I was playing a game (rpg) this weekend and it had some rather nice random adventure tables. The way the rules were written had it so you needed to roll one of every polygon dice. The first roll you give you a fact and direct you to a sub-table, the next roll gave you the next fact and moved you on to the next table and so on.
The results built up the mission the characters thought they were doing with a reward they believed they would earn, the actual destination and the actual rewards available, the boss threat at the end, the minions and a significant threat/creature between the start and destination.
The way things were set up gave 4x6x8x10x12x20=460,800 possible combinations of adventure. On top of the random adventure outline once the game started, it was a bit of a hex crawl, there was randomised terrain and weather.
There was not one discernible difference between the adventure I had at the weekend and many ‘paid for’ modules. There is no point in sharing the actual tables as the game was very much like Gamma World and the ‘monsters’ were mutant fungi and a mutated National Guard dude. Beside which they are the publisher’s IP.
The principle on the other hand on random adventures is not new. The cutest part was the built in possible misinformation which had the party planning for one mission and discovering something completely different on the ground.
Thinking in d10 terms I would not be too difficult to come up with 10 quest givers from village elders to town councils to enigmatic sages and mysterious gypsies. That is four right there. Building Quest giver x destination x reward using d100 gives 1000 possible. Here is the clever bit. We swap in the threats and real destinations to fit the game setting, a bit like biome based random encounters. So look at your map of your game world and pick 10 actual places, tombs, castles, ruins and so on. Then ten threats between the party and destination and the threats at the location and your boss figure. All of the threats would be local to add in more local flavour and to top it off you roll the weather for each day for the next ten days. The final component would be the actual reward/treasure.
This is the one change I would have made to the original rules. I would have related the real reward to the promised reward. In that way the differences can be explained as the effects of rumour or lost knowledge if you were supposed to be finding and returning an item. If the reward was purely financial from the quest giver then the characters should get what was promised.
Admittedly I haven’t created these random adventure tables but they do not seem to onerous. Much of it could come from creatures and treasures encounter tables, you just strip out the encounters that are not suitable. Weather tables are often found in setting books so we don’t really need to create that.
What really brings these adventures to life is the roleplaying. Why does the quest giver need the characters or the object, how does the quest giver relate to the rest of the local culture. That can go just as easily for a village or an NPC, villages are often in or on someone’s land so the adventure would ripple through the local news and rumour mills.
I have done this sort of thing in the fanzine when I wanted to give the characters encounters to keep them interested and busy between major plot points. I didn’t want the major events to be bang/bang/bang after each other but I also didn’t want to write dozens of side quests. I hadn’t considered start to finish random adventures complete with misinformation.
For anyone thinking of world building these could be interesting to try.