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Friday, November 21, 2014

Random Hexless Terrain Tables

A post at the Hill Cantons blog raises the question “are there any random terrain generation methods useful for visually-impaired GMs who are not using hexes, or possibly even a map?” It’s not just of interest to the visually-impaired. What if you want to run a game in a situation where maps would be inconvenient, such as while on the road, or walking?

You could do it with a list of locations connected by routes – roads, rivers, or whatever. The problem is: there are few tools available for random terrain generation without hexes. They are all hex-focused. And most of those make no attempt at sensible geography: no gradual transitions from low swamps to arid highlands.

I’ve been thrashing around for a couple days, designing and re-designing a system for this, but it keeps getting too comlex. It should probably be reserved for a PDF, but in the meantime, I’ll split what I have into a couple posts and try to keep it simple.

It all starts with a re-design of some tables I’ve done before.

Climate and Terrain Table

Scale Climate Elevation Biome
7-9 Arctic Treeline V. Arid
6 Subarctic 5k feet Arid
5 Cool 2.5k ft Thin
4 Temperate 1.2k ft Prairie
3 Warm 500 feet Woodsy
2 Subtropic Low Forest
0-1 Tropic Sealevel Jungle

The first column is Latitude/10 and is also used for die rolls for the last two columns, which can be read together or used to cross-reference changes. Wetness tends to increase as you move downhill. Above the treeline, vegetation will be in the Very Arid to Thin range, never thicker.

Locale Table

d10 Terrain Type Landmark Type
0 Rocky Rubble
1 Cliff/Chasm Boulders
2 Wetter Dome
3 Thicker Plants Tunnel
4 Flat Face/Mural
5 Lower Ground Lone Hut
6 Sandy Settlement
7 Mountain Pit
8 Higher Ground Keep
9 Rolling Hills Graveyard
  • Higher/Lower Ground shifts elevation up or down on the Climate and Terrain Table
  • Wetter shifts biome one row down and adds a spring, stream, or pond
  • Thicker Vegetation also shifts biome one row down, but water source is ground water/rain
  • Mountain adds a small mountain, d6 x 1000 feet. Terrain at base remains the same.
Landmarks are mostly self-explanatory, but:
  • roll a d6 for the number of boulders or pits,
  • roll 1d6-3 each for statues and pillars in rubble (zero or less means that item is not present,)
  • roll 1d6-3 for the occupants of a hut, or inhabitants for a settlement (zero or less means abandoned.)

Settlement Table

1d6 Roll Settlement Pop. Modifier
0 or less Outpost double
1-3 Hamlet x10
4-5 Village x100
6-7 Town x1000
8+ City x5000
  • Subtract 1 from the roll for Sparse populations, 2 for Wilderness.
  • Add 1 to the roll for Dense populations, 2 for Very Dense.
(Edit: I changed the numbers to make hamlets more common than villages. A;so made the population density agjustments clearer.)

For the starting location only, if the settlement population indicates an abandoned settlement, there is an additional settlement one size smaller with d6/2 x the population modifier for inhabitants. The first, abandoned settlement will likely have some kind of curse or monster keeping it from being re-occupied.


  1. Roll 1d6 and read result off Climate and Terrain Table. Use entire line, don’t roll individual columns. This is your Homebase.
  2. You can roll 1d6 on the Settlement Table for the size of your Homebase, or just pick what you want.
  3. You can also roll 1d10 for each column on the Locale Table, if desired, to further describe Homebase.
  4. Roll 1d10 on the Climate and Terrain Table for distant terrain in each of the four major compass directions. Only use the last two columns, but read them together. This is the land features that are very far away (“The sea is to the east, and there’s a mountain range that way.”) You don’t need to set distances unless needed.
  5. Any time players ask what is nearby in a given compass direction, roll 1d10 for each column on the Locale Table to find out what’s there, then roll 2d6 for the number of days travel to reach it.
  6. Population density starts as Normal. When you roll 2d6 for the distance to a settlement, population density decreases to Sparse or Wilderness on a 2, increases to Dense or Very Dense on a 12.
There will be a second post about optional details.
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Saturday, November 15, 2014

More on Liars

I wanted to examine the Liar reaction roll a little more closely. First, I only briefly touched on why I chose odd reaction results as lies. Yes, a 2 is an Immediate Attack, which would be a bit weird if it were aslo a lie. But also, I wanted something easy to remember. The word “even” has a strong association with fairness and honesty, so dishonesty should be the opposite of even, right? Similarly, Neutral monsters and NPCs only lie on Neutral or worse reactions, so that should be easy to remember.

But let’s move on to looking closer at the possible results in different reaction roll situations.

Potential Combat

You just ran into some bandits. Will they threaten you? Attack? Or let you pass?

Bad: Demand all your money and possessions, tie you up or chase you away afterwards. Attack if you resist or linger in the area. When Lying: Say they are going to let you go if you cooperate, but then capture or kill you after stripping you of all possessions.

Neutral: Demand payment, but are willing to bargain. When Lying: Say they will accept your first offer, as long as it’s not ridiculously low, but then demand more after you give it up.

Good: Demand a small “toll”. May let you pass anyways if you refuse, as long as your side seems sufficiently strong or charismatic. When Lying: Chaotics will attempt a second shake-down for more cash.

Making a Job Offer

You meet an intelligent monster that doesn’t immediately turn hostile, so you try to lure it into service.

Bad: Insulted by your offer, or even the idea of serving you. Will attack if you pursue the issue. When Lying: Pretends to accept, but is luring you into a trap or planning a betrayal.

Neutral: Doesn’t accept your offer, but open to a bigger offer. When Lying: Either accepts the job, then absconds with the money as soon as possible or abandons you, or threatens you but is really just playing tough and will accept moe money.

Good: Accepts offer, roll for loyalty. When Lying: Chaotics will accept the job and even perform well, but will have zero loyalty and will secretly accept other jobs. They won’t plan to betray you, but will betray you when paid to do so.

Haggling and Bribing

You need something (potions of healing, or to get past a guard) and offer money for the goods or service.

Bad: Refuse the offer, attempt to take you into custody if being bribed. When Lying: Accept the offer, but give you a counterfeit or lead you into capture.

Neutral: Ask for more money. When Lying: Take the money first, then ask for more.

Good: Accept the money. When Lying: Chaotics will cheat or betray you, perhaps after a delay.

Fishing for Information

A bit like buying a rare item, but you’re trying to buy, intimidate, or sweet-talk information out of someone.

Bad: Insulted by your request, may tell authorities where appropriate. When Lying: Makes an excuse to negotiate later, but sets up a trap.

Neutral: Asks for more money, or stalls negotiation to drive up the price. When Lying: Doesn’t know the answer, but makes up an answer anyways.

Good: Offers information. When Lying: Chaotics make up crazy information.

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Friday, November 14, 2014


A blog post about the infamous Percent Liar typo in Monsters & Treasure, and the idea of taking it seriously, got me thinking. The chance of a monster or NPC lying is interesting, but individual “% Liar” stats for every monster would be tedious. Is there a way to have our cake and eat it, too?

Lying usually only matters during negotiations: checking if potential enemies turn hostile, hiring mercenaries (in and out of the dungeon,) or haggling for goods and services. So, why not fold the liar check into the reaction roll? For the 2d6 version, with its five possible reactions (Very Bad, Bad, Neutral, Good, Very Good,) I suggest these rules:
  • Lying Only Happens on Odd Rolls: This prevents a 2 (Immediate Attack) from being a lie, among other things.
  • Chaotic Types Lie on Any Odd Roll: So, sometimes, the Chaotic Ally you just acquired really is a loyal ally, but also lies. That’s the nature of Chaos.
  • Neutrals Don’t Lie on Good Reactions: On a Neutral reaction, they may lie (on a 7,) perhaps pretending to be an ally when they really don’t care. On a Bad reaction, they will pretend to be an ally on a 3 or 5, but only to lead you to your doom. But if they are really your ally, they won’t lie.
  • Lawfuls Rarely Lie: They only lie on a Bad reaction withan odd roll (3 or 5.) A few upstanding sorts will only lie on a 3.
  • Some Individuals May Vary: Always Lie/Never Lie about a given topic, Always/Never Lie to dwarves/nobles/other, or just a flat Always/Never Lie.
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