When it comes to inspiration, I love a little chaos. I often turn to online generators and random tables when I’m brainstorming session ideas (or just need a quick name for my game … which inevitably spawns a new NPC + backstory)
Here are a few of my favorite online generators:
- Donjon: A venerable generator site, Donjon creates random encounters for Pathfinder, D&D 4e, and D&D 5e, a wealth of treasure generators, star system generators, dungeon generators, a medieval demographic calculator, and generators for dungeons, inns, and towns.
- Fantasy Name Generators: So many names, so little time – this site will spawn names for dozens of science fiction and fantasy species, locations, pop-culture reference, so many more. It’s was go-to name generator for my D&D and Star Wars campaigns.
- RPG Inspiration – One of the first generators I used in my campaigns, the site lets you spawn gladiators, formal orc introductions, cocktails, plots, tabloid headlines, megacorporations, and more
While I like – and heavily use – web-based generators that spew lists of ideas at the click of a button, I prefer sitting down with some dice and a rulebook and seeing what comes up. Here are a few of my favorite print resources for polyhedral inspiration.
- Dungeon Master’s Guide (1st Edition): Includes the first random dungeon generator I ever used, as well as traits for NPCs, treasure, artifacts, and random encounters. A perpetual source of inspiration
- Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (5th Edition) One of the best random generator books of the modern era. Includes generators for lesser magic items, random encounters for a variety of terrain, and a bunch of fantasy and real-world culture generators (e.g. dragonborn, dwarf, elf, Norse, Arabic, Egyptian, etc.)
- Stargate SG-1 (Alderac edition): A hefty rule and sourcebook based on the Spycraft rules and published by Alderac Entertainment Group in 2003, the SG-1 book creates wonderfully detailed planets.
- Star Wars: The Unknown Regions: Another planet generator – less specific than the SG-1, and less science-based, but still fun to play with.
- Dungeon Crawl Classics: A retro fantasy RPG, every spell in this book – every spell in this book – includes a random table for determining what happens when you cast it. That’s only the beginning of the random generators found in this tome, many of which are driven by funky dice like d24s and d30s. Did I buy this RPG as an excuse to buy funky dice? Maybe. Probably. Definitely.
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Random tables from the Dungeon Master’s Guide for 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Credit: Ken Newquist (content copyright Wizards of the Coast/TSR).