I have a confession to make: I am a sucker for random generators. I blame the warm-fuzzy feeling I have for them on all those random tables older that used to be strewn liberally through the sourcebooks of role-playing games. Right from the start, I found a ton of random generator tables in the first AD&D DMG I bought when I first got into gaming, and I was totally hooked! And it seemed every game I picked up even after AD&D just had more and more of those delightful random tables in them, from Traveller to MERP to Call of Cthulhu. And there was something just a little addictive about being able to affect the course of an entire campaign with just a few handfuls of dice!
Of course, rolling piles of dice on those tables to generate everything from dungeon loot to star systems was pretty tedious. But thankfully, we have a lot of options these days for random generators, both as apps and online, and there are some very dedicated programmers out there working to make the art of game mastering RPGs considerably easier simply by automating a variety of random tables to speedily add detail and depth to our games.
One of those programmers founded the Chaotic Shiny website, where there are tons of free to use random generators for every genre of role-playing game, from fantasy to modern. But the sites owner and programmer also bundles special groups of generators together in order to create an application with a purpose. This past summer, Chaotic Shiny Production released, a new bundle of random generators quickly create all the sights and sounds and… well, sites, of a medieval town in City Builder Generator Pack.
City Builder Generator Pack
- Programmer: Hannah Lipsky
- Publisher: Chaotic Shiny Productions
- Year: 2011
- Media: Application (.NET)
- Cost: $3.95
City Builder Generator Pack is a bundle of random generators designed to create and manage medieval cities and towns for fantasy and medieval role-playing games. The pack includes seven random generators to create everything from a basic city description, to taverns, crowds, rumors, features and known locales, merchants, and even a market/bazaar map. The results of the generators can be saved to files for later use, or for editing with a standard text editor or word processing program.
The production quality of the City Builder Generator Pack is very good, with an easy-to-use interface, and convenient tabs to flip between the various generators. The application uses .NET, and can be used in full screen mode, but typically runs in a windowed mode which took up about 40% of my laptop’s screen, making it very easy to have a browser or document file open and readable with the app running.
The random generators have a decent amount of variety to their responses, and it is fairly clear that the programmer is a gamer, and has a pretty good handle on what sorts of data would be handy for a game master to use. The output of the generator can be printed or stored as a text file for use later. A user can also edit results in the output window itself before printing or filing, and the programmer provides a “previous result” and “next result” buttons to allow for generator several pages of outputs, then navigating between them to see which results are most applicable.
The City Builder
As mentioned, there are seven generators in the City Builder Pack which create a variety of output for game masters to either use while creating a medieval population center, or to maintain the city with random elements to make the city seem more “alive”.
The first tab is labeled “City” and creates some general facts about an town which might be of interest to players. The name of the town and its size and nature are detailed in a single sentence, then followed up with a listing of its districts (eg. artists, arena, theatre, government, etc), a list of names of a few local sites of interest (taverns, streets, squares, parks, etc.), and then a mention of what the city is known for such as its politics, local inhabitants, or deity. It ends with a selection of rumors currently circulating in the town, which are fairly detailed, and easily usable as adventure hooks for a night of random play. This first generator would most likely be useful should adventurers encounter a town at random, or a game master is looking to create the “bare bones” of a town for their campaign setting.
“Tavern” is the next tab over, and can be used to create a very nicely detailed medieval fantasy tavern setting. The type of tavern, its cleanliness, quality, and quality of food, drinks, and lodgings are displayed, followed by information on the popularity of the place, how noisy it is, how drunk and well-armed the patrons are. The nature of the bartender, notable patrons, and a description of the house’s special beverage round out the tavern’s display. It’s a darned handy generator to have when characters decide they want to depart from the adventure and go sample the nightlife, or to create a quick roadside inn along a trade route between “points of light”.
The purpose of a “Feature Namer” was a bit unclear until I started clicking around the output, and realized it’s more of a local sites of interest generator, to quickly name specific features in a city. You can generate up to 50 locations at a time, and there is a drop down menu to allow for the user to select the sorts of sites to name: street, market, tavern, landmark, park, geography, entertainment, aristocracy, government, academic – or “random” which creates a mix of all these types. Below is a list of 10 random locations the generator gave me of places within my medieval city:
- The Cavorting Wizard Brewery
- Malachite Arena
- Wyvern School
- Old Rangset Garden
- Raven Forum
- Orchid Castle
- Jokewhite Arena
- Justtop Green
- The Old Stone Marker
- The Cheerful Killer Tavern
“Crowd” is fairly self-explanatory, and creates the appearances of random people in a crowd, up to 50 at a time! Depending on your players, the crowd generator is either very useful for those detail oriented folks who want to know everything going on around them while in town to not very useful at all, if your players are just passing through and aren’t terribly concerned about the “rabble”. Not only is the appearance of the individuals in a crowd described, but so are their activities, and I was amused when I created 5 persons, two of which were chasing a cat, and one of them looked terrified:
- The copper-skinned, confused woman who keeps changing direction.
- The very skinny, proud young woman who is chasing after a cat.
- The ugly, grinning old man who is trying to strike up conversations with passersby.
- The willowy, terrified woman who is chasing after a cat.
- The apparently foreign, distraught woman who just emerged from an alley.
It made me think that a game master might find this generator useful for creating an adventure hook – I know I was seriously pondering why these two women were after that cat!
The “Rumors” tab is definitely useful for making up those little details one overhears on the street or in a tavern, and some of the output would definitely be fodder for starting an adventure or even mini-campaign. Again, you can generate 5 to 50 rumors, and I generated a list of just last night for my Dark Sun campaign for rumors overheard in a bar while the players waited for their Tyrian underworld contact to arrive. A pair of rumors popped up that I just had to use regarding a knifed body found in the street and a severed arm found by the city wall, and watched my players perk right up and begin to speculate who might be behind the murder and maiming!
- Scekan the advocate claims to have proof that Enossavn the servant is performing strange rituals near the fountain.
- Aelanai the squire has been saying that Souz the tailor’s lover is shouting and raving by the hill.
- Chumil the cook is hiding something by the well.
- Shan the witch saw that Aloamnicri the apprentice has been spreading rumors that a pool of blood was found in the armory.
- Troutac the warrior believes that odd lights have appeared in the armory.
The “Merchant” tab creates up to 50 random merchants, with a selectable drop down menu of the following types: weapons, clothing, armor, food, religion, crafts, animals, adventuring, magic. The default setting is “random” and creates a list from a mixture of any of these types. Sometimes the list is a bit too random, creating odd combination of businesses, such as a Blacksmith and Plant merchant. I was trying to envision what sort of couple might run such a place – a blacksmith and his druid bride; a dwarf and his elven lover? Quite the odd couples, but potentially some amusing role-playing opportunities! The quality, price point, and variety of goods are given, as well as the name of the owner and their nature, how they respond to haggling, and where the shop is located – a building, cart, tent, or a vendor stall.
The final tab, “Market Map”, is really the icing on the cake for these random generators, capable of quickly creating a random faire or merchant district, complete with points of interest. Two slider bars allow the user to select the map scale and building density, while a selection of checkboxes allow for a selection of the types of structures where the merchants sell from: buildings, tents, carts, and/or open air. Guild sites, decorations, and streets can be included, and the output shows a nifty map with a listing beneath of the merchants and structures in the area. Each location is tagged with a number which matches a merchant in the window beneath, and really makes for a very nice feature to make a city come alive. It’s very easy for a game master to create that market district or bazaar that should exist in almost any medieval city, or can be used for creating a faire that might spring up outside of town and just as quickly depart – hopefully with some of the characters hard-won dungeon booty!
Overall Score: 3.7 out of 5.0
City Builder Generator Pack is a very cool compilation of random generators for game masters to add some excellent details to city adventures or for city building. It’s very easy to run, provides some nifty output, and is helpful in world-building, adventure creation, or even for just quick random details at the gaming table when the players occasionally run of the “beaten path”. While there are occasional outputs which might not be useful or make sense for every medieval fantasy campaign, the City Builder Generator Pack is still worth considering, offering a lot of useful applications for only a few bucks!
So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)
- Interface: 3.25
- - Design: 3.5
- - Graphics: 3.0
- Content: 3.5
- - Crunch: NA
- - Fluff: 3.5
- Value: 4.5