The Fell Gard Codices

The Aleatory Process IV

November 20th, 2012

Having written a bit yesterday about the process of rolling up the physical dimensions of the dungeon, today I’m going to write about the process of filling those spaces with events and encounters. The first thing to say is: these aren’t really two separate processes.

At certain points as I generate the dungeon I make rolls to see if a random bit of business will be present — a possible encounter, or a piece of imagery. I roll at dead ends, crossroads, and the like. It’s far from inevitable, but possible. Not necessarily a major event, but a bit of set dressing or odd element. A bat that flies into somebody’s hair. A panel of stonework set into the wall. Things like that.

But it’s when I roll up a room that the issue of filling the space really comes into play. I’ve got a whole set of charts to roll on to see what might be in a room: a monster or person, a trap, treasure, some more of that random dressing … a lot of possibilities. And it’s possible I’ll discover in the process of shaping the room that it’s a special kind of chamber: a library, a crypt, a forge. I’ve got tables to fill up all those things, as well.

The tables connect to other tables. A bestiary will have monsters in it, and some of those monsters will be new creatures, some combination of characteristics making a kind of entity I hadn’t thought of before; and then the challenge becomes making sense of the elements I roll up. Libraries have tables for what books are in them, and if I roll up a spellbook, a sub-table for what spells are in the book. Temples have tables for what god is or was worshiped there, and what attendants are currently in the temple.

These are tables I’ve developed as I’ve gone along. As I find I have a need for them. There’s a kind of intuitive sense guiding me in determining what aspects of the dungeon feel like they ought to be determined randomly and what I ought to decide for myself; it’s an element of the peculiar collaboration with random chance that defines the whole story.

Sometimes — fairly often — I’ll roll up a suite of rooms; rooms that open into other rooms, making a connected set of chambers. That’s handy, because then I can make a number of rolls at once for the contents of the whole suite, and build a kind of mini-complex out of the results. In a lot of ways, the massive scope of the dungeon comes about from the welding together of smaller units. That’s an odd mirror of the structural principle of the whole story, something I’ve come to appreciate.

Tomorrow, I’ll write a few words about collaborating with dice.

You can read them here.

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