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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Last-Minute GM: Keying Geomorphs on the Fly

I was thinking about how you would go about running a dungeon completely on the fly by printing up big batches of geomorphs by Dyson Logos, Risus Monkey, Stonewerks, or JDJarvis and just shuffling and dealing 6 to 9 of them, sort of an analog version of David Millar's mapper. But of course, if you did it that way, you'd have to roll up encounters during play, which might bog things down a bit. You can't really key the geomorphs in advance and yet keep them reusable.

Or can you?

The problem with creating a key that isn't linked to a specific geomorph is that you don't know how many rooms there will be ; it varies from geomorph to geomorph. But each geomorph could be mentally divided into four quarters, so you could create a key in advance and assign entries to any appropriate space in the given quarter. Of course, that still sounds like prepping a specific dungeon, rather than on-the-fly dungeon creation.

So you don't tie the entries to a specific quarter. Create the entries on index cards and pull four cards for each geomorph. To create the cards in advance, roll 2d6 per card and interpret each d6 according to Sham's 1d6 all-in-one-stocking table:
1 - Monster
2 - Monster & Treasure
3 to 5 - Empty
6 - Empty (4in6 chance of hidden treasure)
You might want to roll an additional d6 of a different color and add a trap to the card on a roll of 6; always roll a trap die for hidden treasure in an otherwise empty room. Thus, each index card describes one or two encounter areas (and possibly a trap) for one quarter of a geomorph. If a card is completely empty, create a trivial discovery for that card: graffiti, corpse of previous adventurer or monster, random common equipment like burlap sacks or iron spikes, mysterious noises. There are a number of tables out there to roll up this sort of thing, the most recent addition being this d100 table on the Beyond the Black Gate blog, although the table entries tend a little more towards the weird than towards the mundane. Another option is Table I from my 20-sided Quickies tables; roll 2d20 for material + object or action + object, using the result either for an item in the room or as a concept of what the room is used for ("iron armor" might indicate some kind of armory.)

If you're willing and able to improvise off the random combinations of geomorphs and stocking cards, there's no reason this technique can't produce interesting dungeons.


  1. A while back, I put together my GM helper cards. http://carjackedseraphim.blogspot.com/2010/07/gm-helper-cards.html Each one has a geomorph and each one has some random info. You could easily deal out a few cards, one for the geomorph and the others for encounter info. You could also put some random die roll information on the back, if you prepped in advance.

  2. I just checked out that 20-sided quickies table. Its very cool. Thanks for sharing!

  3. There's a whole section on using the 20-sided Quickie tables for various topics (NPCs, nations, magic items, monsters.)

  4. I'm sure you're well-aware of this, but I'll post it anyways. I use Djeryv's random dungeon generator, after throwing the actual tiles together via Dave's Mapper and assigning numbers to the rooms. http://www.djeryv.com/lablord/dungeon_random.php

  5. @scadgrad: I don't think I looked at that generator specifically, possibly because it was LL-specific. If you wanted to use that for the kind of on-the-fly assignment I'm talking about, you could set the number of rooms to 12 x number of geomorphs per level and run it a couple times, then put the encounters on index cards, three to a card.

  6. In the next revision of my mapper, I'm planning to have more data about each geomorph tile available to the mapper.

    If I specify data about the number of rooms in each tile, would something like this 1d6 method be used/appreciated as an extra feature - a randomized "suggested stocking" for generated maps?

  7. Seems cool to me, but I don't know how wide-spread a love for this stocking method would be. Also, maybe I'm misinterpreting, but it sounds like a lot of work for you.