Reaction Tables

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Ikoma
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Reaction Tables

Postby Ikoma » Mon Feb 10, 2020 2:13 pm

This weekend I was veggin' out a bit and watching some YouTube when I vid rolled by with advice from older editions of D&D. Now... I've played D&D off and on since the AD&D days (late 1st edition) though I did take a break for most of 2nd edition[1]. Most of the stuff they brought up I was really glad the rules have shifted away from. I mean, I used to know how to handle THAC0 and my opinion is the newer method is best. I prefer consistent XP gains across race/class combos. Etc. Most changes to the D&D rules over the years have indeed been improvements.[2] But one thing was brought up that I remember fondly. That I want to find a way to bring back for the next game I run. I'm talking about the Reaction Roll or the Reaction Table.

For those that don't know, the Reaction Table was for each NPC and/or monster though I seem to remember having them for a whole variety of potentially variable outcomes but where there was a 'normal' or 'typical' response. Basically, you would roll 2d6 and consult the table. A 2 might mean the monster attacks the party immediately and fights until dead. A 12 might mean the monster runs away. A 7 might mean the monster attacks but attempts to disengage once it has lost 50% of its HP or something. Dungeons could have a Reaction Table. Every hour spent in the dungeon results in a roll. A 2 means a monster has found you. A 12 means everything is peaceful. I think this idea will be particularly useful in my next campaign since one of the things I am doing is having a robust random NPC generation system in place[3]. Having a way to adjudicate the new NPCs reaction to the party will be useful as a starting point for spinning the story from there.

Anyway, I've added this to my research list and I'll be reading up and tracking down old examples as well as looking at others modern interpretations. But I wanted to reach out and see if any other Booters do something similar. Get your suggestions, recommendations, thoughts, etc.

[1] I was playing other RPGs at the time, I thought I was too 'mature' for old school fantasy. Yeah, in retrospect, it's not like White Wolf or Superhero games are that much more mature. Some of the Indies I played were, but eventually, I came back to D&D.

[2] Yes, there have been over-corrections along the way. For example, I do think 3e was better than 4e. But I do see what 4e was aiming for and why it was doing what it did. As a general trendline, the editions get better over time - IMHO.

[3] If you look back in the forums, you might see threads on the old Commedia Dell'arte and how I turned some of the same concepts into a NPC generator table.
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Lord Foul
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Re: Reaction Tables

Postby Lord Foul » Mon Feb 10, 2020 3:40 pm

I don't do this in my own game, but one thing struck me about your idea. Leaving everything to the luck of the dice removes any influence from the nature of the party, how they appear (or sound or even smell) to the creature met, or how they act in that all-important first contact. A possible refinement might be to build into the roll a modifier to take account of this. The challenge of course is to build in a good range of different possibilities while preventing the whole thing becoming unwieldy.
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Re: Reaction Tables

Postby Wayne » Mon Feb 10, 2020 3:43 pm

I don't know about it as a table, but I do like when I see it associated with mobs. Things like:

  • If the leader goes down make a morale roll.
  • If a certain percentage of the group falls they try to flee
  • If more than a certain percentage of HP is taken in one hit they try to flee
  • If they reach a certain percentage of HP they run
  • If a certain NPC falls or item is damaged they fight to the death
etc.

Specifically I like it being tied to the specific NPC or monster and not a random roll. More a nature thing.
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Re: Reaction Tables

Postby Wayne » Mon Feb 10, 2020 3:46 pm

Lord Foul wrote:I don't do this in my own game, but one thing struck me about your idea. Leaving everything to the luck of the dice removes any influence from the nature of the party, how they appear (or sound or even smell) to the creature met, or how they act in that all-important first contact. A possible refinement might be to build into the roll a modifier to take account of this. The challenge of course is to build in a good range of different possibilities while preventing the whole thing becoming unwieldy.



I was typing my reply when you posted. I completely agree. I don't want it just random, but to make it random based on specific relevant modifiers does work for me.
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Re: Reaction Tables

Postby clintmemo » Mon Feb 10, 2020 3:48 pm

For NPC's and monsters, if I'm not sure how they will react, I'll just roll a d6 where 1 is bad for the party and 6 is good.

If you wanted something more granular, roll two d6's - One to determine how much the monster likes/hates the party and one to see how likely they are to act on those feelings. A monster might hate the party (1), and fight to the death (6) or hate the party (1) but do nothing about it (1) or like the party (5) but sit back and watch them die (2).
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Re: Reaction Tables

Postby tombombodil » Mon Feb 10, 2020 4:25 pm

This seems like the kind of thing I would make for a game like Gloomhaven as part of a mechanical GM replacement system. I've never used anything like this in any TTRPG that I've run, and I don't think I personally would just because I get a kick out of trying to role-play whoever the party is interacting with. However I would definitely consider creating a spectrum of reasonable responses for reference, the same way I attach Meyers-Briggs personality types to minor NPCs to help keep my role-playing of them at least broadly consistent if not particularly nuanced.

Perhaps it could be a two-axis graph with something like "Friendliness" on one axis and "Trust" on the other (or something else those were just examples). Then each category of reactions/responses would get placed somewhere on that 2D spectrum based on how likely someone in that mental state would be to enact them. Once it was set up, you could use it as a quick guide by estimating —roughly— where on that spectrum the NPC's attitude towards the party was at the time and then letting it inform what reactions would be more likely without it simply dictating what happens.
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Ikoma
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Re: Reaction Tables

Postby Ikoma » Tue Feb 11, 2020 12:40 pm

Lord Foul wrote:I don't do this in my own game, but one thing struck me about your idea. Leaving everything to the luck of the dice removes any influence from the nature of the party, how they appear (or sound or even smell) to the creature met, or how they act in that all-important first contact. A possible refinement might be to build into the roll a modifier to take account of this. The challenge of course is to build in a good range of different possibilities while preventing the whole thing becoming unwieldy.


I totally agree. The way I see this working is that there is a few (no more than four or five) 'generic' tables. One for monster reactions, one for NPC reactions, one for daily travel 'events', one for site exploration, and maybe some other things. But each of these could (and will) be customized. Some ahead of time.

For example, maybe I create a monster that I want to be hard to find. A sasquatch or lake monster might get an increased chance of avoiding the party and a decreased chance of being aggressive. Or maybe there is a roving band of orks or political guerrilla fighters that gets an increased chance of being aggressive, preemptively launching sneak attacks. And so on... Each little table being a customized (perhaps on the fly) adaptation of the core table.

I also like this idea as a mediator between the potential impact of the super-charisma character. You know the drill, one PC plays a bard or some other high charisma class, and they get proficient in deception, intimidation, and persuasion. Then they roll up to the king's guard, roll their incredibly high deception against the guard's average insight roll, and now want to claim they are the king's long lost brother that no one had ever even heard of and be allowed in to see the king. Now, I can simply give the party a +1 or even +2 on the reaction table for success on a charisma based skill. A paranoid, un-trusting character's reaction table might only be positive on the 11 or the 12 and even a fantastic persuasion check won't make the NPC is a lapdog for the party.

clintmemo wrote:For NPC's and monsters, if I'm not sure how they will react, I'll just roll a d6 where 1 is bad for the party and 6 is good.

If you wanted something more granular, roll two d6's - One to determine how much the monster likes/hates the party and one to see how likely they are to act on those feelings. A monster might hate the party (1), and fight to the death (6) or hate the party (1) but do nothing about it (1) or like the party (5) but sit back and watch them die (2).


One of the things I am trying to accomplish with this adaptation of an old rule, is to incorporate a primitive bell curve that increases the odds of a 'normal' result (whatever that might be for the specific monster/NPC/etc) and not give all outcomes an equal chance of happening. Of course, you could still model this by making the 'normal' results take up more room on a d20 table. For example, 2 comes up 1/36 times on a 2d6. Or ~3% of the time. So 2 (2d6) is about the same odds as a 1 on a d20 (5%). 3 comes up 2/36 times on a 2d6. Or ~6% of the time. So 3 (2d6) would be your 2 on a d20. 7 comes up 6/36 times on a 2d6. Or ~17% of the time. So it would need to be 10, 11, & 12 on your d20 rolls. The big issue becomes modifiers. I do still want my high charisma characters to move the results... just not huge swings. And a bell curve with a modifier does that. If I give too small a modifier on a straight d20 table, they might not even move out of the same category, too much and they could swing big.

I do like the idea of have two different dice that might represent different components of the overall reaction. Maybe one dice is hunger for monsters while the other is instinct. Give me a little more inspiration in how to play the results. You've given me something to thing about.
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Re: Reaction Tables

Postby Ikoma » Thu Feb 13, 2020 10:59 am

Last night I had another idea for a great use of Reaction Tables, as a way to represent an intermittent environmental trap/condition. The first example that popped into my head is the party has to cross an old worn rope/wood bridge. Every person who tries to cross rolls 2d6. On a 2 or 3, the bridge breaks. PCs need to make high DC saving throws to avoid falling into the chasm. On a 4 or 5, one rope snaps. PCs need make low DC saving throws to avoid losing their balance. All future rolls on the table get a -2 modifier and the bridge breaks on 2 thru 5 now. If the party tries to cross more than one PC at a time, each additional person adds a -1 modifier to every roll.

OR... the party has to cross a geological active geyser/swamp (see Yellowstone or Iceland). On a 2, the PC is directly in the path of an eruption and takes X scalding water damage. On a 3 or 4, they are close and can make a saving throw to avoid or reduce damage. On a 5, an eruption occurs far enough away to startle or threaten but not actually hurt. On a higher roll, they safely get across. Perhaps a successful Survival roll would give them a +1 or +2 to their reaction table roll.
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