I’ve seen these all over the internet (and in a game or two if I’m not mistaken). The idea is that a random encounter on a 1-in-6 is basically not worth rolling. If I’m going to roll the dice, something BETTER happen.
“Every four hours in the wilderness or one hour in the dungeon, roll on this table.” That’s how I’ve seen most of these tables go. Which is okay. I’m not a huge “strict records of time” kind of person.
I’m drafting up a GM’s guide for Red Ink Adventures (updated recently) that should be one or two pages and will include a Hazard Roll table. The current iteration goes like this:
When PCs rest, waste time, or otherwise attract attention to themselves in a dangerous area, make a Hazard Roll (d6):
- Danger. One or more threatening enemies descend upon the party.
- Encounter. Someone or something finds the party. Determine their disposition.
- Clue. The party hears, smells, sees, or finds evidence of a nearby encounter.
- Expiration. Ongoing effects end. Torches run out, lanterns need fuel, bellies rumble.
- Environment. The surrounding’s state shifts or escalates in some way.
- Discovery. The party finds something interesting or possibly beneficial.
You still have your 1-in-6 “a bad thing happens, so don’t spend too much time in the dungeon, kiddos” danger entry.
The encounter is a situation that demands that you use the reaction roll table, which is great. Usually I as the GM can guess at something’s disposition to the party, so an explicit call to make a reaction roll is a neat change of pace.
Clue gives the GM a chance to lay the breadcrumbs of what is to come. It also gives players a chance to plan or choose if they want to engage that encounter.
Expiration is a nice reminder that the world is real without being overbearing. Spells end and people get hungry. You don’t want to break for lunch or use the toilet every hour in the dungeon, but “time to time” adds flavor. Also, players will then become hyper-aware of just how few dungeons have a restroom.
Environment is a chance to change the scenery or the weather or advance the dungeon’s “ticking clock.” This entry gives you the excuse to foreshadow the dungeon’s inevitable collapse or the eruption of the volcano the players are currently exploring.
Finally, discovery gives players a break. Other hazard tables I’ve seen just have a big ‘ole “nothing” entry, which is frustratingly lame. This gives the GM is a chance to give hints about the area or neat items or small treasure.
However, the frustrating thing about “discovery” is that it doesn’t fall under the category of “hazard.” Frankly “encounter” and “environment” really don’t either. I’m starting to think that “hazard” isn’t that great of a name for this. Maybe the “time passes roll” or “tension roll” or something. Whatever.
A lot of these entries on this table are just things that GMs already do. Our adventures are loaded with dangers, encounters, discoveries, and the like. This table just codifies them into practical rules and reminders to occur when PCs rest, when time passes, or the PCs attract attention to themselves.
Each hazard roll should reveal a new trouble, change the player’s tactics, or give them something to react to or leverage.