Saturday, 9 July 2016

How to write d100 Tables

Why tables
Making tables is fun. They are a form of game prep as much as mapping. They paint a portrait of your setting and locations. They are ready to use during slow moments of games. They are ready for sandbox play or when players go off the rails in a adventure.

I'm doing this in hopes others will make more bigger better tables.

I find small tables repeat results too often. Some people cross out used ones and replace them. Small tables are fine for small probability samples. I like big numbers in gaming more myself.

Some Methods 
Actually these apply to many creative acts if you want to draw or sing or anything. We are all humans with similar brains. Table writing and imagination are skills. If you don't use them they suffer. If you do use them they get better. If you say you cant and you never try you will be right. If you worry about perfection and don't try you will also fail. Don't give up or quit a project. A break is fine if you feel stumped. Go read or watch a movie or talk to friends for a break. But try to add a bit to those hard projects. It is ok to put on back burner and start something else if your brain is on fire with some other idea. You don't have to be great first tries you will get better as long as you don't quit.

Don't waste time by dramatically destroying failure bu crossing out, deleting ot screwing into a ball and chucking it. Practise fixing things instead you learn more. This falls into the perfectionist method of failing and self loathing. Treasure those mistakes, document them, they might give you ideas later.

Keep a notebook and doodle daily. The best advice I was ever given to write or draw is to do it 15-30 minutes a day. Do it even if it is shit. Eventually it becomes a habit not a task. Use journal. Once the skill is a habit you will start scrawling ideas any moment you are left with paper or a device. It might take a few years to get good or a while to notice improvements.

Doodle notes on the bus. take walks. Apparently nature makes you more creative. My new place has trees and parrots and carawongs everywhere and a lake.

Try to write make bigger tables till you hit a hundred. d1000 ads additional problems and I don't recommend you do them alone. It is too easy to repeat. If you can do a d12 now just try and get a bit bigger or add sub tables for some of the possibilities. Only need to increase a bit at a time but if you don't try you will be stuck in a tar pit of self for filling negative prophecy.

It's not stealing it's homage. When you look at art of ideas you like it is ok to get inspired and use ideas from anywhere. All those game books have to get used some time. If you practise shifting genre of ideas you like this too is a good skill to develop. Record any interesting ideas from history, blogs, fantasy art, book illustrations. tv anything in your journal. Remember real life. When you see something in real world ask what would this be like in my game world and springboard from there. Research can come from surprising places like toys, your kids, tv news, garbage bins, you cupboards at home. I recommend Herodotus as the best campaign source book ever written.

If you want to seem more original dig up old stuff like comics, pulp, classics, clip art, find stuff a bit more obscure. I have a 1907 New England almanac with the years monster sightings which I feel could have influenced HPL. Almanacts have good classes of things to list for your setting. Look at adventures and game books you have used and grab the stuff players missed. As a kid I would look through books of pulp magazine illustrations and try to use them to tell sequential stories. It was from boredom but it probably helped my story telling improv skills. Kids have great imaginations because they are not hampered with the "right ideas" or if it has been done before.

Sleep in a bit and record those dreams. I find I doze off imagining stuff and sometimes I get half asleep and dream logic takes over. Try to not dreams when you wake up because they are easy to forget. Focusing on them more helps you remember them.

Just start making lists - perhaps one a page and add to them as ideas come to you. Making lists of things is a good way to improve writing and imagination. Work on settings, locations, characters, history, culture, ecology and really paint a picture of your world.

Break big tables into lots of sub categories. I do a broad d10 category table first then fill out into ten sub things for each category. Sometimes it breaks but that is ok. As long as it gets you moving and it is a bit less intimidating. It is easier to think of  ten assassin hats than a hundred hats.

To start with simple lists of things are easier. Short phrases work nicely. Long sentences and paragraphs require more time and effort so work on something simpler at same time. It is easier to work with things that you know than research based tables. Google searches can do allot of work for you.

Collaborating is good too. Crowd source ideas with your friends on FB or other gamers. Hex descriptions for a hexcrawl are pretty similar. Remember to recycle those unused hexes.

I would be interested if anyone else has any methods or finds any of this of use.

Seriously the just do a bit every day is most important. Once it is a habit you will be coming up with ideas all the time.

I used to be a film set dresser, location finder and I assisted artists by writing lists of stuff. When I started blogging here I did d10. Then d20 then d50 then d100. So it didn't happen overnight for me.

Mr Joel Sparks of Cathulhu made this
It helps you make tables and calculate odds and stuff...

You can do d100 without 100 things by assigning different numeric odds to items - i started out like this and you can work your way up to the full d100.

We considered making a d100 roulette wheel
I let my players roll d100 for me alott - wheel would be fun


  1. Since finding your blog a couple years ago, I have often been inspired by your work, and have attempted a few tables myself. Your tables, more often than not, are simply fun to read and this is exactly the advice I didn't realize I needed. Keep up the good work.

  2. Ya know, the gods must be hooking up the interweb wires differently... On the way home from work today, I actually thought about writing to you to see if you'd share how the hell you come up with your awesome stuff. And tonight, I find this post.... Serendipity at it's best :)


    1. Thankyou - post has gotten pretty popular

      I think I was Inspired by Zac saying he makes games to encourage other to make stuff he would like and so this happened

  3. I bet your d100 tables take some inspiration from your Marvel Superheroes days... everything is d100

  4. This is very inspirational, cheers!