Save vs. Wandering Monsters

Saw this proposed house rule in the Swords & Wizardry forums:

Save vs. Wandering Monsters
Instead of rolling a 6-sider every now and then, I’m going to ask one of the PC’s to make a saving throw (vs. “wandering monsters”) whenever the party is being especially loud, incautious or is simply wasting time. A failure means the party’s recklessness has caught the attention of wandering monsters (think of the Hobbits dropping the pebble down the shaft in Moria). I like the idea of this rule because it puts the fate more in the players’ hands, but I’ll have to see how it works in practice.

Another poster notes that using a standard saving throw means that higher-level PCs have less of a chance to attract wandering monsters due to improved saving throws. I can see how that might make sense, if you simply assume that more seasoned adventurers just know to be a bit quieter even when making noise. But a 9th level PC banging a gong (for instance) makes just as much noise as a 1st leveler doing the same thing.

The original poster responded that perhaps a negative modifier equal to the dungeon depth would fix that problem, and I think that’s reasonable.

What I’ve generally done (though I’ve never codified it or even thought of it as a “house rule”) is to simply roll an extra wandering monster check any time I think the PCs have done something to possibly attract unwanted attention. Sometimes it’s just another roll like the hourly standard check or whatever is specified for that area, and sometimes it’s an x in 6 chance to alert monsters in a nearby encounter area.

PCs can’t get a heavy door open and want to chop through it? Fine. It will take d6+1 rounds with a 2-in-6 chance each round of attracting the goblins from room #17. Or whatever I think is appropriate.

What I do like about the original idea, however, is having the players make the roll. Dropped a pebble down the shaft in Moria? Fine. Pippin’s player rolls the check. If a one comes up, everyone can get mad at Pippin’s player, which helps build what I like to call “mood”.

The only problem I can see is that this method means the players know (or can figure out) that they’ve attracted something. Maybe I want the goblins to sneak up and set an ambush. Of course, seeing a ‘1’ rolled maybe makes the players think, “boy…that can’t be good” which might be what PCs suddenly realize after chopping at the door and helps build the “mood”.

So I’m going to give this approach a try.

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7 Responses to Save vs. Wandering Monsters

  1. Jeff Rients says:

    What I’ve generally done (though I’ve never codified it or even thought of it as a “house rule”) is to simply roll an extra wandering monster check any time I think the PCs have done something to possibly attract unwanted attention. Sometimes it’s just another roll like the hourly standard check or whatever is specified for that area, and sometimes it’s an x in 6 chance to alert monsters in a nearby encounter area.

    Yeah, I do that all the time.

  2. bat says:

    This is a neat idea. I am not really hip on wandering monsters, but I keep a few index cards handy in case the players either need more of a challenge or somebody does something dumb.

  3. MoonSylver says:

    What you could do is have them make the “Save vs.” whenever they do something that they KNOW might attract them or they know they screwed up (like your Moria example) & roll a regular check when you just want to check to see if they happen across something. Mix-n-match both as appropriate. Neat & thematic idea.
    —MS

  4. A Paladin In Citadel says:

    This might be good, even for regular wandering monsters. No one can say you are punishing them, if they roll the encounter themselves.

  5. Tacoma says:

    Your random encounter chart may contain things like strange sounds, weird vapors, a spirit that bangs things around, a few normal rats, effectively no encounter at all. And an encountered monster may decide to leave the group alone after it spies them. So even if they roll a “1” it may not mean they fight something.

    You could say that the roll is a standard d6, encounter on a 1 or 2. But if the roller is a Halfling (an especially lucky sort of person) the encounter is only on a 1 in 6.

    But what if the group always wanted the Halfling to roll? Well he can roll only if he’s present with the rest. This encourages the group to always have a Halfling with them. And it gives Halflings a dungeon bonus like Elves have with secret doors and Dwarves have with traps. I know when we have an Elf in the party we always have the Elf search for secrets. Same would go for the Halfling.

  6. barrataria says:

    Not only do I usually do this, I usually forget periodic wandering monsters (and generally prefer “zone” type encounters like Gygax used for the Keep on the Borderlands wilderness map).

  7. bat says:

    Not related to the post, sorry:

    Lord Kilgore, old shoe, have you checked your Gmail lately?

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