Thursday, October 12, 2006

A-103400-F Ni A, lately, I've turned into a fan of generating content via random means.

For a while I was kind of against it. Well, maybe not against it, but afraid of using it as a substitute for creativity.

Then, I met Traveller.

Actually, my friend Kyle gave me a copy of the LBBs as a graduation present, after high school; it took me about ten years to figure out what to do with it (long story for another post). So suddenly I'm all into Traveller and rolling crap up left and right.

I really latched on to the world-creation charts, for some reason. I think it was when I rolled this UPP (Universal Planetary Profile):


Any other Trav refs out there can probably decipher this weird little code right away: a smallish world, half-covered with water, with a thin atmosphere and no population. There's a place to land your ship, but it's more like a flat spot with a marker on it; if you find any manufactured goods there, it'll be, like, a stone dagger or an abacus, tops.

I looked at my results, and thought, "Great. Now what?"

But then I got to thinking about it. Sounds like an OK place...nothing says that it's not habitable, just that there's no one there. So I asked myself -- why isn't anyone there?

And the answer came at once.

Giant, angry bugs.

It could've been any other reason -- maybe the Scouts just found it; maybe there used to be a population, but they died a long time ago from disease. Maybe sentient life just never developed. Or maybe no one could settle the place on account of giant, angry bugs.

So here's where things got awesome: I realized that randomly-generated stuff needn't be a substitute for my creativity; it could merely be a platform for it. A starting point. It could do the hard work of coming up with raw, unpolished facts and then, as in this case, I could take over and turn the scraps of information into a living, breathing thing. Or character, or location, or what-have-you.

In this case, E-555000-1 became Quinta, a world under interdiction by the Imperium on account of totally deadly giant bugs (GFS?), and which furthermore had some Ancient ruins on it because nothing in the above UPP said there wasn't. All I needed was a reason for the PCs to go there (paid by some scientists to sneak them past the Scouts, so they could get their research on), and some suckers to fall for it.

And they did.

A-103400-F: a tiny planet with a swanky starport, no air, mind-boggling technology and, like, 10,000 people with no damn laws. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Well! Obviously it's the home of a transhumanist clan, people who've mysteriously been able to transcend their human bodies and engineer sun-powered bioshells for themselves. They exiled themselves for some peace and quiet, and the Imperium had to put a starport there so they said 'Whatever, just stay on your side" and went off to meditate on the nature of existence and stuff.

C-2068AC-A: Vaccum world owned and operated by Scientologists.

Wow. I once described Traveller as "a speedboat for the lake of your imagination", and I meant it.

You know what? I'll probably never, ever run Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. But if you try to take away my Dungeon Masters Guide, with all its delicious charts for randomly determining castles and NPC personalities and other such stuff -- I cutchoo, mang!