Space, Sandboxes and Python

RPG Styles


Type 1:

I’ve always been a scenario type GM i.e. where the GM creates a scenario with a plot, NPCS etc and the players play through the GM’s plot.

I think that’s perfectly fine: the DM gets the fun of creating worlds and plots and the players get the surprise of not knowing what is ahead.

Type 2:

Some people prefer RPGs where all the players generate the world, plot etc as a group. It’s not my thing but I can see why that might appeal.

However some aspects of it do appeal.

Type 3 – Middle Path:

I like creating worlds, scenarios etc so I don’t want to do it the second way but after listening to the various arguments I do like the more sandboxy style the second method generates.

So basically if you’re a GM type but you want to be surprised how can you do it?

One way is to use random generation; that way you still kind of create the setting – because you decide what gets put into the random generation tables – but the specifics are a surprise.

For example in Traveller there are random patron tables, random animal generators etc – so in a sandboxy game you could set up an area of space with only a bare bones description for each system/world and then let the players go where they like. The GM generates content on the fly depending on where the players go and which the players decide whether or not to interact with – making the game more like a procedural video game.


Generating stuff on the fly out of your own head is fast but you’re rarely if ever surprised.

Generating stuff from tables can create surprises you would never have thought of yourself but can take too long.


After watching Mr Driscoll’s Python adventures for a while

I thought i’d take the plunge and see if using Python to create fast random generators could be a solution and i’d heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to try the compromise sandboxy method and you’re comfortable with programming. It’s a relatively easy language and is perfectly suited for this kind of linear sequence, generating a result from a set of tabular data with a simple GUI.

My first experiment was turning the classic Traveller animal generator into Python and that was pretty painless. (I’m an ex-programmer who hasn’t touched code for c. 10 years so your mileage may vary.)

The only problem I have now is it’s made me want to do a lot more:

– random conflict generation
– random plots
– random sub-sector/system/world generation
– trade
using either/both Classic and Mongoose tables

also Travellerized Dark Heresy / Rogue Trader
– systems, worlds
– Dark Heresy travellerized char gen

also a simplified random solar system generator with pseudo 3D
– everything happens on a 2D plane but with 3D models of planets, star etc
– 2D classic traveller style vector movement
– no real reason but i want to see visually how that kind of movement would feel with all the planets moving in their orbits

anyway – too many ideas, nothing gets done, so hopefully will be able to pick one at a time

(will post examples as I do them)

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