Reaction Tables

Playing my solo sessions these past few days has been highly enjoyable but this morning, when coming to my fourth creature encounter of the adventure so far, I realised that I was falling into a common pattern in fantasy gaming: every encounter was a fight. The solution? I decided to add in a Reaction Table.

The most memorable Reaction Table is from the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1981) rulebook, wherein we read the reason for such a tool:

Some monsters always act in the same way (such as zombies, who always attack). However, the reactions of most monsters are not always the same. The DM can always choose the monster’s reactions to fit the dungeon, but if he decides not to do this, a DM may use the reaction table below to determine the monster’s reactions.

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (1981), B24

My favourite Reaction Table comes from the GURPS Basic Set and it’s a great example of a modern rules set that still includes such things in the core system. For my Basic Roleplaying powered game, I had to hunt high and low for a table (because there isn’t one in BRP) but I got lucky in the Appendices section of classic RuneQuest (2e), from 1980, where I found the Response Chart:

01-0501-1001-15encountered creature is extremely friendly to party, and very amenable to suggestions
06-1511-3016-75encountered creatures are willing to let the party go its own way; they will go theirs
16-2531-7076-85encountered creatures are unsure and will stall for time, or for something significant or telling to occur
26-8571-9086-95encountered creatures take an active dislike to the party, just short of blind hatred
86-0091-0096-00encountered creatures cannot conceal their contempt and/or hatred for the party
Extracted from RuneQuest (1980, republished 2016), p126

I like these kinds of resources because they help me to add variety into the behaviours of creatures and non-player characters in my games. My default is often to reach for the dice and declare a combat scene, but the alternative is often much more interesting.

Of course, if the dice decide that it will be a combat then I am happy to roll with that eventuality too. At least the players can’t accuse me of setting them up for a fight if it all goes bad.

Ironically enough, in that fourth encounter with some pretty neutral animals, it turned out that I rolled 74 and they took an active dislike to the party anyway.

Game on!

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