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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