On New Years’ Day, Andrew Girdwood over at Geek Native kicked off a new RPG Blog Carnival all about random encounter tables. And one of the first things he said was that he didn’t always like them.
And I can honestly kind of get that. The random tables of my youth (all 1e and 2e D&D inspired) were always light on context and high on combat. Roll and see what comes up. 1d4 random Orcs? Why not. 2d6 Goblins? Sure. But why? That was always the hard part.
Little Spaces: From the Moon…
When I rebooted Moebius Adventures years ago (well before Aliens & Asteroids was even an idea), I started with a very simple concept for a series of products. Use a random table, but leave it vague and treat it a bit like a Mad-lib prompt. Usually it went like this:
- Pick one of the five senses (or more than one)
- Choose a descriptive element
- Add a bit of flavor
- Finish with a descriptor
Using the Little Spaces: From the Moon product as an example, I generated this collection of ideas today for an A&A adventure:
- Sens(s)e to Use: Sight and Taste
- Descriptive Element: Rock
- Flavor: Neutral
- Sense Descriptor(s): Blowing and Wondrous
Now, you may be asking how to use that odd collection of details, but we’ll cover that next!
How to use it?
With that setup, I usually have enough to start from to generate some kind of an idea, whether for an encounter or a setting. In this case, I pulled in the Random Moon Name Generator from Perchance.org to find a moon in our solar system (Carme, which is one of Jupiter’s larger irregular moons) and then let my mind wander.
Pretty quickly I was able to generate a mission description for an Aliens & Asteroids adventure:
Marines, we need you to head to Jupiter. We have a problem.
We know Carme, the second largest of the outer irregular moons of Jupiter, was hit by an extrasolar object, but we didn’t think it would cause many problems. We were wrong. Without active monitoring of the such an irregular and scientifically uninspiring rock, we had no clue the problems it would cause.
Turns out that the nudge blew it out of orbit into Isonoe, causing a cascade of collisions now risking the lives of the researchers on Europa. In these images from a drone we sent in, you can clearly see the strange moon rotation blowing dust and small rubble in all directions. Such activity created an irregular ring such as those that could be seen around Saturn centuries earlier. Spectacular to look at, but troubling for anyone working in the area.
Though the scientists on Europa are sure that amateur astronomers from all across the Sol system will be thrilled by the wondrous new target for their telescopes, their small scientific community is unhappy with the additional interference with their investigations beneath the surface. That’s where you come in.
Your mission is twofold. First, figure out what collided with Carme in the first place. Get a sample if anything is left. Second, get to Rhadamanthys Station and lend a hand with whatever the leadership requires. Help eliminate as much of the bigger threats as possible and assist in the clean-up. Good luck, Marines.
That took about 10 minutes to research and pull together something from a handful of die rolls and a collection of random tables, and another 10-15 minutes to flesh it out. (Rhadamanthys is one of Europa’s children!) I let the context of A&A guide me towards how to use such a simple list of details to create an adventure seed. Who knows what waits for our heroes on Carme? And what kinds of turmoil will they get into on Europa?
That’s for you to decide. 🙂
The vague simplicity of tossing a few dice, getting a few words, and letting the collection guide you towards an idea is nothing new. Randomly generated writing prompts has been around for years. But the Little Spaces products offer just a bit of guidance to create something useful for RPGs.
I had almost forgotten about these cheapie little products until I saw the topic of this month’s blog carnival — and now I’m going to dust them off to use them a bit more in my ongoing writing for A&A and the upcoming Tattered Magicks game!
You can check out the entire series of Little Spaces products here. There are 15 of them and their areas of focus vary widely!
The RPG Blog Carnival
For more about the carnival, be sure to check off the kick-off post and all the other follow-ups at Geek Native! And for the RPG Blog Carnival Archive, be sure to take a look at the page maintained at Of Dice and Dragons!