Author Topic: Moves harness the power of random tables  (Read 4957 times)

Hans Chung-Otterson

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Moves harness the power of random tables
« on: July 20, 2010, 04:47:55 AM »
So I'm probably not the only one who's thought this, but I haven't seen discussion about it, so here it is. Some months back Ken Hite made a post on his blog about setting creation. Within it, he discusses how powerful random tables are:

Quote from: Ken Hite
how do you get [players] to pick up the setting and wield it like a battleaxe? (or a warhammer.) Gary Gygax gave us the answer. And then he immediately hid it from us. The answer is the Random Encounter Table, or Wandering Monster Table, or Random Dungeon Generator, and all those other wondrous time-killers in the back of the DMG. By stocking those tables, paying some attention to the probabilities, and adding modifiers here and there, you create an immediate, accessible method for GMs to understand your setting in the most visceral way possible: by co-creating it with you. They only have to read the setting bits they've generated, and they have a story and an adventure. This is an almost insanely powerful technology for setting design and presentation, and we've unaccountably left it back in its rudimentary Bronze Age form, like the Antikythera Mechanism.

Why? Because I (and I think virtually every other designer of my generation) fixated instead on Gary's other answer, the exact wrong answer to the problem: Greyhawk. (Or Glorantha.) Don't co-create, hyper-create! Don't leave randomness around in your wilderness hexes -- define the heck out of every hex to start with! Put in weather patterns, and historical chronologies, and elf pantheons!

I see AW's moves (the ones with lists, I mean) as a powerful harnessing of random table technology. Ken Hite talks about the power of random tables toward setting creation, and of course setting creation is happening all the time in AW, but really the random-tables-within-moves in AW are all about using that power toward situation creation, which I suppose is just another evolution of In A Wicked Age's oracles.

So, yep, that's it. Just some food for thought that hopefully helps people ponder AW in a fruitful way.

PeterBB

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Re: Moves harness the power of random tables
« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2010, 06:31:19 AM »
Yep. Before AW came out, I was tossing around ideas about how to bring random tables back. Then I saw AW, said "Oh, Vx did it better than I ever could," and started thinking about AW hacks instead.

Chris

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Re: Moves harness the power of random tables
« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2010, 10:58:18 AM »
Ehhh. Some of them are, but you always pick. It's really just the advancement of Vincent's everpresent list mania.
A player of mine playing a gunlugger - "So now that I took infinite knives, I'm setting up a knife store." Me - "....what?" Him - "Yeah, I figure with no overhead, I'm gonna make a pretty nice profit." Me - "......"

PeterBB

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Re: Moves harness the power of random tables
« Reply #3 on: July 20, 2010, 04:29:21 PM »
Well, there are two things that make random tables awesome: a finite number of concrete possibilities, and more than two possible results. It's true that those things fit together differently in an AW move than they would in a random table, but they're still present.

Obviously there are a ton of differences, but I think they're tapping into some of the same magic.

Hans Chung-Otterson

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Re: Moves harness the power of random tables
« Reply #4 on: July 20, 2010, 04:38:06 PM »
Well, there are two things that make random tables awesome: a finite number of concrete possibilities, and more than two possible results. It's true that those things fit together differently in an AW move than they would in a random table, but they're still present.

Obviously there are a ton of differences, but I think they're tapping into some of the same magic.

yeah. Chris, I didn't explain myself in the best way, but I don't mean that the move lists are, like, random tables. I just mean that they do some of the same things that random tables do, to powerful effect. You roll, you go down a list to see what happens (and in AW, you pick).

fnord3125

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Re: Moves harness the power of random tables
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2010, 04:58:31 PM »
Ehhh. Some of them are, but you always pick. It's really just the advancement of Vincent's everpresent list mania.
I wonder if, at some point, Vincent will create a game whose text is just one giant list.

tonydowler

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Re: Moves harness the power of random tables
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2010, 05:44:54 PM »
Wow, I totally forgot that Hite post until you linked it. It blew my mind at the time as well.

In OD&D, rolling a random table is one of those things the DM does when it feels appropriate. Apocalypse World provides rules that help you see more clearly when it is appropriate. Have you ever noticed when you go to a random table and one option jumps out at you as just being the right one for the situation? Well I think of the pick lists in AW as simply being random tables where the options are so well written that you can just pick instead of rolling.

For the record, in Apoc D&D "Roll on a random table" is one of the standard GM moves, and it works very well in play.