Review: Dangerous Destinations (System Neutral)

Supplement: Dangerous Destinations
Author: Andrew Geertsen
Publisher: Nord Games
System: System Neutral – Fantasy Themed
Summary: Dangerous Destinations is the definitive guide to creating intriguing and dynamic destinations for storytelling and fantasy roleplaying games. Following the same model as our best selling book, ‘Spectacular Settlements’, Dangerous Destinations contains an easy-to-use, step by step builder system.
Snap Judgement for Busy Wyverns: If there’s one thing every role-playing game needs – its places for the characters to go. Maybe they need to get a thing, deliver a thing, talk to a being or slay a being – all that happens in some place, usually a brand new one. This supplement will help you never run out of places for them to go, and the tables and framework provided ensures that no two places will ever be alike. It’s hard to come up with something brand new whole cloth – this will spur your imagination and while guiding you to create amazing – and dangerous – locales.

What is it?
This is a 450-page tome of tables, guides, suggestions and examples to help you build Dangerous Destinations for your players to experience. The first half of the book is devoted to the random tables themselves – Destinations (Burial Grounds, Outposts, Settlements, etc), Environments (Aquatic, Jungle, Underground, etc), Dangers (Beasts, Events, Magic, etc), and Antagonists (NPC Humanoids and Intelligent Monsters). The latter half is numerous (around 170 pages) Pre-Generated Destinations, all built using the tables in the book and fleshed out with some incredible world-building. They also include custom maps for the locations, and all the values from the generator steps so that you can see how the sausage was made. Further advice and guidance is given in Appendix A (Deciphering Your Destination) and then there’s a couple more Appendices with even more random tables, just to round this out as a fully stand-alone product.

What Makes It Good?
There is a LOT of good in this book, and we are extremely impressed with the framework and guidance provided for the reader. Building a coherent locality using random tables can be a little fraught with nonsense, from time-to-time, but we’ve always felt a contradiction can spur on the most creativity. The value of a random table is that it comes up with ideas we would have never thought of on our own – it guarantees a fresh take on things. Furthermore, we’ve always bought into the idea that the descriptions of locations in game supplements are of things that actually exist – they are not imagination, they are real. We suspend our disbelief entirely. And the same is true, in a way, when we build a location – our mindset isn’t that we’re “making up a location” – our mindset is we’re discovering a location. It seems Geertsen and his team agree:

We can’t tell you how thrilled we were to read this section – it really spoke to us, and we couldn’t help but nod enthusiastically. That’s how these fantasy worlds feel to us. The Forgotten Realms, Golarion, Midgard – they are real because we can go to them, in a limited way, when we play in those settings. They are real in a way a setting we only experience through novels isn’t – we can’t visit the world of a novel, but we can visit the world of a campaign setting.

How Do I Use It?
Basically, you just follow the directions and roll some dice – and then from there imagine up the glue holding it all together. Easy-peasy right? In some ways – yes! If you’re GMing a game, you do this all the time – react to a situation or prompt put before you. This book is basically GMing for you in a game of worldbuilding. This is something we try to impress upon people – GM prep is playing the game too. If you have a spare hour, generate a destination and throw it in your backlog (you’re using notion.so for your backlog right?) for later. Or if you’re on a long car trip with a friend or partner – have someone taking notes and just brainstorm through a destination. I guarantee you’ll have somewhere you can’t wait to visit by the end. It will have a completely unique feel, locale, inhabitants and mystery, all just waiting to be experienced.

Downsides
There aren’t many. This book has a very clear mission statement – Help you build Dangerous Destinations – and it executes it with precision. The only big downside is one that is shared by any System Neutral resource – it doesn’t have stat blocks or DCs or anything mechanical. The monsters and NPCs are all somewhat “generic” – if you want to use that cool new monster you saw from Tome of Beasts II or that incredible NPC in The Game Master’s Book of Non-Player Characters, well, you’re going to have to remember that and insert them yourself. This is by no means a deal breaker or even a criticism of this product – it’s simply the nature of a System Neutral Product. By being infinitely versatile, it has to be somewhat generalized – you have to provide the crunch.

Final Thoughts
What a fun read, and what a high-quality product. Nord Games puts out some really good products, and I encourage you to check them out. Their Spectacular Settlements uses the same creation engine to help you build your own fully vibrant and living places where people reside and go about their daily lives. Since some of those could be a Dangerous Destination as well – the book we’re reviewing here even has advice on how to use both books together. Nord’s Dreaded Accursed Bestiary is one of the best around for were-creatures and variant undead. Be sure to check out their store. I also want to call out the narrative descriptions at the start of each Destination section (Camp, Headquarters, Watchtower, etc) – these narrative blurbs are exactly the type of introduction a GM should be relating to characters as they come across a location. Short and to the point, but still incredibly evocative and immersive. Fantastic writing and really reminded me that I need to up my game on location introductions.

Recommend or Not?
Strong Recommend. If you need places for your characters to go – and what GM doesn’t? – then this book is an absolute must have. Your world will never feel empty, barren or like Potemkin Village ever again. Your players will be shocked and impress with how amazing your locations always are, and that leads to more fun for everyone. You’ll have just as much fun “discovering” a location during prep as the players and characters will have when they discover it during gameplay. I have no regrets on picking this book up!

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