150 Benign Urban Encounters - Roleplaying Tips

150 Benign Urban Encounters

From Chris Buono

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #299

Chris polled members of the GMMastery Yahoo group for benign urban encounter ideas and then added a few of his own to come up with this awesome list you might find useful for your own campaigns. Editor Isaac and I added a few more as well. Thanks Chris, Telas, and GMMastery contributors!

Try using this list a few different ways:

  1. To help with impromptu descriptions.
  2. An injection of scenery when designing city encounters and locations.
  3. Encounter hooks. These items are perfect micro-situations on which to layer a larger conflict, clue, or circumstance.

    For example, pick an item from the list and use it as a distraction while the real encounter triggers. Your players will enjoy the one-two punch.
  4. Inspiration. If you’ve got writer’s block, these items are perfect for getting the ideas flowing.

The List

  1. Chamber pot emptied near/on
  2. Cats chasing each other dart past
  3. “Please watch this cart for me, just for a minute.”
  4. Birds of prey circling overhead
  5. Urchin approaches for minor scam
  6. Shadow passes across the ground
  7. Smoke rises in distance (brush fire)
  8. Feeling of deja vu
  9. Insect swarm/nest on building
  10. Howling/barking in the distance
  11. Beggar asks for alms
  12. Children pester party
  13. Local teen wants to join party
  14. Graffiti on building
  15. Stumble onto amorous teens
  16. Child looking for pet frog
  17. Snake slithers away
  18. Street vendor (food, drink, trinkets, etc.)
  19. Rainbow in the distance
  20. Group of bats rise in the distance
  21. Drunken fist fight
  22. Stumble on lover’s quarrel
  23. Religious pilgrims with vow of silence are jeered at
  24. “Recognized” by a drunk
  25. Overturned vegetable cart
  26. Criminal held in public stock
  27. Sudden sun shower
  28. Wind kicks up
  29. Street performer(s)
  30. Religious fanatic
  31. A discarded, tattered cloak
  32. A rusty old weapon found in gutter
  33. Dark storm cloud approaches
  34. Large beetle buzzes around head
  35. Kids playing game (hide ‘n seek)
  36. Criminal in custody is marched past
  37. Mother looking for child
  38. Sandstorm
  39. Small dust whirlwind
  40. A dead ox causes a gridlock
  41. An overturned cart causes a gridlock
  42. A few sun bleached papers blow by
  43. Well-armed adventurers pass by
  44. Roof tile falls, barely missing party
  45. Approached by prostitute(s)
  46. Smell of baking/cooking
  47. Pimp (“you messin’ with my woman?”)
  48. Wailing baby
  49. One person chasing another
  50. Stench of feces
  51. Ray of light seems to surround one person
  52. Unusually cool breeze
  53. Rats are following you
  54. You get a dull, throbbing headache
  55. Injured bird lies helpless
  56. Skunk smell
  57. Eerily quiet
  58. Customer angry with shopkeeper
  59. Food fight occurring
  60. Stung by a bee
  61. Arid dust coats your mouth
  62. Cop/guard walking a beat
  63. Spoiled brat wants party item
  64. Someone teleports away
  65. Very friendly cat
  66. Parent scolding child
  67. Someone bumps pouch–nothing’s missing
  68. Find a copper piece
  69. Parade in honor of minor saint, hero, etc.
  70. Foreigners arguing in their own language
  71. Allergic reaction to exotic spice/pollen
  72. Discount holy water salesman
  73. Witness a minor crime
  74. Something scurries away (chipmunk)
  75. Street preacher accosts you
  76. Witness a major crime
  77. Two religious processions meet head-on
  78. City watch follows you for 2d4 blocks
  79. Find a silver piece
  80. Dogs chasing each other run by
  81. Very active beehive nearby
  82. Howling gust of wind
  83. Approaching lightning storm
  84. Crow squawks repeatedly at approach
  85. Rubbery mass stuck to your boot (gum)
  86. Step in crap – dog, dire rat, etc.
  87. Someone stomps in nearby puddle–splash!
  88. Street cleaner sweeps by
  89. Unconscious stranger on side of road
  90. Pair of small birds harass you
  91. Feral cat is trailing the party
  92. A case of mistaken identity
  93. Cloud shaped as holy symbol
  94. Shopping list for potions is found
  95. Old ring is sticking out of the dirt
  96. One person has an intense itch
  97. Hawk takes mole/mouse near party
  98. Find a gold piece
  99. Loose chickens peck at the street
  100. Passing child drops pottery, cries
  101. Raven lands in path, stares, leaves
  102. Injured mounted scout charges through the street
  103. Noble is carried past in a sedan chair
  104. Two hooded people whisper on street
  105. Young consumer is watched closely
  106. Singing floats out of nearby building
  107. Circus wagon trundles past, animal calls
  108. Weapon sharpener approaches party
  109. Large flock of birds flies acrobatics, then darts away
  110. Private guards flank a door
  111. Distracted senior totters straight for party
  112. Weary knight is mobbed by adoring children
  113. Partial eclipse of the sun
  114. Emaciated children tug at party sleeves
  115. People cheer for the party
  116. A strong, young, healthy beggar asks for coin
  117. A politician on a box of soap during a speech makes eye contact with a PC
  118. A cat is stuck in a tree and mewls at the PCs
  119. An escaped pet rodent rolling around the street in its ball bumps up against a PC’s leg
  120. A religious leader and his incense burning retinue cuts across the PCs’ path
  121. A diseased old man resting in a chair asks for help standing up
  122. A paint can spills from above and splashes PCs
  123. Political activists on parade beckon the PCs to join
  124. A dangerous fish in a tank bumps loudly against the glass
  125. A bee stings a nearby child who blindly runs to a PC for soothing
  126. A small bird egg drops out of a nest from above and land intact nearby
  127. An elf walks by with living snakes wrapped around his shoulders
  128. A visitor stops to ask for directions to an interesting place
  129. A fish vendor bends over to vomit and people point and laugh
  130. A sheet of music blows into a PC’s face
  131. A garbage bin rattles; inside is a tied sack of kittens
  132. A depressed bard asks sing-song, rhetorical questions of the PCs
  133. A dangerous-looking racoon has claimed an apple cart as his–merchant beseeches PCs
  134. A known crime boss sits and reads while sweating shoe shine boy buffs and casts the PCs worried looks
  135. A woman with too much fashion going on breaks her shoe and stumbles into a PC
  136. A man gets down on one knee and proposes, drawing a crowd and knotting traffic
  137. A beggar with his hand down a drain hole brings up a ring and immediately asks the PCs to buy it
  138. Three performers in masks surround the PCs and do a ring dance around them
  139. Clothing tossed out a window during a lovers’ spat lands on a PC
  140. A woman drops a basket of fruit–can the PCs dodge before squashing some?
  141. A crazy man points at PC’s equipment and lists its magical properties–and he’s right!
  142. A little boy confronts the PCs and shoots them with an imaginary crossbow
  143. PCs pass an alleyway blocked by a new spider web
  144. A fishmonger dumps a cart of rotten fish for scavengers to clean up
  145. A young noble passes trailed by a pickpocket
  146. A messenger collides with the PCs and numerous papers start blowing around
  147. A body of an evil wizard tied to a stake, body still smoking
  148. A chatty bard walks alongside the party
  149. A chess match
  150. A person passed out from too much drink, looted, with writing on forehead

A Brief Word From Johnn

RPG Advocacy Tips – Supplemental #21 Now Available

Whew – the RPG Advocacy tips Supplemental Issue is now online. It’s a big sucker – thanks very much for the great tips submissions on this sensitive topic! You can get the issue here: RPG Downloads

Tell Me About Your Character

The Escapist is looking for gamers to participate in TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER, a new column of interviews with diverse and interesting gamers and the characters they play.

Find out more at: http://www.theescapist.com/tellme/

TiddlyWiki Your Campaigns

I stumbled onto a neat organization tool recently and have been using it for my Eberron campaign with success. It’s called TiddlyWiki, a free, client-side wiki you can customize with your own styles and numerous community add- ons and plug-ins.

The blurb on the creator’s site about what a TiddlyWiki is reads:

Welcome to TiddlyWiki, a free Micro Content Wiki by Jeremy Ruston. It’s written in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to run on any modern browser without needing any Server Side logic. It allows anyone to create personal, self-contained hypertext documents that can be posted to any web server, sent by email, or kept on a USB thumb drive to make a WikiOnAStick. TiddlyWiki is published under an Open Source License.

To get your own, free TiddlyWiki, or to learn more.

If you have questions about TiddlyWiki, or wikis in general, feel free to ping me. Also, be sure to read Dave Schaefer’s Peanut Butter Wiki tip in this issue for more about wikis.


Johnn Four
[email protected]

Tips From Roleplaying Tips Game Masters

Have a roleplaying tip you’d like to share? E-mail it to [email protected] – thanks!

Peanut Butter Wiki

From Dave Schaefer

I wanted to mention another cool wiki I found after being inspired by Jon Thompson’s wiki tip from issue #282. It’s called Peanut Butter Wiki [ http://www.pbwiki.com ] and it’s great! The wikis are easy to set up and use, look clean, and are totally free. Two different games I play in are using pbwiki now, and it’s an awesome way to collect, share, and update information about the campaign. Best of all, PBWiki does the hosting, so you don’t have to spend time or effort setting up your own server.

Fun Trap Ideas

From Edge

Despite playing in a world full of magic, strange creatures, and outlandish locations, I still end up finding the idea of automatic dart traps a little unrealistic. The level of engineering apparent in ancient cultures found in games is amazing. Maybe too much so. Here are a few ideas for simpler traps that anyone could build without the help of a kobold trap master.

The Door Axe

A large axe is attached to the top of the door frame, either held against the wall above the door, or attached to the ceiling. When the door is opened a thin wire attached pulls the axe which swings right through the open door. Damage varies based on the qualities of the axe. A Reflex save allows the character to avoid the cut, provided his friends aren’t all rushing in after him. An alert character can see the wire and bypass harm.

Bucket on the Door

Anyone can have a bucket, and it shouldn’t be hard to find something grotty to put inside. Poisons, vermin, oil (ready to be lit), slippy slime, gluey substances, blinding powder, tar, or even water.

[Editor’s suggestion: In a cold-weather campaign being soaked can be lethal. A freezing body might experience shock, and water acts like superglue as boots, eyelids, and fingers are frozen to whatever they touch.]

Floor Board Spikes

Rather than tricky and complex mechanisms to shoot spikes, why not use rotten floor boards that give way to spikes an inch below. To make things nastier you need a longer fall and bigger spikes. Creators can avoid it by stepping on the few planks that aren’t rotten, but made to look like they are.

The Ant Nursery

Some ants excavate large nests underground. If enough weight passes over one it will collapse, leaving the unlucky victim in a pit filled with furious, biting ants. Any character falling in will have to climb crumbly dirt walls while enduring hundreds of stings.

Lantern Trick

A simple trap, but one that can be versatile with preparation. The container below the flame has had easily- overlooked holes put in just above the oil level. If the lantern is tipped or dropped the oil will spill out and set the whole thing ablaze. An adventurer who uses this lantern could find it bursting into flames in his hand, and might spill more oil over himself. Movement like running, climbing, combat, or leaving it swinging from a backpack will surely set it off.

You could also set it up with a simple mechanism to knock it off its wall hanging or drop it from the ceiling, causing it to smash open and splashing burning oil on all adjacent. In the right circumstances it could just be set down somewhere likely to be disturbed. Try positioning it over an oiled floor, in a room full of hay, or near grain sacks full of grain dust. This trap must be set just before the ‘visitors’ arrive, and for every second it burns it loses potency.

You Broke My Vase!

For when you don’t have a handy alarm spell, a poorly- balanced vase or pot makes a fine improvised alarm. The pot could be set leaning against a door that, if opened, causes the vase to fall and smash. It could also be tied to a trip wire.

The Creaky Door

This one can be a great short range warning. Imagine the rogue’s frustration as they try their hardest to quietly open those rusted hinges.

[Note from Johnn: great trap ideas Edge! Simple, real, and fun. Do any readers have trap ideas like these? It would be great to do an issue on simple traps for your games. E-mail your trap ideas to [email protected] ]

200 Adventuring Company Names

From Forrest

In my campaign, naming your adventuring group is expected. Any group of such powerful and well-armed individuals is expected to purchase an adventuring charter from the government offices. To get the charter a group must have a name.

In at least one case the patron of the group procured the charter, and since he paid he got to name the team (or I did as GM). This is one way that the GM can keep an eye on weird or silly names. Another is requiring the group to only use an original name (sort of like the current company naming policies most places require). Any silly names have already been taken.

Here is a list of names I compiled, in no particular order.

  1. Company of the Silver Skull
  2. Knights of the Filthy Lucre
  3. Company of the Scarlet Swords
  4. Company of the Broken Lantern
  5. Company of the Bloodshot Eye
  6. The Little People
  7. The Gray Riders
  8. The Pyromaniacs
  9. The Savage Company
  10. The Salvage and Recovery Team
  11. Companions of the Keg
  12. Brotherhood of the Blade
  13. The Underdark Raiding & Expedition Company
  14. The Company of the Broken Arrow
  15. The Company of the Fell Rune
  16. The Company of the Bloated Corpse
  17. The Wildmen
  18. The Wilderness Restoration Society
  19. The Revenue Generation League
  20. The Castaways
  21. The Old World Expeditionary Force
  22. The Emancipation Organization
  23. The Executioners
  24. The Embattled Company
  25. The Courageous Company
  26. The Elfin Admiration Society
  27. The Honor Society
  28. The Wilderness Abatement League
  29. The Monster Extermination Brotherhood
  30. The Sisters of Pain
  31. The Odd Squad
  32. The Aborigines
  33. Adventurers at Large
  34. The Beautiful People
  35. Dealers in Abuse
  36. The Abysmal Failures
  37. The Company of Public Acclaim
  38. The Accidental Death & Dismemberment Team
  39. The Company of Glorious Accolade
  40. The Accomplished Company
  41. The Society of Harmonious Accord
  42. The Martial Fraternity
  43. Ace Troubleshooters
  44. The Masters of Acquisition
  45. The Company of the Adventurous Addiction
  46. The Adamantium League
  47. The Admirable Adventuring Society
  48. The Gentle Admonishment Sorority
  49. The Regulators of Adversity
  50. Aegis Society
  51. The Gatherers of Affluence
  52. The Brawlers
  53. The Agents of Agility
  54. The Aggravation Eliminators
  55. The Adventurers Allegro
  56. The Altruistic Company
  57. The Altercationists
  58. The Amazonian Sisterhood
  59. Ambuscade Inc.
  60. The Amorous Company
  61. Lions of the Underdark
  62. The Anarchists
  63. The Antagonist League
  64. The Aquatic Company
  65. The Ardent Adventurers
  66. Adventurers Ascendant
  67. The Atrocity Force
  68. The Balladeers
  69. Band of the Bare Blade
  70. The Band of Battle
  71. Battle Brotherhood
  72. Battle Force
  73. The Bawdy Band
  74. Beast Slayers
  75. Beast Slayer Specialists
  76. The Subterfuge Company
  77. The Bedlam Boys
  78. The Bellicose Band
  79. Company of the Bitch
  80. Bitches & Bastards
  81. Bizarre Force
  82. The Blackguards
  83. The Bad Guys
  84. Bluff & Blunder
  85. Brotherhood of the Brave
  86. The Company of False Bravado
  87. The Brazen Company
  88. The Ladies of Ill Repute
  89. Freebooters of the Briny Deep
  90. The Expedition & Brigandage Society
  91. The Fire & Brimstone Brood
  92. Brutality Inc.
  93. The Brutal Buccaneers
  94. The Buccaneering & Enrichment Society
  95. The Personal Enrichment League
  96. The Cohorts of Destruction
  97. The Lords of Destruction
  98. Company of the Hunting Horn
  99. Brotherhood of the Sacred Bull
  100. Sisterhood of the Sacred Bullock
  101. The Bungling Through Crew
  102. Looters of the Lost Cairn
  103. Company of the Precipitous Withdrawal
  104. The Calamity Resolution Society
  105. The Cohort of Campaigners
  106. The Dungeon Capitalization League
  107. The Capricious Company
  108. Caravan Escort & Protection, Inc.
  109. The Castration Company
  110. The Catastrophic Event Society
  111. The Shining Cavaliers
  112. The Crotchety Cavaliers
  113. The Celebrated Companions
  114. The Celestial Cohort
  115. The Celestial Sorority
  116. The Brotherhood of the Orb Celestial
  117. The Celestial Beauties
  118. The Celestial Buccaneers
  119. The Celestial Cabal
  120. The Infernal League
  121. The Celestial Blades
  122. The Celestial Heroes
  123. The Celestial Sisterhood
  124. The Demonic Pack
  125. The Celestial Raiders
  126. The Courageous Cadets
  127. The Centaur Squad
  128. The Ceremonial Guard
  129. The Celestial Champions
  130. Champions of the Crucible
  131. Forgebrothers of Adversity
  132. The Chainmail Champions
  133. The Companions of the Honorable Challenge
  134. Challengers of the Underdark
  135. The Challengers of Adversity
  136. The Challengers of Chaos
  137. The Chaotic Company
  138. Seekers of the Big Haul
  139. Seekers of the Celestial Coin
  140. Tymora’s Troop
  141. The Challengers of Horror
  142. The Troop of the Dark Tomb
  143. The Band of Blood
  144. The Berserk Gang
  145. Companions of the Lady
  146. Masters of Destiny
  147. Band of the Brave Ballad
  148. Champions of Justice
  149. The Injustice League
  150. The Seven Swords
  151. Opportunity Knocks
  152. The Lord’s Men
  153. Kingsmen
  154. The Maiden’s Watch
  155. The Femme Fatales
  156. The Sword’s Edge Company
  157. The Liberators
  158. The Spearhead Society
  159. The Lords of Order
  160. The Myrmidons of Mayhem
  161. The Order of Infernal Glory
  162. The Witch-Hunters
  163. Exterminators of the Undead
  164. Followers of the Holy Light
  165. Brotherhood of the Holy Sword
  166. The Sword Sisters
  167. The Sword Watch
  168. Guardians of the Unfailing Watch
  169. The Guardians of the Holy Word
  170. The Unholy Guard
  171. The Never-Ending Patrol
  172. Guardians of the Supernatural World
  173. Keepers of the Crystal Goblet
  174. Seekers of the Eternal Beast
  175. Keepers of the Peace
  176. Enforcers of the Common Good
  177. Followers of the Way of the Weapon
  178. The Apostates
  179. The Free Fighters Guild
  180. Companions of the Mithril Golem
  181. The Adamantium Order of Punishment
  182. Keepers of the Iron Crown
  183. Cohorts of the Infernal Agreement
  184. The Divine Guard
  185. Guardians of the Divine Rose
  186. Fruit of the Vine Society
  187. Followers of the Divine Glory
  188. The Sorcery Squad
  189. The Warfare Admiration Association
  190. Delvers of the Unknown
  191. The Triumphant Troop
  192. The Abyssal Assembly
  193. The Select of Society
  194. The Mounted Constables of Law
  195. The Marshals of the Eternal Flame
  196. We Happy Few
  197. The Ignoble Band
  198. The Gentlemen of the Bloody Gauntlet
  199. The Inspired Order
  200. The Followers of the Unforgiving Way

Rhetoric For Your Games

From Johnn

Check out this site of the top 100 general speeches, political speeches, and movie speeches for interesting content you can use for NPCs on soap boxes, adventure parts, and player handouts and other props: American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United States

Group Name Tip

From Elena of Valhalla

For my lighthearted group, I selected an acronym at the start of the campaign and told it to the players, asking them to find its meaning, taking all the time they needed. This gave me something to use for the website and mailing list right from the start, and it also proved fun, with many alternative meanings born at various stages of the game. This might not be a good idea for everyone as it could hurt the suspension of disbelief.

Mark Your Figures With Discs

From Scot Newbury

The question often comes up during a role-playing session, “how do I mark a figure on the battlemat?” My solution: make discs out of dowels.

For those not familiar, dowels are short wooden rods you find in craft stores or in the craft department of your local super-store. They come in a variety of diameters. I recommend the 1-inch variety as it matches up with the size of your typical battle-mat grid. Be sure to pick up some paint as well; 4-8 colors should give you enough variety.

Cut small sections of your dowel (be consistent with the size) and paint them in different colors. When a character has a particular effect placed on them you can slip one of these discs under the figure. Since the discs are painted, you can easily tell which effects are in place. If you have a figure that’s larger than a single square, just slip a disc under each corner of the figurine to mark it.