Random plot generators rock my world. I don’t use randomly generated plots in my games without heavy modification, but they can really be quite fun; especially when everyone’s feeling silly.
Maybe random plot generators are brilliant. Maybe I’m just easily amused. Either way, how can you resist clicking that ‘Reload‘ button, ad nauseum, just to see what random goodness you’ll come up with?
I remember the good old days when Irony Games was the go-to web site for random fantasy game generators. It was a one-stop shop where you could make wonky taverns, caverns, labyrinths, and, yes, plots. A typical random plot might look like this:
"While eating at Local Tavern, the PCs learn that Bad Guy has stolen Very Important Thing and taken it to Spooky Cavern. If they return the item, Helpful NPC will reward them with Glorious Treasure".
And every phrase with conspicuous capitalization contained a link to the appropriate random generator. It was beautiful in its cheesiness.
Ah, but those were the days when the Web was young. Now there are random plot generators all over the place, and trust me when I say that their quality is wildly varied. Sayeth Wikipedia, "Such a device can be created for virtually any genre, although it tends to produce formulaic and hackneyed situations."
You should definitely never, EVER leave your plots to the fickle whims of random generators.
That said, here are some examples of the fun you can have when you leave your plots to the fickle whims of random generators:
Source 1: Wizards of the Coast Adventure Hook Random Generator
Silliness Factor: Low
Cliché Factor: Mid
This online plot hook generator lets you choose between D&D classic mode, faerie tales, or bare bones adventure outlines. Nothing super-silly seems to come up, and there’s enough here to get a DM’s mind working to fill in the story gaps.
The plot hooks are quite familiar, but if you chose D&D classic mode, you can’t say you didn’t ask for it. My only problem with this generator is that the suggested treasures don’t always match the encounter difficulty. (1d100 gold for defeating a powerful wizard of legend?! Pfft. I won’t touch Elminster for less than 150.)
But since DMs can bend, break, or blatantly rewrite the rules, the treasure thing isn’t really a valid gripe. Overall, this is a good generator if you want something simple and playable.
Source 2: Cult of Squid – Quest Steps
Silliness Factor: High
Cliché Factor: Very Low
So check this out: The demon Spinagon has kidnapped Celan the Astrologer, a disappointed half-orc teenaged teetotaler. To get him back, the party goes to a clearing where they meet Ailenn, a secure halfling female with strong body odor.
Then, out of nowhere, an underage pastry cook hands them a pewter plate that they must deliver to an Astral Construct. This provokes an attack by Nylwaynn Blackheart, an evil half-elf female who… gives the party a ceramic bowl? What is this, a D&D Tupperware party?!
You’ve got problems when your plot consists of Emo orc kids, stinky halflings, child laborers, and mismatched crockery. This plot generator is good for laughs when you’re silly, bored, or sleep-deprived, but it’s not quite ready for prime time.
Source 3: The Demonweb Random Adventure Generator
Silliness Factor: Low
Cliché Factor: Mid
This generator lays out a lot of suggestions, but leaves room for the DM to flesh out the NPCs and plot specifics on their own. I like it. It even generates ideas for plot elements like "Omen/Prophecy", "Moral Quandry", "Red Herring", and "Cruel Trick". If you’re pretty creative and have a mischievous streak, this site will generate lots of inspiration.
My very first random Demonweb adventure turned out to be a tale of espionage on the high seas, whereby an old friend of the party hired them to map unexplored catacombs beneath a forgotten temple. The party barely managed to thwart the heinous plans of Curse Sufferer and his lackeys, Misguided Moralist and Sniveling Vizier. A high-speed horse chase ensued after the PCs found out (surprise!) that they were wanted by the law. Good times all around.
And now I’d like to hear about the random craziness that you’ve experienced firsthand. It could be a rehash of some zany plot you saw on one of the sites above (or another great site), or just a tale of how a random plot hook was worked into your campaign – for better or for worse.
Share the insanity!