Friday, January 28, 2011

Behind the Screen Part 3: Random Charts

It's always great to read how other DMs run their sessions and the tools that they use. In my previous posts I've touched on the rules and supplements that I use in our campaign and then I talked about the custom DM screen that I created.

Today I'm going to touch on one of the biggest aids in our sessions and those would be the random charts.

Randomness is almost the heart and soul of any good RPG and in a sandbox campaign I let the dice fall where they may. If I roll too tough of a monster for an encounter, the PCs better be smart enough to high-tail it out of there. Roll a hefty hoard of treasure guarded by a not so hefty monster, so be it - stranger things can happen.

In a sandbox campaign random charts can be a godsend as they can help flesh out, on the fly if needed, encounters, personalities, situations, reactions, cities, dungeons, treasures, names, magic items - almost anything that one might need.

If you've been reading this blog then you may know that I have given the campaign world just a broad-stroke and tend to fill things in little by little as needed in our adventures - NPC, situations, events, shops etc. Also, my prep time for sessions has diminished to almost nothing (though I do spend some time during the week fleshing things out in the back of my mind if need be but it's pretty minimal). So I've come to rely on the randomness of charts. It makes the game fun and surprising for the DM and the players. It can change the course of a dull session or open up new vistas of plot points that can be quite troublesome to the PC involved. A splendid time indeed!

With the interwebs and the fantastic community of bloggers, finding useful random charts are as easy as rolling for wandering monsters. There are soooo many great and creative charts out there that it's almost impossible to keep track of them all. Whenever I find a great random chart on someone's blog, I'll copy that material and paste it into a document (reformatting if necessary) so I can print it out and add it to my collection.

So here are a number of charts that I've found to be most useful in our table-top campaign. I've bound these all into a binder and pull certain charts out as needed.

Old School Encounters Reference - a must download!!

City Encounters for Swords & Wizardry (Matt Finch)

Tome of Minor Items (dragonsfoot)

Quick NPC Traits Checklist (DnDBorderlands Blog)

Adventurer's Ordinance: 110 Magical Items Part One by Jesse Muir

Adventurer's Ordinance: 110 Magical Items Part Two by Jesse Muir

How to make a fantasy Sandbox (bat in the attic)

Entering the City Taxes (Dungeons and Digressions)

Wilderness Encounters

100 Book titles

Caster prices (OD&D boards)

Resurrection (Dragonsfoot - though I think I got this from somewhere else)

Guards at the Gate (Gothridge Manor)

Carousing Mishaps (Jeff Rients - a must have)

NPC Personalities (Black Gate)

Weird Room Stuff (Black Gate)

Quick Hex Contents Generator (Black Gate)

Slum Encounters (Black Gate)

Beyond the Black Gate Compendium 2009 (Black Gate)

And the new "What In The Hole" (Black Gate)

Unique Treasure Generation (Hack & Slash)

If you haven't noticed yet, Al over at Beyond the Black Gate has some fantastic resources and creates some of the best charts. A huge thank you to Al! In fact, I nominate him for a Master of Dungeons Award for 2010! (we really should create that)

Great Online random generators

Fantasy Name Generator
Meatshield: Henchmen & Hireling Generator
Dungeon Generator
Check out donjon; RPG Tools

I also use the treasure charts in the Labryinth Lord rule book, some charts from Basic Fantasy RPG and, of course, the trusty AD&D 1st ed. DMG.

This is by no means an exhausted list but these are some of the charts that I've found to be useful. If anyone else has some useful charts that they've created or run across, let me know and I'll add them to this list.

When next we chat I'll talk about the use of miniatures on our table-top.


  1. City Encounters for Swords & Wizardry (Matt Finch)
    Quick NPC Traits Checklist (DnDBorderlands Blog)
    both seem to be unavailable.. any ideas? :)

  2. Ooh, I missed Al's Slum table. Thanks for linking it!

  3. migellito - yes, it seems that Matt's City Encounters is a bit hard to find. With all the changes going on with who's publishing what in regards to S&W and Mythmere games I'm not sure where to track this item down. I'll contact Matt and see what I can find out.

    As for the NPC Checklist at DnDBorderlands, the links no longer are valid and it doesn't look like the blog has been updated since 2009. I thought I've seen Steve Cook posting recently around the blogs. So I'm not sure what's up with that.

  4. Hey, uh, you might find this helpful. Just a little something I did up.

    It's a method of generating interesting non-standard non-magical treasure.

  5. Thanks, C. Consider it added! Nice resource, btw.