As a Dungeon Master, preparing for Dnd is one of the more daunting tasks of the profession. Preparing games, while fun, can be stressful. Trying to find the right enemies for the encounter, and creating the perfect NPCs is rewarding, but difficult. Sometimes life will get in the way, and preparing for Dnd becomes much more difficult, to the point where you have to quickly whip something up in a half hour and hope for the best. It can be tempting to just randomize everything and see what RNG decides is happening. Today I am here to tell you that not only is this possible, but I would go so far to even encourage it.
Roll the Dice
Whenever I get the chance to sit down and play as a character in someone else’s game I do my best to randomize as much as possible. Trying to explain why there is a Dwarven Monk who has a Wisdom of 4 is incredibly fun to do! (He has a Wisdom of 4 because he is incredibly cocky, and was sent on a mission to learn the meaning of humility). Randomizing my character can actually lead to more believable characteristics because trying to explain why certain things happen adds depth that a stereotype simply wouldn’t have.
Applying this kind of logic to DMing is easier than it sounds. When your players come across a brand new NPC, if you try to come up with characteristics on the spot, you might end up with a character that is generic and boring. If you can randomize it, however, you can probably create something unique. For example, using the Random NPC creator from the 5e DMG on page 89 I was able to create an NPC that is missing teeth, hardy, clumsy, sketches a lot, tugs her hair, and can be a little irritable. In less than a minute I created someone that is unique, and already half-way to being fleshed out entirely. Just give her a name and a simple backstory and you’ll be set!
Pulling inspiration from random elements is an important part of being a Dungeon Master, because, without any random elements, your world will start to become samey and uninspired. The human mind functions in a way that encourages the same line of thinking whenever a challenge presents itself. For example, if you know that your shower head turns on by turning it to the right, the next shower head you encounter you will attempt to turn it on by turning it right. This method of thinking allows our brain to problem solve incredibly easily, but when trying to be creative it can be a detriment. Random elements force you to approach topics with a different way of thinking and thus allow for creativity because your mind isn’t automatically jumping to what it already knows works.
When to Use Randomization
As much as I love randomization, using it all the time can be bad for your game. Too much randomization can lead to fewer connections between things, homogenization of locations and people, and can make events feel out of place. When everybody is as detailed as the NPC I described above, nobody is detailed because your players will no longer pay attention. Choosing when to use randomization really depends on the situation at hand. If it’s a random character found on the street, a simple description will do. But if it’s the innkeeper that they will be dealing with for the next week, a more inspired description can be beneficial.
When dealing with anything that is randomized, you should know two different things. First, you are free to reroll if you don’t like what you are presented with. And second, you should do your best to keep the first thing you rolled no matter how ludicrous it might be. Random tables are not meant to be a literal representation of the character, place, or thing most of the time. They are starting points meant to get your brain thinking of all the possible ways something could work. And while the first thing you come across may make 0 sense, trying to make sense of it leads to something much more believable. Sure, the engine room should not have been placed next to the sleeping quarters on the ship, but this sort of thing happens all the time in real life and can be an excellent starting point for realizing how incompetent the crew actually is.
However, whenever you are using a random table, something you should always be aware of is consistency. If we go back to that ship example with the engine being next to the sleeping quarters, it makes sense for someone who doesn’t think far ahead to have built their ship like that, but if this is a luxury ship from the most well-developed nation in the world, that would make much less sense. Randomization can provide excellent inspiration, but it cannot do all the work for you. Most of the time, you have to fill in the holes that the random table leaves out.
If you need help finding random roll tables I would highly recommend
Randomizing your Dnd games is another tool that DM’s can use to inspire them and allow them to create something special. Games can and will start to feel the same without something to shake it up occasionally. Random roll tables and the like are incredibly useful tools that should be used more often than not. Knowing when to use them and when to not is important because overuse can lead to a hollow campaign where nothing matters because it’s all random. Randomization is one of the greatest forms of inspiration available to us, and it would be a mistake to never consider it.
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