How to run urban adventures, the easy way

To make a long story short, every time the adventurers go from one neighborhood or sector to another, or every hour they spend in the streets, the referee must make an encounter roll, and if an encounter occurs, she must use a table designed specifically for the city, or she can use Chris Gonnerman’s table in Basic Fantasy RPG (p. 146).

Each city has at least one point of interest that can be turned into an adventure. These places must be actively sought, but can also be found randomly, if included in the encounter table: Normally the graveyard is a quiet space, but some nights (perhaps an encounter roll is required) it is possible to see dark shadows inside. The inhabitants prefer to ignore them, but if the adventurers decide to poke their noses in, what will they find? Looters? Body snatchers? Anthropophaghoul? The monks of the monastery engaged in, ahem, illicit activities? These kinds of encounters must be planned in advance, perhaps foreshadowed on your rumors table.

There, that’s it.

Some details:

Normally, an encounter occurs on a result of 1 on a d6, but this probability may be higher at night or in cities of high danger.

In a densely populated city, where the neighborhoods are of considerable size, two or even three encounter rolls can be made every hour.

An adventure starts when there is something at stake. If the adventurers are simply looking for supplies and lodging, the encounter roll should be omitted, especially if they are not interested in having adventures right now.

If they seek refuge and are being chased by the town guard, that’s an adventure.

If the adventurers ask a villager where they can find a cheese wheel, the villager will give them directions, and it’s not an adventure. If they don’t ask and decide to explore the town, then it’s probably an adventure.

The first time they visit an unfamiliar city, it may be an adventure.

Villages and shantytowns don’t have a neighborhood structure, but it’s easy to divide them into two, three or four parts, just for the purpose of running an adventure.


Chaos Magick-User, Vagabond, Dork

5 thoughts on “How to run urban adventures, the easy way

  1. Very simple, and a nice, easy process to start with.

    Running old TSR adventures lately (N1, N2, T1, UK2-3) the designers often put a lot of detail into even the smallest villages…but I don’t like treating towns like dungeons for exploration (the urban environment is too dynamic). Your approach is much better…certainly with regard to the generic (or semi-generic) town.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much!

      For a long time I tried to find system that was both easy and functional, to no avail. I have used Vornheim, which also treats towns like dungeons, but it never felt right. I also took a “theater of the mind” approach, but felt too arbitrary, good for Vampire but not for D&D.

      I’m not too familiar with TSR adventures, having read and used only a few, but town maps don’t really teach me how to run the urban adventures. Yes, I see where the temple is, where the graveyard is, where the tanner is… but I don’t see how my players can traverse this space in a meaningful way.

      I used this method a few days ago with my nephew and niece, and it did the work. It’s simple but you can add anything you need to it.


      1. Yeah. I don’t know about other folks, but most real cities and towns are so big (even “small towns” are large by medieval standards) that I generally organize them, mentally, by neighborhood. I know particular people that live…or specific shops that exist…in particular ‘hoods, even if I don’t know exactly where they are until I get there. And in designing a “game town” in this fashion it would be as easy to list “notable points of interest” by sector as easily as a specific encounter table (both probably informing each other).

        Far easier than mapping out individual shops and houses. Businesses open/close, people move, buildings are constructed/demolished/renovated. But neighborhoods themselves are a bit more static.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the shoutout! I used DeepL to read your blog and I think it made a good work translating it.

      Your last paragraph makes me think about factions: I’m not good at factions, I don’t really know how to use them on the table, but you mentioned using random encounter tables to show what these factions are doing, and that’s brilliant!

      That’s how I will approach factions now, I’ll make general random tables and factions random tables with events, monsters and NPCs that are doing something for their faction or against another. I still need to think about it, but it’s a good step in the right direction.


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