One of the most intriguing places in any Dungeons & Dragons campaign is a town. From a medieval metropolis to an industrial powerhouse, it can be exciting when a campaign arrives in a sprawling location where virtually anything can happen. It’s to the point that some campaigns might even have a city as the main setting, with monsters, thieves and other threats spawning in a city’s underbelly.
However, since cities are so big, there tend to be instances where you are spoiled for choice as to what to throw at your party. They could theoretically do anything from an attack by mindflayers to a gang of thieves trying to rob them. But if you want to add a little more spice to your encounters, then here are a few to toss your party of adventurers into the city streets.
6/6 Magic Trading Machines
It’s always interesting to think about how technology would evolve in a world of magic. Similar to fiction, Dungeon Masters are free to develop their own worlds, or even versions of settings published by Wizards of the Coast, and envision what this technological advancement would be like. One idea to have in a town would be vending machines, or at least something similar, that you can use to get the best potions or other items that gold can buy.
Imagine some kind of stone construct, be it like a real vending machine or just some kind of slab with protection like a small wooden roof. On this slab or platform are the runes that form a small circle of teleportation, except it seems to be slightly rearranged, the runes aren’t put together properly for some reason. All one has to do is look at some writing, maybe a protected piece of parchment, on potions or other basic items they could order and how much gold it costs. You place the amount of gold and some writing on parchment for your order and press a button. The stone rearranges itself so the teleportation circle moves and rearranges to form the correct circle and runes. The gold and parchment will disappear and the item will appear shortly after.
5/6 kids these days
Dungeons & Dragons can be so wholesome, and what could be healthier than a bunch of kids, especially kids looking up to the party? But these aren’t the kids who need rescuing or who are just there to admire the party — they have questions. As the group is walking down a street, a small group of children, about three to five, approach them excitedly and ask if they are adventurers.
After Confirmation, the children will excitedly ask questions about what the adventure is like, what their role is, and what advice they receive. These kids clearly want to be adventurers. However, whether the party is telling them the ugly truth about such a risky career or taking a slightly softer approach remains to be seen.
4/6 The last delivery
Some of the best types of encounters are ones that can take things into the future, and that’s exactly what it is when players come across a courier being attacked in an alley. If they are helped, the messenger will be too badly injured to continue and without healing he will soon perish. Even if they are healed, they will come with the excuse that more people are after them and that they have been compromised. In any case, whether it is their last request or a quick request, they will ask the party to deliver a letter of great importance to someone. If you wish, you can even turn the encounter into an escort side quest to protect the courier on their delivery.
If the group tries to look at the letter, it will magically burst into flames as if it knows it’s not being seen with the right eyes. Whether they fail to deliver the letter or succeed isn’t immediately important, but this is a nice encounter to set up a future quest line in which the group’s choices in this encounter will have all sorts of implications for a quest surrounding this mysterious message and her Destiny may have sessions later. Don’t forget that in a city you probably have all sorts of groups and guilds involved, so having for example a thieves guild that wanted the shipment or that has more information can help for future plans.
3/6 We must unite
The party encounters a desperate figure nervously strumming a lute and pacing outside a tavern. When they discover the party, they waste no time in being grateful to see a group of talented looking people who can reach out and ask for help. It’s not a monster to kill or collect; It’s a show that must go on. The bard explains that a band he hired has contracted a recent illness and he doesn’t have the money to buy them any potions to stop the illness or to hire a minister.
This is where the party comes in as the bard asks them to go to the tavern and perform with them. You can perform a popular song or routine, whatever it takes to get the show going. This is a great encounter, especially if you have a bard in the party. Let’s just hope the party manages to pass their performance tests.
2/6 The Road Law
There is always something going on in a city. Sometimes it’s the illegal dealings of the criminal underbelly or just the machinations of local politicians, but often it’s just people living their lives. A popular thing to see on most city streets are performers, especially of the magical variety where spells like Prestidigitation or Minor Illusion can go a long way in impressing crowds of commoners.
But when a street number goes too far and a mage accidentally summons a monster, the party must step in to stop your choice of demon, elemental, or other creature from wreaking havoc on the streets. This is an easy encounter to perform, it’s also fairly easy to uniquely place a monster in town, while you can change what type of monster it is, so it’s well balanced for your party.
1/6 hostage situation
This applies when the party is in a crowded place like a market. Those alert enough will witness the end of a chase as one lunges at another and catches up with them. They then fire something in the air, perhaps a bullet from a gun or a flaming spell from the end of a wand, as the party realizes this is a hostage situation. Well, this is the kind of encounter that would require you to put in a little more work. Why is this person being held hostage? What was the chase about? What is the end goal here?
Of course, to make things even more intense, the city guard could soon be involved, maybe even with a few of them being part of the chase. Will the group go into battle and try to save the poor hostage? Or will the party’s face negotiate a peaceful conclusion to this encounter?
NEXT: Dungeons & Dragons: Forest Random Encounters