Future Proofing Procedural Generation

What is future proofing?

Future proofing is taking a broad setting and sprinkling a bunch of minor details everywhere. After doing so it allows your players to guide themselves through the story. Depending on which direction they take you to start fleshing out that area more and more. Once they are in an area you take all the minor details and try to connect some of them together. You can hand place these details or have a table of minor details to roll on. Or using procedural generation you can have a handcrafted table specific for dungeon details.

As an example, you might have two levers in one area that are doing nothing at the moment. In the other room, you have people who have been kidnapped and are bound and tied. That might have been the only thing you had planned until this point, some of it might have been generated by generators and some of it was something you planned. In this case, the people were from a town nearby that had been raided. using procedural generation, we generated the lever that was from a table of details for dungeons.

Statue by H UC
Statue by H UC

Great now what?

Now we tie it together! Taking the levers we can make them functional, they could be for opening doors or secret areas, they could also be on/off switches for traps. While the players were facing off with a salamander in the previous room, he flipped the levers with his cronies! I decided to put a trap that was triggered during combat that is inside of the kidnapees room. A spike ceiling, balls dropping onto a scale that slowly triggers the ceiling were a start. Adding sound and making the ceiling shake for dramatic effect. Adding one false positive to give the players doubt, making it so when one lever is flipped it looks like it speeds up the trap, when both are flipped it stops the trap. This was all brought together while they were exploring the dungeon and fighting the salamander!

How to connect the dots and procedural generation

So, in my example, I took two minor details and fleshed out a trap within the time it took them to get to it. These two minor details gave me inspiration, that can be generated by a computer or hand placed by myself. I started trying to illustrate a story in my head and think about other stories that had traps and captured creatures. Taking all of this into account I started with the bulk of the situation the trap. Now since these people were helpless it did not really make sense to make it an active trap. Instead, making it a trap that is either inactive or timed would be better because it is only supposed to deter and stall the party.

Using procedural generation, in this case, took some of the thinking out of making everything. It was an unimportant detail that it added, that wrapped everything together. Giving me something to think about instead of trying to think of something to add. Using all of that, I could take and start giving the situation context.

The Guild by Marcel Zero
The Guild by Marcel Zero

What is so good about future proofing?

future proofing allows you to save a bunch of time in the end. it might give you a little anxiety the first few times, especially if you are one of those people who have to have everything planned out. But, the more you practice it, the better you will be at it. This is how I improv a bunch of situations, cutting down on over planning. When I was planning too much, I would find the players would go completely past some of my planned events. When I switched to more of an improvisation approach I found players stopping at minor details and overthinking them.

I decided to start giving these objects meaning, especially when I started using procedural generation like donjon that likes to sprinkle in minor details.

Wrapping up future proofing and procedural generation

How I run things is what works for me, there are many benefits that come with meticulous planning. But, just remember when you start saying “I don’t have enough time.”, or your players start circumventing things. It might be time to at least give future proofing, procedural generation, and improv a shot!

If you like my pieces about procedural generation you should check out my other posts! One is about trying to make cohesive groups out of procedurally generated creatures. Or you can check out why procedural generation is so great!

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