And Now, The SW Monster Database

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Last week, I mentioned the SW Monster Database project. At long last, it is finished. After the links below, I'll talk a bit about the spreadsheet.

To download an MS Excel version, click here.

To download an Open Office version, click here.

To add your own creation to the database, click here.

After looking around a bit, you may feel a bit underwhelmed.

Gee John, for all the build-up, it's a list of stats with no monster descriptions.

I get that. I struggled with how to get the descriptions in the spreadsheet easily, but everything up to this point would be days of copy and paste. I'm a bit embarassed to say that as someone that has passing familiarity with awk, sed, bash scripting, and VBA macros. Someone with more skill than me should be able to do it easily.

If you can, please do so. I welcome anything that will make this resource better.

Having said that, I believe I can get the descriptions included without manually pasting them into the submission form. We'll see how that goes. The beauty of the project is that it can grow and continue to add features.

What we can do now is make all kinds of useful tables. Some of the most obvious include a list of monsters by Challenge Level. Download and then Sort by CL and then by Num.

Guess what Challenge Level has the most monsters? CL 5. There are 104 monsters in the SRD with a CL 5. After that, there are 98 monsters with CL 8. Here's the full count.

CL Count
0 2
A 10
B 12
1 50
2 77
3 88
4 93
5 104
6 75
7 75
8 98
9 74
10 65
11 48
12 52
13 59
14 18
15 31
16 14
17 26
18 8
19 9
20 11
21 3
22 4
23 7
24 3
25 2
26 4
27 3
28 4
29 1
30 8
31 3
32 2
33 4
34 4
35 1
36 1
37 2
38 2
39 1
40 5
42 1
varies 12

Most of those varies entries are followers of a specific demon or devil. Later on, I plan to publish a few of those, with full stats.

Other possibilities have been mentioned on G+ already, but with this kind of spreadsheet, you can right a pretty good monster generator. Nothing beats writing one from scratch, but sometimes I need something that is "good enough" for right now. After all, a random encounter is truly random when even you don't know what the next monster around the corner will be.

I'll be adding more to this, but I'll be back to the S&W Magic project for the most part.

Vancian Spell Names and a Call for Whimsy

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Every few months, the Dying Earth Spell Generator is traded around. I'm glad because despite having it bookmarked, I tend to forget that it is available. For those that think like me, here is the link: Dying Earth Spell Generator.

I've seen this posted somewhere, but I cannot find it. Essentially, someone said that they were taking a break from dark fantasy. This person still wanted fantasy, but something that was light (as in positive) fantasy. In other words, instead of dread and misery, a world of wonder. Yes, maybe even a bit of whimsy.

As hard as it is to imagine, I get a sense of wonder from many of the resutls of the Dying Earth spell generator. For example, Baiti's Vocal Backbone makes me think that some bard made individual vertebrae capable of singing harmony with him. Why the backbone? So that the voices would come from behind him, making his voice stronger and still a lead voice. Hearing a bard perform in this magical way, the typical PCs would examine the instrument, his gloves, his hat, his necklace, bracers, etc. etc. etc. They would never ever guess that it was a spell, and a spell that vocalized his vertebrae.

There's wonder in that for me.

I will be posting a review of James Hutchings, A New Death and others in a couple days. I think there are stories in this tome that can evoke a similar kind of wonder. I read more than one story that make me think "magic should work this way" or "a world like this would be fun to explore." It reminds of when I was collecting Hot Wheels and I found a red Cobra Mustang. It felt to me like I had one of only three in the world (they made more, this is just a feeling) and I had endless delight imagining myself behind the wheel of one of these bad boys.

So I am off dark fantasy for a while. Sure, lurking undead and tentacled horrors from beyond the stars are awesome, but I ready for dragons that are actually awe-inspiring, magic that can't be explained well and creatures that are totally unexpected, but not always evil. Make the good guys cool, too.

That also means a shift to rewarding exploration. I like Greyhawk Grognard's idea of awarding xp awards for finding certain places scattered over the world. I'm going to use that. I'm also going back to when defeating monsters granted xp, not necessarily killing them. Sometimes, attacking a goblin just to get 5 xp will benefit you nothing at all. (No gold farming, please.)

Maybe whimsy is a poor choice of words, but the gist is to look for something with a bit more wonder.

The FATE Triangle

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I must confess that I have never played FATE, but I've heard a lot about it. One thing I never heard was that it was ill-suited for random tables. I guess I never thought about it because I just assumed random tables had nine items ranging from +4 to -4 with 0 being the most common result.

Over at Spirit of the Blank, Mike Olson posts about an thread featuring a FATE triangle - a very elegant way to use FUDGE dice for a random table.

The creator of the FATE triangle explains it much better than I could. Have a read on the thread here. Get your own fillable PDF to make your own FATE traingles here.

The thread on features discussion of using this as a slick setting generator. For example, if you have three controlling powers called The Church, The Intelligentsia, and The Free Thinkers, results could show to current balance of power with the most common result that all three groups are about equal.

Another use for it would require several charts featuring two for character generation. Basically, have a chart represent an NPC chart. NPC magic has the attributes INT (mage), WIS (priest), CHA (psionicist). NPC mundane has the attributes STR (Warrior), DEX (rogue) and CON (Warrior). The three corners would have 17 for the primary stat, but weak in the other two. Thus, to generate an NPC, decide if he/she will be magical or mundane. Roll on both charts and you have stats. Other tables would have equipment packs, spell/power lists and the like. With ten tables, you could have a fairly extensive NPC generator.

I had a three-way table that produced possibilities of Psionic, Wizard, and Clerical magic powers in terms of levels. The idea was that in a newly visited world, what forms of 2e magic were present and at what levels. If it was a high-magic world with some clerics and no psionicists, the entry would read wizards to 20th level, clerics to 10th level. Since psionicists weren't mentioned, they wouldn't exist.

Unfortunately, I do not have adobe acrobat installed at home (I use Foxit Reader and SumatraPDF instead) and the table was lost. I can't seem to remember to print the result with a PDF printer instead of save a copy of the PDF results. But those are my personal problems...

I think it makes a new and interesting type of random generator table. What non-FATE use can you come up with?