11 April 2018

Solo RPG: Ideas from Random Letters

I mentioned in my last post that the cards I've made for the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game have letters for random word generation. Since there are 100 cards, I used the Scrabble distribution and create words during some break in the game, using the discard pile. As also mentioned I plan to make some cards for fantasy and sci-fi settings as well.

Although I frequently use random word lists, I also like the card method because as cards are played I can start to see the random words take shape.

My procedure is simple: when I lay the first card in the discard pile I note the letter on it as the first letter of a random word. I lay the next card and if that letter will work as the second in a potential word, I'll place it to the right of the first card. If it won't work I'll place the second card below the first in a column and its letter too is now the start of a random word. I'll continue this process until I have sufficient letters for about three to five words (or until the discard is exhausted). What is sufficient? Basically when enough letters form the root of several words that I can then pick from. I like the universe to suggest words through the random card draw but I also like to choose the most interesting of those suggestions.

Here's an example showing how it works.

For a fantasy campaign I'm creating a character and decide to randomly generate seven words (or the start of seven words). I draw the cards and place them as noted above, resulting in these seven word roots:


Starting with the first word, I looked over all the available dictionary definitions and chose a noun: "onolatry" or the worship of donkeys (or foolish ideas).

This worked well with "Yoke", which I decided to keep.

I didn't know what to do with "oil" so I decided to come back to it.

The next word was really interesting. The only thing starting with BOAN was "boanthropy" or the delusion that one is an ox. Now the character was taking shape.

SEBA made me choose "Sebaceous", so I combined this with the previous letters "oil" and decided the character might have very oily skin, or suffer profuse sweating.

For the last two letters combos I decided the character was a "teamplayer" and carried a dented "tea kettle".

From there the character's story wrote itself. The character is a low level cleric who serves a deity which manifests as a donkey-headed man. The deity (and its priests) silenty suffer the burdens of others. To symbolize this clerics often serve as porters, as low level initiates must carry literal burdens in the form of heavy loads, while high level priests are renowned healers and counselors as they voluntarily take on the physical and mental wounds of others. As a symbol of their faith, clerics of this god wear actual yokes around their necks (not tied to anything). As they advance through the clerical ranks, the yokes become smaller and more symbolic than burdensome (a pendant on a necklace for the head priests), but the yokes always act as spell focus.

The character himself is a small, wiry individual who thinks of himself as much larger. While he's not so deluded to believe he's an ox (boanthropic), he is truly deluded in that he forgets his small stature and approaches all challenges as if he were really 6'5" tall and 300lbs. He's generally pleasant however and a team player, who carries around a dented tea kettle to brew healing potions for his party.

So, from just few unrelated words, many of them strange and ones I'd never have chosen, I now have a clear picture of not only a player character but an entire religious order as well. 

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