Random Events – Going Off-Script in Masks of Nyarlathotep

Since the dawn of role-playing games, random event and encounter tables have been available as tools for gamemasters to fill time and space during play. This campaign requires ongoing, dedicated preparation, so it can be nice to toss out a simple encounter and improvise. Empty travel time can suddenly become an opportunity to interactively illustrate the world your players inhabit. A lull in the action at the table can spontaneously be disrupted. Or a missed clue can be revealed in a chance encounter. The campaign book provides two random event tables, including a wonderfully detailed d10 table in Egypt for complications encountered en route to Nyarlathotep’s Chamber (p.352). A second random encounter table can be found in Australia for travel events in the Great Sandy Desert (p. 478). We would like to expand the list of potential random events to cover the remaining chapters throughout the campaign with a selection of location-specific tables. The links below will direct you to each chapter’s encounter tables once they’ve posted. For future reference, these links will also be found under each chapter’s deep dive section. 

  • Peru
  • NYC
  • England
  • Egypt
  • Kenya
  • Australia
  • China

If you despise random encounters or believe they belong only in dungeon-crawling TTRPG action, consider some of our thoughts below before completely dismissing these potentially fruitful Keeper tools. You may alternatively prefer to think of them as spontaneous or improvisational encounters, that can disrupt linear play, which some players may occasionally perceive as railroading.

Hit ’em with the whammy!

First, you may reference tables to construct an unexpected event, which is concise, but evocative. This Keeper tool, which we like to call a whammy at Prospero House, can be easily deployed by drawing from an event table. By doing so, the Keeper can easily add richness to scenes and surroundings while stimulating responsive player action.

Second, no randomization required! As mentioned above, the tables can be used as a reference to inspire or improvise events at any point by selecting the most appropriate or appealing event off the table. The tables simply provide a selection of location-specific idea nuggets for the Keeper to expand upon or modify according to personal preference. If you do choose to randomize, but prefer not to improvise on your end, you can pre-roll (or select) your events before your session allowing some time to brainstorm.

Third, not all events need to be conflict or combat. We like to include character development events on our tables, allowing the roleplaying spotlight to fall on the players, so they may engage with their PC’s background. Personal events transpiring outside of the campaign can potentially interrupt investigative efforts, and offer a reminder that a world exists outside of their adventure. Responding to a telegram or a phone call can break up scenes without completely disrupting the flow of play, as well as allow your characters to continue developing their personal stories. 

Finally, a single random event can become a major campaign touchstone encounter either by unexpected player action or intentional Keeper crafting. For example, a quick pickpocket encounter in Cairo may result in forgiving Investigators befriending a scrappy young local boy, who can offer to guide them between encounters and serve as their translator. This random encounter NPC may grow to become a beloved side character, who could either fall victim to cultists or become a PC when the need arises. 

If you remain unconvinced, we suggest you just give it a try once, perhaps selecting your favorite encounter, dropping it into play, and improvising along with your players. Alternatively, completely ignore or revise the provided tables. Instead of referring to a table, you can simply extract some event seeds throughout your prepared session and chapter material at selected intervals. 

Do you have an alternative to random event tables? Or do you simply prefer to use the wealth of campaign material already available to you? 


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