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Patrick Zoch
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A question suggested by

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How often do you use random generators in your games and do you fell bound to abide by the results, or just use it as a starting point?




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Yes, I use them and always abide by them. I intend to use them at least 1custom100000{1 - 100000} = (75445) = 75445 more times, per decade.
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Paul Dale
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I love random generators. The more the better.
However, I'm definitely not about fudging the outcomes a little.


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Peter Robben
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No dice roll will ever interfere with a good story in my games.
i do use dice for combat, obviously, and abide by them. It's stuff like random monsters and treasures that I don't do.
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pdzoch wrote:
A question suggested by

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How often do you use random generators in your games and do you fell bound to abide by the results, or just use it as a starting point?




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And if you want to find an old QOTD: The big QOTD Summary and Subscription Thread Volume 3

Before I started doing Adventure League (AL), I would use random table often. Especially if I was populating empty hexes of my world. But if the result got too crazy I would not use it.
I did use Critical Hits and Misses from Dragon mag #54(?) but when the players started complaining I drop it. And have not used critical fumbles since.
In AL I have use the weather system from the city encounters add on. I had my players preroll. (the bonus was they didn't know what they were rolling for). This did affect some combat when they were in the Waterdeep during the Dragon Heist book.
In the Tomb of Annihilation (season 7 AL) during the exploring part, I had my players roll for the wandering monsters. Then type up the roll
ex. Maria 12, 1d3 Assassin Vine AC 13 HP 85 Xp 700 TOA 213. I placed the results into specific bags. So if the had an encounter during the ruins, some one would draw from the bag. I would announce this monster was brought to by Maria (big evil grin).
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I use them and abide by the results.
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dysjunct wrote:
I use them and abide by the results.


+1

I also will sometimes just pick from the list if there is something I want to see.

Certainly always used for treasure unless the item was mentioned earlier.
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Lately I'm annoyed with the classic combat model of round after round of randomness. A happy medium between single check decision points and an hour and a half killing ten goblins seems possible, though as yet undiscovered by me.

I used to be flexible with applying random results, but i grow less so over time. It used to feel like too much was riding on it to leave it to pure chance, but in recent years I've come to feel it is just a game after all. We can just start over if things crash unexpectedly.
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I swear by truly random trinket charts/results. Some truly awesome stuff has come out of that rule. I'll also randomize aspects I haven't set out in advance. Last session I had a player roll a d10 to see what day of the tenday it was...and it ended up affecting the story.

Other than that, I fudge a lot of randomness (except in combat), but I'm not really trying to hide that fact. Random charts are great for inspiration, but I often take what seems coolest to me from them and just make that the "random" thing that happens.
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mawilson4 wrote:


Other than that, I fudge a lot of randomness (except in combat), but I'm not really trying to hide that fact. Random charts are great for inspiration, but I often take what seems coolest to me from them and just make that the "random" thing that happens.


This is pretty much it for me as well. I love a lot of ideas that are listed on random tables. When I look at them, I usually see a few that strike me as really fun and those are the ones I run with.

However, if I use a random table and plan to abide by the results, I let a player roll. I was running a Cthulhu Dark Ages (2nd edition) game a couple weeks ago and making use of a random table to determine what oddities where in some monks' trunks. I have to give a shout out to Brave Sir Philip for rolling some really interesting results.
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Benevolentgamemaster wrote:
i do use dice for combat, obviously, and abide by them. It's stuff like random monsters and treasures that I don't do.

Same here. I would use monster generators, but the games I play tend not to have them and I tend not to make them.

I used to think random encounter tables were ridiculous. They'd have things like orcs and goblins, okay, but then things like deer and green dragons. The latter kind of encounters didn't make sense to me, because I used to take "encounter" to mean "fight." It didn't make sense for me that deer would fight (and there were probably no stats for them anyway) and a green dragon would simply lay waste to the party, so those seemed like ridiculous things to allow to happen. Therefore, I felt it was ridiculous to roll on the table, since I would either have to ignore certain results, or wreck my game.

Nowadays, I take "encounter" to mean a broader range of things, including the creature not actually being "encountered." Instead of running into the deer or the dragon, they might merely see them from a distance, or see signs of them (like deer droppings or dragon claw marks, or even the remains of a deer carcass that had been eaten by a dragon). "Deer" might mean that the party encounter a group of hunters. "Dragon" might mean that the dragon wants to hire the party to track down some deer poachers in its lands. Taken this way, I can see random tables as merely a way to provide a little more activity into an area.

I realize that rules for sighting distances always meant that "encounters" might often result in distant sightings, rather than two groups bumping into each other, but my take on those was that the players would either avoid monsters or set up elaborate ambushes for them, neither of which was I (or am I now) interested in spending time on. When I thought "encounter" meant "fight," I just wanted some combat-as-sport, with two sides meeting on a field of battle (which could be a forest, or a canyon, or anything, not just a "field"), rather than combat-as-war with no engagement occurring unless on side felt it could overwhelm the other.

I don't see any reason to use random treasure tables. I want to either give players treasure I want them to have, or give them treasure they want. If they ever gave me enough ideas, I could see making a random table from those, but they never do. I tend to just want to give them "encounters" that they want, too, meaning I don't need tables for those either.

Benevolentgamemaster wrote:
No dice roll will ever interfere with a good story in my games.

Story be damned, but no dice roll will ever interfere with the fun in my games. But that's because if a roll could interfere with the fun, I simply won't roll it. I'll either remove the outcome that could result in interference and then roll, or I or a player will pick a non-interfering outcome.
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cosine wrote:
Lately I'm annoyed with the classic combat model of round after round of randomness. A happy medium between single check decision points and an hour and a half killing ten goblins seems possible, though as yet undiscovered by me.

Might make a good QOTD.
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There do seem to be places where random charts make more sense, or work more reliably. Like my trinket example, which I love doing. I almost never have a loot pile without some curiosity for the players to consider, which may or may not have story significance. Random is way cooler for that, imo.

But then there's things like random creature encounters. These have always felt the most "rote" to me in adventures that include them. "Oh wait guys, I need to roll for random encounters..." then everyone - including GM - hopes that we don't get one. I know they can be done well. I just think it's way less likely that they will be done well.
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I have many of them. But in the heat of the moment in GMing, I tend to just improvise. I use more of them in preparation than in running the game.

I feel no need to be bound by them as I'm only generating the adventure- it's not while the adventure is running. If I did use it when running, I might feel differently.
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I have found that in some games they are very useful to me. But in specific ways, easier illustrated by example:

* In my recently completed Dungeon World mega-dungeon crawl the random treasure tables from The Perilous Wilds were invaluble. I had no pre-planned treasure at all, just rolled on those tables whenever it was appropriate to figure out treasure people found. It not only saved me a lot of time in prep, but also was a spur to many of the interesting bits in the dungeon when the table delivered some kind of strange treasure prompt and I took that as a challenge to my creativity to make it work. There were a lot of memorable treasures found, all of them essentially spur of the moment creations prompted by the random generator.

* In Blades in the Dark I made extensive use of the random NPC tables, using them for literally every important character the PC's encountered. This kept me on my toes in a very pleasant way, and also kept a more consistent tone to the NPC's than I might have been able to do myself.

* Not quite a table, per se, but I found the card based NPC personality system in Twilight 2000 very useful in my recent run of that game.

I like random tables as spurs to my creativity for things that I have a harder time coming up with in prep or during the game. I like them when they add lots of narrative color and connect the ongoing action up to the setting. I like them when they save me time in some way.

In general, if I use random tables, its because I'm happy with the table, so I will rarely need to fiddle with the results after the fact. If I foresee the need for fiddling, I won't use the table in the first place. I'm not against fiddling, though. I could see how I could have a lot of fun in a game with a lot of random tables where I set out from the beginning to stick to the results no matter what (again, as a challenge to my creativity), but I would need to make that a goal right from the start.
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Clark Timmins
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I believe the "intent" of the question probably was about random table or random idea generators? But, of course, "random generators" also includes dice, spinners, cards, whatever...

So, I use dice in every game. The only RPGs that I play that don't use dice (or cards) are things I'm playtesting. To me, if it don't have dice, it ain't not an RPG. I know that not everybody agrees with that, but...

Cards are an anathema to roleplaying.

I also use die-drop tables, and I'm enamored of the concept. I use the results if they fit; otherwise I re-roll.

I also use random treasure tables, random encounter tables, and other "put together on the fly" type things. Usually, I stick with the results.

I also use some random table type things prior to play, but mostly to generate ideas. If I don't like it, I roll again (or use another table).

...are dice truly random? Or are we simply too limited to detect the sublime pattern that predestines everything...
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mawilson4 wrote:
But then there's things like random creature encounters. These have always felt the most "rote" to me in adventures that include them. "Oh wait guys, I need to roll for random encounters..." then everyone - including GM - hopes that we don't get one. I know they can be done well. I just think it's way less likely that they will be done well.
I think one of the few ways these work well is in the specific situation of a "crawl" type game where pressure is important to the fun. An example of pressure would be in a D&D5E game where taking a long rest really recharges the whole party, so a random encounter table used whenever the party stays in one place for long periods of time can add to the pressure. Maybe you won't have an encounter, maybe you will, every time you stay in one place that might be dangerous, you are making a gamble.

But this is only useful when the game really is a "crawl", I think, what Paul referred to in another thread as "game as war", where attrition is an important feature. If there is any kind of over-riding plot or planning on the part of the GM, any kind of story-line that is trying to be followed, they are probably a minor distraction at best and a game-crashing impediment at worst.

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Paolo Robino
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pdzoch wrote:
How often do you use random generators in your games and do you fell bound to abide by the results, or just use it as a starting point?

I use'em a lot and abide by the results, as long as they are not a complete wrench in the works. In that case, I fudge/ignore/skip to next result.
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skalchemist wrote:
mawilson4 wrote:
But then there's things like random creature encounters. These have always felt the most "rote" to me in adventures that include them. "Oh wait guys, I need to roll for random encounters..." then everyone - including GM - hopes that we don't get one. I know they can be done well. I just think it's way less likely that they will be done well.
I think one of the few ways these work well is in the specific situation of a "crawl" type game where pressure is important to the fun. An example of pressure would be in a D&D5E game where taking a long rest really recharges the whole party, so a random encounter table used whenever the party stays in one place for long periods of time can add to the pressure. Maybe you won't have an encounter, maybe you will, every time you stay in one place that might be dangerous, you are making a gamble.

But this is only useful when the game really is a "crawl", I think, what Paul referred to in another thread as "game as war", where attrition is an important feature. If there is any kind of over-riding plot or planning on the part of the GM, any kind of story-line that is trying to be followed, they are probably a minor distraction at best and a game-crashing impediment at worst.



Agreed, and good point. I don't run or play in much that could be considered a crawl, so it's probably not surprising that I feel as I do.
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skalchemist wrote:
I like random tables as spurs to my creativity for things that I have a harder time coming up with in prep or during the game. I like them when they add lots of narrative color and connect the ongoing action up to the setting. I like them when they save me time in some way.


Yeah. This. Just last night I was populating an adventure/dungeon dive for a hex in the hexcrawl thread. My boys tossed dice and we riffed off of the results we got to generate the treasure in the complex using the 5e DMG. I thought we got some nifty results. Occasionally deciding to toss dice to find out a characteristic of some item was terrific, too. I loved that.

Re: Let's Make a Hexcrawl Together

I'm happy to ignore the results sometimes, but I only let myself do that about once in every ten rolls or so. Sometimes, an item just doesn't feel right. And sometimes it's best to just toss a bunch of dice and see what comes up. Sometimes the results are really good. And like Mark mentioned, the random trinket tables can be fantastic.
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Paolo Robino wrote:
pdzoch wrote:
How often do you use random generators in your games and do you fell bound to abide by the results, or just use it as a starting point?

I use'em a lot and abide by the results, as long as they are not a complete wrench in the works. In that case, I fudge/ignore/skip to next result.


I use them this way too.
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I love using random generators in games! Absolutely love them!

I use them as ways to spark my imagination, particularly when I've been focused on something else and need to come up with something on the fly to react to what the players want.

Recently I've used random tables for outcomes of actions like these:

What do you find in the alligator's stomach this time when you cut it open?)
What do you find while searching the room filled with crystal spears?
What random weather/creature encounter do you run into while in the wilderness for more than 2 hours?
What random creatures wander by during an 8 hour watch set at night?

I'm usually more focused on the big picture or building the puzzles/scenes that lead to later encounters, on creating specific items needed for the adventure - so random tables are great for adding in local flavor and potential interesting situations to bring the world to life without getting in the way of the game.

And, for fun, I'll let the players roll for those results on the charts! They don't know what is on the charts, but they roll and I let them know what happens. Which has worked pretty well - sometimes they get things they want (occult books!), sometimes they get nothing special (rocks!), and sometimes they almost die (small alligators spill out and attack!)... but they made the roll!
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enduran wrote:
The latter kind of encounters didn't make sense to me, because I used to take "encounter" to mean "fight." It didn't make sense for me that deer would fight [...]

My brain hit this like a sweet jump at 120 mph and soared from crazed deer over 20 schoolbuses full of escalating adventure to end at the bone-crunching ramp of screaming spacetime rift where the adventurers are crying and one of them yells I LOVE YOU to the one they're using to sew it shut.
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As GM, I often roll on a random table 3 times, and pick the result that suits the story or the mood or my appetite at that moment best.
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Mostly as a starting point. Its easy to change things up slightly than to start from scratch.
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