Monday, January 2, 2012

Grab Bag Storerooms

Happy 2012!  Wow, the last few days flew by.  At ze Bulette's recommendation I finally took the plunge and bought Minecraft.  I'm just about to go back down in the mine but I had a thought.

One of the places that's difficult for me in DMing is a room full of junk, because, invariably, through tone of voice or body language I tip off whether there is something valuable to search for or not.  And when players find something, whether that was it or that they should keep searching.  I wish that was more of a player choice.

How about listing all the items in a room on index or business size cards and when players say they want to search the room you flop them all on the table.  So, not grab bag in the sense of players inputing creatively like with the treasure post, but in the sense of physical items they can paw through in real time.

Who is busy searching when you roll that wandering monster encounter?  Well, the players actually physically looking at the cards.  How long does it take them to search?  Maybe a turn per card.  That way you know this room stuffed with junk like Tut's tomb, with each item on a separate card, will take hours to search.  This, still-used storeroom with things organized on shelves has each shelf on a card, 2 turns.

Or I suppose you could time players in real time.  You might put several layers of information on a card-- say , the front just says small cask, but the back says weight in stone, smells sticky and sweet, estimated price if it's unfouled honey, etc.  Players can quickly glance at the fronts to see if anything interests them.  To turn a card over will coast another half a turn or so of search time.


  1. That's great. Plus you could draw the cards at random if you as the DM want to be surprised about what's in there.

  2. Why not use a deck of cards, each card keyed to a different piece of junk? You just shuffle the cards, cut the deck and riffle off a few cards. I'd be happy to help make a list (or set of lists 54 cards x d6?) that could be used. We could use GoogleDocs to brainstorm...

  3. Thanks for the comments.

    @WtD: es, anything that makes it more fun for the DM is a plus in my eyes. The only problem is that the DM will need to place treasures sometimes. Maybe if there are several junk filled rooms and you put the treasure on a card shuffled in with those dealt to each room you, as DM won't know yourself where you put your cool magic ring.

    @Jim: I love using cards as a tool we all have and understand, but here I don't think it solves the problem. You'd have to key items to each card and then players would have to figure out what "3 of clubs" meant. By looking up on a chart I guess. It would definitely facilitate the random generation, but I would like better if I had a deck of cards with pictures of casks, bags, and coffers and lined backs you could write details on.

  4. Well, I guess pictures would be best, but couldn't the players just say "3 of Clubs" and then the DM looks at the list? Cards would be easy enough to mock up at godeckyourself, but you'd have to make a new set (potentially) for every cluttered room -- especially if you are writing on the cards...

  5. You could but it doesn't give the players the quick look at contents like you'd have in real life "Ah, a bunch of junk, wait . . . there's a coffer in the corner."

    But, yeah, making a new set each time isn't feasible. This seems similar to the wandering monster problem; you have a set of pretty common possibilities but you need to generate a new batch for each use. Most items in a storeroom will be pretty standard, just condition and quantity varying.

    I wonder if someone could combine a sheet of card images with a randomized back text. Or, maybe, the back side of the card is a dice-rolling mini-game where the player gets to check if what is in the cask is something special. Would take more time, but then it might make search places feel like it took more time in-game.