Tuesday, July 19, 2011

That Darn Encounter Reaction Table!

  Yesterday Sirlarkins asked me to expand on why people might hate the encounter reactions table in the DMG. Rather than letting this get buried in a rarely read comments chain, I'm going to put at least a few of the reasons in this post.
  There are two main types of individuals who hate this thing; the storytellers and those who prefer rules light gaming.
   For the storytellers, this only really effects those who didn't bother to read the last paragraph and think this roll is necessary for every encounter. I'll admit, it's a legitimate concern when people playing bards, druids, and especially paladins keep harping on the high charisma reaction modifiers and complaining that the DM is being unfair for NOT using the reaction roll to see if they can sleep with the princess. This can be especially troublesome when the DM is trying to deal with his pacing and other storytelling stuff(not exactly sure what this might be, I don't DM stories).
   The rules light gamers tend to dislike the chart for 2 big reasons. First, the PHB has the +s and -s wrong in the charisma chart. Either that or the DMG has the encounter table going the wrong way, making this just one more funny thing for a DM to have to deal with in his games. In addition, there's the obvious; it's one more roll DMs(or players in some groups) have to make.
   Mostly, it's important for everyone playing 2nd edition to remember that the rules are just a framework, and at least in 2nd edition, just about every rule is expendable and technically optional(says so right in the forwards).This isn't d20, removing/adding/replacing a rule will not hurt the overall system. It's also not previous editions, and nobody is going to roll over in their grave if you don't use every core rule or don't nitpick over what the almighty game designers/creators intended.


  1. I have never used reaction rolls in DnD. My thought is, you want a certain reaction from a certain NPC, then role play it out and give the NPC a reason to react a certain way. Now, that said, I will take into consideration a high charisma score at the table in PC/NPC interactions, but I make no roll for it on the reactions table. I've always disliked it.

  2. I've always personally seen it as a tool for figuring out random encounter motivations. Not every wandering group of goblins is going to be out for blood, and this chart, even if not used, at least REMINDS DMs that not every encounter with a "monster" in a dungeon setting has to be violent.

  3. I like reaction tables, they keep me the DM on my toes. I don't have to know how every encounter is going to unfold beforehand.

  4. Glad to hear I'm not the only one who likes them.

  5. I know this is way too late, but I am just burried in reaction tables for my game and found this excellent post.
    Lots of people completely misunderstand the idea of reaction tables. IMHO It is not about a particular reaction but a general attitude an NPC will present. An attitude which is an additional challenge for the players to overcome. One peasant met on the road may be particularly happy because his daughter is being married with his neighbours son. And he will be eager to share his mood with others. Another peasant may be wary and suspicious of any strangers that cross his land. For one this is a great hook for creativity on the DM's part, on the other it helps to play out the randomness of the surrounding world, a living world. DM cannot pretend to control everything in the game, it takes the fun away from the players and the DM himself.
    And challenge is what a good DM would want to do to his players. CHALLENGE, not manipulate them. Sometimes life can be surprisingly easy on you, sometimes quite the contrary. That's why I like both encounter and reaction tables. Randomness adds to the impression of a living world.

    And regarding the reaction tables in DMG I also suspected they were wrong. I reprinted them for my use setting the table the right way and it made much more sense ;)