Quick post, because I used the term “Trigger Tables” to describe something and while I knew exactly what I meant, I realized there wasn’t actually anything to point to for it.
The idea is not new – you’ve seen it in lots of adventures. It’s a simple table where there is some value that is tracked (alertness, threat, whatever) and a description of what happens as a result. So, for example, let’s say we’re doing a game around uncovering a ruined city, with dungeon-crawling interspersed with logistics and town building. As part of this, we keep track of an “Uncovered” Score that is sort of a general metric for the state of how much of the ancient city has been uncovered. How exactly the uncovered score ticks up is not super important – could be clocks, could be tracks, could be in-game events, could be it’s own minigame of Dig-Dug for all that it matters.
Then, as the GM, I have a table among my notes that looks like this:
To reiterate – this is not a new or complicated idea. You’ve seen it before, I promise. I’m mostly writing about it here so I have something to call it because much like clocks/tracks and encounter tables, this is an insanely robust (and often underused) technology. It can work just as well when the thing being tracked can go up and down as it can when it’s ratcheting up (as in the example). It can be used for things as small as the state of a dungeon or business, or for things as big as the events of a campaign. Hell, take a page from Shadow of the Demon Lord and make one of these tables for your character’s level progression, and you have the skeleton of a campaign right there.
So, like clocks, these are flexible. Like encounter tables, they imply a lot about the game in an easily communicated/transmitted fashion. Trigger tables are fun tech, and well worth taking advantage of.