In 2018, I started Hex Describe as “a tool that would generate both a map and a description of said map”. It has grown quite a bit in this time, and so the promise of fractal nature has caught up with me. If you can generate a description of a hex, you can generate the description of a town in the hex, you can generate the people in the town, you can generate the character’s equipment, their stats, some words about their personality, possible missions they’re on, quests they might be willing to hand out, their friends and enemies… where does it stop?
These days I’m mostly busy writing random tables for a Traveller subsector. There’s the universal world profile (UWP) to provide a starter, and bases, but I also generate ships, and ships have crew, and I generate characters for the crews, they have names and characteristics, and appropriate skills… where does it stop?
@wandererbill recently said that “hex descriptions are the haiku of adventure writing”, and I agree. At the same time, I’m the author of a lot of random tables, assembled by programs into endless documents, a fire-hose of information you might never need… So… I dunno. I recently added patrol cruisers.
The Silver Gazelle is a type T patrol cruiser (400t, streamlined). The pilot of this ship is Dame Matsuo Shuko. B45B6B Pilot-1 Electronic-1 Mechanical-1. The navigator is Dawit Zinga. 9B3A87 Navigation-2 Ship’s Boat-1. The first engineer is Mashiba Fukashi. 429845 Engineer-2 Foil-2 Jack-o-T-1 Vacc Suit-1. The second engineer is Muraoka Minako. 9786A3 Engineer-1 Admin-1 Fwd Obsvr-1 Gunnery-1. The third engineer is Laura McCauley. 84A8A7 Engineer-1 Mechanical-1 Gunnery-1. The medic is Dai Xueman. 3947B8 Medical-1 Electronic-1 Jack-o-T-1. The first gunner is Adannaya Oyiakwan. 797C84 Gunnery-3 Vacc Suit-1. Their turret has a pulse laser mounted. The second gunner is Pallaton. 436976 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1. Their turret has a pulse laser mounted. The third gunner is Ayashe. 8488A8 Gunnery-1 Shotgun-2 Laser Rifle-1 Cutlass-1. Their turret has a missile racks mounted. The fourth gunner is Yaw Sayyid. BB58A2 Gunnery-3 Vacc Suit-1 Ship’s Boat-1. Their turret has a missile racks mounted. The ship also transports a navy squad of eight: lieutenant Catherine Hattersley. 27C6A9 Navigation-2 Ship’s Boat-2 Electronic-1 Engineering-1 Admin-1; ensign Betty Farrow. 754676 Engineering-1 Ship’s Boat-1 Bayonet-1 Gunnery-1; private Táng Xiaobo. 657387 Gunnery-1 Electronic-1 Vacc Suit-1 Fwd Obsvr-1; ensign Bruce Boulton. 356876 Laser Rifle-2 Gunnery-1 Engineering-1 Fwd Obsvr-1; private Tokura Sadatoshi. 477368 Engineering-1 Cutlass-1 Electronic-1 Mechanical-1; ensign Kayla Seabaugh. 675784 Ship’s Boat-2 Jack-o-T-1 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1; private Baron Mpho Gnabry. C7A69C Ship’s Boat-2 Gunnery-1 Vacc Suit-1; private Wakino Takafumi. 7B4866 Vacc Suit-1 Engineering-1 Jack-o-T-1 Gunnery-1. The Silver Gazelle is currently looking for pirate ｢nearby crime boss｣.
I mean, it’s impressive. It’s cool. I can start reading. The pilot is of knightly rank! The name is cool. Engineer Fukashi is good with the foil. Did he compete? The ship has two pulse lasers and two missile racks mounted. Yikes! And those gunners. Gunner Ayashe is quite the weapon master. And then eight navy personnel!
I guess it’s cool if one day the part has to board one of them? Or join one of them as they assault a crime lord’s safe house?
But also… that’s a lot of text. A veritable wall of text.
If I knew that the target was a book, then I’d think about little icons to help the reader orient themselves. Better skimming! If I knew that the target was a browser, then I’d think about little CSS and JS tricks to fold stuff up, you’d see ship type, pilot, and mission; “show me more” gives you the crew positions and ship weapons, and the existence of a navy squad, with the lieutenant; a second “show me more” gives you the details of either crew stats or navy squad stats?
Or… it’s all too complicated anyway?