Sunday, September 13, 2009

Predictably Random

Another element of my gaming experience that differs from the majority of my fellow 40-something gamers and distances me from being a traditional 'old schooler' is my love/hate relationship with Random Tables.

As a GM I love them for the potentially inspiring and sometimes ridiculous ideas they can generate but I also rarely (if not exceptionally rarely) use anything I have ever rolled 'as is'. I'll roll for magic items found in a pirate's buried treasure, get a ...*clatter*clatter*...+2 Sword and instead announce a curved blade with ancient Sea Elf runes and a hilt carved to look like a mermaid. The sword will indeed be found to be +2 but more importantly it gives a +2 bonus to resist Siren Song and allows the wielder to breath underwater.

I also find that while I like them, I never really need them. For example, I haven't rolled for a wandering monster in over 25 years. I will look over lists of monsters however and read one and say to myself, "Hey, there's a beastie I like that I haven't used in!" I just don't find myself ever wondering what I should throw at my players and when. I usually design my worlds/universes so I know what is where and why, so when the players suddenly say while waiting for their patron/contact, "We're leaving the spaceport for a few hours and going into the jungle to see if we can find that rare plant the guide told us about", I know exactly what kind of creatures, plants and people live near the trees, which ones live near the pond and so forth.

Lastly, and this is especially frustrating, I tend to roll the same numbers over and over. I know its impossible trust me but it always happens nonetheless. Case in point...

Jeff Rients recently put up two awesome random tables for Mutant Future. I was especially interested in his Optional Random Mutant Animal Stock table and I commented that if I ran a game I'd have it so everyone who wanted to play a Mutant Animal would have to roll twice and combine the two (I really like chimeras). For fun, I decided to roll up a few random creatures and make a character out of the most interesting combos. I also figured I would test my photomanipulation skills by trying to create an image of the thing I roll up.

Muskrat came up 6 times in 10 rolls. 6 out of 10! I eventually rerolled a bunch of times only to get Skunk almost as often. Parrot came up 4 times and Weasel 3. So apparently, by rolling randomly, I have created a world of Skunk-Muskrats, Parrot-Muskrats, Muskrat-Weasels, Weasel-Skunks and Skunk-Parrots! Woohoo the diversity of nature!

Random rolls are too predictable for me. When creating things out of my own head or from research I never know what I'll find.

Barking Alien


  1. I agree that random tables should be used for inspiration more than anything else.