Archive for the 'Weird Tables' Category


Weird Tables: Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Winter is nature’s way of saying, “Up yours.”
—Robert Byrne

Your humble reporter lives in New York City. This past weekend, while making real-world preparations for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, I was also making preparations for imaginary bad weather—the coming of winter in my Glantri game.

While the PCs were exploring Quasqueton at the end of January, the winter snows began in earnest. This typically shuts down all travel in the region until the spring thaw. Not wanting to spend the winter in a tiny border keep, some of the PCs decided that they’d set off through the deepening snows in hopes of reaching the capital before travel became impossible.

In order to resolve this dangerous choice, I created the


Roll 1d6 and apply your Constitution modifier, along with any other modifiers the DM deems appropriate.

Roll Result
0 or less DEATH: You die of exposure.
1 FALL: Your character slips on the ice and suffers a broken bone(s) or some other structural injury. Roll again with a cumulative -1 on all further rolls on this table. If you survive, you spend the rest of the winter recuperating from your injury.
2 WOLVES!: You are pursued by a pack of wolves. Roll (level + hit die size + prime requisite modifier) or less on a d20. If successful, you survive their onslaught; roll again. If you fail, you are devoured.
3 TAUNTAUN: Lost and without shelter, you are forced to take shelter for the winter inside the corpse of a large animal, such as a bear or elk. Save vs. spells or permanently lose one point of Wisdom due to body horror. Alternately, you may push on, getting a reroll at -2.
4 CAVE: You are forced to hole up in a cave for the rest of the winter. Save vs. poison or permanently lose one point of Constitution due to starvation. Alternately, you may push on, getting a reroll at -2.
5 HUT: You take shelter in an isolated farmstead. Pay the owner 50-100gp (or provide an equivalent amount of equipment) in exchange for sharing their limited winter stores of food. Alternately, you may push on, getting a reroll.
6 or more CITY: You successfully reach your destination.

Whereas many tables are solely for the use of the DM, this is one of those tables which players should view before rolling. Perhaps they’ll make the sensible decision and stay indoors!


Weird Tables: Your Weird Wish is Granted

Your wish is my commAHAHA I DEVOUR YOUR SOUL

After eleven dedicated sessions and five months of game time, a group of PCs in my game successfully petitioned a goddess of Chaos for her favor. Everyone had something they wanted from the goddess, either for themselves or for others — though more the former than the latter. But how does one resolve such an open-ended opportunity to wish for anything you like?

If you encounter such a situation in play — such as when dealing with a demon, efreet or imp — feel free to use the


Roll 1d6.

1: Something bad happens that’s unrelated to the wish.
2: Something bad happens that’s related to the wish.
3: Something weird happens that’s unrelated to the wish.
4: Something weird happens that’s related to the wish.
5: Something good happens that’s unrelated to the wish.
6: Something good happens that’s related to the wish.

To demonstrate the table’s use in play, here are some examples from last session.

A) The Ridiculossus, a living statue, declares that he wishes to be STRONGER! He rolls a 6: something good that’s related to his wish. Presto, his wish is granted! The DM rules that he may roll a d4 and permanently add the bonus to his Strength score. (This presumes that such wishes are rare; if they are commonplace in the campaign, the bonus would only have been a single point.)
B) Richard Loubeau, a tricksy thief-dabbler, craves the boon of being able to see in the dark. He rolls a 5: something good happens that’s unrelated to the wish. Instead of seeing in the dark of a room, he can see into the dark of people’s minds by gaining the ability to cast ESP once per day.
C) Ja’Tubis, a straying priest of a god of medicine, asks for insight into the effects of Chaos on the human frame. He rolls a 2: something bad and related to the wish. Insight comes as a flood of horrible images that will not stop, bombarding his fragile mind at every moment, day and night. After recovering from momentary catatonia, he loses 1d4 points of Wisdom from the perpetual distraction generated by his visions of shifting, writhing flesh and bone.
D) The swashbuckler Martin, who has been reduced to the size of a halfling by a potion miscibility incident, wishes to be restored to his former stature. “Bless my sword, that I may regain my former size and strength!” he proclaims. The roll is a 1: something bad and unrelated. As Martin’s player recklessly brought his sword into it, the goddess blesses his blade with a powerful ego and will. In his next combat, the jealous blade forces Martin to throw his magic shield away, for it will not allow him to carry anything else into battle!

… and come to think of it, of the seven PCs who petitioned the goddess, not one of them rolled a 3 or 4. I’ll leave the possibilities that might stem from such a roll as an exercise for the reader.


treasure of the sierra loco

John Huston seems like the kind of DM who would make you count torches

While Tavis chills with Paul Jaquays, I spent the weekend with another gaming luminary, my mother, who was my very first player for all of ten minutes in 1985.  Mama Nostack’s verdict on Frank Mentzer’s Basic Set?  “This game is too complicated.”  (The breaking point was the 10% XP bonus calculation for having a high prime requisite.)

Anyway: my mom leads to Netflix leads to Bogart leads to Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  Throw a little At the Mountains of Madness in there, and you’ve got a basis for an Expert level adventure or two.

Douglas Niles’s much-maligned Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide devotes seven pages to mining as the basis of a campaign.  Naturally it’s hard to get title to land in civilized areas, so you’d have to light out for the borderlands or the unsettled wilderness, probably several days of overland travel during which time encumbrance might be a major issue.  There would, of course, be bandits and monsters in the wilderness requiring guards and Fighting Men.  You’d need trustworthy hirelings to work the mine (morale and charisma matters).   When you get back to town, there would be problems with tax collectors and claim jumpers eager for news of a profitable mine.  Inevitably the mine hooks into some lost mega-dungeon.

Come to think of it, dungeoneering is presumably the equivalent of mining in D&D World.  You follow a rumor of some tomb laden with riches, you delve into it repeatedly at great risk, and then you’ve got to cart your winnings back to town to replenish supplies without tipping off the Thieves Guild or rival adventurers keen to exploit the find for their own profit.

joesky tax: disgruntled hireling chart

When your hirelings (or henchmen) (or retainers) (you know what I mean) fail a morale check as a result of dungeoneering or mining, roll 2d6 + PC’s loyalty bonus to see how he or she breaks.

2 Hireling gets treasure-madness. Kills one or two NPC’s in the night, drives off the horses, and absconds with as much of the loot as possible.
3 to 5 Hireling feels his share isn’t commensurate to his hard work. Steals treasure from other hirelings. When the loss is discovered, hirelings must make a new morale check due to outrage and suspicion.
6 to 8 Hireling is grumpy and bitches about PC’s. Other hirelings swayed by his words.  Any hirelings who make a morale check after this guy get a -1 to the roll until conditions noticeably improve.
9 to 11 Back at town, hireling is indiscreet and blabs location of dungeon (mine) (etc.) at the local tavern. Next wandering encounter in the dungeon area is with NPC adventurers acting as claim jumpers.
12 Back at town, hireling tries to make himself feel better by spending ostentatiously. Attracts attention of tax collector, church, or Thieves Guild who wants a cut.




Rolling Up Lots of Buccaneers

My at-sea encounter tables have a subtable for the types of men aboard that ship on the horizon, but much to my shame I did not pre-gen any ships (and crews) for my first play-test. Definitely a mistake: Rolling up 1-6 ships and their officer corps (they’ll generally all have at least two Fighters of level 2+, and some possible mages and clerics thrown in) is not like rolling up a pod of whales. I decided to remedy this in advance of my next go-round.

For a more-or-less completely fleshed out pirate/buccaneer officer, doughty enough to have survived all the way to level 2 (or more!), I went with the following:

  • Average hit points (4.5) per die, rounded up.
  • Chain, sword, crossbow unless magic is indicated
  • The Marsh/Cook rules for magic items (5% chance per level on swords, armor, miscellaneous weapons, potions, scrolls, miscellaneous magic, and rods/wands; results that cannot be used by a Fighter become no result)
  • Dexterity assumed to be 9-12, Strength and Constitution 8-18

The STR and CON range was a bit of a problem- I didn’t want to deal with totaling three dice and re-rolling totals below 8 for the dozens of fighters I was sketching out; I also didn’t want to change the relative probability of results of 8 and over (not too much, anyway). Time for a weird table:

Fiddly NPC Ability Scores Ranging 8-18
1d20 1d12
1-13 1-3: 9; 4-6: 10; 7-9: 11; 10-12: 12
14-18 1-6: 13; 7-10: 14; 11-12: 15
19 1-8: 16; 9-12: 17
20 1-10: 8; 11-12: 18

This gave me some variety in hit points from the CON bonuses, and some potential surprises in melee from STR.

If I cared less for the actual score than for the bonus, I would have disregarded the d12 roll in all cases but a 20, and rolled a d6 (1-5: -1; 6: +3).


Quick and Dirty Weather Tables

Sometimes you want to know what the weather is like in-game, whether solely for flavor or because it’s relevant to the party’s hex-crawl. Can they see their enemies amid the downpour? Will muddy ground impede their movement? Did they bring cold-weather gear? Could they get caught in a flash flood?

For a long time, I’ve been rolling a couple of six-siders to figure out what the weather’s like. Now I’ve formalized my system in order to pass the savings on to you, the consumer.

* * *


Modifiers: -1 to -3 in winter, +1 to +3 in summer

0-: Freezing
1: Cold
2-3: Cool
4-5: Warm
6+: Hot

* * *


Modifiers: -1 in dry season, +1 to +3 in wet season

0-1: Clear skies
2-3: Cloudy
4: Light (drizzle / flurry / haze)
5: Moderate (rain / snow / fog)
6-8: Heavy (thunderstorm / blizzard)
9: To The Max (hurricane / tornadoes)


It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Dungeon

Once again, the bloody-handed adventuring party has returned from the dungeon laden with gold and jewels. They spend the next few days carousing in all the local taverns, buying rounds of ale for the house and telling lurid tales of the monsters they slew and the strange magics they unearthed. Then, refreshed and ready for another go, they set out for the dungeon again.

Who else, having heard their tales and seen their gold, is heading into the same dungeon?

Roll 1d20 on the following table each week of game time. Assess an ad hoc penalty to the roll if adventurers have suffered heavy casualties and/or won little treasure of late, or add a bonus if adventurers have brought back a particularly rich haul or if multiple parties have been active in the area.

Roll Result
1-12 No one else dares to enter the dungeon.
13 A band of local peasants ventures into the dungeon. Roll 1d6. (1: None of them are ever heard from again. 2: Too scared to enter the dungeon, they return with false tales of made-up adventures. 3: Finding only empty rooms, they wonder what the fuss was about. 4: After a nasty encounter with monsters, the survivors swear off adventuring. 5: As #4, but one or two survivors are willing to sign on with an adventuring party. 6: Clearing out 1d3 rooms on the first dungeon level, they find they have a knack for adventuring and form an first-level adventuring party.)
14-16 A low-level adventuring party enters the dungeon. Roll 1d6. (1: The party clears out 1d3 rooms before being killed off, leaving their bodies, equipment and wealth in the depths. 2-3: As #1, but some survive to tell the tale. 4-5: The party clears out 1d4 rooms in the upper part of the dungeon. 6: The party clears out 1d3 rooms in the middle part of the dungeon.)
17-18 A mid-level adventuring party enters the dungeon. Roll 1d8. (1: The party clears out 1d6 rooms before being killed off. 2-4: As #1, but some survive to tell the tale. 5: The party clears out 2d4 rooms in the upper part of the dungeon. 6-7: The party clears out 1d6 rooms in the middle part of the dungeon. 8: The party clears out 1d4 rooms in the lower part of the dungeon.)
19 A high-level adventuring party enters the dungeon. Roll 1d10. (1: The party clears out 1d8 rooms before being killed off. 2-4: As #1, but some survive to tell the tale. 5-7: The party clears out 2d6 rooms in the middle part of the dungeon. 8-10: The party clears out 1d6 rooms in the lower part of the dungeon.)
20 Another adventuring party is in the dungeon right now! Roll again, disregarding this result if you roll it a second time.
21+ More than one adventuring party has entered the dungeon! Roll again. Multiple results of 21+ are cumulative.

Give each NPC adventuring party a name and roll them up on the appropriate tables; this way you’re ready in case they get in a fight with the PCs or if the PCs find and loot their corpses in a monster’s lair. When you roll that an adventuring party enters the dungeon, if a party of the appropriate level range has been inside before, there’s a 5 in 6 chance that it’s an existing party and a 1 in 6 chance that it’s a party new to the area.

When determining where the NPC adventurers go, roll randomly or choose as appropriate for the NPC party. Rival parties may stir up trouble with otherwise peaceful monsters, break useful devices and disrupt the dungeon ecology (if any). The PCs may want to ambush rival parties—and vice versa!


Blood and Guts: A Red Box Death & Dismemberment Table

Several of my fellow OSR bloggers have designed injury tables that provide a range of possible results for when a PC drops to zero hit points. (Some examples are Robert Fisher’s, Trollsmyth’s and Norman Harman’s.

I like the idea in principle; it allows for non-lethal effects that keep beloved PCs alive, while simulating some of the ugly consequences to combat that can be found both in real life and in sword & sorcery fiction. But the versions I’ve seen include a number of ineffectual results where the target is unharmed, stunned for 1 round, gains bonus hit points from adrenaline, etc. That’s too forgiving for my taste! The PC is already in trouble; the table should indicate how much trouble results. So I’ve written my own table.

When a PC (or an important NPC, at the DM’s discretion) drops below 1 hit point, roll 1d8 and consult the following table. Reduce the die size to 1d6 or even 1d4 for relatively weak attacks, or increase to 1d10, 1d12 or even 1d20 for especially powerful, destructive attacks. When using a curative spell to deal with an injury from the table, the spell provides no other benefit; no hit points are regained.

Roll Result
1 Scarring: -1 to Charisma; drops to -2 with three scars, -3 with six scars, -4 with ten scars, etc
2 Broken bone (DM chooses or roll randomly): broken ribs/collarbone/etc give -2 to attack rolls, broken arm/leg gives penalties as per severed limb; heals in 3d4 weeks or with cure serious wounds; if attack is cutting/piercing and target is unarmored, use arterial bleeding instead
3 Arterial bleeding: die of blood loss in 3d6 rounds, preventable with cauterization (1d6 damage and scarring) or any healing spell; if attack is bludgeoning, use broken bone instead
4 Disabled part (DM chooses or roll randomly): Missing eye gives -1 to attack rolls, mangled/missing fingers give -2 to attack rolls using that hand, ruined larynx/shattered jaw impairs speech and prevents spellcasting; -1 to Charisma; cure serious wounds reduces this to scarring
5 Slow death (gutted, massive internal injuries, spine shattered, etc.): incapacitated, die in 1d6 days; cure serious wounds reduces this to scarring
6 Mortal wound (heart pierced, throat cut, neck broken, etc.): incapacitated, die in 1d6 rounds; cure serious wounds reduces this to scarring
7 Limb severed (DM chooses or roll randomly): die of blood loss in 1d6 rounds, preventable with tourniquet, cauterization (1d6 damage) or any curative spell cast; -1 to Charisma; missing arm can’t be used for weapon/shield, missing leg halves movement rate; cure serious wounds reduces this to scarring
8+ Instant death (decapitated, skull crushed, torn to shreds, etc.)

Have you used an injury table, whether a full-on death and dismemberment table or a broader critical hit table? If so, how has it worked for your game? What recommendations would you make for others who’d try that approach?


Random Table: A Rising Goblin-Tide

Moved by a sudden impulse he groped for a loose stone, and let it drop. He felt his heart beat many times before there was any sound. Then far below, as if the stone had fallen into deep water in some cavernous place, there came a “plunk,” very distant, but magnified and repeated in the hollow shaft.

‘What’s that!’ cried Gandalf. He was relieved when Pippin confessed what he had done; but he was angry, and Pippin could see his eye glinting. ‘Fool of a Took!’ he growled. ‘This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking party. Throw yourself in next time, and then you will be no further nuisance. Now be quiet!’

—J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

The PCs attract the attention of a horde of humanoids—goblins, orcs, gnolls or what have you—which inhabit a lower level of the dungeon, possibly by means of dropping something down a well. How do the humanoids react?

Roll 1d6 on the following table. Apply an ad hoc penalty to the roll if the PCs seem especially dangerous (the booted footsteps of a score of hirelings echo through the dungeon, or the party is preceded by the flash and crack of lightning bolts), while applying a bonus if the PCs seem like a juicy target (they’re accompanied by the cries of frightened children, or they spill coins like sparkly rain down a stairwell).

    1: The humanoids withdraw and hide.
    2: A scouting party (1d4 humanoids) skulks up to investigate.
    3: A raiding party (2d6 humanoids) strafes the PCs with missiles.
    4: A war party (3d6 humanoids + 1 sub-leader) assaults the PCs.
    5: A strike force (3d6 humanoids + 1d3 sub-leaders + 1 affiliated monster [dire wolf, troll, etc]) slams into the PCs.
    6: The entire horde swarms up to overwhelm the PCs.

Keys to the (Underground) Kingdom

“I have dared much for this meeting! Look! The keys to your chains! I stole them from Shukeli. What will you give me for them?”

—Robert E. Howard, “The Scarlet Citadel”

Dungeons are littered with locked doors and locked treasure chests. (Admittedly, no old-school ruleset specifies which or how many are locked, but that many are locked is always clear.) But where are the keys to open these things? Keys aren’t listed on any of the treasure tables.


    • If this is a mythic underworld, there’s no need for keys because the locks are sui generis, existing for no purpose other than to thwart adventurers.
    • For Gygaxian realism, you can add keys to DM-created treasure caches or put them in the possession of whichever creatures run the appropriate part of the dungeon.
    • Lastly, if you want keys to show up randomly, assign them to some part of the treasure table that you wouldn’t otherwise use. Personally, I rarely have treasure maps handy, so if “Treasure Map” turns up on the treasure tables I can assign a key instead.

The availability and utility of any given key depends on its use. The lock on a private room or treasure chest likely only has one corresponding key, while the lock on a display case or armory door might have several associated keys. Meanwhile, skeleton keys may exist that open a number of locks.

Of course, just because the PCs find a key doesn’t mean it will do them any good! Adventurers are in the habit of bashing down locked doors, and once a door’s been bashed in, the key associated with its lock does little good. Similarly, a key found on a body might belong to a room in its former owner’s stronghold hundreds of miles away. There’s no way to know!

Here’s an off-the-cuff table to determine a key’s utility:

    1-4: Opens a specific door in the dungeon. Roll randomly to see which level the door is on, then roll to see which room number it’s associated with, rerolling if the room doesn’t have any doors.
    5-6: Opens a treasure chest, vault, padlock, manacles, etc. Roll randomly as with #1-4 above.
    7: Skeleton key that opens all doors on a dungeon level, except for any special doors that you deem to require their own keys. Roll randomly to see which level it works on.
    8: The key doesn’t open anything in this dungeon, and never did.

Random Table: Acolytes of the Adventurer-God

So one of your PCs has become a cult leader dedicated to the divine principle of adventuring into filthy holes in the ground to kill monsters and take their stuff. What personnel benefits accrue?

Step 1: Roll 1d4! This is how many crazed followers show up to assist you with this session’s adventure.

Step 2: The DM rolls one die whose maximum value is equal to or less than your level! (Minimum 1d4, going up to 1d6 at level 6, 1d8 at level 8, etc.) This is the total number of character levels the DM will distribute among the followers. Maybe the levels will be divided up evenly, or maybe they’ll all go to one follower and the rest will be 0-level normal men. Who knows?

Step 3: For each follower, the DM rolls 1d20 twice on the following table! This indicates their key personality traits.

Random Cultist Personality Traits:

1: Ambitious
2: Bombastic
3: Craven
4: Delusional
5: Fanatical
6: Greedy
7: Impulsive
8: Insolent
9: Lazy
10: Mendacious
11: Nosy
12: Obsequious
13: Quarrelsome
14: Reckless
15: Ruthless
16: Scheming
17: Selfish
18: Taciturn
19: Treacherous
20: Wasteful

Now you’re done. Hurrah! Try not to get minion-shanked.

Past Adventures of the Mule

July 2020

RPG Bloggers Network

RPG Bloggers Network

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog & get email notification of updates.

Join 1,053 other followers