Much of the fantasy campaigns I play in seem to take place in villages, towns, and cities, yet coming up with encounters in urban settings can sometimes be a pain in the rear. Shoot… Populating a town can be a major undertaking depending on how detailed you choose to get. So the Urban Dressing line of supplements from Raging Swan Press is a welcome solution to this problem.
The first of these supplements came out a few months ago and was written by Brian Liberge: Urban Dressing: Market Stalls. What’s one of the main things PCs like to do in places with people? Shop! So why not come up with some intriguing marketplaces for them to spend their well-earned (or stolen) gold pieces? The book offers four different sections to help with that task.
When you’re defining something you want your PCs to interact with, you generally want to give it a memorable feature to key off of. For instance, an NPC may have a unique accent, limp, or favorite phrase. A favorite bar may have a collection of NPCs or a signature drink. A villain may have a particular strategy or unique approach to aggravating the PCs. Well, why can’t a market stall also have something to make it unique? With table A (Characteristics & Appearance), Liberge offers 100 different characteristics to give a stall or store. For instance, a particular stall may have “a dried monkey hand” hanging from a post (#40), a creature such as an elephant (#12) or a bugbear (#5) might actually BE carrying the stall from location to location, or perhaps the stall smells of wet cat (#62).
Ok, now that you have a unique quality to the stall, what’s sold there? Enter table B. 100 different items or collections of items from dried fruit (#1) to messenger services (#100), and everything in-between. Want a clay pot (#27)? How about some holy water (#78)? Perhaps some paper and ink (#56)? Quite a variety is available.
So now you have a place and some trinkets, why not give it a hook to really sell it to the PCs? Table C offers 20 different ways to get them involved. Why not have some not-so-kind folks trying to shake down the shop for a few free items (#10)? Or a pickpocket outside the shop grab something important from the PCs and run (#19)? Or a shop owner in dire straits suffering from a curse (#13)? I can see all of these being subtle ways to lead a group to the next grand adventure…
And then there’s always the shop owner themselves… Who are they? Why are they here? What do they look like? Table D will take care of that with 20 quick NPCs. Perhaps it’s a depressing guy with red hair and a wicked grin on the run from something (#4)… Perhaps it’s a guy with some gender issues and a few identify problems (#12). There are some interesting folks I’d love to sink my teeth into as a GM.
This is only the first of the Urban Dressing series and there are several more now to dive into. I think Liberge has a great formula and can’t wait to read some of the others!
For more about Urban Dressing: Market Stalls, check out…
- … the product page at Raging Swan Press.
- … the book at DriveThruRPG.
- … or check out Creighton’s Raging Swan and gaming blog for details on this and other products.