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by Mike on 21 February 2022
Back in 2017, Joseph Manola at the blog Against the Wicked City wrote an excellent article called Scenario Building: From Cliche to Complexity in which he describes how DMs can shake up typical, boring, and cliche D&D quests by layering multiple quests together.
As an example, imagine a typical quest to save the innkeeper's son who got lost in a nearby ruin. It's not terrible but what if we layer on another quest atop it. What if we're asked to save the innkeeper's son who recovered an artifact and plans to open up a gate to the realm of shadow? Maybe the son was hired by local bandits led by a tiefling who hopes to use the shadowy gate to bring his dark father into the world. That's like three quests stacked onto one another: rescuing the son, preventing the opening of the gate, and dealing with the bandits and their tiefling leader. We have ancient ruins with a fey-gate in the middle too for a more interesting location.
Thinking up quests can be hard though, so us lazy DMs can fall back to a powerful tool to help us along: random tables! A single roll on a random quest table often works well, but what if we roll two or three times? What if we drop in some other tables as well?
This multi-table approach is built into the design of the Lazy DM's Companion; mixing tables together fires up our imaginations and helps us come up with cool scenarios we might not otherwise have thought up. Random tables mixed with our imaginations often produces wonderful results.
For a video on this topic, including examples from the Lazy DM's Companion check out my YouTube Video on Building Complex D&D Adventures with Random Tables.
You can try this yourself with the free sample pages from the Lazy DM's Companion. The Core Adventure Generator pages on page 12 and 13 of the book include many tables you can roll on to generate unique adventures.
Here are a couple of complex adventure scenarios generated by rolling twice on the quests table and mixing in locations, monuments, and items with the condition, description, and origin tables.
There are surely details to add to these scenarios and we can see the typical D&D tropes buried within them but they still include enough flavor to make a unique, fun, and interesting quest for our characters.
We can also add rivals with quests of their own! Perhaps enthusiastic fey at the sunken crystalline elemental gate seek to kill an elven villain of their own. or a greedy giant at the dragonborn tower seeks to awaken the fiend themselves for their own purpose.
While a single roll on a quest table can generate a fun night of D&D, consider adding layers by rolling on multiple tables multiple times and mixing in alternative quests, competing quests, or rivals to build a richer tapestry for our adventures to come.
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