, (Tomie De) Paola, and PC Fatalities

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

1d3+4 random encounters are disgorged in this thread every day, due to the presence of a natural portal to the Elemental Plane of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 42: The Deck of Puddings, (Tomie De) Paola, and PC Fatalities

I admit, sometimes the alphabetization is a stretch.

252: Black on Black

It’s a dark stone corridor with large frozen pools of water in it. One pool is actually a black pudding. But the PCs aren’t supposed to notice this, because the ice looks black against the dark stone as well.

As they move past, the black pudding will lash out with tendrils. If they fight, it’ll try to ooze around them and cut off party members. The PCs may also slip on the ice. It’ll stop attacking if it gets one victim. There are “three small diamonds (600 gp)” in the pudding.

Give the PCs some chance to notice the pudding, and I’m okay with it. It’s a relatively interesting combat terrain, which is good. Keep.

253: Pudding Peril

In a dungeon, in a room with wooden flooring (uh… the abandoned mansion sort of dungeon, I guess), there's a black pudding down under the floorboards eating away at them. The compromised wood will collapse and dump a PC 2-3 feet below into the pudding. It's pretty dang deadly, actually - puddings aren't that bad when you can evade them or burn them out, but when one's right on top of you? Ouch. Considering that, I appreciate that the encounter awards 5000 XP instead of the Monstrous Manual-standard 2000.

I also like that "the DM may choose to place a hidden door or passage beneath the wooden flooring." I'd definitely throw some extra secret passage into my dungeon map as recompense for dissolving some poor schmuck's armor (and also their legs). Keep.

254: I Am the Cheese

This is a reskinned version of Strega Nona. Everyone’s read that story, right? Do I even need to describe what’s happening? Big Anthony The wizard’s apprentice started a magic cheese-making pot and couldn’t stop it, and her master won’t return until half the town is covered in cheese.

It’s fondue, actually, so it’s hot and causes 1 hp damage per round if you’re in it. The PCs are intended to wade through the cheese for about 15 rounds until they can reach the magic pot. The command word is inscribed on it. (So why on earth couldn’t the apprentice stop it? Poor pronunciation?)

On the one hand… the pot makes that much cheese, that quickly? Can we make more of these pots? How does that not warp the entire economy of the region and/or world? On the other hand, those are dumb nitpicks when you can run an encounter where a town is engulfed in fondue. Keep.

255: A Sticky Situation

This is a Grimtooth-style trap. I can’t really reword it, so just take a look.

If your game supports elaborate dungeon deathtraps, this… certainly is one. Not my style, though. Pass.

256: Suspended Animation

In a dark, narrow corridor, the PCs see a shabbily-armored man floating slowly towards them. He looks fuzzy and indistinct. It’s not a ghost, though - it’s an upright corpse being digested by a gelatinous cube that’s coming straight at them. But of course they might not realize that until it reaches them, because that is the conceit of the gelatinous cube. Keep.

257: Moss Grows Fast

In a mossy cavern or chamber, there are not one, not two, but three green slimes hanging on the ceiling. “It will be very difficult for the party to spot the slimes, and they may only do so if PCs specifically state that they are examining the mosses above them.” They’ll drop down on any PCs that fall underneath and try to murder them in their unique, cheap-ass way.

This works in the kind of paranoid dungeoneering D&D game where the PCs burn all moss on sight, just in case. AD&D 2E doesn’t feel like that game to me. Or at least I don’t want it to be. Pass.

258: A Slimy Mess

It’s a natural, but worked earthen chamber (but not completed, judging from the tools left around). There are (apparently fairly large) mounds of earth around, one of which has a two foot-long stone statue it. This exposes a green slime that has spread through a network of rodent tunnels within the mound, and it spills out on the PC. “This is not a trap and cannot be detected by a thief.” Because we really need to nerf 2E thieves, I guess. “However, if the PC states he is standing to the side as he frees the statue, there is only a 25% chance the slime will touch the character.” I guess if they don’t, it’s a 100% chance?

Not a fan of green slime. The only interesting gameplay is the DM grinning maliciously while the PCs describe how they’re quickly setting their friend on fire. Pass.

The Deck of Players, Plants, and Remorhaz

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

To kill the tarrasque, you must reduce it to -30 hit points and then use

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 43: The Deck of Players, Plants, and Remorhaz

259: It's Only a Game

An urban encounter - the locals have cordoned off a street block for a game resembling street hockey without skates. The red team is one short, and tries to recruit the burliest PC.

“Since the PC has no idea of the game’s rules, the red team constantly berates him - ‘You can’t cross the line ’til the ball does, you idiot!’ The black team looks on and laughs. The DM is encouraged to make up rules that the PC will violate. Any time the PC does anything, the team yells at him.”

Well, it was charming until then. I guess the idea is that the PC is purposefully being bullied? The XP award is 500 for participating, and “1000 for not being bullied, or a successful defense,” whatever that means. But let the PC make an Intelligence check to keep the rules straight or something! That’s a quick fix, though. Keep.

260: Something Rotten

The PCs are camped in a creepy swamp with “twisted trees” and stuff, and hear splashing coming from a nearby pool of water. It’s a submerged shambling mound trying to sneak up on them, and it’ll try to attack and suffocate any investigating PC and make its escape. If they don’t investigate the noise, it’ll slowly creep around and try to kill a sleeping PC, instead. It’s got a 1000 gp ruby necklace tangled up in its body. Half the card is devoted to reprinting the relevant special defenses and attacks of the creature.

There’s some decent horror movie imagery here, though it would take a pretty good DM to actually scare jaded players with it. It’s just a monster attack, but I guess there’s enough staging here for me to keep it.

261: Fools Rush In

There’s a cavern with a small waterfall flowing in from 50 feet above. The whole place is covered with damp, slippery mosses. The PCs notice glittering in the pool of water (an exposed vein of pyrite, yaaay), but when they go investigate it, a shambling mound will bust out of the hollow behind the waterfall where it lives and attack. It’ll “attack tenaciously, pursuing as long as the PCs remain underground.” There’s a bunch of coinage and some potions and a scroll in the lair. (That scroll must be in an extremely waterproof case.)

Eh, both these shambling mound encounters are pretty bare-bones. I think I’ll pass on this one, because it demands that I dump it in an existing dungeon, and it wouldn’t necessarily be thematically appropriate for that.

262: Fire and Ice

The PCs are traveling across an arctic plain, and see the snow and ice shift ahead of them. Two rounds later a remorhaz attacks them, rising in a cloud of steam. It’s hungry and attacks until slain or the PCs escape! Great.

That flavor text is essentially the only new content. Much of the rest of the card repeats info from the Monstrous Manual - it swallows its target on a natural 20, anyone touching its scalding back takes 10d10 damage, etc. It claims the remorhaz is only affected by magical weapons, but that appears to be a misreading of its special abilities.

Oh, it also says what’s in the remorhaz’s lair, five miles away - 2100 gp worth of valuables and a ring of warmth. Well, that’s a nice thing to find on an arctic plain. But pass.

263: Let Sleeping Dogs...

“The party is working their way through a treacherous glacial pass in freezing cold weather.” The footing is treacherous and there’s only one narrow path. They decide to turn back and brave the Mines of Moria instead. Then the path is interrupted by the head and upper body of a 42-foot long remorhaz. I guess… most of its body is encased in the ice and snow? It’s a little unclear.

The card suggests the PCs could try a dangerous climb up and around the remorhaz, or wake it up with a distraction and then hustle past the area. Or they could try to fight it - they do have the best possible surprise round, after all - and be rewarded with 11,000 exp for killing it, as opposed to the 500 the card grants them for navigating past it. Oh, AD&D. You’re half-heartedly trying to incentivize avoiding combat and thinking outside the box, but you can’t quite bring yourself to not reward meaningless combat. (“But these things are really dangerous! Obviously the PCs should get much better at being murderhobos if they slaughter it, even if they have no good reason to do so!”)

Anyway, keep.

The Deck of Ropers, Rust Monsters, and Selkies

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Roll 1d20-6 to determine the quality of each card from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 44: The Deck of Ropers, Rust Monsters, and Selkies

264: A Sticky Situation

Not to be confused with #255: A Sticky Situation. This is a different situation.

The PCs are in a natural cavern, and there’s a rockfall blocking their way, but one of the boulders is actually a roper. In fact, as they enter, the roper will pull aside a carefully placed small boulder and cause a small cave-in that blocks they way they came in, too. Then they kiss fight. If it gets too low on hit points, it’ll clear an exit for the PCs in hopes that they’ll leave and spare it. It has ~250 gp worth of amber and coins in its gizzard.

It’s just a combat encounter, but there’s some staging to make it a little interesting. Keep.

265: Strangers in the Night

Late at night in a forest "near a cliff face or rocky outcropping." Three ropers attack, because the PCs are in between them and the cave entrance they're trying to get to. That's pretty much it, though it means that if PCs figure out what the monsters are trying to do, they can just get out of the monsters’ way, and let them finish their migration in peace. These things have a 15-16 Intelligence… could they have… gone around or something?

It's a pretty awkward setup. I mean, it's a random encounter that declares that the PCs are camping near a "network of caves." As soon as that comes out, it's going to be all "woah, we're near caves? We would have checked that shit out." "Uh, no, you just didn't notice them before." "Like hell I didn't! I'm a dwarf, I’m always keeping an eye out for caves and stuff! And we would have scouted the area before we set up camp!" Not worth it. Pass.

266: Dogged Pursuit

In a dungeon or whatever, the PCs notice a rust monster scuttling and “trilling” behind them. It’s been digging out ore but is now following them like a lost puppy, or perhaps an aggressive, hungry squirrel at a tourist spot. It’s more than happy to eat whatever metal they feed it, and will stick around if fed. The card suggests that the “simplest and safest” method is to leave it with a big shield or something and then make an escape, but I’m sure 99% of PCs are going to try to befriend it and have a rust monster pet. Which is kind of awesome. Keep.

267: Armor, What Armor?

“This encounter takes place in the chamber of a ruined castle or underground fortress.” Like, perhaps, in its... dungeons?!?

The PCs find a pressure plate on the wall that opens a secret door. Two starved rust monsters rush out - they accidentally trapped themselves inside, and have long since eaten all the metal there. Attacking them won’t deter them, but throwing them a decently-sized meal will stave them off or, given 75 pounds of metal each (!), satiate them. On the floor of the room is 250 gp worth or small opals.

Assuming I’m willing to use rust monsters at all (one of many creatures designed as a fuck-you to players in the weird power-creep arms race that was early D&D), I kind of like this encounter. What was in the room in the first place? We will never know. Keep.

268: Pick-Up Line

A young selkie named Elykre approaches the PCs in a tavern or whatever and asks to dine with them. She’s pushy about it but will also order a round of fine wine and expensive but odd food (oysters, fish with strawberry preserves, and chocolate cake, all foods that seals are well-known for eating in the wild). She’s trying to butter them up to ask for a favor - this was her first time out the sea, she stayed out too long, and now she’s got to rush back to her “home waters” (“a half-day’s hard ride”) before she’s stranded. She’ll only tell them what they need to know about her nature, and has a 1,000 gp pearl as thanks or payment. She’s also wearing bracers of defense AC 6 for some reason.

I like some things about this, but if the PCs accept her offer (which they probably will), I can’t think of any particularly interesting ways to complicate the fetch-quest. I mean, I could have someone get in their way, and make them fight, but I’m not too interested in that.

Honestly, it probably would have been more fun if the PCs encountered an extremely agitated seal honking about town, and had to piece things together from there. Maybe I’ll just go with that and keep it.

269: Accused at Sea

The PCs are traveling across a sea or large lake, and their boat is accosted by a dozen selkies. Two of them were killed and two captured by adventurers recently, and they didn’t get a good look at the culprits. They’ll interrogate the PCs aggressively and demand to search the ship. If they’re allowed to, they’ll eventually apologize and let the PCs go, but if resisted they’ll overturn the boat. The card says Elkyre will show up and save them if they did the previous card, though. Is this… specifically her group of selkies? Because the PCs know whereabouts they lived - they dropped her off in her “home waters.” Well, whatever.

“If the PCs can avoid combat, the selkies will give the party a small medallion allowing the them to ask for aid or shelter from anv selkie community.” But... they didn’t actually help the selkies. At all. That should be the reward for actually tracking down the murderers/kidnappers.

Well, it’s not great, but I guess it’s fine. Keep.

The Deck of Shadows and Spells

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Unbeknownst to you, the last D&D campaign you played in was just your DM pulling random cards from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 45: The Deck of Shadows and Spells

A small set today, mostly for organizational reasons.

270: A Party Shadowed

The PCs are in a “dangerous section of the city late at night,” and are passing by a small graveyard. That’s why the city is so dangerous - graveyards are horrible monster-spawning deathtraps! Case in point, four shadows start following the PCs, toying with them and trying to lure them into shadowy areas like dark alleys, and then they attack.

They’ve got some treasure in one of the crypts: 1200 gp, a potion of speed to help the PCs break the sound barrier, and a periapt of health.

Shadows in the middle of a city? Even under the best of circumstances, I never understand why shadows aren’t an unstoppable plague, a nation-destroying blight across the earth. If they’re perfectly capable of leaving this graveyard, there should be no city left at all.

I dunno. I’ll say keep, I suppose, but barely. It’s just not very interesting. I’ll just say the shadows are a very, very new phenomenon, the first one showing up only a couple days ago, and that they’ve been grabbing one new recruit each night for inscrutable undead reasons.

271: Shadows in the Mist

Near an old marshy graveyard at dusk. Six shadows attack. If three are destroyed, the rest will retreat, but attack again “if the PCs look for the shadows’ treasure.” (A few thousand gold in “the split trunk of a rotting oak.”) Interesting - as a PC, I wouldn’t have assumed the shadows even had treasure at all. I would, however, be DEMOLISHING this graveyard and every other one I encounter. Freaking undead-spawning danger zones. When I get my own domain, it’ll be 100% cremation and dumping the ashes into the sea. If we’re not coastal, we’ll find trade partners who are.

Both of these encounters are “shadows attack, near a graveyard.” This one is even less interesting than the last, so pass.

272: Dancing Bait

There’s a table in the middle of a dungeon room with a 10-charge wand of lightning on top of it, and also a frisky chest spell, that super-annoying enchantment from the Tome of Magic that makes an object grow legs and skitter away from any people who approach it. In this case it’ll skitter right down a hallway, around a bend, past a trap that will make a portcullis close behind pursuers, and straight into a mind flayer’s cave. (The table is bait.)

Ridiculous, but not without the potential for entertaining gameplay. Keep.

The Deck of Slugs and Spectres

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

TSR published a series of successful fantasy novels based on

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 46: The Deck of Slugs and Spectres

273: Slugfest

The PCs are heading down a corridor that dead-ends. When they realize this, though, presumably by shining some light against that back wall, it opens its mouth and starts to move. It’s actually a giant slug that exactly fills the corridor and is “over 40 feet long.” (!) It’ll pursue them relentlessly, smashing through barriers and spitting acid as it goes (with weird extra rules about how likely it is to hit with that spit).

I enjoy the occasional weird setpiece combat, and the idea of the PCs fleeing through a dungeon while a huge slug crashes through behind them makes me smile, no matter how little sense the ecology makes. Keep.

274: Heads Up

There’s a spectre in an old castle or dungeon. Its bones are buried in the floor. It attacks the PCs with hit-and-run tactics, diving through cracks in the wall to escape, the result being that they can only attack it if they beat it at initiative on a round that it strikes.

It’s just an unavoidable combat. The mechanics that help the spectre threaten the PCs are decently done, but I don’t think they’d be particularly interesting in actual play. Pass.

275: Kiss of Death

In a ruined keep or castle, the PCs find a room with lots of rotted old clothes and jewelry, guarded by the spectre of the mistress of the keep. If they beat it there are some nice thematic treasures like gems, a philter of love, and a, uh, +2 dagger, longtooth. (Was this lady a gnome, or a halfling?) There are also some worthless jewelry and a doll which are the only things the spectre apparently actually cares about. If she’s just turned or whatever but not destroyed, she’ll pursue whoever has the jewelry and doll and try to reclaim them.

Fairly nice flavor. Keep, maybe dropping the dagger, depending on the campaign and where it’s at.

276: Ghost of Honor

A crazy spectre has declared the sewers underneath a city to be its kingdom. It’s interested in creating more spectres to serve as its court, but won’t leave the sewers for any reason. It’s got some treasure tucked away - 1150 gp worth of gold and gems, a potion of healing, and a potion of shadow control.

The card says that the PCs either are poking around the sewers for their own reasons (unlikely but not out of the question), or they’re walking around an old area of the city and the street collapses and dumps them down there.

I’m cool with a spectre ruling the sewers. Not so big on dumping the PCs down there for no good reason. Keep the setup, but I might just plant rumors about odd happenings in the sewers and see if the PCs bite, rather than force the issue.

The Deck of Spiders, Storage Devices, Tanar’ri, and Tasloi

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Female goons receive a -1 penalty to Strength, male goons receive a -1 penalty to Charisma, and non-binary goons receive

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 47: The Deck of Spiders, Storage Devices, Tanar’ri, and Tasloi

277: Welcome to My Parlor

Not to be confused with #86: Step Into My Parlor. This is a different parlor.

A phase spider has spun a web near a path through the forest, and she attacks. She tries to kill a party member, after which she'll drag them back to her web. It won't pursue more than a mile.

The card boosts the word count significantly by repeating the rules for how a phase spider's attacks work, and repeating that it'll flee to the Ethereal if threatened. I'm not sure if that's convenient, or just padding. I'm leaning towards the latter.

Once again, this is just a "Phase Spider - 1d4" encounter from a wandering monster table. Pass.

278: The Wizard's Bag

The PCs find a painting of a wizard standing nonchalantly, holding a bag open towards the viewer. It’s a beautiful and lifelike painting probably worth 2,000 gp by itself. It’s also magic, though, because the bag in the painting functions as a bag of holding (currently empty). Bad for travel, good for decking out your stronghold.

This card is useless for my purposes - I want a deck of short encounters I can throw in to break up gameplay or offer little side-adventures. This is a piece of treasure on a card. There’s a reason I never used the AD&D Trading Cards (although I owned those too). Pass.

279: Magical Safe

In a wizard’s tower, noble’s keep, or whatever, there’s a painting of a woodland scene. It’s up against a wall that’s obviously a hallway or something on the other side, so people would think “No sirree, there certainly isn’t any room for a secret safe to be hidden behind that painting!” But there’s space for a portable hole! (It’s behind a little hidden door, so it’s not 100% immediately obvious if someone looks behind the painting.)

Not really an encounter. Not really interested. Pass.

280: Road Warrior

A rutterkin got some brownie points with a nalfeshnee, who gave it leave to go to the Prime and kill 100 humanoids. But why should the PCs care about that? A rutterkin is standing in the middle of the road, laughs and shambles towards them, will never give up pursuit, and now they have to fight it to the death for no apparent reason. Pass.

281: Antic Ambush

Hmm. In the jungle, a group of 21 tasloi ambush the PCs to capture for food. The card spends some time trying to add detail, including a named leader (Hoogot), but most of it is just reworded mechanics from their Monstrous Manual entry (including the same weird omission where it’s not clear how the PCs actually get hit with a net. Do they make a save, or what?).

Also, look. D&D is full of racism, a lot of which reflects horrible real-life cultural attitudes towards “non-civilized” peoples, simply off-loaded onto people with purple skin or dog-faces or whatever. I accept this, for the most part, as part of the genre. But I’m certainly not going to go out of my way to run an encounter where small spear-wielding jungle-dwelling humanoids who can talk to monkeys and apes “swarm” the PCs to try and cook and eat them for dinner, when I could just pass.

282: The Natives' Drums

Way to reassure me with that title, card.

It’s another tasloi ambush, this one at least following their Monstrous Manual description of how they like to operate. They set up a trip wire in an obvious “game trail” leading away from a monster lair, so when the PCs flee or emerge weakened from their fight with the monster, logs drop on ‘em. Then some tasloi drop on them from the trees, and the wasp-riders come in, and actually it’s potentially kind of brutal, depending on how beaten-up the PCs are to begin with.

It holds more interest than the previous encounter, but after re-reading the tasloi monster entry, I think I’m fine just… not using them. Pass, or maybe keep and just turn them into some other humanoid race so it’s a little bit less pygmyriffic.

P.S. To break free from the tasloi nets in the previous encounter, you needed a Bend Bars/Lift Gates roll. To free yourself from the logs in this one, you need to make a STR-4 check. Because AD&D.

The Deck of Tritons, Tableaus and Time Bombs

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

When a psionic character’s PSP total falls to zero, his defenses crumble and his mind is left open to

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 48: The Deck of Tritons, Tableaus and Time Bombs

Look, they’re actually paintings, not tableaus, which are a completely different thing, but I’m trying really hard here, okay?

283: Fish Out of Water

A triton got washed a half-mile inland by a tidal wave. Its legs are stuck under a rock, it’s barely surviving in a disappearing pool of saltwater, and it needs help. It will reward them with a coral dagger worth 100 gp.

Ugh, I hate how this retroactively specifies something that happened. “The day before the encounter, there was a large tidal wave (caused by a quake).” But the PCs definitely did not notice either the earthquake or the tidal wave, no matter where they were the previous day. Still, if they’re in the middle of coastal overland travel, I guess I could just drop the earthquake now and have them run into the triton the next day. And I like the coral dagger - you just know someone is going to keep it around as cool character bling. Keep.

284: Trial by Triton

The PCs are underwater, they wander into triton territory, where the locals try to capture them and then put them on trial. “During the trial the tritons will try to determine if the PCs intentionally trespassed or were treasure seeking.” If they’re found guilty, the penalty is all their stuff. If they’re found innocent, they get… nothing. Sorry for the trouble, I guess?

We already went through one of these triton trials back in 90: Intruders. I still find this whole affair a little tedious, but this one is much better than the previous one. For one thing, the DM didn’t have to declare a shipwreck to put the PCs a the tritons’ mercy. Here, the PCs have the opportunity to surrender, or to flee or fight back if they prefer. Second, the only charge before was “trespassing,” a pretty dumb accusation when the humans are clearly shipwrecked and obviously don’t want to be there. The PCs needing to insist that, no, they are absolutely not murderhobo treasure hunters, is potentially more fun. Keep.

285: ...And Now I Feel Like I'm Being Watched

In a spooooooky castle, house, etc, there’s a portrait of an admiral (the card gives it more description than that). It has striking eyes that seem to follow the PCs around. Anyone who gets too close needs to save or become obsessed with the eyes, giving them modest penalties to other stuff and causing them to fall into a fitful sleep that night. At which point the spectre of the admiral comes to kill them. I like this one - it feels like there’s a larger story here that the PCs are only intersecting with the very end of. Keep.

286: Seascape

There’s a painting of a “doomed” ship on stormy seas. A hook slipped, so it’s hanging at 45 degrees. You can see the lighter patch on the wall where it’s supposed to be hung. If you right it, though, the water starts gushing out of the painting at high volume and force until the painting is turned 45 degrees again by two people with a combined strength of 30. Once you do, the painting shows a ship sailing on a placid ocean, after which presumably you can’t make it release water again, or else the PCs would have a really awesome (though extremely fragile) firehose. Will it “recharge” eventually and become stormy again? Who knows? The card doesn’t mention the possibility.

Endearingly weird, in my mind. Keep.

287: A Most Attractive Painting

This can happen anywhere a painting can be found. Do we need a new Terrain: Art Gallery category for these cards? Why are there so many of them?

Anyway, it’s a painting of ten bandits attacking a unicorn. If you touch anything other than the frame, you’re sucked into the painting, and the bandits attack you, too. Kill all the bandits and the painting ejects everyone who came in, and it shows the unicorn standing triumphant around the dead bodies.

I’d like this more if it wasn’t just a combat, or had any further effects at all. Pass, but I’m sure someone could come up with some ideas that would redeem it.

288: Time Bomb

The PCs lay down to sleep and (with a WIS-3 check) notice an hourglass in the rafters with the last few grains slipping down. They have a few moments to respond before it explodes in a 5th-level fireball effect. Since this is for medium-level characters (levels 5-9), that’s not incredibly deadly, but it could light the place on fire. Maybe it was intended as a warning shot. It was planted by some of their enemies, of course. Keep.

The Deck of Trolls and Tainted Water

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

As one of the greatest weapons ever to appear in the world, the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o has 6 abilities from Table 28: Offensive Powers, 6 from Table 25: Major Spell-Like Powers, and 6 from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 49: The Deck of Trolls and Tainted Water

289: Youth Gang

In a swamp, the PCs run into a gang of 10 young trolls wearing blue bandanas on their arms. If they tie blue bandanas to their own arms, the trolls will let them pass, otherwise they’ll fight. That’s kind of cutely bizarre. I like it.

Then the card continues. “The trolls have been organized into a gang by a local hobgoblin shaman, who wants to control the influx of people and monsters into the area. The young trolls were impressed by the shaman’s magic, and agreed to participate in his scheme. The PCs may later see other monsters with similar rags, or rival gangs with different coIors, depending on how far the DM wants to take this idea.”

Wait, what? This hobgoblin wanted to control traffic in this swamp (why?), so he told the trolls to… only let beings with blue bandanas pass? How is this even a “scheme?” And then why would there be rival gangs with different colors? Rival hobgoblin shamans trying to control... swamp traffic? The same hobgoblin shaman setting up different gangs under different aliases, and it’s all a metaphor for how the land-owning class has an interest in keeping the proletariat divided? There’s the germ of an entertaining faction setup here, but the concept just doesn’t quite click.


290: Two for the Road

In a tundra spotted with only a few bushes, two young trolls have set up a rockslide ambush. The rocks are small and don’t do damage, but the trolls roll down with them to help get the jump on their victims. They won’t pursue if they killed a horse or something to eat, and if they flee they’ll try to throw rocks at the pursuers horses to spook them. They have a typically annoying AD&D treasure horde hidden at the top of the ridge (400 sp, 250 gp, 10 pp, and three large gold bracelets set with rubies and worth 20 gp each. So that’s, uh… how much loot?)

Ehh, fine. I wouldn’t remember a couple trolls attacking normally, but I might remember a couple of trolls avalanche-surfing down a hill to attack. Keep.

291: No Rest for the Wicked

20 feet up on a cavern wall, there’s an entrance to a troll’s lair. It’s scraping a bear hide, so the PCs won’t be surprised, but it’s also pretty alert and is unlikely to be surprised as well. When it sees them, it’ll “shake its head, sigh, and leap down at the party with a slightly weary roar.” It’s super old, only regenerating 1 hp per round and can’t reattach severed limbs. In its lair is a bunch of coinage and a ring of free action.

...so I guess the PCs are just expected to murder this troll senior citizen, because the card lists no XP for diplomacy, and there’s treasure as a reward. Well, whatever. I’ll keep and see if anything interesting comes of it.

292: The Bigger They Are (Tainted Water)

The PCs wander into a village in the mountains where all the people are twice as tall as they are. It’s because of magical run-off from a reclusive wizard’s cave lab further up in the mountains - goes down-stream and enlarges people who drink it for a couple days in a row.

The villagers think the PCs are halflings, and refuse to recognize the fact that they are the ones who are too tall, which is bizarre for multiple reasons. Just how long has this magical run-off thing been going on? All their houses and tools are explicitly built to their enlarged scale, so it must have been, like, generations. Do they never leave the village to trade, and do travellers never come and stay a few days? Do they never bring in spouses from outside? They must be some crazy isolated, inbred, bizarrely self-sufficient weirdos.

Also, the enlarge effect “can be easily dispelled on individuals, though it will return the whole village to normal height if cast on the water, for which the villagers would be very grateful.”

: “Thank you, kind adventurers, for solving this problem that we didn’t know we had! Now all our houses and tools are too big for us to use, and the predators and enemies outside our village have doubled in size! We are very grateful!”

: “All in a day’s work, good peasants! We’ll just enjoy our 3,000 exp and be on our way.”

Pass. This makes my head hurt.

293: Don't Tread on Me (Tainted Water)

Same mountain as the last village. The PCs run into village about half the size of normal. The villagers flee when the PCs come, thinking that they’re… [sigh]... giants. Because they drink from a reducing stream.

Like the last card, the stream itself can be dispelled, but this card maintains that “the effect will return in a day or so because of the constant run-off from the wizard’s experiments. The only way to stop it forever is to get the wizard to move or to cease his work here.”

Well, that must be one long-lived wizard. Is there a lich puttering around up in the mountains? Has he… just been repeating the same one “experiment” over and over for the past 100 years? That’s enough to make me almost like the concept of these cards, but I’d have to rewrite so, so much to make the gameplay interesting and not nonsensical. Pass.

The Deck of Umber Hulks, Unicorns, Vampires, and Wolfweres

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

People hotly debate the reasons that TSR faced insolvency in the mid-90s, but most gaming history scholars agree that it was due to their failure to adequately meet the massive demand for

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 50: The Deck of Umber Hulks, Unicorns, Vampires, and Wolfweres

294: Subterranean Stalker

An umber hulk ambushes PCs in a dungeon, dragging them back through its tunnel network, and it’s all extremely by-the-MM. This card’s main contributions are that the umber hulk drops its victims in a pit and then goes back to capture more; a mechanic for tracking it through the tunnels (“two successful tracking rolls” - is one not enough?); and the treasure, which is 1,600 gp worth of loot and, oh, I don’t know, a +1 luck blade. (Those are the swords that have wishes in them.) Wha wha whaaaa!?

Weird combination of boring monster encounter and crazy reward. Pass, but I could imagine keeping it if you were a generous DM who likes seeding powerful rewards in unlikely places.

295: A Friend in Need

Not to be confused with #97 A Friend in Need. This is a different Friend in Need.

An old beggar sits at a rock by the crossroads. He asks for their help retrieving an unspecified object, offering his goodwill in return.

It turns out his life is buried in a box under the rock. The only obstacle is the fact that the rock is very heavy, but all you need is three people with 40 total strength or some players ready to abuse their out-of-character basic engineering knowledge, so it should be no trouble.

When he opens the box the old man pulls out a sword and ring, becomes young, and says "that he will know of [the PCs'] hour of greatest need, and will aid them."

Nice and folk-tale-ish. Sure, I'll say Keep.

296: Honor Bound

It says this happens in a “furnished but uninhabited tower or keep,” but I’m not sure what the uninhabitedness has to do with anything. A unicorn has been bound with a magical amulet by an evil mage, assigned to guard the property. It’ll reluctantly gore the PCs unless freed. If they help it rather than kill it, it’ll give them a token telling sylvan creatures to help them. Keep.

297: Native Earth

Deep in a forest, far from civilization, just before dawn, the PCs hear someone digging in the dirt. It’s a filthy hermit-looking person, glancing east occasionally in panic. When he notices the PCs (which he does, “no matter how well they have hidden themselves”), he hesitates, weighs his options, and pleads with them for help. He’s a vampire, and he needs to hide himself in the ground during daylight hours. He says he only lives on animals, which is why he lives so deep in the woods (a lie).

I could’ve used a single sentence about why the vampire is so behind on his hole-digging today when it’s literally undeath-or-death, but other than that it’s cool. Keep.

298: The Forest's Bliss

In a beautiful fairy-tale forest, the PCs hear two women singing and playing the lute. Their song has no words - “it is apparently just a vocal exercise.” They don’t notice the PCs until they enter the glade, at which point they’ll startle. If the PCs aren’t hostile, they’ll start singing again and invite them to join. But the song is magic, and they have to save vs spell or be slowed, and if anyone is slowed the women will turn into their wolf-human forms and attack.

Haha, they were wolfweres! Are you shocked and surprised that the beautiful women in the middle of nowhere are actually murderous monsters? Are you?

I like the fairy tale setup, but I’m okay passing on this.

299: What Gullible Eyes You Have!

The party comes across a scared-looking pretty woman with red hair and green eyes, sitting on a boulder in the forest. She says she needs to get to the village on the other side of the forest. If they take her with them, she’ll play her pan flutes at night while they camp to slow them - then her mate will attack and she’ll join in a round later.

Haha, this beautiful woman in the middle of nowhere was also a wolfwere! Maybe you were expecting it last time, but I’ll bet you didn’t think I’d do it again!

Look, I admit this pass/keep system involves a lot of personal bias, but… just pass.

P.S. Per the card: “Any PC who states he is suspicious of Greta will not be surprised by her attack.”

”Uh, I’d just like to state for the record that my character is always suspicious of beautiful women. I’ll write that on my character sheet so it’s official.”

The Deck of Wererats, Werewolves, and Werebears

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Every full moon, the classic module The Keep on the Borderlands transforms into

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 51: The Deck of Wererats, Werewolves, and Werebears

300: Thieves in the Night

Coming out of a tavern, the PCs see a scruffy ban with a bundle duck into an alley. Eight ]wererats are kidnapping children in this city. If they pursue, they see this particular one disappear into the sewers. Why are they kidnapping children? That’s unspecified, but I would assume to infect them with lycanthropy (arouraíothropy?) and raise them in the pack.

They have some interesting tactics if pursued into the the sewers. They’ll imitate the cries of children from different directions, trying to split the party. They’ll place a decoy bundle and get ready to jump anyone who investigates it. And of course they’ll flee and scatter if a few are killed.

I like the way these wererats are portrayed as enemies. I don’t expect them to be fantastically deadly, but I completely expect the players to be complaining “freaking wererats! ” by the end of the session. Keep.

301: The Moonlit Village

It’s a village! Full of 100 werewolves, mostly cursed (full moon-shifters) but a few true (any-old-time shifters). The moon is getting full as the PCs roll in, of course. The villagers they pass on the way won’t really talk about it in detail, but warn the PCs to stay away. Except that I, the DM, just explicitly mentioned that the moon was nearing full, so that’s a big giveaway. And also, I think these reluctant local peasants will be a little more forthcoming after the charm person spell that the PCs are casting right… now.

So I’m not expecting to take the PCs by surprise. But here’s the thing: this 100% werewolf village has an explicit agreement to “try not to kill the beasts of the neighboring villages” during the full moon. That’s kind of boss, and I want it on my campaign map. Keep.

302: Unexpected Guests, Part 1 of 2

In a deep forest near dusk, the party runs across the cabin of Rufus, an elderly but still buff werebear. He will hail the party, though he’ll be extra friendly if they have elves, druids, or rangers (and presumably less friendly if they try to foist 13 dwarves and a hobbit off on him).

He feeds them a meal, mentioning that he doesn’t get many visitors around here and it’s surely a sign that “it’s time.” That night he’ll turn into a bear in the house, and, uh, if the PCs don’t attack him immediately when they open a door and see his ursine self, he’ll turn back into a human, praise their wisdom, and ask for their help fighting off an assault by werewolves that he knows they’re planning for the next night.

“Will you immediately kill a bear who replaced a man in his bedroom?” is perhaps the oddest test of character I’ve ever seen. Let’s see the second half of this encounter, though.

303: Unexpected Guests, Part 2 of 2

Rufus proposes that the PCs stay quiet in the cabin, and that he goes and lures out the werewolves and leads them back. However, they know the PCs are there and will attack Rufus in the woods and attack the cabin. Five will bust in through the windows. If the PCs kill three, the others will flee. Rufus will survive, come back, and give them a scroll of cure disease x2, and a ring of animal friendship. The second half of that is very flavorful! Also, they gain the most valuable treasure of all… friendship.

I’ll drop the scroll and keep the encounter.

304: Boarish Behavior

I can’t… find it in the deck. Probably there would have been a wereboar? Does anyone else have the deck and the copious amounts of free time needed to comb through it? Failing that, just give me your best wereboar encounter.

The Deck of Wars and Worms

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

The Vistani of Ravenloft have a special method of telling the future that utilizes

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 52: The Deck of Wars and Worms

305: In the Path of Battle

A grassy plain between two gently sloping hills, just before dawn. The PCs start to see lights, as if from cities, from either side of the hill. They’re from army camps, and soon “the whole area is bustling with activity,” though the PCs can’t make out many details without approaching one side or the other. But of course the armies rise the crest and charge each other at the least opportune time.

“The charge begins as soon as the PCs are halfway through the valley. Since the armies are so large, they can spread out all along the crests of the two hills, and there is no doubt that the PCs will be caught by at least some of the fighting. If the PCs continue walking when the bugle sounds, they will have to fight through at least SO soldiers, more if they pause for a time. If they run, they will have to fight only 20. Both sides automatically assume that the PCs are on the other side, and will attack them.”

I’m impressed - this is the absolute least interesting encounter you could possibly have about wandering into the middle of a war. Pass.

306: Avid Reader

The PCs are going to a library or whatever, for their own reasons. It’s musty. The air is dark and dusty. A traveler recently accidentally brought in a bookworm infestation - they haven’t done much damage yet, but they’re working on it. Despite the whole place being filled with easily-accessible books, obviously they’re attracted by the books and scrolls the PCs have, and will somehow get in their bags or scroll cases and start munching? That seems contrived.

“The library, of course, is ruined .The PCs might want to report this, or they might want to flee any possible blame that might be attached to them.” I kind of like that part - both that the PCs might be falsely scapegoated by the lax library administration because they’re convenient suspicious travelers, and that whatever the PCs were coming here for in the first place might have been destroyed. Keep, but I won’t endanger the PCs’ books if they’re not careless.

307: Guess Who's Dinner

The PCs run into a small wagon. The man is dead, the mule is alive but hungry and thirsty. The man is infected with rot grubs that will try to burrow into PCs’ flesh and towards their heart.

How did this guy get infected, anyway? You could extrapolate that he was assassinated, because rot grubs don’t usually live in this forest terrain, and that’s potentially interesting. I suppose.

But really, this encounter is teaching the players that even when there’s absolutely no sign that there might be rot grubs, there [i[still[/i] might be rot grubs, and they should never touch anything ever without declaring the all careful precautions they’re taking. This kind of “gotcha” monster just slows games down and makes them less fun. Pass.

308: Food Fight

In a dungeon, the PCs smell something terrible and rotting, then run into a carrion crawler eating some orcs. It immediately attacks. On the third round of fighting, another carrion crawler shows up, from the other side, drawn to the scent of prey. If the PCs get out of the way, they’ll fight each other over the orc corpses instead of fighting them. The orcs have some minor treasure on them. Yeah, fine - it’s a little dynamic, and I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of it on the spot if I’d rolled random carrion crawlers. Keep.

309: Save Your Elves

This is only if the PCs have an elf in the party. The PCs are going along a trade route in the desert, getting near an oasis, when four thri-kreen show up, “chittering excitedly” and eyeing the elf or elves. They’ll attack with throwing wedges and their ridiculous five melee attacks per round, mostly trying to capture or kill the elves, which are of course a thri-kreen delicacy.

I know the thri-kreen were in the Monstrous Manual without direct reference to Athas, but it feels really weird to have this encounter outside of a Dark Sun game. I’m almost kind of charmed? If thri-kreen think stringy, underfed Athasian elves taste good, your average free-range fantasy Wood Elf must be some truly delicious shit. On the other hand, it is jarring, and basically just a combat encounter since you can’t necessarily negotiate with mentally-alien flesh-eating gourmands. Pass, I suppose.

The Deck of Wraiths and Behirs

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Hit points do not merely represent the amount of physical harm a character can endure before dying, but also their ability to withstand

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 53: The Deck of Wraiths and Behirs

Next up are wights and wyverns, so I have no idea why the behir is here.

310: In the Clutches

Can’t find this one either.

311: Bumping in the Night

There’s some good description, but basically the PCs are in a dank dungeon hallway and two wraiths attack, seeping out of cracks in the walls.. Their corpses are in a bricked-in tomb, and if the PCs break into it, they find two skeletons, about 1100 gp of treasure, a ring of protection +3, and a broad sword +2.

Huh. It has some decent flavor, and I like that the PCs are rewarded if they follow-up on investigating. I wish the combat or the treasure were a little more interesting, though. I suppose it’s a keep, and probably adjust the treasure. (And maybe the mechanics of the wraith, because I’m not a fan of level-drainers, especially sneak-attacking level drainers. But you can just take that as a given for all these wraith encounters.)

312: Awakened Ancestors

Three wraiths are haunting a family chapel or the crypt of a ruined keep. There’s some good description of the decay of the “paintings of handsome, but cruel-looking people.” The wraiths were some of those people, and they still move “slowly and haughtily” even in unlife. The paintings aren’t linked to the wraiths magically, but there are coins and stuff hidden between the canvas and the frame backings, which will spill out if the paintings are slashed. (1,650 coins total! I’m not sure I can mentally picture how this works, but, uh, okay!) There’s also a cloak of protection +3.

Not bad. I’ll keep. Again, I’d probably change the treasure as well.

313: Terror in the Tar

“A large underground cavern riddled with tar pits and pools of sulfurous water.” The bodies of two assassins killed for treason were dumped in the tar pits there’s some un-gameable background info that will never come up in play; the important thing is that there are two wraiths hidden among the steam clouds to murder folks. They’ll try to back PCs into tar pits if they can. They’re bound to the area and won’t pursue. Their treasure is hidden in the tarpits - a ruby and an necklace of adaptation.

It’s a decent set piece combat, even though the card acknowledges that the PCs will need a reason to enter this dark, steamy hellhole. (It suggests making it a shortcut through mountains or whatever.) I might have preferred a monster that could itself be knocked into tarpits, but that’s a quibble. Keep.

314: The Sacred Censer

In the ruins of an ancient cathedral. The card provides decent environmental description. Wraiths pour in out of holes in the stained glass windows, and through the front door to block escape. There are twelve total - quite a few! The PCs might notice that they give the altar in the middle of the chamber a wide berth, though, and they have a round to run towards it if they’re quick. There’s a censer, a blessed holy symbol of a god of peace, on the altar, and the wraiths can’t attack anyone within 20 feet of it. It can, and will, be taken by the PCs.

I appreciate that the censer’s nature and powers are just a little vague. It stops wraiths from attacking, cool. How about shadows? What happens if I chuck it at an archlich? I have no doubt that all these theories and more will be tested once it’s in the hands of the PCs. Keep.

315: The Willing Sacrifice

The PCs are wandering through idyllic farmland, and find a guy tied to a tree by the side of the road, not resisting. There’s a behir terrorizing the countryside, and the peasants have started a lottery system of willing sacrifices to appease it. This guy politely declines to be saved, “saying that he lost fair and square.” Very philosophical. He’ll only accept help if the PCs offer to kill the monster, but will stick around to watch and make sure it’s done. He doesn’t know what a behir is called and can’t really explain what it is, only offer vague description that it’s long and has lots of teeth and so on. In a fight he’ll stand back and offer “belated suggestions and annoying advice.”

Seems like fun. Keep.

The Deck of Wights and Wyverns

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Although they have their own separate languages, all intelligent humanoids are able to communicate with each other by using

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 54: The Deck of Wights and Wyverns

316: A Draining Experience

The PCs are traveling a cracked road through a hazy moor spotted with… BARROW MOUNDS! roll for initiative wights attack!

Yeah, okay, so hearing the words “barrow mound” will set off every nerd’s spider sense, and you will never ever catch them by surprise, but we do get a little nice flavor text where the wind blows away some mist and reveals two wights crawling from a barrow mound. At this point the PCs freak out because these are level-draining monsters, and alpha strike the two wights with all the long-ranged abilities at their disposal. The PCs can then enter the mound, but there’s a third wight lurking in there. (It was controlling the other two). There’s treasure as well - coinage, some jewelry, and chain mail +2.

Setting aside the question of “are level-draining monsters the absolute worst, yes or yes,” I guess it’s fine. It is D&D - I suppose we need some random monster attacks. And at least there’s some PC decision making in whether to follow up on the mounds or not. Keep.

317: Evil on Ice

The PCs are on a snowy plain, near an icy lake. Their trail skirts the edge of the lake. Four wights rise up out of it and try to pull the PCs in. “The lake is only 3 feet deep here, but any PC pulled into the water will begin losing one point of strength per round, due to the numbing cold. IN addition, the water does 1-3 points of cold damage per round.” Not to mention that you just got hit by a wight, and you lose a level!

The leader wight will try to flee if threatened. Their treasure is about 3500 gold at the bottom of the lake (hard to access), and some stuff on frozen corpses under the water’s surface: two 250 gp opals, a 500 gp ivory torque, a short sword of speed, and a potion of super-heroism.

I don’t know. The flavor is okay, but a surprise attack by level-draining monsters? That’s harsh. I guess I could turn them into another type of undead, but is the combat interesting enough to bother? I guess I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and keep it.

318: Wight Warren

“This encounter takes place in a corridor, near a series of catacombs running underneath a church or castle.” You want to just say it’s in a dungeon?

It’s basically a room encounter. The PCs walk into a room, hear a crunching from above, and see a small wight gnawing on a giant rat. It hurls the rat at them and then attacks. The next round, a second wight drops down and attacks the smallest PC. It’s trying to create more eights to serve it, and will try to escape if threatened - specifically, into the catacombs, which are made up of tunnels only 3 feet high, and thus difficult for larger PC races. (Only a -2 to hit mechanically, which actually seems like a minor penalty). It’s got a treasure back there of about 1250 gp and “an extremely dirty cloak of the bat.”

Treasure that lets you fly at will is a bit of a game-changer, but the encounter’s not bad for a dungeon setting. I appreciate that the small wight gives them a rat warning shot before letting loose with the level-draining claws, and the fact that one wight dropped from above should make the PCs focus their attention upwards. Keep.

319: Triple Threat

The PCs crest a hill and see a wyvern just sitting on top, giving them the evil eye. If they attack it or are otherwise too hyperfocused on it, that creates an opportunity for two other wyverns to swoop down on them from behind. The wyverns try to fight a swooping air battle, and will retreat if too injured. One is wearing a pricey bracer as a ring.

Nothing fancy, but it’s a slight twist on what would be a normal wandering monster attack. So it’s a keep for me.

Still, though, if I was a wyvern, I wouldn’t be hunting armed humanoids for food. Just a thought. Maybe there are sheep herders around or something? Not trying to be pushy here, wyverns, I’m just looking out for you.

320: Youthful Indiscretion

A young wyvern has made its nest in the top floor of an old stone lookout tower. It’s still practicing stalking, and although it stays downwind of the party and tries not to be noticed, it makes a deep growling sound at the last minute that gives them a bonus on their surprise check. It flees at 50% HP, and is also more likely to be scared away by flashy spells (however, an illusion of another wyvern “will drive the creature into a frenzied fight to the death). If it flees, it flies directly back to its lair (which an experienced wyvern wouldn’t do), and in the tower is like 350 gp, a periapt of proof against poison, and two treasure maps!

So it’s Wyvern: Easy Mode. The card lists the danger level as Medium, but I’d be more willing to throw it at a relatively low-level party with all the nerfs this poor kid is loaded down with. I might bring the treasure down to no magic and one treasure map, if I had some material prepared (which, back in my old AD&D days, I did, in the form of AD&D 2E’s Treasure Maps by Slade Henson. That could also be worth a write-up). Keep.

321: Chained Fury

A wyvern wandered into a wizard’s trap in the forest, and is bound by a chain and platinum manacle on its leg. (The carcass of the bull that baited the trap is still in its mouth.) It’s thrashing around, knocking over small trees and stuff. It was set by a wizard who's a researcher of dragonkind, and wants the wyvern for experimentation. The trap is magic, and if dispelled, the wyvern will be freed but also pissed off.

The chain and manacle are worth 7500 gp. Nice! The obvious thing for a greedy greedypants to do would be to stand back and shoot the wyvern until it dies, then go take the platinum. However, “the PCs will only receive experience for the encounter if they either release the wyvern or fight it straight on.” Because [insert personal interpretation of the AD&D experience point system here].

I’m fine with this set-up. Keep.

The Deck of Xorns and Yeti

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

The most valuable Art Object on the treasure tables is

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 55: The Deck of Xorns and Yeti

322: The Unwelcome Guest

On their way to a big city, on a “well-traveled road near an underground complex,” the PCs encounter a poorly-guarded caravan led by an understandably jumpy merchant transporting jewelry. Soon after they begin speaking with (and/or robbing) him, a xorn bursts out of the ground and starts eating the merchandise. It’ll defend itself if attacked. The merchant will reward them each with a piece of jewelry or gem worth 500 to 1000 gp.

A little random, but… sure? If I have a well-traveled road near Castle Greyhawk or whatever, I suppose it scans. Keep.

323: Full Metal Dinner

The party spots a small cave close to the road they’re traveling on, just as night is falling! Whattaya know! It’s small and “bisected by a single rock wall that creates two rooms out of the single chamber.” I would definitely make this my Secret Base in Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire.

Anyway, a there’s a xorn temporarily lairing here; they’ll hear burrowing sounds from around the rocky corner and then the xorn will burst out and attack, if they investigate. If they camp outside the cave, it’ll attack during the night, rushing to the “largest mass of precious metals and gems” and chowing down, then fleeing once sated or hurt badly.

Hmm. I like that the monster’s aim isn’t to kill, but this is a little thin. I probably wouldn’t actually use it. Pass.

324: A Dangerous Game

There’s a colony of miners in the mountains. Five yeti are preying on them out of hunger, because the miners “have depleted a large portion of the yeti’s native food source.” (Which is what, just to be clear?) So people have been disappearing mysteriously. The miners will hire adventures to protect against their unidentified assailants. Investigating a latest death will find shredded equipment and frozen blood, but no bodies.

This is really a job for a ranger, because not only will someone with “skills or experience in the wilds of this climate” notice that there’s not much game life around, but also they’ll be able to track the yetis back to their lair, where they’ve been chowing down on miners. Failing that, they’ll have to set a trap or whatever.

The card suggests that they could kill the yeti, or find them a “replacement food source.” Find… the carnivores… a different food source… than wild animals? I’m drawing a blank, but maybe the players will be more creative than me. Keep.

325: The Freak Show

Takes place in a big city. There’s a traveling freak show; they have a yeti; it breaks loose and starts tearing off peoples’ arms and such. If the PCs kill it, the show owner will demand recompense, and set thugs on the PCs later if they don’t agree. But obviously, everybody else in the city will be quite happy with them, including the mayor.

Fair enough. Ke… Wait a minute, this is the same as #218: Circus Trouble, except with a yeti instead of a manticore. The fact that the show owner is still alive to take revenge maybe puts this ahead of the other one, but I’m saying pass anyway as protest for the repetition.

The Deck of Yuan-ti and Troglodytes

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Under the little-used “ante” rules of AD&D, once the players beat an encounter, they gain ownership of the card from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 56: The Deck of Yuan-ti and Troglodytes

326: The First Wave

As the party are traveling through a path in the jungle, four yuan-ti pureblood priests (who, being purebloods, appear human) come and invite them to visit their temple just down the way and share news. They’ll get an adequate meal, good advice about how to avoid danger in the jungle, etc. The food’s not even poisoned! They will try to get the jump on the PCs and capture them for food, though. There’s already 20 priests who formerly manned the temple imprisoned below.

If the PCs decline, the purebloods will just try to capture them that night out in the jungle.

Well, it’s not inspired, but at least they’re not disguised as random beautiful jungle women. I’ve said keep for worse.

327: The Halfbreeds

In a dense jungle. Three yuan-ti halfbreeds live some caves nearby, and will ambush the party. The only clever twist here is that they’ll hide in the brush, wrap their tails around a long weapon like an axe or polearm, and have it sticking out of the brush over to the side of their body, hoping their enemies will attack the decoy and let the yuan-ti get the jump on them. Oh, and one has a scimitar +1 (the ultimate treasure), and they’re all wearing platinum amulets.

Is that enough to justify an encounter card? Eh. It does provide some nice linking suggestions, though - that the nearby caves might lead to the yuan-ti temples from 326: The First Wave or 328: The Dark Secret. I appreciate that there can be follow-up on-hand if the PCs poke around. Keep.

328: The Dark Secret

There’s a temple deep in the jungle dedicated to “an ancient reptilian elder god.” These snake-temples are all over the jungle, apparently. Four yuan-ti abominations live here and maintain it. They keep flocks of wingless birds as a foodstuff, which is a nice touch.

If the PCs camp nearby, the abominations will sneak out and try to murder them. As far as treasure goes, there are three tomes of revisionist yuan-ti history, which is awesome. The card says they’re only worth 100 gp each, though.

They’re clearly just checking off monsters here: yuan-ti purebloods, check. Halfbreeds, check. Abominations, check. However, yuan-ti historical propaganda is truly excellent treasure, and justifies this encounter all by itself. Snake-man manifest destiny. Snake-man phrenology. Snake-man conspiracy theories about how the handful of grubby mammals who defeated Lord Ssss-tharaj were actually the tools of a lizardmen plot, because it’s completely implausible that they could have pulled it off themselves. The possibilities are endless. Keep.

329: Invasion Force

Troglodytes have been attacking the humans in a small mountain town. They’ve hired the PCs “to lead a force against the loathsome reptiles.”

“The party may attempt a confrontation in two ways.” (And no more! Ain’t no room for your namby-pamby creativity or negotiation here!) They can ambush/intercept the raiding parties and they’ll give up after three bands of 12 troglodytes are killed, or they can go to the troglodytes’ lair and just murder all 90 of them at once.

“Successfully eliminating the tribe will lead to the troglodytes’ treasure trove, filled with 3,500 gp in silver, gold, and platinum pieces, pilfered during raids on the town.” (Obviously the troglodytes prioritize stealing human coinage, because ????.) “In addition, several personal items, such as portrait lockets and monogrammed bracelets, are present in the troglodyte coffers. The coins are impossible to trace, but if any party members are caught with the personal items, the entire party is run out of town with recompense for removing the troglodyte threat.”

Huh? What do they… what? Run out of town? How did the card writer think this was going to play out? What kind of Snidely Whiplash, mustache-twirling-evil party isn’t going to go right back to the town with the mementos and say “hey, we found these, you can have them back now”? It's not like they're valuable - they're portrait lockets and monogrammed bracelets owned by rural mountain folk!

I’m mostly uninspired, with a dash of confused, by this card. Pass.

The Deck of Graveyards and Wizards’ Towers

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Approximately 90% of the questions fielded in the long-running “Sage Advice” column in Dragon Magazine had to do with

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 57: The Deck of Graveyards and Wizards’ Towers

330: Feeding Time

So the party stops for the night at a local crossroads tavern, and the folks report that strange sounds have been coming from the graveyard at night, and


Ahem. Sorry about that. Anyway, when the townspeople investigated in the daytime they found that many of the graves were ripped up an desecrated. It’s because nine ghasts have been feeding on the corpses. They’re not hard to find, since they don’t cover their tracks and are going to return to the scene of the time. The townspeople will reward them with 500 gp in silver and gems, and food and board.

“In addition, the local priests begin the practice of blessing the dead, including any party members who fall in battle with the ghasts.” Oh hey, the graveyard problem is actually addressed. Nevertheless:

Number of encounters mentioning graveyards that have involved deadly undead: 6

Number of encounters mentioning graveyards where it’s just a neutral local priest having fun with necromancy: 1

Your odds are not good, people.

My pet peeves aside, this is a RETURN WHEN YOU HAVE KILLED 9 GHASTS quest straight out of an MMO. I don’t know if I really want to spend the time. Pass?

331: ...In a Handbasket

In a wizard’s tower or some such. There’s a magical circle drawn onto the floor. Anyone who comes within 5 feet needs to save or find themselves drawn in, and teleported to “the first of the Nine Hells” (which would be Avernus). They’re in a shadowy cave made of hot, red rock, but nobody else is around, but actually all they need to do to get back is stand in the circle on the other side and say “home.”

I like the idea of a random Hell portal, but the execution is a little weird and lopsided. There’s a magical compulsion on the circle on the Prime Material side, and there, all you need to do to be planeshifted is to have any body part “cross the plane of the circle” or touch the gold or silver inlay. The portal on the Hell side looks the same, but there’s no compulsion, and you need to stand in the circle and use a password. It’s very unintuitive, which could be frustrating to players.

Keep, I guess. This card is “High” danger, so the PCs will probably he high enough level to find a way back or stage a rescue mission if they need to. I might still drop the magical compulsion, though. It would be a much more satisfying encounter is curiosity was their downfall.

332: Explosion

You have my attention with that title, card!

The titular explosion destroys the top of a wizard’s tower that’s rising from a swampy jungle area. It clearly rockets three pieces of tower in different directions, and leaves the top a “charred and slagged mess.” The pieces of tower start seeping magical chaos around an approximately 10-mile radius, creating random spell effects, summoning demons, and so on. They each need dispel magic cast on them twice to purify them. (A very boring solution.)

“The DM should feel free to invent all sorts of nasty encounters; for example, one of the towers had a magical summoning circle inside it, containing three baatezu. With the explosion of the tower, the circle broke and the baatezu were freed. The fiends come to kill the PCs and claim their spirits.” Yes thank you that is clearly the most interesting direction you could have gone with this.

The execution is uninspired, but it’s a really good hook - I like that the PCs are probably going to want to investigate the bottom section of the tower at the very least, but while they do so the jungle outside is going to get more and more infested with, I don’t know, elongated whistling crocodile men creating warring pocket civilizations in extra-dimensional spaces accessed by rope tricked vines or whatever. I just thought of that off the top of my head, and for the tower remains I would just grab whatever I had handy (bottom floor and basement of Tower of the Stargazer, done) so despite not being very fleshed out as written, I’ll keep this one.

The Deck of Wishing Wells and Wild Magic

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

A wish spell can summon almost anything, except for

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 58: The Deck of Wishing Wells and Wild Magic

333: Wishing Well, Version 1

Can happen pretty much anywhere, the PCs find a well. It has a sign that labels it a wishing well. The water is stagnant. If you throw in a coin and make a wish, the two efreeti in the well will grant it, but twist it cruelly. Each person only gets one wish. If a wish is made that can’t be twisted, the efreeti are freed and will try to kill you. Unkind to the PCs, but hey, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Keep.

334: Wishing Well, Version 2

Somewhere near a community of less than 200, there’s a “framework of wood and stone” blocking off a well, with signs telling you to keep out “under penalty of law,” etc. The well is labeled a “wishing well.” If you throw in a coin and make a wish, it’ll grant it to you, as long as your wish is for a physical item that exists within a 5-mile radius. Aaaaand it doesn’t make a new one, it teleports the existing one to you.

The villagers hate the thing, and ten of them will come to the well all up in arms if they notice it’s been used. By the way, there are lots of retired adventurers in this village, and all ten of these particular people are of a similar level to the PCs. Uh, seriously?

I think this is intended to be kind of a “gotcha” encounter, which I’m not a big fan of. Most likely, however, the PCs are going to talk their way out of trouble, and then you have this weird village of retired potentially very-high-level adventurers on the campaign map, with a wishing well that would make a fortress in that location practically impervious to being besieged (since you could teleport away attackers’ weapons, supplies, spell books, etc.) Which could be cool depending on what kind of game it is. Jury? Would you use this?

335: Surge

The PCs wander into a wild magic zone, per The Tome of Magic. [/end] (For those unfamiliar, wild magic zones turn every spell cast in the area into a "wild surge" with a random, usually completely unrelated, effect.)

This is actually kind of reasonable to have on a random encounter card. It’s not like you want it on a wandering monster table, but if you’re using the concept of wild magic zones, you surely do want a chance for one to crop up and surprise the PCs. Presumably you’d save the effect until the next time a spell was cast, or combine it with another encounter. Keep.

336: Goodbye, Blue Sky

“The PCs are going from one place to another, minding their own business,” when suddenly an adult dragon flies by right over their heads and spooks the horses! Then in flies up in the air, circles, and watches. It’s not looking for a fight, it’s “merely amusing itself, playing with the PCs.” It’ll fight if they do, though it’ll flee if things aren’t looking good.
What kind of dragon? Whatever is appropriate for the terrain.

Pretty slim content, Deck of Encounters. I do like that the dragon is apparently doing the dragon equivalent of cow-tipping, and that it could just as easily be a good-aligned dragon being a asshole as an evil one. But I’d like a little more than that. Have the adult demonstrating how dragon fear works to a juvenile on the brink of young adulthood, or something. Still, since I can add that to the encounter off the top of my head and with little effort, it’s a keep.

337: Inversion

Uh, this is a weird one. The PCs wander into “a magical effect, generally known only to sages and high-level wizards - an inversion zone.” It changes the characters’ perceptions, making down seem up, left seem right, language to be heard backwards, etc. They can make INT - 10 checks to adjust or suffer a -8 to most things and be unable to cast spells. Lasts 2d12 hours.

I have a lot of misgivings. First off, this is something that could be cool in a video game, but is really hard to describe effectively. I’m not even sure I can imagine what they mean when they say “forward seems backward.”

Second, because the accompanying penalties might royally suck, the card advises that “the DM not play this card unless the PCs are in an area where they are not likely to be seriously threatened.” But there also needs to be SOME danger, or else there’s no point. Heck, the card even says it’s High danger, and awards 7000 EXP. So… the high-level PCs should be beset by a group of unaffected goblins, and keep whiffing their attacks? Or something? I dunno. If I drew this from a deck, I would probably just scratch my head. Pass.

The Deck of Death Knights, More Wishing Wells, and More Wild Magic

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

At 4th level, the thief has enough exposure to languages that they have a chance to read

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 59: The Deck of Death Knights, More Wishing Wells, and More Wild Magic

338: Knight Song

There’s a hillside keep where, under the full moon, the death knight inhabitant goes out on the balcony and sings a melancholy song. If the PCs investigate during the music, it disappears from the balcony and waits for them in the throne room, where it will try to destroy them with its “keen tactical ability” and two-handed sword +3. (That’s not going to help you against a high-level party that outnumbers you, dude.)

On the other hand, if the PCs wait and don’t interrupt its song, “there is a 30% chance that the knight will ignore the intrusion, even if the party members choose to take a few of the candlesticks and goods.” Generous. I could also imagine the party Bard challenging it to a sing-off or whatever. Keep.

339: Wishing Well, Version 3

The PCs run into a ruined, abandoned well on the outskirts of a small farming community, near an oasis, or whatever. It’s only 20 feet deep, and when you drop something down it, it’s duplicated. You can do it with people or monsters, but it works like a clone spell, which means they will want to kill each other with every fiber of their being.

If you do it with magic items, there’s a 5% chance per plus or “function of the item” that the well explodes for 10d8 save-for-half damage, and is destroyed. Also, “the PCs earn the enmity of the people in the area, who have been using the well for years to get rich without labor.” (But it’s just sitting there completely unprotected and unmonitored? What?)

The number of ways this could be abused just boggles the mind. I mean, just to start with, infinite wealth is baked in as an automatic feature. Clearly the author’s assumption is that the PCs will quickly become greedy and blow the thing up, but that’s by no means guaranteed before they accumulate some serious power. By my count, a staff of the magi will blow up the well 100% of the time, but tell me, how many “functions” does a ring of regeneration have? One? How about a level-gain or stat-gain book like a manual of bodily health? How about that +1 luck blade that we got from the umber hulk? 5% for the +1, 5% for the ability to grant wishes? The PCs are limited by what they have access to, but still.

It’s entertaining as a thought experiment, but it’s hard to imagine just dropping this into the world as written. Pass.

340: Wishful Thinking

The PCs are anywhere, doing anything, when some of their “most valuable possessions” disappear because someone 2,000 miles away wished for something just like them. Divination magic will tell them what happened, but they have to “decide if their missing items are worth traveling the world to retrieve.” (Uh, it’s a high-level encounter, they can probably teleport.) The card stresses to only give the 5,000 exp listed on the front if the PCs role-play their response “within the previously established dictates of character and alignment.” So, it’s time to have an argument. “Your character is Good, you wouldn’t just kill the person! They didn’t know that staff of the magi was yours!”

I see no circumstance in which this encounter is fun for the group. Pass.

341: Wild Magic

The PCs head into their favorite part of town to find a smoking ruin with stuff and bodies flung all around, as from a fireball. Said fireball was the result of a wild surge from Daglass Stuard, 20th-level wild mage who has gone insane after extensive outer planar travel. He’s friendly, but gesticulates tons during conversation and fires off random spell effects. He’s a special snowflake and doesn’t memorize spells, just casts any spell effect he’s seen before (though he still has to expend spell slots) with a 20% chance of wild surges.

This is a man who is getting backstabbed in short order. And that’s okay. Keep.

The Deck of GMPCs

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Roll 4d6, then drop

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 60: The Deck of GMPCs

Arrange as desired.

342: Cursed Friend

The high-level PCs have developed a good reputation that they’ve started to attract hangers-on “to travel with them and learn from them.” For example:

Cursed Friend posted:

One such would-be student is Fael Caine, a charming, young, dark-haired man. He is quick-witted and friendly, an excellent talent with his flaming sword, named Cauterizer. However, there is a brooding melancholy about his manner, one that is not easily dispelled by the lighthearted joking of comrades. He is drawn into friendships only slowly, for he is reserved and will not, by conscious effort, make friends with anyone. His secret is that Cauterizer is an intelligent sword that sucks the life force out of anything in its reach. When in battle, Fael makes sure he is far from his comrades, for too often he has inadvertently swung and killed his friends, with no hope of resurrection. However, Cauterizer is bonded to his psyche, and he won't willingly surrender the sword.

The sword counts as a +4 flametongue that additionally drains two experience levels per hit.

...did one of your players want to have off-brand Elric as a henchman? Because… here he is. Level 9 fighter, by the way.

After thinking this over for a while, here’s my judgement. Obviously it would be terrible if the DM tried to run Edgelord McCaine here as a special-snowflake NPC to be coddled and shown off. But if I don’t give a shit about what happens to him? There’s the potential for some fun. And what are these cards for, if not to encourage me to put ideas in my game that I wouldn’t have used on my own? Keep.

343: Orga the Barbarian

Also for high-level characters. The gist is that a “barbarian woman” falls madly in love with one of the PCs - “follows him around hoping to win his affection,” gazes longingly into his face at night, cuts any perceived danger to pieces, etc.

She’s a level 16 fighter. This is AD&D 2E, so her stats aren’t directly listed in her statblock, but working backwards from the math, she’s got 18/00 Strength and 18 Dexterity, and 138 HP (so, either a 17 Constitution and PERFECT HP rolls, or an 18 Constitution and STILL ABSURDLY GOOD HP rolls). She’s got weapon specialization in her two long-swords +2, and wears boots of speed and bracers of protection AC 2. HOLY SHIT SHE’S GODDAMNED AMAZING.

There are two twists. One is that she’s so overprotective and ready to jump into situations that it “makes it very difficult to conduct delicate negotiations, perform experiments, or other magic.”

The other twist is that she’s very ugly. NOTHING WORSE THAN AN UGGO HAVING THE HOTS FOR YOU AMIRITE?

But look, I feel like these are problems that can be addressed. She wants to please her lover; with honest and open communication, I think you can make it clear that you don’t want to be protected all the time, that you each have your strengths, that she should hang back in social situations and you’ll hang back in FUCKING MURDERING THINGS situations, and that that makes you stronger as a couple.

And if physical attraction is an issue, go find a philter of love. It would be worth it. Orga is a real catch.

The card says the party gets 7000 XP for getting her to leave you alone, but I think we all know the real way to win this scenario is to retire your male character to pursue their fucking hobbies, raise their adopted goblin/gnoll/cambion babies, and get involved in local politics, and convince your DM to let you run Orga instead.

I think the card is sexist and badly thought-out, but I’m kind of in love with Orga the Barbarian, the Conan of this random fantasy world. I have no idea whether this is pass or keep. Jury?

344: Rualla Kunnadye

In an adventurer hang-out bar, a slim young woman challenges a strong PC to an arm-wrestling contest, loses on purpose and buys them drinks, and then tries to challenge them again with bigger money at stake. She’s using a girdle of storm giant strength, obviously, though she’s pretending to strain. Seems like a dangerous scam in an area filled with adventurers - the detect magics will be coming out pretty quickly.

Despite being a total badass (level 13 fighter, specialized in her warhammer +2, 101 HP) it says she will not leave the bar to adventure. She must have seen some real shit, man.

Sure, keep.

345: The Queen of Thieves

Entering a steep-sided valley (never, ever enter a steep-sided valley), the PCs are set upon by the half-elven Queen of (half-)Thieves (she’s also half-Fighter). 40 followers, with bows and swords. They start with warning shots, and should a fight start will fire a real volley before wading into melee. Shaena charges 10 gp per person for each of her followers (So, uh, 400 gp per person? Was that just to check our basic math skills?), but will actually haggle if she “genuinely believes” the party is too poor to afford that. She’s also a good employer in general.

Some space is spent explaining her equipment: bastard sword +3, bracers of defense AC 2, dust of disappearance for when they need to retreat. It says she’s HD 9, which I suppose means level 9/9.

Sure, why not? We’ve got Brand X Elric and Conan, why not Robin Hood? Keep.

346: Rival Colors

The PCs are in a new small town and hear the news. A half-elf priest named Krolar is trying to establish a second temple in town - to Isis or Isis-equivalent. Who the first temple is devoted to is not addressed. Interested parties will pay the PCs 3500 gp for driving him out of town, but if they talk to him, he’ll assure them that he’s not trying to attack the local religion or prosthelytize aggressively, just provide another option. He’ll offer to treat the PCs as members of his temple for healing purposes from hereon if they “help him find a place in the community.” Because if there’s one thing PCs are good at, it’s finding places in communities. That’s why they’re frequently called murderhoboscitizens.

Keep, could be fun.

The Deck of Aboleths, Baatezu, and Beholders

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

From their blasphemous masses of pulsating flesh, aboleths can spawn

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 61: The Deck of Aboleths, Baatezu, and Beholders

I HAVE CRACKED THE CODE! I can’t believe I never noticed this before. The first round of alphabetical encounters were all low-danger (i.e., for low-level, characters); the second, medium; and this time, we’re starting a run of monster encounters for high-level characters. I probably should have figured that out going in.

347 Tentacles of the Deep

By the shores of an underground lake, the PCs run into weird markings, which a successful tracking proficiency check will reveal are actually tentacle tracks. They're from an aboleth which lives in the lake, and which will attack if the PCs near it. 1d3 offspring show up to help it if the PCs aren’t speedy, too. Wand of negation buried in the muck, aboleth slime can be sold or used to make potions of water breathing.

Ehhhhhh fine, my standards are low enough now that the minimal staging is acceptable. Keep.

P.S. If you go back in time and play AD&D 2E with TSR-published adventure material… take the Tracking non-weapon proficiency. It's the only one that's ever used, apparently.

348: Meteor Shower

The stars are plainly visible. One of them starts to flare and grow. It is literally a huge meteor that is headed right to them, and they have 2 rounds to run, teleport or fly outside the 1,000 yard blast zone. It advises the DM to “keep careful track of the time the PCs spend talking about what to do.” Damage is 10d6 within 1000 yards, 15d6 within 500 yards, 30d6 at the point of impact (which is, on average, 105 damage; Orga the Barbarian could tank it). After the meteor cools off, it cracks open and two pit fiends emerge, dispatched from the lower planes to kill the PCs.

This certainly is a high-level random encounter! I wasn’t big on “random meteor is going to hit you!” but it makes sense as a targeted attack, and given that a AD&D round a whole minute, at least the DM doesn’t have to be too harsh in punishing the players spending some time discussing what to do. They can talk a little while and still only waste half a round. Finally, I like the idea that this is how demons get to the mortal world. Much better than plane shift.

Assuming the PCs have pissed off Hell (a safe bet), it’s fine. Keep.

349: Errand Boy

In the lower depths of a dungeon. A person comes barrelling past the PCs; he’s been struck by the fear ray of a beholder. If the PCs catch up with him, he’ll say he was sent by his alchemist master to retrieve the 10 eyes of a beholder. He’ll outsource the job to the PCs, paying them 50 gold for each undamaged eye they give him. And obviously, the beholder has followed him anyway, and will attack the party with much better eyes like charm and flesh to stone.

Who is this schmuck, and why is he remotely qualified to retrieve beholder eyes? How did he even get to the lower depths of the dungeon by himself, with no equipment to speak of? If he knew to find a beholder here, this must be a beholder lair, so why does it explicitly “have no treasure”? Why did the beholder hit him with fear and force itself to chase him down, instead of using literally any other eye?

This is straining my Gygaxian naturalism suspension of disbelief. I think I’ll pass.

350: The Exchange

The PCs wander into a deep dungeon room with the aftermath of a battle. Dead bodies, piles of ashes, people clearly turned to stone, etc. Hovering in the corner is a beholder with 9 HP left. It doesn’t want to fight, and will generously offer not to kill any of them in exchange for its own life. If that’s not enough, it’ll offer to lead them to treasure. It’ll even keep its word, unless they “dicker” (great word) for a while and it gets annoyed, in which case it’ll lead them to another beholder’s lair. (It’ll never live that down at the next beholder BBQ cook-out.) The treasure is 2,500 pp and a potion of treasure finding. Okay. Keep.

351: Collection Day

There’s a hermit in the mountains - an aged despot who escaped execution for the atrocities he committed against his people. Now he’s dying, and an amnizu has come to collect his soul. Because his soul isn’t going to the lower planes on its own? I don’t know.

The PCs see it go in to the shack. Three rounds later, it’ll set the shack on fire. It doesn’t want to fight them, but it’ll certainly throw down if they get in the way of its task. If the shack doesn’t get burned down, there’s 300 pp and three doses of dust of tracelessness inside. And, reading between the lines, the untethered soul of a very evil man?

That last part sells me on it. Keep.

The Deck of Baatezu, Chimera, and Dinosaurs

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Individuals can achieve become a lich through the use of magic, psionic power, or

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 62: The Deck of Baatezu, Chimera, and Dinosaurs

352: The Assassination

On the road (because these high-level PCs aren’t getting where they want by flying carpet, winged mounts, or teleportation), the PCs pass a convoy escorting a very important Lawful Good priestess. They’ll stop and chat and trade refreshments and stuff, they’re in no huge hurry. Then two cornugons gate in and try to kill the priestess, and then everyone else. The PCs will win much gratitude and offers of assistance if they defeat the baatezu and then act as bodyguards for the rest of the journey. Keep.

353: Deserters

In a super hot and humid land, the PCs find a small military encampment, which is weird because they’re not near any, you know, wars. They don’t have any sentries, either, so apparently they’re not expecting any trouble. The inhabitants work with “military precision,” but wear no uniforms. The soldiers will escort the PCs to their commander, who will pay them 5,000 gp each to walk away and forget they saw anything.

This is a group of shape-changed alu-fiend defectors from the Blood War. They’re still evil, but “they cannot wreak havoc and destruction, lest their masters detect them and take vengeance. “ Cool. Keep.

354: The Six Horrors

The PCs are high in the mountains, and catch the attention of a pair of chimeras. They’ll spy on the party to learn about them, then attack, at night if they seem particularly powerful. That’s really it. The card tries to pretend it’s adding valuable content by writing things like “the pair will coordinate their attacks, one occupying the party’s attention while the other tries to breathe fire from behind,” but it’s basically just TWO CHIMERAS ATTACK.

Their horde in their cave lair is “several large piles of copper, silver, and gold collected from previous victims.” It’ll be highly relevant to my PCs’ interests to know just how much coinage there is, you know! Also in the lair is a platinum-inlaid scroll tube, so that’s a nice piece of spellcaster bling.

I get that they’re trying to emphasize chimeras’ intelligence, but if they were going to do that, I’d almost rather that the encounter read “the PCs catch the attention of two chimeras, who spy on them and decide ‘not worth it,’ and fly away.” This is boring as written. Pass.

355: Like Little Insects

“This encounter takes place on the deserted plains of an uncharted land.” Oh, sure, those. The party notices that the flora has changed compared to the areas around them. Then they see an anatosaur. Then a T-Rex shows up, presaged by thunderous footsteps, and attacks it. Once the T-Rex finishes its original prey off, it’ll turn on the PCs, assuming they’re still standing there like idiots.

Sure. The next time my high-level PCs are in “the deserted plains of an uncharted land,” I’m okay with randomly deciding that part of it is the Savage Land. Keep.

The Deck of Dracoliches and Dragons

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

RPG products become more powerful the older they get. Case in point:

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 63: The Deck of Dracoliches and Dragons

356: The Mission

A powerful wizard in a secluded tower, who I assume has retired from society to post on nerdy wizard forums full-time and cannot possibly deal with this stuff themselves, hires the PCs to take out an ex-black dragon dracolich. The card describes the dracolich’s tactics (pretty normal) and lair (a small cave with treasure inside - inspiring! Also the treasure is all coins).

On the one hand, I appreciate that the problem is (somewhat) open-ended and the PCs can take the initiative. On the other hand, none of the details are interesting. Powerful wizard. Treasure cave. On the third hand, this is a mini-quest, not an encounter. Save it for the “Deck of Things Posted to the Adventurer’s Guild Bulletin Board.” And then spice it up a little. Pass.

357: Trespassing

In a bleak desert plain, the PCs have wandered into a venerable blue dragon’s territory. It starts circling them overhead, taunting them and offering to exchange their lives for treasure. “Each time the party accepts the dragon’s demands, the beast increases the ransom, until it finally exceeds what the party members possess.” It’s just to test the party’s bravery and wealth. Cute, but this is a high-level encounter. More than likely, the number of times the party accepts the dragon’s demands is going to equal zero. The number of times the blue dragon is going to be hit with a delayed blast fireball or some such in the middle of its speech is greater or equal to 1.

The dragon’s tactics are obviously to breathe lightning from a safe distance, but if it doesn’t feel like it’s in danger, it’ll specifically come in to fight closer “to better see the fear in its victim’s eyes.” That’s a nice touch.

Obviously it’s got an underground lair somewhere, and “amid the collection of copper and gold” is a coffer with the dragons’ beloved eight sapphires worth 1500 gp each. Cool horde, man. No wonder you have a crappy territory.

In practice this is puh-rih-tee close to rolling “1 venerable blue dragon” on a wilderness random encounter table. But the dragon does have a little personality, and I was willing to take the all-around worse aboleth encounter a little while ago, so… keep.

358: Aiding the Unknown

The PCs find a wounded old man atop a plateau in the wilderness. (What wounds? Unspecified.) Actually it’s a silver dragon, who once they heal him up, says he doesn’t remember how he got there, but asks them to escort him to his family in a nearby village. It's actually a test of character, and he’s actually “leading the party to his dragon children.” (Because the first thing I would do with people whose character I have not yet determined is… lead them to my children?) Most intelligent creatures don’t mess with them along the way, because they all know this dude is a dragon.

He “tests the party a final time” before they arrive with a spectral force illusion of an angry mob. Why is the mob angry? Also unspecified, but if the party doesn’t protect him, he’ll revert to his normal form and command the PCs to depart. “If the PCs work to discourage the mob,” however, the man leads them to his home, reverting to his true form only when he is reunited with his children. He’ll reward the PCs with gold and jewelry.

It’s oddly vague on a lot of important details. Not just the wounds and the mob… What’s with this village that the dragons live in - apparently they’re out publicly as dragons? How much is the gold and jewelry worth? What’s the dragon’s name? How many children? Are they old enough to be recruited as, say, paladin mounts? Are their human forms hot? For one or two of those things, I’d be happy to just make a call as the GM, but added up, the encounter feels fuzzy rather than inspiring. Pass.

359: A Trusty Hound

The PCs are in a coastal city, and a stray dog starts following them around. (It’s an Irish setter a Dwarvish setter a Moonshaean setter? a setter.) Other dogs avoid her. The shopkeepers don’t comment, though they kick other animals out of their establishments - if asked, they say it’s because “ole Filgranisha Long-ears there has earned a place in our hearts.” While nodding and winking at the dog.

So clearly it will take the PCs no time at all to figure out that the dog is an old bronze dragon who protects the city. She’s following around the PCs to make sure they don’t cause any damage, a perfectly valid concern that I applaud her for having. If she approves of them, she’ll reveal her nature to them before they depart, and tell them to return any time; if they cause trouble, she’ll kick them out. Keep.

The Deck of Genies and Giants

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

In addition to the classics such as Healing, Charm, Summoning, and Protection, the supplement The Tome of Magic added many new priest spheres, including Numbers, War, and

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 63: The Deck of Genies and Giants

360: The SIght of Vengeance

The PC sees a huge ball of fire in the hills in the distance. A wizard tried to summon and trap an efreet in a bottle, but it broke free, burned down the lab-mansion, and is now burninating the countryside. If the PCs beat it (“including eliminating any chances for escape”), it’ll offer a wish in exchange for its life.

“If the party does not accept his initial offer, the efreeti will tell them that he is willing to take back his offer of a single wish for three wishes. If the party agrees to the new offer, the efreeti will demand three wishes from the party, chuckle deeply, and return to its home, the City of Brass.” Uh… can efreeti plane shift? If so, how did the PCs “eliminate any chance for escape?” And if they did block planar travel, I would just grant them the wish, efreet buddy, because you’re not getting out of there alive after being a smart alec.

Now, I’d be happy to play the efreet as a legalistic asshole who would literally rather die defending his overly literal reading of his offer than grant the PCs three wishes. The bigger problem is that the PCs are almost certainly not going to try to capture it, they’re just going to waste it. I guess I could just have it surrender if it’s losing? I dunno.

Still, I suppose even the basic setup (‘efreet escaped and burned down a wizard lab’) is acceptable. Keep.

P.S.: Also, there’s 5000 gp of melted gold and platinum in the ruins of the wizard’s manor. And presumably scraps of hopelessly destroyed valuable tomes and broken magical items.

361: Gone Fishin’

Moving through rough hills, the party hears sounds of “brutish laughter echoing over a lake.” It’s six hill giants, “fishing with saplings and thick rope.” They’re using pixies as lures, pulling one out of a large wicker basket, pulling off their wings, impaling them on fishhooks (), and casting them into the lake to try to catch a giant pike. (It turns out giant pikes have stats in AD&D 2E. I’m as surprised as you are.)

There are six more pixies in the basket. If saved and brought back home, they’ll “reward the party with six magic items chosen at random.”

Excuse me a moment. Using just the DMG, that’s... (roll roll) a potion of water breathing, beads of force, a cloak of elvenkind, full plate +5 (!), a long sword +1, and a long sword +5 (!!). Seriously, that’s what I rolled. There’s going to be one happy fighter in the party today. Also, some happy hireling that gets tossed a long sword +1 because nobody else wants it.

Well, I don’t know how I feel about six random magic items, but the scene itself is.. memorable. Keep.

P.S. How on earth did hill giants catch pixies?

362: Games Giants Play

The PCs are passing through a mountain valley, and come across five stone giants playing catch with a carriage (including father & daughter riders, who are hanging on for dear life and getting battered about).

The stone giants will drop the carriage if surprised, and gather up large boulders if they have time to prepare. One will pick the carriage back up and throw it at the PCs, which will kill the two nobles no matter what.

Near one of the giants’ feet is a six-foot long stone flute, which they care about for unknown reasons, and which the PCs could ransom for the nobles if they can threaten to destroy it. The nobles will reward them to the tune of 2,500 gp worth of gems and jewelry if saved.

Fine hook, with a few good twists to the encounter. Keep.

363: Cloud Slaves

The PCs are climbing in the mountains and six cloud giants attack, seeking to take them as slaves. Nothing interesting there - they throw boulders (at people they want to enslave?), then switch to morningstars in melee, until they’re forced to flee or the party surrenders. One of them has a +2 weapon, and I’ve got to say, a giant-sized +2 morningstar is much more interesting treasure than a human-sized one.

Most of the card is devoted to what happens if the PCs are captured, but that’s kind of generic, too. Some of them will be employed to mine silver, some to work as cooks and attendants. The giants are overconfident and have poor security, so the card simply states that “escape while the giants are asleep is not particularly difficult.” (Read: not particularly interesting.) There is a treasure room somewhere there, but the card says that most of the stuff will be “too large and heavy to carry out in secret,” except for the PCs' own stolen equipment. Sure, but what if the giant-sized goods are reduced, or stuffed in some kind of bag of holding, or teleported? I kinda can’t hand-wave away the whole treasure room of a giant castle!

A cloud giant castle warrants a one-page dungeon format, not a criminally brief textual description. Of course, that’s only relevant if the high-level PCs get captured and enslaved, which… uh, I don’t really see happening. If there’s one thing I’ve learned DMing, it’s that players do not like their characters getting enslaved and/or looted, and will pull out all the stops to keep that from happening. Given that I foresee this just being a “six giants attack” situation… I’m not sold. Pass.

The Deck of Dragons, Golems, and Giveaways

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

The animating force of a golem is an elemental spirit summoned from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 64: The Deck of Dragons, Golems, and Giveaways

364: End of the World

Takes place at the far edge of a savannah, where a huge cliff descends more than 2000 feet into thick clouds. There’s nothing on the other side as far as the PCs can see. It seems like the end of the world. Nice imagery!

Then two small shapes start flying up toward the PCs, drawing closer and closer. It’s a mated pair of young adult red dragons, hunting for food. They’ll try to snatch PCs and take their bodies down below to their cave just above the cloud cover. You might be able to negotiate for them to bring a PC back if you trade them cattle, but they might not stick to the deal.

What the… what do the dragons have to do with the set-up? It’s like two separate encounters here, where the first one is inspiring fantasy scenery, and the second half is the boringest dragons ever. Pass.

365: Body-Snatching

There’s been a rash of grave robberies stealing bodies, and the townsfolk offer the PCs 1000 gp (“all the gold they can muster”) to resolve it. “Tracks and carelessly dropped body parts lead from the graveyard to the home of a wealthy, local eccentric.”

Uh. Did this village… really need to liquidate all their assets to hire 10th+ level adventurers to resolve this? I think this is more of a “four local teens and their dog” level situation.

Anyway, the eccentric “is resistant to questioning and will refuse to let his house be searched.” Charm person. Okay, let’s pretend we aren’t playing a game where first level characters get access to a mind-control spell. If you break in at night, you’ll find a journal in his study talking about finding scrolls that will help with an “unnamed experiment,” and a secret stairway down to the lab. Body parts are down there, and scrolls “imbued with the power to create a flesh golem.” If the PCs wait a couple nights, the flesh golem will be finished and able to defend the eccentric.

Wow, there were really no twists there at all, were there? That was 100% straightforward. I’m bored to tears just from reading that. Pass.

366: Cold Revenge

The PCs are in an inn in the middle of the night and hear splintering wood from below, then crashing footsteps on the stairs. A clay golem comes down the hall and busts into their room, if they’re still there.

The clay golem was loaned by a rabbi priest to a wine merchant, who claimed he needed an escort for shipping supplies of some sort. It was dispatched to kill “the descendants of [the wine merchant’s] ancestor’s nemesis,” but got lost and couldn’t find the right house. It blundered through the streets for hours before arbitrarily deciding on this inn to attack.

“Slaying the golem and confronting the merchant makes him confess and earns a 2,000 gp reward from the priest, in addition to any raise dead spells that may have been required during the encounter.”

It bothers me that there’s a fancy backstory that essentially amounts to “it was a totally random attack that had nothing to do with the PCs, where they are, or what they’re doing, lol.” The card doesn’t even list any clues leading from point A (golem) back to where it came from, though they’re pretty easy to add: The golem has the sigil of a certain god on its forehead, and they can go investigate at the appropriate temple. Still, the night-time thumping imagery is appealing. Keep, but the clay golem doesn’t bust into the PCs’ room, it randomly tries to murder whoever’s in the next room over. That’ll throw the players for a loop when they’re standing by their door with spells and weapons at the ready.

367: The Sentinel
An encounter in the lower depths of a dungeon. Half of the card is pointless wizard backstory that’s never going to come up, but let me lay out the relevant parts for you:

There’s a hallway. On one side is a large iron statue. On the wall behind it is a little graffiti. It reads OTTFFSS NT, with a space between the second S and the N. (Have you solved the puzzle yet?) If anybody says the word “eight,” the statue (which was actually a golem! :O) steps aside and reveals a small room with 10,000 GP WORTH OF GEMS AND A STAFF OF THE MAGI. And also the card says they get 15,000 experience points for solving the encounter!

So actually there was no danger at all (although the card inexplicably provides the stats for the iron golem). There was just a staff of the magi. If you let the PCs notice the graffiti, they WILL solve the puzzle and get the loot. If you don’t let the PCs notice the graffiti (because you had them make 2E equivalents of perception checks and they failed, or you’re punishing them for not declaring that they’re searching every square inch of wall) then you may as well not have drawn the encounter card, because the only gameplay here is “solve easy puzzle, get loot.”


The Deck of Hags, Ixitachitl, and Leucrotta

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

The attractive young woman who you met turns out to actually be

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 65: The Deck of Hags, Ixitachitl, and Leucrotta

Happy New Year, and welcome back to your regularly-scheduled random encounter content!

368: A Cry For Help

The PCs are in a bog and hear piteous cries for help from nearby. “A breathless young maiden comes crashing through the swamp, cursing as she slips into a puddle of ooze.” What is it this time? Hags? Demons? Wolfweres? Werewolves? Wolf... wolves?

Greenhags. The woman begs the PCs to help her sisters out of a quicksand pool. Then she “nimbly” leads them back through the swamp because I guess she decided to pretend to be clumsy, but then forgot to keep it up (they get a INT-4 check to notice this). She leads them into a clearing, and the PCs get ha net of entrapment that also prevents all spellcasting (!) dropped on top of them. At that point, the other two hags come out of the woods and they all attack.

That net is some seriously valuable treasure. But at this point, I’m passing on all breathless young maiden traps on general principle.

369: The Haggard Daughter

The PCs are going down a swamp path, when they are “accosted by a beautiful young maiden who” oh for god’s sake. Pass.

...I should probably finish what I started here. The woman claims that her mother slipped off her horse when it was started by a snake. She’ll lead them down the trail and into the swamp. When they’re sufficiently off the path she turns back and attacks. If she’s forced to break a sweat, two other hags will jump in and join her. If she’s forced to flee, she’ll follow them and try to use her magic to trick them into attacking each other later.

This is the third encounter in the deck that is a hag, disguised as a lone beautiful young woman, in a swamp. I already stated my opinion.

P.S. The card refers to the group of three hags as a “covey.” Twice.

370: The Cloak of Evil

The PCs are “deep in an underwater maze,” one of the most common adventuring locations. Near a cove, an aquatic elf beckons them over, asking for help fighting ixitachitl, who are slaughtering his people. He’s been “empowered by his queen” to offer them 3000 gp and a trident of warning as a reward for victory.

If they agree, the elf will also give them pieces of purple seaweed that give a water breathing effect for 18 turns, which sems semi-unnecessary since the PCs are already adventuring underwater.

Now what about those ixitachitl? Well, the horde “numbers considerably more than six dozen. However, the party will need only to slay several hunting parties to encourage the ixitachitl to withdraw.” So… wait. Where are they? Is there any terrain? How many in a hunting party? What are the parties trying to do? Would there be any sea elves around to help? To protect? I dunno. Just go kill some ixitachitl and I’ll reward you with XP, a marginal leg armor upgrade, and 500 rep with the Sea Elf faction. Get 2000 rep and they’ll be willing to sell you a better helmet. Pass.

371: She-Beast

The PCs are in a desert and see a “half-beast, half-human female” off in the distance. When they get within 100 feet, they notice a herd of stampeding beasts (of… some sort?) rushing at them from behind. It’s an illusion by the lamia ahead. When they get closer, she’ll charm and suggestion them into killing each other, targeting apparent spellcasters first. She’s got a cache of gold and silver worth 5,200 gp in “the deserted ruins of an ancient city nearby.”

My main problem with this is that charm effects are often pretty unfun for the players. But maybe once in a while is okay? Keep.

372: The Cries of Death

The PCs are climbing a hillside and hear a man and a woman crying for help, as well as a crying baby. The source of the calls are coming from a dark ravine inside lurk a pack of three leucrotta, which will jump out and attack. They’re very hungry and will focus on dragging any victims back into their lair and eating, letting others flee.

Obviously any trackers will be able to see that three pairs of stags apparently entered he area earlier in the day. (This reminder is a little awkwardly placed on the card.) Their treasure is three small gems worth 50 gp each, and a potion of gaseous form. Not flavorful.

Yeah, okay. Let’s remind the players that leucrotta are a thing. Keep.

The Deck of Mind Flayers, Mummies, and Naga

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

You must cast read magic to understand

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 66: The Deck of Mind Flayers, Mummies, and Naga

373: Hands of Darkness

Takes place in an inn near several caverns. The PCs wake up and the staff are trying to tie them up. They’ll probably escape, investigate, and find a trap door in a storeroom that leads to the lair of four mind flayers who run the place. They like gladiatorial combat and eating brains, and will use captives for one, then the other. The card suggests some ways the PCs can escape if captured, as well - smuggling a dagger out from the arena, mostly.

Alright, sounds fine. Though you’d think the staff would have drugged the PCs before trying to capture them. Keep.

P.S. “Note: this can lead to Minds of Death.” Don’t mind if I do.

374: Minds of Death

The PCs are travelling in the wilderness, when a massive storm is supposed to force them to take refuge in a tunnel complex with three mind flayers. (The party’s wizard isn’t classy enough to spend their one 7th-level spell slot on Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion every day.) Basically, the mind flayers “hide” while the PCs investigate the cave and then attack when they’re sleeping, to eat brains and capture gladitorial slaves.. Where they hide and how they escape detection from the players, who have all read The Hobbit and will be at least as thorough as Thorin’s party before they lay down to bed, is not explained.

The treasure horde is 1,500 pp and a necklace of prayer beads. The card suggests that the caves can connect to the previous encounter.

Not particularly interested in this as a random encounter, but I like the idea of the PCs following a secret tunnel from one encounter to the other, and getting the jump on the other set of illithid. Keep.

375: The Tomb

A room for a dungeon. It’s large and has eight sarcophagi with stone coffins that “are impossible to move with less than a combined Strength of at least 100.” Because in AD&D, two people with 10 Strength can produce the same amount of force as one person with 20 Strength. (Note: this is not true.)
In the center of the room is “a large gold and platinum urn” with 4,500 gp, 6,000 gp, and 20 opals each worth 100 gp. ...so, how much is the urn worth?

If the PCs come close to the urn, all the sarcophagi open and the mummies come out, attacking like berserkers until the PCs flee. If they grab any treasure on the way out, the mummies will pursue indefinitely.

Not particularly interesting. However, the general concept of “obvious trap that the PCs are tempted to activate anyway out of greed” is key to the dungeon-delving D&D experience, and I give it points for that. Keep.

376: The Inheritance

The PCs are chillin’ in a tavern and are approached by an employer, like in all good adventures. In this case it’s the young heir of a wealthy miser. He says his “ancestors” (actually just his parents) were so greedy they were buried with their wealth instead of leaving it to their offspring. His family’s starving, so it’s time to break open the ol’ family tomb. He offers them half of the treasure as payment.

The fact that he’s turning to tavern murderhobos for this indicates that he knows there’s going to be trouble. The trouble is six mummies: his two parents and their four servants. The treasure: Around 10,000 gp total.

Weird. As a PC, I would think this story sounded extremely suspicious, and expect there to be a twist somewhere. But no, the heir’s story checks out, the undead are doing what you’d expect the undead to do, and it’s all very straightforward. Keep...?

377: The Gauntlet

The PCs are in a dungeon, and while proceeding through a maze of unspecified traps, attract the attention of the spirit naga who set them. (Spirit nagas are the evil ones.) It observes them, waits for an opportune moment, and jumps them. The card describes its tactics a little, and says it will negotiate for its life by offering to lead them to a stash of treasure (about 1,072 gp and a potion of gaseous form, “all covered by the remains of the naga’s latest victims.”

Without the context of the “maze of traps,” this is just a monster attack. But the maze of traps isn’t described at all, which limits the use of this card. I mean, I could hold on to it and play it in an area that was already heavily trapped, if there was such a place in this dungeon… but eh. Not worth it. Pass.

The Deck of Neogi, Otyughs, Rakshasa, and Rocs

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

As you near it, you sense a powerful emphatic message emanating from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 67: The Deck of Neogi, Otyughs, Rakshasa, and Rocs

378: Crashlanding

A neogi Deathspider (a spelljamming ship) has crashed into the hills near a town. People saw it go down in flames. When the PCs inevitably investigate, they find it still alight, but as the fire dies out, they can search it and find the bodies of unidentifiable creatures, and also identifiable umber hulks. There are chests filled with 4,500 gp inside as well.

Five neogi escaped the wreckage, and have regrouped and will return to the spelljammer while the party is inside. They can’t fix the ship, but need slaves at least, and will attack the PCs for that purpose.

Eh. I feel like we’ve had multiple neogi encounters that were a little bit more interesting. Even another one featuring a crashed ship. I really don’t need that many. Pass.

379: The Hunger

In a dungeon, the PCs discover a latrine “literally filled to the ceiling with dirt and filth.” One member is “suddenly hit by an emphatic message of extreme hunger.” Then an otyugh bursts through the offal and attacks, obviously.

It’s an otyugh lair as a random encounter. That’s it. This is an otyugh, living where otyughs live, doing what otyughs do. Where’s the added value here? Pass.

380: Deception

While they’re walking down a winding path at dusk, a kindly old man (actually a rakshasa rajah) approaches the PCs and asks them to join him for dinner. He takes them into his cottage and charms them with entertaining tales, “stories designed to compliment the males and flatter the females of the party.” Take note, everyone: you need to compliment men and flatter women.

Although charming, he’s distracted, and neither he nor any servants ever actually bring food. (I wouldn’t be expecting many servants in a cottage anyway.) Once someone points this out or he’s told a couple stories, he dimension doors out, removes the spectral force (illusion) on the house, and it turns out the PCs are in a huge steel cage with extremely thick bars. (Wouldn’t people have noticed the wind blowing inside the house?) He intends to eat one of them each day until there are none left.

I like the goofy fairy tale vibe, but this is a high-level AD&D encounter. If the true seeings don’t come out immediately, this guy is just going to get blasted with magic from inside the cage. I mean, I guess that’s okay? It’s an encounter where the moral of the story is “don’t fuck with 10th+ level adventurers”? Keep.

381: Amnesia

A revenant wanders into the PCs’ camp, asking for their aid. He’s looking for his killer, but has forgotten their face; they only remember the killer’s accomplice, whose description matches an acquaintance of the PCs’. They have no particular incentive to help him, but perhaps they have a thing for vengeance.

Incidentally, the dude was an evil fighter in life, and was called Carl the Rotted, because his face was hit by a staff of withering. That’s a cool detail, and implies that the PCs’ acquaintance might have had justification for helping with the murder.

Keep. This gives a cool opportunity to help flesh out a peripheral NPC.

382: Shadow of Death

The PCs are high in the mountains, in a valley between two peaks, and see one roc circling overhead and another one nearing. They try to snatch beasts of burden, or failing that, humanoids. If the PCs defeat the rocs, they may be able to find their nest atop one of the peaks. There are two eggs amid an unspecified “smattering of gold.” “Also in the nest are several pick axes that belonged to dwarves to failed to destroy the roc’s young. If the party returns these to a nearby dwarven mining community, they will be rewarded 250 gp, providing they are willing to surrender the eggs.” Hmm... 250 gp, or two roc eggs? Tough call.

Fine, keep. The PCs can add these rocs to the baby griffin, owlbears, gnolls, goblin, and cambion that they’re already raising. Baby monsters all around, for all levels of adventurer!

The Deck of Sphinxes, Tag Sales, and Tanar’ri

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Among the infinite levels of the Abyss is one composed entirely of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 68: The Deck of Sphinxes, Tag Sales, and Tanar’ri

383: Choices

The PCs are strolling through the forest and run into a criosphinx. It demands that they pay 100 gp per person as a toll, OR correctly answer a riddle! Or all die. It makes it very clear that it would prefer the gold over the other options, and will even take other forms of payment. However, it will reluctantly let them challenge the riddle if they insist.

The riddle is: “I am the power of life, the source of all emotion, and yet I sit trapped in a cage of white. What am I?” They have three minutes to answer. Not that hard, even though the sphinx refuses to repeat it or give hints. It will look very disappointed if they answer “a heart,” but let them go on.
I like the how the sphinx clearly doesn’t like the riddle game, but keeps it up out of… a sense of obligation? A fundamental racial imperative? Keep.

P.S. The sphinx isn’t listed as having any treasure. I like to think that’s because he’s never actually successfully exacted a toll before.

384: Estate Sale

At the “modestly palatial” home of an adventurer who died recently, there’s an, uh, estate sale going on. There are even signs around town advertising it. Lots of adventurer-types there: only about a fourth of the folks there ”look like they work at a job for a living.” There are magical items on auction, proceeds going to charity. The DM is told pretty much to decide what’s on sale and what it goes for, but the prices should be very high since it’s magic items with no danger involved.

Although silly, this fits with a certain type of campaign world. My only qualm is that the DM would have to do prep work, or just improv a lot of things very quickly. It’s screaming out for some random tables about what strange things are on offer and what weird personalities are attending. Still, keep. Can always send it back if the DM's not up to the task when it's drawn.

385: The Hunter

“There’s a molydeus on the Prime Material Plane that is here chasing a renegade tanar’ri.” Straight and to the point. Not trying to hide its nature or purpose, it contacts the PCs, interrogates them, accuses them of withholding info, tries to polymorph one into a sheep to demonstrate its power, and finally attacks them all “to prevent its target from knowing of the hunter’s existence on the Prime Material Plane.”

What? ...Look, I know it’s Chaotic Evil, but I’m checking the Monstrous Manual and these things have “high to exceptional” intelligence. Is this one just insane, or what? Did it get fed false information? Have the PCs had contact with demons before that would make this insane suspicion justified?

Something like this could be cool as part of some ongoing plotline stemming from the PCs dealing with demons. As a random encounter, it’s just... random. And to top it off, as written, there’s no room for PC negotiation or cleverness. Pass.

386: Covenants

Deep in a dungeon, the PCs run into a [url=http://www.lomion.de/cmm/tanatbal.php]balor[url] in search of followers on the Material Plane. It’s ready to bargain - it’ll do them each a great service (“up to the power level of a full wish spell) in exchange for worship and future sacrifices. It warns them that “no” is not an option (indeed, it’ll even use suggestion to push reticent members), and that it’s going to be really cheesed if it has to drag itself back to the Prime to punish anyone who doesn’t hold up their end of the deal.

Definitely intriguing - this might produce some fun plot threads. Keep.

The Deck of Treants, Vampires, and Whales

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Treants resent the use of paper products such as

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 69: The Deck of Treants, Vampires, and Whales

387: A Peace of Wood

The PCs are in a small port city near a coastal forest, and are approached by townspeople with a job. A handful of woodmen who were sent out to gather lumber never returned. They’ll be offered 1000 gp to watch over the next group of woodmen as bodyguards.

The woodmen are annoyed at taking along “babysitters,” but they’ll change their tune when they reach the logging spot and are attached by 15 treants. The PCs can resolve this diplomatically by convincing the treants that the wood is being used for a good purpose (unlikely) and convincing the city to use much less wood to construct ships and crafts (also unlikely).

I like that this doesn’t have an obvious solution, not even murder. Keep.

388: Guano Caravan

First paragraph: “This is a rural area that has recently been plagued by many mages throwing fireballs. There is hardly a square acre that has not been singed or burnt. A rural farming town, it is also a favorite hang-out of fire wizards and others who attend mage-fairs, and practice for them here.”

Hahaha, what? This is already goofy as heck. There are county fairs with fireball sharpshooting competitions? How many 5th+ level wizards hang out in this area, anyway? Is this card going to be about dissuading a bunch of redneck wizards from fireballing tin cans off fences?

No, actually. Almost the opposite. The encounter is about a vampire named Willis V. who has “recently decided to settle down here.” (Why here? Also, Willis V.!?) But vampires aren’t fond of random fireballs exploding everywhere, so this vampire has “instituted sanctions against all bat guano” (which is, famously, a necessary material component of fireball). Willis uses his powers to keep the area clear of bats, and sets wolves upon caravans carrying it in for trade. Wizards who try to smuggle guano in personally have it stolen on a misty night, etc. “The PCs should be able to put the clues together fairly easily…the hard part is finding [the vampire’s] lair.”

Completely bonkers. But you know what? I’d shell out thirty bucks this very instant for a deck full of encounters like this one. Keep.

389: Master of the Night

The PCs find a dead body lying in the road, drained of blood. While they’re distracted checking that out, “some members” of the party have a 15% chance to notice a dark mist forming in the shadows and becoming man-shaped. The vampire will step out and and try to charm someone. “Afterwards, the vampire begins to attack, hoping to gain whatever advantage it can from its surprise entrance.” Just a thought, but it might have been more of a surprise if you hadn’t left a blood-drained body in the middle of the road?

Anyway, it starts combat by summoning bats, will flee in gaseous form if it can, yadda yadda. Just a monster attacking in a dumb way. Pass.

390: Turnabout

The PCs are falsely accused of a crime, and must place their faith in a spikey-haired lawyer who something something stepladders

Takes place out on the seas. The players run into a whaling ship chasing down a family of blue whales.

“If they wish, the party may stop the whalers and attempt to dissuade them from their occupation.” But that’s going to be tough because this is literally their job. Otherwise, two parent whales attack both the whalers and the PCs’ ship. They can fight the whales off, or communicate using magical or psionic means and try to negotiate.

It feels weird to have this whaling ship seriously threatened by its regular, mundane prey. I’d probably have a giant whale show up to protect its cousins (which would make negotiation a lot more pressing), but I’m also not sure why the PCs are involved. It’s kind of implied that they’re very close to this whaling ship. But on the open ocean, why would that be? Are they pirates? Are they chasing down this ship because they’re environmental activists? It’s awkward. Pass.

The Deck of Will O’Wisps, Worms, Wyverns, and Zombies

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

When your players’ characters reach high enough levels, there’s little left in the world to challenge them except for

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 70: The Deck of Will O’Wisps, Worms, Wyverns, and Zombies

391: The Darklights

Takes place in a swamp. Some will o’wisps (two or three, the card contradicts itself) imitate torchlights in the distance and try to lead the PCs into a murky bog. If that fails, they’ll try to attack them physically. If either of them gets down to 5 HP, they’ll surrender, offer to lead the PCs to treasure (a jade idol), and then try to drown them in the swamp again.

Yep, that sure is a will o’ wisp encounter - by the book, including the “offering to lead them to treasure thing.” Honestly, the only unusual thing is that they’re so willing to fight. Pass.

392: Bad Vibrations

A village near a castle by a dungeon (pretty much any old village in D&D-land) is plagued by earthquakes that threaten its livelihood. The PCs are offered everything they own (350 gp and a potion of speed) to find out why its happening and resolve the situation. Don’t bother praying, folks - the gods are useless. Aristotle was wrong; Player Characters are the true unmoved movers.

Well, okay, the local farms and ranches are riddled with huge holes, so that might be a clue that it’s a monster-type situation. If the PCs go down the tunnels and start poking around, the purple worm that’s the source of the problem will sense them and attack. The tunnels are, of course, lined with the occasional excretion of precious metals. And presumably they’ll connect back up to that aforementioned dungeon?

I guess it’s fine. Keep.

393: Wounded Wyvern

There are five healthy wyverns clustered around a wounded sixth in a forest clearing. Its wings are torn for some reason, and it can’t make it up again. The other wyverns will try to scare off anyone who approaches, and attack if the PCs are insistent. Contrary to the usual tropes, they show no gratitude to anyone who tries to help their wounded comrade, because they are dangerous wild animals who only want to kill and eat you. So that’s kind of nice as a change of pace, but it means there’s not really anything for the PCs to do here. I’ll pass.

394: The Lord of Carrion

The PCs are crossing over a battlefield. (The card can’t quite decide whether it’s “ancient,” or whether the bodies littering it are “recently-dead.”) Off in the distance, they see a zombie shambling towards them and, even father off, another figure standing and gesticulating. The latter is a zombie lord, raising zombies to fight them but then entering melee combat (because it seems zombie lords can only raise dead once per day). It’s clutching a dirty silver scepter worth 100 gp.

Pfft, if I’m having a random zombie lord encounter on a battlefield, you’d better believe he’ll be standing back and raising wave after wave of zombies, no matter what the Monstrous Manual says. Not that that’s going to be a problem for the PCs, since zombies are quite turnable and zombie lords aren’t super durable, but it’s a little more flavor. Also I’m putting the zombie lord in a broken-down chariot. The dead horses will twitch to life when melee combatants near.

Just a random monster attack, but fun flavor. Keep.

The Deck of Machines, Zones, and Press Gangs

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Not even a legend lore spell can determine the origins of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 71: The Deck of Machines, Zones, and Press Gangs

395: A Childish Manner

“This encounter may take place anywhere.” Literally anywhere? Yes, anywhere. See, the encounter is a fucking 20-foot tall, steel-grey machine made of gears and pipes mysteriously protruding from the ground. So that’s appropriate for underwater, a desert, a rural village, whatever. Anywhere.

It’s humming, and has an obvious switch underneath an enormous (10x10 foot!) nozzle, such that you’re clearly going to be hit by whatever’s coming out of the nozzle if you turn it on. Come on, card - they’re going to hit the switch with a ten-foot pole. That’s obvious.

Anyway, when activated, the nozzle emits a fine mist that makes people save or turn into children (half Strength, two-thirds Dexterity, trouble using adult-sized things, etc.). “The effect lasts for 1d6 days, after which it wears off suddenly. In that time, horrid things should happen to the PCs.” Horrid things. Just horrid.

Not opposed to the gonzo, but I’m not big on the execution. Pass.

396: The Old Switcheroo

There is, for no particular reason, a 10 by 10 foot zone that magically switches peoples’ minds. If one person passes through, they’re magically, invisibly, marked; when the next person passes through, they switch minds with the first person. Indefinitely, apparently.

“Since it is only consciousness that transfers, none of the physical attributes of the PCs change. Thus, the reflexes and training that a PC has received do not transfer to the new body, though the knowledge of how to use them does. A mage in a fighter’s body will not gain knowledge of the fighter’s specialization, though he would still possess the bonuses to hit and for damage.” So wait, they do get the benefits of weapon specialization bonus because of muscle memory, they just don’t know what weapon their body is actually specialized in? I would just take a look at what’s hanging by my side!

The card suggests having the previous entity that passed through be very far away now, or perhaps a beast. “This could lead to endless complications for the PCs.” The card author clearly wasn’t thinking like a player, because they seem to conceive of this as a temporary obstacle/inconvenience for the PCs, rather than an amazing resource that everyone will immediately scheme how to abuse. (How can I get an ancient dragon to walk through here? I guess we’ll have to polymorph it into something harmless and portable like a sloth, bring it here, throw it through, then dispel the polymorph once I’m in my new body.) Not sure I want this as a random encounter. Pass.

397: The Old Campsite

There is what appears to be a wooded glen, perfect for camping for the night, “deep behind rugged, craggy cliffs.” It’s actually hallucinatory terrain cast very recently by an 18th-level wizard; his party just wanted prettier scenery to look at while they were camping. There is in reality a 100-foot deep rift running through the center of the place (10d6 damage), ending in jagged rocks (5d6 damage). It does allow DEX-3 checks to avoid it even if people aren’t moving cautiously, though.

A bit of a “screw you” encounter, I feel. Surely the previous wizard would still have marked off the incredibly dangerous pit so the other party members wouldn’t fall in? I personally wouldn’t run this. Pass.

398: Press Gang

In a lower-class, dangerous part of town, the PC or PCs encounter a, uh, press gang. (The card says it’s especially good for “those PCs who insist on wandering off by themselves all the time.”) The press gang is here to capture “even the most hardened criminal types” and force them to work for the army. They find “a solitary person who looks vaguely unwholesome” (so sure, a PC), slowly surround them and drift in, and then jump on them with clubs and nets.

Fair enough. How many press gangers are there? 20? Dang. 20 6th-level fighters with 45 HP each? Dang! “Priests and wizards travel with this group, keeping hold person, sleep, and other immobilizing spells ready”? Daaaaaang! I mean, it is a “high” danger encounter, but geeze - if they have this kind of force available to impress loiterers into the army, how much do they even need those loiterers?

It’s an interesting concept to have the PCs be profiled and assaulted by corrupt government, but the scope of this would balloon rather quickly. If the PC escapes, I guarantee they’re going to take it personally and want to strike back against the government; if they’re captured, I’d need to improvise a whole escape/breakout scenario. Either way, I’d need a good reason why the government is drafting people quite this aggressively. None of which is bad, but I may or may not be up to actually using it. Keep, and during a game I’d just throw it back if I need to.

The Deck of Water, Weapons, and Wheel of Fortune

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

When a ranger reaches 9th level, they gain a random companion from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 72:The Deck of Water, Weapons, and Wheel of Fortune

399: Fallout

The PCs enter a town or part of a city where everyone is super colorful. Not just anime hair, but wild skin tones, and in some cases visible auras of color. Why? Because “their water has been contaminated by runoff from a wizard’s laboratory.”

It’s not just color changes, though. Drinking the water produces random effects, 1d4 hours after it’s consumed. Apparently, this happens every time you drink it. “Effects range from gaining actual magical abilities for 1d20 turns to simply changing colors for 1d6 hours. The DM is encouraged to be inventive” as long as it’s not too powerful or anything. Sometimes people change shape, but everyone knows it’ll wear off.

I’m charmed by the idea of the town embracing this magical runoff. I imagine they try to bring in tourism, bottle the water and export it, and so on. Their whole economy could hinge on the stuff. If the players come back through, the town could be very upset because the magical runoff has stopped, and want someone to go investigate the wizard’s lab and try to get the wizard to continue whatever he was doing, ideally without letting on that they’re profiting heavily off his work. Keep.

400: The Waters of Immortality

The PCs hear burbling water from behind a dungeon wall, and if they break through find a large natural cavern with a spring streaming off into another crack in the floor. There’s a little wooden sign dangling by a chain that says “Immortality.” The water radiates strong alteration magic.

If you drink it, you do become immortal - you can’t die from anything “though pain still remains real.” However, the exit appears to close up and become impenetrable to you. You can’t leave. “There is no way out of the room for the PCs short of a wish,” and if you do leave like that you become mortal again. “The water has no effect if taken from the area.”

Half cool, but I think there’s one more layer of complexity/punishment here than there needs to be. Requiring a wish too get out is harsh. Maybe make it so if you drink the water, you’re immortal as long as you stay right next to the spring? Or you fall into a deep, year-long sleep each time you drink it, during which time you’re immortal? I feel like it would be an amazing plot resource to have somewhere to take PCs or NPCs who you want to stay alive far into the future. I always did like the Lapseless Room in Zyuranger.

Keep. It needs some work, but I do find it inspiring.

401: Stubborn Weapon

When the PCs are about to enter a fight against “a creature that is far inferior to them” (like orcs, hi fantasy racism), one of their weapons turns out to be intelligent and speaks to them telepathically, saying it refuses to be used to “battle vermin.” It’s plusses will become negative until calmed, appeased, or dominated in that weird intelligent weapon personality conflict (which can’t be done during a fight).

Hmm. Not a big fan of intelligent weapons - like familiars, you can maybe have one around before the group forgets about them, and I’d prefer to save that mindspace for something with a better hook or more interesting personality. Maybe if the sword’s vitriol is directed against something more unusual, rather than punching down at kobolds or orcs? (“Halflings!? Cretinous little mockeries of men! I refuse to have their blood stain my blade!”) Even then, I probably wouldn’t use this as a random encounter. Pass.

402: The Sacrificial Test

The PCs are passing through a small town, where everyone is gathered in the town square, apparently frozen in fear. But they don’t try to wave the PCs away, either.

When the PCs enter the village, a swarm of strange fiends will descend upon the town. “There are obviously too many of them for the PCs to completely defeat.” (Don’t underestimate how optimistic players will be about their chances.) The muscular demon leader will offer them a chance to sacrifice one of their number in exchange for the lives of the villagers.

It’s a test for the PCs (“or anyone else who may pass through this region,” because in theory, the whole world doesn’t revolve around them). It’s sponsored by Upper Planar creatures to test mortals’ morality. “The PCs have three options: fight, flee, or surrender one of their number. If they fight or sacrifice, the beings reveal their true shapes and reward the PCs with a single wish.” So they only lose if they just up and run away?

I’d like to imagine that this is part of some Upper Planar reality-TV gameshow, and that when the ruse is dropped a pair of well-dressed eladrin hosts will appear to congratulate the characters (one in a suit, one in a Vanna White dress, both androgynous), ask them a few questions about how they were feeling during the test and what their plans are for the wish, etc. I’m entertained. Keep.

403: Sports Fans

There’s a stadium... maybe sports, maybe gladiatorial... in a city. “The stadium can easily hold 60,000 people, and the building is packed to capacity.” Woah! That’s almost half the population of Waterdeep (~130,000), to use the first famously urban fantasy RPG city that springs to mind. (How many people live in the City State of the Invincible Overlord?)

Anyway, there’s a riot. A horde of fans stampedes out of the coliseum, either out of anger or celebration. “Unfortunately for the PCs, they stand directly in the path of the oncoming horde. The crowd does 1d10 points of damage to the PCs every round for 2d20 rounds (Dex-6 check for half damage), until the mob passes.” Assuming they don’t come up with some strategy for protection, of course.

I don’t like it much as written. Not enough colorful detail, sort of contrived, too mechanics-focused. But I could spin it a different way, and emphasize that this is an opportunity for any kind of heists that the PCs had been contemplating, while the city is in chaos. I guess I’ll keep it.

The Deck of Avatars, Clones, and Dentists

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Deities rise and fall in power based on the capricious whims of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 73:The Deck of Avatars, Clones, and Dentists

404: Polling (Avatar Series)

It says this a high-level encounter, but really it doesn’t matter. The PCs are on a busy road, lots of people going to and fro, and they run into… basically a traffic jam, except everybody is lined up very peacefully and can’t explain why. It’s the avatar of a neutral god who is conducting a poll on who mortals worship, why, and how they express their devotion. “It is gathering information for its god to draw more adherents.”

It’s surprised the PCs weren’t affected by the “peacemaking” effect, but all that really means is that they’re able to cut in line. It’ll still poll them if they’re willing. And the card says they get 5,000 xp for answering questions, soooo.

This is dumb, but it’s the kind of dumb that follows logically from the cosmology of the game, just like how rulers in Mystara get experience points from collecting taxes. Also, I like the gods going out and doing stuff, even if it’s… polling. I’ll keep it.

405: Hear Our Prayers (Avatar Series)

So, it’s a large town or small city, and there are riots in the streets. Things are on fire. The avatar of an evil god has come to the city to answer the prayers of what must be some particularly devoted followers. They’ve asked for “powers of destruction,” and the avatar granted them, but only for one night. “There are at least 200 people running around the town, with spell effects [...] usable once per turn,” fourth-level max. Presumably they’re hunting down everyone who ever wronged them and taking violent revenge. Meanwhile, the avatar is floating around the center of town in a prismatic sphere, enjoying the spectacle.

Haha, now this is an awesome high-level random encounter. I imagine that somewhere, the last surviving member of a lower-level party who lost their “Enemy WIthin”-style campaign is still wandering around, wounded and insane. Probably in the sewers.

This would be super cool in a city the PCs have spent a lot of time in, so you can cause some property damage that has long-lasting effects, or so the PCs can try to protect places or NPCs they’re invested in. Keep.

406: Provincials (Avatar Series)

Another high-level city encounter. It’s a very well-walled city-state apparently; the walls even encompass the fields. As the PCs get near, the avatar of the city’s neutral patron god personally appears before them to explain that it’s the last city where they’re worshipped, it’s a theocracy, and they’ll not put up with any priests or paladins entering, or with anybody other visitors talking religion in the city. But it will still let them enter, for some reason. If I was the god, I’d be turning these high-level adventurers away entirely! These kinds of visitors bring nothing but chaos.

It’s a fine setup, but it’s only setup. I’m thinking, “okay… and then what?” There’s nothing described that would make a visit to this city interesting unless the PCs are actively trying to pick a fight. I would have to come up with all kinds of stuff to flesh out the scenario, which I don’t want to do if I’m just drawing random encounter cards. I think I’m passing on this one.

407: A Wizard and His Clone

There’s a simmering, destructive battle going on between a wizard and his clone in a posh area of the city. (He created the clone when in a feud with the assassins’ guild, and forgot to destroy it before it emerged after the issue was resolved.) They’re 15th level. The city would very much like someone to deal with the issue. Keep.

408: The Dentist

The PCs are nearing a typical hamlet with a little covered bridge over a ravine just outside of it. An angry crowd is gathered around the ravine, throwing rocks at an old man and driving him back into the ravine, where he will soon fall to his death.

The man is a dentist (which is definitely an occupation that exists in this vaguely middle-ages milieu), and he was working on the mayor of the town, but when he pulled a tooth, the mayor screamed and fainted. “Peasants rushed to the door and saw the dentist with bloody tools next to the old man and assumed the worst.” So it’s all a misunderstanding, the mayor can back up the story, and the dentist will give them 100 gp for saving his life.

Well, the PCs’ role in this is not super interesting. I’m tempted to keep, but make the dentist an Orin Scrivello expy. I don’t always make the best choices.

The Deck of Arcane, Bulettes, and Elementals

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Characters with a Wisdom of 19 or more are immune to

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 74: The Deck of Arcane, Bulettes, and Elementals
Is this... alphabetical monster encounters again?

409: First Contact

In a dimly-lit tavern (the true homeland of all adventurers), the PCs are approached by a cowled figure who only drinks water and starts asking them questions, ranging from ones about the local government to “what color should be on the backside of a healthy goat.” If the PCs are willing to play along, it’ll depart at the end of the evening, “but not before giving each party member a platinum piece sporting unknown markings.”

It’s an Arcane, btw. Good old Arcane. I love these guys. Keep.

410: The Ravaging

The PCs are easing on down the road when they run into an area that’s just wrecked. Trees are upturned, buildings are ruined, crops are ravaged. No corpses, weapons, or treasure, though.

The devastated area is 30 miles in diameter, but the PCs aren’t going to get very far in, because each round they explore, there’s a cumulative 5% chance that the bulette responsible for the destruction bursts from the ground and attacks.

“If the party defeats the landshark, they will discover that it had already been sighted in a nearby region, obviously planning on moving to new territory fairly soon.” Was it just shopping around for its new home, but waiting for its lease to expire on the old place, or what? That nearby community will throw them a party and give them each silver plagues worth 50 gp. I assume they read “I Saved a Town from a Bulette and All I Got Was This Lousy Plaque.”

Not great, but keep.

411: Mated for Death

The PCs are going through a ravine pass and hear snapping and chewing sounds from around the bend. It’s a pair of bulettes chowing down on a hill giant. They’ll attack the PCs and try to eat them too. Yaaay. And if you kill one, its mate will concentrate on killing whoever dealt the lethal blow. There’s a lump of gold next to the giant worth 150 gp, for some reason.

This isn’t great either. Just a pair of not-great bulette encounters. I guess this could lead in to allying with local hill giants against bulettes or other threats, though, so that’s something. Keep.

412: Moebius Loop

In an underground passageway, ideally near a spellcaster’s lair, the PCs run into a 100-foot “standard, featureless dungeon hallway.” There’s a door at the far end. You can walk halfway down it, but after that you make no progress. (Since this card has an AD&D compulsion to explain everything in terms of established rules as much as possible, it explains that it’s a unique version of a distance distortion spell.) You can’t even turn around and come back where you came, which makes sense as a trap but seems potentially brutal.

The spell is being powered by two earth elementals, so if they break the spell with dispel magic, they’ll be freed. They’ll just return to their home plane unless messed with, though.

If they’re not packing dispel magic, I have no idea how the PCs would get out of that. I’m sure they’d come up with something cool and I’d roll with it, though. Keep.

413: Fire Fight

The PCs are traveling the desert at night, and find a recent battle site. There are the smouldering remains of desert raiders and burning shrubbery surrounding a woman wearing robes. PCs with the spellcraft proficiency “will recognize the robes as characteristic of certain sects of mages.” Certain sects, huh? Want to tell me anything about those sects? No? Okay. I’m so glad I took spellcraft instead of tracking.

Speaking of which, if the bodies weren’t enough, the tracks make it clear that she was attacked by the raiders. One of the fires is actually a fire elemental that is still protecting her dead body, and will flare up if they try to investigate her. On one of her severed fingers is a ring of fire elemental command. Nice.

Keep. I’ll have that “certain sect” of fire elementalists try to retrieve their ring later.

The Deck of Elementals and Elves

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Although Drow are chaotic and backstabbing jerks, they all respect the authority of

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 75: The Deck of Elementals and Elves

414: Wind and Woe

The party is flying by an old castle on a mountainside (A+ high level encounter already), and is attacked by the guardian air elemental in the form of a whirlwind. The mage that bound it is long-gone, and the elemental is quite frustrated. The focus controlling it is a “glyph-inscribed quartz crystal” embedded into the largest parapet. If you cast a successful dispel magic and beat the 19th-level original caster, you will then control the air elemental! I’m not sure why that makes sense, but okay!

Keep if I have a ruined castle dungeon on-hand.

415: The Heat of Revenge
Not to be confused with 366: Cold Revenge. This is, in fact, the complete opposite.

“The wife of a powerful and evil mage was killed last week” in a large, riverside town, so he summoned a fire elemental to set the place ablaze, as you do. If the PCs defeat it, they’ll get famous and get 5,000 gp. Being near river gives some options for improvisation, obviously.

Hmm, okay. I might like to know why the wife was killed, since it would only take a sentence and might make her less of a (evil) woman in a (evil) refrigerator. But as a random encounter, this is certainly random, an encounter, and leads into other plot threads. So keep.

416: Dark Raiders
Ten drow are attacking a village for slaves at the dead of night, and will add the PCs to their shopping list when they wander in.

That’s the encounter; the majority of the card is describing the drow politics at play. The drow are here on behalf of a drow noble who’s struggling to gain support in opposition to a social rival. One way to flaunt status and power is to capture slaves from aboveground, because that’s ridiculously expensive and inefficient.

That backstory is most likely to come into play when the PCs interrogate a captive. But is it relevant? Does it matter in the slightest? No, I don’t expect the PCs will care. I’ll still keep because I appreciate showing other parts of the world moving independently of the PCs, and so I can throw the noble who loses onto the surface as an exile at a later date.

417: Underworld Spies

Drow have come to the surface to spy, disguised as priests. They’ve moved into the local temple and suggestioned the lead priest into claiming that they’re brethren who have taken oaths to remain silent and hooded.

The card suggests that the PCs might notice these hooded priests going out in the city at night and acting suspicious, but that’s all the hook we get. The Religion proficiency can reveal that oaths of silence and veiling faces are not a thing in this priesthood, and the lead priest can’t actually explain where they came from, so some drow might be getting stabbed if the PCs latch on to this.

Keep. If the PCs don’t follow up, I’ll just shrug and escalate the situation the next time they come back.

418: War Party

The PCs are in the underdark doing PC things when they are “caught in the opening sallies of a revived drow/kuo-toa war.” But all that means in practice here is that a band of kuo-toa scouts attack them (seeing a band of adventurers as a “sign of their eventual victory” for some reason), and try to capture them as sacrifices.

If the PCs stick around in the underdark after that, there will be lots more kuo-toa and drow scouts. “This encounter may serve as a jumping-off point for a campaign, as the PCs, and anyone else they can convince of the danger, try to keep the underground war from erupting onto the surface world.”

I like the idea that a war could randomly break out that has nothing to do with the PCs but which might impact their plans. Keep. However, I’d give them an opportunity to notice and/or evade the larger kuo-toa party, if they’re being at all careful.

The Deck of Liches and Witches

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

To maintain their immortality, liches must regularly consume

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 76: The Deck of Liches and Witches

419: Deadline

A sage, possibly an existing acquaintance of the PCs, enlists the PCs to carry a message to a reclusive wizard. If they accept, he’ll give them the message, a map, and a 10,000 gp emerald. He also appears to be packing for a long journey.

The message reads “Anakara: I’m running a little later than expected--about a year behind. Since I know your short temper, I have taken the liberty of fleeing. (signed) Firinis.” When the PCs reach the tower, Anakara the lich will let them in, and be very angry when he reads the message. Then, in front of the PCs, he’ll scry the sage with a crystal ball and strike him dead remotely with a bolt of lightning. Then he’ll let the PCs leave.

...okay? I can only assume the sage hoped the PCs would pick a fight with the lich and save him. Odd little scenario, but keep.

420: The Drunken Mage

The PCs are carousing out in the city when a drunken mage named Nyulak the Dark and Mysterious (level 18!) casts magic missile on a pigeon in the rafters, then staggers out of the bar. He’ll cause a lot of property damage if not stopped, but will be repentant in the morning.

So basically a high-level version of Drunken Centaur? Sure. Keep.

421: Trapped

“A stormy day drives the PCs toward the ruins of an old, crumbling fort.” Uh… let’s just assume the PCs are willing to play along here, even though that is probably not the case. A sudden storm with an ominous structure in the distance? Alarm bells all over.

Speaking of which, the door seals itself behind them when they enter, obviously. And a floating skull comes up to taunt them, saying it will be their doom when the sun rises, unsurprisingly. And there’s a guards and wards spell to disorient them as they try to move around, of course. The place is a lich’s home.

According to the card, “the whole point of this encounter is not to disturb the lich, which is sleeping off the effects of its latest magical experiment,” and to find a way out through, like the untrapped upper story windows. Okay, sleeping undead. Very logical. And the PCs definitely are not going to want to loot the place or get the jump on this sleeping master.

I appreciate the concept of a random lich lair with magical wards that the PCs need to evade as they explore, but to make this actually interesting would probably involve drawing out the plan of the keep, possible exits, etc., beforehand - otherwise it’s just me, the DM, sort of improv-ing until I decide to let the PCs escape. :| So as a random encounter on this card with no map, I’ll say pass.

422: To Grandmother’s House We Go

In a deep, dark forest, the PCs notice a rolled up scroll on the side of the road. It’s a simply-rendered map with no words, but clearly shows the path the PCs are on, and which small side-path to take. “Near where the PCs found the map, they also notice a scrap of red wool and a few drops of blood. All around them are the paw prints of an enormous wolf.”

The map leads to grandmother’s house. She will anxiously inquire about her granddaughter who never showed up.

This is more of a joke than an encounter. I kind of appreciate it, but what do you do after the punchline? I think I’ll pass.

P.S. Grandma is a level 4 wizard. Now you know.

423: Witch Hunt

The PCs wander into a rural community during an equinox or solstice. The townsfolk are busy shouting “Witch!” etc., and waving torches and preparing to burn a woman tied to a stake. She’s screaming and crying. If questioned, the townsfolk say that evil things have been happening, but have no concrete examples.

At this point, if not before, all of your players start heavily quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Most likely, they recite the entire witch scene verbatim. Your tolerance for this will determine whether this is a keep or a pass for you.

The Deck of Drunks and Jerks

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

After using it once, you must make a CON check or become addicted to

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 77: The Deck of Drunks and Jerks

424: Information Sink

The PCs need info about something and are directed to a hermit called Schlade. They live at least 50 miles away, somewhere somewhat inaccessible, and the directions are difficult. Probably they live in a cave in the mountains, a small house on stilts in an alligator-infested swamp, or something.

Information Sink posted:

When they arrive, Schlade greets them at his door with a scowl. He is a tall, red-haired man who wears leathers that smell as if they have not been cured, and he favors one leg. His hair is unkempt, his beard scraggly. He turns away from the door, leaving it open for the PCs to enter or not, as they choose. Unless there is a woman in the group with a Charisma of 17 or higher, Schlade will not willingly talk to the PCs. He is unafraid of death, and wears an amulet of proof against detection and location to keep the PCs from prying information from his head. This particular amulet also prevents psionics. If the PCs badger him for longer than six hours, he breaks down and tells them what they need to know, but not before.

So weird! It's a hard check: do you have a hot chick, yes or no? And if not, he has a super-charged magic item that’s trying to stop them from bypassing the situation any other way? (Though I’m not sure it does what the designer thinks it does - couldn’t they still just charm him or whatever?) Seems like the card designer really, really wanted the PCs to play out the Bulma/Turtle Hermit scene from early Dragonball. I’ll decline to enter this particular magical realm, and pass.

425: Trigger Finger

The PCs wander into a… “trigger zone.” “Rare in the extreme” (indeed, so rare they only appear on this card), the zone makes all magic items discharge their effects (over and over until they're out of charges), and all wizards spells to be cast automatically - all at the same time, and at the shortest range of all spells they have prepared. So if you have any non-ranged spells, everything’s going to go off at ground zero.

The items do start to glow and the wizards do feel this about to happen, so they have 10 seconds to react. The card says the best idea is to hit the wizard so all their spells are disrupted at once, but as a player, it wouldn't be at all obvious to me that that would work, After all, the spells are being cast explicitly without verbal, somatic, or material components. What is there to disrupt?

It is a cool concept. I might save it for a villain’s ultimate power, that the PCs gather evidence of and have a chance to prepare for. Just exploding the spellcasters on a whim because of a card is a waste of the idea. Pass.

426: A Moral Dilemma

One of the PCs’ henchmen have decided that they’re Robin Hood, and went and stole from a miserly grocer who refused to issue credit to a starving woman and their family. He disguised himself and only stole food, which he delivered to the woman’s house. The town guard is looking for the thief, and the henchman is turning to the PCs for advice, trusting their judgement about the situation.

Dude. Do we not pay you a decent wage? Why didn’t you just buy the poor woman’s groceries? Let’s say he was drunk and/or high.

The local punishment for armed robbery is getting flogged and losing a hand. “This could present interesting complications for good characters, especially those of lawful good alignment.” I… guess so? We can keep this, if one of the PCs henchmen is the "really dumb vigilante" sort.

427: The Danger of Drink

Late night, after the bars have closed, outside the tavern the PCs have been visiting. A group of surly drunks have decided to pick a fight the next people who leave the tavern, that being the PCs. They try to push the biggest PC around or hit on attractive women. They’re not really a threat.

All that is fair enough, though then we’ve got some manipulative DM pushiness. “If the PCs start to lose the fight, the town watch shows up. However, the DM is encouraged to fudge a few die rolls” to represent the men’s inebriation. Uh… how about “if a full fight breaks out, the town watch shows up in 6 rounds?” You know, whether the PCs are winning or losing? That leaves the possibility open for the PCs to slaughter the drunks and get in trouble for it. And how about “the drunks suffer a -4 to attack rolls and saving throws because they’re wasted” instead of “I dunno, fudge it.”

All that aside, it’s a reasonable random thing to happen, and could lead to some fun character beats, so I’ll keep it.

428: The Plant

While in a crowded area in a city, a thief on the lam tries to plant a glowing magical gem on one of the PCs. (Apparently all it does is glow, btw. No price listed.)

“The thief, a human male, has a 60% of successfully performing the plant; the DM should multiply the PC's level by 3, subtract this number from 100, and compare the number rolled on d100 to the result. If the number rolled is higher, the PC notices the plant and can attempt to grab the thief by making a Dexterity check at -8.” That’s right - you’re playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons now, motherfuckers.

The guards will be by shortly, but even if the PCs get nabbed, a detect lie will eventually exonerate them. Oh, what drama. I’ll just skip the rigamarole and pass. The card would be more interesting if it gave a plot hook about where the gem came from, who it's important to, etc.

The Deck of Nostalgia and Fudging

posted by Dallbun Original SA post

Each time they cast a spell, “Alienist” wizards from Spells & Magic have a chance of incurring a random insanity, such as the desire to spend countless hours poring through and reviewing every single card from

The Deck of Encounters Set One Part 78: The Deck of Nostalgia and Fudging

429: Daddy!

In a busy market in the city, a halfling thief who stole some fruit out of hunger is running from guards. Her name is Jasmine. She flings herself at the PCs, calls them Daddy or Mommy, and tries to bluff her way out. If the PCs turn her in, she’ll lose a hand and hold a grudge. However, if they play along, the guards will demand 5 gp and go, and “Jasmine can then become a useful ally.”

So as it happens, this, of all cards, is the first one that I’m 100% sure that I used back in my terrible childhood AD&D 2E campaign that I ran for my brother and his friends. I know because Jasmine ended being the party’s NPC thief (none of the players were running one). Hey, she’s 5th level according to the card. Pretty good for a fruit thief.

I find it distasteful to suggest that grown-ass halflings are indistinguishable from human children, but out of nostalgia I have to keep this one. I’ll say that the guards are just playing along themselves, angling for a bribe.

430: Fool’s Luck

As they’re leaving a city, Nylie, the “local fool” comes along and begs to join them. He tells them he’ll do any challenge they ask, and if they’re slow to suggest something, he’ll suggest running to the corner “a fair distance off” and back within 15 seconds. A series of improbable coincidences will allow him to do just that. He’s got some super high-school level ultimate luck powers going on. If the PCs take him along, it suggests using him to provide humor, or “get the PCs out of sticky situations.”

OH MY GOD I used this card as a kid too. One of the PCs was a bard with the “jester” kit from The Complete Bard’s Handbook (surprisingly powerful, thanks to their +1/+5% bonus to everything except attack rolls), and he took Nylie on as an apprentice.

Now I’m a little less thrilled with it. Nylie, and the abuse of his luck, would quickly wear out their welcome, and the joke would get old very, very quickly. I’m just going to pass, but maybe other people would have better directions to take this.

431: The Keys to the City

In a city that the PCs have saved from some kind of danger, the heroes are awarded with a parade, and golden, rune-engraved keys, along with the position of “Protectors of Our City, with all the attendant privileges and responsibilities pertaining there unto.” If they accept the keys, they’re cursed, prevented from going farther than 10 miles outside the city.

Uh. That’s all the keys do? They don’t prevent the champions from, say, going on a murder spree and burning down the city in a vengeful rage, starting with the asshole mayor who just awarded them the position? Because that seems like a bit of an oversight in the enchantment.

Anyway, if the PCs have spent much time in this city, it’s awkward to say that the townsfolk know about this protector-binding ceremony but that the PCs have definitely never heard of it. It’s also awkward to use as a random encounter, since it requires such specific setup. Interesting idea, but I’ll pass on keeping it in my deck.

432: Handy NPCs

This card is kind of like #72: Town Watch and #80: Local Taboos! Which I hated. This one basically says “hey, when the PCs are in a jam, you can have a helpful NPC turn up to help them out of it! Maybe they can become PC contacts later!” YES UNDERSTOOD THANK YOU, THIS IS A DECK OF ENCOUNTERS NOT A GMING ADVICE BOOK.

But I give this card a bit of credit, because it has a clearer purpose. It “will allow you to pull a card, seemingly at random. that will save intelligent PCs who made but a single mistake.” It’s the Deck of Encounters equivalent of fudging die rolls behind the DM Screen in the PCs’ favor, except extra transparent, because why am I drawing a random encounter when the PCs are (to use one example from the card) “underground, drowning slowly in a locked room?”

So it’s still bad and useless in my book. Needless to say, pass.

433: ...........

Hey, wait, there’s no card here. #432… was the last one?

I… kinda thought the deck would go on forever.

That’s it, then. Retrospective/wrap up to follow.


posted by Dallbun Original SA post

I am completely out of quips that lead into

The Deck of Encounters Set One: Retrospective

(AKA: tl;dr)


The encounters in this deck started at card #13, so there were a total of 429 of them. I couldn’t find two of them, so there were a total of 427 reviewed. I did a quick count of how I judged them. I’d say there’s about a 5% margin of error because I was just CTRL+F ing in my word document, and there were multiple cases where I passed or kept a pair of cards together, which I didn’t necessarily count accurately. There were also a few cards where I changed my mind after posting, and edited my decision later. Still, I hope these numbers are more or less representative.

Approximately 149 Keep, 9 Jury, 269 Pass

Now, my standards were wildly varied and inconsistent, but I’d give this deck a ballpark 35% to 40% rate of producing cards that I would willingly place in my customized encounter deck. Could be a lot worse, really!


Why did I pass on so many cards? Most often, for these reasons:

- Terminally boring (mostly monster attacks, but also, for instance, 305: In the Path of Battle and 365: Body-Snatching)

- Didn’t make sense (96: Buried Treasure, 100: The Marching Band, 292-293: Tainted Water)

- Adversarial bullshit (95: The Repulsive Ring, 112: Birds of a Feather, 165: Feeding Frenzy)

- Too much DM prep work (81: The Talking Tree, 106: Mistaken Identity, Version 2, 243: Icy Desert)

- Can’t even call it an encounter (72: Town Watch, 80: Local Taboos, 91: A Light in the Darkness)

- Just offensive (151: The Stoning, 221: Sadieville, a series of “wimmen can’t be trusted” trap encounters)

Other common downfalls were “extensive backstory that never becomes relevant,” “requires railroading/a highly specific setup to be used,” “no interesting choices for the players to make,” and “sets troublesome precedents for the campaign,” though I didn’t always let those stop me if the card was otherwise interesting.


The cards I enjoyed tended to have these elements:

- Memorable or charming NPCs (Herbie the Bouncer Mimic from 225: Sticky Seat, the naga from 234: Ancient Wisdom who thinks your adventuring stories are tame unless you start Baron Munchausen-ing them)

- Multiple ways for the PCs to tackle the situation, or not (126: The Haunted Tree with the house built around the treant, 239: Tiger by the Tail with the drunk evil wizard & the nightmare)

- Potential for follow-up if desired (170: Deadly Greed with the miser ghost, 399: Fallout with the town abusing magical run-off)

- Inspiring imagery (332: Explosion with the pieces of a wizard’s tower mutating the swamp, 348: Meteor Shower with demons falling from the heavens on a meteor)

- Things happening in the world that don’t involve the PCs (the kobold coming-of-age ceremony from 26: Rite of Passage, the completed cultist plot of 405: Hear Our Prayers)

- Fun (pretty much all of the cards listed above)

Combat encounters aren’t my favorite, but when a card did revolve entirely around combat, I liked it when there was an interesting environment for it to take place in.


Favorite Encounter: 388: Guano Caravan. So much gameable craziness in one small card.

Worst Encounter: 53: Buzzed. Throw infinite numbers of giant wasps at your PCs until they learn a lesson.

Best Short Story: 228: The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson.

Monty Haul Award: 367: The Sentinel. Here, have 10,000 gp, 15,000 EXP, and a staff of the magi. Now you promise you’re going to set me up on a date with your sister, right? Runner-up: 31: The Trees of the Forest. Fight a bugbear, get a +2 sword.

Best NPC to come out of a Mediocre Encounter: 28: The Prince or the Pauper’s Thidouris Starmantle, elven F7/W8 warrior prince with no legs. In my imagination, the character points he got for missing limbs went towards making him even more of a badass. Runner-up: 343: Orga the Barbarian, the Ultimate Fighter.

Legion of Doom Award: Jointly to Benjath Yoansen, Fliegen, Fargone, and Springheel. Together they will defeat the Justice League.


- The Tracking Non-weapon Proficiency was checked more than all other NWPs combined.

- The authors stuck very closely to DMG magic items for treasure, to the product’s detriment. The best treasures here are the yuan-ti revisionist history books from 328: The Dark Secret and, as the thread pointed out, the invisible plank of wood from 95: The Repulsive Ring.

- The card authors never created a new monster and very rarely twisted existing ones, which is a shame because I liked the rocket-punch skeleton from 83: A Bone in the Throat.

- Among the cards mentioning gender, men came up at least twice as often as women, probably closer to three times as much; and a significant proportion of the cards with females involved female-only monsters (harpies, hags, nymphs, medusae, etc.). I started to pull together those data, but it was too tedious and I stopped.

- Graveyards are death traps.

- Never trust a woman in the wilderness unless she’s obviously non-human to begin with, like a dryad.

- Don’t trust dryads, either.

Thanks for coming along on this lengthy ride. It was always fun to see which encounters tickled the thread’s fancy. Sounds like we'll be seeing some more of the Deck of Encounters 2, and I look forward to being on the reading side. Until then, keep on encountering things randomly!

The Deck of Missed Connections

posted by JackMann Original SA post

When casting Commune, there is a 10% chance that instead of contacting their deity, the cleric will instead contact

The Deck of Encounters Set One Errata: The Deck of Missed Connections

Dallbun posted:

304: Boarish Behavior

I can’t… find it in the deck. Probably there would have been a wereboar? Does anyone else have the deck and the copious amounts of free time needed to comb through it? Failing that, just give me your best wereboar encounter.

Edit: Bieeardo tried to find it in their copy of the deck and couldn't either, so maybe it accidentally wasn't printed?

Dallbun posted:

310: In the Clutches

Can’t find this one either.

I just received a copy of Deck of Encounters, and guess which cards I was able to find...

304: Boarish Behavior

This takes place just off the road in a light forest, while the PCs are either searching for a campsite or riding for a nearby inn. They hear someone calling for help off the path. If they investigate (and they will, let's be honest here) they find two teenaged boys in a tree surrounded by three boars and a boar-man (all four are wereboars). The tree won't hold for long.

The wereboars will immediately turn to the party if their attack, and will run as soon as two of them are killed. If the players talk, they find out the boys tried to spear one of the wereboars, so they're trying to spear the boys. They don't want to leave without the boys (or a fight) unless the party can make it clear they're a lot tougher than they are.

If the PCs beat the wereboars, the boys will be grateful, and it turns out their parents own the local inn. The party can stay there for free. If the party kills the wereboars, the'll find a couple of potions.

Not a bad encounter. It gives the wereboars some motivation for fighting with the party and vice versa, and at least suggests a non-violent resolution. I'd say keep.

310: In the Clutches

This is a desert encounter. The party is resting at an oasis presumably in the small shed helpfully provided. Not a huge fan of "the party does X" as a set-up, but it's at least a little more reasonable than some of the other set-ups in the deck. While resting, they hear clicking from either side of the shelter as two groups of three thri-kreen approach.

If the players try to leave, the thri-kreen tell them in rough common that they own the oasis--including the PC's gear and any elves in the party. Then the leader of the other group says that it's actually their oasis, gear, and elves. It's possible to play them against each other, getting them to fight each other before the party cleans up the survivors. Otherwise, it's a fight against all six thri-kreen.

Playing them against each other is a nice option, but it otherwise feels a bit thin. Jury?