I have found that I don’t much like rolling on content-generating tables during play. I rarely do it (I would usually rather just improvise), but every once in a while it comes up (like a treasure table in a module that I didn’t bother to roll on beforehand). The box label generator in the Lamentations module Tower of the Stargazer is a good example of this. Rolling those names during the game just killed the sense of immersion, and made it seem like none of the results could possible matter.

Whenever this happens, I feel like it slows down the game and exposes pieces of the machinery that are better left hidden. My most recent face to face group, especially, seemed to become uninterested in content if it looked like the random variety. They wanted to find the “real” content.

There have been a few posts on the blogs recently that have touched on similar issues. For example, Beedo over at Dreams in the Lich House has been talking about how he is using spreadsheets to pregenerate content for his Black City game:

And, Jim at Carjacked Seraphim has been posting about his system for DM prep. He has some useful-looking ideas there, like prerolling on which turn encounters should happen, so that you can tick off bubbles as the turns progress and then just cross-reference the appropriate encounter column. Check them out:

This also brings an aspect of fate into the game without actually limiting player choice at all, which is sort of fascinating. It’s like looking down from the corner of a high building at a road intersection and seeing two cars speeding towards (but oblivious of) each other. You have seen their future (the crash) without reducing their free will.

There are also tools like Meatshields! that can help.

The principle is also a bit like vancian casting: you want to prepare the content so that all that is left is the final command word. Note that the content in question can still be loosely bound. Like, you might not know exactly where you are going to need the next barkeep, but having one ready is useful (especially if you are as bad at remembering improvised details like I am).

4 thoughts on “Precompiling

  1. John

    I’ve been doing most of my random rolling in the half an hour between when I show up and when the last person to the game shows up, which gives me a little time to think it through and figure out how it fits into the world. My players usually can’t tell the difference, but fortunately they don’t mind much when they do (as long as there’s treasure).

  2. Beedo

    That idea of pre-timed encounters is messing with my head a little bit, in a good way. I don’t know if I’d do it, because there’s fun to be had improvising wandering encounters, but the idea of a sense of ‘fate’ in the game is intriguing.


Leave a Reply