Random Tables, Running Tabletop Games 2 comments on Random Tables

Random Tables

I believe random tables have their place in the creative process.

Like my collection of Rory’s Story Cubes or my three volumes in the classic Central Casting books by Jennell Jacquays, the table often provides an essential spark to my creative process.

I don’t always include a random table in my books, but when I do there’s a damned good reason for it – it’s about introducing a spark or adding some spice.

The Haunter of the Dark has 9-pages of random tables sandwiched between the guidance on creating and structuring adventures and the annotated story of the fate of Robert Blake.


Each of these tables ties neatly – and intentionally – into the story.

Entered a site with a century long tie to a strange sect? Rummaging through the drawers of a forlorn artist? Tracking down a disgruntled ex-cultist? Broken into the cellar of an abandoned building? Picking up a copy of a local paper? Stumbled through the door to find a crumpled note lying in the dust?

It’s all here and more.

Whether you’re creating your own adventure or filling out the grey areas in a pre-written investigation, there are 20 short tables here (almost all of them needing only a 6-sided die throw) to get your creative spark glowing.

Why such short tables?

Personally, the bigger the table the greater the stretch in content quality and focus. Even in From Unformed Realms, I used 6-sided dice as the basis of every roll and drilled down with the levels of detail.

It keeps things tight without any opportunity to resort to padding.

Don’t Stop

And you needn’t stop at the result thrown. I mean, you’re not beholden to the random, right? You can just choose something that seems right. Or, like a Story Cube, you can riff off the result and turn it into something that fits.

Found a keepsake? You should tie it intimately into the backstory of the owner, or compare it to something that an investigator carries – something they inherited or acquired.

Discovered margin notes in a well-thumbed book? Make the ink or hand-writing match something [Flashlight] found earlier in the session – or in a previous adventure!

Rolled a reference to decay? Make it mildewed wallpaper with odd stains that suggest electrical burning, or the sickly smell of food pulled into the holes behind the walls by vermin… who knows what else they might have carried back there.

Go with the flow of the dice, but don’t let it stop there. Adding the stamp of connectivity or some subtle reference to an ongoing presence or conspiracy can make all the difference – and I, in putting the table together, can’t add that essential and personal touch.

Happy rolls!

The Haunter of the Dark has been nominated for the Best Electronic Book ENnie Award 2017. You can vote now – through to August 21st – on the ENnie Awards web site: http://www.ennie-awards.com/vote/2017/

Adapting, Random Tables 0 comments on Your Haunter May Vary

Your Haunter May Vary

All Haunters are not born equal. The cosmic horror value of your Haunter may go up as well as down.

You know the drill, right?

You play a game and when the bad guys make their first tentative appearance the players read between the lines and leap ahead to tactics and strategies. They know how to handle a Deep One or a Shoggoth – and even though the antagonist hasn’t reared so much as a finger or eye lid yet, they’re ready for action with Plans A through G.

Disappointing show, anyone?

The Cthulhu Hack has this covered from two angles – and you should always consider adding your own spice into the mix. The cosmic horror should never become commonplace or boring; nor should the Lovecraft aficionado in your group present an insurmountable barrier to generating fresh new challenge.

On the one hand, you have the generic assistance of From Unformed Realms.

When I discuss this book at conventions, my pitch centres on the value of these tables as a way to create not only whole new monsters but to adjust the features or even just the spoor of the horror.

The spoor, you say?

Well, if you have a creature that attacks with acid or secretes strange pheromones, then the Investigator might find partially digested meat or note a queer sensation of homeliness about a place, something warm and comforting. It should seem and feel odd, but at the same time it only hints at the entity, as the Investigator find – the spoor of the beast – is second-hand.

You can achieve that with the roll of three six-sided dice on the main table in From Unformed Realms. It’s all about the spice, turning the ordinary and expected into something different. Why note Deep Ones that owe more to sharks or pikes? How about a Shoggoth composed of biological waste or chemical effluent? Once you start changing a key feature, the physical appearance alters with it and how the entity interacts with the environment.

Something of this concept sits in the middle of The Haunter of the Dark. That lurking horror at the heart of Providence – what if it isn’t what you expected? If you read into the nature of the entity, what else might it be? Given the unreliable narrator – the journal of an insane artist – why accept the whole winged monstrosity or the three-lobed eye?

The Haunter of the Dark contains a short chapter that outlines what else it might be – drawing on Lovecraft’s wider Mythos to present other options. In turn, by changing the nature of the entity, you tweak the sect that worship it. The chapter names the horror and explains how it varies from the entity at the heart of the original tale and why; then, briefly, it indicates the special qualities of the followers, their nature and intentions.

Again, it turns the situation around on the ‘expert’ who can no longer rely on the second-hand knowledge of reading the original. Indeed, the included investigation assumes that the Investigators might find the journal of Robert Blake at some point – meaning they can read Lovecraft’s story as a hand-out. However, it may become clear that perceptions of the unfiltered mind can become horribly distorted by the cosmic truth of the uncaring universe, cold, alien and anathema to humanity.

Take care now!

Random Tables 0 comments on Period Names

Period Names

the-haunter-of-the-dark-hack-cover-v1Some aspects of The Haunter of the Dark didn’t make it all the way through to the final edit. When you have a book that needs to go to print and a pressing need to reach a multiple of 4, the edit can mean dropping a page or two of content rather than padding out with two more.

In the mix, this meant losing some tables and cutting back on a few paragraphs here and there. One of the tables lost provided common names for Providence locals. Many times in a session I have needed a name for a random local – so, it seems like a fair bet that others experience the same issue.

In Unaussprechliche Hack, I plan to include more lists of names to ease you through those tough minutes of improvisation. For the moment, here you can have the four tables, 10 entries apiece, with common names for Irish and Italian residents of Providence, R.I., c. 1935.

Common Names

Male Female Male Female
Irish Italian
Denis Ann Alberto Angelina
James Bridget Alessandro Catarina
John Catherina Bernardo Elena
Martin Eliza Donato Gaetana
Michael Ellen Federico Margarita
Pat Johanna Giovanni Natala
Peter Julia Lorenzo Paolona
Tim Margaret Mariano Rosaria
Thomas Mary Pasqualo Santina
William Sarah Salvatore Teresa