This is going to be a small post, but it's just something I wanted to share. I think it can somehow connect with a lot of the ongoing discussions that are happening at the website.
Last night we played our latest session of our ongoing Pathfinder 2 game (characters are level 10, so we're halfway through, right? Right?) and it was one of those small-yet-big sessions where you have a big change of scenery. The players moved from the faux-skandinavian region to the faux-russian one, with a big plan (well several) and a lot of rubble and carnage at their tail.
It was one of those transitions that end up being a lot smoother than you anticipate, with a lot of clear agendas (well, more than you usually get in this type of game). There's the girl who's been tasked by the viking queen to become an ambassador in the not-tzarina court. There's the barbarian with a long history with this region who's been secretly tasked with killing that same not-tzarina, and is super happy to do so. There's the guy who wants to find out what that BBEG did here and why he talked to the Baba Yaga. You have momentum.
And play night comes and you're utterly unprepared. Yeah, I screwed up and didn't prepare.
Luckily the region as a lot of personality - racial tensions, perpetual winter, the police are trolls, the entire thing feels like Labyrinth mixed with Holiday on Ice. And yetis. You have stuff to work with.
But there's an initial situation to develop, and several settlements the players may decide to stop in, and lots of people and places to flash out. And the book has names, but the Pathfinder gazeteers are the kind of things that tell you that Anichka Whatsherface is a Ranger 6 and the major of Kerad but that's that. You know it's a bit weird because she's human and humans are slaves here and the ruling class is jedwiga etc etc but... that's that.
So I have 10 to 15 people across 3 settlements for whom I have combat stats but no hint of personality or looks or goals to flash out in like an hour.
I borrow from experience, screw around with google and find out a website. This one:
The thing is simple and silly. Click a button and you get 3 adjectives for a character, at random. With no inner logic.
I give myself one rules, which is one click per person. It is what it is, no clicking until it "makes sense".
In 20 minutes I'm done.
It was, of course, fire.
The secret leader of the human resistance is generous, solitary and... a coward?
The darth-vadery jadwiga guard leader is stubborn, earnest and caring?
The witch is rude, insecure and rebellious?
I don't suggest using this method as superior or universal, but considering the situation, it led to great results. I had no way to make things work aside from having to play these people. Two of them fell in love mid session. It was quite wild on my side of the screen and I'm kind of sorry for the players because they don't know and probably didn't even notice what was happening, and probably imagined I had all these complex interactions ready. It was a lot of fun for me, as a DM.
It's old stuff for most and I've done similar things before, but never on such a short notice, with no possibility to react and build on what I was randomizing. There's something valuable in this experience that I want to elaborate and carry over for future play.