For those moments when your players hit the JUMP button too soon or warp right out of the path the adventure has set for their rendezvous with doom, Brace For Impact! takes a leaf out of the random table book established by From Unformed Realms.
Brace For Impact! offers 18-pages packed with tables presenting high sci-fi encounter seeds based at the point of arrival for your unsuspecting characters, with room for taking notes and generating odd details like a ship names, types of debris, and failing systems.
It won’t replace an adventure – but, at a pinch, it will create the seed for an encounter, the in media res moment for a mission, or distract the players just long enough for you to improvise the meat of something else.
While created to generate quick horrors of the unknown for games like The Cthulhu Hack, there’s nothing stopping you from using From Unformed Realms as a way to kickstart monsters for other games.
Throw a few six-sided dice (different colours help, deciding in advance which come first, second and third – but you could just read them left to right as they fall) or use an online randomizer, and you can set down the skeletal potentials of a new opponent.
As a basic guide, for Hack games, add a Hit Dice for each ability or characteristic generated or – conversely – decide the power level of the horror and roll as many times as it has Hit Dice.
So, I rolled three times, aiming for something 3HD – then rolled another die for form, which I didn’t count for hit dice.
The entity shimmers and gleams with sweat (+1HD)
Sharp and dark prickles cluster across its horny hide (+1AV, +1HD)
Thorns can fire like projectiles
– fluid scalds with an extreme temperature (+1HD)
Out of that I get:
Ss’nda (3HD, +1 AV; when damaged, DEX Save or inflict 1d4 damage)
Commonly mistaken for the salamander in folktale, the Ss’nda admittedly have much in common with the toxic amphibian, but little in common physically. The Ss’nda sleep in forges, furnaces and kitchen fires, where the heart of the flame glows white hot, soaking up the heat with the contented attitude of a spoilt cat. Out of the fire, their skin has a crystalline shimmer, like shards of desert glass, rough with spines and prickles. They appear like a writhing rope of coloured gas, licked by dancing flames and shimmering heat.
When enraged, the hissing internal pressure of the ophidian beast makes it dangerous to strike with any weapon; any wound releases a gout of scalding liquid and gritty shards of sharp glass, that sear and tear exposed flesh.
Lore suggests that only intense cold, not water, can calm a Ss’nda – indeed, water generates the same threat as striking it with a plume of gritty steam.
In certain quarters, rumour suggests the Ss’nda were creations of the Serpent People, kept by alchemists and sorcerers as pets and a ready source of heat with sufficient intensity to boil or burn almost instantly.
Today’s random pull from the Storey Publishing Backlist deck of cards – “Around the Corner Crochet Borders“, a collection of 150 colourful crochet frames, each with detailed instructions for working around a corner. While an absolute must for intermediate crotchet enthusiasts in its own right, also the creative nudge for today’s random table of disputed and protected territorial lines.
The scattered kingdoms, principalities and provinces of the world have very different views on maintaining border controls.
Roll d6, twice:
1: A twisted borderland of monstrous briar, tended by (1-2: anxiously attentive animists; 3-4: societally dysfunctional druids; 5-6: begrudgingly belligerent briar elementals)
2: A shredded landscape of lines and cables, (1-2: a witch’s effort to hold off ten thousand years of geological movement and scant frayed threads away from a cataclysmic release; 3-4: a diplomatic minefield of fragmented zones under contractual discussion through long distance magical protocol demanding delicate negotiations to traverse by way of phantasmal civil servants; 5-6: an alchemist’s government-funded experiment, which extracts essences from those crossing the border and carries them back, underground, to his not too distant lab for cataloguing)
3: An imposing range of mountainous (1-2: golem, quested to remain here by a forgotten emperor for an act of war, record of which only exists on the scraps of vellum secured in their cranium ; 3-4: dragon scales, extending from the back of a hibernating behemoth known to nestle upon an ancient hoard said to contain some of the most legendary, near mythical, riches; 5-6: waste dumped here through a magical portal – itself now quite soundly buried under nauseating layers of semi-fossilised garbage)
4: A dancing wall of (1-2: will-o-wisps constantly leading travellers off the safe path across a miles wide swamp of bubbling, decayed mulch; 3-4: metallic dust, the enchanted waste product of an ancient army of flying swords, now wasted away to almost nothing, but far more deadly than the worst possible sandstorm; 5-6: fur clad, bear-riding warriors, protesting for several generations about poor working conditions for a leader long dead, a conflict long forgotten, but a principle worthy of persistence)
5: A wilderness of (1-2: sentient trees standing guard over the carefully tended lines and patches of rare and beautiful blooms – and woe betide any who put a petal out of place; 3-4: shanty dwelling, twisted like a maze and layered like a quarry, filled with the poor, the desperate, the wanted, the forgotten, and the down-at-heal – but perhaps also home to someone known to those passing; 5-6: hills and gullies, haunted by hungry trolls, wily bandit gangs, and the ghosts of unlucky travellers)
6: A mist-wreathed wasteland of crooked tombstones, (1-2: occupied by the restless and jobs-worthy carcasses of one-time border guards laid off during a previous administration; 3-4: the surface manifestation of a upturned granite-skinned monstrous caterpillar, frustrated by immobility and hungry; 5-6: surveillance zone of an other dimensional security firm, providing round-the-clock services to the inconceivably wealthy)
1: Intellect – local scholar seeks to teach chickens rudimentary language skills to serve as a resource for his studies and field trips – much to the chagrin of local farmers 2: Awareness – wily street-monger trains chickens to harass customers into his pitch, swarming hapless travellers and passersby 3: Capital – beggars stealing chickens from local peasants and farmers to raise money 4: Family – a wild eyed woman, spattered with feathers and guano, seeks to adopt chickens into her extended household 5: Fuss – conniving hookman* scattered food around front doors to excite chickens as a means to draw attention away from his back window thievery 6: Questions – long-toothed street philosopher compares everything to the acts and wants of chickens, but much of his advice rings true and his reputation draws numerous onlookers 7: Rumpus – circus performer juggles and does seemingly impossible magical tricks with chickens 8: Expectations – aspiring champion of the people appears to owe his performance to a chicken he keeps in stately and pampered fashion in his chambers 9: Our Hands – diplomats discuss terms in distant arid lands under threat of terrible conflict, but the terms of agreement demands chickens and someone must wrest them from the holdings of a local monster 10: To Divinity – a settlement of ordinary, hard-working people rise each day at dawn to seek the wisdom and guidance of the holy chicken, who seems to have turned their fortunes around 11: Voices – local clans within a wider territory come to loggerheads after chickens from one break into the fields of the other and eat corn, though no one can account for the hole in the fence 12: The Dead – aspiring kotamancer** seeks to harness the destructive potential of a hoard of zombie fowl to wreak havoc on an agrarian kingdom
* a thief who uses a long hook to steal things; ** a magic user who specialises in the enchantment and manipulation of chickens