If you only have 15 minutes for game prep then use generators to help. This is part of our Generators Campaign series
Doing it Last Minute
We did something similar when we created a dungeon in 30 minutes. But now you are busy with work, family or just agreed to run when another GM dropped out. Or maybe you quick-started the campaign and need something beyond the first few hours of play.
You can use generators to produce lists of NPCs, places and names to pick from as you run the game. You can supplement the content you already have or use it when your players leave the expected path.
It can give the impression of work you've invested in things like a large city or long journey they are undertaking.
If you have an adventure or a couple of encounters planned it can also be used to backup any elements you haven't created. And one bit of prep may be what you need for several game sessions.
Creating Generated Lists
The critical thing is to find your generators ahead of time. You could stick to one generator site such as Donjon, Fantasynamegenerators or Chaotic Shiny or Seventh Sanctum. Or you can pick out your favourite generators for your system, genre and setting being used.
Next choose the generators you want to use and create lists of the elements, usually 3-10 of names, treasure hoards, rumours or whatever you might need. Put them into a format you can easily use at the table. My preference is to print out the lists ahead of time.
Using the Lists in Play
During play you can then look at the lists when you need something, choose something that fits mostly what you're looking for or gives you inspiration and add it into the game. You may need to change a few details but having a few options means you should be able to use a couple of them.
So your NPC list might have four entries. I need stats for a shopkeeper the PCs have decided to visit as I they have heard he is a vendor of black market goods. Looking down the NPCs I find one has a high Charisma and a habit of not looking people in the eye. As they have established the NPC is a dwarf I change the race and I have the description of an NPC ready to go.
3 Example Lists - Names, Quests and Places
Below is an example of a few lists that I might generate. For running the generators campaign I used D&D 5E and had several different random generators I used.
Then I use the generators a bit like a simulation, using them as they were or as ideas, playing off what the players are telling me.
So for example for a D&D session I would have a list of NPCs, names, a couple of quick dungeon ideas, some quests and settlement descriptions.
NPC Names List
- Female. Nyr, Pola, Ida, Tarus, Zaenes, Dollra, Krick, Joavol, Pai, Dilyim
- Male. Croavili, Anorr, Lensum, Roaly, Shaylil, Anend, Maizor, Shonn, Elazlo, Ilou
These two lists give me the flexibility of having names for all of the NPCs my players might meet. Depending on the campaign I may have a separate list for dwarves, lizardfolk or Spanish names.
- A noblewoman named Adas seeks a company of adventurers to slay the Behemoth of the Copper Hills and retrieve a vial of its blood.
- A shady merchant named Cere seeks a company of adventurers to hunt down and capture the notorious highwayman Sida. However, the party soon finds itself facing a moral quandry.
- A wealthy merchant named Heodbaldw seeks a company of adventurers to recover the spear Accursed Executioner from the pirates of the Sea of Blades.
- A priest named Phesiasos seeks a company of adventurers to find and explore the ancient ruins of Cawold Tower.
Here I have enough information for the PCs to be intrigued and the bare bones. In this particular case I would have liked some more information about the types of reward on offer.
- Wayminster: Population 3100, mostly human, some halfling. The town is built upon a grid of streets and alleys. It is governed by a consortium of wealthy merchants, led by a male human named Behrtio. Wayminster is infamous for its thieves' market.
- Urthhyrst: Population 880, mostly human, some halfling. The village is encircled by a crumbling stone wall. It is governed by a mayor, a male halfling named Narder Ratcley.
- Cafeld: Population 2000, mixed human and elf. The town is built around an ancient stone statue. It is ruled by a tyrant, the human lord Gerey.
- Bergfiklif: Population 680, mostly dwarf, some human. Most of the village is delved into the sides of a volcanic outcrop. It is governed by a council of elders, who are secretly backed by a dragon named Ilgapit.
- Harlonde: Population 4100, primarily elf, some human. The town is defended by a series of arcane wards. It is governed by a court of aristocrats, known as the Golden Court. The most prominent tavern is The Sly Hunter, on Fox's Lane.
Especially useful for when my players went on random trips, there is enough to appear as if this is a planned town. Wayminster has now become a town in my homebrew of Jegev.
But I actually have some more time
So you've seen how generators might help with last minute preparation...
Another option is to use the generators in a more focused fashion, which we'll look at next time.