It's not a bandwagon, it a stagecoach of fun and sharing! Phlox started it, with these cheap tricks, and there are already many more, so here's my list:
- A list of twenty animals is a great all-purpose random
generator. I use it to quickly generate random NPC quirks or appearance (fidgety
like a mouse / proud like an eagle / lion-maned / walks like an elephant),
generate random mutations or powers (acquire tiger stripes / wolf fangs /
octopus tentacles), roll twice or thrice for chimeric monsters (antlered snake
/ winged bear thing / lizard-scaled chicken that hides in a snail shell),
create a place name (Fox River / Gerbil Mountain), random visual details
(lion-shaped knocker / snake-shaped dagger), spell ingredients (eyes of bat /
scales of catfish) and so much more.
Edit: here's my list.
- An oldie but goodie: have a list of names. I’m bad at coming up with names on the spot. Do not just cross off the ones you use: make a not next to them about who is called this way (“Wank Hilliams – blacksmith the players are super obsessed with for some reason; snake-like in appearance”).
- Ask the spellcaster what their Magic Missile spell looks like. Is it a purple flash of lightning? Is it a tornado of teeth? Does it leave behind the smell of sulfur, ozone, or rosewater?
- Little dream sequences for characters can be fun (“I can say it again: ‘Some ideas arrive in the form of a dream’”). Especially lucid dreams. Recurring lucid dreams, where the character explores something step by step is also cool, but maybe it’s too much spotlight on just one person.
- Create quick maps by taking an existing place, rotate it by 90°, stretch in one direction by 150%, done (very good for natural looking coastlines).
- “I owe you one” is one of the best rewards an NPC can give to players.
- Describe food a bit, even if it’s just a simple tavern meal or some campfire cookery. Tubers, roots, mushrooms and wild herbs make for great detail. A meal with an unusual ingredient can be like a rumor or hook (“yeah, we use this herb to flavor our food, but some say it can also cure blindness”).
- Keep a commonplace book, record miscellaneous ideas and shower thoughts, plots from stories, interesting images, anything. If you number the entries, it is also a random table…
- The 2d6 reaction roll/morale check is one of the greatest tools given to humankind. I use it for all “psychological” things: does the guard fall for the player character’s lies * ? Is the captive intimidated by the threats?
- https://relatedwords.org/ and https://describingwords.io/ are pretty useful resources!
* I was asked about how I adjudicate the reaction roll for deception. These are my guidelines:
2 - NPC absolutely does not believe the lie, either sees through the lie or just gets upset and hostile
3-5 - NPC does not believe the lie, and probably knows that the character tried to lie
6-8 - NPC is indifferent, might try to seek out confirmation or denial of the fact lied about
9-11 - NPC believes the lie, accepts it as fact
12 - NPC believes the lie completely, and might even change their initial opinion on the matter (esp. if the roll goes over 12)
Bonuses/penalties might apply (for outstanding Charisma score, or the way the players are describing their lie).