Before you can yell at me for loving random encounters in RPGs, hear me out! The reason why I love random counters is—TSSHOOOO!
RANDOM ENCOUNTER 1: In order to proceed, you must defeat Ogden Quarts the Unlovable. Roll a twenty-sided dice (d20) and add +2. The DC is 5. If you meet or beat a total of 5, you get to add +3 on your next encounter. If you skip this fight, you remain at +2.
Whoa, that was weird. Anyway, I love random encounters because it takes the act of progression out of my hands. Take a game like Dragon Quest 11 where monsters are littered everywhere in the overworld — you’re not forced to fight them, so you’re more inclined to run past them. What do you think happens when you get to the boss of an area? Yeah, you end up being underleveled.
Don’t get me wrong, my eyes roll so hard in the back of my head that you can hear them snap from space when I get a random encounter at an inopportune moment. However, random encounters are a necessary evil to progress through grindy RPGs, like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Octopath Traveler.
They are necessary, but they should be improved. There’s more we can do with the random encounter formula. Everyone loves crushing on mobs and leveling up fast — this is why this genre is addicting, but there are better ways to optimize it so it doesn’t feel like a chore in the latter half of these games.
Embrace random encounters
Stop running away, damn it! Seriously, if you don’t do that random encounter, or the next one, or the one after that, that’s a heap of experience you missed out on. What do you mean, “so what if I’m underleveled?” Buddy, if you skip them now, you’re going to have to run in circles in the same spot later to grind out that experience. We’ve all been there. Sure, these encounters feel like roadblocks along the way, but—TSSHOOOO!
RANDOM ENCOUNTER 2: In order to proceed, you must defeat Natalya Sniff the Annoying. Roll a twenty-sided dice (d20) and add your current modifier (+3 if you’re a winner). The DC is 10. If you meet or beat a total of 10, you get to add +5 on your next encounter. If you skip this fight, you remain at your current modifier.
Okay—What was I saying? Right, so these encounters might feel like roadblocks, but each one that you skip now is one that gets added onto the pile for later. If there are ten random encounters strewn about an area leading to a boss and you decide to skip them, you’re prolonging the inevitable. You’ll have to catch up in levels at some point, which now looks like you running around the boss room and fighting all of them back to back. There’s nothing more exhausting than farming in one spot for hours on end.
Do yourself a favor, and fight those mobs now. The last thing you want to do is end up in a boss fight for 30 minutes and fail because you just didn’t have the stats to back up your epic strategy. We’ve all been there. Enough is enough.
That’s not to say that it’s okay for developers to hit us with these hot garbage systems.
Random encounters need to improve
I’ve learned to love random encounters because they give me that hit of dopamine when I level up one of my characters. It’s why we love RPGs. If there wasn’t a rewarding leveling system, the genre wouldn’t be what it is today. However, there are some annoying—TSSHOOOO!
RANDOM ENCOUNTER 3: In order to proceed, you must defeat Tether Portocaval the Predictable. Roll a twenty-sided dice (d20) and add your current modifier (+5 if you’re a winner). The DC is 15. If you meet or beat a total of 15, you get to add +8 on your next encounter. If you skip this fight, you remain at your current modifier.
ANNOYING. There are some annoying encounters, especially when you’re already leveled appropriately or find yourself in an underleveled area. There should be systems in place to smooth our journey along. This is what my perfect RPG looks like:
An overworld where there’s not only physical enemies walking around but also random encounters on top of that. Sounds like hell, right? Well, for the grinder, it’s heaven. The key part of this perfect world would be a setting that lets you disable random encounters. When you know you need that grind, flip that switch on. Otherwise, enjoy the lush world of roaming baddies. We all know they’re basically just set design, because we’re going to walk right past them anyway.
Another key setting that shouldn’t be gate kept by items (looking at you, Octopath Traveler), are adjustments that increase the frequency of random encounters. When you’re deep in that grind, you don’t want to waste time running in circles. Running into encounters should be nearly instantaneous, and in fact, the encounters themselves should also be instant. I love games like Octopath Traveler 2 and some editions of Final Fantasy 7 where there’s a 2x or 3x speed. A good grind is one you don’t have to strategize for — aka something that ends in the first round of combat. The quicker the combat, the quicker the grind. We just want to move on to our local secret super boss, thanks.
In an even more perfect world, there would be settings to adjust the EXP gain multiplier. Give me 100x EXP, you cowards! You might be wondering, “why even play if you’re going to level up to max so quickly?” Because I am a father with a full-time job and don’t have time to grind my day away like I did back in college.
Make it easy for me god damn it!
The sense of danger is overwhelming. Are you certain you wish to proceed? TSSHOOOO!
THE ARTICLE BOSS: In order to proceed to the end of this article, you must defeat Marcos Nontenured the King of Random. Roll a twenty-sided dice (d20) and add your current modifier (+8 if you’re a winner). The DC is 20. If you meet or beat a total of 20, you may proceed to the end of this article. There is no skipping this fight, you cheater! If you skipped the previous fights, you technically still have a 15% chance of success, but if you’re a winner, that’s 60%. Have I made my point?
Du-du-du-dun DUHN DUHN DUN-dun-DUHN! You defeated Marcos Nontenured, the probably evil King of Random. Now you get to read my closing arguments to the jury.
The way you defeated the boss by pacing yourself throughout this adventure is the same way you’re designed to consume RPGs. I’m not saying it’s the best, or even that it’s the only way, but it is how they’re designed. The last thing I want to be doing before I fight the final boss of an epic RPG is running around in circles and grinding experience. I need to know what happens in the story, and nothing gets in the way of that more than being underleveled.
Now, game developers, if you’re reading this, I love your RPGs, but please, for the love of my sanity and your players, make a seamless leveling experience. Give us the tools, the cheats, the settings — let us play our way, and I can assure you that people will love you for it. I just want to be max level and one-shot the super boss. What’s so wrong with that?
What is this? The sense of danger is overwhelming. Do you wish to commence the final confrontation?
THE SECRET SUPER ARTICLE BOSS: This is the secret super boss — not for the faint of heart! To truly 100% this article, you must defeat Xena Squire the God of Random. Roll a twenty-sided dice (d20) and add your current modifier (+10 if you defeated Marcos). The DC is 25. If you meet or beat a total of 25, you have truly finished this article. Describe how you defeat Xena Squire.
What? You want a secret ending? Okay. You get to go home to your family. Now get outta here.
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Rami Tabari is an Editor for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.