Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Tex-Crawl/Gorgon Trail Backgrounds & Vocations

One of the first things I like to do these days when I’m contemplating Settings is to start with player facing materials.

For the Tex-Crawl project, Gorgon Trail (a Mystara-sytle Gazetteer for fantasy Texas) I went ahead and created an updated “Backgrounds & Vocations” list that tries to do some of the heavy lifting to communicate setting during Character Generation:

Ideally, as with the previous Backgrounds, these should create more questions than they answer and telegraph more of the entire world more quickly than a huge setting dump. It is also interesting to see which Backgrounds/Vocations are broadly applicable despite the setting, and how a simple tweak can completely change the tone.

The actual Gazetteer is going on 36 pages so far, and the sections on some of the really intriguing things (like how Clerics are handled, Rune-Branding, Barbed-Wire Wizards, and Hooch Magic) have been completed in their draft forms. It’s all very tongue and cheek, and the authorial voice/heavy use of idiomatic expressions is having the strange side-effect of my latent accent creep out in conversation :). I’m having to resist the urge to just go full on TROIKA! with these Backgrounds instead of something broadly compatible with B/X.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

These Dwarfs Are... (d100 Table)

I’ve managed to somehow saddle myself with yet another project that I’ve been spending some spare time on. This one’s taking shape as a Mystara-style Gazetteer for a Fantasy Texas (tentatively calling it the Gorgon Trail Tex-Crawl). It’s fairly tongue-in-cheek, but it’s proving to be a fun distraction.

But I’m still hoping not to neglect this blog, so here’s another quick d100 Activities Table to liven up encounters (random, wandering, or otherwise) with Dwarfs this time. It could serve as a companion for the one I previously put together for Wood Elfs.

Feel free to browse the d100 label for similar tables I’ve posted in the past, and as always I love hearing about how they work out at your table.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

d100 Table - One Hundred Unconventional Potions

When it comes to Magical Potions (or any magical items really), I’m particularly fond of effects that are less “duplicate an existing spell or class ability” and more “can this lead to potentially interesting or creative use later in play.” It tends to turn the more expendable gimcrack into something just a little more magical, a tad mysterious, and slightly special. It can also lead to some sensational surprises down the road when a player realizes they have “just the right tool for the job”, or better yet: something that should work with a little strategic modification to “the plan”. So, with that said, here’s a new random table of One Hundred Unconventional Potions to sprinkle throughout your heaping hoards, devilishly determine the perils of potion miscibility, salve the sting of adverse alchemical errors, or any other use that might strike your fancy. Some are strange, some are probably too powerful, and as with anything here you may need to season to the tastes of your table or your particular flavor of fantasy.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

d100 Table - Three Hundred Smells & Scents by Type (for Yoon-Suin or anywhere really)

Foraging through a few orphan folders, I found another d100 table that has been languishing at the end of some content on my Yoon-Suin Resources page and decided to whip it into a single-page for more convenient use. Although I believe it was originally designed to assist with navigating city-blocks in Yoon-Suin, I frankly feel that this could be helpful for a variety of situations that need a little nose, even if does err a little on the exotic.

We often default to stressing sight and sound impressions when describing things, but a gentle reminder to remember how things and situations smell never hurts. It’s worth considering adding a trigger for this to an Overloaded Encounter Die/Wandering Monster Check, and I’d love to see more adventure authors use a little 👃 icon and a concise olfactory fact occasionally in their room descriptions. Odors can be a wonderful shorthand for the evocation of all kinds of memories and can easily trigger unexpected routes of play. They can also serve as a method of navigation for when the last torch sputters out: This is the room that smelled like eggs? OK, I think there’s a door to the left that leads to the one that smelt more like burning books. Or if you’d like, they can be used in conjunction with some other generators, like my Herb & Plant Generator or even to apply a bouquet to potions (I try to keep taste/smell/appearance consistent for identification purposes).

My hope is that even just having some potential smell inspiration ready at hand could help spur an occasional reminder to add a soupçon more sensory substance when describing a scene.

Hope this ends up passing the sniff test! If you feel that something a little more “traditionally vanilla” fantasy would be more useful, just let me know!

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!