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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wandering Monster Concepts

There are two competing interpretations vying for control of the "Wandering Monster" concept, although it seems like most people are unaware that there are even two interpretations.

One interpretation says that wandering monster rolls represent the inhabitants of the dungeon occasionally leaving their lairs to do other things.

One interpretation says that wandering monster rolls represent transient populations.

Those who follow the first interpretation believe that any monster that doesn't fit the list of established occupants is an example of bad design; the author of the dungeon didn't think about how the dungeon would actually work. Those who follow the second interpretation, on the other hand, think of wandering monster tables written with the first interpretation in mind as just another table, perhaps lacking in variety, but perfectly justifiable.

Both in theory are based on the idea that dungeons aren't static. Things change. However, the first interpretation is not sustainable, because if all the monsters on the wandering monster table must be from the existing dungeon population, the list should thin out and eventually there won't be any more wandering monsters; the dungeon becomes static over time.

The thing is: the fact that the adventurers entered the dungeon means other things should be able to enter, too.


  1. ideas not both mutually exclusive therefore all can be true

  2. IMHO, wandering monsters include both portions of the existing population and transient encounters. As the dungeon is worked through, the existing population is reduced, and wandering encounters on that basis wane.

    However, eventually the transient population may grow, and as it becomes clear that there is an available space to live, eventually portions of the transient population eventually become part of the new existing population.

  3. Oh, it should be noted that not every placed encounter in a dungeon need be part of the permanent population, either.

  4. "The thing is: the fact that the adventurers entered the dungeon means other things should be able to enter, too."

    If this is the case, though, things to keep in mind:

    1.) Things should have a reason for entering, just as the PCs do.
    2.) The occupants of the dungeon should react to the wandering monster, just as they would react to the PCs.

    I think the major reason I don't use the second interpretation is because I favor active lairs, where the inhabitants consciously try to eject intruders. Thus, I assume that except for the PCs, they've been pretty successful at it...hence, no transients.

    If you favor more passive lairs or megadungeons, naturally you will have a different view.

  5. Sorry for the late reply:

    As noted in the comments on the article "On the Monster, Random, Wandering, or Otherwise This distinction was outlined in the Players Handbook for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.