How can these decks help settle your fears as a Dungeon Master or Game Master?
I get it!
It's the biggest fear out there for Dungeon Masters and Game Masters, one that I very much share despite all my years of running games - that because of YOU, your players are having a sh*t time at the table.
As you'll pick up from the video above, there are definitely a number of simple things you can do or understand to dispel those fears, or at least to make things a little easier on your mental health.
What I've done here, is to take my perpetual fears about:
- the players being bored with all my prep, and
- that they'll leave me like a rabbit in the headlights after doing something I've not prepared for
So what have I created?
Right now, I'm anxious and excited all at once. Freshly launched in your multiverse are my new RPG encounter card decks. I'm Scott Docherty. I've been running tabletop roleplaying games since the 1980s, and I've designed these decks to help me, and you, as a Dungeon Master or Game Master churn out total immersive chaos in your tabletop roleplaying games.
System & setting neutral, they work perfectly for games like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder. The idea is that you simply pick a card, and watch as your players fly within the unparalleled realms of their imagination!
And how can they help?
Pretty straightforward this. Basically, if you fear what the players will think with your prep, and that anxiety gets in the way of your creativity, a glance through these decks will juice you up again. You can use them like this as story decks to build on your ideas, to take what you'd like to throw at the players or what they've told you they'd like to experience, and add a richness, another level to those ideas.
Or, you can use them as encounter decks. Do you need something for the next session to fill the gap between what the party's doing now and what's coming next? Will they be travelling from A to B and you're struggling for ideas about how to make their journey more interesting or perilous?
Or maybe you're in the midst of a session, and the players decide to do something, to go in a direction you'd not thought of or planned for (a very common experience in my book!). So as you struggle to catch up, you can draw a card from the deck and throw a well-outlined encounter at the party until you catch up and work out what's next.
So encounter decks like this can definitely help settle your nerves, as they give you something to clutch as panic strangles your creative juices and you can't think about what to do, how to make sure the players keep enjoying what you're throwing at them.
Wait, isn't that what random encounter tables do?
Yeah pretty much, but there's a huuuge difference between using the usual encounter tables and card decks like these.
Historically, random encounters are listed in a table. That table might usually be laid out in a big hardback book, or on a screen on your device, or printed or scribbled by you on some sheets of paper. The idea is that, having rolled for a random encounter to happen, you then roll on the table to see what the party will face in that moment.
That table works for lots of folks, but maybe not for everyone. Using a card deck like this, where instead of on a table the encounters can be shuffled and pulled at random from the deck, can help you in a number of ways.
- Think about tables in the books. Books take up space in what can be a limited or clustered DM or GM area. You need to flick quickly to the right page for the table you need, time that could be better spent working out on the fly how to maintain immersion, how to fit the encounter into the session. If you travel to your game, you need a bag big enough for the books.
- Think about tables on your device screen. You need your device to maintain battery power for the session. You need to unlock and wake it up. You need to locate the right app or document for your desired table. All this time when what you really need to do is to plan out your encounter as quickly as possible and ensure game momentum.
- Think about tables on sheets of paper. More space taken up. More likely to get crumpled or torn. More stuff to find in a flash amongst all the other similar-looking papers you have for the session.
- Think about what information you get in tables. Usually, tables will list only the foes, loot or circumstance the party will face, and you need to do the rest, to work out how to fit the encounter into what else the party's doing. They don't give you any hooks, conflicts, resolutions or twists to inspire you to make the encounter one to remember.
And so, behold your RPG encounter card decks!
What are random encounter card decks?
Designed to be small & strong enough to take anywhere, when you roll for an encounter and need one to fit any setting, just whip out your random encounter deck, give it a shuffle if you like, pull a card, and let the chaos bubble improvised fun into your session.
Don't like what you pulled? Draw another card. This way, rather than casting your eyes over a table until you find an encounter you like, retains the purity, the total random fun for which these encounters were designed.
The theory is that with card decks like this:
- they dispel the issue of random encounter tables lacking information or inspiration,
- they help retain the randomness that separates the game from all others, and
- they cut the amount of planning needed to entertain the players, to dispel your fears about them enjoying what you've prepared.
What's in each deck?
In each deck, you'll find 50 combat & non-combat random encounters. The cards are tarot-size, sturdy quality to last years of play, and to make it easy for you, the combat encounter cards are red, and the non-combat encounters are green.
For each setting, you will have two decks:
- First, a fleshed out deck packed full of hooks, conflicts, resolutions and twists ready to be played as written or adjusted as you like.
- Second, a bare bones Quickening version with the foes, loot or circumstances the party will encounter, together with twists to add spice or increase the challenge.
With the exception of The Outlander deck which can be played out in pretty much any location the party finds itself, Venger's random encounter decks are designed to fit the setting your game is within during any given session.
Your players are heading into town, for example, pull out The Dweller deck, and in your hands will be a breathtaking array of prepared combat or non-combat random encounters, tailored for pretty much any urban setting. You can pull them in advance of the session and think about how they might fit in, or even during the session for a totally chaotic experience!
More and more decks will be released over time, each one crafted lovingly with art by the amazing Fiona Ruthven, so that wherever the party travels, you'll have decks in your hand to challenge it!
What's that? You don't like random encounters?
That's ok, they're not for everyone.
But here's why I think they're an absolutely vital element of any tabletop roleplaying game.
Random encounters can add to or interrupt the experiences you’ve planned. They can remind your players that both they AND you are at the mercy of chaos. They can reveal to your players that the setting doesn’t revolve around their characters, that at any moment something might happen that reminds them to stay aware, that prompts them about what they’re meant to be doing, that warns them not to dilly dally, that forces them to make decisions and think carefully over the potential consequences.
I mean yeah, don’t get me wrong, if they’re not designed well or executed carefully, they can tend to become an unwelcome obstacle or distraction to players trying to zero in on their overarching goals, and to my mind, it’s precisely this that’s given random encounters a bad reputation in some parts of the multiverse.
There are plenty of folks out there who see the use of random encounters as a total scourge on the game. This reputation's festered like a virulent plague down the ages. From what I’ve picked up online and from talking to players, DMs and GMs, the main reasons they’re cast aside are that:
- First, there’s no point in the party engaging in story-distracting random encounters when it’s not been given a quest to do so and so won’t be rewarded, and
- Second, no-one should ever die in a random encounter which falls outside the parameters of the main story.
So here’s my retort.
Isn’t everything that happens to the characters a part of the story?
I’m sure I heard someone yapping somewhere that it ain’t about the destination, that the journey and all the randomness in between is what helps you grow and learn and create all the fun and memories. Wouldn’t it be a little weird if everything that happens to the party just coincidentally ties in with the characters’ story arcs or what the DM/GM has plotted out? More crucially, rather than being something the DM/GM meticulously plotted out in advance, isn’t the story something you tell after the experience is over?
And putting aside the fun element, if the random encounters the party engages in end up gifting it with experience points, loot, information, meat, an understanding of skills and weaknesses and of the setting through which it travels, isn’t that something to hold on to?
My feeling is that, in the main, this bad rep has come about because of two things:
- a fundamental misunderstanding of randomness in the game; and
- a lack of available practical help on how to roll with the chaos.
This is why I wrote my little ebook, Venger's Guide to Random Encounters, which can be accessed for FREE here. Take a peek. Since its launch, it's been helping so many Dungeon Masters & Game Masters introduce and harness chaos and randomness in their game sessions. And the guide also helps you work out how to use the random encounter card decks most effectively.
So when will the new decks launch?
Glad you asked!
It's taken some time as I've been doing all this alone and without a Kickstarter, but they're finally available. The Outlander & The Outlander Quickening, are the first two decks I've launched. These decks are filled with random encounters you can play in almost any terrain, environment or situation the party stumbles its way into. That's 100 random encounters at your fingertips ready for wherever the party wanders off to!
The next two decks released will be The Dweller & The Dweller Quickening, packed with encounters suitable for urban settings like villages, towns and cities, but I'm also releasing smaller digital deck & map packs you can download, with cool ready to roll encounters you can throw at the players.
Then after that, the sky's the limit. I'll likely put out some polls to see which settings everyone would prefer for the next card decks.
Meantime, I can't thank you enough for reading this far and for the interest you've shown in my little project as I try to heave it off the ground. Please keep up to date via Venger's Mail, or on my social media channels (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook & LinkedIn).