It’s time for my first written review here on the site, and I am rather excited! Today I am looking at “Encounters in the Savage Cities“, put together by Jeff C Stevens but housing a multitude of themed encounters written by various Dungeons and Dragons creative types.
This particular volume covers City and Town encounters of which there are 26 in total, each one created by a different author. In each encounter, you get stat blocks when needed, scaling suggestions, notes for the DM, maps, and even some art. There is also a new background called the Museum Curator which I did not expect.
Given the sheer number of encounters I am not going to try to talk about every single one. If I did that, I would end up with a massive post and no one would read it. I sure wouldn’t. Rather, I am going to talk about the book overall, and mention a few specific encounters that I thought were well done.
First let’s talk formatting. Thankfully, the text chosen is easy to read and matches what most of the official books use. The PDF overall is super easy to understand, with each encounter following the same basic formatting. You have a Title, Level Range, location suggestions, then an introduction to the idea behind the encounter, back story if needed, and then the actual encounter. Any maps are insert in the text for ease of use, and the maps are solid as well for the most part with a hand drawn feel. I am not surprised as many of the maps are created by Elven Tower, and he is a solid mapmaker. For a PDF it works great and I am very happy with the overall design. I would have liked to see the Table of Contents be hotlinked so I could click on the name of an encounter and go there, but it’s not a deal-breaker by any means.
Onward now, to the actual meat of the book, the encounters! Most of the encounters cover level ranges 1-10, with a few listed as Any, and a couple listed for larger ranges or even specific levels only. You get a lot of value for your dollar here, and for the most part the encounters themselves are solid. Thankfully, the Scaling Suggestions help cover any issues you might have as a DM with adjusting an encounter to your party’s level range. One thing I have noticed, going through many of the encounters, is just how many “thieves and con artist” based encounters there are. Granted, the theme was Cities so it makes sense, but it seems like every other encounter I read was focused on some form of thievery or con artists trying to kidnap, ambush, rob, or otherwise screw with the players. Not necessarily bad of course, but I couldn’t help but notice it.
A few of my favorite encounters have to be “The Puppeteer’s Assistant” by Ken Carcas, “The Leaning Door” by Chris Bissette (a literal knockoff of the Yawning Portal!), “Bad Parenting” by Benoit de Bernardy, “Party in a Bottle” by Richard Jansen-Parkes, and “The Deadly Fountain” by Chris “The Kind GM” Karelis. Each one is fairly unique, fun, and offers a ton of options for the players to move forward. I really love the Leaning Door idea as well and want to try that one personally the next time I run a game and the party finds themselves in a large city.
One I want to mention that I did not like was “Fool me Once, Shame on You” by Glen Cooper. The encounter itself is fine involving a giant mimic messing with the party, but early on he offers the option for players to make an Investigation (Int) check, with each higher DC met offering more info. My issue is that beating a DC 20 actually gives the party a Red Herring, IE FALSE INFO. This should not be in a high DC. If anything, the Red Herring should be in the DC 12 or even if the players don’t meet the minimum. I do not like the idea of actually penalizing the players when they get high rolls like this. Because of things like this, you will want to make sure you read each encounter in detail before you run them, so you don’t get caught off guard with stuff like this.
Overall, this was a pretty solid book of encounters for any city or town setting. One thing I felt was missing was a “City Size” entry for these however. Some of the encounters clearly cannot work in small scale locations, such as the “Bad Parenting” encounter which requires a Sewer system, which you are only going to find in a large city and not a small hamlet. I would have liked to see some indication, at a glance, of which size of city/town these encounters would fit best.
Finally, I want take a minute to talk about the new background, which I did not expect to see when I opened this PDF. I love the idea of this background, and its highly flavorful. The creator of this, Cody Faulk, should be applauded. After reading the background, the features, and the Traits, Bonds, Ideals, and Flaws, I really want to make my next character a Curator. Especially if I get to name and create my own Museum! I mean how can you not like the personality trait of “Sometimes, at night, I like to move the skeletons around and scare the cleaning crew.” That’s freaking GOLD.
Do I think its worth its purchase price? Well that honestly depends entirely on whether or not you find yourself needing quick easy to use encounters to slot into city and town time. If you find your party faffs about a lot when in town, you could throw in things like “Bad Parenting” to spice things up and get them moving, or perhaps using “Harpies in the City Limits” to get the blood pumping. But if you are able to come up with ideas on your own and improv easily in these sort of situations then you may not want to bother with this book. Personally I can at least find a use for the concepts here and maybe modify them to come up with my own ideas for later.
You can purchase “Encounters in the Savage Cities” on the DMs Guild for $6.95 by CLICKING HERE.
Thanks for reading, and remember: STAY NERDY FOLKS!
**all images in this post are direct from the PDF and owned by their respective creators, all rights reserved by them**