Tag Archives: Tables

Rule of 9’s

Way back when I was a volunteer firefighter/EMT.

During EMT training we learned about the “Rule of 9’s” that is used for estimating the percentage of body area that is burned. For an adult, the head is 9% each arm is 9%, the front of the torso is 18% and that back 18%, each leg is 18% and finally, the groin is 1%. One of my classmates said, “Nuh-uh! That’s 100%!!”.

I have wondered what utility this could be for use in RPG’s. It could be used for surface area hit by burning oil, acid, dragon breath, etc. However, would it be useful in to hit tables? I don’t want a totally realistic combat system, that would take forever for a single one on one fight.

I can see it used for a critical hits/fumbles table. I am not a math whiz and the best at designing such things, but it is an idea I wanted to write down for future exploration, and to get the idea out there in case someone else might be interested.

ENCOUNTER TABLES Aren’t Just For Monsters

This is an idea I am putting up so I can flesh it out. Many other RPG bloggers have said the same thing. Variations on the numbers of goblins, orcs, kobolds, ogres, etc. and their appearance and weapons only go so far to be interesting and avoid a slog.

Now throwing monsters into an odd situation, like a group of orcs with some stuck in quicksand, or kobolds climbing up or down a sheer cliff, can add some interesting spice to an encounter. Do the orcs help their comrades, do they stay and fight, or run away? Why are the kobolds climbing a sheer cliff? Did they find a cave with treasure, or are they fleeing something big and bad?

Encounter Tables don’t have to be just monsters. They can be natural phenomena, landscape features, special locations, etc.

If not an encounter table or tables, these things need to be kept in mind for wilderness, dungeon/underground, and town adventures.


Pits/Traps/Deadfalls -> Monster or Fen or Special

Quicksand/Muck & Mire/etc.


Tangle of Vines/Dense Foliage


Megadungeons Gone Wild

Megadungeons are something that interest me. As a player I may have played in a megadungeon, but did not know it.

I have read lot of articles and gather lots of notes.

As I think about my own campaign, that I touched on yesterday, and its ten great ancient cities with teleport chambers, I realize that the sewers and tunnels and caverns under each one is its own megadungeon, but each is connected to the other by the teleport chambers. The chambers have a mechanism to specify which destination, so players could end up on the far end of the empire, or on one of the islands they settled across the sea.

Obviously, I don’t want or need to map out all of this that would never be played, but the various megadungeon tables on different sites to help populate them would come in handy if players managed to jump from one ancient city to another.

I think that general areas of the city would be a natural for certain kinds of buildings, structures, events, and encounters. For example, the cemetery/necropolis would have plenty of undead from the time of chaos when the empire collapsed and troops were needed quickly to deal with the dead and defend the city. The nice people fled and the bad guys have set up shop. There would be a near limitless supply of skeletons and zombies. A high magic society would tend to have magical constructs like golems and homonculi. Perhaps trapped demons or elementals. Magic mouths to give directions around the city.

There would be places where treasure in the form of coins might be more likely, and treasure in the form of ancient weapons and other items that might not be magical, but a sage might pay for them. A collector of ancient relics might like a statue or a tapestry. There is more to treasure than just coin and magic.

If there were a zoological garden, would there be small groups of wild animals about the city? A pride or two of lions that fed off the goblins and orcs running around. Other types of creatures attracted by the niche they could fill in such a place.

Whether a city or dungeon, thinking in terms of areas and what was there originally and what is there now will help group what adventurers might find or encounter there.

An ancient cistern overgrown with vines would be a 30 foot or deeper pit, a deadly fall, unless it still held water, then it could still be a deadly fall. Ancient barrows of the early kings could be infested with wights, or other grave loving creatures. Different parts of an abandoned city could be controlled by different factions. Pirates could use the docks to trade goods to orcs or evil humans in the employ of a wizard seeking some powerful device he read about in an ancient tome. Intelligent monsters might control another area, perhaps a dragon of an appropriate size has claimed the ancient treasury. There could be turf wars by the various factions trying to control the city. There could be a big bad trying to consolidate his power and is working to sway other factions to his will and destroy those who don’t come along. Players getting in the midst of such a turf war could be in for a wild ride.

Lots of ideas present themselves, palace, barracks, temples and shrines, colleges of magic, palaces of nobles and the rich, merchants of all kinds, the old bazaar, docks, an abandoned thieve’s guild tower, homes of the populace.

Would each city be built on a similar plan, or would each be unique?

I like to think or areas or pigeon holes for parts of large areas, like a city. All you really need for a map is the rough distance from one “quarter” or section of the city and how long it will take. I just borrow maps for cities online for my use. Of course, to publish my own, if that were every to happen, would take new maps and a LOT more detail for others to be able to use it. There is a HUGE difference between enough notes for a DM to run a session, and enough description for someone new to the campaign to run it. For making your own cities or megadungeons, you just need enough information to keep play moving. You may even have to have some tables for quick random generation of buildings, their condition, and contents.

There needs to be something to break up the sameness. As I wrote this, I recalled a scenario when I GM’d Gamma World and the players found a high rise hotel and in every room were skeletons of people in sexual positions as they obviously were going to do it one last time before the end of the world. Ah the mind of a adolescent teenage boy. After a while I ran out of scenarios for number of people and positions. It was all on the fly. I did not do enough preparation to have more variety. The other guys laughed at what I came up with, so we had fun, but it had an aura of sameness to it. A list of some sort for  100 houses, 100 merchant shops, etc. like many other lists of 100 other bloggers have come up with can go a long way. If you have the spare coin to buy a PDF of a city, you can save Googling for lists, or making up your own.

I would suggest making a list of the different types of things you expect to find in a city, wells, cisterns, fountains, houses, shrines, temples, tombs, etc. and make a list of 100 of them. Use a spreadsheet like Open Office or Libre Office Calc and have a column for a present day, in-use item/building/object and a second column for what it is like in a ruined city or town. You can make your lists as detailed as you need to make it useful for working down the list or picking at random. For a more complex choice and variety, you could have columns for different descriptors to use when applying to the object or building. Obviously, more substantial buildings like temples, palaces, forts, and wizard towers would need more preparation, especially if there is anything there to find or find you. Again, there are lots of maps and free modules describing these very things.

Building your own lists has the power of giving it your own flavor. You don’t have to come up with everything from scratch, you can mix and match ideas and lists from others you find online or in your rulebooks. There is a lot you can do if you are a cash-strapped teen or an adult with other things you need your money for, like bills and trying to save for retirement. Or if you have a few dollars to spend there are a lot of good resources available on DriveThru RPG or RPGNow in the $5 or less range. The D30 DM Companion and the D30 Sandbox Companion are two great resources for the time strapped DM and give lots of ideas for how to organize one’s own tables.

I really appreciate all the other DMs and players who share all their ideas online and so much of it is free. Thank you all, fellow gamers!

City Districts Posted on G+ World Building Community

I posted this comment and question about names for districts/quarters in towns and cities on the G+ World Building Community.

I am working on ideas for different districts/quarters for towns and cities in a fantasy (D&D) setting.

I have come up with a few from memory and my own ideas:
– Temple quarter
– Wizard quarter
– Royal & Noble quarter
– Government/Bureaucracy quarter
– Merchant’s quarter
– Non-human quarter (for areas where they don’t just mingle right in)
– Rich/Poor
– Docks/Wharves/Shipyards
– Thieve’s quarter

I then turned to Google, and Jerusalem and it’s four quarters, based on religion, tends to predominate the results. I found that old cities often had 3 to 5 quarters, Paris has 18 districts. Usually, there is the old town/city which may or may not be a citadel/acropolis/medina.

So a lot of them also have government quarters, lower/upper town, old town/city, and royal quarter.

I am curious what sorts of Districts/Areas/Quarters/Divisions of town and cities do you have/use?

I have one large ancient abandoned city that I am working on ideas to help with dealing with the players running around it. I have a general idea of what is where, and then am adding my own ideas to some city tables I have found on various blogs to generate some things ahead of time, but also to have on hand for on the fly generation as needed.

It is tricky to avoid every other house/building being the same without some options to help mix it up.

NOTE: I see developing large ancient cities whether active or ruins as related to megadungeons, and it may just be the above ground level of a megadungeon.

My idea for a Monster Island

I have an idea to combine the giant crustaceans and insects of Mysterious Island, with dinosaurs. I did not realize that Mysterious Island was based on a Jules Verne story. I have read some of his writings, but not all. I have a large backlog of them on my Kindle. That is the nice thing about stuff going out of copyright. Also the combination of creatures on Kong Island in the King Kong movies. (Note to self: Stat out Kong.)

I have a few ways I am thinking of handling this. Either one big island that has the giant insects and crustaceans and Pleistocene creatures and another area with dinosaurs, or two islands one with the dinosaurs and another close by with the rest.

Another might be an island with all giant insects, with the Thri-Keen at the top.

Definitely cavemen & Neanderthals with sabre-toothed tigers and mammoths would be cool.

An island could also be defined as an area with high mountains and no viable passes, or separated by a huge surrounding desert, center of the earth type scenarios, pocket dimensions, etc.

My idea it to design something that I would find fun and challenging to play.

I went through the Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, and Fiend Folio and collected a list of all the dinosaurs, giant animals, insects, etc. That is a long set of lists!

I am sure someone has done all or parts of these ideas. As I did not buy or play in most of the classic modules, I don’t know if TSR or other companies did something.

With the size of the dinosaurs, it would take a large land area to support viable sized groups of each. Random encounter tables would be quite long.

The thing with this is a party would have to use their brains and avoid trouble. Finding and allying themselves with primitive humans who know the best hiding spots and refuges and what parts of the island to avoid.

The challenge could be complicated by needing something the primitive humans prize or worship and are reluctant to part with it. If the party just takes it, they are all on their own. If they do things to gain the trust of the primitives, they might be able to borrow it or if a great enough service just keep it. All kinds of different ideas there.

Throw in some giants here and there and other humanoids and regular monsters to spice it up. Maybe the giants have always been there, but the humanoids and other monsters have washed up on shore, or they are after the same thing the party seeks.

Or the party could just be shipwrecked there in a storm, teleported there by a teleport trap in a dungeon and have to figure out how to get home. Is there another teleporter back? Can they figure out how to just travel home? Do they have a wizard with teleport?

I have too many ideas. I want to use them all, but always leave them wanting more. I know I have the more. I just want to use it all! Am I the only one fighting the temptation to use it all?


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.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email