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Saintheart
2019-01-23, 01:07 AM
Autoresolving Random Encounters in D&D 3.5/Pathfinder


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Overwhelming: Challenge Rating of 1-5 levels above party ECL

Introduction:
Random Encounters in 3.5: after the first adventure that a GM runs, they show up a maximum of once on the way to the dungeon and once on the way back. The chief problem with them in FtF is that they are generally perceived as not adding a lot to the game. They're random, ergo they're not related to the story, and therefore are often seen as just an annoying gadfly of an encounter on the way to the next plot marker. It's even worse when you take up random encounters in play-by-post or play-by-forum, where combat can drag on for weeks if it's particularly complicated; and indeed because I GM in PbF, the subject is a dear one to me.

While there are many different approaches to handling random encounters - from ignoring them entirely to retooling them into "downloadable content" - this module allows GMs to offer players an alternative: autoresolving a random encounter that the party comes across.


The Solution:
This module gives GMs an autoresolve function for random encounters for exploration or travel in 3.5 or Pathfinder -- an optional mechanic that the players can go with if they don't want to play out a random encounter.

In strategy videogames like Total War or similar, this function should be familiar: the enemy has shown up, here are your rough odds of success, click this button if you'd rather not command this battle personally, and out comes the result ... which in most courses is as you expected, but in some instances causes you instead to swear very loudly at the cheating computer.

This course leaves the DM being able to roll up random encounters thus contributing to the party's progress in levels and wealth by level, and holding more verisimilitude for wilderness travel or exploration, but the players don't have to run through the encounters if they don't want to. It hopefully eases the pressure on the DM somewhat, and allows the players to "grind" an area if they really wish to.


The Procedure:

If a party comes up against a random combat encounter (and it's one they want to fight), they can ask for the option to autoresolve it.

The DM then tells the players whether the EL of the encounter is lower than party level, at party level, 1-4 higher than party level, or 5+ above party level, but nothing else.

The players may then choose to autoresolve if they wish, or play the encounter out as normal.

If the players then vote to autoresolve, each player commits a resource. Each player nominates a resource held by the PC to be consumed:

- Two memorised spells or spell slots (of the DM’s choice)
- One consumable item, e.g. potion or scroll
- Two charges of a charged item (e.g. Wand, Rod, or Staff)
- Two uses of a nominated spell-like ability with limited daily uses
- Two uses of a nominated ability with limited daily uses (e.g. Rage, Bardic Music)
- Two uses of a nominated item with daily usages
- One quarter of their maximum hitpoints (regardless of what their current hitpoint total is).
- 2 points of ability damage to a stat of the DM’s choice

(Ammunition in general cannot be used as a resource to sacrifice; it is trivial or impractical to calculate. However, the DM may opt to permit use of ammunition as a resource to be consumed where the quantity held is small and/or of significant expense to the player. In these cases the maximum amount to be committed should be no more than one quarter of the total ammunition held by the PC.)

If none of these items are available, the player may choose to give up a permanent item they hold – a weapon, shield, set of armour, or magic item. These items are deemed destroyed during the combat.

These sacrificed resources represent the resources that a random encounter is meant to consume; they need not have been exhausted in combat, they can be deemed to have been broken or smashed or burned up or torn or ripped in the fighting.

The encounter is then resolved according to a percentage roll as follows:

If EL is lower than party level:
- 00-89:Good outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive, resource consumption normal.
- 90-99: Bad outcome! Enemy is defeated, but a PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption normal.

If EL is at party level (or an “Easy if handled properly” encounter):
- 00-49: Good outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive, resource consumption normal.
- 50-59: Okay outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive, resource consumption doubled.
- 60-69: No outcome! Enemy is undefeated and all PCs survive; resource consumption doubled.
- 70-79: Annoying outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive; resource consumption tripled.
- 80-89: Bad outcome! Enemy is defeated, but a PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption normal
- 90-94: Terrible outcome! Enemy is undefeated, and a PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption doubled.
- 95-99: Horrible outcome! Enemy is defeated, but a PC at random dies. Resource consumption doubled.

If EL is 1-4 higher than party level:
- 00-14: Good outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive and enemy is defeated; resource consumption normal
- 15-44: Taxing outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive; resource consumption doubled
- 45-74: Bad outcome! Enemy is defeated and a PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption doubled
- 75-99: Terrible outcome! Enemy is undefeated and a PC at random dies; resource consumption tripled

If EL is 5+ higher than party level:
- 00-04: Great outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive; resource consumption normal
- 05-39: Bad outcome! Enemy is defeated and a PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption doubled
- 40-69: Expensive outcome! Enemy is defeated and a PC dies; resource consumption doubled
- 70-94: Dreadful outcome! Enemy is undefeated and entire party bar 1 PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption doubled.
- 95-99: Total Party Kill! Entire party dies and enemy is undefeated; resource consumption doubled.

Definitions:
“Incapacitated” = deemed to be at -5 hitpoints and stabilised, having been dragged out of the action by one of his comrades or similar.
“Resource consumption normal” = the sacrifice of resources specified at the start of the encounter is unaffected.
“Resource consumption doubled” = the sacrifice of resources specified at the start of the encounter is multiplied by 2 for all players, e.g. 4 spell slots instead of 2, 4 ability points of damage instead of 2.
“Resource consumption tripled” = the sacrifice of resources specified at the start of the encounter is multiplied by 3 for all players, e.g. 6 spell slots instead of 2, 6 ability points of damage instead of 2.
“Enemy is defeated” = Full XP and applicable treasure for the encounter is awarded, the enemy is dead or fled.
“Enemy is undefeated” = No XP or applicable treasure for the encounter. The enemy is either still where the PCs first encountered it, or fled (at the DM’s discretion). The enemy is deemed to still have all its hitpoints and use of all abilities intact.

If a PC is deemed dead or incapacitated on these results, the DM chooses the PC at random. If the party is deemed to have been defeated on these outcomes, they typically reassemble a short distance from where the encounter took place (representing them fleeing.) These results are not intended to conform precisely with objective reality; they are an abstract representation of how things turned out, bearing in mind the primary focus of a random encounter is to consume some of the party's resources.

Death or Incapacitation Results:
If a PC is deemed dead or incapacitated on these results, they may freely accept that outcome. Adventuring is a dangerous business.

However, should they wish to defy the Random Number God, they may do so as follows:

If a PC is incapacitated on these results, it is optional for the player to reverse fate’s judgment by increasing their resource consumption by a multiple of one. For example, if the results dictated that the party spends normal resource consumption, the PC may reverse incapacitation by sacrificing double the resources they pledged to sacrifice – 4 spell slots rather than the 2 they pledged, 2 ammunition rather than 1, and so on. The player’s hitpoints remain what they were prior to the encounter.

If a PC is dead on these results, again fate’s judgment can be reversed by the PC increasing their resource consumption by a multiple of two: e.g. from normal to triple resource consumption, or from double to four times. So for example, 6 spell slots in place of 2; or 8 spell slots in place of 4.

If, as a result of increase in multiplier, a player doesn’t have enough resources in the category they picked to pay the full price, then the original resource consumption applies – applied to a number of consumable resource categories equal to the total of the multiples.

For example: Jozan has been killed in an encounter where the resource consumption is doubled. His original resource commitment was 2 spell slots. He elects to reverse fate’s judgment, which means he must spend 8 spell slots instead (Doubled resource consumption plus a multiplier of two). Lacking 8 spell slots to sacrifice, he instead pays 2 spell slots, 2 Turn Undead uses, half his maximum hitpoint total, and 2 points of WIS damage.

If the player cannot pay for the resource consumption by these means, he may instead sacrifice a permanent item he carries – a weapon, shield, set of armour, or magic item.

In the case of a Total Party Kill, there are special rules. If the entire party wishes to truly defy the fates at once, the entire party must spend all of its consumable spell slots, all daily-use item charges, all daily (Su), (Sp), and (Ex) abilities, and one quarter of all charges in all charged items. All PCs’ hitpoint totals are set to one quarter of their maximum hitpoint count and the party is left a short distance from the encounter that caused the TPK. This approach does not rule out the alternative, i.e. one player electing to reverse the death result on expenditure of resources and then moving to resurrect or raise the remainder of the party.

I realise there are various approaches that different GMs have used to try and ameliorate the problem of random encounters. At one end, and simplest, is to simply not have any random encounters at all. Just do the equivalent of a pretty cutscene and teleport the party to its next location. Which is entirely valid.

For me though, and I suspect maybe other GMs, this is just ... unsubtle. Unpretty. Doesn't promote verisimilitude; you can trudge through the spooky mountains to Sour Ron's fortress, and for all the fearsome reputation of the place and its surrounds, you don't run into one guard or threat on the way. One does not simply walk into Mordor ... well, with no random encounters, at least partially you can do precisely that. On top of that -- in my view -- it rests a hand on the scales of system balance because random encounters are baked into the assumptions 3.5 uses when designing adventures, particularly when attempting to assign difficulty levels to the "real" encounters of an adventure. The DMG assumes a given number of encounters for levels, and those encounters include random encounters. The much-maligned 15 minute adventuring day effect is magnified when you don't have random encounters with which to introduce an element of uncertainty to the players' strategy of resting and going back at Sour Ron again the next morning with full resources.

At the other end, and a system I do like a lot better, is in essence to reduce the variety of random encounters, tailor them so they form a sort of sidequest, give the players a clear indication that the longer they pussyfoot around in the wilds the bigger the chance a random encounter is going to trigger, and then have your fun as a DM in seeing when they show up. This is basically the Angry GM's philosophy, and it does have a lot to recommend itself. In essence, the reasoning is that the main thing a random encounter does is introduce suspense for the players: they don't know when one is going to show up or what's going to be in it, so there's no real need to use the 8-or-9-random-creatures tables. Just make four or five that are tangentially related to the plot in some way. Your suspense as a GM is best found in not knowing when or which of the random encounters you've put together is going to show up, and that likewise doesn't need 8 or 9 separate creatures. Like I said, it's a really nice way to do it.

The problem is that neither of these approaches works out exactly right in PbF games where the dominant focus is exploration or sandboxing.

In Kingmaker, hanging around in the wilderness mapping it out is a pretty decent component of the game, something that will take you literally months of in-game time to survey areas properly. In these cases it's tricky or getting a bit cheesy to have random encounters that are all in some way tied to the overall plot, or deprives the game of its focus ... and in particular, it blows out a PbF game to literally years of time without really getting anywhere. This is particularly so if you include a bunch of encounters per the DMG's dictum of about 10-30% of encounters that are easy (and therefore cakewalks). Conversely, removing all random encounters doesn't work either, because there is then no element of uncertainty or danger in the exploration, no tradeoff for just putzing around the backblocks; exploration becomes a straight transaction of in-universe time (which is essentially limitless, even on Kingmaker's explicit instructions) in exchange for modest XP and identifying minor adventure sites.

(Bonus points: I like the sound and look of The One Ring's travel system, which basically assigns lasting benefits or hindrances depending on how the trip to the adventure area went, making the journey a mini-adventure in itself and very Tolkienesque as a result, but that's beyond the scope of this homebrew.)

The Assumptions and Presumptions:
To figure out what an autoresolution mechanic should look like, I asked myself a few questions and came up with the following hypotheses:

What is the intent of a random encounter in 3.5?
- It drains party resources. I'd call this the primary intent: it's meant to keep the party from bringing their full A-Game against the planned encounters.
- It permits a decent chance of death or incapacitation if the encounter is challenging enough. This is partly the random element, evidenced by the fact a percentage of encounters a party 'should' run into on DMG standards is "Overwhelming" or "Very Difficult"; the DMG itself says in very difficult encounters there should be a decent chance a character will die. Random encounters form part of the total of encounters in an adventure.
- It provides encounters (XP haul) and treasure. As said, whether it's random or not, an encounter is an encounter. Some GMs don't award XP for random encounters, but to remove all benefits for fighting a random encounter isn't going to encourage people to participate in them. And we want a certain level of participation.
- It provides suspense for party in that they don’t know when it will happen. This is preserved because we're not touching whether the encounter occurs or not, just whether the party wants to actively fight it or not.
- Ideally, it provides agency for the party in that if they keep hanging around in Sour Ron's neighbourhood, the odds of the encounter grow higher.

What does autoresolving do?
- Saves time for both players and DMs. This is important for PbF or PbP in my view.
- Would allow party to judge whether the fight is a worthwhile one. If you have an idea whether the fight is going to be a TPK, then you won't autoresolve, you'll command personally and try and survive it. If you can see the fight is a curbstomper (for the monsters), then you'll be more likely to not fight it or trust your unpossessed PCs to do their jobs.
- Locks off interesting pieces of information. This is the cost of autoresolving: autoresolve doesn't deny you plot-crucial pieces of intelligence, but it might cost you the opportunity of exploring "additional content" which makes things a bit more interesting and which the random encounter might have unlocked.

What should autoresolving cost to the party?
- Should still drain party resources. That's the entire point of a random encounter, it forces the party to use resources up so they don't come in at full power into the "plot critical" encounters. It shouldn't drain the party's entire resources, but should cost them something to fight it.
- Should still impose chance of critical injury or death. This is a possibility in all encounters, especially those where the encounters are at a high EL.
- Should cost time on your journey, if the outcome is bad. This is one of the drawbacks to autoresolving: you can choose not to fight the battle, but if it comes out badly for you, it should hinder you in terms of not getting you closer to your destination.
- Should cost a percentage of XP and treasure out of what would otherwise be granted. I'm undecided on this, because it disincentives parties to autoresolve, which is sort of not the point.

What is a party resource?
To my mind, a party resource is anything that is not renewable, or has a delay on being renewable. Thus:
- Ammunition
- Daily spell slots (more valuable in early day encounters than late)
- Consumable Items (Scrolls, Potions, etc.)
- Uses of per-day special abilities (eg Barbarian Rage, Bardic Music)
- Hitpoints (say one quarter total hitpoints if we assume 4 encounters per day), which then must be healed out of combat.

I'm open to other suggestions as well.

The last assumption we have to work with is 3.5's balance of encounters in an adventure. Reason being is that the frequency and EL levels give us some indicators for what outcomes we expect from autoresolved encounters under each heading.

10% Easy (EL lower than party level)
20% Easy if handled properly (EL is at party level but the enemy has a fatal flaw, e.g. dispel invisibility and the enemy is weak otherwise. If not handled properly, encounter is Challenging or Very Difficult.)
50% Challenging (EL equals that of party level)
15% Very Difficult (EL 1-4 higher than party level)
5% Overpowering (EL 5+ higher than party level)

It seems relatively logical, then, given the descriptions in the DM guide, that the odds of getting killed in easy encounters ought to be pretty low to zero. I tried matching the odds of living or dying by the frequency different categories of encounter show up: if 5% of encounters are overpowering, the odds of death or bad outcomes should be very high, and so on.

rferries
2019-01-23, 04:49 AM
Looks like a fairly attractive alternative, and reminds me of Neverwinter Nights: Storm of Zehir and the overland map.

Another alternative might be allowing PCs a Survival check to avoid random encounters while travelling - they can choose to avoid encounters (conserving resources but losing out on XP and treasure), entirely at their own option.

noob
2019-01-23, 02:35 PM
Those lethalities on the random encounter auto resolution is higher than the actual lethality we have with our core only party against the encounter we face(which includes stuff like 4 titans at once or 8 full casters at once).
Thus it is really bad because then the players will never want the automatic resolution because they know that they have a better chance of winning(winning can be just teleporting away from the monster) without the automatic resolution and the penalties are quite harsh.

JeenLeen
2019-01-23, 02:55 PM
I like it. I also see in it a potential for something usually not allowed in tabletop RPGs but common in video games: grinding.

A team could decide, effectively, to spend time training by hunting monsters in a dangerous location. In addition to gaining xp and treasure, this could have a bigger consequence on the environment as the common monsters are depopulated. Maybe you are hailed as heroes for clearing the fields to the south of town? Maybe you are hated since, after you got rid of the kobolds and dire animals, orcs moved in?
Anyway, a way to enable something usually not allowed, with a potential for interesting consequences.

And if you don't want grinding, seeing it as a bad thing (as I reckon many would), time constraints on the main quest are reasonable. Or it could be a balance. Maybe the PCs know there is a time constraint, but not the full extent. Is it wiser to spend half a week training in hopes that gaining that extra level turns the tide of the boss fight, or should they not risk the Evil Rite being completed first?

---

On criticism notes: not sure if the percentages and all are great, but they seem pretty okay. It does seem to favor casters in that a caster could give up a spell slot, while martials are limited to HP or consumables. Maybe, for martials, give a chance that less than 25% of the HP are lost? They have more HP, and they are supposed to be taking damage, so it seems sensible that they probably lose less. Or maybe it is okay, and just expected that's what they generally give up.

Unavenger
2019-01-23, 04:19 PM
I know I'd be upset if I were killed by a random encounter with no chance even to attempt any strategy. "Oops I rolled a 1 on the percentile dice, so one of you got killed by a random bear, better roll up a new character" makes for an even less compelling story than actually having to fight the goddamn bear.

Also, the main take-away from this is that random encounters suck so why bother with them at all? At most, narrate the players travelling through the area and staving off things that get in their way.

noob
2019-01-23, 04:53 PM
You have 13.75% chance of having at least one adventurer who die when doing a random encounter that way.
I said at least but in fact you also have among those cases 1.5% chance of TPK(so basically on average every 100 random encounters the campaign ends) and assuming a party of 4 you have 0.05% chance of tpk per getting the gm to roll a whole lot of dice on the table for hard challenges.

Let us imagine that the adventurers are level 1 and that they face 13 random encounters they have no way to resurrect any of them(even through they gain levels during that at the end they will still be too low level to get resurrections) they have on average more than 2.34 deads(some of them were coming from tpks).

In all the adventures I saw where we usually faced a lot of hard encounters there was less mortality than with your system.

Saintheart
2019-01-23, 09:26 PM
Looks like a fairly attractive alternative, and reminds me of Neverwinter Nights: Storm of Zehir and the overland map.

Another alternative might be allowing PCs a Survival check to avoid random encounters while travelling - they can choose to avoid encounters (conserving resources but losing out on XP and treasure), entirely at their own option.

And the Survival check is some figure of DC 10 + 2 x CR of the encounter, perhaps. Pathfinder Ultimate Campaign allows something similar when you've hired explorers to go out and chart a territory: when they encounter something horrible, they roll at the explorers' Stealth vs. DC 10 + 2xCR to see if they avoid the encounter, and then another roll if they fail that to see if they're all killed.

The drawback of that system is that it still forces the party into random encounters against their will after a fashion if they fail the check, though I suppose you could still start the encounter so the party has a choice to withdraw or not before the combat actually begins.


I like it. I also see in it a potential for something usually not allowed in tabletop RPGs but common in video games: grinding.

A team could decide, effectively, to spend time training by hunting monsters in a dangerous location. In addition to gaining xp and treasure, this could have a bigger consequence on the environment as the common monsters are depopulated. Maybe you are hailed as heroes for clearing the fields to the south of town? Maybe you are hated since, after you got rid of the kobolds and dire animals, orcs moved in?
Anyway, a way to enable something usually not allowed, with a potential for interesting consequences.

And if you don't want grinding, seeing it as a bad thing (as I reckon many would), time constraints on the main quest are reasonable. Or it could be a balance. Maybe the PCs know there is a time constraint, but not the full extent. Is it wiser to spend half a week training in hopes that gaining that extra level turns the tide of the boss fight, or should they not risk the Evil Rite being completed first?

---

On criticism notes: not sure if the percentages and all are great, but they seem pretty okay. It does seem to favor casters in that a caster could give up a spell slot, while martials are limited to HP or consumables. Maybe, for martials, give a chance that less than 25% of the HP are lost? They have more HP, and they are supposed to be taking damage, so it seems sensible that they probably lose less. Or maybe it is okay, and just expected that's what they generally give up.

(1) I'd say taking out big or dangerous threats in an area could and should have some effect on the game world. Where the encounter tables 'force' me to throw a fairly high EL opponent at the party I tend to play it as the "apex predator" for the area they're travelling through, i.e. if they kill it, the area becomes safe or maybe invites smaller, less dangerous opponents in as part of the evolution.

(2) Time constraints are certainly a factor to be used, or at least a factor in deciding whether or not you fight an opponent. They're the most potent way to slowing down or negating the 15 minute adventuring day: if you take it as one fight per day, that's all well and good, but the sands in the hourglass are running out while you sit back in camp rememorising your spells. That's one reason I included the dictum that if unsuccessful, you're done for the day: because it makes the travelling time last longer, it impacts on any time-based constraints the party is under.

(3) The problem of spellcasters being less affected than martials in these choices did occur to me, and I am toying with the idea of maybe raising that to 2 spells lost. On the other hand, hitpoint loss (hoepfully) will have indirect effects on the rest of the party, because you'll have to use resources (maybe of other characters) to heal those hitpoints back up. Will think about what you've said.


I know I'd be upset if I were killed by a random encounter with no chance even to attempt any strategy. "Oops I rolled a 1 on the percentile dice, so one of you got killed by a random bear, better roll up a new character" makes for an even less compelling story than actually having to fight the goddamn bear.

Also, the main take-away from this is that random encounters suck so why bother with them at all? At most, narrate the players travelling through the area and staving off things that get in their way.

I should re-emphasise that autoresolve is not automatic; the DM only moves to autoresolve if the party votes to do so and once he knows what they're going to sacrifice in terms of resources. If the party wants to, it can fight the random encounter as normal.

As to "why not remove the random encounters entirely" -- as I said, it's a completely valid way to do it. I'm not arguing that it's wrong or a non-solution to the issue.

My personal bee in the bonnet is that it strikes me as a ... kludgy ... way of taping over the negatives of random encounters. I can narrate the players travelling through the area, fighting off things that get in their way, but as a GM I can't take a single hitpoint off them as they do so, don't have to consume a single resource. I can narrate their horrible swamp diseases they contracted from leeches, but I can't force any of them to a Fort save to tell whether or not they're going to suffer some CON damage which has to be restored out of their resources. It's like they waded through a fifty-mile swamp without a single dirt stain on them, at least in game mechanic terms. (That of course assumes one wants the game mechanics to heavily match what's happening to the characters, which is a debatable point.)

I would also argue that random encounters, being encounters, are part of the game's mechanics for levelling up, part of the game's mechanics for assuming what the party's capabilities are when they get to the "planned" encounters. I think it's arguable the game assumes that when you hit the front gates of Sour Ron's fortress and the first quest encounter kicks off, you won't actually be at the capacity you were when you first set out for the fortress: your resources will have been whittled down or at least slightly impacted by the ugly things that jumped out at you on your way there. Leaving random encounters out is viable, because it's not a critical assumption and can be planned around by making the guards at Sour Ron's gates EL 9 instead of EL 8 or something similar, but again, as a matter of personal preference I prefer the players whittled down a little - because it makes them a little less certain of victory. As said, the 15 Minute Adventuring Day exists in part because random encounters are not used, habitually, or at least omitting random encounters makes it even worse.

One alternative, I guess, could be to offer the players a few different routes to get to their destination and specify different sacrifices of resources they'd have to make to go by one route rather than another, with different advantages and drawbacks applying: go this way, and it's faster, but you burn 20% of party resources getting there; go this way, and it's slower, but you'll only burn 5% of party resources via this route.


You have 13.75% chance of having at least one adventurer who die when doing a random encounter that way.
I said at least but in fact you also have among those cases 1.5% chance of TPK(so basically on average every 100 random encounters the campaign ends) and assuming a party of 4 you have 0.05% chance of tpk per getting the gm to roll a whole lot of dice on the table for hard challenges.

Let us imagine that the adventurers are level 1 and that they face 13 random encounters they have no way to resurrect any of them(even through they gain levels during that at the end they will still be too low level to get resurrections) they have on average more than 2.34 deads(some of them were coming from tpks).

In all the adventures I saw where we usually faced a lot of hard encounters there was less mortality than with your system.

I am thinking of adding a bit more granularity in the results - for example, you first roll an "Oh dear, bad outcome" result on the percentile dice and then roll for what the outcome was: in a majority of cases within that, half the party's hitpoints are knocked off or similar, but in a distinct minority of cases there's a party death. Suggestions along those lines would be most welcome. I don't think one should remove the possibility of death in an encounter which is at level, but maybe the chance of its occurrence could stand to be lowered.

zlefin
2019-01-23, 10:22 PM
an interesting system; the death rate is too high as others have noted.

maybe instead of death, some lost gear might be suitable? (of course people REALLY hate when their gear is lost/destroyed)

losing a quarter of hp sometimes doesn't really matter, depending on the amount of party healing available to maxhp ratios.



hmmm, I don't see any good alternate systems that would accomplish all your stated goals. (there are some for instance that would work, but put a bit too much burden on the dm; and I assume you've already tried the methods to speed up combat in PbP so they don't take more than 2 weeks.)


One interesting addition to your system would be letting the party choose an "intensity" for the autoresolve that reflects how seriously they take the fight, how much they use spells/consumables etc. With using more of those providing better odds ofc.
might also be good to add a category of "enemy defeated, but more resources had to be used than planned", so they can still keep going but they're rather drained.
thinking about it now, the notion of a player being incapacited and the party having to stop for the day seems a bit odd; if the party has healing they should be able to heal the player up and move on, regardless of how many resources were used up.

rferries
2019-01-24, 02:36 AM
Or maybe even a clause along the lines of "whenever a PC would be slain by an autoresolved encounter, instead play out that encounter from the beginning without using the autoresolve system (it is assumed those particular foes are too clever or powerful to be dealt with as a matter of routine)". A bit too "safe" perhaps, but probably the lesser evil.

noob
2019-01-24, 06:16 AM
or maybe change a bit the tables to have an average chance of party member death reduced to a more reasonable number like something between 5 and 10% chance of party member death per encounter(still higher than what we would get if the cr were spread as in this table instead of being overwhelming encounter after overwhelming encounter)

Or the party could pick a global tactic like "going nova at all fights" or "flee as soon as possible" that modifies the results: going nova at all fights would increase resource consumption drastically but would reduce odds of losing party members while flee as soon as possible would remove the looting part and would reduce the chance of death too.

JeenLeen
2019-01-29, 11:06 AM
Or maybe even a clause along the lines of "whenever a PC would be slain by an autoresolved encounter, instead play out that encounter from the beginning without using the autoresolve system (it is assumed those particular foes are too clever or powerful to be dealt with as a matter of routine)". A bit too "safe" perhaps, but probably the lesser evil.


or maybe change a bit the tables to have an average chance of party member death reduced to a more reasonable number like something between 5 and 10% chance of party member death per encounter(still higher than what we would get if the cr were spread as in this table instead of being overwhelming encounter after overwhelming encounter)

Or the party could pick a global tactic like "going nova at all fights" or "flee as soon as possible" that modifies the results: going nova at all fights would increase resource consumption drastically but would reduce odds of losing party members while flee as soon as possible would remove the looting part and would reduce the chance of death too.

To sorta combine these ideas: if a auto-resolve would result in a death, you can accept the death OR decide the party went nova in order to prevent it (and maybe a third OR: the entire party is nearly dead and out of spells/auto-refreshing abilities and needs to rest extensively before continuing, due to going nova but not, like, using potions and stuff that doesn't auto-regen).

I think the "if you'd die, you fight it out" makes this system too safe since it effectively removes the risk, making the roll really to determine "do you fight it out or auto-win". Yes, there's more nuance than that, but as a player, that's how I'd really feel it.

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For the third OR: I remember a 5e game I was in where we fought 2 giant spiders. Part of some module. It was supposed to be an easy fight, but they webbed the entire team pretty quickly. Our team was almost slain and we used up all of our spells and daily abilities. Basically, we lost an entire day in the game from what was supposed to be a side battle to get a tiny bit of gold and gear. (On a humorous note, instead of returning in shame to our base, we instead hid in the bushes for the rest of the day and, upon returning back to camp, said we had been scouting the entire day plus one really tough fight.)

Saintheart
2019-02-15, 01:40 AM
New version!

Right, having looked at all of that, I've reworked the core of the mechanic a bit:



If a party comes up against a random combat encounter (and it's one they want to fight), they can ask for an option to autoresolve.

The DM then tells the players whether the EL of the encounter is lower than party level, at party level, 1-4 higher than party level, or 5+ above party level, but nothing else.

The players may then choose to autoresolve if they wish or play the encounter out as normal.

If the players then vote to autoresolve, each player commits a resource. Each player nominates a resource held by the PC to be consumed:

- Two memorised spells or spell slots (of the DM’s choice)
- One consumable item, e.g. potion or scroll
- Two charges of a charged item (e.g. Wand, Rod, or Staff)
- Two uses of a nominated spell-like ability with limited daily uses
- Two uses of a nominated ability with limited daily uses (e.g. Rage, Bardic Music)
- Two uses of a nominated item with daily usages
- One quarter of their maximum hitpoints (regardless of what their current hitpoint total is).
- 2 points of ability damage to a stat of the DM’s choice

Ammunition in general cannot be used as a resource to sacrifice; it is trivial or impractical to calculate. However, the DM may opt to permit use of ammunition as a resource to be consumed where the quantity held is small and/or of significant expense to the player. In these cases the maximum amount to be committed should be no more than one quarter of the total ammunition held by the PC.

If none of these items are available, the player may choose to give up a permanent item they hold – a weapon, shield, set of armour, or magic item. These items are deemed destroyed during the combat.

These commitments represent the resources that a random encounter is meant to consume; they need not have been exhausted in combat, they can be deemed to have been broken or smashed or burned up or torn or ripped in the fighting.

The encounter is then resolved according to a percentage roll as follows:

If EL is lower than party level:
- 00-89:Good outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive, resource consumption normal.
- 90-99: Bad outcome! Enemy is defeated, but a PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption normal.

If EL is at party level (or an “Easy if handled properly” encounter):
- 00-49: Good outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive, resource consumption normal.
- 50-59: Okay outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive, resource consumption doubled.
- 60-69: No outcome! Enemy is undefeated and all PCs survive; resource consumption doubled.
- 70-79: Annoying outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive; resource consumption tripled.
- 80-89: Bad outcome! Enemy is defeated, but a PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption normal
- 90-94: Terrible outcome! Enemy is undefeated, and a PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption doubled.
- 95-99: Horrible outcome! Enemy is defeated, but a PC at random dies. Resource consumption doubled.

If EL is 1-4 higher than party level:
- 00-14: Good outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive and enemy is defeated; resource consumption normal
- 15-44: Taxing outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive; resource consumption doubled
- 45-74: Bad outcome! Enemy is defeated and a PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption doubled
- 75-99: Terrible outcome! Enemy is undefeated and a PC at random dies; resource consumption tripled

If EL is 5+ higher than party level:
- 00-04: Great outcome! Enemy is defeated and all PCs survive; resource consumption normal
- 05-39: Bad outcome! Enemy is defeated and a PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption doubled
- 40-69: Expensive outcome! Enemy is defeated and a PC dies; resource consumption doubled
- 70-94: Dreadful outcome! Enemy is undefeated and entire party bar 1 PC at random is incapacitated; resource consumption doubled.
- 95-99: Total Party Kill! Entire party dies and enemy is undefeated; resource consumption doubled.

“Incapacitated” = deemed to be at -5 hitpoints and stabilised, having been dragged out of the action by one of his comrades or similar.
“Resource consumption normal” = the sacrifice of resources at the start of the encounter is unaffected.
“Resource consumption doubled” = the sacrifice of resources at the start of the encounter is multiplied by 2 for all players, e.g. 4 spell slots instead of 2, 4 ability points of damage instead of 2.
“Resource consumption tripled” = the sacrifice of resources at the start of the encounter is multiplied by 3 for all players, e.g. 6 spell slots instead of 2, 6 ability points of damage instead of 2.
“Enemy is defeated” = Full XP and applicable treasure for the encounter is awarded, the enemy is dead or fled.
“Enemy is undefeated” = No XP or applicable treasure for the encounter. The enemy is either still where the PCs first encountered it, or fled (at the DM’s discretion). The enemy is deemed to still have all its hitpoints and use of all abilities.

If a PC is deemed dead or incapacitated on these results, the DM chooses the PC at random. If the party is deemed to have lost on these outcomes, they typically reassemble a short distance from where the encounter took place (representing them fleeing.) These results are unaffected by party makeup as such, they're an abstract representation of how things turned out.

Death or Incapacitation Results:
If a PC is deemed dead or incapacitated on these results, they may freely accept that outcome. Adventuring is a dangerous business.

However, should they wish to defy the Random Number God, they may do so as follows:

If a PC is incapacitated on these results, it is optional for the player to reverse fate’s judgment by increasing their resource consumption by a multiple of one. For example, if the results dictated that the party spends normal resource consumption, the PC may reverse incapacitation by sacrificing double the resources they pledged to sacrifice – 4 spell slots rather than the 2 they pledged, 2 ammunition rather than 1, and so on. The player’s hitpoints remain what they were prior to the encounter.

If a PC is dead on these results, again fate’s judgment can be reversed by the PC increasing their resource consumption by a multiple of two: e.g. from normal to triple resource consumption, or from double to four times. So for example, 6 spell slots in place of 2; or 8 spell slots in place of 4.

If, as a result of doubling or tripling these results, a player doesn’t have enough resources to sacrifice, then the original resource consumption applies – applied to a number of consumable resource categories equal to the total of the multiples.

For example: Jozan has been killed in an encounter where the resource consumption is doubled. His original resource commitment was 2 spell slots. He elects to reverse fate’s judgment, which means he must spend 8 spell slots instead (Doubled resource consumption plus a multiplier of two). Lacking 8 spell slots to sacrifice, he instead pays 2 spell slots, 2 Turn Undead uses, half his maximum hitpoint total, and 2 points of WIS damage.

If the player cannot pay for the resource consumption by these means, he may instead sacrifice a permanent item he carries – a weapon, shield, set of armour, or magic item.

In the case of a Total Party Kill, there are special rules. If the entire party wishes to truly defy the fates, the entire party must spend all of its consumable spell slots, all daily-use item charges, all daily (Su), (Sp), and (Ex) abilities, and one quarter of all charges in all charged items. All PCs’ hitpoint totals are set to one quarter of their maximum hitpoint count and the party is left a short distance from the encounter that caused the TPK.




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Maybe the most significant change to this is to wipe out the requirement that the rest of the day's travel is blown out. That's something for the players to decide when they assess their resources after the random encounter is resolved. Instead, we have doubling or tripling of consumed resources in some cases, and we now have a mechanic to avoid death or incapacitation if the player is willing to throw more of their resources away as a result.

What do you think, gang?

noob
2019-02-15, 06:33 AM
In the case of a Total Party Kill, there are special rules. If the entire party wishes to truly defy the fates, the entire party must spend all of its consumable spell slots, all daily-use item charges, all daily (Su), (Sp), and (Ex) abilities, and one quarter of all charges in all charged items. All PCs’ hitpoint totals are set to one quarter of their maximum hitpoint count and the party is left a short distance from the encounter that caused the TPK.

Does not fit any table: against a level of the party +5 encounter the encounter can not last long enough for the party to spend all those resources either because the party steamroll or escape the monster when using consumables(ex: scroll of gate for killing the monster or scroll of teleport for fleeing) or because they have nothing that can tip the scales and the monster kills them fast.
On the other hand 90% chance of having a player be incapacitated against lower ecl enemies makes a bit of sense: at some tables a cat can create so much team infighting that one of the level 20 characters gets incapacitated.

Saintheart
2019-02-15, 11:43 AM
Does not fit any table: against a level of the party +5 encounter the encounter can not last long enough for the party to spend all those resources either because the party steamroll or escape the monster when using consumables(ex: scroll of gate for killing the monster or scroll of teleport for fleeing) or because they have nothing that can tip the scales and the monster kills them fast.
On the other hand 90% chance of having a player be incapacitated against lower ecl enemies makes a bit of sense: at some tables a cat can create so much team infighting that one of the level 20 characters gets incapacitated.

Whoooops! Those percentages are reversed on that first one, don't know how that went that way. Will fix that in the preceding; will talk about the other point a little later...

EDIT: As to total party kills - I think it's a mistake to see these as mapping to fully objective reality. Given our assumption that random encounters' first purpose is to be a drain on the party's resources, make the "set" encounters harder as a result, these results are meant to be something of an abstraction, since the primary focus is to drain the party's resources in some measurable way.

A Total Party Kill is something that happens very occasionally, but coming back from it should be a major imposition on the party's resources; it is essentially reversing a rare but major risk, so to do so should be expensive on the party's resources. They can rail about the fact all their slots and use-per-day items are blown out, but when the alternative is outright death and failure of the campaign -- in 5% of 5% of 'by the book' encounters assuming the party autoresolves every random encounter is comes across -- I don't think it's so bad to assume that they're placed in the position of being on the brink of death and having to look to their second or third-order options to survive until sunrise the next morning. Happy to be convinced otherwise; or I could make it a bit clearer than the resource consumptions are more abstractions than mapping to reality as such.

Bear in mind that there is a way around the TPK: have a single character spend the extra resources to reverse their death and then allow them to bring the party back from death, i.e. get the cleric to blow more of his resources and then cast Raise Dead or whatnot. The TPK special rule is available if the party as a whole wants to come back very fast. If they do, they each spend a decent amount of their resources and they're weak as kittens and will likely have to seek shelter to recover.

Saintheart
2019-02-19, 12:55 AM
Updated the front post to include the revised rules; this is okay to go and use if people want to. (Happy to receive feedback on it at any time!)

kinglinus1
2019-02-26, 03:03 PM
Looks like a fairly attractive alternative, and reminds me of Neverwinter Nights: Storm of Zehir and the overland map.

Another alternative might be allowing PCs a Survival check to avoid random encounters while travelling - they can choose to avoid encounters (conserving resources but losing out on XP and treasure), entirely at their own option.

Thats how the OG Fallout games did it, I think, with Outdoorsman replacing survival.