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The Overloaded Overloaded Encounter Die

You know the Overloaded Encounter Die. Here’s my take. At a glance: the players roll a die for each turn and leave it lying on the table. The first time they roll any number, it’s usually a trace, a hint, a threat. Only when they get a match do you get the actual thing.

Here’s the template:

1Rare Creature TraceRare Creature TraceRare Creature Encounter
2Uncommon Creature TraceUncommon Creature Encounter
3Common Creature Encounter
4Resource WarningResource Consumption
5Environment WarningEnvironment change
Overloaded Overloaded Encounter Die Table

And here’s an example, for the Grey Coast:

1Massive footsteps, flat and clawedHalf a corpse, bitten in twoA moss-covered rock shakes of a year-long sleep and reveals itself to be the hide of a giant carnivore turtle
2A lone Porcupine Hyena watches from a nearby rock, then runsA pack of hungry Porcupine Hyena steps out of the shadows, growling, encircling
3Translucent, grub-like Water Pigs grazing in the dunes
4The searing heat keeps the sweat pouring. Water skins getting lighterConsume your penultimate water rationConsume your last bit of water
5The tide turnsThe tide comes rushing in
The Grey Coast Encounter Table

So say they‘re wandering around the Grey Coast, and the GM calls for a roll, one player rolls and gets a 2. The GM narrates how one ugly spiked dog, brown and white and way too many teeth, laughs at them from above, and then runs. They follow up but find only its footprints, and realise they’ve seen these prints before – but not just from one animal, from a whole pack … Ok, the party does some more things, eventually it’s time for another roll, they get a 4 – the hot midday sun has them reaching for their water skins more than they were planning for. Another roll, it’s a 6, they got lucky. Another roll, a 2. So right now on the table there’s 2 2 4, no 6, as it means nothing you don’t leave it there, but there’s a match on the 2. The spiked hound is back and it brought all its asshole friends! You can do your reaction roll now, maybe initiative, if that’s your thing, but there’s definitely a pack of porcupine hyenas in the scene now.

What’s the point of this?

First things first, this mechanic is entirely untested so maybe it’s terrible. I plan on dropping it in my current campaign and see how it goes, let’s see!

One thing that’s a bit odd about the overloaded encounter die/OED is you can roll so that your torches go out on the first turn. As Necropraxis themselves writes:

One might object: does this not lead to absurd results such as torches going out on the first turn or PCs needing to rest on the second turn? Well, yes, but you are an intelligent human, so ignore results that do not make sense. A result should be interpreted as not “X happens,” but rather as a prompt. A result can be deferred, but only so many times. The weight will naturally build up in the back of your mind as events proceed. As a guideline, ignore results above 3 for the first 6 or so turns.

And if you add a Trace option, you avoid that kind of thing. Note that you immediately need to give traces for things that can happen on a single roll, e.g., the common creature. This general idea is a bit similar to one of the precursors of the OED, but I think simpler. 

I really like the symbolism of leaving the dice on the table. The piling on of dice should give a very obvious indication of things getting more serious over time. An obvious downside is you might need a bunch of d6 just for this purpose, but I think you have these. It’s less neat if you’re playing online, but it should be manageable still. Oh, and they can remove dice too – in the example above, if they find a source of water, then you can remove a 4 from the table. Maybe if they hide their scent somehow, they could get rid of a rolled 2 as the Porcupine Hyenas can’t track them anymore.

And it’s players rolling these dice. In fact I suggest making the table template part of the player facing rules – I’m adding them to the player-facing part of Diegetic World. They should know that if they roll three 1s in a row, a Rare Creature is going to show up. One benefit in this I see is that I think it feels like it’s the player’s own fate that is the source of their good or bad luck. It’s not the GM’s luck or choice, it’s them, much like the other dice they’re rolling. It’s transparent, it’s readable, it’s fair. The source of adversity is not the GM, it’s the world or fate. You brought the porcupine attack upon yourself!

Of course if you as a GM like to roll your dice in secret, that’s fine too.

I thought about somehow squeezing the reaction roll into this too – maybe have them roll 2D6 – but I couldn’t think of a good way. Maybe you can. The way I plan on handling this in Diegetic World is, if the mood isn’t obvious, they’ll make a Charisma roll and if they roll well, things go better than what a typical encounter with a pack of Porcupine Hyenas would look like, if they roll badly it goes worse. As the other roll in Diegetic World is a D20, the players will roll D6 for their fate and D20 for their own efforts – neat!

One more thing this does is it puts a lot of stuff in the Encounter Table that’s not directly affecting the players. Instead the encounter table has a bit more passive location description. Maybe a table like this by itself makes for a pretty decent hex key even.

Or maybe it’s a terrible idea. We’ll see when I’ve tried it for a few sessions.


2 responses to “The Overloaded Overloaded Encounter Die”

  1. This is a great way to build tension into the story. It also gives the players some, imperfect, ability to strategise solving the challenges before they become unavoidable. Well designed.

    Liked by 1 person

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