Example Input - The use of randomness


i fucking hate writing ...
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Randomness 1

The party is on their way to The Ruins Outside Of Town, and it’s going to take two days to get there, says this adventure for fifth edition D&D. A short little wilderness map is provided. It has a scale, and the DM is told to check for random encounters twice each day and twice each night. What follow is a pretty standard wandering monster chart, level appropriate challenges, and even then they only appear on a roll of 1 on a d8; not much chance. As noted, it’s just a table, a list of potential enemies to encounter. Except for one of the encounters. You see, following the table is a list of monster stats for each of the enemies you could potentially encounter on the wandering monster table, one after the other, with no details. Except for that one encounter. It is magnificent, particularly in comparison to the other boring entries. A lost hermit on his way home, an injured foot, hints of divinity, a sly humor, an enigmatic riddle … a wonderful little encounter, well write, terse, evocative, and interactive. That has a 1 in 20 chance of occurring, as long as the DM rolls a 1 first on a d8 for a wandering encounter to actually occur.

It’s clear that the 5e designer in question, in emulating the style of an older type of D&D, thought that they needed to have a wandering monster table. But 5e is not B/X, and wandering monsters don’t serve the same purpose in 5e that they did in B/X. There was no reason for a wandering monster table in the first place. If the designer wanted an encounter to break up the travel and make things more interesting then they just needed to do that, instead of relying on a trop of earlier edition play. Further, it’s clear that the one interesting encounter was FAR more interesting than the rest, those just being the normal book list of potential monsters that could appear. The better choice here was to simply state that the party would have an encounter on the evening of the first night with that entity.

Randomness 2
Welcome to the future! You’re visiting the garbage dump planet of the universe. Literally, every planet dumps their waste here. They just fly over and let loose. You’re doing salvage, looking for That Thing You Were Hired For. You land and see a lava tube like hole in the trash and enter it, beginning your explorations in to the depths of Trash World!

Well, hang on. The DM has to roll to see what chamber you enter first. And then how big it is. And how many exits it has. And where those exits are. And what the decor/theme of the chamber is. Looks like melted plastic, according to the table. Hmmm, now, rolling for creatures, it looks like you’ll be encountering mud men. The roll on the goal table says … searching for their queen. Looks like the random treasure table says they have a staff, but lets turn that in to a sceptre, on the fly, to match the queen thing. Oh, the lighting is low, I guess maybe there’s a curtain of plastic, like in a butchers shop freezer, over the entrance? “Sure, why not. Ok, yeah, so, you enter through some dark plastic sheeting to a room with melted plastic walls and a couple of exits and see a group of 1d6+2 squat slimy brown blobs with humanoid features. They are surrounding one them who holds a bumby log in the air, about 2’ long, with yellow bits in it. “

A procedurally generated dungeon is going to be VERY challenging, both for the designer and for the DM, to pull off at the table. As a tool to create your own adventure it can be great, but through the definitions of Adventure that this book uses .. it’s not very good one. The environments it generates might be good to riff off of, but will always suffer from the lack of a guiding hand to unify them in to a holistic purpose and therefore be little more than random encounters that more time than usual for the DM to respond back to the party with.


My my my, we just loooove to hear ourselves don't we?
Example 1 is great. In that case the designer should have thought of the journey as a Point Crawl and included the hermit as a scripted encounter along the way. The Encounter Table could still be included (with the Hermit still on it) in case the players insist on wandering off the trail.

Example 2, I get that you're saying the results of procedural generation are likely to be disjointed. Maybe add that that's even if the GM takes the time to do their rolling ahead of time (which I think is implied?) As a fan of Castle Gargantua and Gardens of Ynn, I tend to disagree, but for the purposes of your book I can see how getting bogged down in the exceptions to every rule could belabour things.

Will there be examples of good uses of randomness? I personally enjoy a few tables as appendices for when the players wander off-script or if I want to add side quests or flesh out poorly detailed areas of the environment.