Feb 182013

You may have noticed a lack of posting from me recently. I apologize for that. If you follow me on Social Media you probably realize the reason for that is because I’ve had a fair amount of Freelancing work taking up my spare time, as well as my own publishing project. So with that in mind I think it’s time to start a series of design diaries.

One of my new projects is the Urban Dressing line from Raging Swan Press. They’re small PDFs, coming in at about 10 pages or 4 to 5 thousand words. Each one covers a different element of the city and gives you charts to quickly fill it with life on the fly.

As an example, Traders & Craftsmen was released this month. Inside you’ll find:

  1. One table (100 entries) presenting unique appearances and characteristics for craftsmen’s shops
  2. One table (100 entries) presenting the general type of items found in a shop
  3. One table (20 entries) presenting adventure hooks and complications ripe for use with a craftsman’s shop
  4. Tables for quickly and easily designing NPCs encountered in a shop

They’re small and focussed products with a low price point. The idea is if you’re having trouble during prep coming up with interesting descriptions for this and that, have a scene in mind but want to randomize certain elements, or just know you have trouble coming up with information on the fly at the game-table you can grab the PDF for the area you need and start rolling. While Urban Dressing is new, Raging Swan has been doing similar products for years. You can check out their GM Resources for descriptions of Taverns, Weapons, Hoards, and a host of other areas.

Now here comes the confession part. I would rarely, if ever, use this product. While I try to keep things fairly system neutral they are designed with Pathfinder in mind and fairly gritty world. I don’t GM Pathfinder, my players just have no interest in it at all (I happen to like the game plenty and have a PC in a Play By Post game).

The real reason why I wouldn’t use this product is because I just rarely roll on charts anymore. I am very prep light these days, which means I’m not spending hours naming streets and adding them to my Obsidian Portal page. When I’m in game and I need to come up with a name or description on the fly, I do. I’ve been GMing for years, I’ve got a degree in theatre, have been part of an award winning improv group, and spend much of my spare time coming up descriptions of pretend fantasy lands. I don’t get stumped very often anymore, and if I do, I’ve learned to use misdirection to give me more time or just push through to keep the pacing.

HOWEVER, and this is a big however, I still love these products and find value in them. One of my most treasured RPG Books is the Toolbox from AEG. It’s a big book, written with 2d0 mind, filled with nothing but charts to help you generate things on the fly. For years this was my go to book for prepping and on the fly descriptions. Because even though I was a theatre major, had been GMing for years, and had been part of an award winning Improv Troupe I still needed help. I just hadn’t gotten to that point where I could always come up with what I need on the fly. Ask my players sometime how many barkeeps were named Bob. It became a bit of a running gag.

I still reference the Toolbox, though now it’s mostly when I’m writing charts for a product. Its a resource that I respect. I want to make sure that I don’t forget something obvious, but I also want to make sure that I’m giving people something new and valuable. I’ve turned in three Urban Dressing products to Raging Swan so far and I made sure that each one had content that my most valuable book didn’t.

If you’re a fan of the series, Alleyways drops next month. After that it’s Temples and then who knows? Well I have some ideas but if there’s something you’d like to see let me know.

Brian Liberge

Brian Liberge is a father of one, living in Boston, MA. Introduced to AD&D at an early age, he’s continued to update with the editions, and new games. He loves home-brewed ideas, is honest to a fault, and thinks that ideas and mechanics should absolutely be shared between systems. With a B.S. Degree in Theatre Arts, a job in Information Technology, and a love of strategy gaming, he tries to bring the best of each into his new creations for StufferShack. Check out his latest book the Midgard Bestiary for 4e, available now. Profile Page / Article Portfolio

  2 Responses to “Design Diary: Urban Dressing Confessions”

  1. Having work is much better than having no work. Congrats on that.

    This got me thinking that something like the Toolbox would work really well for a phone app. Something to let you navigate a number of different categories and pick random items off of any of those charts. Something like this might already exist, I just don’t know what to search for.

  2. That an interesting idea. It would have to be implemented well to be super useful. Screen space is limited on your phone so you’d likely be searching for charts more than navigating to them. I’m not programmer so I’m curious how much work something like that would be.

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