Sunday, February 19, 2017

Greyhawk: Arid Encounters

Today I'm brainstorming a different subject for my rambling development of the Dry Steppes and an associated megadungeon. I was looking at the regional encounter charts in the Glossography book of the World of Greyhawk setting boxed set and noticed the steppes are woefully boring.

Most entries for nations or geographical areas will have a list of typical races or creatures you'd already expect to find randomly, then the chart will end with half the results being "Use Standard Encounter Tables". This is fine because half the time you will see common things like men, dwarves and orcs. Only rarely do you bump into manticores or owlbears and stuff. The Wastelands section is no different except most of these areas have at least one distinctive entry.

For example, the Bright Desert:

01-15 Men, Dervishes
16-40 Men, Nomads
41-45 Men, Tribesmen
46-50 Pernicons
51-00 Use Standard Encounter Table

This is typical for these encounter charts; you will see lots of humans and occasionally a special critter, in this case the Pernicon, which is a very nasty giant grasshopper from Fiend Folio that latches onto you and drains fluids in the form of constitution points. Oh, by the way in their lair you can encounter 300-3000 of them! Not to digress, the other wastelands have critters too.

The Land of Black Ice has literally only one encounter before standard ones, the infamous Blue Bugbear. Not as scary as a pernicon but it's unique. Riftcanyon is also heavy of Men and Humanoids but it at least has a 3% chance for Ogres. The Sea of Dust is the best and most diverse. There is no "standard chart" for this desert. As a result you get more than just roving men. You get boring beetles, scorpions, snakes and spiders. It also has some of the nastiest Fiend Folio creatures like Osquips, Firenewts, Thoqqua, Jermlaine, Dune Stalkers and also yes, Pernicons.

The Dry Steppes entry however, has only one special creature on its list: Horses. Well that's wonderfully bland, unless your characters train animals. Now I realize the steppes aren't as dangerous and inhospitable as the Sea of Dust, but by trying to make a more fully realized wilderness encounter chart, I want to add a bit of color to make the Dry Steppes more distinctive than "where wild horses come from."

Drawing ideas from neighboring charts is a bit of help, but we are talking mountains at this point. Ull and the Plains of the Paynims is all nomads, the Crystalmists yields plenty of Giants or their kin, which we learn from Against the Giants, Greyhawk Wars and Liberation of Geoff, are more interested in bashing the fertile east. The south bordering Sulhaut Mountains are intriguing though. Demihumans (Dwarves? Gnomes? What?), Drow (night only), more Giants and Humanoids and the curious Pleistocine subchart. Talk about dangerous, you have to go through all that to get into the Sea of Dust! Most mountain critters aren't going to venture out on the steppes though, except as we've seen, Giants.

What if, the realms of the Sheldomar Valley rally and repelled all the giants so their only option is to raid westward? Plenty of horses to eat! Or perhaps something more sinister is afoot like the Drow are manipulating monster incursions into the nomad's territory. Or maybe all this list needs is a special monster from the Fiend Folio that hasn't been used already. Let's about Clubneks? Giant, mutated, killer ostriches? Check mark!

I could go on forever, so that's enough for now. Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

wolfsire said...

Per FF, Clubnek's are not so much killers as herbivores, and being green, are going to stand out except in meadows. Something defensive to stumble upon. Perhaps there should also be a more aggressive terror bird too that eats all those horses.