A random Land of danger

Although I plan to write quests (scenarios) for Children of the Wyrd, my Scottish Pictish ttrpg, the core rulebook will contain a large number of random tables to support a ‘procedurally generated’ gameplay experience.

This is in part inspired by Shawn Tomkin’s Ironsworn, a superlative game (which takes place in a similar setting) that features dozens of tables (or ‘oracles’) to allow emerging gameplay and opportunities to be created on the fly. This, together with its lite narrative mechanics, allows Ironsworn to support solo play.

Now I’m not sure if I want to go down the full solo (or GM-less) route with CotW, but I definitely want it to make heavy use of randomisation. This may give it more of a ‘simulation’ tone than a traditional ttrpg feel, but I’ll iron out those wrinkles as I progress with it.

The Land is defined, divided into 12 regions (or holdings) that belong to individual clans. Each holding has geographical characteristics, and — in the game’s planned ‘Invasion mode‘ — regions are at risk of being lost to one of the game’s three main antagonists.

The players are warriors, undertaking quests on behalf of clan chieftains, elders and other influential patrons. They are — in the meta — trying to survive long enough to ascend into godhood before the inevitable fall of every region in The Land.

My current thinking around the proc-gen aspect of this is that warriors will receieve a quest from wherever they are currently based.

The destination of this quest will be randomly generated and will be one of the regions of the Land (even if it is Lost). The nature of the quest will also be randomly determined, and fall into a number of skeleton ‘template’ structures (such as rescue, defeat, find, restore and others). Each template will have a varying amount of steps, such as journey, track, locate, explore, confront and others. Not all steps will be present in each template.

I have written rules for travel (on foot and horseback) and for managing supplies whilst on a journey. I have also created a ‘distance between’ table for each of the regions.

The randomly-chosen destination will then determine if a journey is required, and the travel/distance rules will dictate how long that journey will take (and through what regions it will pass.)

Each region will have random encounter tables with at least 16 entries in each (3D6’s worth). Some of these will be social, some of them will be sites of interest, some of them will lead to potential conflict. There will also be tables for lost regions, which will contain more dangerous entries.

After a journey is complete, warriors may need to track an individual or a destination. There is a tracking mechanic that also uses terrain-specific random tables and a target number of successes on skill rolls, so this element of a quest will very much be procedurally-generated.

Similarly, a quest might require warriors to explore a site, such as an abandoned fort, a network of caves, or a desecrated barrow.

Such sites will definitely be procedurally generated, with dedicated exploration tables producing a procgen ‘map’ of the location, its inhabitants and dangers (this is very much inspired by Tomkin’s Delve supplement for Ironsworn).

If quests have a target (be it someone to rescue or someone to kill…) that target will also be randomly generated, in terms of their characteristics, motivations and level of challenge.

CotW will use the ‘combat field‘ mechanics I developed for my steampunk game The Aether Throne. These feature a number of range bands, some of which have environment tags. For combats in CotW, these combat fields will also be randomly generated, making each encounter unique, even if it is against the same opponents.

Where things won’t be randomly generated are in the area of true role-play. The game will feature inter-clan politics, intrigue and espionage. Quests following these templates may still feature journeys, tracking and explore segments, but the actual PC-NPC interaction will rely much more on pre-written elements and GM inspiration.

That’s certainly the current thinking, and what I’m in the midst of designing (whilst trying not to think too hard about the fact I probably need to create upwards of 400 random entries in several dozen tables…)

Images in this post were created in Midjourney 6.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *