My night last night in WoW was just frustrating. Perhaps it’s the circle I move in, but I was sure most people understand spawn tables. I was so wrong. A spawn table is an electronic version of the wandering monster table your pen and paper RPG dungeon master would use to figure out what jumped you while you ran from the dungeon to the town. That’s all that it really is. There’s no secret science involved. If it makes you more comfy, pretend there’s some guy rolling a d20 behind his little screen every time a monster spawns. Why am I obsessing about this? Well, it has to do with this quest I was on last night. Those of you who play EQ already know spawn tables intimately, so you’ll probably spend a lot of time going “doh!”. I don’t think it’s possible to get to 10 and not have a working knowledge of EQ’s love affair with spawn tables.
Let me wax nostalgic for a moment about ol’ EQ and it’s spawn tables. EQ was a mean DM. A harsh mistress. These days, she’s a lot more casual and giving. She inflicts most of her wicked pain on the raiders, and lets your average Legolas-derived-name-character have it easy. But us old timers, we remember the pain of hoping you got lucky on that spawn table. Will Mitty spawn this time? Frenzy? Magi? LGuk was filled with spawn table prayers. Or you could be the poor soul having to camp Pzyjin or the SRo AC. Now right there, we have the two types of spawn tables in EQ. Or you could be the hapless newbie who kills a bixie in East Commonlands only to gift yourself with death from above with a griffin. EQ’s spawn tables were wicked. There were the simple ones, like Guk. X% of the time a normal frog spawns, Y% a named pops. Then the loot table uses the same type of math, with a Z% chance of you getting that oh-so-fabulous FBSS. Then we have the ones no one to this day has figured out completely like SRo’s AC and Pzyjin. There’s more speculation on these than the Kennedy assassination. There are theories that work 90% of the time next to ones so bizarre that mental patients call you crazy. Myself, I’d be willing to sign any number of NDA’s just to know how they worked…the designer who built those was a genius. My guess has always been that there’s a few tables all stacked on top of each other, so that in order to get named_spawn_01, you have to be lucky, besides just spinning the tables. I also am all about the grassy knoll.
Anyway, back in WoW, they are using spawn tables. This comes as a shock to the WoW-anatics who think their game uses all new shiny technology and processes. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and spawn tables work. It’s a staggeringly easy way to have planned randomness. Where I was hunting, in the Hinterlands, there are a total of 3 types of monsters. Possibly 4 if there was some rare in the table which seems likely due to the massive amount of rares in the game, but let’s go with 3. Stealthing wolves of some name I forget, Savage Owlthings, and Skylord griffins. That’s it. When you kill a monster, there’s a roughly 50/50 chance of it being a wolf or an owlbear…er wildkin, whatever. If there’s no Skylord up at the time, there’s a small chance of one spawning. So let’s say it’s 45% wolf, 45% wildkin, 10% skylord. Roll your d20 and if you get 1-8 you get a wolf, 9-18 gets you an owlbear, and 19-20 is a griff. That’s it. It’s simple. And since there’s only 2 (really, since only one of the skylords seems to be up at a time) monsters, it’s really easy to see this in action. Like last night.
There were 3 other people questing around the area with me. Wolves stealth (invis), so you can’t see them until you almost step on them. Owlbears don’t. There’s a quest nearby to kill both. So people run around, targeting the owlbears, since you can see them. And kill them all. The d20’s roll in the background, and soon nothing is up. Nothing visible, since all that is up are the stealthed wolves. And so the complaining starts. “Bah, damn blizzard, respawn on the owlbears is too slow!” or “What, only 2 up at a time? How will I kill 20 before next week?”. Me, I also need them, but I’m killing wolves to make them spawn. Hey, it’s decent exp too, so why not. I mention that if they kill a few wolves, they’ll see more bears. This gets me laughed at. They say that it’s a hard coded only 2 up at a time. The jeers continue and I feel it’s best to not prolong the suffering and leave and come back a few hours later. You know, after my smart buddies have packed up their toys. Still nothing visible up, but after 10 minutes of wolf-slaying, I have packs of owlbears roaming around, which I quickly kill and move on. Amazing what you can learn if you pay attention.