Book Review: 650 City Encounter Seeds & Plots

Sometimes “free” doesn’t necessarily mean “good,” but I know when Johnn Four releases something under the Roleplaying Tips banner there are always some juicy nuggets in the mix. 650 City Encounter Seeds & Plots was released a few months ago now, but I found myself in need of a few plot ideas recently and dove in head first.

The list includes everything from being shaken down by corrupt officials, framed for crimes the party didn’t commit, and generally running into some bad luck. I love cities. The fun part is that they don’t even have to be that big to provide infinite entertainment. Lump a few hundred people into a relatively confined space and it works like a pressure cooker.

I’ve been caught on the player side of a variation on #6 – “Upon returning to your room at the inn, you discover a body on the floor with a dagger lying beside it. Soon after, guards storm up the stairs and into your room.” I think in our case we went to sleep in a tavern and had a very strange, detailed dream. When we woke up and headed downstairs, there were numerous bodies strewn about on the floor and we bolted since we didn’t have a good explanation for it!

Some of my favorites are the seemingly random coincidences – like spotting a “pregnant woman walking through the bazaar. As she passes the baker’s stall she quickly grabs a loaf of bread and keeps walking, favoring one of the PCs with a wink as she goes. Is she a thief or the wife of the store owner?” (#12). Or when the PCs are chilling in their room at the inn “when suddenly the door bursts open. A well-armed man with weapon drawn storms in and says, ‘Don’t move, I’ve…crap, wrong room.’  The intruder then quickly exits.” (#14). It’s these bits of randomness that can really throw a wrench into the party’s day.

On the other hand, some of the items would really pick on a particular PC vs. the party as a whole. For example, #99 grants one character an inheritance (and the family squabbles that go along with it) while #100 pits a PC against the deeds of a doppleganger.

To be honest, many items on the list are derivative of other influences or ideas. But that’s really the goal for this kind of collection. You’re not really looking for brilliant ideas that are impossible to integrate into an adventure, but rather for the innocuous events that can lead to greater things.

I’m a huge fan of improvisation in my games. And this type of suggestive glimpse into a small unexpected corner of the world often leads to places that I as GM or a player can really sink my teeth into as a shared storytelling experience.

If you’d rather have a smaller list to delve into, be sure to check out the City Encounter Generator on the Roleplaying Tips website. There you can hit a button and bring up between one and ten random encounters to choose from rather than poring over the 60+ page PDF for details.

The 650 City Encounter Seeds & Plots book is available from RPGNow here. Be sure to pick up your copy today – you can’t beat the price and you’re guaranteed to find some tidbit to inspire adventure!

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