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Friday, August 21, 2009

Random Tables

When I'm building encounters, dungeons or NPC groups there's often a need to fill the pockets of minor creatures or characters with a bit of gear and loot. Now it's pretty easy to give out some basic coin or other valuables, but what if you want to add in some special items? An extra gem, a nice piece of jewelry, or even a bit of magic? One of the ways I do this, particularly if I'm designing large groups, is with a random table.

Now some people have problems with using tables for treasure, but I'm not one of them. I don't use them to hand out important items, but for a bit of color, they work quite well. Here's my standard random treasure table, used with percentile dice:

01-50 Nothing special
51-75 Double normal coins
76-90 Decent gem or jewelry
91-95 Potion, scroll or other one-shot magic
96 Minor magic item *
97 Valuable gem or jewelry *
98 Valuable information (map, key or document) *
99 Very valuable gem or jewelry *
00 Good magic item *

* Singular item, cross off once used, treat subsequent rolls as Nothing special.

Note that each entry in the table is roughly half as likely as the previous, and the most common results are a bit of extra coin or a sparkly, so you're not really giving away anything spectacular using this method. It's also easy to adjust the entries to add more special results. The same table layout works well for random encounters outdoors:

01-50 Nothing special
51-75 Harmless encounter (wild beast, minor obstacle)
76-90 Minor nuisance (predatory beast, significant obstacle)
91-95 Major encounter
96 Unique creature *
97 Unique creature *
98 Unique obstacle *
99 Unique obstacle *
00 Hidden location *

In fact this table works well for almost anything in a sandbox-style game when you haven't prepared material to cover something the player's are trying to do (especially in a system without skills to cover every contingency). The table can be generalized to:

01-50 Nothing special
51-75 Minor result
76-90 Medium result
91-95 Major result
96 Unique result *
97 Unique result *
98 Unique result *
99 Unique result *
00 Unique result *

So there you have it, random tables that aren't completely random. Hope they're useful to someone out there!
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