Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More Speedy Setting Experiments

So I'm still thinking about the less-is-more approach to setting design. (Or setting communication.) That is, telling us about the world via its gameables rather than through pseudonovelistic prose.

I built this quicky Why Did That Happen? table for a few places in my gameworld...
The idea is if I'm ever at a loss to explain some in-game event, or if I'm just building an adventure from scratch, I can roll to find the most common reasons (not all the reasons, obviously) stuff happens in those places.

If you built a d6 Why? table for the last city or settlement your PCs visited, what would it say?


Ian said...

d6 Why Table for High Guard

1. Baron Wisthiemer commanded it, likely without thinking through all of possible consequences
2. To protect the city from the Turuskian Raiders or fey of the Old Forest (50% chance of each)
3. Intrigue between slavers
4. Religious ritual (roll again for sect)
5. Otherworldly visitors trying to keep someone/something Earthbound
6. Raggoth (the party's charmed redcap companion)

filwinn said...

the little town of Bon-Canard

1. Good manners
2. it was that or being eaten by the sphinx
3. because it was the proper thing to do
4. "foreigners" did it
5. something went rong in the alchemist lab
6. crazy elderly person forgot to take his medication

Chris said...

It Happened Because of... Table for Adburg

1. ...market forces
2. ...some crackpot ideocult
3. ...the ruling council did it (probably to spite someone)
4. ...Dammaki Half-a-Man (town drunk/seer/chaos engine/avatar of Charlie Sheen)
5. ...passing mad wizard/adventuring party on a tear
6. ...imps, goblins, halflings or suchlike malicious little folk

mikemonaco said...

I've been aggressively, perhaps regressively, keeping most adventuring in the dungeons outside town, but if I needed it:
Why are bad things happening in Skara Brae this time table
1. Power struggle among guilds
2. Another one of Xutia's plots
3. Rival adventurer party's meddling
4. Conspiracy hatched by Serpent folk
5. Trouble-makers from the Citadel of Chaos
6. Delian Pirate agent-provocateurs

mordicai said...

Why? for Aubade City.

1. Side-effect of ancient tech.
2. Intervention of the Trumps.
3. Arcanum keeping order with complexity theory.
4. Meddling of The Juggler.
5. Get-rich quick scheme of claim-jumper.
6. New invention by a Gleaner.

Juho said...

City of Raschil (Young Kingdoms):

1. A Chaos cult is behind it.
2. Someone from the royal court decreed it. Roll d6: 1-2 it's the king's advisor, 3-5 it's the queen and her lover, 6 it's the foppish king himself.
3. The proprietor of Red Lotus, an upscale brothel, is behind it.
4. Internal intrigue in the merchant league/struggle between rival merchant houses.
5. The graveyard youth gang is involved.
6. Underworld struggle between the major crime lords.

richard said...

1. plotting between rival ministers
2. a meaningless diversion related to (1)
3. anti-Ming revolutionaries, inspired by the PCs
4. reaction to the PCs' latest depredations
5. on of Ming's progeny demands it
6. they say it's the anarchists, but everyone knows it's really the secret police.

rorschachhamster said...

Table for Trentonia.
It was...
1. Internal Church conflict
2. Order of the King
3. Reformists trying to go against church doctrines
4. Noblehouse trying to better it's station with the king/church/reformists (random)
5. Chaos cults
6. Old god worshippers trying to resurrect them

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Why? for The City of Bells:

1. Some idiot thought it would be a good idea to ring that bell they found in the attic.
2. Calaris (30th level pseudo-robot mage).
3. The hundred-hands did something stupid/crazy/dangerous/etc. again.
4. An avatar of the gods has returned. I guess we should have realized they wouldn't die of old age after living for 5000 years without changing, huh?
5. Transplanar interference.
6. Some prophet decided to start a cult and "purify the city". In the future, can we just kill them?

Von said...

The more of your thoughts on this matter I read, the more certain elements of m'gaming practice are made clear to me (why I'll sit down and read the Monsternomicon for hours while the Iron Kingdoms World Guide sends me to sleep, for instance).


1 - smugglers
2 - ancient relics (already there)
3 - squabble between crime lords
4 - cultists of a proscribed divinity did it
5 - spies/ambassadors (frequently the same thing) all machinatin' about the place
6 - mad science!

Zzarchov said...

1. Blatant misinterpretation of holy decree
2. A bet with the neighbouring king
4. Sinister Cult with poor planning
5. Someone started doing it, so the mob just kind of joined in.
6. Ancient Curse!

Barking Alien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barking Alien said...

Assuming I get what your saying...

Why Did This Happen? At The Split Hill Outpost...

1. Brigands
2. An Inuit Curse
3. Foreigner's mistreated the land and upset local spirits
4. Terrible weather shut down the roads
5. Precious metal or ore was discovered
6. Foreign wizard upset local shaman.

Thing is, this doesn't make much sense to me. I need to know what happened to know why it happened? Otherwise a chart like this is just random words.

I'm inclined to agree that setting should be in the rules but not so much in random tables. More likely as part of the mechanics of character creation or something. This feels somewhat arbitrary to me. Maybe I'm missing a step.

Wordver: Shines.

You can't make this stuff up people.

crowking said...

What/who/ why this city was built:

1) it was originally the holy grounds of one of the shadow gods

2) a meteorite crashed here years ago leaving a nice big crater

3) it's a safe have for pirates, bandits, and those who oppose the king.

4) a direct connection into the underworld

5) it's actually a super big mega dungeon and everyone who lives there is on the payroll.

6) it's the only safe place to be when the world get destroyed by the all powerful Devouring God

Mathias said...

City of Centromere Why? Tables

Blood Quarter
1. The Council of Seven has decreed it
2. Peasants are revolting
3. The Gallowdregs arranged it
4. Plague
5. Ragbone street is burning again
6. The presence of mysterious foreigners caused it

Iron Quarter
1. The Council of Seven decreed it
2. The Guild of Rust arranged it
3. Ancient technology caused it
4. One of the Megatherians has awakened
5. Cultists
6. Stevedores/Teamsters/Roustabouts are striking

Fire Quarter
1. Belgora did it
2. Vorn did it
3. Dr. Charybdis did it
4. Tycornia did it
5. Aurifina did it
6. The Wizard Berkeley did it

Silk Quarter
1. The Council of Seven decreed it
2. Church of Zahl/Sollach/The Horned Mother arranged it
3. Newest fad amongst the gentry
4. That's where the money is
5. War between noble houses
6. Tradition

Daniel Dean said...

1. Edict of the Overcount
2. Adjudication of the Submagister
3. Influenced by geographical feature/natural resource
4. Honoring of ancestor demigods
5. Inscrutable will of the Henge
6. Demarcated in the Treaty of Succession Agression Cessation

Uncle Matt said...

On the Junkyard Planet:

1) Captain Ugarth's head suggested it.
2) Captain Ugarth's head forbade it.
3) Scavengers!
4) The forgotten war.
5) Rubble must have shifted.
6) Robots are nothing but trouble.

kelvingreen said...

From the same game as last time, and the same caveats apply:

1: The Trust did it as part of an inscrutable scheme to further their goals.
2: The Trust did it as part of an inscrutable scheme to stymie one of their opponents' goals.
3: One of The Trust's opponents did it as part of an inscrutable scheme to stymie The Trust.
4: A gnomish engineering experiment went wrong.
5: Another adventuring party did it.
6: Agents of a trapped rakshasa did it.

Tom said...

Port Peril
1-Drunken Mishap
2-Pirate Challenge/Dare gone wrong/right
3-Side effect of Arcane Effluvium from Arcanist's Grotto
4-Infected dreams of victims of bound Wendigo spirit
5-Feebleminded Topaz dragon trying to reclaim Hoard.
6-Cheliax Agents seeking charts for Sea lanes past the Eye of Abendego.

Simon Forster said...

d6 Why? for the dwarven city of Bronzedart:

1. Fear of the church
2. The shamans promoting their religion
3. The Money Lenders demanded
4. Because of the upcoming annual games
5. Because they're dwarves
6. For gold

Leo Knight said...

Why Did That Happen? for Lazar System (Traveller)

1. The Navy is up to something
2. The Scouts are on a secret mission
3. Motherlode Mining is after resources
4. Black Star Security is running a black op
5. A Hot Scientist Babe is on an expedition, may need rescuing
6. Shapeshifting Reptillian Overlords' secret plan

The Rubberduck said...

Why Did That Happen? for Amsterdam

1. The council is trying to expand their power
2. A merchant thought it would be profitable
3. A merchant thought it would hurt a competitor
4. A made-to-order magic item from the Blaue Rek wizard lodge
5. The leader of the thieves guild consolidating power
6. Someone tried to cross the thieves guild, unsuccessfully

Adrian said...

Golden City:

1. The Golden Godking Decreed it.
2. His underlings made it happen.
3. Someone attempting to raise a caste.
4. To get in the good graces of the Godking.
5. Part of a building project.
6. Caste law/court requires it.


1. Someone thought it would be fun/interesting/useful
2. Inter-racial strife
3. Religious strife
4. Guild strife
5. Council vote (d4: Neighborhood/Guild/Quarter/City)
6. Resource-grab (d4: Power/Land/Money/Social Capital)

After making these I realize how inherently more interesting Parnopolis is. Gotta work on fixing that.

Steven D. Russell said...

Just to jump in on why this a bad idea.

Robin Laws had a good bit in his Laws on Good Gamemastering on why pseudo-novel approaches work. Its because the help the reader become emotionally invested in the content. Seriously try to do Middle Earth using this approach, forgotten realms, Eclipse Phase, Cthulhutech (though its wierd enough it might work)

At the end of the day I want to read a book that is more entertaining than a DVR instruction manual.

Anyway just my two cents.

Zak S said...


I can't get emotionally invested in bad prose.

If you can, rock on, the world's airports are full of novels you will enjoy.

PLUS: I am invested in playing D&D. I am invested in my character. I am invested in the friends I play with. I am invested in having fun with my evening. I am invested in pizza. I don't need to be invested in The Skraggtarian Empire--it's already got me.

Jasper Gein said...

Why Did That Happen table for the city of Carani(d6):

1: Side effect of one of the Great Potentates schemes.

2: Clergy failed in their duties (d6: 1-2 the Sublime Hand, 3-4 Followers of the Yellow Man, 5-6 the Cult of Death)

3: Criminals staged it for profit. (10%: Khasmir One Eye is on the loose again)

4: Major organization was ripped off. (d6: 1-2 Merchants, 3-4 Viziers, 5-6 Trackers guild)

5: The orcs were manipulated.

6: Ancient Samarin curse.

Kent said...

Jesus Christ. More rubbish. inviting endless rubbish from your slaves.

Seth S. said...

The Sinking City of Sorrentia

1- it will help build a taller tower
2- merpeople gang activity
3- a new part of the city is underwater
4- a noble elf decreed it or maybe died/went insane
5- something went down at the black market
6- intelligent octopuses, nuff said

Seth S. said...

come to think of it, I'll add to 5 with a more general, for the money

Zak S said...

@Barking Alien
@Daniel Dean
@Uncle Matt
@Simon Forster
@Leo Knight
@The Rubberduck
@Steven D. Russell
@Jasper Gein

Don't worry guys, despite what Kent just said about you, you are not actually slaves writing rubbish. It's just that Kent is still sore on account of how I had sex with his mom.

crowking said...

I'm a pretty nice respectable guy, don't drink, polite to strangers and kind to small animals, but...

Who wants to make the first table regarding Kent's sex life?

hüth said...

@ Kent

Dungeon appropriate, isn't it?

Ronson said...

New Orleans in the 1930's:
1. Corruption
2. Racism (institutionalized)
3. Racism (social/cultural)
4. Cult activity
5. The Mob
6. Metaphysical upheaval (50% that it's the PCs' fault)

Janus said...

Zak. I'm certain you already know this, but you rock. I doubt Kent's mom will ever fully recover.

Table for Feros and the Iron ring:

1--The archbishop of Bahamut is ignoring rules he finds inconvenient again.

2--Someone's infected the watertable.

3--Awful customs officials didn't check half the goods making it into the city.

4--Transvestite Wizards did it.

5--Magic/Building restoration needs doing, affecting people/things around it.

6--The Stuarts and Sues at the Academy are up to something.

(Obv. DnD setting)

Mark said...

1. This always happens on the Feast Day of Kernun
2. Edict from the Thane of Skara
3. Another Stonescribe gizmo still running on autopilot
4. It's a collaborator plot
5. It's a Flatlander plot
6. Magical experiment went pear-shaped because of a botched Ancient Languages check

Uncle Matt said...

d6 reasons that a slave would generate rubbish:

1) Had a hammer. Hammered in morning; also in evening. Needed the overtime.
2) One man's rubbish is another man's tiny, modular palace.
3) They're digging a tunnel to freedom!
4) Actually a disguised otyugh building a nest for her eggs.
5) Misread label; thought "rubbish" was "ravish."
6) Cugel tricked them.

C'nor (Outermost_Toe) said...

Expanding that to a d8 table:

7)Cleaning a midden heap.
8)Because Kent doesn't like it.

mordicai said...

Truly we are the damned, for we must toil to make 1d6 entries for a table about our game. Woah is us. Sisyphus had it easy.

Grylock said...

Why did it happen? for the small town of Magusford

1. Side effect of a long term scheme of the Magus
2. Brunok got pissed
3. The al Kepp twins, Julaida and Melchida, were messing with a suitor again
4. Mertwyn the barkeep dropped some juicy rumor
5. City Watch Captain Brandt is trying to get Brunok arrested for good
6. Old Man Lago is trying to balance two sides to prevent them from coming to blows

Adam said...

Why? Table for Castle Rahas, Imperial border town

1. Warlords
2. Imperial edict (50% from bureaucracy, 30% from the Emperor himself, 20% from the Chancery)
3. Lord Farhaad had a drug-induced vision that told him it was a good idea
4. Political maneuvering between the Marshal and the Steward
5. Heretics
6. Weird religious traditions (the Inquisition was in town a few days ago, boys! Bad time to forget the old ways...)

Dr Vesuvius said...

An awesome yet simple but more importantly *useful* idea. Yoinked for the toolbox. Thanks Zak.

The mist shrouded world of Ithaca (from an "ancient-greeks-in-space-opera" game, cos us SF types can play too)

1 The (**REDACTED**) of planet (**REDACTED**) ordered it
2 It's a side effect of some recovered tech that someone was trying to reverse engineer
3 Confederation Assembly Politics
4 Athenian Spies (1-3) or Theban Agents (4-6)
5 Some of the corrosive hostile atmosphere got past the safeguards and started screwing things up
6 An undiscovered artifact from the Atlantean War(1-4) or The Mechanika Revolt(5-6)

(sorry about the redaction, but some of my players read this blog and don't know about these guys yet.)

TheCramp said...

Torg Mainbook had a novel suggestion, "make a critical fail table for major encounters you know will happen." So when you roll 1, miss (or however you handle crit fail,) you consult a similar random table.

Anyway, my offering:

1: Department of military science testing going on.
2: Outworlder machinations. (Subtle.)
3: Outworlder machinations. (Overt.)
4: Department of necromantic studies honors student thesis project.
5: Involves Hukkistan crime families in some way.
6: Involves Witch King delegation in some way.

denjiro said...

"Kent said...

Jesus Christ. More rubbish. inviting endless rubbish from your slaves."

This? This is Kent. This is what happens to people when they get too sexually frustrated.