Restaurant and Coffee House Generators

So, the DIY scene has produced tons of great bar/pub and inn generators, and Yoon-Suin's got Tea Houses, but I'm more of a coffee guy myself, and as mentioned in my previous post about carousing, I loves me some good food, so I wanted to come up with some generators for other types of social establishments.

In Vornheim, Zak gives the excellent advice of always having four bars/taverns/drinking establishments ready to go for a session, because those are the sorts of places PCs are likely to visit and that NPCs are likely to be found. I wanted to branch out and create some places that have different feels. Bars and taverns are where you go to meet new people, inns are places you can stay if you don't have an apartment, restaurants a little more "fluffy" for when you go carousing, but still have some adventure hooks, and coffee houses are where you go to learn stuff.

The idea is that any of these can just be a name and some feature that makes it noteworthy, but if the players take an interest in any of them, they can slot right into the overall approach for creating intrigue and adventure hooks. The "Known For" column is mostly just there to make it memorable and may or may not have any game effect (like an "appearance" column in an NPC generator), whereas the "Spice" column is meant to be more directly gameable (some source of conflict or desires that PCs can get mixed up in). As with previous Fellhold generator, the hassled ref can proceed left to right and only use the columns they need.

Without further ado, I present the Restaurant and Coffee House Generators I've prepared for Fellhold.

Coffee House Generator
Coffee Houses are a major part of Fellhold social life, serving as the main meeting place of intellectuals, radicals, and socialites alike. While various varieties of regular coffee are the main beverage served, some houses specialize in more powerful brews. 

Name Part 1
Name Part 2
Known For
Comfortable and plentiful seating
Secretly the headquarters for a random conspiracy
Quiet and respectful patrons
The up and coming leadership of the district’s controlling faction hang out here
Loud and occasionally heated discussions
Stocks an impressive library, for a coffee house (generate a library)
Meeting place for radicals
Owner is looking to introduce some more extreme versions of coffee, needs help procuring it
Meeting place for influential patrons
Locus for a powerful demon
Meeting place for a particular sort of sage
Owner is in a squabble with their powerful and dangerous suppliers
Meeting place for players of a popular board game
Sits on a powerful ley line - magic is more intense when cast here
Especially potent coffee
Has a deal with one of the Witch Kings to supply their household with coffee on a regular basis
Really terrible coffee, but great prices
Has an unusually useful bulletin board - 1d3 district rumors available every week
Has a lovely bakery
The art on the walls is actually quite good and probably worth more than the prices next to them
Scenic views
There’s a secret room in the back where they serve the good stuff
Friendly and attractive staff
Owner is blackmailing a wealthy customer based on some secrets overheard or illicit trysts had in the coffee house
Rude and disdainful (but attractive) staff
Owner is planning to burn the place down and collect the insurance money
Also has a full bar
One of the employees is a spy for a rival faction of the district’s controlling faction
Quirky and eclectic decoration
Something has gone wrong with one of the coffee varieties served here, and it is slowly driving customers mad
Where all the cool people go
Hosts weekly meetings of a tedious but powerful social organization
Working class customers
By long custom, considered neutral ground by all factions
Exotic brews
Owner is a powerful witch
Ingredients come from some remarkable source
Owner wants to get out of the business and sell the place, looking for a buyer
Students go there to study
Is secretly a lair

Restaurant Generator
The people of Fellhold enjoy a variety of dining options and regularly patronize a large number of restaurants. Each race is known for their own ethnic foods, but most people enjoy most other types of food.

RollName Part 1Name Part 2Type of FoodKnown ForSpice
1(Owner's Name)'sTableRatmenTheir famous head chefTheir star dish is made of people
2DynamitePigCrabmenAmazingly Delicious FoodA major faction official eats here regularly, and a rival faction is trying to poison them - by subtly poisoning all of the food
3WoodenBowlHalf-DwarfHuge portionsThey actually do put an addictive chemical in the food to make you crave it fortnightly
4CopperPlateWitch KingdomRare specialityLosing money, the owner is desperate for a way to save it
5EmptyKitchenFellhold FusionImpeccable serviceOwner requires a rare ingredient for a special festival meal - it can only be found in one of the more dangerous ruined districts
6FullForkSeafoodRequires reservations months in advanceHired to cater a major event for the district’s controlling faction, need extra help, willing to pay pretty well
7Butcher'sBlockCured MeatsHole in the wall - a classicExcellent take out service - you can get high quality rations from them for a reasonable price
8Lumberjack'sDinerMeat PiesCheap and fast serviceA family member of the owner has gone missing - they suspect their biggest rival is behind it
9BrickOvenNoodlesFavorite restaurant of an important patronOwner is losing business to a rival - they want someone to do something about it
10Chef'sKnifeSweet PiesLong wait timesOwner has a crazy idea to open another location with the same menu and same name but totally different staff. They think they could repeat it multiple times.
11TrickyCookeryCakesRomantic ambienceTerms of very specific and very strange loan used to found the business are coming do - owner doesn’t know how to meet them
12GreasyPanSoupsWorking class jointA troll has taken up residence in one of the booths and won’t stop ordering (and eating) food - everyone is terrified to bring it the check or tell it to leave
13TastySkilletFlapjacksThere are several locations around the cityLocation is locus of an up and coming demon - it is doing everything it can to enhance the restaurant’s popularity to boost its power
14BurnedHandStir FryHigher class version of usually cheap foodA witch has taken work as a cook there, and they are mixing subtle herbs into the meals which have the effect of Charm Person if enough meals are eaten there 
15SweetSpoonDumplingsLower end version of usually fancy foodHaunted by the founder, grandparent of current owner. Not dangerous, but terribly annoying, owner would like it put to rest.
16SaltyLadRoasted MeatsJust opened, everybody wants to check it outPeople keep dying in the restaurant - owner swears its not the food and wants someone to investigate
17SaucyLassBurgersHas some kind of obnoxious themeCook staff is made up entirely of zombie slaves - the witch that controls them is jockeying for a bigger cut
18FatCookSandwichesTerrible, rude serviceUnknown to the owner, staff are selling drugs to customers
19BoiledEggAll Things EggFood is awful, but trendy for some reasonChef has heard rumors of ancient, delicious recipe and will pay well for someone that can recover it from the depths of the Royal Library
20SecretFlameSteakIt’s a “secret” - someone has to tell you about itIs secretly a lair

Why I've Been Quiet on Google+

After this quick post, we'll get back to the real gaming content. I just wanted to post this somewhere that I could link to it and anyone interested could find it.

TL;DR - Trying to get a hold of me on G+ probably won't work, email me if you want to talk

So, if you have me in your circles in Google Plus, you may have noticed that over the last few months I've been rather quiet. You might even have tagged me into something and I never responded. If so, I'm quite sorry! The short version for why I've pulled back from social media is that I read this book: Deep Work . 

It's fantastic, by the way. I've been applying the advice in it not only to work but also to working on RPG material, and that's why you've seen the resurgence of Fellhold posts here the last few weeks.

Anyway, one of the things it recommends is to be more selective with what online tools you engage with, especially social media. It's custom tailored content that is personally addressed to you, doled out in unpredictable intervals - that's pretty much the textbook method of operant conditioning to get people to constantly pay attention. 

Now, Google Plus is probably the least worst of these sites, especially when it comes to Old School-ish/DIY RPG discussion - there's a ton of great, high-value discussions and collaborations going on there. And if you're in my circles talking about that stuff, I love you guys (and gals). But I found myself doing nothing RPG-related but talking on Google Plus, and I realized that wasn't what I wanted.

So, I made the decision to turn off all my Google Plus notifications and stop checking the site. I'm still using it to share when I post new blog posts, because I know not everyone has the same approach as me. But for the next little while, blogs and published books are going to be the hobby stuff that I read.

If you want to talk games, hit up my email through my G+ profile, or leave a comment on a blog post. If you want to have a discussion with lots of people, I'm happy to jump into specific G+ threads - I mostly just want to avoid the constant checking for what's new. 

If you're interested in reading my stuff, one of the points of this approach is to force myself to think harder about my game thoughts, rather than firing off the first thing to pop into my head in a G+ post. That means writing it out in blog posts and putting them here. So, stay tuned.

Fine Dining Carousing Table

One of the things I enjoy the most about living in a big city, and look forward to the most when visiting another city, is the food. Honestly, I'd say most of my enjoyment of a vacation comes down to how good the food I get to eat on it is. What's the point of going somewhere beautiful or culturally important if you're eating bland crap while you're there?

So for me, an important aspect of getting Fellhold to feel like a city is to make food matter. When it comes to dungeon crawling or traditional exploration, I like approaches like Gus's on the HMS Apollyon or Arnold's where you link eating rations to recovery of HP or exhaustion - it makes intuitive sense, and it ties food into something that players already deeply care about, and does so in a way that meshes with the core rhythm of the game (exploration rounds, fights, et cetera).

Where I see a bit of a gap in these excellent rules, though, is in linking food with the experience of living in a place (Gus has some mention of food in his living cost rules here which I had totally forgotten about when I wrote my own lifestyle rules). I tried to work in some mention of food in those lifestyle rules, but it didn't provide much flavor (pun definitely intended). And then I had a wonderful realization: carousing tables.

See, I had already come up with the idea of having several different carousing tables for players to choose from, with different costs and effects.  As I started building them out, I realized they are a great way to convey "fluff" about the city without boring exposition or description. And I decided that going out and eating well ought to be one of the ways you can carouse. So I present to you the Fine Dining carousing table.

(Rules note: it works like standard carousing rules - players commit to carouse before they roll the cost, they make some kind of test to see if they have to roll on the mishap table, and they gain XP equal to the cost regardless. The mishap table is full of wacky shenanigans and adventure hooks.)

Fine Dining
Seeking out the best food and drink the city has to offer and enjoying it immensely. Risks primarily include stumbling into unwanted situations, eating something questionable, or offending influential cooks.
Cost: D4 x 100 Silver Skillings
Test: Constitution Check
Man, ratmen really do deserve their reputation as the finest cooks. Your meal was perfectly cooked, delicately seasoned, and the portions were just right. On the way to the bathroom, though, you accidentally looked into the kitchen. The owners don’t want word getting out the secret ingredient is human children, and they’re after you.
Really, the pork chop was a bit dry, and you didn’t come here for dry pork chops, so you sent it back. Now one of the city’s most prominent chefs has sworn a blood feud with you.
After the pre-dinner cocktail, the bottle of wine with the meal (excellent, really), and the chef’s recommended aperitif, the suggestion to head to a bar sounds great. Roll on the drinking mishaps table.
People have been telling you to try half dwarf food for ages, and man are you glad you did, it was spicy and delicious. But you’re not so happy the next day, or the day after. -1 to all rolls due to gastro-intenstinal difficulties for two days.
Your first foray into crabmen food was a great success! Beautifully plated, and despite your initial skepticism, the raw, aged meat was quite flavorful, and their noodles are to die for. But apparently it didn’t sit so well with you. -1 to all rolls for two days from food poisoning.
While eating at the nicest Ratmen restaurant in the city, you overhear two prominent members of a major faction discussing their plans over dinner, and they notice you noticing. You’re not sure that people have been following you since, but you definitely think so.
Tieflings don’t really have their own food culture, but damn they are good at fusion. Unfortunately, they must literally do something magical, as you now have some minor mutation.
This quaint little lumberjack restaurant is so authentic. So authentic, in fact, that a fight breaks out in the middle of the dining room! Roll on the violence mishaps table. 
Those were the best pancakes you’ve ever had in your life! When you excitedly bring your friends back to check it out, you find nobody there and the place is all smashed up.
No, no, it can’t be! Your favorite restaurant, it’s closed! The owner and cook just couldn’t afford the rent payments any more, and he doesn’t think he can start over somewhere without a loan.
You unwisely decided to take on the monster melt - three feet and four pounds of meat, cheese, and bread, with all the fixins. The good news is, your next meal is free, because you finished. The bad news is that can’t fit into any of your clothes comfortably for a week. -1 to any dexterity related tasks due to lingering discomfort.
In order to get a table at that secret pop-up restaurant, you had to promise a major favor to someone shady. You owe a job to a random NPC. Oh, and the food was alright, but the privilege of telling everyone that couldn’t get in how great it was was definitely worth it.
Turns out you’re terribly allergic to something that was in that meal. Your max HP is reduced by 1 for a week as you recover.
You send your compliments to the chef, and when they come out to personally thank you, well, your mutual passion for food turns into plain old mutual passion. Roll on the Sex mishaps table, but you have a new contact that is totally into you.
On a whim, you try a new place, and it is absolutely amazing. Your new favorite restaurant. Ask the referee to place it in one of the districts as a place of interest and detail the owner/cook as an NPC.
You overhear some mighty interesting things at that street food cart you love so much. Roll a rumor from the city-wide rumor table.
A casual conversation over dinner turns into a disagreement, which turns into a fierce debate, and you just know you’re right, but you need proof. Roll on the Study mishaps table.
Ugh, that was disgusting, how can these people eat this? Randomly determine one of the races of Fellhold - you can’t stomach their food, and you’ll even have trouble keeping it down to stave off starvation.
Your palate has become too refined and jaded, and plain food just won’t do it for you anymore. Receive half the benefit from normal rations, or spend 1.5 times as much for fancy rations that meet your standards. This effect is cumulative if rolled again.
What the hell is going on in the back room? Turns out this noodle shop is a front for a random conspiracy. 

Conspiracy Generator for Fellhold

I was pretty skeptical of myself when I set out to write this section. Initially, I just planned on including some guidance that basically said "go read the section of Night's Black Agents about conspiracies and make something up for your city. But with all of the other generators I've been writing, it just seemed to go against the ethos I've been following of "make tools that people can use or ignore as they like".

Initially, I was at a bit of a loss on how conspiracies fit into my conception of Fellhold: it's a pretty anarchic place with no real government and where fairly awful people and things openly do their business - so why would a group with a crackpot idea be a conspiracy and not just a faction? But then I realized there's always somebody who would find secrecy useful, and that spurred me on to think of a number of different reasons the conspiracy might want to stay secret.

So I ended up with a few tables I'm pretty happy with. I think that many of the results are easily adaptable outside of Fellhold, and if nothing else the column headers provide a pretty good blue print for what you need to define for a conspiracy. And the name generator is gleefully abstract and obtuse, so I think it should work in just about any setting.

With all the demons, undead, ratmen, and factional conniving going on, Fellhold has several conspiracies. A conspiracy is any group of people (and/or monsters) pursuing its goals in secret. Where the power structure, overall goals, and membership in factions is generally open knowledge, conspiracies are purposely hidden. They may be entirely undertaken by members of a faction, such as pursuing that faction’s secret goals or plotting a coup, or they may be unrelated to the normal factional power structure, such as a secret cult to the dead gods.

Players cannot choose to target conspiracies with the investigate urbancrawl action until they have some way of knowing that the conspiracy exists. Once they have encountered NPCs or clues that suggest the existence of some kind of conspiracy, they can begin to investigate it. Ask players the methods they are using and the kind of information they’re seeking, but investigating conspiracies will usually reveal either someone connected to a known conspirator (use the rules for contacts to create, with any tweaks to fit the conspiracy), the structure of the conspiracy (e.g. “Well, if this guy is an assassin, he has to have someone paying him, and there’d usually be a go-between as well”), or clues to its general purpose or aim. 

Note also that conspiracies can hire PCs just as readily as any other NPC or organization, so the “short term plots” column of the table below can double as an additional job generator.

With all of the other levels of intrigue going on in Fellhold (districts, factions, et cetera), it is recommended that you begin with somewhere between zero and two conspiracies.

Generating a Conspiracy
While conspiracies provide an excellent opportunity for a truly customized piece of the city that receives loving and detailed attention from the referee, sometimes we do not have that luxury. As such, the below tables and guidance are provided for generating a conspiracy. Even more so than the NPC, location, and district tables, you are encouraged to use this section as a starting point and source of inspiration, rather than “the whole answer”. The results in the table are necessarily open-ended and flexible so that they can fit a wide variety of combinations and tie into other material you have generated elsewhere, such as factions, major NPCs, and districts.

Conspiracy Traits
Use the following table to generate the basic traits for your conspiracy. Most of the columns may be rolled multiple times for additional complexity if desired.
Type/ Leader
Reason for Secrecy
Long Term Goal
Short Term Plot
Within a single faction
Threatens a powerful faction’s leadership
Destroy one of the major factions
Steal an important book from a faction library
Multiple factions
Threatens the very system of factions
Take over or replace one of the major factions
Kidnap a prominent patron
Purpose abhorred even by Fellholders
The personal political power of their leader
Assassinate a faction leader
Threatens the Soul Economy
Complete and utter re-organization of society
Steal a valuable shipment from a merchant
Could expose a weakness of powerful leaders
The revival of the dead gods
Collect a large number of children
Involves cooperation from unexpected sources
The elevation of their leader to godhood
Blow up a well-known building or landmark
Half Dwarf
Leader acting contrary to the general goals of their group
The elimination of all demons
Recruit new members in positions of influence
Methods are antithetical to the type/leader’s norm
To find somewhere to live besides Fellhold
Blackmail a powerful wizard
Declared enemies of the “state” by one of the Witch Kings
To take control of all of Fellhold
Rob a soul bank
Don’t want their opponents to know the truth about their resources
The political and social supremacy of the leader’s type 
Steal a powerful bound demon from a faction
Their members don’t know the true purpose of their activities
The elimination of one of the races
Collect money through a front organization
Surprise is crucial to the success of their long term goals
Amassing ridiculously huge amounts of wealth
Establish a base of operations in a hostile district
Their leadership is unnecessarily paranoid
Binding all demons to their will
Wreak havoc in a random district - loot, kill, and burn
A magically binding oath to secrecy that may or may not be needed anymore
Establishing a new legitimate major faction
Secure the unwitting support of a person or group opposed to their aims
Operate deep within hostile territory/ institutions
Restore the glory of the old Witch Kingdom
A false flag operation to discredit their foes
Believe themselves the legitimate remnant of an ancient institution or group no longer recognized
Establish a real government with actual laws for all of Fellhold
Convince the world that they are not real or have been eliminated
Methods are abhorrent even to Fellholders
The destruction of all Undead
Hold a faction leader’s child for ransom
Everyone involved just thinks its cooler to be a secret society
The resurrection of the true Dwarven Empire
Disrupt the leadership of a major faction
Inflated sense of significance and how much people would care about their purpose & methods
The comfort and safety of their leader
Bankrupt a powerful merchant
Leader actually pursuing multiple ends, doesn’t want different groups to catch on to the others
To build a monument that will last for all time
Feed the poor and indoctrinatethem

District  & Faction Relationships
As with NPCs and Factions, conspiracies should be placed somewhere on the map. While it is possible that they will have multiple bases, at a minimum their leader should have a specific place. The placement of these bases will both depend on and help to clarify the nature of the conspiracy. Somewhere between D3 and D6 bases are recommended, as these locations provide another possible avenue for discovery by players in addition to rumors and contacts. Treat them as places of interest for the districts that contain them, and they may be discovered in the same way as other places of interest.

Depending on the results of the above table, various Faction relationships will be important to identify as well. Some conspiracies operate entirely within the bounds of one faction, acting against its “legitimate” interests, while others are faction agnostic and will take members from any faction. Additionally, many results in the above table point towards factions, and these will need to be determined. As with districts, these may be obvious from other traits, or they may help to clarify the nature of the conspiracy if randomly generated.

Conspiracy Structure
Every conspiracy has a structure of control and secrecy. It may be organized into cells where only one member knows and is known by the next level up, or it may be a very traditional hierarchical pyramid. Where relationship maps are recommended for NPCs in general, for a conspiracy they are essential. You do not have to generate the NPCs for the entire conspiracy immediately, but you should at least know how many leaders there are, what the lines of reporting to them are, and who supplies money or weapons to the front line agents of the conspiracy. In play, players might be able to figure out the structure before they identify individuals, which will help direct them in where to investigate more closely.

For further help with the structure side of things, I encourage you to check out Kenneth Hite’s excellent treatment of conspiracies in Night’s Black Agents and especially the “conspyramid” therein. Also helpful are the series of posts on Node Based Adventure Design on the Alexandrian blog, as well as real world information on social network analysis.

Conspiracy Rumor Tables
Rumor tables provide the chance for player characters to be randomly exposed to the potential existence of conspiracies. They should be contradictory and have more misinformation than most rumor tables, but should have enough nuggets of truth that players can begin to investigate. Unlike rumors about a dungeon, where the information is primarily a resource to help in making more informed decisions, for a conspiracy, investigating the truth or falsity of the rumors is the adventure, so it’s okay to have wackier rumors, so long as they do not point the players towards totally useless avenues of investigation.

Since conspiracy rumors are less likely to come up than others and their primary purpose is to get players onto the scent, shorter tables than other types of rumors are probably sufficient. The sample conspiracies provided have d8 rumors each, for example.

Below is provided a “fill in the blank” table of rumors that can be used with the table of characteristics above as a starting point. It will not produce especially interesting rumors on its own, but should do in a pinch and can serve as a starting point for crafting more specific rumors. It is meant to provide a mix of true and mistaken information, so where it notes “random”, roll again on the conspiracy traits table. If it does not say “random”, use the information you generated for the conspiracy. You may decide the truth or falsity of any rumors so generated.

Generic Conspiracy Rumor Table
They’re pursuing (Long Term Goal) in (random district)
Someone quit when they found out about (short term plot)
Suspected members have been seen coming and going in (base district)
They’re supported by (random faction)
They’re going to try (random short term plot)
They say they’re about (real long term goal), but they’re really after (random long term goal)
(Important NPC or Leader) has been seen associating with them
(Type) is pursuing (random long term goal) because of (reason for secrecy)

Conspiracy Name
After you have generated the details and relationships for the conspiracy, you will need a suitably grandiose or radical name. If at a loss, the following should be generic enough to apply to almost any sort of conspiracy, but more specific and descriptive names may be more fun if you can think of them, such as “The Esoteric Order for the Restoration of Dwarven Greatness” or some such.

For the table below, start with “The”, and if desired, insert some sort of organizational term (“order of”, “band”, “guild”, and so forth) where it fits, and elaborate with any further words that describe the conspiracy (or don’t).

1 Jade Dagger
2 Emerald Hand
3 Resplendent Hunters
4 Esoteric Band
5 Secret Pearl
6 Hidden Egg
7 Golden Swine
8 Silver Friends
9 Iron Needle
10 Bronze Shield
11 Honorable Helm
12 Master's Arm
13 Great Necklace
14 Mighty Flame
15 Blackened Corpse
16 Purple Tomb
17 Blue Tower
18 Filthy Hall
19 Resolute Vengeance
20 Swift Deed