Creating Procedural Adventures

While working on my game I realized after decades that I do not actually enjoy writing. It is a chore and my writing is bad to boot. Personally prefer games like 24XX that emphasize strong theme with random generation. The thread about procedural modules (Didn’t want to hijack that one so posted this) made me think that could be an interesting way to go with my games in general. And while that threat looks for specific modules I am more interested in established procedures/mechanics to create such modules.

I already mentioned 24XX. My other favourite procedural plot generation is probably Technoir which uses something called “Transmissions”. There is one available for free download on the webpage.

From Cannibal Halfling : Technoir is built first around a plot map, which gains its starting nodes from a Transmission. Transmissions are lists of 36 plot elements, six each of Connections, Events, Factions, Locations, Objects, and Threats. The Transmission describes an overall setting and typically includes information about all of the elements listed, but this core six-by-six chart is the central source of truth for the Transmission. Your plot map starts by rolling for three of these elements and connecting them. While the GM is writing this plot map, the players are creating characters.

I always liked this approach as it does not prescribe a plot but character / faction relations and interests, situated in a specific location. And the PCs are just let loose on it. Since Transmissions are written for a specific location, they usually have a strong theme. They are very adaptable and the principles can apply to many genres and games. So while you can*t use it out of the box if you want to play something fantasy related and non Technoir, it can be a great way to structure a procedural adventure.

Are there any other works/blog posts/design discussions I should be aware of about this topic? Any practical advise or experiences from your table?


I’ve just finished up two campaigns that I ran without a pre-made plot.
If you haven’t checked out Stars Without Number/Worlds Without Number, you probably should. Most of the books are used for generating worlds and plot threads. I feel like the system is made to facilitate reactive world creation, where you make parts of the setting based on where the players are going and what their goals are. I’d look at the sections based around world generation, which are nearly system-agnostic.
Ultraviolet Grasslands also does something similar. When I ran it, I basically just rolled up encounters and then tried to fit them into the world we already had. I don’t know how applicable this is to what you’re looking for, since the included generators are very tied to the setting.


I’m also really drawn to how Technoir handles this—there’s something so compelling about how each Transmission works as a formula you can slot in to the larger framework.

For a while I was using the oracle / events generator from the Mythic RPG system + Maze Rats (and later my home-brew cyberpunk re-theme of Maze Rats). This produced some very fun results on the fly—it was extraordinary how, even without anyone acting as referee, my fellow players and I managed to create cohesive yet surprising stories without any prep. I’m curious about how highly thematized oracles might function as procedural adventures. Ironsworn also comes to mind here.


I did something like this in Knights of the Road. I made 5 d6 tables to generate little quests on the fly. The tables are:

  1. Quest Giver
  2. Apparent Problem
  3. Cause of problem
  4. Complication
  5. Reward

It leads to some cool little quests. Here’s an example:

  1. A traveling preacher who’s noticed something strange
  2. There is a strange glow in the Eastern sky at midnight every night
  3. A diablolical cult is attempting to summon The Devil Himself
  4. The local sheriff is in the pay of the baddies
  5. A strange artifact (+2 L)

The table’s not super big so I could see it getting a little repetitive, but I think with a little imagination, you could generate a ton of quests.


Emmy Allen’s approach in The Stygian Library and Gardens of Ynn is worth taking a look at. These are mentioned in the other thread, but I’m mentioning them here more as design inspiration sources.

I would suggest taking a look at the way they handle progression towards a goal and increase in weirdness/threat.

The adventures are based entirely on random tables, and all the tables are weighted so that things get weirder, more dangerous and more revealing the farther into the library/garden you go. And for the PCs to reach their goal - for example, to find a specific book in the Stygian Library - they have to gain Progress points that can only be acquired by venturing father into the library. So, while largely random, it creates this natural movement as the PCs’ pursue their goal toward increased danger/tension/excitement/information. Simple and smart.

I also wonder whether using a Hex Flower would be a potential approach to procedural adventure design. Setting a goal at one end, and peppering the hexes with strategically positioned events/encounters/etc as you progress from one side to the other. (Somewhat similar approach to Allen’s with a slightly different method)


Allens SL and GY procedures are just great, but do tend to lean into scene based playing that might or might not be what one are looking for. In simplest from such procedure can be implemented to random encounter chart where you add the dungeon level to the roll limiting options when you dwell deeper.

I was about to mention Hex Flowers as well. They’d might aid to generating more logical outcomes from random tables (as by nature Hex Flowers have ‘memory’).

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So many good suggestions, thank you all! I excluded Allens work because of the scene based playstyle that I am not necessarily fond of, but will give them another gander for inspiration.

Mythic GM is an intriguing idea, worth to explore if you could create one oracle specifically for one location. And of course Ironsworns Oracle are just amazing.

Solid random adventure generators are fantastic. They rarely feature the “web” of connections that Technoir generates though and I miss those. Granted, in most Dungeon /Quest Based games you don’t necessarily need that web. I lean more towards open Sci-Fi and Modern material, not so much fantasy.

I did not have Hexflowers on my bingo card. Will be my next topic of research. Thanks again on all that posted so far.

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