150 Benign Urban Fantasy Encounters

From Chris Buono

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0299

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 of Benign Urban Encounters

  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
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