Category Archives: Game Mechanic

Non-Homogenous Random Tables

In the balanceRandom tables are a great way to introduce some unpredictability into a game, but they can also be a tad predictable , same-ish, consistent, ‘one size fits all’ … mono-dimensional?

I thought it would be nice to have a random table that responded to a situation/condition, rather than any given result having the same likelihood.

For example, I like the idea that:

(a) the deeper you are in a dungeon, the more likely the random encouters will be dangerous; or

(b) the further from town you are, the more likely you’ll encounter goblins; or

(c) a landscape than favours some creatures in one area, and other creatures in a different area, but where there is a theoretical continuum between the two areas and so encounters; or

(d) Henchman ‘moral check’ indexed to the threat level … etc.

There are several solutions to this, the simplest of course being to have different random tables for different situations, or even to use modifiers.

Another way to go, the idea that I quite like, is to stratify the encounters from one extreme to the other and use an advantage/disadvantage type mechanic to ‘tip’ the results depending on the current situation.

Below is an example lifted straight out of my procedural adventure ‘Carapace’. The random table is ‘stratified’ into three main layers: the lowest values (blue layer) giving giant ants, the middle values (green layer) giving wildcard monsters, and the highest values (yellow/pink layers) giving the boss monster and its elite guards.

So, in ‘Carapace’ the idea was that the area being explored (a giant ant’s nest) was divided into 4 Zones, with the ‘Big Bad’ most likely being found in Zone 4. The more mundane monsters being located in Zone 1 and 2. There was also a fair chance of getting ‘wild card’ monsters basically anywhere.

Carapace encouter table as per zone

If it is not clear from the above, you roll a number of D20s equal to the zone you are in (so 3 x D20 in Zone 3), and use a tailored advantage/disadvantage mechanic to influence the result (to swing the result towards one end of the table or the other).

So, for example in Zone 1 you’ll never get the Queen Ant (the boss encounter), in Zone 2 it’s 1 in 400 (i.e. possible, but improbable), in Zone 3 it’s 3 in 20 and in Zone 4 it’s 4 in 20 (i.e. now getting quite likely).

The reverse of this for example would be, in Zone 1 a lone worker ant is 1 in 20, but in Zone 4 it’s 1 in 160,000.

Even if I’ve messed the maths up above, I think the idea is clear enough, that is you can tip the result of a random table using a system like this. Of course, this idea could be applied to any random table outcome (not just encounters), e.g. types of terrain, NPC reaction dependent on closeness of alignment etc.

Again, there are other solutions, I just think this one appeals to me. I’m also fairly certain this has been done before in some form at least, but this post is an attempt to flag the idea up as an option for the old ‘DM tool kit’.

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InHotS the cover imageMe on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural High Seas ‘Hex Crawl’ – In the Heart of the Sea.

Rubik’s Cube Stat Generator | a review

I made a blog post about using a Rubik’s cube to generate charater stat’s here. I think it’s a neat method. There was a follow up post here.

A free .pdf is on DriveThruRPG.

Recently, Mathew Perkins on YouTube was kind enough to do an entertaining review:

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IsoExcel | Isometric mapping in Excel (sort of)

UPDATE – Luna Gin has kindly written a macro that adds the walls in automatically! Macro and non-macro versions are in the Dropbox to play with.

Reality check 

This idea is not going to make you the next Michael Prescott. But, it’s a simple way to generate a pseudo-isometric map using Excel, e.g.:

IsoExcel Map Dusty Door

The above map is based on an adventure written by irrepressible Shane Ward.

Two mapping ideas in as many days! But, to be fair, this one is only a matter of cell resizing and shading in 3 colours (4 if you count the background). The idea came when I saw a Reddit post linking to this page. It’s only a short jog from their ‘The Mephitic Laboratory Of The Pescamancer‘ map to my IsoExcel idea. I also borrowed the colour scheme, which looks like a good one.

I’ve added my usual pop-ups to make it a super compact dungeon.

Template and demo video

You can download the xls Excel Widget here and wizz off maps that look like the above fairly easily.  Here’s a brief video demo:


Google Sheets

I think this should work in Google Sheets, and when I get a moment, I’ll make a template.

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1988 Dungeon


More of my stuff on DriveThruRPG:

Hex tile kit | DIY (literally)


Not quite sure where this idea came from. But, I remembered that tile shops often sell sheets of tiles on flexible mesh backing. These are normally made up of lot so little (i.e. about an inch across) squares. I believe they are called mosaic tiles. I then wondered if they did a hexagonal version. They do:

Mini Hex Kit.png

If you’ve not seen these before, you stick down the flexible mesh sheet and fill in the spaces with grout. Normally the tiles are small squares.

… anyway, I think you will probably see where I’m going with this now.

Using the tile set as is 

Mini Hex Kit pen.png

Think white board, but made of lots of little hexes.

You can mark straight on these tiles with a marker to make a hex terrain map on-the-go.

Or, you could use this as a tactical miniature map template and place minis directly on it.

Clearly, buy tiles that are not porous, or you could simply varnish them.

Making a custom tile set  

Mini Hex Kit custom 2Separate the tiles from the backing mesh to make lots of individual tiles. Paint/mark them. You might need to seal them, e.g. with varnish. Hey presto! you’ve make a versatile hex tile set.

Either place them out as the PCs explore, or draw them randomly out from a bag.

Obviously, if you’re going to make a lot of custom tiles, painting them in sets on the mesh makes more sense rather than separating them individually beforehand.

I figure, you could ‘spray can’ on the backing colour, then ‘potato stamp’ on the terrain feature (e.g. a tree for woods), perhaps using a bit of cut rubber or cork. If you are all arty, you could paint on the feature by hand. Varnish the tile set, I figure there is spray on varnish.

If you are super crafty, you might even be able to enamel the tiles too.


The above 144 tile (12 x 12) set is listed on the internet as GBP 5.99 (I took the first hit), which works out to be about 5 pence (about 7 cents) per tile.

Have I missed something obvious? Is this old news? Can the idea be improved? I’d be interested to hear more.

Illustrative video

For an idea of physical dimensions please see this video I found on YouTube:

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Tuesday Toot!! | MAD (magazine) Map Musings

Tuesday TootG+ is closing. When it was alive things happened. Things unexpected. Great things. Whilst my creative output is only modest, I thought I’d hold something up into the living light, something that came about purely because G+ existed … This is a toot to G+.

MAD Mag Map.jpegI think anyone reading this blog post will probably remember MAD Magazine, and in particular the inside back cover, which often had a picture which would fold-in to form a new unexpected picture.

I wondered if a RPG map in this format would present some interesting gaming challenges. For example, the PCs trigger some event and suddenly the map literally expands. Perhaps an interesting trap for a heist type adventure. For example, it might be easy to get into the tomb, but a great deal harder to get out again.  This idea might work well for a Cthulhu adventure where mind-bending antics are the norm.

Anyway, I had this idea because someone posted a vertical (cross-sectional map) on G+. Sadly, I can’t recall who did this now. I believe it was someone that I was following, but not someone I interacted with a lot. For some unknown reason this MAD idea immediately occurred to me when I saw their map. So, no random third-party G+ post, no MAD idea from me. This completely random cross-pollination of ideas will be one of the the thing I miss most about G+ when it is gone (in about a week).

In the wild

After posting this idea, at least one person (i.e. Eneko Menica on YouTube) put the idea into practice, with this nice map, i.e.:


More recently from me …

The Indefinite Train – Community Project

I saw this post by Skerples. for a new collaborative project about a sort of Twilight Zone locomotive. I decided to make a train carriage that makes use of this MAD concept.

The idea being the train carriage is about 2/3 normal size (top image). But, if the PC’s solve the puzzle an inter-dimensional portal opens between the carriage (bottom image). So, when triggered, the DM unfolds the map to reveal the portal. The PC’s may even be separated by the portal space when it is triggered causing some potential problems. You can read my submission here (along with the other submissions to date).

Skerples.’s idea is a fun one, please consider submitting your own entry to this collaborative project.

Well that’s it. If you ever make a MAD map, I’d be interested in seeing it!

1988 Dungeon

1988 Dungeon

Me on DriveThruDriveThru; at the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony and my ‘1998 Dungeon‘.

OSR: The Indefinite Train – Community Project

train side finalSkerples. has started one of those Gygaxian Democracies, a collaborative megadungeon, where people submit a train carriage.

The train being a Twilight Zone affair. Read the blog!

If you want to get aboard, here’s the link

Anyway, submitted mine. A carriage with a secret portal …

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1988 Dungeon
Me on DriveThruDriveThru
At the moment I’m mainly pimping my procedural adventure ‘Carapace‘ about a giant ant colony
and my ‘1998 Dungeon‘.