Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Your random superhero environment

So I was wondering if you could do a random environment—not just an urban encounter table, but a series of tables that build the important part of your city for you. Part of this is inspired by the Stark City world-building rules, but converted to a set of tables so you don't have to do the same thinking. (You still have to think...sorry.)

This tries to straddle a middle ground between simulations or "realism" and narrative. Interesting things come up more often than if we were just extrapolating the reality of the setting, but not to the extent of every roll result being something you have to act on.

Some hasty thoughts jotted down while waiting for a meeting to start. Will come back to this later; expect it to grow.


First, we match your hero and your city. If your hero already has a mood or theme (Superman is about optimism; Batman is gritty and noir; Spider-Man is about perseverance when things go wrong), well, heck, give it to your city.

But if you feel the need to contrast, or if you have some heroes of different moods, then you can roll d6-d6:

d6 - d6 RollMood
-4, -5Corruption and nihilism: Hub City in the 1980s Question series
-3, -2A corrupt city that needs a beacon: Gotham City, or Daredevil's Hell's Kitchen
-1, 0, 1There are good places and bad places...some are very good and some are very bad
2, 3Things are pretty good here, though there are still some bad things: any of the DC midwest or western cities
4, 5Scientific utopia and optimism: Metropolis, Kandor...though there are bad spots, villains are often trying to tear down what's good

Keep the roll in mind; it will be a modifier for other things. (That is, when you roll for a location, a corrupt city might get as much as -5 to the roll, while a city on the hill like Metropolis might get as much as +5. Or for some rolls, I might make it half the modifier, rounded toward zero: -5 or -4 is -2, 5 or 4 is 2, and so on in between.)


Again, if your hero already defines a scale, go with that. Your flying hero can cover more area than the guy who only swings, or has to take a bus. Still, if you're willing to give your hero a car, plane, transporter, or spaceship, add 1 to the d6 roll. If your hero does not have any fancy method of travelling high speeds, subtract 1. Use the Mood modifier to determine suburb or inner city.

d6 RollScale
2Inner City (if Mood is negative) or Suburb (if Mood is positive)
7Solar system, cosmic, or interdimensional

When you start a new scene and randomly generate "a new location" it can mean something appropriate to the scale, though of course you can always choose to go wild ("Suddenly, Batman finds a clue that leads him to Fictistan!"):
  • A different room or apartment or building
  • A different section of town
  • A different borough
  • A different city
  • A different state or province
  • A different country
  • A different world


A chart to provide weather isn't a bad idea; I'm totally on board with the sympathetic fallacy, and weather can provide interesting challenges for your hero. Pick or roll for the season. If you get a 6 (special occasion), roll again and check on the last column.

d6 RollSeasonSpecial Occasion (also a D6 roll)
3SummerIndependence Day
6Special OccasionBirthday, anniversary: something personal

Remember that it's always bad weather in noir stories, so add half the mood (you end up subtracting if it's negative and adding half if it's positive):

d6 RollWeather events
1 and belowBlackouts: Snowstorms or thunderstorms, howling winds
2Extreme temperatures.
3Precipitation and maybe fog.
4Mixed seasonal: cloudy, clear, maybe rain, maybe not. Unsettled.
6Great weather for the season.

Time of Day

Some heroes are nocturnal...usually they're your grim-n-gritty noir heroes. Nocturnal is more common (possibly because heroes have jobs, too). Still, if you don't know what time of day it is, roll and add half the mood modifier.

d6 RollTime of day
1 and belowNight and all right-thinking people are asleep.
2Night, but most folks are still awake.
3Dusk (if Mood is negative) or dawn (if Mood is positive)
4Early morning or late afternoon.
5Mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
6Broad noon.

So you know when it is.

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