Friday, May 24, 2019

These Wood-Elfs Are... (d100 Table)

Here’s another quick d100 table. This one may prove useful if and when the party trespasses into decidedly Sylvan territory. As you will see, I prefer to paint my Elfs with the “weird and unsettling” brush, but you could easily re-skin these as Faerie Folk or something similar if your setting gravitates toward a more archetypal Elf. But don’t be shy when subverting tropes in order to keep your players on tenterhooks by mixing it up every now and then. This table could slot right in for settings that are on the spookier-side, like the lovely Dolmenwood:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Batrachians/Frogfolk (“Just Use Goblins”)

Another entry for my ever-growing “Goblin Project,” this time we have some seemingly servile Frogfolk.

Forced into a sad state of serfdom by the stringent Storkfolk, don’t be fooled into thinking even for a fleeting moment, that this once wondrous salientian society is content with their awful lot in life!

Long live the ranine Resistance!

Monday, May 20, 2019

Hex-Describe & The Beauty Of Embracing Random Non-Sequiturs

Recently, I’ve been brainstorming with the brilliant Alex Schroeder on adding some additional content in the form of tables and items for his absolutely phenomenal Hex-Describe Tool. This online generator really checks all the right boxes in terms of the features I like to see, and he’s even been working to add additional features and improvements as our discussion on pluspora evolves. For example, some recent collaborative discussion about Ettercaps led to his inclusion of these super awesome Random Ettercap Faces.

The big thing for me though is random tables. Hex-Describe has a simple syntax for generating content from tables (detailed in the Help here) and the results end up being far more versatile than just a simple flat table that usually requires a little bit of “user-driven improvisatory fiddling” to make things work properly. The desire for table results to “make sense” is a natural one, and grows really hard to suppress over time.

The possibilities are boundless for how this tool can be used to generate some surprisingly in-depth random content at the push of a button once tables are created and populated. One thing we recently worked on including was some Goblin Markets within the procedurally generated Goblin Settlements that crop up in Hexes. The basic idea was that Goblins could have items for sale, but naturally since they’re Goblins, a lot of their items might not be in the greatest shape, be remotely useful, or even desirable to the players. They’d also likely try to rip off players at every available opportunity by overcharging for their shabby wares. They might have some stellar deals, and even some very “special” items available, but to find these you’d likely have to sift through a huge pile of second-rate detritus or go on a quest for them.

So, in order to start populating their wares, I created some Hex-Describe Tables using my old Random Impedimenta Table as a base. Hex-Describe lets me get even more granular and introduce far more variation than would ever be usable in the limited real estate of a single page and far more robust results than something that can be created in a single 1d100 roll. After adding some additional sub-tables, it generates all sorts of lovely random goblin junk:

  • woven silk bandanna
  • small chunk of cheese
  • 3 shards of coconut shell
  • sprite ear
  • 4 plum pits
  • live mammal (rabbit)
  • chalk pieces
  • bone chess pawn
  • chunk of fungus
  • 5 turtle eggshells
  • clay spool
  • shoddy wood hairbrush
  • 8 pieces of candy/sweets

The next step was to add in some prices. I started out just assigning these rather randomly because I was still learning/getting a feel for how Hex-Describe’s existing tables worked. Then I kind of really started liking some of the ridiculous combinations of prices and junk that it was spitting out: 30 gold pieces for a dead rat, 20 copper pieces for a pair of broken clay buttons, a gold flask for 2 copper pieces (what’s wrong with it?), etc. This led me to create another table that adds some flavor text concerning how the Goblin tries to “up sell” items, and the results this generates, although completely random, sometimes just end up working really well together:

I find myself constantly chuckling and snickering at some of the combinations that turn up here, and even the most illogical things seem to work in unexpected ways for these shady and somewhat comical Goblins Merchants. The title of this post is really the crux of it: There’s actually quite a bit of beauty possible, even in randomly produced non-sequiturs, and sometimes our urges to make things logical/consistent can overshadow something potentially much more fun, amusing, or gameable.

You can see it in action for yourself by running the rule for Goblin Markets here. This rule calls some additional things that don’t generate unless you’re doing a full hex map, but it does help illustrates just how thorough this tool can get. This is really just the tip of the iceberg though, and I can't stress how amazing Hex-Describe is as a generator of inspiring and useful random content!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Finally Fifty: Five More Forest Hexes for Your Friday

Finally reached the half-century mark!

These Forest Hexes as part of my ongoing Wilderness Hexes project (browse the hexes tag on this blog for more).

This time we have:

  • A small stream that needs crossing
  • A Green Grotto chock-full of surprises
  • Treant Adolescents!
  • The Forest's very own Genius Loci
  • And a treacherous wooden bridge!

Fifty is a great milestone to finally hit, and I can't believe I've managed to stick with it this long given my easily distracted nature :)

As always, I welcome any feedback or stories about how these work out for your table! Might celebrate by researching some POD options (cue trumpets & tuckets), so I'd love any information or options anyone is willing to share about that whole can of worms!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Masked Ones (“Just Use Goblins”)

Here's another attempt at wrangling unruly layouts and the “Just Use Goblins” concept into something useful for handling encounters and descriptions at the table.

This time, I've taken some of the feedback from the previous post and replaced most of the “stat-block facts/lore dumps” with Rumors that harness that old workhorse: The Requisite Reaction Roll. You can choose to have even/unshaded numbers be True or False, or they can be deemed accurate on a case-by-case basis through direct interaction with these pesky thesps during play. It ends up doing quadruple duty by also determining the factions (my line of thinking here is that some are more likely to be friendlier than others) and even provides some sample descriptive assistance in addition to setting the traditional disposition of the encounter with the good ol’ bell curve.

I don’t mind how this seems to work on the surface, but as always feedback is greatly appreciated. I probably wouldn’t have hit on this specific line-of-thinking without the gracious and helpful observations of HDA from My Terrible Sorcery Is Without Equal In The West and Anne from DIY & Dragons. Thank you both ever so much!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Character Backgrounds & Prior Vocations

Some recent discussion on Reddit got me blathering on about Backgrounds. One of the things that draws me to skill-less systems is the freedom they provide to the players. A set-in-stone Skill List informs play and can narrow the scope of player actions as they look in askance at the Character Sheet for options and tactics, and a tendency develops to view Skills as “this is everything you can do.” They also discourage attempts by telegraphing odds directly (a Player whose sheet constantly informs them that they are terrible at Sneaking About will probably never try).

I really enjoy systems like WHITEHACK that bundle these potential activities into Vocations (or Backgrounds). All of the “Skills/Competencies/Familiarities” that come attached to a single Vocation will usually encompass more individual abilities that can fit on a character's sheet anyway, and best of all: it encourages the player to think of creative ways that their character could potentially interact with a situation based on their imagined history. The only challenge with more free-form systems like this tends to be the occasionally creative paralysis when a player is lightly pressed with “You can be anything, tell me about your character” without any kind of concept in mind. Mind you, I’m not a big proponent of preconceived character concepts and would much rather let the oracular dice do this work for me, but every tablemate is different.

So here’s a table of 100 Character Backgrounds & Prior Vocations to help inspire players that might find themselves in this rut, or simply enjoy the challenge of trying something new and breaking out of the classic class stereotypes. I like “Roll or Choose” for tables like these because they provide some agency, but this list should by no means considered exhaustive. I always recommend trying to accommodate any character you can, most settings can cope surprisingly well (it’s fantasy after all, and stories shared are best):

Remember that long-lists of Backgrounds like this can perform double-duty. They can help significantly with the legwork to communicate and develop an Implied Setting (TROIKA!’s Backgrounds are phenomenal at this). Don't simply stop with selection however: Always try to ask a few Leading Questions to flesh things out. In the Backgrounds Above for instance, a glance may pique some curiosity and some questions about the world we're playing in may spring to mind: Why is Magic so apparently dangerous? What’s an Ooze Wrangler or an Ex-Wood-Spouse? It sure seems like some of the Cleric Backgrounds suggest that not all is on the up-and-up, etc. I try to leave these mostly as an exercise to the player (only putting on the DM hat when a drastic misalignment in vision/fiction can’t be resolved through compromise or might not be fun or fair for everyone).

As always, I’d love to hear about how this works out for your group if you give it a spin.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

These City-Dwellers Are... (d100 Table)

As a follow up to a previous post (These Village-folk Are...), not all local-color need be campestral. The exciting urban sprawl of a fantasy city can be a tempting destination post-delve to unload all that lovely lifted loot and purloined plunder. Let us breathe a little life into our Blocks & Boroughs as well:

Need a quick map? I have been enjoying experimenting with this wonderful Medieval Fantasy City Generator. I’d almost be tempted to give each of the different districts it designates a little bit of strategic embroidering as the players move between wards.