Sunday, July 10, 2011

Double duty table generation

I stumbled onto this idea a few weeks ago on one of the many blogs that I check and it struck me as a pretty clever way to get your work product to do double duty. You should check out the original idea in the link--the post is only a paragraph or so in length.

There were a lot of roadblocks that kept tripping me up, but I think there is basically one fundamental issue. You need to be able to organize things so that they organically flow into each other if you have any hope of organizing the table. The incredible overlap in the original presentation is neat, but it makes assigning values to any idea impossible for random generation. Each idea is in a different place in each table that it belongs to.

My solution was to sort of brute force them into categories and then think of simple ways for the categories to link. You can then populate any category with as many or as few results as you like. In my sample, I'm using five results per category but there is no reason each category would *have* to be equally populated. Categories themselves are defined by their place on two axes: the "type of terrain" and the "type of phenomenon." Here is the initial output (click to enlarge):

I only filled out the first slot of each category. I thought this might also be an interesting experiment to see what happens if you make a document editable by anyone on the internet and then ask them to populate it with ideas. I have a sneaking suspicion I might get a lot of "your mom" jokes, but I'm hopeful that they are at least entertaining jokes. If you want to contribute, here is the link.

So how would this actually be used? A bunch of ways. Here is a different view of the table that puts emphasis on the category and not the actual ideas that you populate the category with.

The table is built to easily locate the category or type of category you are interested in, but let's say you just want to use the table to generate a plot hook and you don't care what or where. Roll 2d6. The first die gives you the placement along the horizontal axis and the second die gives you placement along the vertical axis (you can reverse these, it doesn't matter). For example, a result of 3 and 1 points you to a dungeon or a crypt (3 horizontal) and a magical phenomenon (1 vertical).

Once you locate the category, then we roll to identify which event in the category actually arises. In the example I provided, there are five events per category. Five was chosen deliberately because it does some interesting things as shown below:

Most of the time I don't suspect you'll want to randomly generate any category on the table. Most of the time I imagine you'll have a zone in mind and just want to generate an idea within a specific area. Let's say we narrow it down to a single category, then we roll d5 (d10/2) and figure out which event arises. This is shown in Box A. What if instead we decide we want more variety just so long as it is a man-made phenomenon happening in the wilderness? Box C shows that grouping, and we can generate any result within on a d10. Or maybe we want any mundane event in a man-made environment, this is shown by Box B. In Box D we have any man-made phenomenon in any man-made environment which is 20 results; easily randomized on a d20.

The organization of the columns isn't perfect, but you can probably see how "caves and caverns" blend into "dungeons and crypts" making it easy to blend those results as well. "Urban and cities" and "interiors" probably blend as well.

This was a first blush attempt, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if better axes existed or better grouping mechanisms. As always, input your fixes below and, if interested, add to the table here. The samples included give an idea of what I intended for the category as do the column- and row-headers. Here are a few more guidelines:
  • Mundane--Events that are interesting but ignorable if the party so chooses.
  • Force of nature--Events that are interesting and beg for action. Action isn't mandatory but inaction likely has consequences.
  • Improvised--Events caused by intelligent beings that act on the players, but this action doesn't imply any malice on the part of the being
  • Mechanical--Events caused by intelligent beings that act on the players and imply some sort of deliberateness
  • Magical--Events that are interesting but ignorable if the party so chooses. However, because these events imply reward or treasure they beg for action.
  • Ancient--Events that are interesting and beg for action. Action isn't mandatory but inaction likely has consequences. However, because these events imply significant reward or treasure they will almost always be interacted with.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting work. I feel like it could develop into something...