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RPG Superstar 2015

101 Not So Random Encounters: Urban (PFRPG) PDF

***** (based on 2 ratings)

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When 1d6 doppelgangers just won't cut it!

It's a big, scary city out there, and for your players, it's gotten nastier. 101 Not So Random Encounters: Urban gives you more options, more creative flexibility and more ways to just freak out your players with layered encounters with the masters of the cities criminal underworld.

Enjoy the advanced exemplar harridan lamia who believes she is in total control of her criminal empire along with her mate the maharaja rakshasha who just can't seem to give up his harem and all his consorts for his loving wife. Or enjoy their horde of adopted children from the mandragora plants that infest the city like kudzu or thier victims who have been raised as undead so as to increase thier illicit assets.

Brought you the best selling and critically acclaimed author of 101 Hazards and Disasters and 1001 Spells this collection brings you an even more vast array of new options to suprise even the most jaded of players with strange and exciting encounters. 101 Not So Simple Random Encounters: Urban gives you the creative oomph you've come to expect from Rite Publishing, and it'll give your party something to remember for a long time—if they survive!

Author: Steven D. Russell
Cover Illustration: Mark Hyzer
Pages: 47

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RIP0247E


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Product Reviews (2)

Average product rating:

***** (based on 2 ratings)

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More imaginative potential than in some campaigns - simply stellar

*****

This installment of Rite Publishing's 101-series is different and that becomes readily apparent by taking a look at the page-count - 51 pages, 1 devoted to front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving a whopping total of 47 (!!!) pages of content devoted to new encounters, so let's check them out!

If you're a patron of Questhaven (Rite Publishing's upcoming city-setting), you'll be familiar with the basic premise of this pdf, if not, I'd suggest especially players to jump to the conclusion. Just let it be said, that the basic premise is awesome and that this pdf takes a completely different approach to encounters than e.g. one can see in Raging Swan's excellent "Caves & Caverns". Instead, the creatures indeed are distinctly "Not so" random. This pdf is dedicated to me (thank you, Steve!) for reviews good and bad - so in which category does this one fall?

SPOILERS follow.

You have been warned. Still here? All right! In the magical renaissance of Questhaven, there is an organization called "The Fold", essentially an organization of organized monsters - think "The Godfather" with monsters. Worse, all the individual monsters can thus combine their powers, making the Fold a formidable force indeed. Spawned from the rich background currently being developed in the Questhaven-project, this installment of the "101-series" provides us a plethora of NPCs that are tied together by this frame-organization. It should be noted, however, that the individual entries can be taken and used by their own - in no way are you restricted by the narratives to use the beings herein as part of the Fold.

It should also be known that most of the creatures herein have more than one use, one CR respectively and can not only be considered foes to kill, but actually intriguing characters to interact with. Need an example? What about the Rakshasa maharaja who awaits the natural death of his powerful wife to reincarnate her as one of his own people. Oh, and she's an advanced exemplar harridan lamia. (With full stat block!) Said rakshasa also gets his own, modified war juggernaut. Even better, while not every NPC herein gets a full statblock, where applicable, quick modifications provided in the entries can be applied to the basic statblocks.

Not only are there multiple instances for interesting (and often rarely used) beasts that have been made true characters, including a whole network of relationships entwining the different component parts of this cell of the Fold, the characters also can be considered beyond all doubt iconic: Take Jack Straw, for example: A pale stranger that has lost all ties with mankind and usually appears disguised as a scarecrow! Undead, gunslinging scarecrows? Yes, please! Or take lonely Skanda of the thousand whispers: A collective of thousands of mandragora plants, the creature comes with both a single, swarm and collective form and takes up three of the entries - and its roots are, truly, everywhere - keeping a secret from this spymaster should provide to be a rather significant challenge. Hunting-falcon style domesticated stirges? Medusa apothecaries? Or what about an enforcer who is actually a dream-spectre and known as the "Romantic Nightmare" due to its disturbing courtship habits?

In the end, the pdf provides tables by party levels for the creatures to roll, if you're so inclined.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed some minor glitches, they were few and far in-between and did not impede my enjoyment of the pdf. Layout adheres to RiP's two-column standard and the artworks are ok. The pdf comes with bookmarks for every 10 NPCs - Cr-information for the respective beings would have helped. I'll come right out and say it: This pdf is not perfect in its formal criteria - there could be more bookmarks and there are minor glitches. Usually, that would deter from my enjoyment of the pdf enough to warrant a downgrade in the final rating. However: This pdf is awesome. Steven D. Russell is an expert writer and I'm a huge fan of his fluff. Enjoyable to the extreme, this pdf is one of the rare pdfs that immediately make you come up not with a hook, not with an adventure-idea, but with a whole array of possibilities, enough to spark a whole campaign in fact. It is rare these days that a pdf can truly surprise me with its imaginative potential. Rarer even is the pdf that has me smile at the coolness of the idea and indeed, this pdf had me smile - a lot.
Colorful enough to be the cast of a novel (or a whole series of them) the beings herein a so different from what one usually expects that I can wholeheartedly say that NONE of the beings herein can be considered filler. Add to that the intricate web of connections and social relationships and you not only get a vast variety of interesting creatures, but also a portray of a complex crime family that has a staggering array of options and strategies at their disposal, challenging your PCs when trying to outwit the Fold. The writing and imaginative potential contained in these pages is superior and frankly, the characters in most novels are less colorful.

This is one of the installments of the "101 series" that BELONGS into any well-stocked GM-library - and if you're e.g. planning an urban campaign, this is essentially a must. Even better, if your own campaign has become stale, take this pdf and make the creatures herein perform a hostile takeover of a local underworld or even a kingdom and watch your players struggle. The potential is vast and thus, in spite of my minor gripes, I'll settle for a full verdict of 5 stars + endzeitgeist seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


The Godfather, the Rite way.

*****

(cue the music theme)

* warning: spoilers follow *

THE ADVICE

Upon introducing this book's content to your players, you are recommended to do just this - discreetly allow the track to play in the background. Award bonus points to players who take the hint and start treading carefully. For those who don't, if you feel like you need to offer a stronger hint, consider using this fashionable sea shanty.

THE STUFF

"101 Not So Random Encounters: Urban" takes on a relatively new concept of layered encounters and develops it a bit further. In case you don't know, a layered encounter table looks like a standard random encounter table, however the creatures listed on the table belong to the same faction (or share a trait which allows them to work together). An example of such listing would look like this: minions (grunts), minions (elite), minions (lieutenants), the boss. Initially, the party would be more likely to encounter lower echelons, with subsequent encounter bringing more to the table (either in terms of higher CR creatures or by providing groups with different skills).
Obviously, the key principle here is to make a list of potential encounters and come up with a suitably important relationship among NPCs for belonging to a given encounter cast.

Note: A little more on the layered encounters concept is to be found within the thread by Pax Veritas.

Following this premise, "101 Not So Random Encounters: Urban" presents an organized crime "family" of the most terrifying sort - a band of monsters with a sense of community, sprinkled with class levels and with resources assembled over the course of four hundred years of existence.

The encounter write-ups are simple - you have 101 personages with Challenge Rating values provided. Each encounter comes with creature (referred to by its name), creature background, suggestions on how to scale the encounter, and sometimes a stablock.

For example, Nightblood, the very last item on the list, is a stirge (CR 1/2), who sometimes hunts with a friend (CR 2), but on worse days it is not much of a menace (CR 1/8). Meanwhile Chatelaine Laboni, number 39th, boasts a title of elder sister and is quite renowned for her administrative skills. She's also (quoting) believes deeply in the rituals of host and guest; as such, if the PCs are guests in property owned by The Pride, she will not allow any harm to come to them.
Ruleswise, she's a Chaotic Evil Pit Hag, with encounter CR ranging from 11 (after a bad scuffle with competitors), through 13 (default) to 15 (with body guards). Her entry ends with a statblock.

Note: the book strives to provide everything you need to run each encounter - by statblock where possible or by a reference to a freely available resource.

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

The book is an instant classic. You've been handed a bunch (101!) of colorful NPCs with means to drop them into any urban campaign. The CR spread covers spectrum from 1/8 to 23, so all parties should be eligible for a generous helping of nastiness.
As the creatures form a crime family... the players are much more likely to interact with them first. Maybe even the PCs can do business instead of violence.

The PDF comes with bookmarks (one per each 10 encounters), encounter tables (five tables for five character level ranges), with a potential CR difference between the party and the opposition reaching 7 (with the PCs finding themselves in a role of bug meeting the sole of a big boot). Fortunately for the players, most presented monsters want to do business, and so are unlikely to just kill the characters... admittedly, the alignments of the featured creatures are making charity fund questing unlikely, so the PCs may feel somewhat trampled over.

There are minor editing issues - for example, page 47, "charst" - which are not really noticeable.

The illustrations are very varied, both in theme and in presentation. I feel that it may have been a good idea to skip a few to make the book more of a whole (compare pages 31 and 35 - the first comes with a portrait of a seedy individual, a blac and white sketch, the second shows an attack dog in color).

The statblocks are nice and legible, though section headers (Offense and Defense) take a little too much space. I would also consider changing default font for the publication, as I am a little tired of this Times New Roman-lookalike. I would propose having a look at Best Practices of Combining Typefaces by Douglas Bonneville for starters.

THE VERDICT

5/5
This resource is good enough to build a whole campaign around it.

Regards,
Ruemere


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