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Random Social Hooks

Or, “Characteristics you mightn’t ordinarily think to apply”

Short one this week, friends, as work on Swords of Telm reaches a feverish pitch.

(Actually, that’s a gross exaggeration. I do everything calmly, with great deliberation designed to satisfy my OCD and annoy others. Rather say that work on Swords of Telm continues at a stately pace as I proofread, tweak, and prepare the material for my external editor. Or something.)

Traits You Can Use

What follows is a table of random characteristics you can apply to groups of people, be they members of the same race, cult, tribe, sect, city-state, whatever. My recommendation is to roll 1d4 characteristics for human groups and 1d2 for non-humans (on the assumption that non-humans possess some inherent and interesting qualities by default).

Assume that any characteristic not addressed here is whatever passes for normal in your setting. Of course, suit to taste and discard any contradictory results.

  1. Evolutionary trace of (d6: 1 some monster; 2 plant; 3 planar creature; 4 variant humanoid; 5 some sea creature; 6 off-world beings)
  2. Dwells within (d6: 1 caves; 2 stone fortifications; 3 buildings propped up on stilts; 4 trees; 5 organic structures; 6 restrictive abodes)
  3. Physically (d6: 1 beautiful; 2 adapted to water; 3 odd height; 4 unusual hair/eye colour; 5 potent; 6 inverted joint)
  4. Mentally (d6: 1 two steps ahead; 2 erudite; 3 empathetic; 4 unable to grasp specific concept; 5 naive; 6 ambidextrous)
  5. Considered experts in (d6: 1 herb lore; 2 science; 3 engineering; 4 magic; 5 torture; 6 warfare)
  6. Widely rumoured to be (d6: 1 telepathic; 2 asexual; 3 cannibalistic; 4 vampiric; 5 incestuous; 6 off-worlders)
  7. Architecture reminiscent of (d6: 1 skeletons; 2 insects; 3 plants & trees; 4 reptiles; 5 odd geometry; 6 water)
  8. Artistically prone toward (d6: 1 sculpture; 2 painting; 3 literature; 4 performance; 5 pornography; 6 architecture)
  9. Fondness for (d6: 1 horses; 2 insects; 3 avians; 4 felines; 5 canines; 6 reptiles)
  10. Diplomacy characterised by (d6: 1 force; 2 cold logic; 3 capitulation; 4 backroom deals; 5 intimidation; 6 betrayal)
  11. Stereotyped as (d6: 1 sea-farers; 2 thieves; 3 shrewd traders; 4 drunks; 5 backward; 6 lecherous)
  12. Social perk (d6: 1 polite; 2 tolerant; 3 hospitality; 4 merciful; 5 honest; 6 wise)
  13. Social flaw (d6: 1 proud; 2 quarrelsome; 3 vulgar; 4 vindictive; 5 austere; 6 garrulous)
  14. Adornment (d6: 1 garish/sombre colours; 2 wispy garments; 3 masks; 4 shiny baubles; 5 body art; 6 exotic hides & furs)
  15. Strongly influenced by (d6: 1 colours; 2 astrology; 3 aloof whims; 4 reproductive need; 5 base urges; 6 weather patterns)
  16. Historical figure was a (d6: 1 saint; 2 martyr; 3 traitor; 4 lowly beggar; 5 lunatic; 6 child)
  17. Affinity for (d6: 1 fire; 2 water; 3 air; 4 earth; 5 precious metals; 6 gemstones)
  18. Aversion to (d6: 1 magic; 2 water; 3 plants; 4 animals; 5 metal; 6 blood)
  19. Incapable of (d6: 1 deceit; 2 affection; 3 metaphor; 4 violence; 5 forgiveness; 6 sarcasm)
  20. Strange custom (d8: 1 birth; 2 rite of passage; 3 marriage; 4 death; 5 rulership; 6 martial; 7 gender roles; 8 law & justice)

Strange Customs

Use the following sub-tables if you get a “Strange custom” result, above.

Birth

  1. Children born at certain moon phase are abandoned
  2. Children are named after the first (d6: 1-3 animal; 4-6 relative) seen by the father following birth
  3. Children born during an eclipse are afforded special status
  4. Bastards are orphaned to a (d6: 1-2 fighting order; 3-4 monastery; 5 urchin’s guild; 6 merchant navy)
  5. Children are taught to (d6: 1-2 fight; 3-4 ride; 5 sneak; 6 swim) as soon as they can walk
  6. Couples cannot have more than three (d6: 1-2 offspring; 3-4 boys; 5-6 girls)

Rite of Passage

  1. Receives vision of his blood enemy
  2. Must slay totem animal during sacred hunt
  3. Must complete scavenger hunt in nearest city
  4. Must earn a “mannengild” to pay for adult status
  5. Must choose a bride/get engaged
  6. Must attract a companion animal/familiar

Marriage

  1. Divorce permitted, but belongings revert to husband’s chief rival
  2. Husband may take multiple wives
  3. Consummation requires witness(es) and must occur within 24 hours
  4. Ceremony must occur at an historical site
  5. Local lord may deflower the bride (i.e., so-called prima nocta)
  6. Couple must abstain from some vice while engaged

Death

  1. Dead are (ritually) consumed by (d6: 1-2 wild animals; 3 carrion birds; 4 decedent’s totem animal; 5 carnivorous plant; 6 relatives)
  2. Dead are magically (d6: 1-2 disintegrated; 3 sent to astral plane; 4 shrunken; 5 petrified; 6 sunk into the earth)
  3. Dead are (d6: 1 mummified; 2 thrown in a swamp; 3 interred at place of birth; 4 consigned to the waters; 5 cremated on a pyre; 6 left on a mountain peak)
  4. Dead ancestors are worshiped as family idols
  5. Names of the dead may never be spoken
  6. Body parts of the deceased are (d6: 1-2 made into garments/jewellery; 3-4 preserved in the home; 5 made into unguents; 6 strewn about the fields)

Rulership

  1. Ruler guided by parliament of (d6: 1 the learned; 2 astrologers; 3 sorcerers; 4 savants; 5 supplicants; 6 past rulers’ spirits)
  2. Rulers must be literate and demonstrate mastery of (d6: 1-2 science; 3-4 math; 5-6 verse)
  3. Rulers required to pass (d6: 1 mental test; 2 show of charity; 3 moral dilemma; 4 physical challenge; 5 logical paradox; 6 magical feat)
  4. Rulers ritually executed/assassinated upon removal from office
  5. Contenders must best current ruler in (d6: 1-2 single combat; 3 ritual quest; 4 labyrinth; 5 wilderness survival; 6 withstanding poison)
  6. Ruler is rendered into a (d6: 1-2 shapeshifter; 3 eunuch; 4 undead creature; 5 drug addict; 6 sequestered savant)

Martial

  1. Victors eat the liver of foes slain in single combat
  2. Warriors tattoo the name of their blood foe on their sword arm
  3. Warriors are forbidden to use (d6: 1-2 missile weapons; 3-4 shields; 5 two-handed weapons; 6 mounts)
  4. Upon his death, a warrior’s deeds are carved into a stone pillar
  5. Warriors (d6: 1-2 shave their bodies; 3-4 add body art for each battle; 5-6 practice self-mutilation)
  6. Warriors wear the (d6: 1 ears; 2 eyes; 3 scalp; 4 fingers; 5 genitals; 6 teeth) of slain foes

Gender Roles

  1. Women chose their husband
  2. Wife may take multiple husbands
  3. Women are (d6: 1 officers of the court; 2 warriors; 3 clergy; 4 hunters; 5 sorcerers; 6 diplomats)
  4. Family line traced through mother
  5. Only women may (d6: 1 smoke; 2 be literate; 3 file legal suits; 4 bear shields; 5 distill alcohol; 6 handle money)
  6. Women must cover (d6 1-2 face; 3-4 arms; 5 legs; 6 ankles) in public

Law & Justice

  1. Criminals are (d6: 1-2 formed into military units; 3-4 indentured to wealthy families; 5-6 forced to perform deadly work)
  2. Prohibition of (d6: 1 alcohol; 2 meat; 3 prostitution; 4 long hair; 5 tea; 6 games of chance)
  3. Innocence of the accused determined by (d6: 1-2 single combat; 3-4 physical sport; 5 ordeal; 6 divination)
  4. It is legal to commit (d6: 1-2 murder; 3 witchcraft; 4 rape; 5 theft; 6 usury)
  5. Criminals executed by (d6: 1 ravenous insects; 2 gladiatorial combat; 3 starvation; 4 fatal parasite; 5 flaying; 6 planar banishment)
  6. Guilty verdicts overturned for (d6: 1-2 money; 3 completion of a quest; 4 assassinating a rival of the court; 5 relinquishing a slave to serve sentence; 6 self-mutilation)

Final Words

These are presented for descriptive flavour first and foremost, but you can easily use them as jumping off points for these peoples’ backstories, motivations, and behaviour in your setting. Post truly funky results in the Comments section. Enjoy!

  1. Ian Hughes
    May 27th, 2013 at 17:59 | #1

    I made this into an Inspiration Pad Pro generator for convenience. https://www.dropbox.com/s/ryns1g5ck8duet8/WelshPiper_RandomSocialHooks.ipt

  2. May 27th, 2013 at 21:42 | #2

    @Ian Hughes : Thanks, Ian – this is great. And bonus points for using IPP.

  3. Ian Hughes
    May 28th, 2013 at 05:27 | #3

    @Erin D. Smale
    You’re welcome. I’ve enjoyed your work, and felt like lending a hand. Feel free to do as you wish with the generator – edit it, redistribute it, modify it, make more generators off it, or anything else. It’s something I made in an afternoon, and I don’t plan on doing anything else with it.

  1. June 4th, 2010 at 22:11 | #1

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