2021-02-10 How much generated information?

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?

Comments

Really good posts! I like the show me more idea, but you are right.

My favorite table tools are short lists of tables and NPCs.

Maybe keep the default short or and this is more complex, limit the amount of text generated and only display the extremes of the results. For example a Traveller character death. You could see more if you want it but the unique things are highlighted?

For example you could see the NPCs favorite color is red if you want but his dog having magic laser eyes is highlighted by default.

Good logic here, its an interesting question.

– Oliver 2021-02-10 16:44 UTC


Hehe. Perhaps I need some sort of highlighting, indeed!

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 missile racks mounted. The fourth gunner is Yaw Sayyid. BB58A2 Gunnery-3 Vacc Suit-1 Ship’s Boat-1. Their turret has 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 hesitate somewhat because I feel like “highlighting” is the kind of manual markup a reader would perform as part of making the text their own. At least when thinking of it as a printed object. It’s overstepping bounds between author and reader, somewhat?

– Alex 2021-02-10 17:24 UTC


Old school underlining?

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 missile racks mounted. The fourth gunner is Yaw Sayyid. BB58A2 Gunnery-3 Vacc Suit-1 Ship’s Boat-1. Their turret has 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」.

It’s subtle in my browser. 🤔

– Alex 2021-02-10 17:41 UTC


Could be sidestepping the readers role.

I read too much Ten Foot Pole, so take this with a Bryce sized grain of salt. Bryce always says its always better to give less first.

Its easier for the mind to fill in the vanilla, the spice is the GM fuel 😀

Defining GM fuel is an interesting question I don’t have an answer to.

It must have something to human psychology

– Oliver 2021-02-11 20:45 UTC


It’s true. Sometimes the words have to be pruned. I’ll just say that when I run a game, all the things I should look up, all the individual characters I want to create, but never do, because I’m at the table and I’m under a lot of pressure, all these things that I also don’t want to prep because they’re boring, I can now generate. So the thing is: what will I actually make use of at the table, even if it isn’t very original.

Compare the pirate base:

There is a naval base called Superior Warlocks in the system under captain Lokni, 47788A, Body Pistol-3 Ship’s Boat-2 Pilot-2 SMG-1 Admin-1 Electronic-1 Engineering-1 Jack-o-T-1. There are about 140 people at the base right now. If you need individuals, pick from the following squad led by lieutenant Jian Duyi, 93B492, Cutlass-3 Mechanical-1 Admin-1 Vacc Suit-1 Fwd Obsvr-1; private Chike Dudzai, B395B5, Revolver-2 Fwd Obsvr-1 Gunnery-1; ensign Unathi Diallo, A54689, Navigation-2 Shotgun-1 Computer-1 Vacc Suit-1; private Sù Qianfan, 9ACA78, Gunnery-1 Ship’s Boat-1 Mechanical-1; ensign Dame Yafiah Pachachi, B2739B, Gunnery-2 Navigation-1 Electronic-1 Mechanical-1; private Kou Lì, B66983, Vacc Suit-1 Fwd Obsvr-1 Ship’s Boat-1 Jack-o-T-1; private Ashley Buckby, B797B8, Laser Rifle-1 Engineering-1 Electronic-1 Auto Rifle-1; private Huang Wen, BA4658, Ship’s Boat-1 Fwd Obsvr-1 Engineering-1.

And this naval base:

There is a hidden pirate base in the system. The pirate captain is Abeytu, 384497, Dagger-1 Medical-1 Gambling-1. Their right hand is Baroness Fuchizaki Shuko, 8B632C, Forgery-1. There are 6 more pirates in the building, 777777, Shotgun-1.

I find the former much more interesting. I start thinking about the navy crew as the people on the Nostromo, or the Rocinante. The later pirates read like … cannon fodder. I’m not sure that’s how I’d like to run the game. I can’t replace orcs and goblins with pirates. This is what disturbs me about Star Wars these days: all the stormtroopers dying left and right, the senselessness of all the massacres. So I’d definitely not want my game to go there.

Just today @wandererbill mentioned Traveller combat and mentioned how it was complicated and perhaps it could be replaced by an opposed 2d6 roll. Perhaps. Perhaps it could. But then again, perhaps I need more experience. If the end effect is that for most situations violence is a 50% chance of a one-shot death (or at least heavy wounds that take a long time to heal), then we can use that for role-play: everybody is afraid of a fight and ready to negotiate. For that to work, the world must react appropriately to people in full body armour moving around the setting, though. And then having individual squad members might make the game more interesting. Also, potential allies are more interesting they are individualised, so perhaps spending space on navy seals is better than spending it on pirates. Or perhaps rogues would appreciate interesting casinos and thieves’ dens, too? For that Han Solo campaign?

– Alex 2021-02-11 22:25 UTC


I do totally get what you mean.

I like the details to keep NPCs human.

I think the largest feedback I can give here is that the 2nd example stuck in my head more.

With the first example my eyes got lost in the details and drifted.

Maybe some sort of click to expand function?

That does limit Hex Describes ability to export those super sweet PDFs though...

Maybe with PDF export have the details moved to a footnote section of the PDF

You do raise interesting points

– Oliver 2021-02-12 04:09 UTC


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