Friday, January 8, 2016

Random Encounters in the Forbidden Forest

Paul Norman is the video game designer who created popular games for the Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit computers, including Forbidden Forest, Beyond the Forbidden Forest, The Trivia Monster (AKA Monster Trivia), Aztec Challenge, and Caverns of Khafka. I haven't played any of these games myself, but through the wonders of Youtube and some cool articles at at VGJUNK here and here, I've become a bit acquainted with his work by proxy.

Forbidden Forest and Beyond the Forbidden Forest are particularly atmospheric and spooky. The Trivia Monster seems like a pretty innocuous game until someone loses...

The point is, these games inspired me to come up with some rough ideas for random encounters in a creepy, forbidden forest within one's tabletop game of choice. Roll a d12 (that most underused of dice) to see what appears between the twisted oaks.

1. Over-sized critters start stalking the party. 1d6 of them will start slinking around in the background, sizing up the PCs. Any individual creature that thinks it is not being observed will charge the party, but unless it gets within 10 feet during this charge it will retreat the instant it thinks someone has spotted it. They are initially cowardly and prefer hit-and-run tactics, but if at least two engage in melee or if one of them makes a successful kill, the rest will charge into the fray. All of the critters have 4 HD, armor as leather + shield, and poor-to-medium morale. Roll 1d6 to see what kind of critters show up:
1. Spiders the size of rottweilers.
They climb very well, but prefer to attack from the ground because unlike normal-sized spiders they are quite susceptible to falling damage. They move 1.5 times the speed of an unencumbered human. A successful hit inflicts 1d6 additional poison damage, Save vs. Poison to negate.
2. Bees the size of basketballs.
Very noisy and not nearly as stealthy or aerodynamic as they seem to think they are. They fly at the speed of an unencumbered human. Attack only does 1d2 piercing damage, but also inflicts poison - Save vs. Poison or die. Upon making a successful attack, a bee has a 1 in 6 chance of dying from having its stinger ripped out.
3. Scorpions the size of house cats.
Move at half the speed of an unencumbered human. Can make 2 claw attacks (1d6 damage each) or one tail attack (1d2 piercing damge plus Save vs. Poison or die). They can only make one tail attack per day.
4. Slightly over-sized vampire bats.
One of them is bright orange, and is the real bat. If any other bats are present, they are black in color, and they are illusions. If an illusory bat makes a successful attack, it does no damage, but paralyzes the target for 1d6 rounds, during which time the orange bat will try to feed on the paralyzed victim. Illusory bats take damage as normal, only have 2 HD, and disappear if killed. Killing the orange bat will make the illusory bats disappear. The orange bat will not charge unless someone is paralyzed. They fly at whatever speed the DM thinks is realistic for bats - probably faster than an unencumbered human.
5. Mosquitoes the size of turkey vultures.
They fly at the speed of an unencumbered human. A successful hit means they latch on and start draining 1d4 HP per round. Starting on their next turn, victims can attempt to wrestle them off. Another person can also dislodge a mosquito by hitting it for more than 3 point of damage. They heal the same amount as they drain, and can be "healed" up to 8 points more than their "maximum" HP. Any HP gained over the maximum this way disappears at the rate of 2 HP per hour.
6. One spider, one bee, one scorpion, one orange bat accompanied by 1d2 illusory bats, and one mosquito all show up and start fighting each other. If the party sticks around, the winner will start stalking them.

2. Rain of giant frogs! Frogs the size (and weight!) of ponies fall from the sky at terminal velocity. They number the same as the party, including NPC companions. Everyone present who doesn't get under cover or otherwise do something to protect themselves must make a Save vs. Breath to avoid having one land on them and squash them for the same amount of damage as the falling frog takes from the fall. The DM should give the party some kind of advance warning (such as a cartoon whistling sound from the sky) so they don't just get hit with Save vs. Breath trap through no fault of their own. The frogs are 4 HD, in case any of them miraculously survive the fall. Any surviving frogs will try to jump on the party and smash them, but they only have +0 to hit and move at 3/4 the speed of an unencumbered human.

3. A fire-breathing wyvern starts making fly-by attacks on the party. Armor as chain, fire attack does 6d4 damage, Save vs. Breath for half. Only 1 HP, as it is old, sick, and senile. Still fast as hell - at least twice than of an unencumbered human. Will make 1d4 passes at the party over the course of an hour before flying off to do something else. The party will see it dicking around in the distance before it makes its first attack. A colorful or noisy distraction might be enough to catch its attention and prevent any attack at all.

4. A Grim Reaper-looking specter starts summoning skeletons armed with spears to attack the party. The skeletons have perfect morale but no sense of tactics. They also have 1 HD. The Reaper floats around making stupid ghost noises and summoning one skeleton per round. It will float just out of reach of melee weapons (other than polearms and other weapons with extra reach). It has 4HD and no attacks. It has perfect morale as well. Up to 4 skeletons can be in service to the Reaper at a time; it will stop summoning if there are 4 skeletons around. If the Reaper is killed, all of the skeletons disappear, and the Reaper will make this really horrible shrieking sound as it dies. Save vs. Breath or be annoyed.

5. A burrowing red worm-thing, like a sandworm from Frank Herbert's Dune but much smaller, starts trying to dig up under a party member. If they don't move or dodge, it will emerge beneath their feet and try to eat them; it is just big enough to swallow an adult human whole in this manner. If it misses with this attack, it will only stay above ground for 1 round before going back under and trying to eat someone again the next turn. 6 HD, armor as chain, average morale, burrows as fast as an unencumbered human. Cannot burrow through much of anything other than soil, so it can be thwarted by getting onto a big rock or tree stump (at least temporarily). Will follow the party for hours and hours for a meal unless driven off or killed, but it will leave eventually if it does not get a meal. If the worm swallows someone, it moves at half speed. Swallowed people take 1d10 damage per round from crushing force and digestive juices, but they get a Save vs. Paralysis every round after the first to make the worm puke them out. Of course, they may be puked out underground...
EDIT: My wife gave me a cool idea: One in six worm-things are smart enough that they don't come out of the ground to attack. They just open up a sinkhole under their prey and let them fall into their open mouth.

6. A prehistoric giant sloth (megatherium) comes out of nowhere and starts hassling the party. It just wants them to give up something to eat (it's an herbivore, by the way), and it will leave them alone if it decides they don't have anything tasty for it, but it's a big, 8 HD sucker, and it will defend itself if attacked. It could be downright friendly if the party is nice to it, but it should be intimidating enough that befriending it will not be a completely obvious solution at first glance.

7. The party stumbles into a 50-square foot area of the forest where they are magically compelled to dance. They can only avoid dancing with a Save vs. Magic, and even then only for a minute at a time. The compulsion ends when they leave the area.

8. A spinning gyre of interlocking wheels made of yellow and red energy hovers over to the party, gently drops a golden arrow onto the ground at their feet, and leaves. The arrow is worth 1,000 silver pieces. If followed, the party can track the gyre to a pile of bones of various animal species, including humans. The gyre will float over the pile for 1 round, then disappear. If anyone touches the bones before the gyre disappears, it will shoot a ray of blue light at them: Save vs. Device or be disintegrated.

9. A giant blue snake can be seen slithering toward the party from a long distance away. If they do not run or otherwise avoid it, the snake will attack by spitting acid at them. The acid does 6d6 damage and has the range of a longbow. The snake also has a bite attack or crush attack, 10 HD, armor as leather, and high morale. It moves at half the speed of an unencumbered human.

10. A four-headed, fire-breathing dragon sits on a pile of treasure in a shallow cave. It is unwilling to move from on top of the treasure for any reason except to defend itself from projectile attacks or other potentially lethal threats that can't be dealt with while immobile. It will otherwise not pursue anyone, but it will attack anyone who gets within range. It has 20 HD, armor as plate, perfect morale, and 4 breath attacks per round, each doing 5d4 damage, Save vs. Breath for half (or 4 bite attacks). And it never sleeps. The treasure should be worth whatever amount will tempt a bunch of low-level chumps into attacking a dragon. Maybe come back when you know the Disintegrate spell?

11. Storm clouds roll in. Amidst thunder and lightning, Demogorgon, Demon King of the Forbidden Forest, bursts forth from inside the trunk of an ancient tree in an explosion of splinters and demands that the party obey its command or be destroyed. If the command is obeyed, Demogorgon will turn invisible and fly away. Roll 1d6 for Demogorgon's demand:
1. Pick a random direction and head that way in as close to a straight line as possible for an hour.
2. Strip naked and wrestle for Demogorgon's amusement. Splinters, parasites, bug bites, catching a cold, etc. are reasonable risks associated with naked wrestling in the Forbidden Forest.
3. Pick someone in the party (PC or NPC, it doesn't matter). Rip out their fingernails and toenails. If no one in the group has any fingernails or toenails for some reason, then someone needs to punch someone else in the face.
4. Gorge yourselves on your food supplies. You can stop when you literally cannot eat any more.
5. Snort this lotus powder. Come on, all the cool adventurers are doing it.
6. Kill Yourselves. By which Demogorgon means Mr. Steven Yourselves, that guy over there minding his own business.
Demogorgon has 20 HD, armor as chain, perfect morale, a breath attack (flaming lightning) for 6d6 damage, the ability to fly and turn invisible at will, immunity to fire and electricity, and two claws and a bite attack.

12. The Trivia Monster, a muscular yet insect-like bipedal creature, bursts forth from inside the trunk of an ancient tree in an explosion of splinters and demands that the party answer a trivia question. Make the question something mundane from the core rule book, like the price of crampons. Anyone who answers wrong gets hit by a magic lightning bolt (no save) for half of their current HP, rounded down. The first person to answer correctly gains 1,000 experience points and causes the Trivia Monster to vanish. There is no actual penalty for refusing to answer, and the Trivia Monster will leave the party alone and vanish after 10 minutes of being ignored. There is no penalty for looking up the answer, but if a player asks if there is such a penalty, the DM should be coy about it. The Trivia Monster has 6 HD, armor as plate, and good morale. It enjoys the taste of human flesh, but will not attack unless attacked first.

WARNING: This is probably all unbalanced in one way or another, if you care about that. It should go without saying, but feel free to alter anything to your heart's content.

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