I’ve just run a session of Vaults of Vaarn, the weird science fantasy RPG from Leo Hunt. It’s one of my favorite settings, with lots of Dying Earth, post-apocalyptic flavor to it.
To prepare for the session, I used the region generation method from the Vaults of Vaarn #3 zine, which details wilderness adventures. It includes tables for creating your own wilderness region, full of ruins, lairs, and settlements. It’s a nice way of quickly generating a small area, along with plot seeds for your players.
Honestly, you don’t really need to be running Vaults of Vaarn to get use of out it – it’d work fine with any post-apocalypse RPG – Mutant Future, Gamma World, Mutant Crawl Classics, etc.
First, you roll a bunch of twenty-side dice onto a sheet of paper, circle each die, and record the value. Each of these represents a location, and the value is the type of location. You also make lines between the locations to represent travel routes, and randomly determine the distance in days.
I used six D20s and here’s the map I came up with.
I rolled on a landscape table and came up with Winding Canyons. I decided that this region would be a maze-like area of twisty canyons, difficult to navigate through. The locals would simply call it the Labyrinth.
For each type of location, there are generation tables, to give you the basics. You’ll need to flesh out the details. Here’s what I rolled for each location, and how I expanded them.
Location: Sheltered Valley
Who Trades Here? Pious Synths
What is Traded? Livestock
NPC Conflict: Owner of the Trade Post / Unpaid Debt/ Brawny Youth
Black Lizard Valley
A quiet religious community of synths, who worship Gaea, the Titan. They raise Weeping Lizards for sale to travelers in the Labyrinth.
They loathe violence, but are willing to hire outsiders to deal with bandits and bands of cacklemaw who occasionally raid their herds.
Azax-11, the CFO of the community, is currently trying to collect a debt from Topaz-7, a headstrong young synth. Topaz-7 doesn’t have the funds, and is getting a little desperate.
The Houses: Hanging from a Cliff
Local Industry: Agriculture (Fungi)
Notable Structure: Glowering Autarch Statue
Government: Council of Elders
Mood of Populace: Divided
Community Lacks: Security
NPC Conflict: Despised Artisan, Known for Shoddy Work / Adultery / Naïve and Trusting Resident
A large agricultural community carved into the living rock beneath the overhang of a large cliff. The shade of the cliff is used to protect the rich fungal gardens that hang down from the cliff face, providing the economic backbone of the town.
Some of the fungi are fluorescent, and provide the town with a dim purple glow through the night, serving as streetlights.
In the center of town is a statue of Dozius the Odd, an ancient, but little-respected Autarch. Some believe Dozius has a tomb full of treasure and artifacts somewhere in the Labyrinth.
The town is ruled by a council of elders, consisting of the most prosperous farmers in town. There’s currently a conflict on the council, in response to increased bandit activity against trade caravans. One faction wants to negotiate with the bandits, while another wants to hire mercenaries.
A corrupt beetle-wright named Lotan has been carrying out an affair with the wife of a much respected farmer. Someone’s been blackmailing him about this, and he wants to find out who.
Archive Of: Play Scripts
The Archivists: Pedantic and Rude
They Want: Rare Object Retrieved From Elsewhere in Vaarn
The House of Tales
A beautiful series of gardens, broken up by various open-air stages. The Playwrights, who run this community, spend all of their time writing and performing ever more elaborate plays. They use the voluminous holographic library as source material for their plays. The library is found in a crystalline dome in the center of the garden.
The playwrights are dismissive of anyone not in their artistic community, referring to most outsiders as rubes, or provincials. They will only allow visitors brief visits to the Archive, in exchange for a favor.
The community is defended by the well-armed Stagehands.
The Playwrights currently want an artifact to be recovered from the science mystic Andros in the Vault location in exchange for access to the Archive. (GM can choose any artifact – I used the Retrocognitive Mask from the Relics of Vaarn supplement by Jacob Marks)
The Water: Still and Glassy
What’s Here: Flowering Bushes / Broken Pillar
Who’s Here: Bounty Hunter
Custom of the Oasis: Laughter is Prohibited
Bounty Hunter: Flamboyant Old Woman / Oath Breaker / Reliable Informants / Help Killing Dangerous Monster
The Pool of Solemnity
A quiet pool of water, surrounded by beautiful bushes, with bright multicolored blooms. A broken pillar alongside the pool is inscribed with the phrase “No Laughter” in dozens of different languages, many no longer known.
A gaily-dressed old woman named Triana is camped here. She is a bounty hunter, currently seeking a disgraced Hegemony official who has fled into the Labyrinth after some complicated-sounding political scandal. She’s seeking to bring him back alive for a substantial reward.
The fugitive is hiding in a wrecked Hegemony skiff on a nearby rocky outcrop. It’s close to a lair of Pseudo-Giants, so Triana needs the players help to fight her way past them to get her fugitive. She offers to reward the players for their help.
Entrance: Functioning Lift
Tunnels: Lightless and Dank
Original Function: Bioweapon Research
Other Feature: Science-Mystic’s Abode
Science Mystic: Transparent / Way too Friendly / Language Virus / ‘Volunteers’ for Experimentation
A flat metallic disc, level with the ground. If trod upon, it will descend down into the dark vault below. The vault is a series of lightless spherical chambers, mostly containing clear tanks of an unknown liquids. Various dead creatures of unknown origin float in the tanks. Mysterious equipment litters most chambers.
The science mystic Andros dwells here, in a floating transparent cube. He will be quite friendly and welcoming (almost too friendly)
He possesses a number of ancient artifacts, including whatever the Playwrights of the House of Tales are looking for. He’ll be happy to exchange an artifact, in return for the players agreeing to volunteer for an experiment – trying a new Language Virus pill.
What happens if you take the Language Virus pill:
|7-8||Mute – Loses the ability to speak for 1d20 days|
|9-10||Logorrhea – can’t stop speaking for 1d20 days|
|11-12||Volume Control – Randomly shouts or whispers every utterance. Roll a D6: 1-3 Whisper 4-6 shout. Lasts 1d20 days|
|13-14||Echolalia – Repeats everything other people say for 1d20 days|
|15-16||Glossolalia – Speaks only gibberish for 1d20 days|
|17-18||Coprolalia – Constant swearing for 1d20 days|
|19||Forgets an old language|
|20||Learns a new language|
Inhabitants: Hegemony Deserters
Abundance: Musical Instruments
A band of dissident artists, mostly musicians, have fled here to avoid the oppressive censors and cultural control of the New Hegemony. They found an abandoned agricultural arcology and have made it their refuge.
They brought everything they needed to thrive, but they forgot the incredibly strong Hegemony coffee beans that they are all somewhat addicted to. It’s beginning to be a problem.