The Vaarn bestiary has grown quite a bit since the first zine came out, now totalling at over 100 official monsters. There was some discussion recently on the Vaarn Discord about the encounter table given in the original zine, regional variations upon it, and encounter threat.

In the spirit of leading by example, I’m going to cook up a few new encounter tables, focusing on some of the varying terrain types given in Issue 3. I will be producing two tables per terrain type: a low threat encounter table and a high threat encounter table.

The low threat tables will naturally focus more on low Level monsters and NPCs, with some encounters that can be solved with diplomacy. The high threat tables will feature nastier creatures with no Level restrictions: stat damage, Level drain, equipment damage, and creatures that summon reinforcements or require special equipment will be featured. I want to show how you can use a palette of creatures to make the different biomes feel unique.

We’re using 2d6 for a bell curve, so the rarer or more dangerous creatures can have a lower chance of appearing.

Update: I’ve now included encounter distance and activity tables as well, to complete the picture. Outdoor encounters need distances to help Referee and players envision how close the parties are to one another. Vaarn doesn’t use detailed combat movement rates, so the distances given are approximations.

Featureless Sands

The quintessential Vaarnish terrain. I’m imagining a mixture of mobile, sand-adapted creatures, as well as intelligent groups who are crossing the dunes on vehicles or by foot. Synthetic creatures like the Tumblesnare are at home here, as they don’t need to drink.

2d6Low ThreatHigh Threat
2d8 TumblesnareArgent Shepherd
3d6 TroikaChrome-Feathered Sailback
4d6 Banditsd20 Bandits
5d6 Lizard Lionsd4 Giant Azure Scorpions
6d10 Faa Nomadsd8 Cacklemaw
7Trade Caravand8 Hegemony Legionaries
8d8 Greenguardd8 Ghouls
9d6 Iridium Vulturesd4 Leopard Worms
103d6 Phthalo-JackalsSubtle Stalker
11Lithling ScholarAmaranthine Death-Worm
12Sandworm (Juvenile)Sandworm (Adult)
2d6Encounter DistanceEncounter Activity
2Close (PCs Surprised)In Combat (roll again for opponent)
3CloseSleeping / Motionless
4Mid-rangeSheltering / Hiding
5Mid-rangeChasing / Fleeing (roll again for prey/pursuer)
6Mid-rangeHunting / Scavenging
7FarPatrolling / Travelling
8FarRelaxing / Basking
9FarSquabbling / Infighting
10FarEating / Defecating / Venting
11Very Far (No Missile Fire)Injured / Ill
12Very Far (No Missile Fire)Psychedelic State / Religious Trance

Winding Canyons

Verticality is higher and visibility is lower (note that the encounter distances have changed). Lots of these creatures can fly or climb, and one can imagine Alzabo and Brood Mothers nesting in the canyon’s caves. The Copy Cat and Tiger Fly encounters are rated higher threat because they can summon reinforcements.

2d6Low ThreatHigh Threat
2Harlequin SerpentAlzabo
3d8 Cliff Ghulsd6 Glider Spiders
4d8 Nerve Crawlersd6 Copy Cats
52d8 Gruksd6 Regenerators
63d6 Blue Baboonsd4 Glass Tigers
7Lost NPCd8 Cacklemaw
8d10 Faa Nomadsd3 Cobra-Moths
9d6 Lizard Lionsd6 Tiger Flies
103d6 Phthalo-Jackals2d6 Eyeless Dogs
11d10 Xeric TriffidsAmaranthine Death-Worm
12d6 Lambent LynxBrood Mother
2d6Encounter DistanceEncounter Activity
2Close, Above (PCs Surprised)In Combat (roll again for opponent)
3Close, Level (PCs Surprised)Sleeping / Motionless
4CloseSheltering / Hiding
5CloseChasing / Fleeing (roll again for prey/pursuer)
6CloseHunting / Scavenging
7Mid-rangePatrolling / Travelling
8Mid-rangeRelaxing / Basking
9Mid-rangeSquabbling / Infighting
10Mid-rangeEating / Defecating / Venting
11FarInjured / Ill
12FarPsychedelic State / Religious Trance

Garbage Strewn Wastes

I imagine these as being huge drifts of plastic waste, surrounded by desolate hardpacked blue dirt. A mixture here of poisonous and fungal creatures, as well as some unpleasant gelatinous beasts. Three Blightbeasts should provide a challenge even to high-level PCs.

2d6Low ThreatHigh Threat
2Daggertrunkd3 Blightbeasts
3Bacterial Gestalt ColonyDoppelgeller
4d8 Cliff Ghulsd6 Battle Boars
5d8 Stumbling Dronesd6 Flashhounds
62d6 Yurlingsd6 Hagflukes
7d6 Yuckhogsd4 Cacogen Pseudo-Giants
8d6 Quill-Spidersd6 Hiveymen
9d8 Gene Thievesd6 Mandrakes
10d8 Grey Cricketsd6 Regenerators
11d6 Mournfrogsd4 Walking Wombs
12Xanthous MycomorphFleshwarp
2d6Encounter DistanceEncounter Activity
2Close (PCs Surprised)In Combat (roll again for opponent)
3Close (PCs Surprised)Sleeping / Motionless
4CloseSheltering / Hiding
5CloseChasing / Fleeing (roll again for prey/pursuer)
6Mid-rangeHunting / Scavenging
7Mid-rangePatrolling / Travelling
8Mid-rangeRelaxing / Basking
9Mid-rangeSquabbling / Infighting
10FarEating / Defecating / Venting
11FarInjured / Ill
12Very Far (outside missile range)Psychedelic State / Religious Trance

Abandoned City

Endless ranks of crumbling buildings, scoured of all features by time and sand. I envision abandoned cities being fairly dangerous, because they have low visibility and a large number of directions potential threats can approach from (note the different encounter distances again). The creatures here have a mix of themes, but I tried to imagine what could be lurking in the secluded basements or nesting on eroded spires.

2d6Low ThreatHigh Threat
2d6 Albino ApesJuggernaut
3d6 KerberosCosseting Chrysalid
4d8 Indigo Servitorsd6 Memory Eaters
53d6 Phthalo-Jackalsd4 Leopard Worms
6d8 Stumbling Dronesd8 Shriekmen
72d8 Gruksd20 Bandits
82d6 Yurlings2d6 Eyeless Dogs
9d8 Luxfoe Beetlesd6 Troika
10d6 Grimpetsd10 Grimpets + d3 Grimweavers
11Harlequin SerpentChromavore
12Pontiff ScorpionThunderstrike Bird
2d6Encounter DistanceEncounter Activity
2Close, Above (PCs Surprised)In Combat (roll again for opponent)
3Close, Below (PCs Surprised)Sleeping / Motionless
4Close, Level (PCs Surprised)Sheltering / Hiding
5Close, AboveChasing / Fleeing (roll again for prey/pursuer)
6Close, BelowHunting / Scavenging
7Close, LevelPatrolling / Travelling
8Mid-range, AboveRelaxing / Basking
9Mid-range, BelowSquabbling / Infighting
10Mid-range, LevelEating / Defecating / Venting
11Far, AboveInjured / Ill
12Far, LevelPsychedelic State / Religious Trance

Hypergeometric Research Facility

Finally, the same approach to building encounters applied to an underground vault, with lots of Hypergeometric, Outsider, and Synthetic-type creatures. This has some really nasty encounters on the High Threat side, with lots of potential for ability score damage, and even Level-drain on the table! Scytheslivers can inflict Wounds even on full-HP characters, and the Fractalisk and Chromavore are impossible to kill without the correct equipment. The Low Threat table is more reasonable, although the Phase Panther could be difficult for Level 1 PCs.

I tend to assume encounters indoors happen in the same room as the PCs, so I don’t use distance tables so much. We can still use the acitivities table however.

2d6Low ThreatHigh Threat
2d6 Moonbeasts (Nymphs)Blightstone Knight
3d8 Negativfolkd4 Moonbeasts (Imago)
4d8 Nerve Crawlersd3 Spectres of Indifference
5d6 Laser Shrimpd4 Syctheslivers
6d10 Faa Nomadsd6 Flashhounds
7Planeymand6 Planeyfolk
8Lithling Scholard4 Hollow Maidens
9d6 Grimpetsd10 Grimpets + d3 Grimweavers
102d6 YurlingsChromavore
11Subtle StalkerFractalisk
12Phase PantherKronophage
2d6Encounter Activity
2In Combat (roll again for opponent)
3Sleeping / Motionless
4Sheltering / Hiding
5Chasing / Fleeing (roll again for prey/pursuer)
6Hunting / Scavenging
7Patrolling / Travelling
8Relaxing / Basking
9Squabbling / Infighting
10Eating / Defecating / Venting
11Injured / Ill
12Psychedelic State / Religious Trance

Putting it Together

Finally, let’s roll up a few encounters to see how the three tables — creature, distance, activity — work together to create a scene for the players.

First up, let’s do something low threat in the Featureless Sands. We get ‘Trade Caravan, Close (PCs surprised), Chasing/Fleeing (5 Lizard Lions)’.

The only thing that has really thrown me here is the PCs being surprised. I would play this as the party cresting a colossal sand dune, the height of a building, and meeting a trade caravan frantically cresting the dune from the opposite direction. Five Lizard Lions are sprinting up the dune after the trader, neck-frills flared and fangs bared. This scene has some obvious hooks already: the merchants are going to beg for help, offer some goods, or might even collide with the PCs’ vehicle in their haste. Lizard Lions are moderately threatening but they don’t have any nasty tricks, so this would be fine for Level 1 PCs.

Let’s try something high threat now. In the Winding Canyons I get ‘4 Tiger Flies, Close Level (PCs surprised), Eating/Defecating/Venting’.

More surprise! In this case I would describe the PCs rounding a tight corner and coming face to face with four dog-sized cacogenic wasps, busily stripping the flesh from a dead goat. As the PCs are surprised I would probably immediately give the Tiger Flies a further reaction roll to see how they deal with being interrupted. If its bad, they attack with advantage. If its neutral or good they stand their ground, buzzing angrily but not willing to move away from the corpse. The creatures aren’t super dangerous alone, but as soon as one dies, another d6 giant wasps will be on their way to investigate the pheromones released by their dead comrade. This is definitely a tricky situation, but not an impossible one.

Something low threat again. In the Garbage Wastes we get ‘2 Gene Thieves, Mid-range, Sheltering/Hiding’. This one probably doesn’t play as a combat encounter unless the PCs really want it. I would describe them noticing two eerie hairless pink faces watching them from inside a nest of trash. The creatures are motionless and don’t seem to want to leave their burrow (the question here being what are they hiding from?). At mid-range you can get a shot off if you really want to attack the Gene Thieves, but they’ll have time to flee if you’re trying to charge into melee range.

High threat in the Abandoned City. We get ‘8 Grimpets and 2 Grimweavers, Close and Level, Patrolling / Travelling’. This is a pretty standard encounter. I’d describe the PCs becoming aware of motion nearby: ten dull-grey spiderlike synths come stalking through the window of a house, moving in single file with two larger units at the rear. They’re close to the PCs, so there’s no chance the Grimpets won’t notice them. This might call for a further reaction roll to see how aggressive the robots are.

One last high threat encounter in the hypergeometric research facility. We get ‘Fractalisk, Sleeping / Motionless’. This is very cool! Fractalisks look so weird that I imagine it’s pretty difficult to tell when they’re sleeping (do they sleep?). I would describe the creature as being stuck to the wall like a jellyfish at low tide, weird fractal patterns moving across its impossible body in leisurely waves. If they leave the monster alone and tiptoe past I would rule that it continues to slumber (although there’s no guarantee it won’t wake up if you come running into the room later on).


    1. Thank you! It’s easy to overlook the meat and potatoes stuff like fresh encounter tables that you actually use when you’re a GM, but I want to do some more posts like this.

      Do you run a solo game for the young one or are they part of a group?


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