I swear it was just a couple weeks ago that I was writing part 4 of this category of resources. Looking back it was February. The beginning of February. That isn’t a few weeks, it’s a few months! So, without further delay, another set of books meant for role-playing games to add to your bookshelf. This time I am going to continue on the them of environment, but not in regard to weather and the like. Instead this time, I want to share three books that talk about subjects you will see in virtually every campaign: cities, dungeons, and people. Two of these will come from the later years of 3.5 and one of them comes from Pathfinder, but all three of them will provide useful material. Keep in mind, of course, these will have a fantasy lean to them given the systems they’re for.
Cityscape (3.5 D&D)
This book came out on the tail end of the 3.5 era, but this, perhaps, makes it a little more useful than you would expect. While there is a chapter for players to help design their urban adventurers, and these ideas are nice, it is the remainder of the book that can be of use to you as a DM. If you plan on designing a big city or even just visiting one in game, this book will help you flesh it out. The first chapter, alone, helps you generate you vision of the city. What districts exist? Who lives there? Is it wealthy? Where is it? After you know about the physicality of the city, chapter 3 will help you figure out the powers that be here and the politics that may be going on in the city. This included everything from governments to guilds to churches. Finally, the last two chapters will help a DM when they need to run the game in a city for an extended period. What type of encounters could you expect, and what kind of events happen? Many games are wilderness or dungeon-crawling epics, but a lot of great moments can happen in the city and a lot of story telling too. This book will certainly help you will that, especially in a D&D game.
Dungeonscape (3.5 D&D)
The companion to Cityscape, this book seeks to do a similar thing for DMs. There are a number of very obvious differences. As the site of adventure, there is little politic and intrigue there. However, these are the old ruins of ancient civilizations and each should be unique. This book is full of fantastic ideas for that. What is the point of the dungeon? What used to be the point? Who lives there now and who used to? It helps you also remember the various rooms that would make up a dungeon. Not just treasure rooms and armories, but kitchens and prisons too. There are also ideas on the materials that make up the dungeon too. What to make the walls and floors out of and other such things. Finally, one of the other great features is a whole chapter about traps: making them, examples, and reason’s to use them. Especially useful for D&D or Pathfinder, this book can definitely help you design your adventure sites.
Pathfinder NPC Codex (Pathfinder)
I want to finish off with a supplement that is less about the sites visited, and more about the people you meet there. Of all the NPC books that I have looked at (though I am sure there are countless I haven’t), this is my favorite. There are a couple reasons for this. First of all, it is absolutely huge at over 300 pages. Broken down by class and prestige class, the book presents a large variety of NPC concepts with a variety of levels in classes and monster stat blocks for each. Sneaked into the extra space are some names to use with a couple tidbits to help describe them. Honestly, there is almost two new stat block on every page. What is amazing about this book are the number of jobs it does by simply doing this. You have a whole lot of enemies to use. Because they are NPCs they are civilized (mostly) and provide a large potential to take up roles within the campaign. They could be gang leaders, villains, heroes, followers, lackeys, and more. The shear number of ideas here is outstanding and they are designed to work with the possibilities the rules provide. Such ideas include a raging swimmer, an arcane experimenter, a con artist, and even a god stealer. And it is those ideas in their number and quirks that make this book useful for every GM’s shelf.