Review: The Game Master’s Book of Random Encounters (5e)

Product: The Game Master’s Book of Random Encounters (Print) (PDF)
Author: Jeff Ashworth
Publisher: Jeff Ashworth
System: 5e, but can be used for to inspire in almost any system
SummaryEight one-shot adventures, a Random NPC generator, d100 tables for curses, dreams, party connections and more – as well as 500 maps, story hooks, and even more ways to spark your creativity at a moment’s notice.
Snap Judgement for Busy Wyverns: Chock full of instant-use or low-prep resources. Grab at a moment’s notice when game night creeps up on you, or you’re so far off the rails that no one knows what’s coming next, and you just need a session or two of breathing room. Do you suddenly need a map for a crypt, tavern, cove or hideout? This book has that. Suddenly need a dream or vision that you’ll connect back to the plot later? This book has that. Uh oh, someone rolled a nat-1 and you need a curse? This book has that! Never panic again – this book has you covered.

What is it?
This is a 250-page tome that is dedicated to helping you quickly generate entire adventures on short notice. It even has 8 drop-in adventures that you can use, today. Everything is included – NPCs, motivations, maps and items. There’s maps for every location you might find the party in. There’s tables for just about every “What do I do next?” or “What does this NPC look like and want?” moment. There’s even a couple pages of weird, random magic items for when your players just won’t stop asking, “Is there any magic items for sale?” Everything in this book is modular and can be dropped-in as quickly as you need them.

What makes it good?
We all get burnt out. We all have real lives that, sometimes, prevent us from being as creative and fantastic as we’d like. Sometimes we need someone else to do the thinking for us – at least, some of the heavy lifting to get us started. That’s what makes this book great – it can jump-start you when you need a little help. The adventures included are short, but are rich in lore, NPCs and just general character. Often the author puts in random tables within the adventure – choose one or roll, and continue on. NPCs get profiles, each section has a GM note with tips on running that encounter. There are also additional tables for variants on the encounter. Everything is self-contained and right in front of you! As long as you have time to read the adventure ahead of time, most other prep can be done on the fly as you react to your characters and tie the setting into your campaign. Furthermore, if all you need is a random inn, hideout, temple or locale – pretty much any kind – there’s a few to choose from here. Each one is full of interesting people, or items, or enemies. Never have a dull moment again – fill time in your session with one of the locations! You can even build castles or tunnels on the fly, or with minimal prep beforehand.

How do I use it?
This book is so big – I’ve not yet used even 10% of it. The adventures are great side-quests. The locations are great when someone asks “What does this tavern look like?” or, all of a sudden, getting a macguffin from a random temple is important. All the fluff is taken care of for me. I usually drop these things in during prep, turning a 30 minute process into a 5 minute one. Also I like to just look over the random tables and let it spark my imagination later on. If there’s a lull in the session, or things seem to be dragging – well something random can happen that’s full and rich.

Downsides
There’s a lot here. It’s hard to remember what is even IN this book, there’s so much – I’m as likely to forget what I have as use it! That’s not the fault of the book exactly, but the breadth of situations and locations covered makes it more like an encyclopedia than anything else. It could take a little effort to work into the habit of consulting this book first when random things happen.

Some of the adventures do seem a little dragged out, but it depends on how you run them. I’d like them to be a little tighter, I could see them lasting for multiple sessions…and usually for drop-in side quest I want it wrapped up in two, at most. But if you need an extended breather – there’s some great ones in here.

Final Thoughts
A fantastic product that really belongs on your shelf if you’re a 5e DM. Every time I open it, I see something I had forgotten was in there, and most of the time its utility is clear – I want to use it! That’s a great feeling to get from a product! It’s full of random tables that are so high-quality, the results never feel random, if that makes sense.

Recommend or Not?
Recommend! If you have any need for side quests, random encounters, or even just need to fill in some gaps in your world – this book is a great pickup.

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