Directions, as in “Which way did he go?”There are a few things to keep in mind when determining a random direction.

  1. Land, Sea, Air, Space, Alternate Dimensions/Realities/Planes?
    1. Two dimensional, Three Dimensional, or Four Dimensional?
  2. Simplicity verses complexity.

Roleplaying is not about making perfect game analogues to anticipate every possible piece of reality one would need to cover to have the most “complete” ruleset. It is about enough of a mutually agreed framework that allows the gameplay to proceed with minimal interruptions.

A simple, two-dimensional example we are all familiar with is the map or boardgame. The points on the compass give the basics of what is meant by direction. The most simple example are the four points of the compass, if one is facing an outdoor scenario, with modifications for cliffs or other features that make certain options difficult to follow. The complexity can be increased for the number of directions in a geometric progression. 1d4 for N,S,E,W; 1d8 for the four basic directions, plus the four “diagonal”positions on the compass, i.e. NW,SE, etc; and finally, 3d6-1 for the 16 points. Beyond this it takes 32 options, or 64 and complexity soon becomes cumbersome. This simple example leaves out determining if someone climbed a tree, or hid in the pond. Add a desired modification of up, down, and sideways to add complexity if ideas for continuing the story are evading your current stint as GM.

Two-Dimensional Tables:

4 points (N,S,E,W)

Works well for graph paper.
1 North
2 South
3 East
4 West

8 points (N, NE, etc.)

Works well for hex paper.
1 N
2 NW
3 NE
4 S
5 SW
6 SE
7 W
8 E

16 Points (N, NE, NNE, etc.)

What simple model best fits here?
3d6-2 Direction
…. ….

While reviewing hex paper, it became clear that with 6 points and 6 sides a d12 could be put to use.

12 Points – Using points and sides of a hex.

Works well for hex paper.
1d12 Direction
1 First side of hex
2 First point of hex to the right of the first side
3-12 Continue with each of the remaining sides and points.


* See Sideways sub table.
1d3 Direction
1 Up
2 Down
3 Sideways*

Sideways (NPC or creature or object being sought has encountered a complication.)

External Intervention can be another interested party has acted on the item via physical, magical or otherworldly means. Location variable can mean something like a trap or hazard.
1d6 Direction
1 External Intervention
2 Location Variable
3 Backtrack
4-6 Roll Twice,
or add more options, etc.

For example, if an NPC thief is fleeing the party into the woods, and he encounters an Ogre, does he live, die, etc? How does this change the direction?

For internal directions, such as a building, dungeon or town, the directions will be more limited to the available terrain. A dungeon with a straight corridor for 100 feet and no secret doors in that space only has forward and back without mining tools or powerful magic, or a complication.

Three dimensional movement is encountered most often with sea, air or space encounters. Three axes of movement are involved and quickly complicate things.

One could roll on one of the two dimensional tables for the direction and use a second die or roll for z-axis modifier for up/down. There is some discussion on this in the AD&D DMG. p?

Adding in another layer of complexity, like time is simple simply determine past/present or add in parallel dimension/plane. This level of complexity would only be found in a fantasy setting where play involved powerful enough players involved in dimension travel. While some use of this might happen if the party can’t easily follow, like Donjon from a “Deck of Many Things.”

The K.I.S.S. principle will go far, just pick the number of points that make sense and fit the circumstances to keep play moving. This is only useful if a pre-planned contingency is part of the GM’s plans, say if the party encounters an individual in a maze of twisty passages with multiple routes of travel, plan the route ahead of time, or save work and devise a fast method to plan the route, since players have a knack for avoiding the cool scenario you want to see played out.

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Back In The Saddle

Have not posted any RPG remembrances. Instead, I have been making new memories with my sons. We started playing last July, and did not play again until Christmas. I am taking a two week staycation since gas is high and money is tight. We have played the last three days and I have been rapidly filling in information using various hexcrawl methods and suggestions. That really helps to plan what is available so if and when the players encounter it, things are ready to keep moving. I am still rusty as a DM, but digging through the various Monster Manuals and coming back to the DMG and other books (AD&D) have re-familiarized myself with the creatures and their statistics and game mechanics. Before July of last year, I had not game mastered anything in nearly 30 years. I had only played one marathon session as a player for the first time in about 15 years a few years ago. Reading about the whole OSR movement got me to harking back to the days of yore.

It has been a slow process with fits and starts. It is easy to get side-tracked and follow side links and get lost in learning about new things online on various RPG blogs, or reading about different types of tombs when building your own tables.

I find that building my own tables is fun but very challenging. I want to build tables that are level appropriate until the boys get better at the game. They are 15 1/2 and almost 21, so it’s not like they are little kids, but I want them to figure out the mechanics without getting totally slaughtered. They are both playing split class demi-human spellcasters, so they have the mechanics of figuring out the spells, etc. They are doing very well with minimal input from me.

Charm person seems like such a feeble spell that in my playing I have stayed away from it. However, my oldest has used it to great effect when they were in situations that it was good they used it. Having a creature that is basically a slave with inside information has been very good for them.

The youngest was mad at his brother and used it as an excuse for his character to go off by himself. He stumbled upon the clue they were looking for and nearly died trying to get back from his adventures. It was fun seeing him wracking his brain trying to figure out what to do to handle the situations he got himself into. I think he has learned his lesson to not run off into the forest by himself. While he can handle simple things, charging into a tomb at night without a torch lit, even for an elf is a bad idea. Statues in the dark seem like the undead when your mind is filling in the blanks. His 2nd level FTR/2nd level MU happened to stumble upon the tomb that only had 3 centipedes and a skeleton in it, and came out wounded, poisoned but alive. This after stumbling across a lair for 20 giant rats who by dice roll were not there and he got their loot before they got back. He had fun and learned his lesson at the same time. Meanwhile the parallel time line with his brother and the NPCs, they ran into nothing but the NPC they were going to get more information.

Then little brother’s Character, Fang, happened to come charging into them on his horse as he was riding like mad to get to the NPC Druid’s house for help. He passed out and fell off his horse at their feet, thus he was saved. He was passed out the next day, so big brother’s 2nd lever Druid/2nd level MU Half Elf, Descartes, and a 1st level Dwarf fighter and 3rd level human thief went back looking for an object they left behind that the sage back in town is willing to buy from them, hoping it is still there. Now, their rolls turn bad and they come to the burrow for the giant rats, but speak with animal allows them to pass without a fight. However, the next encounter at the edge of a large pond, a giant crayfish kill’s the dwarf’s horse. But a quick, entangle from the Druid/MU traps the crayfish, that failed its save and they kill it while entangled. There is more, but it was fun to watch them encounter the things that they encountered and they want more!

I am stocking hexes and making sure to cover all the bases for whichever direction they plan to head. I look forward to finding out how they plan to deal with the goblin lair they learned about. The NPC druid wants it out of her forest, and they will use a charmed goblin to help them find it. They won’t have the help they had fighting the last group of goblins, so it will be interesting….