Thursday, July 18, 2024

Let The Good Times Roll: 5 Ways You Can Use ‘The Game Master’s Book Of Astonishing Random Tables’ To Make Your Adventures Rock

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Randomization! It’s the thing in TTRPG’s that adds an element of danger and real world unpredictability to your adventures. For DM’s, it offers a tool to help weave your stories in a way that’s truly original and that allows you to adapt to the changes your players might throw at you. As such, rolling tables have long been a staple of the tabletop world (even if masses of tables have driven many a player to madness) and done everything from generate loot to decide just how dead that person you killed is. So as a DM myself, I was excited to be sent a copy of The Game Master’s Book Of Astonishing Random Tables, a new book from Media Lab Books and part of their Gamemaster’s Book series. In my reading, I pinpointed a few things that I think this book adds to your toolkit that are truly special.


The Game Master’s Book of Astonishing Random Tables

By Ben Egloff

Art by Jasmine Kalle, Chris Seaman, and Doug Kovacs

Contributions from Matt Forbeck, Nick Forbeck, and Jim Davis (no not that one)

Forward by Robbie Daymond

Up The Danger Quotient

So obviously this book contains a ton of options for random encounters, helpfully broken down into the different biomes you might encounter and by different levels. These tables (like all of them in this book) are far more robust than the ones you might find in the standard releases. A desert encounter might involve a group of hobgoblin merchants, the stone garden of a Medusa, or even a pair of fire elementasl guarding a gateway to hell. There’s also ways you can spice up chase scenes too like having an aerial predator attack as you run or have a bunch of monkeys throw rocks at your horse. Rather than simply list off things that could happen, each element has a little nugget of story attached to help grow the adventure.

I’m also a big fan of the more “passive” dangers the book adds in like thrashing storms, quicksand, or even leeches. The movement between adventure sites can often be a rather dull experience and this gives you more tools to liven things up. There’s even some customization options for hags, demons, and gelatinous cubes (Ever wanted to find lewd sonnets written by a giant? They’re there!).

Add Some Enticing New Treasure To Your Dungeon

Loot is the thing that drives adventurers. Not good, not evil, not the sense of adventure. It’s the next shiny thing they can pocket, use, or sell. This book spices things up a bit with a huge variety of spell scrolls (including ways to make those scrolls feel more unique), potions (both good and bad), and Sentient Magic Items (my favorite being the depressed one that thinks people are all kind and giving). Combined with your regular loot tables this gives plenty of opportunities for players to feel more involved and spark new stories from the simple act of looting the room.

Make Your World Feel More Alive

The entire first chapter of Astonishing Random Tables is devoted to worldbuilding tools. You can start from nothing and by the end of the chapter have a fully fledged city with businesses, defense structures, and even a specific kind of construction material. You can also create some unique laws for your world (bear fights must take place indoors being my favorite) and create some of the most unique bars and taverns I’ve seen in a fantasy setting. And when you’re done? Well there’s a table devoted to drinking songs and hangovers too! All of this is in service in creation of stories and helping you adapt to things. Even if you don’t create your entire town from scratch, it’s rare for a settlement in an adventure to be as well planned as this book allows for.

Make Things A Little Bit Weird

Of course when things are utterly random..they get a little funky. While most of the book is devoted to the standard (if expanded) subjects we’ve seen for decades, writer Ben Egloff also decided to add in some odd things in for DM’s who want to mess about. Herein is a table for making adventurers anxious, a table for the contents of a giants pack, or a whole list of destinations you can send people through via portal. The best might be the table of “Things You Definitely Shouldn’t Touch”, which includes suffocating mushrooms and a friendly cat (that’s actually a mimic).

Try A New One Shot

Like any good chef offering up his recipes, Astonishing Random Tables also features three fun one shots that feature these random tables prominently. They’re sytem agnostic, but obviously skewed more for the D&D and Pathfinder players more than anything.

  • Never Tell Me The Odds is a quick little murder mystery involving a gambling tournament, an inn of suspicious characters, and the WHEEL OF DEATH AND FORTUNE, which helps decide the weapons used in gladiator tournaments.
  • Animate Defense is on the wackier side of things as adventurers come to the aid of a town taken over by sentient items. These items go so far as to man ballista on the towns walls and attacking PC’s when they approach. It’s got some mystery to it and a lot of fun besides, making it a great interlude for GM’s needing a breather.
  • Things Are Not What They Seem is an urban adventure that starts as a simple relic hunt and becomes more complicated when a Fiend comes for the party’s souls. This one has some fun characters and ideas, but it’s a little too sprawling for a one-shot. The environment of the City and some of the mercantile areas, however, could easily be repurposed for any game that needs something similar.

You can pick up The Game Masters Book Of Astonishing Random Tables wherever books are sold at an MSRP of $24.99.

Images via Media Lab/Macmillan

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