Skip to main content

Referee Control Panels for A Red & Pleasant Land

Something I've put together to make running A Red & Pleasant Land even easier. 

Open this Google Sheet:

Text by permission of Zak S

Select File -> Make a copy... (You need to make your own copy in order to run the macros.)

On the new copy, select Tools -> Macros -> Randomize Tables

Let the macro do its work as it re-randomizes the entries on the "Tables" sheet.

Go to the "NPC Panel d20" sheet. Print it. I recommend letter size, landscape, 0.25" margin on all sides, "fit to page", and don't show the gridlines.

Go to the "Encounter Panel d20" sheet. Print it as well.

You now have two letter sized sheets. Each is a "control panel" with a subset of 20 results from all of the relevant random tables for a specific use. Running an NPC? Everything you'd want is right there: name, appearance, quirk, adventure hooks they might give, all the tables the adventure hook might reference. Random encounter? That panel has results for every environment, vampire house, etc. and what the creature is doing. No page searching, no page flipping, it's all right there in front of you. Roll a d20 and just start picking information horizontally as needed.

Run a few sessions. Have fun being a speedy referee. Cross off entries as you use them. Use up the results. Go back to the Google Sheet.

Tools -> Macros -> Randomize Tables

Print out two new panels with a new subset of 20 results. Fresh and good to go for another few sessions. If you want to get fancy, you can delete results from the "Tables" sheet as you use them, and slowly start working through them all.

Not playing A Red & Pleasant Land? First of all, why not? It's great. You can get it here. But here's a blank template if you want to build a control panel from your own random tables:

(The macro will randomize everything through column AZ)

But why? 

Ben Milton's post about "control panel" page layout and Gavin Norman's response about applying it to B/X Essentials got me thinking about how to use it to run my game better. The idea is simple: for a given context (combat, travel, NPC interaction, etc.), have all of the relevant information on one spread or sheet of paper. Kind of like having a separate DM screen for each context. Try to completely eliminate the need to search for or turn to multiple pages in a book.

There's a running joke during my games that you can annoy the referee by asking for the name of every NPC encountered. Put down my copy of AR&PL, grab my copy of Vornheim, find the "City NPC" table, roll, write the result in my notebook, try to find where I was in AR&PL. What does the NPC want from the party? Flipping and rolling through a few more pages for the "Adventure Hook", "Event", and "Intelligent Encounter" tables.

The layout in A Red & Pleasant Land and Vornheim is great. Made with at-the-table use in mind: all results for any given table contained on a single page or spread, tables all at the back of the book in alphabetical order for easier lookup. And in the context of random tables, these "control panels" are really just the Vornheim idea of tables with multiple columns stretched to the limits of readable font sizes.

(My first version of this, I actually tried to include 100 results on the sheet. The fonts were tiny! Just dots on the paper. I decided 20 results would be more than enough for any single session and could be re-randomized later.)

So really nothing new, but for me at least, this has made running the game easier. It's eliminated even more page flips. The first session I used these, my players asked for every NPC's name, as usual. But I "disappointed" them by answering without delay. And since all the information for a given NPC or encounter is located in the same row, it cut down on the amount of notes I had to write mid-game. Jot a quick note on the sheet itself, and copy everything to a notebook after the game.

I'll probably do more tweaking of this. I would like to get the "Idiotic Voivodja Filibuster Conversation Openers" table (with additional entries) on the NPC panel. That table is really flavorful for the setting, but I feel like I don't use it enough because it's one more page to lookup. If I had easier access to legal size printing, I'd have more horizontal width to include more tables.

Popular posts from this blog

Dungeon in a Cigar Box

This has popped up in several pictures I've posted.

This is the dungeon-in-a-cigar-box that I built. Absolutely nobody asked about this, but I'm going to write about it anyway.
Inspiration for this came from this CRIT KIT Kickstarter that I missed out on:

Stumbled upon that a couple months back and thought it looked cool. Portable box that functions as a dice tray, dice & mini storage, and modular dungeon. Thought it would be a fun project to try building myself.

Additionally, you already know I love some Dragon Warrior.

Thought I'd make my dungeon floor and walls resemble that.
Bill of materialsI picked up most of this stuff at Michaels. Any arts & crafts store likely has comparable items.

Wooden cigar box: & stick red felt: couple sheets o…

Let's auto-populate Voivodja!

Problem I have a 40x30 map of Voivodja to populate for my A Red & Pleasant Land campaign. 1200 squares. I brainstormed a little over 100 ideas for locations. I have 1100 squares that still need something in them. At least a seed of an idea. 
Available Resources Copies of AR&PL, Vornheim, Frostbitten & Mutilated, lots of other OSR books, and a Bachelor's in Computer Science. 
Solution  The beginnings of an app for auto-populating the contents for all of the hexes in a world. On the backend, I've written a basic text templating and random table rolling engine. I've given it a huge data set of useful random tables from the various OSR books I own. Where appropriate, results in random tables recursively reference other tables, which reference other tables, which references other tables, etc.

Pass in a seed file of hex coordinates mapped to terrain types, an optional file of "Named NPCs", and it will spit out an A5-sized PDF ready to be printed as a coil-bound…

A Simple Resource Management System for Into the Odd

Rules without the commentary available here.

My mind is still on resource management systems. 

Into the Odd (ItO) doesn't have one and, to be honest, doesn't need one. Plenty of tension to be found via description rather than tracking individual rations. ItO is lightweight, fast, and runs great if you simply assume that, as written, the expedition always has food, water, light, camping & climbing equipment. 

So why bother with managing resources? 
Character customizationLike with Ben Milton's new Knave (, I like the idea of a character's role being determined by what kind of equipment they are carrying. Want to be a "fighter" in a classless system like ItO? Carry large, powerful weapons and wear armor. Want to be a "magic user"? Carry lots of Arcana (or spellbooks). A "specialist" (to use the LotFP term)? Carry lots of tools, poison vials, flashbangs, etc.

But customization like this works best if there is a l…