I have three bookcases in my office. They each have 7 shelves, with a variable number of books per shelf. The top shelves only have a few large “coffee table” books on them, but most of the shelves have 20 to 30 books on them. I was just thinking to myself, what if I randomly selected some books from my shelves and then came up with an adventure based on a synthesis of those volumes? What you take away from each book is more or less arbitrary; the point is to try to integrate N disparate elements into an adventure that makes sense. For example, if one of the books was The Fellowship of the Ring, you might take away “being chased” or “trying to destroy an evil artifact”. Another example, from just glancing at my books: Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed => something involving rich merchants.
So here is a procedure:
- 2d4 for number of books (this gives a nice probability curve)
- d3 to decide which bookcase (1 = left, 2 = middle, 3 = right)
- d7 to decide which shelf (1 = bottom, 7 = top)
- d20 to decide which book (1 = left, 20 = right) unless there are obviously fewer books on the shelf, in which case a smaller die is used (common sense should prevail)
Here is my first set of throws. 7 books:
- left – shelf 3 – China and Vietnam: The Roots of Conflict by William J. Duiker
- right – shelf 5 – Economics by Paul A. Samuelson
- right – shelf 4 – The Morgans by Vincent P. Carosso
- middle – shelf 5 – The Charioteer by Mary Renault
- middle – shelf 2 – Elric: The Stealer of Souls by Michael Moorcock
- right – shelf 6 – Lectures on the History of Political Philosophy by John Rawls
- left – shelf 2 – Memories, Dreams, Reflections by C. G. Jung
The most powerful merchant (3, 2) living in a trading hub is finding himself outmaneuvered by his rivals right and left, when before no-one could touch him. This oligarch tries all the standard approaches (including hiring thugs to fight proxy battles between merchant houses), but still he finds himself loosing ground. He seeks the advice of a great wizard, who determines that the merchant lord’s enemies are entering his dreams and stealing his secrets and plans (5, 7). The wizard says that the only way to stop the theft would be for someone to enter the merchant lord’s dreams and kill the dream guide that is assisting his enemies. The enemies belong to a secret society of lords from a small neighbouring realm (perhaps smaller city-states, possibly demi-human if that fits the campaign) that wish to reassert their independence against the more powerful and older city-state ruled in all but name by the other merchant lord (1). At the same time, they are planning to assassinate the lord during an upcoming chariot race (4) that is financed by the merchant lord and is a major city festival, hoping that his many surviving children will fight over the inheritance and plunge the larger city-state into civil war as they jockey for power. Not sure right now how to work in something inspired by book 6 (history of political philosophy).
The PCs could become involved in many ways. They could be hired by either side. Maybe they are the muscle that the secret society is paying to infiltrate the merchant lord’s dreams, or maybe they are the merchant lord’s defence. They could also stumble upon the conflict inadvertently in some way and, if they desire, come in on one side or the other. Maybe one of the PCs manifests an ability to travel into dreams and discovers the plot.
Since this is a dream dungeon, it can be as surreal as you desire, without needing to resort to explanations such that as a mad wizard built it (not that there’s anything wrong with mad wizards; this is just an alternative). The dream dungeon is similar in concept to that of a pocket universe
. See also using pocket universes
. Also consider: is the dream reality private to the dreamer, or connected to other sleepers, like Tel’aran’rhiod
Not that this example is all that special or anything, but it was fun to put together.
This could also be done with a number of random Wikipedia pages, or any other similar collection.