Tag Archives: Randomization

When Ginny Bo Fails a Morale Check

Ginny Bo drawn by Gus L.A few months back, in Vaults of Pahvelorn, my character Eriara’s apprentice died. It was really too bad, he’d shown a great deal of promise (took out an entire flock of pegasi)! but ultimately succumbed to one of the most ancient sources of character death: a large rolling stone. We weren’t even able to recover his hat.

I told the mighty Brendan that Eriara would like to search for a new apprentice. As she’s only 12 herself, I noted that I’d very much prefer a young apprentice. Someone who wouldn’t have any problems taking orders from a child. Brendan did some rolling, and informed me that the only hireling available was an 86 year old man.

I was…annoyed.

I wasn’t upset or even really frustrated, mind you, but annoyed. I had gotten the exact opposite of what I wanted, and since magical healing in Pahvelorn has a small chance to age your character by 1 year, this 86 year old bastard may well die of old age. I understand that in this form of play, we give dice the power to tell us how the world exists. Sometimes it doesn’t exist in a way which is advantageous to us. I embrace that, but it doesn’t mean I’m always happy about what I get.

I took him, because he was the best I could get. I dubbed “Ginny Bo” because it sounded ridiculous and I wanted to make this imaginary person feel bad about being my only option. I didn’t train him as a magic user. I intended to use him merely as a torch bearer until we got back to our home town where I could search for a proper hireling. But then something started happening.

I don’t remember if it was Brendan, or I, or someone else who said it. But it was agreed that Ginny Bo had lived a long and boring life. That he regretted not being more adventurous in his youth. He had decided to jam all of the life he could manage into his last years. This was convenient for me, since I kinda wanted him to die. Using this as justification, I sent him into all manner of dangerous scrapes. And even though he was rarely effective, he somehow managed to end up alive at the end of every session. I began to inject more personality in the character for shits and giggles. Before I started to like him, the rest of the party already loved him. That proved infectious because soon enough, I loved him too.

His adventures at this point are too numerous to recount, but you’ll find hints of them in the ever-lengthening titles he’s given to himself: Ginny Bo of the Devil’s Helm. Wielder of the Black Sword Obynig, called “Butter Steel.” The Giantslayer. The sludgifier of the Great Worm.

All of that is my long, rambling way of leading up to my problem: morale checks. In OD&D, when a player character tells a hireling to do something which places them in particular danger, the GM makes a die roll to determine whether that hireling will obey, or flee. The mechanic is important, because it prevents the player from having a bunch of entirely expendable pawns they can order about without repercussions. But it doesn’t work for Ginny Bo.

The crazy things Ginny Bo does aren’t done because Eriara orders him to do them. He does these crazy things because he’s a glory hound eager to make his mark on the world before he dies. If he were ever to fail a morale check (which he hasn’t yet) and flee from danger, it would break the wonderful illusion of his character which has amused us all so very much. Yet as a GM myself, I wouldn’t ask Brendan to exempt Ginny Bo from the rules for role playing reasons. That’s just not how I like to play.

Fortunately, I came up with a better idea. Last week I got permission from Brendan to draft a random chart. One which will serve as an alternative to mere flight in the event that Ginny Bo ever does fail a morale check. The idea is that while Ginny Bo will never flee from danger, he might become so wrapped up in the adventure that he acts to the detriment of himself or the party.

Here is the chart, as I’ve drafted it. A 1d6 should be rolled in out-of-combat situations (such as dungeon exploration), whereas a 1d12 should be rolled in combat.

  1. Ginny Bo begins to monologue. He rants about his greatness and his achievements.
  2. He opens the nearest door and charges through it heedless of the danger, or charges deeper into the most dangerous looking part of the wilderness.
  3. He attempts an overly complicated maneuver and throws out his back. For the next 3 turns he can’t do much more than walk around and carry a few things.
  4. Ginny Bo realizes HE ought to be the party leader! He begins barking orders at the rest of the party. All of his ideas are terrible.
  5. Falls asleep, probably standing up. He is very old, you know.
  6. Regardless of any need for stealth, he shouts his name and attempts whatever task he was given recklessly. He will probably fail spectacularly.
  7. Ginny Bo drops his weapon and headbutts the nearest enemy. (Probably while wearing the Devil Helm).
  8. He puffs out his chest and taunts enemies. Possibly offering them a “free shot.”
  9. Attempts to perform a Karate-Kid style leg sweep. There is absolutely no power behind it, and he looks like quite a fool impotently kicking at his opponent’s legs.*
  10. Tries to twirl his weapons around in a fancy display of swordsmanship. Drops his weapon.
  11. Tosses aside any armor which can be easily removed and declares “I can take ye’ naked!”
  12. Attempts to tackle opponent and wrestle them on the floor. Regardless of the opponent’s size.

*This may or may not be based on an actual childhood experience.

Are Zocchi Dice Viable?

LS Loves 5 sided zocchi diceUpon going through my budget for the month I realized I had some spare money to spend on toys. After ordering a hardback copy of ACKS, as well as a kickass shirt, I decided to take care of something which was long overdue. I hunted down, and purchased, a set of Zocchi dice. For the uninitiated, Zocchi dice (named for their creator, Lou Zocchi) are role playing dice which are funnier than the funny dice we’re all used to. Every tabletop gamer quickly becomes well acquainted with the standard set: d4, d6, d8, d10/d%, d12, and d20. A full set of Zocchi dice includes a d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, and a d24. Mine arrived a few days ago*, and I’m rather in love with them. I think my girlfriend is getting really frustrated by the incessant clattering of my d5, as I roll it over and over again to marvel over the way it consistently lands on its edge. It doesn’t look like it should, and yet it does!

Design for the D5
Design spec for a 5 sided die

Long time readers may recall that I have something of an obsession with randomization, so gaining access to different ranges of numbers I can randomize is exciting. I will admit that zocchi dice lack some of the beauty inherent in regular polyhedrons, but in my opinion, they make up for that lack of inherent beauty by being examples of the beauty which is human ingenuity. Seriously, that d5, mang. It mystifies and fascinates me. I also have a more utilitarian need for the dice, since Dungeon Crawl Classic (which I received as a birthday gift) utilizes a full range of Zocchi dice, as well as a d30 (which I also purchased). Furthermore, while fiddling with the mechanics of the RPG system I’ve been working on, I’ve concluded that part of the game will work best if a d24 is used.

I think the last week’s worth of posts have referenced that project. I guess it’s pretty easy to tell what has inspired me to write recently. But after all of this talk, I’m going to look like a real dick if I’m not able to deliver, wont I?

The decision to include a d24 in my game has given me pause. While I have no delusions of grandeur about my project, I do hope I’ll be able to share it someday and get feedback from others. As it stands, this will be my first full-fledged attempt at game design. It’s hard enough to get people to pay attention to a sourcebook written by an untested designer. If people need to buy a new die to play the game, will they even bother? I wonder how Gygax and Arneson felt when they created a game which required a 20 sided die way back in the ’70s.

The relative success of DCC RPG would seem to imply that there is a market for games using non-standard dice. After all, the designers of DCC were able to get a wide release for not only one hard cover sourcebook, but a special edition as well. Given that, I have no doubt that it’ll be easier to release a game using Zocchi dice now than it would have been before. But I still wonder if I can get away with putting such a game out there, without it being completely ignored. It doesn’t help that a complete set of these dice is a pain in the ass to find.

I put it to you, readers: would you buy Zocchi dice if a game you were interested in required them? If you aren’t willing to buy the dice, would you be willing to play the game using standard dice to model the appropriate ranges? You could always replace a d24 with a d12 and flipping a coin. (heads is normal, tails add 12 to the result).

*My set, oddly, is missing the 7-sided die. Further research indicates that Game Science (Zocchi’s company) does not produce d7s using the same style or materials that they use to produce their other dice. I couldn’t figure out why this is, however, so if anyone has information I’d love to know!

Updated Forest Battlefield Generator

Two knights in Armor fighting on a forest pathA long while ago, shortly after I started taking this blog seriously, I wrote a post about making your forest environments more exciting during battles. It was the first of my Spicing Up the Battlemat series of posts, which is a series I’ve always found both fun and useful. Along with that post, I made a pdf file to help generate forest battlefields. I don’t know if anyone else has ever downloaded it, but I’ve certainly gotten a lot of use out of it myself. However, having now used it for several months, I’ve noticed more than a few problems. Not only are there several typos, but some options (most notably insects) came up far too often.

I recently took the time to revisit that chart, and I’ve updated a number of things. The layout is more clear, I’ve removed some useless information, added some cool new options, and altered some of the probabilities. I’ve also changed the rules about undergrowth, which I had taken directly from page 427 of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. As it turns out, however, people who design tabletop role playing games might not be nature experts. I happen to have one such expert in my group, and they recently pointed out that when there’s high tree density, sunlight doesn’t penetrate to the forest floor, and thus there is less undergrowth, not more.

For my own purposes, I use this chart in almost every game, and I fully believe it has enriched our group’s experience. So, if you’re interested, here’s the PDF. An image of the file is also available below.

Random Forest Battlefield Generator v2


Forest Battlefield Generator by LS

The Most Visually Impressive Appendix Ever

Nick Whelan (linkskywalker) showing off his fancy new Posters, designed by Paul of Blog of HoldingToday (as of this writing), I received my Random Dungeon Generator and Wandering Monster posters from the Blog of Holding Kickstarter campaign. Paul started the project to fund production of the former, and generously required only a $22 donation to have the latter thrown in as well! I got them laminated, and they’re now hanging in a place of honor above my workspace.

If you are unfamiliar, the random dungeon generator (pictured right) was originally created by Gary Gygax, and included in the Dungeon Master’s Guide as appendix A. The generator takes up about 4 pages of the book, and is intended to help GMs create dungeons both in preparation for, and even during, a session of game play. The variety included in the tables is impressive. Numerous types of corridors, room sizes, trap types, treasure and even whether or not a monster is present can be generated with the tables. They can be somewhat difficult to follow, and require a lot of page flipping, but the creation of it is a feat of Gygaxian proportions.

As Paul tells the story, it first occurred to him that the tables could be re-drawn as a flow chart. It then struck him that a dungeon is basically a flow chart with monsters in it. So he set out to represent the random dungeon generator as a dungeon, and it turned out beautifully. It’s extremely simple to follow. I’ve already created a few dungeon levels using it, and aside from having a difficult time finding a table large enough for it, it has been a pleasure to use. The art is top-notch as well. I know many of my readers have a soft-spot for detailed black-and-white art, and I don’t think they’d be disappointed by what Paul has done here. There are little visual treats everywhere, with tiny characters making their way through the many dungeon obstacles present.

The Illustrated Wandering Monster Tables are of somewhat less use to me, since I have so much fun creating those tables myself. But the art is, once again, very nice. Plus I think it will be fun to use in conjunction with the random dungeon generator. If I can somehow fit them both behind my GM screen, I won’t even need to bother making any game preparations any more!

So far, the poster has only been made available to those who participated in the Kickstarter campaign, but Paul has said they will be made available somewhere online soon. When it does become available, you have my recommendation to purchase it.

Hex Crawling Encounters

Order of the Stick 145 Part 1 by Richard Berlew(Order of the Stick courtesy of Richard Berlew)

In Monday’s post on making overland travel more engaging, I discussed how a hex crawl might work in practice. As I noted, the whole concept seems rather dull until you add two elements: survival, and random encounters. I was only able to touch on these concepts briefly in that post, so now I’d like to delve more deeply into the idea of random encounters on a hex map, and how they can work within the context of Pathfinder. Order of the Stick 145 Part 2 by Richard BerlewI’ll try not to simply repeat Trollsmyth on this issue, since he also covered it in Hex Mapping 17: You’re Everything that a Big Bad Wolf Could Want. Though, while I’m on the subject: if you’ve read my posts and you’re becoming interested in hex maps, read Trollsmyth’s entire series on them. He recently posted part 20, and each post has been thought provoking and informative.

So we’re all at least somewhat familiar with encounter tables, right? They’re not as common as they once were, but sourcebooks are still full of charts to be rolled on, and we’ve all played video game RPGs where walking will suddenly result in a blast of noise and a transition to a battle screen. You’ve probably even had a GM at some point who said they needed to ‘check for random encounters,’ followed by some behind-the-screen dice clattering. But like Vaarsuvius says, these are boring. And it’s true. When the GM “fades to black” anytime the party travels anywhere, random encounters are boring. Order of the Stick 145 part 3 by Richard BerlewIt’s like being a cardboard duck in a shooting gallery: you’re moving, and you might get hit by something, but you don’t really have much say in it either way. Random encounters only work when the player is in control of their own movement, which in the wilderness, means that random encounters only work when there’s a hex crawl.

Self determination (i.e. PLAYER AGENCY) is not all which is required for a random encounter to be compelling. Before leaping into the construction of an encounter table we need to get two misconceptions out of the way. First, it’s essential to realize that random encounters are not random. There is an element of random determination involved, but whoever creates the encounter table controls the probabilities of each encounter type. Not only that: they control what types of encounters are even possible. It’s not as though you’re obligated to pull monsters from the bestiary without rhyme or reason once you decide to build an encounter table. That would be ridiculous. You populate your encounter table with encounters which make sense. If orcs and trolls are fighting for control of the forest, then the encounter table for the forest will be variations on that theme. There can be troll hunters, orc worg riders, 1d4 trolls on patrol, a battle between orcs and trolls, a wounded orc separated from his fellows, the list goes on. Who knows? Maybe the half-assed “trolls vs. orcs” story will pique your player’s interests. Maybe they’ll take it upon themselves to settle the forest feud.

That’s what you want. Trust me: no matter how brilliant you think your game’s overarching plot is, you will never have more fun as a game master than you will when your players start making up their own quests.

The second misconception about random encounters is that all encounters are combat. Apparently the only reason we’re rolling at all is to determine what type of monsters are encountered, and how many of them there are. If possible this idea is even more ludicrous than the first one. There’s so much to encounter in the wilderness! Abandoned buildings, the bones of a long dead adventurer, a lost child, an undelivered letter, a magical fountain the list could go on. Adventure and exploration have a lot more to offer than hostile creatures in need of a good skewering.

Order of the Stick 146 by Richard Berlew

The first step in creating an encounter table is to determine what area it covers. Presumably you’ve already got your hex map, so unless your game world is a homogenous lump, you can look at it and see plains, forests, mountains, rivers, deserts, and so forth. Within each of these biomes, a countless number of interesting encounters are potentially hiding, and the manner of those encounters will likely be completely different in one part of the world than they will be in another. While traversing the planes of Gibbledy-Gop, your players might encounter mighty centaurs, but while in the forest of Creepyscaryeek they’re more likely to encounter orcs. Hexographer Sample imageAnd, if your players go south of the river Fishnstuff in the forest of Creepyscaryeek, then they’ll encounter ogres instead, since the orcs are afraid to cross the river. It’s up to you, as GM, to determine how large an area your encounter table will be used for. If you’re working on creating a fully developed world, you may even want to create a second map with color-coded outlines of areas, based on which encounter table that area uses. If you wanted to get fancy, you could even have some areas which were under the effects of two separate encounter tables.

Once you’ve marked your encounter table’s “Area of Influence,” you need to determine what’s going on there. This will inform your decisions later on when it comes time to populate the encounter table. Above I gave an example of a forest where trolls and orcs fighting one another, and that’s as good a place to start as any. But it needs more detail. Let’s say that there’s a number of elven ruins from an ancient forgotten civilization which the two groups are fighting over. Given that trolls are much stronger than orcs, there’s likely going to be many more of the latter than of the former, or else the trolls would have won the ware a long time ago. And, just for kicks, lets say that the orc leader made a deal with a high-ish level wizard who is now supplying the orcs with some basic magical equipment.

At this point we have enough information to start sketching out what the encounter table will look like. There are a number of ways you can set up the chart, using any number of different dice, but I like to keep things simple: 1d20 to determine the type of encounter, and then another 1d20 do determine the specific encounter. This provides enough options that it’s pretty unlikely the players will exhaust all of them within a few hours of gameplay, but so many that it becomes unwieldy to deal with. Of course if you’re working with larger or smaller areas–or longer or shorter amounts of time the players will spend in those areas–it may be prudent to use a more or less complicated chart. If you really wanted, you could roll 1d100 to determine which of 100 charts (each with 100 options of their own) you would roll on. Or you could just roll1d4 to determine which of four different encounter types your players will face. It’s entirely up to you and what you need, but the “1d20 twice” approach provides a nice healthy average, so that’s what I’ll use here.

I'd be outside if not for the random encounters T-ShirtThe first d20 roll, as I mentioned above, will determine the type of encounter, or whether there is an encounter at all. It’s important to make sure that there’s a relatively good chance of the players not encountering anything. Otherwise the hex crawl will slow to…well…a crawl. The players are on an adventure, yes, but they likely also have a goal in mind. Excessive distraction from that goal will annoy them. I like to have about a 50% chance of nothing happening. The nice thing about the d20 is that each number on the die has a 5% chance of being rolled, so if we want to create a 50% chance of nothing happening, we assign the numbers 1 through 10 to “nothing.” And that range can be altered to increase or decrease the probability somewhat, but I would advise not straying too far from the 50% median. Too many random encounters can become frustrating, and a serious drain on the party’s resources. Likewise, too few random encounters makes the hex crawl boring.

50% of the die is left to assign, so lets do combat encounters next. Since the forest is a Trolls Vs. Orcs warzone, combat encounters should be relatively common. 25% seems like a good probability, so we’ll assign numbers 11 through 15 on the d20 to “combat.” Unlike “nothing,” other types of encounters can vary as wildly as you like. The peaceful plains near civilization may only have a 5 or 10% chance of  combat encounters, while a party venturing deep into the territory of an evil empire may face a 30 or 40% combat rate.

With 50% assigned to “nothing,” and 25% assigned to “combat,” that leaves only five numbers left to assign, and there are a plethora of things we could put there. Interesting locations, traps, side quests, treasure, dungeon entrances, as with many things in tabletop RPGs, the limit is your imagination. Stay Puft Marshmellow Man EncounterFor this encounter table, I think 16-17 (10%) will be Interesting Locations, 18-19 (10%) will be Special, and 20 (5%) will be Side Quests. And there we go, the first roll on the encounter table is taken care of. Rolling 1d20 will either result in “nothing,” or in one of four different types of interesting encounters. But the type of encounter is only half of the equation. Now we need to populate the second half of the encounter table, where we’ll determine specifics.

Combat: The combat chart should include a variety of different combat encounters. The obvious two are a band of orcs, and a band of trolls, but we can be more creative than that. And, more importantly, since combat encounters have a 25% chance of occurring, we need to be more creative than that. Since players are likely to encounter combat a number of times, we should have maybe 15-20 different possibilities on this table. They can include any number of things. The players could stumble onto a battle already in progress between orcs and trolls, which they could decide to participate in or not. They might encounter orcs riding worgs, or trolls carrying orc prisoners. Normal forest danger, like dire bears,can be on the list as well. Though your players will probably have more fun with the encounters that have a story behind them.

Interesting Locations: We’ve already mentioned that the orcs and the trolls are fighting over some ancient elven ruins, so those should be on this list. If you were so inclined, you could even include a number of different types of elven ruins: homes, government buildings, etc. Perhaps one might hide a dungeon entrance. Other types of interesting locations could include an orc village, a troll village, a reclusive wizard’s tower, an illusory copse of trees that one of the players accidentally walks through, or even just a meadow where the players can refill their water rations.

You encounter a merchant!Special: Special is where you can put all the oddball stuff which doesn’t fit in your other categories. You might include a wounded orc warrior who was left behind by his comrades, or a fellow adventurer who got separated from their party and is now lost. If you are so inclined, you might even give your players a chance to find a treasure chest filled with gold which has been covered with dirt and leaves, or a powerful magic item dropped by some long past adventurer. Finding random treasure should probably be pretty uncommon though, and you may want to require a perception check to notice it.

Side Quests: You may not want to include side quests, but I think you should. First, the main questline is never quite as engaging to the players as we GMs would like to think it is. Providing them with occasional hooks to go off in a different direction lets them know they have alternatives. More importantly, showing that the world has a variety of tasks for them to handle, not all of which are related, helps encourage the players to think of your world as a living, diverse environment. Possible side quests include finding the entrance to a dungeon, finding a dead messenger with an important letter for a nearby king, or finding a village which needs the party’s assistance. And if you’d really like the players to continue on with the main quest before handling the side quest, you can always give them a time limit. E.g. “The world will blow up in 5 days and the dungeon where you can stop it from happening is 4 days away.”

A few final notes on using an encounter table:

  • How often? Once you’ve got the chart made, determine how often you’re going to roll on it. You could roll once per hex, once per hour spent within the hex, once per day, whatever you want. Personally, I roll each time the party enters a hex, and roll once more during the night when the party is at rest (ignoring any results which are not capable of self-mobility, such as an ancient ruin.)
  • A Gazebo Appears! Encounters should not simply “appear,” as though you’re playing a console RPG from the 90s. Take a moment to figure out how the players encounter whatever it is that you rolled. If it’s a location, do they see it in a valley as they reach the crest of a hill? Can they see it from a distance, or is it obscured by the treeline until they move closer? If it’s a monster, who sees who first? Perhaps you could figure out a simple third roll to determine whether or not the party is surprised. Trollsmyth has an excellent method for determining what a monster is doing when it’s encountered in the same hex mapping post I linked above.
  • Wow, this forest sure has a lot of wizards… Some things ought to be taken off the encounter table once they’ve been encountered once. For example, if your players have already encountered one reclusive wizard’s tower in the forest, you may not want them to find another. In these cases, re-rolling is fine. However, you might also consider that encountering something twice could lead to an interesting story that you never intended. For example, perhaps the wizard’s tower exists in several locations at once, or teleports around the forest at random, or maybe there are two wizards here who don’t like one another very much. All those options could end up being way more fun than simply re-rolling.

Spicing Up The Battlemat: Forests

Woodland Stream Through a Forested AreaIn the first RPG-related post I made on this blog, I wrote about the importance of adding variety to any battlefield. Even as I posted it, however, I knew it wasn’t enough. The topic is not only rich with detail to be discussed and dissected, but it is essential. Combat is one of the most exciting elements in an RPG, and for D&D/Pathfinder in particular, it plays a central role. Skimping on the options available to our players in combat is not a good idea, and environments provide a great deal of those options.

I think the best way to approach this subject is environment-by-environment. I’ll be starting with one of my all-time favorite environments: forests. These are nothing if not filled with diverse forms of plant life and other obstacles to make combat more interesting. I spent most of the evening making a random chart for my own use, which anyone is, of course, free to use. And below, I’ll discuss each of the elements more in depth, giving some of my own thoughts on how a player might use the items presented to his or her advantage.

Meadows are large grassy areas which can sometimes be found in or around forests. They normally form around water, and are often filled with flowers and bees. If nothing else, a battle here is dramatic, with violence being juxtaposed with flowers. And, for those less interested in poetry, there’s always drowning your opponent in the nearby water source.

Clearings Similar to a meadow, but smaller. Often the result of an old forest fire which opened up an area which the forest has not yet fully reclaimed. More typical forest elements will be present here than in a meadow, and after enough fights amidst trees, the lack of them can seem like a good change up.

Sparse,Medium, & Dense Trees These gradations of tree size and frequency allow for different tactics. While even sparse trees might force a bullrushing fighter to change his tactics, a rogue with intent to hit-and-run through an entire combat will only become more effective the denser the trees become.

Exposed Roots Everyone whose ever gone walking in the woods has tripped over exposed roots now and again. A trip hazard like that could be a detriment–or a boon–in combat.

Fallen Logs Nature’s handy half-wall, ready to protect a diving character from the evil wizard’s Cone of Cold.

Fresh Fallen Tree Nature’s handy half-wall, still covered with protruding branches to make getting over it more difficult.

Low Hanging Branches My ladyfriend informs me that trees with low hanging branches are more rare than I had originally thought. However, as I understand it, they do exist. And aside from making climbing easier, there’s always the opportunity to take some inspiration from slapstick comedy and bend a branch back so it can spring back into position and potentially deal bludgeoning damage to a foe.

Hollow Trees I suppose that once a tree is hollow it’s normally more of a stump than a tree. However, they still make excellent hiding places from which to launch an ambush mid-combat.

Stumps Instant higher ground!

Stream/Pond/Spring Small bodies of water offer a number of tactical choices. Not only can you potentially drown a foe in them (handy for getting rid of spellcasters with low strength, who could turn you into a toad if you let them speak) but if you can cross them more quickly than your opponent, you force them to put themselves at a temporary disadvantage whilst they cross it.

Waterfall Like the meadow, this is great for drama. However, for characters with excellent balance, it also provides them with slippery rocks to fight on. If this lures less-graceful foes onto the treacherous footing, the more well balanced character gains a significant advantage.

Dry Creek Bed This provides an excellent means of stealth for players with a surprise round. Just drop into the creek bed, move along it until you’re positioned favorably compared to your foes, then pop up and strike! Just be sure you’re stealthy enough that you don’t end up fighting from the low ground.

Gradual/Steep Slope While the Pathfinder core rulebook does not list slopes as potential forest elements, every environment has some variations in elevation. Slopes are the most basic element in creating a tactics-rich environment, and should not be neglected.

Boulder/Rock Formation In addition to providing the same benefits as any high ground, some special circumstances may even allow for a powerful barbarian or fighter to move the mighty boulder, dropping it off a cliff or down a hill onto his or her foes.

Ditch/Cliff With a potential depth of 2d6 feet, knocking a foe into a ditch or off of a cliff may deal worthwhile falling damage.

Thorn Bush There are so many uses for the thorn bush. Not only is there the potential to deal damage to unarmored foes, but a particularly tangled bush might require an escape artist check to get away from.

English Ivy This prolific and fast-growing ivy wraps itself around everything, especially trees. And can grow strong enough to provide hand and footholds for climbing.

Irritating Plant While not likely to turn the tide of battle, it felt wrong to ignore the potential amusements offered by poison ivy, oak, or any other poisonous plants.

Wasp nest / Ant Hill While I avoided including animals in this chart, insect nests are too common to leave out. The benefits of using these against your enemies, and the dangers of not being mindful of them, should be obvious.

Once again, if you’re interested, check out the PDF I made, detailing a method to randomly generate forest elements for your battlefield. While it is functional and, I believe, very useful; it could certainly use improvement. I’ll take any criticism into consideration.

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