23
Apr

Randomizer Retrofit

Every GM has the occasional need of a random table for something – the contents of a treasure chest, the files on a Megacorporate server, or the embarrassing medical condition that you give to a character whose player keeps skipping game.  But what happens when you find a great set of tables, but they don’t fit your genre? For a good tool kit, we retrofit!

CHANGING CHANCY CHARTS

There are 45 years worth of random tables for RPG’s out there: on the internet, in books, and scribbled in the margins of stacks of notes. Finding them is not the issue – finding one that fits your Fallout-meets-Jane-Austin homebrew mashup game is (spoilers: Mr. Darcy was a robot the whole time!). Save yourself the many hours of searching through obscure forums on the Wayback Machine and just retrofit a table that’s close enough to what you’re running.

Here’s a short example. You find a little table of battle-cries for a viking warrior, but you’re playing in a game set in feudal Japan.

  1. “By the might of Odin!”—————>”By the strength of Raijin!”
  2. “The weak deserve death!”———–>”The fearful deserve death!”
  3. “Your saga is over!”——————–>”Your legend is over!”
  4. “I’ll cleave your skull in twain!”—–>”I’ll slice you into a thousand pieces!”
  5. “Prepare for Valhalla, warrior!”—–>”Prepare to meet your ancestors, warrior!”
  6. “Eat axe, dog-meat!”——————>”Taste my blade, mongrel-meat!”

The tweaks needed for this list are small and cultural, but the same principle will apply to other genre-crossing adjustments – different time periods, magic vs. mundane, tech levels, etc. Just take the essential premise of the entry and filter it through the lens of your world. You can make minimal changes or get really creative.

AN ILLUSTRATION OF INDISCRIMINATE INDEXES

Let’s fully flesh-out a larger example to show the versatility of variations of this sort. We will take a standard random table about things to put inside an empty room in a medieval fantasy setting. Then, we identify the essence of what each entry is about. Finally, we translate that into seven other game settings.

THINGS IN AN EMPTY ROOM (MEDIEVAL FANTASY SETTING)

  1. A crumbling stone wall exposing tree roots. (Damage)
  2. A linen rag that reeks of lye. (Trash)
  3. A shank of venison in a wooden bowl. (Food)
  4. A pewter tankard of honey mead. (Drink)
  5. A ragged, muddy, woolen cloak hanging from a peg. (Clothing)
  6. Fur-lined boots with frayed, leather cords. (Footwear)
  7. A scribe’s bench covered in dried ink spills. (Furniture)
  8. A stacked stone fireplace with a piece of slate to cover the opening. (Heating/Cooling)
  9. An hourglass with a hairline crack. (Timepiece)
  10. A battered, tin, oil lamp that sputters with green light when lit. (Light)
  11. An old, yellow floor rug with a trail of wear and tear down the center. (Decor)
  12. A dingy tapestry depicting the construction and siege of a castle. (Art)

THINGS IN AN EMPTY ROOM (PIRATE ADVENTURE SETTING)

  1. A splintered wooden wall exposing water stains. (Damage)
  2. A canvas rag that reeks of pitch. (Trash)
  3. A boiled leg of chicken on a pewter plate. (Food)
  4. A dusty wine bottle, refilled with brown rum. (Drink)
  5. A worn-out, oil-slicked cape hanging from a silver hook. (Clothing)
  6. Copper-soled boots, scorched by black powder burns. (Footwear)
  7. An elegantly inlaid writing desk with remnants of gilded decoration. (Furniture)
  8. A cast-iron, pot-belly stove with a bent poker leaning against it. (Heating/Cooling)
  9. A brass chronometer in a mahogany box, which is missing it’s winding key. (Timepiece)
  10. A glass-enclosed lantern that has been etched with images of skulls. (Light)
  11. Some intricate molding on the top of one wall, stolen from some far-off land. (Decor)
  12. A blown-glass chandelier strung up by an iron chain and covered with melted candles. (Art)

THINGS IN AN EMPTY ROOM (CULTIST HORROR SETTING)

  1. A crumbling plaster wall exposing dead vines. (Damage)
  2. A cotton rag that reeks of mold and sweat. (Trash)
  3. A slice of what smells like pork on a fine china plate. (Food)
  4. A dusty wine bottle containing a thick, black ooze. (Drink)
  5. A ceremonial robe sewn with rubbery, red threads, hanging from a meat-hook. (Clothing)
  6. Black, rubber rain boots, full of slime. (Footwear)
  7. A workbench made from railroad ties, covered in bolts, chains, and tie-downs. (Furniture)
  8. A shallow pit dug into the floor, covered in used coals and burnt leather. (Heating/Cooling)
  9. A sundial with thirteen hours and strange symbols in place of numerals. (Timepiece)
  10. A cracked hurricane lamp with rancid fat in the reservoir where oil ought to be. (Light)
  11. A stack of old, wrought-iron fencing, topped with deadly-sharp spikes. (Decor)
  12. A black slab of carved stone, showing swirling waves and drowning, inhuman figures. (Art)

THINGS IN AN EMPTY ROOM (MODERN DETECTIVE SETTING)

  1. A crumbling brick wall exposing old plumbing. (Damage)
  2. A microfiber cloth that reeks of bleach. (Trash)
  3. A still-warm microwave meal in a plastic tray. (Food)
  4. A crushed beer can with a drop of blood on a sharp edge. (Drink)
  5. A set of stained, custodian’s coveralls, folded neatly on a stool. (Clothing)
  6. Expensive high-heels with a broken heel-cap on the left shoe. (Footwear)
  7. A writing desk that has been hurriedly painted over. (Furniture)
  8. A window-mounted air-conditioner that won’t turn on. (Heating/Cooling)
  9. A cracked, digital wristwatch, stuck on 3:44am. (Timepiece)
  10. A construction flood-light with a long cord tied into a noose. (Light)
  11. A cheap area rug that has been flipped upside-down. (Decor)
  12. A stack of paintings, each of the same impressionist image of a French cottage. (Art)

THINGS IN AN EMPTY ROOM (ZOMBIE SURVIVAL SETTING)

  1. A crumbling cinder-block wall exposing blood stains. (Damage)
  2. A cotton towel that is crusted over in dried blood. (Trash)
  3. A can of beans that someone tried to bash open against the floor. (Food)
  4. A broken bottle lashed to the end of a broom handle. (Drink)
  5. A blood-stained dress, torn apart and crudely stitched back together. (Clothing)
  6. A single sneaker, torn to shreds. (Footwear)
  7. A heavy, folding-table with an arm-strap bolted onto the back. (Furniture)
  8. A portable, gas-powered heating fan with a small puddle of fuel inside. (Heating/Cooling)
  9. An old clock-radio that picks up strange, static-laden bursts. (Timepiece)
  10. Half a pack of road flares, triple-wrapped in plastic bags. (Light)
  11. A roll of chain-link fencing, patched up with paper clips, wire, and balloons. (Decor)
  12. A string of family photographs hanging from a “Love Forever” barn-wood sign. (Art)

THINGS IN AN EMPTY ROOM (POST APOCALYPTIC SETTING)

  1. A crumbling concrete wall exposing bullet holes. (Damage)
  2. An ancient rag that reeks of gasoline. (Trash)
  3. A can of processed meat that is bloated from expansion pressure. (Food)
  4. An ancient bottle of absinthe that glows ever so slightly green. (Drink)
  5. A sealed, yellow, biohazard suit completely full of an unknown liquid. (Clothing)
  6. A pair of sharp ice skates attached to a long chain. (Footwear)
  7. An old classroom desk, repaired with bits of rusty road signs. (Furniture)
  8. A huge, industrial cooling fan with all the safety guards cut off. (Heating/Cooling)
  9. A heavy-duty mechanism with several digital clocks, all counting down. (Timepiece)
  10. An old neon sign reading “-Cola” which is rigged to a wagon-full of small batteries. (Light)
  11. A Victorian bird-cage full of worn-out, stuffed animals. (Decor)
  12. A tall statue of a proud man made completely out of plastic garbage and hot glue. (Art)

THINGS IN AN EMPTY ROOM (CYBER CITY SETTING)

  1. A rusted-out metallic wall exposing old wiring. (Damage)
  2. A plasticloth rag that reeks of silicone sealant. (Trash)
  3. A brick of soy-cubes in a self-heating plastic case. (Food)
  4. A plastic jug with a skull sticker, full of home-brewed super-caff.(Drink)
  5. A corporate police jacket with a laser-burn in one shoulder, hanging on a hook. (Clothing)
  6. Thigh-high latex boots with six, sewn-in pistol holsters. (Footwear)
  7. A fold-out worktable with empty slots for tools and a broken power plug. (Furniture)
  8. An air recycler with a clogged filter that drips liquid nitrogen. (Heating/Cooling)
  9. A holographic disk with a 1950’s secretary who reminds you of the time. (Timepiece)
  10. A florescent tube wrapped in tape on one end and razor-wire on the other. (Light)
  11. A digital window that overlays the view with flickering scenes from exotic locales. (Decor)
  12. A clear plastic cylinder full of nano-sand that builds random, abstract objects. (Art)

THINGS IN AN EMPTY ROOM (SPACE OPERA SETTING)

  1. A melted-out bulkhead wall exposing power conduits. (Damage)
  2. A nanoweave mesh cloth that is wet with cyborg blood. (Trash)
  3. A slice of replicated Junoean bacon on a steel tray. (Food)
  4. An elegant crystalline decanter, half-full of color-changing wine. (Drink)
  5. A space suit on a stand, covered in a fine layer of red dust. (Clothing)
  6. Magnetic boots with a single rocket-booster charge remaining. (Footwear)
  7. A simple desk that lights up as you approach, revealing digital touch-displays. (Furniture)
  8. A cryo-pod with a stuck door and frosted-over viewport. (Heating/Cooling)
  9. A floating robot-ball that chirps out the local time for various planets, far away. (Timepiece)
  10. An ever-bright glow-crystal, synthesized from the remnants of a dwarf star. (Light)
  11. An alien bit of sculpture with moving parts that seem to do nothing of any use. (Decor)
  12. A hovering mobile-style planetarium of a brightly-colored solar system. (Art)

As you can see, you can go a little crazy with variation, or you can just do a little update to make the entry fit. For more ideas about random tables, check out my article on 20 Things and if you need some insight into how to adjust for different genres, read about Setting Shifts.

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