I’ll admit to a number of failings as a Dungeon Master.
So, let’s say that I started playing at the “wrong time” to really get much out of reaction tables. I kind of get them, but I don’t really. Maybe I will someday.
In the meantime, I’ve devised a d12 table of “NPC Agendas” to use.
d12 | Agenda
1 Agent / Spy (roll a second agenda)
2 Aide / Helper (+3 reaction bonus)
3 Ambush / Decoy (roll two encounters)
4 Broker / Trader
5 Captive / Slave
6 Denizen / Local
7 Enigma / Trickster (roll a second agenda)
8 Explorer / Lost
9 Guardian / Patrol
10 Hunter / Prey (roll two encounters)
11 Monster / Villain (-3 reaction penalty)
12 Outcast / Refugee
“Agendas” is designed to be used in conjunction with (and preferably before), a fairly standard 2d10/d8+d12 encounter table. Last night, this led to two very interesting encounters — both involving giants.
In the first encounter, I rolled “hunter/prey.” The first roll produced a fire giant as the hunter. The second roll produced a cloud giant as the prey.
The fire giant came out of hiding and approached the party speaking his racial/alignment language (“Giant”) which no one in the party spoke. He asked the party (near as they could tell), if they had seen others of his kind.
While they tried to work through the language barrier, the cloud giant emerged from hiding (gaseous form) and the two giants began to fight. The players were at a loss, and the encounter left an impression on them. (They were only level 3.)
The second encounter was a “broker/trader,” and the roll produced a stone giant. This I decided was a wandering giant who carried a storefront on his back.
Another scene followed in which the characters struggled with a language barrier an an effort to determine what the giant was selling, and what he wanted in return.
The reason I recommend rolling the agenda first is because an agenda should be simple. Straightforward. Predictable. The players should be able to easily figure out what the NPC is after. (Subtlety is for Agents and Enigmas.)
And you (as Dungeon Master) should know exactly what the monster or NPC should be trying to do before you ever know what it is.
That way you don’t roll up some “drow” and then scoff when you get the “aide/helper” agenda. But maybe you don’t have that problem.
I originally intended to use reaction rolls with this table, hence the +3/-3 reactions from helper and monster agenda. I’d probably save them until after the party interacts with the encounter or . . . whatever people do with reaction rolls.
Finally, I modified this agenda table from one I was using before because I realized my earlier table didn’t give me “mixed” encounters of monsters. I wanted it to be possible for the players to stumble upon an encounter “in progress.”
So, I made the Ambush and Hunter agendas to ensure that up to 17% of encounters involved at least two groups. Ambush could involve two encounters working together to ambush the party, or one encounter ambushing another.
I think with these agendas, I might be willing to put animals and beasts back on my encounter tables. I mean, Druids and Rangers need something to interact with too. But several of these agendas could be used by beasts.
And when you get the Broker/Trader agenda for a Dire Bear . . . “Bear Market!”