In continuation of products to help provide inspiration for GMs and interesting additions for their campaign, we’ve got a curious beginning to what could be a keen line ahead. With the Forgotten Encounters series and Random Encounters Remastered, Purple Duck Games lends towards more interesting and flavorful random encounters for your players to enjoy–here, with Encounter Pages, the focus is instead placed on what are effectively little story scenarios and vignettes. With the introduction noting an inspiration from single page adventures, let’s take a look at what we’ve got to work with!
Right away you’re presented with a spread of the included scenes by way of a table of contents which also summarizes the encounter level and environment for each of the entries–a handy touch; after a brief introductory text, you’re off and running with the first of twelve scenarios bundled inside. Before I dig into the meat of each of these, I’d like to take a glance at the composition: the first ‘encounter page’ starts and ends on a single sheet with a bold title, environment and encounter level. Afterward, it rolls through the area and environs, the situation as it stands, optional complications and then the stat blocks associated with the encounter at hand–before finally wrapping up with a rewards section.
Conceptually, I really like this presentation–I dig the notion that over the course of a series of supplements like this that one could create a sizable collection of little one-sheet one-shot mini-adventures/scenarios/story vignettes, quick to flip through, tweak for flavor/challenge and then roll out to players on short notice. This sort of thing, if fleshed out and coupled with products to expand upon random encounters, could serve as a serious boon to beleaguered GMs tight on time or short on ideas or otherwise looking for inspiration–that said, there’s a bit of tweaking still to be made, I feel.
Perhaps a bit of nit-picking, but after the first four entries of the twelve, the fifth–‘Body Count’–is a bit larger and more elaborate than its predecessors and spills over into a third column on the following page; this then starts the next entry in the second column of that page, which itself is large enough to occupy the two pages after that and so on. It’s a relatively minor formatting quirk, but I think it would have benefited from a crisp separation from each scene entry–if for no other reason than to keep with the independence of each (and so that you’re not printing the last half of a Corpse Orgy stat block when you’re looking to run the next scene, etc.)
Since Encounter Pages predates Random Encounters Remastered, I’d also note an interest in seeing any future offerings in the line incorporating some of the excellent elements introduced in the latter product–such as the dispositions, terrain features and so forth–I think that they would lend more interest to the tactical side of these encounters and help to better realize the areas in which they occur.
With all that said, let’s take a look at the scenarios on offer:
‘Danger at the Docks’ begins with a fishing village beset by a giant shark-eating crab which has gone berserk wrecking their boats–and in the process, threatening their livelihood. Possible complications include children from the village trapped amid the crab’s wrath and a zealous cleric of the sea who might thwart the party’s attempts to halt the crab. This is a decent, quick scene which I think could benefit from the inclusion of interesting terrain conditions or out of the ordinary combat options for the crab (suppose it uses that big strength to start hurling small boats about or the like?)
‘Pickpocket’ has a organization of scoundrels staging a theft to plant an arcane-marked coin among the party’s wealth to observe whether or not they’re intentionally disrupting the group’s illicit operations; as a first level encounter, this is mostly an exercise in flavor with the halfling rogue provided with a number of entertaining diversions to throw at pursuant PCs. Really, I think this scene is an open invitation to introduce a chase sequence to your campaign, whether via the deck provided by Paizo or one of the several fine offerings third party developers have produced. Overall, a good quick scene that could tie into a story at large easily.
‘Rendezvous Point’ has the party making camp in a forest or jungle, potentially with a caravan, wagon train or the like–and soon finding a congregation of little monkeys showing up expecting handouts from the characters in food or goods. If not satisfied, a monkey swarm is afoot for a very entertaining conflict. I love this one quite frankly, if by no other virtue than the fact that it prompts a monkey swarm fight; the potential for humor in this scene is high and it could bring fun roleplay to the table. High marks.
‘The Green Chapel’ takes a bit of an Arthurian turn, with a forest shrine said to cure any ailments and its intrepid fey guardian. One of the complications is for the Green Knight to challenge a PC to singular combat–but the other, which prompts for a player to volunteer to take the knight’s place, results in the character becoming an NPC bound to the shrine in his place. For a one-shot vignette, this seemed a bit peculiar to me. Besides that, the knight himself is souped up with Bastard Sword feats–but honestly should probably not have forgotten to take Power Attack in the course of his eight feats if he’s going to be a challenging solo encounter. A decent scene.
‘Body Count’ makes the stakes high, rolling out a corpse orgy for a gruesome and potentially difficult battle. I liked the complications presented here for pathos sake–recovering the body of a beloved NPC or possibly a fallen PC ratchets things up a fair bit. The corpse orgy itself serves a cameo for the Tricky Owlbear Publishing rendition–and as it’s a rather cool monster, I’d say this makes for a pretty solid scene all around.
‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ opens with a panicked nymph enlisting the party to save her love–before offering a tricky vantage to a ‘man fighting a lion’ wherein the lion is actually the love in question and the man is actually a disguised dark naga being terribly rude. This entry takes up several pages by sprawling stat blocks alone, but otherwise is essentially a ‘gotcha!’ for players; I’m admittedly not much of a fan of that approach, since Thisbe could reasonably avoid a lot of heartache by correcting anyone who makes to engage her lover. This one didn’t really work for me.
‘The Four Cavaliers’ promises a quartet of kobold cavaliers astride slurk mounts on a quest to rid the underground of drow; by that premise alone this one’s pretty entertaining, and after the preceding scene this one starts in the reverse–with the kobolds mistaking the party for drow. Were this to be included in an underground storyline, the four cavaliers could make for some very compelling and curious NPC additions if one is so inclined; otherwise, the complications offered could make for an interesting battlefield while the four charge about. Solid.
‘Escaped Prey’ could qualify as a Forgotten Encounter for its employment of a Bebilith; the premise is pretty interesting in its execution–in the course of a player summoning a demon, the summon shows up at half health and bleeding before a pursuant Bebilith shows up soon afterward angry about its conjured quarry. I’ve got to give this one high marks for cleverness, I would just advise that one would be careful when to employ it–as this could very easily tip between being very entertaining or immensely frustrating to a player in a pinch.
‘The Red Wave’ is a colossal ooze on a rampage, loosed by an insidious lich; a straightforward encounter with a fairly interesting foe that can tie in with any storyline wherein a GM is keen to demonstrate some evil afoot or otherwise show some calamity. I like the complications and the situation paints a good visual for the scene–while the ooze can be a big, fun fight. Solid.
‘Have I Got a Deal’ takes a change of pace to extradimensional merchants potentially beset by otherworldly pursuers; mostly, though, it’s a reasonably interesting opportunity for your players to buy and sell magical wares and possibly introduce especially unusual offerings. Take a bit of time to construct a uniquely bizarre shopping list and throw in a quirky personality for the merchants and this could be a pretty entertaining diversion.
‘Medusa Oracle’ serves for a party pursuant of information and answers and provides a table with tasks to which she may assign particular classes of character; those who fail the tasks are ostensibly put under the test of her petrifying gaze instead–a potentially dire punishment. Quirky, but the task element to this scene makes it fairly interesting; I’d advise care in the execution of the petrification when dealing with your players.
‘Respite from the Storm’ takes place in desert environs with a party potentially on the run, a terrible sandstorm driving the players to seek refuge in what is in actuality the lair of a very old blue dragon. This could either result in a pitched battle or a terse round of diplomacy and roleplay, depending on the manners of the players and how you decide to pan out Xylrynn the dragon’s personality. Included is an extensive hoard for Xylrynn, so the manners of your particular band of adventurers may evaporate. As a fan of opportunities for a good ‘let’s talk to a dragon!’ scenes, I like this one for the chance it offers of just that.
As the capstone to the product, the ‘Respite from the Storm’ scene also includes gobs of bonus content such as a color map of the dragon’s lair and a fully realized legendary short sword put together in the mechanical style of Purple Duck Games’ legendary item product line; as I find that series rather good, this is a nice little extra to round things off. With that, we’ve our twelve scenes and cut to the closing credits!
Overall: At 23 pages, 3 are occupied by OGL and credits and the remaining 20 could all be construed as full content otherwise; the only artwork contained is that of the legendary short sword and Xylrynn’s lair map, both of which are presented in color and decent detail. I’ve already touched upon the quirks I felt were present in formatting above–beyond the layout of the scenes running over into one another however, a standard two column spread features throughout and there were no particularly glaring editing mistakes I noticed.
As the first entry of a series of product, I think Encounter Pages is a good start with room to grow; I’d like to see future entries in the line spreading their wings a bit as it were–ideally given more distinction from product lines of random encounter stand-ins. There is certainly room for a line dedicated to small one-shot scenes and vignettes to plug into stories in progress–and in this vein I believe that the line could benefit quite a bit from putting more of a focus on providing a broad variety of complications for more emphasis on tweaking and customizing a scenario for a given story.
Standardizing the formatting and layout would be a step I’d also suggest–since a single page proved ultimately a bit restrictive once stat blocks started growing larger, set each scene to two or three pages by default and use the additional space for more components on the tweaking side of things. At present, there is a strong resemblance between this and product such as Forgotten Encounters by Purple Duck Games, or the Random Encounters supplements by Raging Swan Press–another reason I think that pushing this into a more distinct role would be beneficial.
I’d rate Encounter Pages squarely at 4 stars; I feel the content is a good value for the price, a prospective GM is bound to find at least a few strokes of inspiration among the scenes as presented and the additional bonus content is a nice extra perk; the writing on the whole is creative and shows a lot of promise and there are enough scenes that distance themselves from ‘here’s a battle with flavor’ that the series holds solid potential.
I’m interested in seeing what Purple Duck Games comes out with next in this product vein–and I think cross-integrating content from the Random Encounters Remastered line and the Legendary equipment line would be a good move. That said, where’s the otyugh scenario(s)?! 😉