Michael Raston is a machine.
Recently on his blog, Michael wrote up a "how to" guide to building tables and making generators for gaming purposes, sort of as a favor to me -- really I asked him to outline his process, and the result was an out of this world, in depth blog post on the topic. I highly recommend checking it out.
This post is NOT that post, by any means. What follows will be a set of tables I wrote up myself, inspired by what Michael does, and an example of how I would make it work for me. But the real quality can be found directly at https://lizardmandiaries.blogspot.com/2021/09/how-i-write-generators.html
Okay so, here goes:
|Art by Dan Smith
Okay so let's dig in a bit to this series of tables and see what we can make.
First off, the lists are not EXHAUSTIVE; the goal is to get 20 (or fewer if needed) motifs for each list...just some key concepts I can roll up and quickly turn into an idea for something.
Lets take the first two columns to start: Locale and Theme.
My first results on those two tables are: Halls (20), and Mirrors (2).
Okay, So our players are going to explore the Mirrored Halls of Mynroma. Sounds good.
Let's roll again.
Vault (4) and Decay (6)
The Vaults of Decay
It doesn't have to be anything in depth at this time, just something to generate ideas. And now that we have a dungeon or two, we can use the rest of the chart to describe the interior and populate it with monster types. You can also roll multiple times for each column.
Moldy (5) and Metallic (13)
The interior of the Vaults of Decay are covered in mold, but there are some sections constructed from metallic paneling -- very artificial in nature.
And now some monsters:
Slug (2) Lich (20)
Plant (13) Gorgon (14)
The idea is to combine these to create new kinds of monsters. The list is not meant to be literal: while you could create a Slug Lich, it may be better to turn this into some kind of slow-moving but powerful arcane creature that, if slain, returns to life unless its special cocoon/phylactery is destroyed. It hates its immortal existence but longs to destroy all living things it encounters.
I chose gorgon for the classic presentation of Medusa with a snake-body, so a plant-based snake-bodied creature that maybe spews some kind of organic substance that can turn things into stone.
So the Vaults sound like pretty dangerous place. I can keep utilizing the various tables and combining results to determine other monsters to face, modify those monsters with the descriptors instead of using them to describe the interior of the dungeon, and do this over and over until I feel comfortable with what I have.
The point is that the table is a starting point, to help get the creative process started, and at anytime you can switch into manual design mode and make something. Or use the generated results as is. Even better, have your players make random rolls to determine the dungeon and what they'll face there.
I love the idea of a Random Treasure Table too, and may add that. As it stands, all told, the above chart can generate over 3 million combinations (if my math is right) and it's just a starting point.
Thanks again to Michael Raston for encouraging me and helping me get started!