Effortless & Dynamic Storytelling

Effortless & Dynamic Storytelling

Among the many tools in my GM Toolbox, the method of Wandering Encounters holds a special place. It’s a simple yet profound way to keep the game world lively, the plot on track, and the characters engaged in evolving story arcs.

The core essence of Wandering Encounters lies in its ability to:

  • Run a dynamic world with minimal effort.
  • Maintain a brisk plot pace.
  • Rescue a stalled plot often caused by unforeseen player actions.
  • Design encounters that weave the plot, world, and characters into a rich narrative tapestry.
  • Devise a straightforward system for improvising memorable encounters.
  • Help you stay agile during sessions.

Implementing this method is straightforward. It begins with mining next session’s potential encounters from your existing campaign elements. These nuggets are then organized into a table, ready to be rolled or chosen when the time is right.

Example From My Campaign

Let’s break it down with an example from a recent session in my Basilica campaign, where the party was headed to the village of Fairehill:

  1. I started by reviewing my list of all the characters, locations, and objects in Fairehill.
  2. From this list, I picked out elements that stood out for their relevance to the upcoming session, the ongoing plot, and various character arcs.
  3. These chosen elements were then organized into a d12 table (because d12s are my favourite polyhedron).
  4. To each entry, I attached a conflict idea, adding a potential spark to the encounter while staying open to the organic flow of gameplay.
  5. Lastly, I added a hook idea to each entry, to help plant an encounter seed, while remaining ready to leverage new hooks born from gameplay.

The first venture into this method might take about 15 minutes as you set things up and work through the process. However, the beauty of Wandering Encounters shines through in subsequent sessions. With the basic structure in place, updating the table with new or altered entries as the campaign evolves becomes a swift task, taking only a couple of minutes.

This methodology isn’t just a time-saver. It’s a story builder. By having a readily accessible palette of encounters that are directly tied to plots and characters, you’re not only ready to respond to the unpredictable nature of player choices, but you are also equipped to deepen the narrative connections. The simple act of rolling a die (or making a choice) on this curated table can lead to a spontaneous unfolding of character arcs, plot twists, and world-building that is both satisfying and surprising.

Wandering Encounters are akin to having a well of inspiration at your fingertips. It’s about preparing to improvise, connecting threads, and embracing the serendipity that makes tabletop roleplaying a unique storytelling medium.

By integrating this method into your GM toolkit, you’re setting the stage for a captivating, dynamic narrative adventure with a rhythm that resonates with both you and your players.

See Wandering Encounters in Action – A Deeper Demo

Following up on the GM tip about the Wandering Encounters technique, I received several requests for an example to better grasp the method, so I’m excited to deliver just that today from my Basilica campaign.

But first, a quick clarification is in order.

A handful of GMs pointed out the similarity of this method to the classic ‘wandering monsters’ approach, expressing concerns over the randomness it could bring to the table. It’s a valid point, and I want to highlight the distinctions that set Wandering Encounters apart from merely hurling darts in the dark hoping for a narrative hit.

Tailored, Not Random

The first step in this method — mining our campaign and current gameplay — is pivotal. Unlike random monster tables, we’re cherry-picking elements that are intrinsic to our campaign plot, adventure, and character arcs, ensuring every encounter holds meaning and relevance.

A Menu, Not a Dice Trap

While dice rolling adds a fun spin, it’s not mandatory. The encounter table serves as a menu of preconceived ideas, easing the GM’s cognitive load both in prep and during gameplay. It’s a ready reservoir of ideas, not a gamble.

Dynamic Updates

The magic grows with each session as we refine our table, aligning it with the evolving narrative and our creative foresight. This prep ritual keeps the Wandering Encounter table fresh, pertinent, and a true reflection of your campaign’s heartbeat.

Localized Tables

A pro tip to amp up the relevance? Craft distinct Wandering Encounter tables for different campaign locales. For instance, I have separate tables for Fairehill village, a neighboring dungeon, and the wilderness region. This again paves the way for encounters that resonate with the setting and the narrative moment.

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Now, to bring this all to life, I’ve put together a video I shot last night where I walk through prepping my Fairehill encounter table for the next session of my Basilica campaign. Dive into the demo and see the Wandering Encounters method in action: watch the video here on YouTube.

I hope this example makes sense. As always, your thoughts and queries are most welcome.

Here’s to crafting compelling narratives with a dash of prepared spontaneity!