I unironically love dungeons.
Now, I use a pretty broad definition of “dungeon.” In fact, I’ve written whole series of articles about what I consider to be dungeons, in ttRPG terms.
But part of a cool dungeon is a cool name. And, I love creating name generators. So while I don’t claim this article can name every dungeon in all of fantasy gaming, it can certainly create more names than any one campaign world can use.
Using the Generator
Roll 1d6 to determine how to generate your dungeon name.
1-2: Start with “The,” then roll once on Table 1 and once on table 2.
3-5: Roll once on Table 2, add “of,” then roll once on table 3.
6: Start with “The,” then roll once on Table 1 and once on table 2, add “of”, then roll once on table 3.
Table 1 (Roll 1d100)
19-20: Demon Queen’s
94-95: White Plume
Table 2 (Roll 1d100)
Table 3 (Roll 1d100)
04-06: the Archmage
07-10: the Borderlands
11-13: Broken Souls
20-22: the Drow
23-25: Elemental Evil
29-31: the Feathered Serpent
32-34: the Forgotten King
35-37: the Frog
38-40: the Frost Gant Jarl
44-46: the Ghouls
56-58: the Horned ________ (roll on Table 4)
68-70: the Necromancer
77-79: The Ravenous Moon
86-88: the Serpentfolk
89-91: the Shadowfell
99-100: the Winter King
Table 4 (Roll 1d6)
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Sometimes a GM just wants a few names to drop into a campaign to help give a sense of a lived-in universe. Here are 5 name brands for use in your Starfinder campaigns, focusing on being interesting and memorable, rather than worrying much about game rules. Though if a GM wants to add the kinds of manufacturer rules presented in Starfinder Armory, these are great brands to that kind of additional work.
Each brand is presented in the following format.
Name: The brand’s common, public-facing name.
Tagline: The marketing phrase most associated with the brand. Much to advertising companies’ frustration, this may or may not be from any of the last few marketing campaigns. For example, Skitter-Minder’s “Need a hand? Have six!” targline is literally more than a century old, and despite there being 11 different ad campaigns since it was last used, it’s still the phrase everyone thinks of
Business ventures: Name brands are generally associated with one or more business ventures, be that stores, goods for sale, or services. A brief description of each brand’s most common ventures is listed here, though sometimes a brand will try to branch out in weird ways, like Rezort beast jerky, or Uberdar-clowns for children’s parties.
The EATABLES brand makes cheap, shelf-stable, bland food that can be safely consumed by 417 known sapient species, are legal in all known settlements and worlds, and are acceptable foodstuffs under 2,639 sets of religious rules. The two most common product lines are EATABLE Paste (a nutrient goo that comes in squeeze tubes), and EATABLE Wafers (flat disks that dissolve in the mouth, and if mixed with water can be turned into EATABLE Paste).
On the one hand, no one is happy to end up with just EATABLES as rations. on the other hand, everyone prefers it to starving, and they are dense, last centuries without spoilage, and are gentle on the stomach.
“Always formal. Always comfortable. Always durable. Always… Gathicca.”
Gathicca is a fashion clothing brand that originally focused on the kalo fashionista market, but has since spread to dozens of other cultures. Because intermixing societies from scores of worlds can make it difficult to determine what is “formalwear,” Gathicca has had surprising success by simply claiming anything made by Gathicca is always considered formal. While there’s no real basis for such a claim, it makes diplomatic dinners between different species so much easier, it’s just generally been accepted without challenge.
“Fight down to your last Resort!”
Rezort brand ammo is literally resizing ammunition. It costs the same as heavy rounds, but can be loaded into weapons that accept small arms rounds, longarm rounds, scattergun shells, darts, flechettes, and heavy weapon rounds. Sadly it can’t act as petrol or batteries, but hey.
Many emergency kits include 20 Rezort rounds.
“Need a hand? Have six!”
Skitter-Minder is a trademark associated with two linked but different business ventures. The first, and most popular, is the Skitte-Minder line of virtual personality digital assistants. Available both as independent datapad-like devices and programs you can upload to any tier 1 or higher computer, the Skitter-Minders are famously helpful and deferential-that latter a fact some actual skittermanders object to as perpetuating a stereotype. The Skitter-Minder’s main claim to fame is that each pda displays no more than six areas of concern on its front screen-one for each digital hand. While you can open more screens to see additional areas of concern, the Skitter-Minder philosophy is that really, if you need help with more than six ongoing concerns at once, you need something more than a pda. The most popular model of Skitter-Minder is a plush, furry, 6-armed datapad that doubles as a pilow.
Skitter-Minder’s second business is Critter-Manders, small stores often located in open-air shopping complexes and starports, where a living person (the “Critter”) can be hired on an hourly basis for assistance with nearly anything. The critters aren;t experts in everything, but famously are great at using InfoSpheres to find people who ARE experts in nearly any topic. Critters happily assist with everything from minor repairs to wording poetry and love-letters. They may not be the best at what they do, but if you think you need help, they can probably find it.
Ironically, there are almost no skittermanders involved in the Skitter-Minder companies.
“Divine Prices. Secular Requirements.”
Essentially, Uberdar makes slightly cheaper versions of everything AbadarCorp makes, at roughly the same level of quality. While many people suggest that spoofing a god’s name is a bad idea for a corporation, priests of Abadar note that as long as Uberdar doesn’t also duplicate their trade dress, the practice is fair and approved by the god of commerce.
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One of the most challenging jobs of a GM is to serve as the describer of everything the PCs experience in the fictional game world. This is especially true when the GM wants to convey information through those descriptions–it’s one thing to say a tavern smells stale, and another to say the stale mix of herbal sachets on the walls and sawdust and straw scattered across the floor can’t quite cover the lingering coppery scent of spilled blood, watered-down mead, and urine that permeates the main room.
Lots of advances in gaming have been made with visuals and soundboards. Between being able to do internet searches for interesting visuals and great sound-effect programs designed specifically for ttRPGs (such as Syrinscape, who I love but have no association with), it’s pretty easy for a GM to be able to skip needing to describe sights and sounds. But what about taste, touch, and smell? Just a single extra description for each major element of an encounter can go a long way to both adding immersion, and conveying clues the PCs have a chance to pick up on. If you link any unusual sensation to a specific element within your game, players will often pick up on it and use it as another clue to use to experience and understand your world.
Taste: The most obvious time to describe taste is when PCs eat or drink something, and many ttRPGs have more than enough potions, oils, and magic cupcakes to make this a useful sense to think about in advance. A GM can make the identification of some potent potables easy by deciding healing potions all smell like honeysuckle and mint, or that ungol dust has a distinctive acidic bite in the back of the throat. If the GM doesn’t want to be that easy and consistent, it can still be fun to add taste elements to specific kinds of potion — perhaps potions made by clerics tend to have a strong medicine taste, those made by druids are usually overwhelmingly herb-flavored, and those made by alchemists tend to have a powerful saccharine-sweetness to them. That doesn’t tell PCs exactly what a potion does, but it does become an interesting piece of information that can help the game world feel more well-rounded.
The other fun use for taste is for things that impact the PCs to impact their sense of taste without being directly connected to eating or drinking. Maybe a mummy’s curse makes you constantly get a taste of dust in your mouth, or getting a serum of invulnerability injected into your system causes you to feel like you are licking oiled steel. Powerful smells can be tasted as well, so the rotting meat scent of the zombie bloom may also cause those near it to taste raw mushroom flavors in the air, or the choking smokebomb actually tastes like black pepper.
Touch: PCs don’t often rub their bare skin against adventure site walls and monster hides, so things like smooth, rough, sharp, fluffy, and sticky may not come into play often. But touch can also express things like temperature, and feedback from hitting things with weapons. One of the most successful descriptions of a foe I ever gave noted that while the creature seemed to be a hunched humanoid under a ragged veil and cloak, when a PC hit it with their sword, it felt like chopping into green woo. There was give as the blade chopped into the creature’s flesh, but it was far tougher than any human or even monstrous skin, muscles,and tendons.
Similarly, if touching a glowing sword makes a chill run down a character’s spine, or grabbing a Xorarcan plasma-lance makes any other humanoid’s fingertips tingle, that can be great descriptive information. If a character makes a saving throw against a gaze attack that makes their eyes itch, the player has reason to suspect a failed save results in blindness. If even approaching the stone archway covered in glowing runs makes it seem like the ground it tilting away from you, it suggests the gate may be tied to movement of some kind.
Smell: In many ways smell is just taste at a greater range, so all the taste notes apply here as well. But smell is also one of the most powerful senses for evoking primal fears–we evolved to know that the smell or rot is bad, the smell of blood is dangerous, and the smell of smoke calls for caution. Smell can be used to give clues to some kinds of deception–the high ghoul illusionist can make herself look like a human, but needs to use heavy perfume to cover the scent of the grave; the stench coming from the locally feared Troglodyte Clans Cave is bad, but not THAT bad; the bandits in the tavern smell like chili peppers, ebcause they infuse their boots with pepper oil so guard dogs can’t follow their scent.
Smells can also be fun because they can carry varying distances depending on local conditions, and what they promise is not always what they deliver. If the scent of fresh-backed pastries wafts tantalizingly through the woods, are the PCs about to stumble on a halfling village, or a giant baker that literally grinds human bones to make his bread? Is the smell of honey just a pleasant spring scent, a warning sign of giant paper wasps moving into the dense wilderness, or the smell of an undead mellified man about to round the corner and attack?
Conclusion: You don’t have to go crazy with secondary senses, but adding the description of a single noteworthy taste, touch, or smell in each major encounter can help round out the sense of what your game world is like.
Patreon: Okay, I admit it does not taste like honey or smell like nectar, but if you support by blog writing by joining my Patreon, I’ll certainly think it’s sweet!
If there’s one thing I think is most likely to trip up new GMs when they design their own adventures, it’s that they tend to design them front-to-back. That is, most GMs (and adventure writers) I see who begin creating adventures from scratch for the first time want to write the first encounter first, the second encounter second, and so on.
Now, that makes a lot of sense on the surface. That’s the order gamers encounter other people’s adventures in, so it’s a familiar pacing. Also, it means that if you plan to have 4 game sessions worth of adventure, you only have to do the first 4 encounters of work before you can run the first session. No need to design more than you need for the next game night, right?
Look, that works great for a lot of GMs, and if it works for you, more power to you. There are absolutely advantages to that system, and lots of ways to make it work to your advantage. But for many GMs, it means they introduce a problem and the mystery and the clues… before they know what the mystery is, or what the clues are supposed to be pointing to. That often works fine when you first introduce elements — everyone has seen the stories where the map has a big blank spot, or the detective finds mud they are sure is important, or the prophecy only makes sense after it’s fulfilled. So if you tell the ranger that yes, the site of the bandit attack has lots of wolf and goblin footprints, but on top of all of those are sharped bits of wood, as though from a whittled stick, which was done 2-3 hours after the bandit attack, players will file that away as an important clue for later.
Which is great–if you ether have a rough idea what you are doing (so you can make up clues that’ll fit in) or are good at bringing things together in the last few chapters even if you had no idea what you are doing when you leave a clue. But if you’re GREAT at coming with evocative and intriguing set dressing, but terrible at connecting them together after-the-fact, the end game of your adventures may be much more stressful and dissatisfying than you’d like.
For such GMs, writing your adventure backwards can make things much easier.
For example, let’s say you decide the end villain of your adventure is an evil ranger, who riles up local wilderness threats, directs them at farms and villages, and then charges those settlements money to “solve” the problems he’s creating. You give him a couple of personality quirks — he’s arrogant, handsome, and can whittle small wooden symbols that anger specific kinds of wildlife. You want a fight with him to end your advneture.
You want some investigation in town to happen just before that fight. So you create an event rh PCs could investigate once they are suspicious enough. You decide the ranger runs a protection racket, but a newcomer bard was becoming suspicious. So the ranger poisoned a local goblin tribe with herbs that make them battle-mad. Then he faked a note from the goblins to the bard making it seems the goblins wanted to tell the bard something important. When the bard went to where the note indicated, the herb-maddened goblins killed the bard. The ranger came by after the battle, whittling more of his magic traps, and stole the bard’s gear.
With that in place, it’s easy to see how the Ps get involved. Locals think the attacks are getting worse, and that the ranger isn’t enough to deal with them anymore. They hire PCs to help, but the PCs keep finding evidence of an unseen figure behind the attacks. You can have them fight some maddened animals the ranger sends after them hoping the PCs will be killed, have them ask folks what might have riled the animals, get told the new bard asked similar questions before being killed by goblins, seek ut the bard’s hidden notes because the bard was already onto the ranger, get pointed at the ranger, want to find the bard’s loot so they search the ranger’s hut and find it, then confront the ranger. Easy.
It may not solve all adventure problems, but often working backwards from the end is the easy way to decide what clues and story beats the PCs will find as they move forward through the adventure.
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