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GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing (PFRPG)

***** (based on 4 ratings)
GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing (PFRPG)
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Tired of your towns and cities being boring, bland places in which your PCs show little or no interest? Want to bring your towns and cities alive with cool, interesting minor features of note? Then GM’s Miscellany: Urban Dressing is for you! Presenting tons of cool, interesting features for common urban fixture such as shops, stalls, thieves and so on GM’s Miscellany: Urban Dressing provides the harried GM the tools to bring such features to life with interesting and noteworthy features.

GM’s Miscellany: Urban Dressing presents the material originally appearing in:

  • Barroom Brawls
  • Dragon and the Thief
  • Random Urban Encounters
  • So What’s It Called, Anyway?
  • So What’s For Sale, Anyway?
  • So What’s For Sale, Anyway? II
  • So What’s The Tavern Like, Anyway?
  • So What’s The Tavern Like, Anyway? II
  • Urban Dressing: Alleyways
  • Urban Dressing: Docks
  • Urban Dressing: Graveyards
  • Urban Dressing: Guildhalls
  • Urban Dressing: Market Stalls
  • Urban Dressing: Parks
  • Urban Dressing: Pirate Town
  • Urban Dressing: Sages
  • Urban Dressing: Shrines
  • Urban Dressing: Temples
  • Urban Dressing: Theatres
  • Urban Dressing: Thieves
  • Urban Dressing: The Watch
  • Urban Dressing: Traders & Craftsmen

New Material: More exciting encounters, as well as comprehensive details on monuments, ruined buildings and wizard’s towers

For a free sample head over to ragingswan.com/gmmurban

This product is a Dual Format PDF. The downloadable ZIP file contains two versions, one optimised for printing and use on a normal computer and one optimised for use on a mobile device such as an iPad.

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RSP101441


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Product Reviews (4)

Average product rating:

***** (based on 4 ratings)

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Sometimes it’s what’s right next to the thing you are looking for that counts

*****

This book supplies you with many choices. I was looking through it the other day in preparation for an upcoming Kingmaker session and found the section on wizard’s towers to be quite useful. In this particular case, I was investigating the entries on these towers and accidentally flipped over to the section on shrines.

Once there I was linking each of the ideas presented here with ideas for the burgeoning kingdom my players are building.

It is exactly this spontaneous inspiration that a book of lists and ideas can prove to be most useful. If you want to browse for inspiration then you can. If you want some specific encounter ideas, there are plenty.

I may not use this every session, but whenever I have pulled it out it guaranteed to inspire.


An Invaluable Resource

*****

It sometimes surprises me that, in a hobby that is ostensibly about telling stories, relatively few resources are available to assist GMs in the task of making their worlds feel like they’re alive. I’m not talking about campaign setting material that tells me what percentage of country A’s population Is comprised of halflings or whether or not spicy peppers are exported to country X from country Z, I have plenty of books that will tell me those things. I’m referring to the little things that help answer the questions players will inevitably ask in the course of their characters’ adventures and create the illusion that the game world is a living, breathing entity.

“What do I see when I look down that alley?”

“What kind of soup does the tavern have on today? Would I eat the soup? Does the place look like it’s been cleaned recently?”

“That keening sound is coming from the southeast hallway? What’s in the hall? Does the floor look stable? How about the ceiling?”

"What type of shingles are on the roof? Can you describe the state of the chimney? Can I tell if the flue is open?”

If one is using a published adventure, some of the players’ questions may be able to be answered, especially if the question asked pertains to a plot driver, but I can’t fault module writers for skimping on relatively mundane or unimportant details when they’re wondering how much of a room description they can fit in when the demi lich’s two minions that populate said room have a half page stat block apiece.

Fortunately, Raging Swan Press exists to assist struggling GMs. GM’s Miscellany: Urban Dressing will answer the questions posed above and a plethora of others. The first chapter, Dressing, details urban locations such as alleyways, docks, graveyards, guildhalls, market stalls, parks, ruined buildings, shrines, statues, monuments, temples, theatres, and wizard’s towers. Each location has a series of numbered tables that will help detail its appearance, the items and NPCs that may be stumbled across, and any opportunities or complications that may present themselves. In addition to locations, sages, thieves, traders, craftsmen, and the watch all get a series of tables each.

Chapter two, Encounters, details fourteen different encounters ranging from EL 1 to EL 10. While the encounters aren’t all amazing, a fair few of them are quite interesting. Not all of the encounters necessarily have to be resolved via combat, which is nice in and of itself.

Chapter three, So What’s for Sale? is full of lists of items and sellers available in town. Each sized area, from small town through metropolis, has a minimum of fifteen different lists of items and ten different item sellers detailed, so if you hadn’t given much thought to what might be purchased or who might be selling it, there’s plenty of variety to choose from.

The final chapter, Taverns, offers tables that detail interesting features, patrons, staff, taproom events, menus, entertainment, games (including full rules for a game that can be played, The Dragon and the Thief), and brawls. Rules for barroom brawls are also presented as are three new conditions which are sure to be be popular with your players: Tipsy, Drunk, and Hammered. The chapter ends with a score of detailed sample taverns.

I opted for the softcover version of the book, and am very happy with the quality. It’s seen a fair bit of use in the brief time I’ve had it and is holding up nicely; the spine and pages are nice and sturdy. The layout is easy to read and is printed with no frills in black and white. There are remarkably few typos and errors for a product of this size, though I'm certain that entry 98 on Naming Locations: Table A (page 11) is supposed to be Wanton, not Wonton. Perhaps I'm mistaken...

This book is already a mainstay at my gaming table; I use it to prep for game sessions in addition to using it in play to quickly add random tidbits about the areas being visited; my players have commented about how unsettled they have become now that I am adding more details to random areas being described, not just detailing the important places and skimming over the rest. I’ll take that as a compliment, both for myself and the new tool in my GMing toolkit. Five stars!


An Endzeitgeist.com review

****( )

This massive compilation of Urban Dressing-content clocks in at 239 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page statblocks by CR, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks, 2 pages of author bios (yay for those - seriously, more books should have them to generate name recognition), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 228 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

Okay, so this massive book contains the originally free tavern game Dragon and the Thief, So what's it Called Anyway, So what's for Sale, Anyway I +II, So what's the Tavern Like, Anyway I+II, random Urban Encounters, Barroom Brawls (a pdf any DM should own!) and the Urban Dressings for Alleyways, Docks, Graveyards, Guildhalls, Market Stalls, Parks, Pirate Towns, Sages, Shrines, Temples, Theatres, Thieves, Traders & Craftsmen and The Watch. These all have in common that I've written reviews for them, which you can easily find by searching for the respective product. Since I don't like repeating myself unduly, I won't comment on these and instead dive right into what makes this book different from the sum of its parts, all right?

First of all - unlike some compilations of individual pdfs, this book does not simply cobble the material together - the organization is actually pretty smart: Need names? In the beginning of the book, we get all the composite name-generator tables for e.g. organizations, taverns etc., back to back.

The following organization is generally pretty alphabetical regarding the areas of the city - i.e. all the info for alleyways, then the info for docks (and docked ships), then graveyards (including weird characters and epitaphs), then guildhalls - you get the idea. Now generally, I think that Market Stalls would have been a great place to also position Traders and Craftsmen, followed by the "So what's for sale..."-items, but that's probably a matter of taste.

On the new content-side, we get two 100-entry tables on ruined buildings - both characteristics and appearance and general dressings and also a total of 20 complications for these buildings and 20 legends surrounding them - now don't get wrong, these are glorious, but feel like they could have benefitted from a Dungeon Dressing-style cheat-sheet of terrain hazards...you know the type one find also in the other Dressing-series by Raging Swan Press. We get the same amount of tables for statues and monuments, btw., though here the dressing-table is much more extensive and covers more than the small entries provided for ruins - instead of e.g. "Smashed in windows", we get monuments that double as guard posts, some with starnge depressions etc. So in that regard - cooler here! (Also: Monuments don't require a terrain-hazard cheat-sheet or the like, so no complaints here.) The appearances of Wizard's Towers are also delightfully extravagant, and as such, the table fits only 50 long entries in the two pages devoted to it. However, 100 different dressing should provide ample modification for these, especially due to the rather eclectic selection provided. And if you're starved for ideas, 20 hooks and complications and 20 legends, all adhering to this level of lovingly crafted detail, further add to the experience and variety.

Now I was not particularly kind to "Random Encounters: Urban" and so, RaginGS wan has added additional ones to this book - the first of the new ones being "Fire Sale!", in which a shopping trip to the alchemist results in a sudden fire and a bid to save the alchemist and keep the shop from blowing up - cool! The second new encounter would be all about a dormant, intelligent sword coming back to sentience when a hapless smith was supposed to modify it. Hilarity ensues. Awesome. An Imp-Oracle of fire and soot makes for an interesting info-broker/pyromaniac and investigating a case of vanishing corpses also makes for a nice diversion. Have I mentioned the dread encounter with the Boogeyman of the Alley, a lethal urban fey that is disturbing indeed? Or the encounter in which the PCs have to brave the unstable scaffolding of a church to make sure it's properly renovated...and defeat the old gargoyle nesting there?

The new encounters have in common that they universally mop the floor with the original Random Urban Encounters and actually make for iconic playing experiences. SO kudos for these cool additions!

Now it should also be noted that the "So what's for sale"-pdfs have been nicely collated and taverns, as one of the apexes of any self-respecting adventurer's life, also have been collated- a rather good generator, followed by the sample taverns from installment II, with the barroom brawls thrown in for the mix makes for a nice piece of reference.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed next to no issues of concern - quite a feat for a book of this length. Layout adheres to raging Swan Press' two-column b/w-standard with old-school b/w-artworks thrown in and mixed with thematically fitting stock art. The pdf comes extensively and fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions, with one optimized for screen use and one optimized to be printed out.

Okay, if you've been following my reviews, you know that the one Dressing-series that doesn't routinely blow me away, is Urban Dressing. Far too often, the pdfs somewhat lost focus on what they wanted to be - a background dressing? A building generator? A selection of fluff-only NPCs? Now not all Urban Dressing-pdfs can be accused of a lack of focus, but quite a few can. It is my joy to report, that the new content provided for this compilation ranks among the best in the whole series, with especially the copious new encounters blowing the old ones out of the water and the handy tavern-compilation and organization making for one fine and often used component. Now that being said, when a component pdf has a lack of focus, it's still here. The Theatre-tables, while expanded, still can't decide on whether a sight or sound belongs on stage, the audience's area or backstage etc. -a finer gradients for some of these tables would have made them more useful. the Installments dealing with criminals and watch are still rather rudimentary and not particularly inspired and so on.

On the other hand, we have simply evocative entries that, on their own, could spark whole adventures, exotic and inspiring sights and the spirit of wonder RaginG Swan Press' dressings evoke more often than, all suffusing some of these tables and entries.

The organization of this book, in case that was lost on you, is superb and makes navigation exceedingly easy, though , due to some quirk, it doesn't feel as exceedingly, superbly intuitive as the book on Wilderness Dressing, but I can't fault it for that. The truth is, this book is the best compilation of the old urban dressing-series one could hope for - while the newer installments have brimmed with creativity and found their place, this book takes the older entries and whips them into a shape that is infinitely more useful than its component parts, both by refinement and organization and proximity. The new content is neat as well.

So how to rate this, then? See, this is where it becomes complicated - on the one hand, this book contains pdfs I consider rather subpar, whereas it on the other hand also provides some great new content and often-used classics that have seen ample successful use in our games. In the end, I consider this book to be exceedingly useful, but also short of the awesomeness that the Wilderness Dressing-book is - Dm's looking for a way to make their cities more vivid - get this. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


An RPG Resource Review

*****

This is a massive resource for any GM interested in developing their own townships or indeed making any town or city within their campaign world come to vivid life. It concentrates, in the main, on those little features that bring a setting to life in the imaginations of those participating in your shared alternate reality, the little details often overlooked in the broad strokes of plot (whether you use published adventures or write your own) but which make that settlement take on a feeling of reality - perhaps somewhere, somewhen, this city really does exist!

Even if you have been collecting Raging Swan's Urban Dressing series you will find even more here, as well as having it all handily collated within one book. From the built enviroment around the party to the people they can meet or trade with, the ones who'll try to rob them or brawl with them, the places they can get a drink or go shopping - it's all here.

To populate your township, there are plenty of 'incidental' inhabitants to choose from, all neatly listed by CR and presented in appropriate contexts, anything from a street urchin to sages, experts and shopkeepers, guardsmen and rogues... even a 'bogeyman' to lurk in an alley. Use these in conjuction with named NPCs involved in your plotline, local notables and people the party have met before (maybe on their last visit) to create a vibrant community with which the characters can interact.

Then there's the businesses. Most parties go to town to conduct business of some sort, and even if they are just passing through - or live there - they'll need the necessities of everyday life whilst they are in town. Maybe they need supplies or have loot to sell. They may need to consult a sage or seek divine guidance. Perhaps they need to call upon local notables - seeking work or wishing to be paid for a job well done. Maybe they just want a drink, or need to take ship to get elsewhere. It's all here, how to come up with good names, the incidental details that make them come to life and more.

There is a selection of encounters that can happen as they move around town. Some will occupy no more than a moment, many have the potential to develop into a full-blown adventure, or at least a side-trek, of their own - if the party chooses to take an interest in whatever's going down.

There's a collection of sample taverns to drink in, or if things get a bit quarrelsome, to brawl in - along with rules and suggestions for running effective barroom brawls, including improvised weapons and making use of the surroundings... and of course, dealing with the Watch afterwards! (Vivid memories of one of my characters fleeing a brawl and getting arrested, on being asked why he was leaving the inn he explained "But it was on fire!")

If you like designing urban settings or just wish to make existing ones spring into vibrant life, check this out.


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