Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tabular Complexities [or 1d20 vs 3d6]

Jungle river of fire by Leigh Hilbert
Hot Springs Island has 7 different habitat zones, and I've really been focused on making each type of habitat *feel* different from one another. On the one hand I've been working on a list of descriptive terrain words the DM can quickly reference as the description of each hex. For example, in the areas of Heavy Jungle I've got things like (dense, shadows, dark, vines, twisted, musk) while in areas of Light Jungle I've got things like (sunbeam, canopy, clearing, bushes, vines, trailing, flowers).

On the other hand, and for the purposes of this blog post, I've really been focused on giving the random encounters of each hex type their own feel. To accomplish this, we're using 3d6 tables instead of 1d20 tables for random encounters, and we're nesting the tables like Russian dolls so there are tables in tables in tables.

Our Light Jungle encounter table looks something like this:

While the Heavy Jungle looks something like this:

Each of the categories (Beast, Elemental, Intelligent) have their own 3d6 sub-table based on terrain type, so while Beast is the most common encounter type in both the light and heavy jungle, you're only going to encounter Blindfire Carpets in the Heavy Jungle, and Duecadres in the Light Jungle. Likewise, you'll have different chances of encountering the different factions depending on the terrain type as well.

To top it all off, we've got a 3d6 motivation table for beasts, and a 3d6 motivation table for intelligent creatures. This way, even though you encounter 1d4 giant centipedes they could be fleeing, wounded, mating, fighting, patrolling, hunting, and more. And if you come across a random NPC in the jungles, they might be in combat (roll again on encounter table), meditating, art, laboring, and more.

What's shitty about all this complexity is that it can end up requiring 4 to 5 rolls of 3d6 to determine what the actual encounter is, and that's just too many. To counter this, in addition to the printed tables, we've compiled them all into a program where you can literally touch the party's current hex and receive a random encounter. We've got super alpha version 1.0 working on android tablets and phones.

Ideally, this will cause the island to feel more like its own character in the game that exists outside the control or confines of the players, DM, and even the creators. Life and story through chaos.

1 comment:

  1. It's always nice when complexity emerges from random rolls. I'm interested in seeing the program.