Random Castle History Tables
A handful of tables for randomly generating a colorful history for castles and other fortresses.
How to Use These Tables:
To use these charts, you'll need a few dice - preferably a six-sided die and two eight-sided ones (1d6 and 2d8). It is helpful to have some vague concept of the setting in which your castle exists, but this is not strictly necessary.
Using these charts requires the following steps:
First, the castle's age must be determined.
Second, the castle's first Key Characteristic is decided upon.
Third, rolls are made upon the Occupancy charts. One Occupancy roll is made for every 10 year period of the castle's active history (Active meaning in use. In the real world, a castle built in the 12th century might have been active for about 400 years, after which it most likely became little more than a ruin. Even if it continued to function as a tourist attraction or manor house, these charts generally assume that the castle is in a position of constant risk). This roll describes what happened to the castle during those ten years. All Occupancy rolls are made using 2d8.
Each roll on the Occupancy charts is accompanied by a roll on the Key Characteristics table. This roll adds detail to the previous roll. If the roll turns out a characteristic on the chart, write down that characteristic next to the event on your historical record and then erase the characteristic. If the roll turns out a blank space on your Key Characteristics table, write an appropriate characteristic into that spot and on your historical record. Therefore, each characteristic will appear at most twice on your record. Rolls on the Key Characteristics table are normally made using 1d6, but you could optionally use a larger or smaller chart (and correspondingly larger or smaller die).
By default, the castle is assumed to be 1d8 x 40 years old. Alternatively, you might select an age for your castle based on what you know about the area.
Castle Owners Chart
All castles are assumed to begin owned by Men (that is, by humans or an equivalent), though there is no reason why you couldn't start a castle off under someone else's control. Roll here when told to roll for new owners.
1. Men (Humans or Equivalent)
2. Underdwellers (Dwarves or Other People Predominantly Interested in the Underworld)
3. Monsters (The Stereotypical Monster-Infested Dungeon)
4. Dark Lord (A Particularly Villainous Figure)
5. Frontier (Owned by Men or Equivalent, but in Dangerous Lands)
6. Wizard (The Headquarters of a Worker of Magic)
This chart is intended for generic fantasy, but is fairly easily adaptable for other settings. In Western Medieval Europe, for example, you could replace them France, England, Germany, Burgundy, Rebellious Nobles, German Free City, all of which use the Men Occupancy Chart.
2. Massive Suffering (Last Stand, Pogrom, or similar)
3. Castle Lost (Castle is conquered, through siege or treachery - roll for a new owner)
4. Seriously Damaged (Castle falls into disrepair or is seriously damaged via battle or natural disaster)
5. Major War - Castle Lost (A War racks the region, and the castle falls into the hands of a hostile nation of Men)
6. Major War (War racks the region, but the castle's owner does not change)
7. Siege - Holds (Castle is besieged, but the attackers are forced to withdraw)
8. Siege - Relieved (Castle is besieged, but the attackers are driven off by an allied army)
9. No Event
10. Dynastic Politics (Royal Marriage, Birth of a Major Heir, etc)
11. Power Growth (The owner of the castle sees a significant expansion in personal power)
12. Castle Expansion (The castle is expanded in size or defenses)
13. Castle Exchanged (The castle is sold, traded, or otherwise lost without battle to another nation of Men)
14. Strange Discovery (Pretty much anything is fine)
15. Horror Story (Someone is tortured to death, dies of grief, or otherwise becomes fodder for scary stories)
16. Magnificence (For the next 1d6 x 10 years, the castle is renowned for its glory - think Camelot)
2. Human Settlement (The surface portion of the dwelling is peacefully lost to Men)
3. Degeneration (The Underdwellers devolve to Monsters)
4. Major Craft (Mjolnir is Crafted or the Arkenstone Found)
5. Great Brew (A vintage that will be coveted for many years)
6. Exodus from the Surface (Underdwellers abandon the surface portion of their dwelling; roll new occupants)
7. Surface War (Caught up in a war on the surface)
8. Crafting (The castle makes a name for itself with fine crafting)
9. Mining (Standard behavior for Underdwellers, really)
10. Ore Discovery (A new vein of precious metals is located)
11. Undercity Expansion (The below-grounds portion of the fortress is expanded)
12. Exploratory Shafts (Shafts are dug far towards the earth's core)
13. Underworld War (Caught up in a war below the surface)
14. Draconic Nemesis (Castle faces the threat of a covetous dragon)
15. Castle Invaded (Roll for new owners)
16. Monster Incursion (Monsters boil up from underground and take control)
2. Rise of Evil (Dark Lord takes over)
3. Lands Reconquered (Men reclaim the castle)
4. Infamous Monster (A particularly notorious beast bases out of the castle)
5. Successful Adventurers (Castle cleansed, converted to Frontier)
6. Failed Adventurers (Not everybody gets to make the big time)
7. Rulership Change (Power struggles among the monsters)
8. Internal Fighting (Orcs vs Goblins, Plants vs Zombies, or whatever)
9. Monster Raids (Burn the Human Farms! Loot, Maim, Kill!)
10. Decay (Castle slowly falls into ruin without steady maintenance)
11. Demographic Shift (More Goblins, Less Orcs, or similar)
12. Incursion (Different Monsters come from underground)
13. Cleansed (Roll for new owners)
14. Civilization (Even monsters can settle down - roll for "new" owners)
15. Structural Change (This place could use more skulls)
16. Great Curse (All who die within these walls shall rise the next night! Or similar)
2. Major War Lost (The Dark Lord's attempts at conquest go awry - roll new owners)
3. Major War Won (A major kingdom brought under the iron boot)
4. Successful Heroes (Castle converted to Frontier)
5. Failed Heroes (Another one bites the dust)
6. Successful Conquest (Another successful conquest)
7. Evil Deeds (Human Sacrifice, Impalement, Torture, etc)
8. Castle Expanded (Make it bigger! Bigger!)
9. Army Grows (New soldiers flock to the dark lord's banner)
10. Alliance of Evil (Major dark powers form an agreement here)
11. Monster Raids (Go, my minions!)
12. Dark Ritual (Immortality, Eternal Night, or Other Dark Desire)
13. Demon Summoned (Or possibly Old Ones, aliens, or other other-worldly terrors)
14. Magic Item Forged (With this weapon, I will rule the world!)
15. Princess Captured (And naturally rescued - convert to Frontier)
16. Insurrection (Never let the monsters unionize - convert to Monsters)
(Note that all modifiers apply to all further rolls on this table, until the next change of table)
2. Tides of Darkness (Castle Lost to Monsters)
3. Heroic Quest (They're like PCs! +3 to future rolls)
4. Castle Conquered (Roll for new owners)
5. Poor Harvest (or Drought, Famine, etc; -1 to future rolls)
6. Village Destoryed (Cursed Raiders!; -1 to future rolls)
7. Monster Raid (Here they come again!)
8. Diplomatic Isolation (Cut off from friendly support; -1 to future rolls)
9. Diplomatic Success (Marriage, Trade Agreements, or Military Support; +1 to future rolls)
10. Castle Refurbished (Get those walls back in shape!)
11. Population Growth (or Good harvest, etc; +1 to future rolls)
12. Raiders Defeated (Take that, ya stinkin orcs!)
13. Siege Defeated (Castle is sieged, but endures)
14. Major Discovery (There's gold in them thar hills!; +1 to future rolls)
15. Major Setback (Monster influx, treachery, etc; -3 to future rolls)
16. Diplomatic Triumph (Ennobled, successfully appeals for crusade, etc - convert to Men)
(Again, all modifiers are permanent until the table changes)
2. Descent into Madness (Convert to Dark Lord)
3. Experiment Gone Wrong (Monsters take over)
4. Torches and Pitchforks (Wizard thrown out or killed - convert to Frontier)
5. Twisted Ritual (May involve sacrifice or other dark deeds; -1 to future rolls)
6. Monster Released (Into the Countryside, that is)
7. Crazed Experiment (Creation of monster or horrible spell; -1 to future rolls)
8. Magical Effects (Something weird settles over the countryside)
9. All is Quiet (No Event)
10. Leave me be! (Wizard shuns all company)
11. Visiting Adventurers (No doubt part of a famous story)
12. Work for the King (Constructing magic item, or spell shield, or similar)
13. Workshop Enhanced (New cages, potions, or other components)
14. Magical Showdown (Wizard duel in the castle - should have major effects)
15. Castle Abandoned (Skip 1d6 x 10 years, then roll new owner)
16. Brilliant Success (Achieves something resulting in fame or immortality)
A Sample Castle: Castle Greff
Castle Greff rolled an age of 200 years. For the starting Key Characteristic, I picked Mountain Pass. Things immediately went wrong:
Year 10: Horror Story: Cannibalism
Year 20: Castle Expansion: Mushroom Farms
Year 30: Sieged - Holds: Cannibalism (Ghouls from underground, perhaps?)
Year 40: Sieged - Relieved: Priests (Showed up to stop the ghouls)
Year 50: Horror Story: Sinister Cult (Embrace the inner cannibal)
Year 60: Major War - Lost: Sinister Cult (They throw open the doors to their cruel masters)
Year 70: Power Growth: Taxes Trade (Through the pass)
Year 80: Castle Expansion: Dark Chapel
Year 90: No event
Year 100: Castle Expansion: Priests (Torture chambers now that the cult's hunted them all down)
Year 110: Power Growth: Mountain Pass (Something expands the pass's importance?)
Year 120: Power Growth: Rogue Duke (He throws off the yoke of his tyrannical king)
Year 130: Dynastic Politics: Dark Chapel (The king lets him go in exchange for a marriage)
Year 140: Strange Discovery: Rogue Duke (No idea)
Year 150: No event
Year 160: Major War - Holds: Aggressive Neighbor (Wants to move in on trade taxes)
Year 170: Castle Exchanged: Taxes Trade (Castle sold in exchange for freedom from taxes)
Year 180: Power Growth: Aggressive Neighbor (New ownr kingdom expands dramatically)
Year 190: Castle Sieged - Relieved: Dark Foe (Evil neighbor wants it back)
Year 200: Castle Sieged - Relieved: Dark Foe (... and they're not giving up)
Even that bare-bones framework gives, I think, a castle with a pretty solid history. You've got cannibalism, a dark cult, and an ambiguous figure in the rogue duke in the castle's history. In more modern times, the castle's importance in sitting on a major trade route is established, as is that it is under threat by a sinister neighbor. Geography-wise, we know it has a dark chapel somewhere inside, underground mushroom farms, and is probably prone to being snowed in.
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? Responses (16)
This is actually pretty good :) I can imagine using it.
What I would improve is to replace the events when nothing happens. We want stuff to be interesting, to have stuff happen.
I was a bit torn up about including those. From the standpoint of creating an interesting history, you're right, they're no good. But from the standpoint of creating a historical record, which can be compared against an external timeline, it seems useful to have the potential for quiet periods. If nothing happened at a castle during the Thirty Years War, that could be historically noteworthy in-and-of itself.
In my experience, it doesn't come up very often, so, barring rolling it for a particularly short-lived castle, it doesn't present much of a problem.
A better way of doing it might have been to somehow randomize the time between rolls.
Ah, I get it, it could be interpreted as: 'Duke Calmarden used the weakening of the Tanelon dynasty during the Thirty Years war to become independent, and keep his duchy out of conflict, to emerge vital where lands around were laid to ruin.'
Also the random times between events sound good. Here, have an exp :)
@Echo: We do want things to happen, but sometimes nothing of note happens. Considering there are a mere handful of 'Nothings' in the chart, I'd say that balances noteworthy with mundane nicely.
@DLM: I second Echo, in that I can see this being used easily. It might also benefit from being converted into a random generator program, considering you've done most of the hard work for it (the content generation).
There are two problems with making it into a generator:
First, the Key Characteristics bit requires frequent creative input from the generator. While it can totally be done without that bit, using key Characteristics makes for far more interesting castles.
Secondly, and more importantly, I don't know how to program in Java or Flash or anything useful for an online random generator. If somebody else wants to convert it, I say go for it, but it's beyond me.
This is a fun write up. I enjoyed making a few castles.
Thank you for creating this and Merry Christmas.
Agreed! Great sub and can be converted to a generator.
Regarding the comment on key generation needing work, this is true with all random generators - these just provide a set of data a GM uses to form the timeline.
Where is manfred when a generator needs to be made?
This is an awesome list and super useful! Charts seemed very good at aiding ideas and giving great options for a ton of variables that make a more well rounded castle...or village!
If you send him a PM I am sure he would supply the needed utility for it. I asked him to help me with something recently and he obliged.
Is it just me or is the Key Characteristic chart missing? Other than that, great sub!
Sort of. There is no Key Characteristic chart, because it's intended for you to add your own as you go, as a way of connecting events over the castle's timeline, defining a starting situation for the castle, and adding elements of your own setting.
If there was a chart, and it had something like orcs on it, then it would be less useful for a castle built on Earth, or in a setting where there are no orcs.
Great idea. It reminds me of reading randomly generated history in Dwarf Fortress. A really easy way to generate the background for a place.