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!


  1. I have a few goblin vendors in my home game - this is the perfect thing!!

  2. You had me at "goblin markets" to be honest, excellent work!

  3. I absolutely love those upselling attempts!




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