Friday 14 October 2011

Dynamic/Nested Encounter Tables

Roger is correct that this (what he calls "dynamic encounter tables") would be a lot of work, but he's yet again proved himself to be an utter dynamo of ideas. I'd like to tweak it a bit and, instead of genre, create a specific set for each terrain type/monster type, so you would have, for instance, a table for Human encounter, hexes 1103, 1203, 1104, 1205:

Which is a table I literally just threw together in 5 minutes, so don't expect anything marvellous, but it serves to signify what I'd be aiming at. You'd just roll 3d10 and see what came up (in reality I'd make them d20 or d30 of course), re-rolling anything that didn't make sense. Thus, the results:

6, 8, 9: Vagrants searching for hohools (Hohools are a kind of monster).
2, 7, 7: Brigands worshipping a statue.

2, 2, 3: Brigands guarding rice.

What I like about such tables is that they demand that the DM (and players too) come up with some sort of narrative right from the start. Whey are the vagrants searching for hohools? What statue are the brigands worshipping? Why are brigands guarding rice, from what, and for who?


  1. Plenty valid idea but what adventure flows from Beggars Building Manure?

    1. "Here Dennis, there's some lovely filth down here!"

  2. Clever. Annoyingly clever. And just when I'd got my WM tables down to a nice compact 2 pages. Time to get tinkering again.

    I'll probably just add a single expanded version of BTBG Al's little "What are they doing?" subtable.

  3. JDJarvis: A load of beggars shitting by the roadside? ;)

    Obviously some won't make sense. Just re-roll.

  4. Had to make my own after seeing this. Mine is d20 based on my blog if you want to see it. (sword+1).

  5. This is excellent! :)

    But "Manure" should probably be replaced with something else.

    [Subject] [Verbing] Manure

    Doesn't seem to have any non-silly scatological results. :)

  6. It's the manure that brings out the creative flow of the Old School Movement.

    making: caught with pants down
    guarding: keeping things out of the compost ... or in?
    hiding: waste disposal crew
    building: you can make bricks out of the dried stuff you know
    carrying: worst job in the village
    trading: you need this stuff, man
    worshipping: the head of our religion is called the poope, get it?
    searching for: damn spell components ... and from a catoblepas no less
    fighting: of all the things to make a golem out of...
    fleeing: hiring a cut-rate architect on that above ground cesspit may have been a mistake

  7. If you can't figure out something for 'beggars building manure', then try harder. That one is great!

  8. I'd say this idea is like an i ching of encounters. If I knew anything about the i ching.

  9. To be honest, I didn't really understand the original post, but your version makes the concept clear, and yes, it is a very clever idea.

  10. Yeah, these are fun. Back when d20 OGL pdf publishing was taking off these encounter generators were an interesting subgenre.

    Adamant's Star System line had an interesting five variable chart but it was more of a "macro" scale for "plot challenge structures" or so.

  11. Do you have a description of Hohools online?

  12. No write up for Hohools, I'm afraid - I don't want players in my online game seeing their stats.

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  14. Yes! Besides the wonderful power of narritive that you mentioned, these types of tables also benefit from the effect of combinatorics: in your example above, I believe you have 1000 unique results (and that's just if you demand 1 from each column in turn - if you are allowed to skip a column of combine them in different ways, then it's a lot more... Giant Crayfish, Guarding Pilgrims, anyone?)

    What we are doing here, in fact, is procedural generation, which as any video game designer can tell you is an incredibly useful way of seeding a lot of content fast. With the added benefit that here, unlike in video games, it is automatically filtered through a human parsing to ensure quality results

  15. I use a similar system for creating TWERPS GI Joe missions. I have 5 or 6 separate decks of cards detailing the who, what, when, where and why of recently reported Cobra activity. I draw one from each and that sets the story and Joes in motion. The nice thing about using cards is I can easily add or remove things I do or don't want to use.

  16. Here you go, check out my GI Joe story generation system here:

  17. "Merchants making slaves" fills me with faint horror at what I can only imagine as industrialized breeding pits. "Merchants building slaves" is perhaps even worse, and worshiping slaves is just bizarre.

    Thank you.

  18. "Merchants making slaves" fills me with faint horror at what I can only imagine as industrialized breeding pits. "Merchants building slaves" is perhaps even worse, and worshiping slaves is just bizarre.

    Thank you.