Sunday, 21 September 2014

Random Adventuring

So... I know there are random dungeon generators out there, but is it possible to determine the whole thing using a random process?

I take is as read that the Donjon Fantasy World Generator can generate a complete world for adventuring in. Enon 1410821796 is something I'm planning on doing something with I think. I know that with a bit of effort, I can turn a world map into 16 regional maps. But, a regional map with 3 or 4 locations on it isn't a campaign or even an adventure. It might just qualify as a wilderness, though it will still need stocking. 16 of them is just a world that needs stocking, an unstocked wilderness on a bigger scale.

I also know that some generators such as WotC's dungeon generator will generate 'plots' for you, though I'm somewhat unconvinced as to their utility. Here's a sample:

You begin the adventure in the deep forest.
You meet the mentor of one of the player characters, who gives you your mission.
You have to resolve the unexplained deaths among the local nobility.
 They've determined it is the work of the nemesis of one of the player-characters, and it's up to you to stop it.
You must travel to the ruins of an abbey to find the nemesis of one of the player characters.
End the threat in exchange for your armour and weapons repaired for free.

That's not terrible, but more difficult to use as if, for example, you have new players and they have neither nemeses (is that the correct plural?) nor mentors. The specific reward of 'armour and weapons repaired for free' is a bit iffy if you don't use armour/weapon damage rules. It boils down in my games to 'hey we got you some arrows to replace the ones you used'. So straight off I'd have to change that to 'person of local importance, errm, maybe the castellan of the loal castle' gives the PCs a mission to resolve deaths in local nobility by going to a ruined abbey (no shortage of those luckily) to confront a 'local villain' in exchange for 'all the weapons and equipment they can need plus a lot of goodwill from the local rulers' - even so, that's quite a paltry reward for stopping killings of local nobles. Sometimes the 'patron', quest and the reward really don't match at all - a notorious rogue giving the PCs a mission to resolve the deaths of local nobles, that results in the adulation of local people (and no material reward from the nobles), which is another generation I obtained, is a bit weird.

There is also a generator available at Seventh Order of the Random Generator - it's called 'Random Sword & Sorcery Adventure Generator' - that produces results such as:
Mission 15: Recover (roll thing to be recovered)
Thing 14: Priest / Prison / Sarcophagus
Hook 16: Overheard conversation
Antagonist 1: Angry ghost
Potential Ally 15: Sybil with an important prophecy
Complication 12: Money lender comes to collect from a PC
Obstacle 13: Magical wards or guards
Twist 8: Betrayal by supposed ally or friend
Reward 7: Loyal henchman

That's a lot better than the WotC generator, but still a bit bare-bones. There are no locations, and no details about the NPCs involved. 'Thing 14: Priest/Prison/Sarcophagus' is a bit odd as a plot point. A priest imprisoned in a sarcophagus? The sarcophagus of a priest, who used to administer to prisoners? I suppose the ghost (of the priest from the prison) might want to be re-united with the sarcophagus. Maybe there was a sarcophagus that the priest was supposed to go into but instead he was imprisoned and died, and now is an angry ghost who wants to go to where he should, and his sarcophagus is how he's supposed to do it - perhaps his spirit was supposed to sail to the afterlife in a soul-boat or something and his ghost cannot rest until he does. Something like that.

I want to see if I can generate a bit more. As far as possible, I'm only going to use (for the purposes of this post, other random generators are available!) the generators on Seventh Order of the Random Generator.

There are a lot of strange generators on there. I'm using them to produce results that make sense for my game, not tailoring my game to suit the generators. For example, there's a generator called 'Forest Encounters Near a Spaceship Crash'. I don't have spaceships in my game, nor radiation poisoning or anything analogous that isn't magical. So I read that as a 'Magical Landscape Taint' generator. Likewise the 'Maleficar - Insanity' generator I will read as a 'Curse' generator, and 'Hoard of the Dragon Queen Cultist' generator that I will read as an 'NPC with Religious Convictions' generator.

A vital NPC around whom the plot revolves to act as a patron or hook is a good place to start I think. Whatever comes up here will be the basic motivating factor in the plot. Either, the NPC is trying to do something, or trying to stop something. The PCs will be either trying to support the NPC or trying to stop the NPC. So that's basically four relationships between NPC, party and whatever the event is.

So this is a result from the 'Random NPC generator':

An elven aristocrat who loves children

Right, so plots involving noble feuds and missing children are the obvious places to go here. But not the only ones. An Elf. Possible racial disharmony? Or maybe something more environmental - is someone cutting down all the trees? Of course we don't know anything about this aristocrat. Let's see if they're male or female (50-50 chance) and good or evil. There are some random number generators on the site so I'm going to roll 2 d6s - the first will tell me if the NPC is male (odd number) or female (even number) and the second if they're good (odd) or evil (even). If the Elf loves children and is good, presumably s/he is trying to protect them from some evil. If however the NPC is evil, perhaps their love manifests itself in a highly destructive way, being far too protective and psychotically exterminating imagined threats to the children? If the Elf sees adults as being a corrupting influence, for example, then perhaps he or she is 'saving' children by exterminating their parents.

'Die Roller' random roll 1 - male or female?
1 - so male

'Die Roller' random roll 2 - good or evil?
1 - so good

So, that's fairly straightforward, The (male) Elven aristocrat (hereafter 'the Elf-Lord') is likely trying to protect children from some menace or atone for some failure to protect children in the past.

There's a place, from the 'Fantasy Locations' generator, that is crucial to what is going on:

a field of ruins, dwelling of a horde of spectres

Is the Elf-Lord trying to protect the children from the spectres in the ruins? Why are the spectres there? Were the ruins caused by the spectres (they drove off the inhabitants) or did the place become ruined and the inhabitants rise as undead? Or was the place abandoned and the spectres came later? Are the spectres undead children that the Elf-Lord couldn't save?

I think there should be some sort of curse on the land. Using the 'Forest Encounters Near a Spaceship Crash' generator, I get:

Animal zombies crawling out of the ground

So, more undead. Perhaps that could be part of the theme.

Some antagonists are surely needed - so I'll generate a cell of dark magicians from the 'The Dark College':

Their sorcery is powered by  a book bound in gold. Must read directly from its pages to work their magic.
They have adorned themselves with a mask shaped like a rose blossom
Their magic falters in the presence of rowan wood
They are served by  a beautiful woman with sharp fingers and breath as cold as snow
These servants are remarkable because they can fly through the air wildly, on great gusts of wind (though that should probably be read as 'this servant')

We don't actually know what the Dark Magicians do (the generator description says 'Necromancers' but they don't have to be). But, an evil cult of magic-users seems like a reasonable antagonistic group (no matter what the party's actions are). There are however already some mentions of undead so perhaps I'll leave them as necromancers. Their cold flying servant is interesting, a sort of evil nymph-of-the-air. The fact that their magic is susceptible to failure in the presence of rowan-wood is also interesting. If the NPC and the magicians are enemies, it may be that the Elf-Lord is using tree-based magic against them.

Whatever, there should be a relationship between the antagonists and the NPC. I'll roll a d6 again. Odd - they're 'at odds', even - they're allies (even though the NPC is good and the Dark Magicians aren't; if the relationship is allied, I think we have to assume that the NPC has been duped by the Dark Magicians, rather than the other way around).

'Die Roller' random roll 3:
3 - so enemies. Perhaps the Dark Magicians are doing something that threatens the children and the Elf-lord is trying to stop them? The Dark Magicians then should probably be the 'primary baddies' here. I will generate more; but they'll be plot complications and minions I think rather than the primary antagonists.

Maybe I need a magic item mcguffin. I'll look for 'Magic Items'. Only two tables there, and '100 potions' isn't what I'm after. I'll try the other one - 'Lost or Abandoned Weapons of the Grigori', whatever that means:

Former Owner (no angel of the First or Second Sphere has been exiled. More powerful weapons means a more powerful owner, who will go to great lengths to get it back): Missing. Roll again on this table to determine damage.
Device: Chariot, piloted 
Power: 5d6 uses
Adorned with... Heavenly Verse
Wrought from... Ivory and Ivory
Medium (Vanishes after impact): Invisible Force
Trajectory: Medium erupts from ground beneath target (can't strike high-flying targets)
Miraculous Properties: None.
Range: 300ft, +d6 damage to demons and the undead.

Not all of that makes sense to me but I'll understand it in my game as being a holy relic, a chariot (that's what it says) with the power to attack undead within 300ft. Maybe the Dark College is a college of Necromancers after all and they want to neutralise the power of this magical undead-destroying chariot.

There are a couple of chariot-using gods and goddesses I can think of. No Thor in my campaign world though, so probably not him. Both Apollo and Ishtar had chariots and they (under other names) are in my campaign pantheon. I can't see Apollo in particular as being happy about undead. Perhaps this holy undead-destroying chariot is something to do with him.

How it ties in with the Elf and the children - well...

A location from the 'Rural Inns and Taverns' generator:

At the Sign of the Lusty Rose
Noted for... A conclave of rival necromancers meet here once a year under a truce to talk shop. They are particularly fond of the pheasant.
This Happens: Eloping couple are pursued by an agent of the girl’s father, who can be glimpsed through the window, dismounting from his horse. The couple beg the PCs to create a distraction while they slip out the back.

Necromancers again. The previously-mentioned Necromancers had rose masks, and this is at the sign of the Lusty Rose. I see some connections here.

As for the side-plot, lovers and the 'Lusty Rose' could easily imply that the inn could be a noted haunt for young lovers, eloping couples etc. If it's also a home (a front?) for necromancers, maybe not all the lovers who 'run away' actually make it...?

The text has 'dismounting from his horse' there. It says horse, but what I read that as is "try the 'What is that NPC riding?' generator".

Option 1: A Set of Animated Barding
Option 2: An Eager, Purple Bronco

Two for the price of one there. Why not? Either a kind of golem-horse, or a purple one, I'll go with either for the moment, until I know a bit more about this shadowy agent.

We need some NPCs - a young woman, a young man, and the agent. Here's one of those (don't know which yet) - an NPC from the 'Corpathium NPC Birthing Sacs':

RACE: Urgoth/Saxon
GENDER: Female
MOTIVATION: Sociopathy
QUIRK: Scarred/Branded Body Part

OK, I don't have 'Urgoths' or 'Saxons' in my campaign but I guess I understand what they imply. So we've got a big Viking-ish woman with scars or brands and who is casually ostentatious. That's something to go on. Two more will hopefully do the trick.

Another NPC, this time from the 'Hoard of the Dragon Queen Cultist' generator.

ENESHA, officious and hair to the waist, is exercising. Joined because cult gives respect and commands it. Wants to fulfill duty. Cultist notably comforts the sick, wounded, dying, and grieving. Useful because knows identity of important sleeper agent (king, mayor, magnate). Reaction: thinks you look ridiculous.

Right. Is this the young woman who is eloping perhaps? In which case, the fact that she has high-up connections and has joined a cult (the generator calls it a cult, it could be a perfectly harmless religion) might suggest that her father disapproves of the match because she is perhaps from the aristocracy (she is officious) and her lover is another member of the cult/religion.

The previously-detailed NPC is probably the agent sent to bring her back then. The text says 'he', but we didn't generate a 'he'. So, we need a boyfriend, and probably something about her family too.

Boyfriend - I hope - from the 'NPC Profession etc' generator:

Profession: leathersmith
Gender: Male
Ethnicity: Local human
Level/Rank: 4
Age: Teenager
Disposition Toward PCs: Neutral
Intelligence: 13

That works OK, though I don't know what a Level 4 teenage leatherworker is. Maybe I can give him some Thief or Cleric levels, perhaps. I should also find some names for the agent and the boyfriend.

From 'Brackenwoldian Name Generator':

1st Syllable: Han
2nd Syllable: ­(g)gle
3rd Syllable: ­(v)en

1st Syllable: Ys(a)
2nd Syllable: ­nora

So, the leatherworking boyfriend is called Hangleven, and the Viking agent is Ysanora. Handy that it gives you two-for-one.

Enesha's noble family, from the 'For the Creation of Noble Clans' generator:

House: Lascelle
Source of Power: Sorcery
Secret: Participating in a conspiracy of centennial length and ecumenical proportions
Leader: Megalomaniacal genius with childlike sensibilities
Stronghold: Contemporary urban estate
Wealth: Massive reserves, little income
Dubious Allies: Pack of half-starved, semi-trained, and uncannily sapient wolves

If their source of power is sorcery, perhaps they give their agents golem-horses, rather than purple ones. Is the 'centennial length plot' some scheme that the college of necromancers is involved in? Are the members of House Lascelle essentially evil and Enesha has broken away to join a good cult where she comforts the sick and grieving? Is the cult disapproved of by the local ruling house because it gives comfort to the dying and bereaved in some magical way that prevents the dead rising as undead (which fate House Lascelle, linked to the Necromancers of the Rose, is seeking to promote)?

Ysanora needs some equipment anyway, from 'Random Loot':

Weapon 47. Serpent Wand
Armour 66. Riveted Gloves
Miscellaneous 98. Little Fire Elemental in Bottle

More sorcerous gear. Perhaps Ysanora is a magic user too. She can definitely have the golem-horse.

Hangleven and Enesha can have the purple horse. It's probably what they're going to flee on.

A random place from the 'Fantasy Locations' generator - I think; I copied it over then forgot which generator I'd used, which is bad form. Apart from anything else, I was trying to use all generators other than the die-rolling generators only once. I regard my mistake here as being a bit bad, like fudging a die-roll. My systems were supposed to work better than this. Still, I'll manage to live with myself.

The location is probably where the young lovers are planning to flee to:

This sunken walled town is mentioned in songs of an arch-enemy of elves.

Good, we're back to Elves. Is this the same place as the ruins where the spectres live, or not? There's some connection for sure. What does 'sunken' mean here however? I assume underwater, in the sea or a lake, though it could (like a 'sunken lane') mean a town in a large depression.

There is a song generator, called 'Bard Song Titles'. I'll give it a go and see if there's a song that makes sense as a "song of an arch-enemy of elves":

Lament for Amrathreal

Hmm. Interesting I think. Is Amrathreal a person, or a place? Perhaps what is being lamented is the destruction of a city? It sounds more like an Elven song than anything else, but maybe a reasonable translation of "songs of an arch-enemy of elves" is songs about rather than songs belonging to. Maybe the sunken city, and the ruins in the field, were once elf cities that were destroyed (leading to the deaths of the children?) and they are sung of in laments. Or maybe it is what it says and the enemies of the Elves sing songs lamenting the loss of Amrathreal (whether person or city) which mention the sunken town.

The word 'amrathreal' to my ears sounds Elf-ish. It also suggests (by association) both 'amaryllis' and 'amythest' - so, jewels and flowers. If it is the name of a former city of evil sorcerers, perhaps the Dark College regards it as a sort of spiritual home, or maybe they're just trying to get their hands on its secrets.

Plot complication - from the 'Rural Encounters' generator.

While walking down a country road...
PCs hear giggling and splashing up ahead, and spy a trio of water-nymphs bathing in a nearby stream, their garments left on rocks. These garments, if successfully stolen and worn against the skin make the wearer proof against drowning.

They may be useful if the 'sunken' town is actually underwater. Does this stream flow into a lake where the town is sunk? Is this group of water-nymphs at all connected with the evil air-nymph servant of the Dark College? Or the encounter may be totally without further significance at this stage.

Plot complication - some bandits from the 'Bandit' generator:

Bandit Leader HD / # of Bandits
2 HD / 10 bandits
Who is the Bandit Leader?
Excommunicated clergy

How are they acting? From 'What are those Wandering Monsters Up To?':

Hunting for food (quiet, wary, and hard to surprise)

Their random treasure, from 'Shipwreck':

Shipwreck Results
8    A well-leafed pamphlet of smutty woodblock illustrations, pouch of scrimshawed knuckle-bones, d4 sling, 6 bullets, bullet extractor, d4 Quality 2 black iron dagger, 10ft barge pole, Quality 5 rusted breastplate medium armour.
16    A wax-sealed glass pot of dark blue dye.

Not a shipwreck, instead they've ambushed a caravan (unless they've dredged the lake?). I can make most of the gear fit into my campaign. They live in/near the sunken walled city. Do they need the heretical clergyman to keep back the spectres? Is he the leader of the cult the young lovers have joined?

All in all I think that's 22 generations from the random generators. If not quite an 'adventure' there's certainly a hell of a lot to be going on with there. There's a holy relic that destroys undead, a location of spectres, random undead animals, a group of necromancers, a sorcerous noble house, some young lovers who have joined a cult and are running away, and the agent sent to bring them back, some bandits who are led by the leader of the cult, who in turn wants to save the local population from returning as undead, and behind it all an Elf-Lord trying to ... well, I still haven't decided. But I think, as we have 'the sunken city mentioned in the songs of the enemy of the Elves' I think probably that the Elf-Lord is trying to make for a past defeat where he was unable to protect 'the children' that he loves, and presumably they died. That raises the possibility that the spectres are the spirits of the children.

Right; the mcguffin is in the sunken city; but the Elf-Lord and the Dark College both think it's in the 'field of ruins' hence their rowan-wood-v-spectres conflict about it. The Excommunicated Clergyman however knows the 'songs of the arch-enemy of elves' and has realised that the sunken city is the place. He's trying to find the chariot to use against the undead. If the Dark College knew what he was up to they'd be trying to stop him - luckily they don't as yet. The young lovers are just a complication and potential source of information to help put all this together. The PCs merely blunder into the middle of all of this and can jump whatever way they like - helping Ysanora (hang on, isn't 'Ys' a sunken city in real-world mythology? Just thought about that) to track the lovers; helping the Elf-Lord counter the Dark College, or vice versa; helping the lovers to escape and dealing with House Lascelle; investigating tales of young lovers who have run off never to be seen again; or merely stealing clothes from magical women and exploring the city at the bottom of the lake.

Now, to go about putting this little bundle of plots and locations onto the world map I'm going to use...

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