There are 10 kinds of gamers...

Those who are "geeks" and love math and technology, and those who aren't. Yes that 10 in the title was in binary. A friend of mine bought a nice little booklet, 137 pages for just 1 USD, and it was about world design. To some it was like "OMG amazing value for money". To me it was "rubish". I love math, data and books, etc. but I think that is one of the products that shouldn't have ever created. 

Tables for random rolls isn't an interesting read to say the least. And as a gamer you probably know: dice doesn't come with memory. Come on, it doesn't even remember that past few rolls. So if you roll 1d6 6 times (with the same dice) there is still over 33% chance of "not seeing a roll of 6". 

And whats even worse: Dice has no ears or eyes, so it can't see, can't read and can't hear anything. So it doesn't know what is on those tables. 

When you want to design a Jungle world and yet you turn to tables and dice, you might find a sandy dessert world with moderate amount of rain and a rich agriculture and port cities. Of course you will just use common sense to ignore those results. And ignore all the nice tables and charts you have bought and just write down your own concept and thoughts. 

For random generation of settings there is one thing much much better than dice and tables. Software. Software can use memory, it can be programmed to understand the data. Hey, I have bought both Astrosynthesis and Fractal Terrains 3, so I can random design quite a few things and adjust the results. 

And when I end up with history, politics and other things where what you see should also make sense I know it isn't up to random generation. It is about using your own brain power. If you think you are so stupid and clueless that a few random tables and dice rolls can end up with better results than you, feel free to use whatever tables you want. But if you want to knows trends in history, how events are related you won't use any oversimplified, streamlined tables that doesn't care about how things are related.

Of course you might need a lot of data written down. Like how many peasants can provide enogh work for a blacksmith to make a living. Of course you can ask "how many peasants can keep a tavern-keeper happy" and guess if your villages would have a tavern. For an inn, you need a well travelled road with merchants. A mill or some other industry that might attract customers who might stay for the night. 

Now you have 3 kind of settlements:

  • Settlements without a tavern / inn
  • Settlements with only a tavern
  • Settlements with at least one inn

Now think a bit about the industry: If there is no inn in a town most craftsmen would hope customers coming from only a few hours worth of walking distance. Walking for half of a day, making a quick purchase and walking back is the absolulte maximum. If there is an inn where they can stay? It is safe to assume people will come from a full days worth of walking distance. Whoa, 2 times more distance. And whats even worse 4 times more area and with this 4 times more villages and potential customers are covered. 

A lot of systems state that the average human ability score is 10. And we all see how our advenruters will have a far higher average score. But that average covers everything, from the strength of the village blacksmith, to the strength of an old lady. 

We and our characters would probably expect to see signs of natural distribution and using your friendly 3d6 only seem "somewhat close to it" and in practice it can create pretty odd results. But if you think about natural distribution and watch a somewhat realistic chart it will be easy to decide how strong that blacksmith should be. All without spending money on random tables. Hey we haven't even rolled dice. We designed a smart part of settings.

And we haven't expected for a single moment that a few random rolls on a set of tables with arbitary data. If you think a pair of dice and some random tables would do a better job at world building and DMing than you maybe it is time for some of your players to take up the role of being the DM. Or maybe you can get some self confidence and turst your own intelligence a bit more. 

Yes you will use math skills, you will use spreadsheets, you might even use some other software to help you with your task. But it is still you who is designing your own setting and not some random dicerolls. If you are too afraid to do basic math to know what should be placed and where, there are many nice settings you can choose from without turning to a "random world."