Sometimes, you might have the compulsion to create random tables to help spur your creativity or to throw off the cuff surprises at both yourself and the players. Tables are also useful tools for instant content generation.
In my experience, it's tempting to make a table that uses a d20 or d100. Big, long, sprawling tables look impressive, but they're inefficient. Instead, make several short, squat tables that work together to generate a result.
Let's say you want a table to generate the appearance and mannerisms of NPCs in Waterdeep. Here's what you do:
1. Come up with three or four general traits to describe the NPCs. I'm going with race, gender, size, appearance, and disposition.
2. Create a table for each trait. Aim to use d6s, or maybe a d10 if you're inspired.
3. When it's time to use the tables, roll once on each table and combine the results. Voila!
Here are my tables:
3. Travel worn
I built those tables off the top of my head in about 5 minutes. Here's the cool thing - they might not be awesome tables, but they have the potential to generate about 2,000 different NPCs. With a little more work, I could build out a few more categories and fill in the existing tables with more options and more vivid words.
So, sometimes being lazy is more efficient than doing lots of work. You could create 500 different NPCs and stuff them into a table, or pick 26 words and use the mighty, mighty powers of multiplication to turn them into thousands of outcomes.