November 13, 2012

Random Tables - What Are They Good For?

A few weeks ago the blog, Unofficial Games, put out an excellent random table 'What did you land on?' Basically its 6 things that a character could land on when falling from a roof, out a window, etc. I like the list, its imaginative and could be useful for adding a good bit of detail to an adventure. I love detail, I think it adds to the immersion of role-playing. However...

Would I ever use this table? My initial thought was to print it out and put it into a folder. My imagination ran big. Wouldn't it be cool to have a folder with all sorts of tables that I could pull out for whatever special occasion just happened to the characters. Think of all the nuances, detail and the unexpected I could throw at the players. It would be awesome! And then...

I began to imagine myself flipping through a folder with all sorts of cool tables...trying to find the exact one I needed. A character gets throw out a second story window and I'm looking for the right table. And I find it...eventually. I could have taken 2 seconds to come up with something myself that would not have been as cool or I could take 2 minutes to flip through my book and make the roll. As I think about it, I'd rather take the 2 seconds and move the adventure and excitement (a character just got thrown out a second story window!) along rather than spend the time needed to find the right table.

Would I ever use this table? No. However, I still like that it was written up. I can read it and maybe, just maybe, I'll remember one or two of the results and that will be my 2 second response...and that would be awesome!


Paul Thornton said...

Your final point is the only use I have for random tables. I read a bunch of them, and the coolest f the results tend to get lodged in my head. Then, when I need it, they flash back up and the game carries on.

And to be honest, how many times are characters going to be jumping out of windows and expecting to land on different things?

Zzarchov said...

Depends on the game.

Originally it was for an Arabian Nights style city game. Happens a lot in games where rooftop chases are important. The key to random tables is to only have the ones you'll use often printed out.

Philo Pharynx said...

Having the random tables avaialble in some sort of hyperlinked form on a computer or tablet will make it eaier to find the one you want. And you might be able to do it in a way that includes the randomization.

My problem with charts is that the more you use them the more boring they get. You get lots of repeated items. The falling chart has 24 options. When you start having horses crap on you multiple times it starts not being interesting anymore.

If you use a chart with more limited entries, repeats will happen often. If you use a chart with more entires it takes more work. An table with more entries takes more work to set up. But when one of the rarer things happens twice it's unrealistic. "Hey I fel into the princess' lap again!"

I suppose the best solution would be to have a chart with some common things and some rare events. The rare events would be one time, replaced by other rae events when it they come up.

Matt Celis said...

Random tables are only useful to me when I have an unxpected turn of events, in which case I might roll or just pick a result that sounds good.