Saturday, 18 April 2020

Urban Encounter Tables for BFJB

As a Babylonian scribe needed to be litterate in both Akkadian and Sumerian, the scribal schools made use of lexical lists (as they are now known). These are lists of Sumerian signs with glosses to aid in reading them, or lists of Sumerian words & phrases with phonetic Akkadian translations -- in essence, bi-lingual dictionaries. These latter were arranged thematically.

I was looking at a lexical list of types of people as I drank my coffee one Saturday morning (as you do) and it suddenly struck me that it read like a random encouter table. An excerpt:

Sumerian               Akkadian
--------               --------
[...]                  mukabbûm    =tailor
[lu₂-ni₂-su]-ub-ba      zabbum      =an ecstatic
[SAL lu₂-ni₂-su-ub]-ba  zabbatum    =a female ecstatic
[...]                  sarrum      =criminal
[lu₂] ḫa-lam-ma         ša lemuttim =(person) of evil
lu₂ ḫul                 lemnu       =bad one
lu₂ ḫul                 maskum      =evil one
lu₂ ḫul gig             zērum       =hateful (person)

So I decided to make one out of it. I chose OB Lu₂-azlag₂ B-C as it was both long (~400 entries) and as an Old Babylonian list is co-terminous with the game's set timeframe. I couldn't use all the entries, as some were too broken (one who [...] to his mouth), too often repeated (evil person), too boring (right handed person), incomprehensible (one who lacks a mīru organ), or simply not descriptive enough for an encounter table (living person). Since BFJB only uses 6-sided dice, I narrowed it down to 216 -- 6 tables of 36 entries.

It's condensed to fit on 2 sides of A4. I left the Akkadian words in, but I had to cut the Sumerian both to save space and because a lot of the brackets didn't display correctly.

There's no way to format it for this blog, so grab the PDF here:

BFJB Urban Encounter Tables.pdf

I haven't had time to come up with wilderness encounter tables, but you can pretty much just crib off the ones in Runequest. Just replace trollkin with Gutians or something. You can leave scorpion men as is!

If you want to know more about lexical lists, visit the DCCLT.


  1. What would a "half-cubit person" be?

  2. This is magnificent! Lexical lists are a treasure mine... Foods, birds, cities :)

    1. I hope to do more someday. I could probably put together a wilderness table or even a treasure generator if I look long enough.