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.
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.
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/