Classic Dungeons and Dragons and Old School Gaming

D&D etc.

"Heir to a crumbling summit: to a sea of nettles: to an empire of rust: to rituals' footprints ankle-deep in stone."

-Mervyn Peake

"...and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped."

-Sir Bedevere in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fast & Loose Lovecraft City Generator

So I just discovered the Fighting Fantasist blog. He has this series about dungeon design/stocking using a Free Association technique.  (basically write down 100 words then roll d100 three times and make a room or encounter out of that)  I've been enjoying playing around with this idea of his.


It reminded me of the Mega-Dungeon Area Name Generator that Al at Beyond the Black Gate put together. This is one of my favorite things that anybody in the OSR has made.  Seriously.  I've incorporated it into my Impromptu Basic D&D DMG.  (I'll likely talk about that more later)  My goal is to use it as a Fast Table, which I don't think was Al's intent, but if have to pull a dungeon/adventure out of thin air I would soooo much rather have that set of tables in front of me than not. 

then I thought about this:
And I thought, all those great descriptive words in there, what if you made a table like Al's or Coopdevil's that used Lovecraft's very own words.  So, I flipped open the book and started writing down nouns and adjectives to make a chart.  The chart below is made with just the first paragraph.  If you were more selective about the words you picked I think you could make something more dungeonesque.
In one throw the D4, D12, D8 & D6 are coming together in one table to impersonate a D24 to generate two words for you to begin building a Lovecraftian Dream City.  If you haven't read Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, you should. 

Now, this has me thinking.  A good number of the tables I've made are open ended.  Maybe not as open as The Fighting Fantasist's free association lists, but more open ended than the Fast table that Zak describes in that post above, and there is a fair amount of filling in the blanks that the DM needs to do.  I'd say that in addition to a distinction between fast and slow there are tight and loose tables.

The table above is Loose.  It gives the DM something to work with, but it's just the beginning of whatever the hell the DM is going to describe to the players.  Why are there silver trees?  what about the peaked gables are fabulous?  What do you mean the temples are almost-vanished?  Unvisited clouds?  This table is like something that an audience member would shout out at improv theater.  Some results from the table above are harder to run with than others.  Some might be unusable even.  Maybe for some DMs every table is a loose table.

A Tight table does more to answer whatever question caused the DM to roll on the chart.  You roll on the chart and then move on to the action.  There are of course always details that a good DM can fill in, but the tight chart doesn't really leave holes for the DM to fill or connections to make.  These are easier to use in play.  I'd guess that these are also way more common in published products.  

Here's a little rundown of the kinds of tables I've posted on this blog:

Treasure Hoards and Magic Items Slow & Loose
Starting Equipment Tight (doesn't really have a speed because it's made for pre-game)
Space Fantasy Castle Inhabitants Fast & Tight
Arcane Stress and Spell Mutation Slow and Tight
Slimes Molds & Jellies Fast and fairly Tight
FeyBeasts Fast & Loose
Fey Humaniods Fast & Loose

Orc Cult Names Fast & Loose
Orc Cult Rituals Fast & Tight
Orc Cult Schemes Fast & mostly Loose

Most of those are linked over on the right.  Not as many of them are Fast and Loose as I thought.  I'm thinking it's good to have a mix...