Moved by a sudden impulse he groped for a loose stone, and let it drop. He felt his heart beat many times before there was any sound. Then far below, as if the stone had fallen into deep water in some cavernous place, there came a “plunk,” very distant, but magnified and repeated in the hollow shaft.
‘What’s that!’ cried Gandalf. He was relieved when Pippin confessed what he had done; but he was angry, and Pippin could see his eye glinting. ‘Fool of a Took!’ he growled. ‘This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking party. Throw yourself in next time, and then you will be no further nuisance. Now be quiet!’
—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
The PCs attract the attention of a horde of humanoids—goblins, orcs, gnolls or what have you—which inhabit a lower level of the dungeon, possibly by means of dropping something down a well. How do the humanoids react?
Roll 1d6 on the following table. Apply an ad hoc penalty to the roll if the PCs seem especially dangerous (the booted footsteps of a score of hirelings echo through the dungeon, or the party is preceded by the flash and crack of lightning bolts), while applying a bonus if the PCs seem like a juicy target (they’re accompanied by the cries of frightened children, or they spill coins like sparkly rain down a stairwell).
- 1: The humanoids withdraw and hide.
2: A scouting party (1d4 humanoids) skulks up to investigate.
3: A raiding party (2d6 humanoids) strafes the PCs with missiles.
4: A war party (3d6 humanoids + 1 sub-leader) assaults the PCs.
5: A strike force (3d6 humanoids + 1d3 sub-leaders + 1 affiliated monster [dire wolf, troll, etc]) slams into the PCs.
6: The entire horde swarms up to overwhelm the PCs.