Features for my generator?

I’m working on a set of generators for Electric Bastionland and Maximum Recursion Depth.

The first is an NPC Generator based on principles which Chris McDowall discusses on his blog, and which I will be sharing on my blog within the next week or so and also include as an additional file to the game itself on itch.io.

The NPCs use features such as a descriptive animal (e.g. snake-like, fox-like, etc.), an archetype (e.g. “thief with a heart of gold”, “out of control celebrity”), a voice (e.g. deep, squeeky, nasally), and some unique physical feature (e.g. holding a cane, wearing scruffy clothing, a distinguishing scar).

Here are two examples:

Out of control celebrity
Wearing scruffy clothes
With a squeaky voice

Local community activist
With a distinguishing scar
With a nasally voice

Since Maximum Recursion Depth is nominally set in the real world, this generator is basically compatible with any real world setting, but theoretically could be abstracted to other genres fairly easily.

The subsequent generators are more specific to MRD, and relate to generating Poltergeist Investigations. My hope is that this will both help as a tool for GMs trying to run the game (including myself), but also make it more immediately clear what this setting is about.

The investigation generator has the following features: The poltergeist has some relationship with the client (family member, coworker, partner, etc.), the conflict (e.g. poltergeist is haunting a place or person, lost in the Numberless Courts of Hell, etc.), and the client’s feelings around it (e.g. sees this as tragic, sees this as embarrassing). Here are two examples:

The poltergeist they want investigated is a parent
The poltergeist is going to be reincarnated into something awful
The client feels (reasonably) responsible

The poltergeist they want investigated is a younger sibling who was a recurser, but it is uncertain if they performed their reincarnation ritual in time
The poltergeist is believed to have been reincarnated within the Numberless Courts of Hell (and is now trapped there)
The client sees this as an embarrassment

So here it is in total:

  1. Generate an NPC using the NPC generator. This is the client.
  2. The next generator builds the investigation.
  3. Numberless Court Generator
  4. Poltergeist Generator

Where I’m hung up on is 3 and 4. I’ve got some decent names for Numberless Courts, such as “The Court of Those Who Succumb Prematurely to Crippling Expectations” or “The Court of the Question Which Must be Unasked”. The problem for me is that these Courts are supposed to be highly thematic. So how do I create a generator with features which can be fully randomized, but don’t undermine the intended theme of the Court? They need to be things which are interesting, but relatively superficial. Then there’s the matter of how to keep that coherent with the poltergeist generator itself, which I haven’t even started yet because it probably doesn’t make sense to do so until after I’ve figured out this problem.

I’m aiming to run my next game in the campaign (formerly one-shot!) tomorrow evening, and I’d like to use these generators to run it.


Still building this out, but I think just asking this question has helped spur my imagination.

I think there need to be one or two more features, but what I have now for the Courts are a name, a setting, and an oddity, to produce results such as the following:

The Court of the Question Which Must be Unasked
Setting: Urban (Gentrified)
Oddity: Atemporal (Historical past)

The Court of Those who Journey Through the Rose-Tinted Looking Glass
Setting: Small boats (e.g. Canoe)
Oddity: Atemporal (Far future (hard-SF))

The Court of the Emperor’s Robe
Setting: Jungle
Oddity: Fantastical (“Medieval”/Historical Fantasy (Euro-, Chinese, etc.))

I feel like there still needs to be one or two more features, but I’m just not sure what they should be…


I’m pretty happy with how this table is shaping up. I’ve expanded and reworked the setting and oddity sections and I think there are some interesting combinations, and I now have 20 court names which I think are mostly pretty awesome if I do say so myself:

The Court of:

  1. Those Who Succumb Prematurely to Crippling Expectations
  2. the Vivisected Elephant
  3. the Question Which Must be Unasked
  4. Those Who Bet on the Wrong Horse
  5. the Rose-Tinted Looking Glass
  6. the Never-Scratched Itch
  7. the Marionette’s Fate
  8. Oppressive Boredom
  9. Those Who Cannot Distinguish Love and Hate
  10. Those Who Never Say Never Again
  11. Ugly Recursive Patterns
  12. Those Who Break Their Toys
  13. Those Who are Alone and Not Alone
  14. Interpolated Moments
  15. Those who Explore the Linear Frontier Only
  16. Uncomfortable Spacetimes
  17. Those Who Eat the Marshmallow
  18. Hunted Wolves and Cowardly Lions
  19. Infinite Possibilities in Zero-Dimensional Space
  20. Ever-Incubating Eggs and Those Who Brood Them

I really just need one or two more features >.<! I’m thinking these features should be something more immediately gameable, with the others so far (name, setting, oddity) being more flavor…

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I came up with one good feature! Bureaucratic Error! It’s perfect, because, by its nature, it is intentionally idiosyncratic, so it doesn’t matter what the theme of the Court is supposed to be! They’re also, I think, going to add a lot of context and gameable conflict to a Court.

For instance:

  1. Beings who have been accidentally reincarnated into this Court have developed their own civilization. If they are discovered, they will be destroyed, and so they are hostile to all outsiders.
  2. The Devils in this Court have gained human-like sentience and live in harmony with the Poltergeists. This is causing the Court to glitch, and if left unchecked, it will implode out of existence.
  3. This Court is leaking into the Material World. If left unchecked, it will overtake the material space it is co-occupying.
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I just played a one off session of bastionland! It was a blast. We were all bleak jaZz musicians.