Jan 13, 2015

Thinking about City Encounters

Continuing to look through the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide I noticed another table I always found interesting, but never actually used in a game -- the City Encounter table on page 191.

Like many things in the DMG I felt sort of overwhelmed by the way the information was presented and saw some things that at the time I thought "didn't work" and so I rejected the entire thing outright. Since watching more TV and Films with supernatural elements and being a big fan of Hellboy, I've certainly come around to the idea of ghosts, demons and other supernatural things being in the city after dark!  Still, I thought it would be interesting to look at the list of encounters without those things included -- to get a sense for the "mundane" city.

What I really like about the list is that these are all encounters with people, which is a change of pace from the dungeon where it's mostly encounters with monsters. There's also quite a range of potential encounter levels so that the party might be able to push around a few 0-level members of the guard, but then run into a higher level wizard who they'd be best not to tangle with.

There are also a lot of shady underworld types, suggesting the city is a dangerous place at the best of times (without the supernatural element). One of the things I enjoyed about Shadowrun was the lists of contacts and factions made the setting really come alive in a way that I find doesn't happen with a lot of fantasy cities. They all seem to blur together into a same-y sort of spires and cobblestone oneness. Shadowrun's Seattle had more personality than most fantasy cities.

It makes me think about applying the Shadowrun Approach to a fantasy city and see what I come up with!  Having an encounter table that's easier to digest, and entries that are a bit more colourful (like SR) could have some good results.