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Roleplaying Tips Weekly E-Zine Issue #301

120 Benign Wilderness Encounters


Edited by: Isaac Calon

This Week's Tips Summarized 

120 Benign Wilderness Encounters

  1. 120 Benign Wilderness Encounters

Readers' Tips Summarized 

  1. Dragonmarks As Character Rewards
    From: Scott Murray
  2. Good Lyrics For Cthulhu Games
    From: Andre
  3. More Party Name Ideas
    From: Lynn Fallon
  4. TreePad and TreeDBNotes Software
    From: Tuck
  5. Flour Trap
    From: Tyler Elkink
  6. Roleplay Market PbP Seeks Players
    From: BobTHJ

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World Building Library Debuts

Welcome to Expeditious Retreat Press' latest project! World Building Library is a series of articles, exploring different aspects of real world phenomena and integrating those elements into a role-playing environment. Look for the first titles at your favored vendor of electronic products: Items of Myth and Legend: India I and II, Tibetan Deities, and Tibetan Exorcisms.

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A Brief Word From Johnn 

#300 Errata - Serenity Not d20

This correction for Issue #300 came in from an avid reader:

Hey there Johnn. I just started reading through your Q&A for this week's issue, and I saw you call Serenity a d20 game. Geez, man, way to give me a heart attack! Last I checked, Serenity wasn't a d20 fact, I don't think any d20s are used in the game; the highest die is a d12+d4, I think.


Player's Handbook In D&D Commercial

Thanks to Bobby Nichols from the GMMastery list for unearthing this gem.

Wilderness Encounters

I hope you find this week's list of benign wilderness encounter seeds useful. If so, you might also find these related tips of interest:


Game some gaming done this week!


Johnn Four,

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Tome of Horrors 3

Necromancer Games brings you another volume in the series of monster books that made 3rd-edition co-designer Monte Cook say, "If a roleplaying game is a gun, then Tome of Horrors is a case of hollow point, explosive shells!" Contains over 200 never-before-seen monsters. Includes new demons and devils. Makes a great addition to any campaign.

Tome of Horrors 3 at RPG Shop

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READERS' REQUEST: Diceless Gaming Action Resolution Tips 

You have covered a wide variety of roleplaying topics over the years, but good, concrete tips on running diceless/ systemless games, especially action resolution and combat, are still something to tackle.

I'm new to the diceless concept and, as I've been searching the web for pointers, I've found good advice is pretty rare. Tips to ponder could be:

  • Why go diceless?
  • What decision-making criteria to use?
  • How do I create suspense without randomness?
  • How do I eliminate predictability?
  • How to avoid being arbitrary?
  • How do I adjudicate success and failure?

* * *

Dear reader, if you have any experience with diceless, I'd love to hear from you: your experiences, trials and tribulations, successes, and/or any tips you might have. E- mail me at


120 Benign Wilderness Encounters 


From: Chris Buono

Chris polled members of the GMMastery Yahoo group for benign wilderness encounter ideas and then added a few of his own to come up with this awesome list you might find useful for your own campaigns. Editor Isaac added a few more as well. Thanks Chris and GMMastery contributors!

Try using this list a few different ways:

  1. To help with impromptu descriptions.
  2. An injection of scenery when designing wilderness encounters and locations.
  3. Encounter hooks. These items are perfect micro-situations on which to layer a larger conflict, clue, or circumstance. For example, pick an item from the list and use it as a distraction while the real encounter triggers. Your players will enjoy the one-two punch.

Inspiration. If you've got writer's block, these items are perfect for getting the ideas flowing.


  1. Large patch or hill of flowers
  2. Squirrels chasing each other
  3. Something stirs below the water's surface
  4. Birds of prey circling overhead
  5. An earsplitting squawk
  6. A shadow passes across the ground
  7. Smoke rises in distance
  8. Deja vu
  9. Many thousands of ants crawl
  10. Howling/barking in the distance
  11. Patch of vines strangling a tree
  12. Skeleton of an animal
  13. Skeleton of a humanoid
  14. Writing carved into tree
  15. Large patch of brightly colored mushrooms
  16. Few scattered and broken arrows or bolts
  17. Snake slithers away
  18. 1' hole penetrates the ground
  19. Rainbow in the distance
  20. Group of bats rise in the distance
  21. Tree falls in the distance
  22. Broken, rotted wagon wheel
  23. Bear tracks
  24. Deer tracks
  25. Wolf/dog tracks
  26. Unusual patch of very lush growth
  27. Sudden sun shower
  28. Wind kicks up
  29. Dead, rotted, burnt, headless troll body
  30. Giant mushroom grove
  31. Discarded, tattered cloak
  32. Rusty weapon
  33. Dark storm cloud approaches
  34. Large beetle buzzes around head
  35. Large boot tracks in mud
  36. Dug, shallow hole
  37. Remnants of old campfire
  38. Sandstorm
  39. Small dust whirlwind
  40. Puddle/nearly dry watering hole
  41. Few sun bleached papers
  42. Large bird (heron) seems to follow you
  43. Stack of rocks piled high
  44. Giant feather
  45. Sweet smell of honeysuckle
  46. Small pond
  47. Bog
  48. Stand of birch trees
  49. Stench of feces
  50. Ray of sun light hits tree or bush
  51. An unusually cool breeze
  52. Couple of rats are following you
  53. You get a dull, throbbing headache
  54. Injured woodland creature lies helpless
  55. Skunk smell
  56. Eerily quiet
  57. Field of dead trees
  58. Humanoid statue (flesh to stone)
  59. Stung by a bee
  60. Arid dust coats your mouth
  61. Odd crystalline growth
  62. Ogre skull
  63. Abandoned shack
  64. Very friendly skunk
  65. Wild boar
  66. Wild horses
  67. Find a copper piece
  68. Caterpillar or grub-infested tree
  69. Coyotes fighting over a kill
  70. Mother bear protecting cubs
  71. Hatched eggs below abandoned nest
  72. Large insect moult
  73. Something scurries away (chipmunk)
  74. Patch of berried bushes
  75. Large splatter of bird droppings
  76. Old, rotted horse carcass
  77. Large tree with face image in bark
  78. An oasis
  79. A rusty suit of armor
  80. Active bees nest
  81. Howling gust of wind
  82. Approaching lightning storm
  83. Crow squawks repeatedly on approach
  84. Disabled wagon with nearby dead campfire
  85. Disheveled shrine or grave marker
  86. Rats are rummaging through PCs' food
  87. Cloud of insects moves across path
  88. Rocks falling in the distance
  89. Pair of small birds harass PCs
  90. Feral cat trails the party
  91. Large animal crashes through the brush
  92. Cloud shaped like a holy symbol scuds out of sight
  93. Shopping list for potion is found
  94. Old ring sticks out of the dirt
  95. One person's ears begin to ring
  96. One person has an intense itch
  97. Hawk takes mole/mouse near party
  98. Stick-figure voodoo doll(s) found
  99. Tornado
  100. Earthquake (mild, moderate, or severe)
  101. Great toppled tree, roots outstretched
  102. Creek bars path
  103. Fern-filled clearing
  104. Beaver pond/dam
  105. Rocky outcropping
  106. Ancient snag filled with tiny holes
  107. Carpet Of spongy moss over large area
  108. Cave or large den
  109. Groundhog colony: big holes, mounds of dirt
  110. Tree with bark chewed or clawed off the bottom
  111. Picked mushrooms laying on stump to dry
  112. Sentry animal (probably bird or rodent) raises alarm
  113. Burned area (trees standing, no undergrowth, all black)
  114. Fool's gold sparkles in the dirt
  115. Huge spider's web
  116. Huge stick insect or mantis moves into the foliage
  117. Pleasant voice seems to chant on the breeze
  118. Fish bones
  119. Punctured waterskin or flask on path
  120. Forgotten dagger jammed into stump or earth


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Bag-O-Dice - $18.00 + 5% cash back!

Each bag contains about a pound of assorted and random dice in several styles and colors. This is a great and inexpensive way to get a "house dice" collection started, or just get a bunch of dice at a fantastic price.

Bag-O-Dice at RPG Shop

Readers' Tips Of The Week: 

1. Dragonmarks As Character Rewards (D&D: Eberron) 

From: Scott Murray

Dragonmarks are an interesting aspect of an Eberron campaign. If you are considering them for rewards, don't forget the ramifications and mechanics both.

A standard dragonmark appears at a young age, and it associates you with an economic powerhouse. This gives you a form of limited noble status, even if you weren't born directly into a marked house. You may be the child of an outcast, of a person who married outside the House and willingly gave up House status, a house orphan, or the product of a casual relationship with a dragonmarked person. Most children born outside of the House are sought out and brought into the House to keep its power. These children are called Foundlings.

You might want to consider a Siberys mark, which is very powerful but can show up later in life, or an Aberrant mark, which are abominations in the eyes of the 13 Houses and include harmful effects. In the past, Aberrant Marks were most often seen in the children of marked people from two different Houses. This is why romances between the Houses are absolutely forbidden. Now the aberrant mark can show up at any time in life and change it drastically. Check the Eberron campaign setting for more details--dragonmarks make interesting rewards.

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2. Good Lyrics For Cthulhu Games 

From: Andre, Netherlands

re: Roleplaying Tips #288: Inspired by Song

Hi Johnn,

After I read your article on song lyrics, I thought of a Nick Cave song (Red Right Hand) I came across years ago. It helped me flesh out my new horror campaign, as it is full of Cthulhu flavour.

Here's the link to the lyrics.

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3. More Party Name Ideas 

From: Lynn Fallon

For party names, start with a root word and add a descriptor.

Example good root words:

  • Avatars
  • Repealers
  • Regulators
  • Own

Examples with names or descriptors added: * The Devils Own

  • The South County Repealers
  • The Queens Avatars
  • Regulators of Kesch

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4. TreePad and TreeDBNotes Software 

From: Tuck

I have used the free version of TreePad for awhile now. It's an easy database, and is great for character info and GMing. I just upgraded to the Pro version for its graphic and html capabilities.

Another program I have checked out but haven't gotten to use yet for a game is TreeDBNotes.

Check them out:

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5. Flour Trap 

From: Tyler Elkink

A room with 6 inches of fine dust or flour on the floor can be awful for any adventuring party that relies on torches for light. Dust particles have a great deal of surface area for their mass, which makes them easy to burn. Kicking clouds of dust into the air is like filling a room with explosive gas; only a small fire is needed to set the whole thing off. The best part of this trap is that planning isn't required!

The real-world source for this particular idea is grain elevators; they're full of grain dust, which is so explosive in that environment that people must turn off truck engines and not smoke around them.

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6. Roleplay Market PbP Seeks Players 

From: BobTHJ


I just wanted to let you know about Roleplay Market. It's a new, non-profit, free site where people can host and play Play by Post games. It's specifically designed for roleplaying and incorporates helpful features, like the ability to post in character, insert die rolls into your posts, image hosting, and quick links to information. The site just went into open beta testing, and we're looking for feedback on how to improve it and make it a valuable resource for PbP roleplayers. I'm the lead site developer. If it's ok, would you include a link in your reader's tips?

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Carcassonne: The River II - $5.40 + 5% cash back!

There is another river in the Carcassonne region. Like the first river, you can use these 12 tiles to start a Carcassonne game instead of the normal start tile. But, there is more. It can be used with the other river, to make an even longer river to start the game. It has a branch, so you get the effect of two rivers instead of one. Its tiles have some of the features of the larger expansions: Inns & Cathedrals, Traders & Builders, and Princess & Dragon. You need the original Carcassonne to play with it, and you can use bits from the other expansions, too, if you like.

Carcassonne: The River II at RPG Shop