Finding… Filching… Finching? Getting Better Tools

I like the Scenes of Chance product, but I found it didn’t do what I needed, because I’d overlooked the actual first step.

I’m putting that one back in the toolbox for another time. I still want to do my ‘thinking’ at a high level and use other tools to guide me in developing finer detail.

Time to hit my library and see what I can steal borrow from.

Toolbox and Ultimate Toolbox

So, toolbox. AEG published a book of tables called Toolbox, and later an expanded book called Ultimate Toolbox. I just reviewed them and it is evident I did not remember them correctly. I did remember there are many tables of minutiae that don’t interest me, but I’d forgotten some of the larger-topic tables. I might just keep this one handy… and I certainly want to keep it at hand when I start redeveloping my own table set.

World Architect Cards

Dirk Stanley’s World Architect Cards will see even more use now. The biome cards have different terrain types, each of which has fifteen keywords that can apply to the biome. This is much closer to what I need at this point. For instance, I’m looking at a Forest card that says “bleak, dark, dense, earthy, fallen logs, marsh, musky, piney, roaring, rotting, scratching, thick, undergrowth, waterfall, wet”. The next Forest I put my hands on says “bone pile, breathing, chirping, dark, decay, eerie, fragrant, lake, mildew, roaring, shouting, singing, undergrowth, web, woody”. There is some overlap, there are some similarities, but even from this quick look I’m getting a different impression of the two areas, they’re diverging in my mind and will be different places.

But wait! The World Architect Cards aren’t done yet! There are also ‘build’ (building) cards that do the same thing for buildings: ruins, castles, towers, lairs, and so on, all places you might find in biomes. Again there are fifteen keywords for each. Two Bridge cards: “acrid, cracked, creaking, feces, flimsy, foot, hidden, pontoon, pungent, rope, screams, splintered, sturdy, timber, weathered”, and “ancient, collapsed, cracked, hidden, maintained, overgrown, pillars, ringing, rope, scraping, stinky, swinging, timber, unsafe, weathered”. It appears there are contradictory keywords in both lists, but that’s okay, I can pick the ones I want to use.

I notice that the keywords are generally pretty ‘dramatic’. I don’t see any that look boring or mediocre. Apparently all the places and buildings in Dirk’s Far Away Land are some blend of interesting and hazardous… or at least the one of interest are, which is totally appropriate. I especially appreciate that he touches on many of the senses in the keyword lists, it will encourage me and remind me to do the same as I build with them.

Between them, the biome and build cards are a very good tool for this stage of development. Also, the tactile element of using cards cannot be underestimated: I love it.

Raging Swan “Dressing” Books

I had a spotlight on Raging Swan before — during my first A-Z Blog Challenge in 2013, in fact (which I did not complete because we were moving house that month) — and I still think they’re great supplements. I now have the full set (all the Dungeon, Urban, and Wilderness Dressing books, if not the compilations) and I don’t really expect more because I think they’ve basically covered everything.

In any case, these are great books but I think will be better used as I get to finer detail. I’m going to keep them handy, but they’re not what I need right now.

Tome of Adventure Design

I still need to do a review of this one. Of all the things I’ve seen Matt Finch write, I think this is the single most useful of them — even more than Swords & Wizardry. It is a veritable encyclopedia of random generation tables covering a variety of topics. I often refer to it as my ‘weapon of mass construction’.

Very powerful and useful, and I absolutely will use it later in the process. I’ve often used it in initial development to get me going, give me the initial prompts, and to refine detail later. This time, it will be a tool for later… but I will use it.

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