Sunday, March 25, 2018

Product(ive) Inspiration: Random Musings

One of my greatest frustrations as a writer, and subsequently as a gamemaster, is that I have certain tropes that I tend to repeat given enough time. I like convoluted plots, twisted double-crosses, and evil that is unwittingly being manipulated by something further up the food chain. I punctuate with Weird. It’s probably a childhood of Lovecraft, Gygax, and psychedelic rock - but, nonetheless, it has influenced my prose and gaming. 

My wife and I came to Kabuki Kaiser’s Ruins of the Undercity as a two player, GM-less, randomized game to entertain us for an evening. Those two characters we made were exceedingly lucky - they ended up with a maximum level encounter in the first room. That Measel rolled maximum treasure in its sewer crypt. Enough to level up with Labyrinth Lord rules in play. So, our intrepid adventurers Melkor and Ali decided to go on a drinking binge, being the sort of red blooded adventurers that stereotypes are crafted from.

Seven days were to be spent in town, spending that shiny gold, and making nuisances of ourselves whilst there is no gamemaster to interfere. However, we were ambushed by shades amidst the trash filled alleyway on that first night during a ‘town event’. They had a treasure map, apparently leading to a treasure worth 16,500 gold pieces, as well as several bits of magic and copious coins. “Trash magic,” we exclaimed as we gathered up all the goodies that had almost cost us our lives.

Mel and Ali came to a conclusion, “Hey, this is pretty lame, crawling in sewers. Where is this treasure?” We had, after all, just gained another level from that encounter. And, honestly, neither of us were all that impressed with our current random delve. 

How did we answer such a question without a referee? That’s the topic of this review, erm, inspirational tutorial introduction.

Admittedly, amidst the Renaissance of the Old School, there hasn’t been a shortage of random ‘this-or-that’ tables filling publications - in fact, it’s part and parcel of that approach of yesteryear, the Heinz 57 methodology of wondering and rolling what will come next.

 Kent Kelly writes more than the average bear (heya, Boo Boo), especially random tables for the OSR crowd. He sells a fair number of these books in PDF, but there is very little talk about them in the wilds of Google+, Facebook RPG groups, and the Blog-O-Sphere. 

It was to Kent we turned to for answers, starting with his Adventure Generator. The results really impressed us. We had a fairly decent adventure concept after a couple hours of rolling. Strong enough that I felt there was serious potential for the upcoming campaign I was working on. Over the next several weeks I grabbed the rest of the line and read them. 

I was pretty intrigued by what might happen if I threw caution to the wind and started rolling the first steps of the Arborea campaign. Rather than start with the outline of that adventure, I decided that detailing the city of Midenbrook would be the best place to begin. We'll come back to "Scourge of the Witch House" in a later installment.

Over the next several posts, I’ll be showing how I’m putting these pieces together - because these books don’t write your campaign. There is still quite a lot to be done behind the screen, but they provide a spark to ignite new fires of inspiration.
My first step was generating d100 tables for random encounters using City State Encounters. As I have a rough idea about the nature of Midenbrook, this would fill in some details - which I will share in the next blog post. 

Until then, keep rolling those dice!

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