Monday, February 11, 2013

Useful Symbols : A Quick NPC Dice Drop Table

Recently, while reading about Rory's Story Cubes and their potential for NPC generation, I got inspired to create something else I'd only recently discovered,  a Die Drop Table.

I quite liked the idea of symbols being used to inspire personality and background. Symbols are powerful tools and keyed directly to the psyche. Just take a look at the works of Joseph Campbell or Carl Jung.

Plus, symbols carry a lot of variable meaning. For instance, a Cloak could represent someone hiding their identity or some other deception, complex espionage (think cloak and dagger), operatic criminality (black cloaked super-villain), or even utility (practical outerwear for the medieval man on the go). Story Cubes have this kind of wonderful, semiological potential in spades. I will definitely be buying them as soon as I can afford them. It's not often I get to combine my dice fetish with my education in literary criticism. Fun Stuff. 

However, I did see one strong limitation to the Story Cubes; there was no immediate method of determining how strong the traits were. That's when the idea of a Symbol filled Dice Drop table struck me. The numbers on the dice could represent how powerfully each symbol presented itself. Each symbol would spark a defining trait for the NPC. The relative values of the rolls could portray how obvious the characteristic is to the PCs or how strong the drive is in the NPC.

To use the table, one just drops 3d6 on it. Wherever each die lands, use that symbol to inspire a personality trait, past event, item, or skill; the higher the number, the more important or obvious the particular trait. If a die should happen to land on the border between symbols, simply chose whichever symbol you prefer or interpret both symbols together. Should a die roll off of the table either ignore it or reroll.

Some Possible Interpretations for The Symbols


Skull - Association with Death or Dark Secret. Examples: Tragic Childhood, Uncaring Killer, or Survivor's Guilt.

Stone - Indomitable or Intransigent. Examples: Stubborn, Never Left Home Town, or Tough as Nails.

Bird - Flighty or Free Thinking. Examples: Wanderer, Vapid Fool, or Extemporaneous Poet.

Shield - Guarded or Protective. Examples: Extremely Cautious, Martyr Complex, or Evasiveness.

Blindfold - Actual Vision Problems or Metaphorical Blindspot. Examples: Naivety, Myopic, or Parent who Ignores Offspring's Failings.

Dagger - Subtlety or Hidden Danger. Examples:  Physically Weak but Politically Powerful , Traitor/Spy, or Power Behind the Throne.

Candle - Inspired or Hopeful. Examples: Scholar, Religious Prophet, or Extremely Upbeat Personality.

Lightning - Quick Acting or Mercurial. Examples: Inspired Insanity, Shoots First and Moves On, or Adrenaline Junkie.

Tree - Nature-Loving or Rooted/Dogmatic. Examples: Religious Crusader, Deeply Concerned with Family Honor, or Eco-Warrior.

Mask - Deceptive or Insincere. Examples: Saccharine, False Friend, or Scheming Impostor.

Club - Blunt or Violent. Examples: Always Speaks His/Her Mind, Hulking Brute, or Without Tact.

Tankard - Substance Abuse or Sociable Personality. Examples: Pill-popper, Extremely Extroverted, or Talkative Drunk.

Hand - Open or Friendly. Examples: Welcoming to Outsiders, Generous Patron, or Kind Stranger.

Flame - Angry or Passionate. Examples: Hot-Headed Youth, Proselytizing Zealot, Beguiling Seductress / Suave Lothario, or Hopeless Romantic.

River - Directed or Cool. Examples: Driven Toward a Goal, Level Headed, or Slow to Anger but Brutal in  Rage.

Coin - Wealthy or Powerful. Example: Trust-Fund Kid, Member of the Nobility, Local Politician, or Small Businessman.

Examples of Use: 

Say you need to flesh out a random city guardsman on the fly in a typical fantasy setting. You drop the dice and they turn up 2 on Flame, 4 on Tankard, 6 on Candle. You've got yourself a passionate fellow dedicated to his job. He's a friendly sort and genuinely cares about the people he protects. A devout follower of the local religion, he avoids many of the vices of his fellows and follows the law to the letter.

How about a local street tough in a modern city? After chasing one off the table twice, the dice turn up 2 on Club, 1 on Dagger, and 5 on Stone. She's gruff and violent but not as nasty as she could be. She quietly holds dirt on a few low level scumbags and can therefore command some favors from them. More than anything though, she just doesn't let go. When she's on the job or decides she wants something, she simply will not let anything stop her.

Here is a link to the Illustrated PDF of my Dice Drop Table.

For those with more drawing skill than I, here is a link to a blank PDF of the the Dice Drop Table.

Enjoy! and any Feedback would be greatly appreciated. I really think there are a great many uses for these types of tables. Should you make one, do please drop me a line.