Random & Dragons

Here is a fun way to run a low stakes, low prep D&D campaign where everything is randomized.

The Big Idea

Sometimes my D&D group needs to miss a session on one of our campaigns, either due to missing people, or the DM being behind on prep or just not feeling up to it. I like to have a one-shot adventure at the ready in these cases, but sometimes even that is too much work. And so! I devised a game world in my Foundry that lets us run a no-prep randomized story any time we want.

This is largely enabled by the Community Tables module in Foundry, which in turn pulls plenty of content from dndspeak.com. Having these tables handy takes care of the heavy lifting for coming up with story ideas, leaving you to just connect the dots with your players.

Creating the party

Have someone roll a d20 to determine the party level. Then each player rolls from tables of available classes and races. If you're using the free Basic Rules, that means a 1d10 for race, and a 1d12 for class. You can adjust this if you have other sourcebooks available, of course, and optionally choose to do a secondary roll for the subclasses available at level 3. Once your players have their basics they can go about creating their character sheets.

  1. Dwarf
  2. Elf
  3. Halfling
  4. Human
  5. Dragonborn
  6. Gnome
  7. Half-Elf
  8. Half-Orc
  9. Tiefling
  10. ~roll again~
  1. Barbarian
  2. Bard
  3. Claric
  4. Druid
  5. Fighter
  6. Monk
  7. Palidin
  8. Ranger
  9. Rogue
  10. Sorcerer
  11. Warlock
  12. Wizard

Players roll a d100 per level, then multiply by 10 to get their starting gold, which they can use to purchase equipment as desired. Depending on their starting level, they can also roll for magic items for each milestone from the tables in Chapter 7 of the Dungeon Master's Guide

  • Level 5: Magic Item Table F
  • Level 10: Magic Item Table G
  • Level 15: Magic Item Table H
  • Level 20: Magic Item Table I

To flesh out the player characters, you can roll from some of the dndspeak tables. A couple favorites are 100 Character Backgrounds and 100 Adventuring School Superlatives

Creating the world

There are several tools out there to quickly generate a random landmass map. I like mapgen, because I can generate a neat unexplored version of the map for use with Foundry's simplefog module, making for a nice visual effect, like so:

To add towns and landmarks to the world, have each player roll one or two entries from worldbuilding tables like 100 Unique Towns/Villages or 100 Interesting Temples or Monastaries. Those can become journal entries which you then drop onto the map to be discovered later.

Creating the Plot

Here's the fun part! Your player characters backgrounds and the landmarks on the map are going to inform the story though natural exploration and roleplaying, but they will need some direction to start with. The first plot hook can come either from the Random Everything Generator or a dndspeak table like 100 City Quests or 100 Side Quest Hooks. You can work the destination for the plot into an existing landmark on the map, or slyly add new ones as needed. As you meet characters they can be fleshed out by tables like 100 NPC Personality Traits or 100 Travelers you Meet along the Road. Weaving the randomly generated elements together into related story threads is a fun challenge for a DM.

Exploring the World

Setting out in the world, the meat of the game is played by Hexcrawl rules, as laid out expertly by The Alexandrian. There's plenty of depth there for managing the party's pace, navigating, getting lost, and encounters. Here's the super simplified casual version:
  • Each map hex is 12 miles, side to side
  • At an average speed, the group moves 1 hex every four hours
  • For each four hour block, roll a d12 to determine if something happens
On a 1, the party runs into a wandering encounter based on their level and the biome they're in. I find the tables in Chapter 2 of Xanathar's Guide to Everything to be useful. Alternatively there's various free encounter generators online, such as  2minutetabletop or Fantasy Calendar's Kobold+ Fight Club.

On a 12, this would trigger a 'keyed event' in a properly prepped Hex Crawl adventure, some event or discovery designed to show up at that location. Since we're going all random all the time, we can roll from a table at dndspeak that matches the biome and mood such as 100 Social Encounters Along the Road, or 100 Interesting Forest Locations.

The Dungeon Part

Eventually your story will take you indoors and it will be time to go dungeon delving. There's several tools out there to quickly generate a dungeon map, such as Fantasy Calendar's Dungeon Generator or the Radugen module directly in Foundry. Once the layout's done, you can determine what the rooms are and what's in them as the team explores, using the Random Dungeon Appendix in the Dungeon Master's Guide. By the time your team gets to a dungeon, it should already be well established in your story so you'll have a good idea what kinds of creatures will be there.

And that's about it! A framework to randomly generate your adventure. From there, it's all improvisation and thinking on your feet to link things together! If you use this idea and like it, or have more resources to offer, let me know! Good luck, and happy adventuring!