Monster Populations, Making Locales Unique

Yep, you don’t wanna travel through Tilver’s Gap in the Springtime cuz the Couerls will getcha. You wanna see a unicorn? Try them elf-woods over yonder but mind the elf patrols and don’t get too close to Myth Drannor or you’ll be up to yer eyeballs in demons. Best place to catch poisonous rockfish I ever heard is the deep water off certain o’ the Pirate Isles, ‘cept I don’t know rightly which one …

Some monsters should appear anywhere: giant rats, giant spiders … basically “giant” versions of regular animals should appear wherever the normal animal type appears. If the Mythic Underworld typically spawns certain creatures they should be common throughout. But otherwise I like the idea of fitting monsters into certain predator / herbivore / scavenger / decomposer roles within any area. It would work for the wilderness or for a dungeon. If it’s a large dungeon, different dungeon levels or zones within the dungeon should have different monster makeups. It’s like taking maps of the ranges of various animals and plants and translating that into regional lists of what can appear there.

Does this sound familiar? I guess this is the typical way to handle random encounter charts. What I’m saying is that the Snaggletooth Mountains should have a special encounter chart that’s different from the Yuketooth Mountains. They shouldn’t use the same chart. But you can include monsters on both charts that come from a “standard mountains” list. Add the new stuff that will appear there, remove the specific things that aren’t.

Important reasons why you want regional encounter charts:

1: Adding a new monster. If it’s something you want to be fairly common (because you don’t always want to create a Very Rare monster), how come the PCs have never heard about it or seen it?

2: Asking the village dude what kind of stuff there is in the countryside, or interrogating a monster as to what is in the dungeon.

3: Players ask you “where can we find X monster” and you stall for time while they arrange finding and paying for a sage to check your encounter charts for it.

4: Adventurer’s journals found on gnawed bones basically write themselves. Just pick an encounter chart and run with it.

5: The economy or military structure of a place will change if there are certain monsters present. Lots of flying / jumping monsters will necessitate high walls with spikes on top and high nets across the streets. Digging monsters will mean deep-sunk walls and safehouses on the roofs. If there are giant singing clams, then the town will probably export pearls and have lots of guys missing an arm or fingers. Again, these things write themselves once you get started.

5: Players enjoy seeing new places because every place is different. There are strange beasts and treasures over yonder and the folk are weird and entertaining. If you’re scared out of your gourd because the monsters here are too tough or whatever, wait until daylight and scurry over the mountains for a different experience. You want six-legged Troll horses? Fastest thing on six legs either side of the Trollstep Mountains.

6: If all this is in place, you can begin making connections between places. What if one region has a monster that poops tin and the next region over has one that grows copper feathers, you’ve got an opportunity for a bronze trade to start up. Big towns gather the cool things from everywhere else as a rare import. You’ll see a fine lady walking down the street with a watch-leopard on a leash and you think, “hmm, you don’t see a lot of leopards around here” and you ask the DM where there are any. DM explains it’s common knowledge they’re imported on red-sailed ships from the jungles of Klesh.

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