Friday, May 22, 2020

Never do I ever... Roll for Random Encounters at Night

There you have it. Page 47 of the Dungeon Master's Guide, Encounters. My copy is stained with the blood of a thousand characters. But hardly any of the blood came from a nighttime encounter. And certainly not a random nighttime encounter.

Back in the day... and when I say "day", I mean from time immemorial to present day... people hunker down at night. Night is not fun unless you are up to something that can only happen at night. Typically, to have a good time at night, you need a plan, not "random". A dinner party, a star watching party, New Year's Eve and so on. Many people would be hard pressed to name a "random nighttime event" that went well for them. 

The same goes for RPG's. Don't waste time on a nighttime encounter roll. It makes the players nervous and edgy, which is sometimes fun. But not once a day, every day. Night time IS fearful, but the playing field is level when everyone fears. Not much moves at night. (Vampires are a story for another time).  

Many epic things happen in the light of the moon. You can't trust your dice to tell you what that is. You make it so. And make it good. 

One of my favorite stories about night adventures isn't even mine. It's the story of the Seventh Galbiana. This was a legion that declared for Otho against Vitellius for the Purple. Otho was coming north to head off Vitellius who was racing south for Rome. Both armies turned to meet, Vitellius' forces facing west and Otho's to the east. They met at dusk at Bedriacum and the Second Battle of Bedriacum was on. It was one of the rare cases where the Romans fought through the night. The Seventh's eagle fell to the enemy in the dead of night, but was saved by one centurion who sacrificed himself for honor. The fighting was chaotic, ferocious and exhausting. 

As the Sun rose, there was a collision of happenstance. The Seventh was on the left hand of the field, facing to the west. They were under command of Antonius, who served in the Legio III Gallica in Syria. When dawn broke, the men of the Seventh Galbiana followed Antonius' lead turned their backs to the enemy and gave a might cheer to something in the east. The Vitellian forces, the whole army, not just the ones facing the Seventh collapsed and retreated believing that Otho's reinforcements were taking the field. 

Nothing could be further from the true. All the Seventh was doing was emulating Antonius' Syria habit of saluting the Sun.  

Such thing are random, but not the sort of random that dice generate. If you want your players to enjoy their game, give them something to think about, not something the dice tell you.

If you like such stories, you can read more about this the book 69 A.D. by Gwyn Morgan.

2 comments:

  1. Just what I needed this morning; a battle recap. Thanks.

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  2. You might like Mike Duncan's The History of Rome podcast. He details all kinds of wild stories like this.

    https://thehistoryofrome.typepad.com/

    ReplyDelete