I have been asked to review a few products in my day, but - until last month - I had never had anyone ask me to review a whole book full of random tables. Whoa.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: First off, I love random tables. So that's going to skew results here. Next, this product is available in PDF for $6 at RPGNow. Thirdly, there are thirty sets of tables, ten set in a city, ten in the country and ten underground. In each of those sets, you can either treat them as a single d30 table, or limit yourself to a d10 or a d20. Essentially, these are oddball things that can pop up to provide flavor, or to add a twist to a scene. While they are geared for the fantasy genre, they are system free. To give you a further idea of what's in the product, I'm just going to roll up 30 things that can happen. Sound fair?
While in the City...
...at the City Gate - a tax collector is looking over the crowd.
...on the Street - Two people are talking casually while a man not five feet away is urinating on the side of a building.
...in the Alleys and Slums - A submerged pouch with “who knows what” inside is the only thing keeping a pool of unidentifiable, semi-transparent liquid from draining down a sewer grate along the side of the alley.
...in a Tavern - A child is seated next to her father patiently waiting for them to leave this increasingly loud place.
...at the Market - Several pairs of shoes in a cobbler’s stall show signs of wear and have small blood splatters on them.
...at the Arena or Lists - A nobleman is confiding to a friend that his fortune is riding on one of the knights.
...in the Castle or Keep - Two moneylenders are being driven from the castle by several of the lord’s knights.
...among the Shops - A person going into a shop is wearing unseasonably heavy clothing and looks bulkier than he should.
...at a Cathedral or Temple - Listening to their priestly teacher, a group of religious students sit upon some steps but one keeps interrupting.
...during a Chase - The mud on the ground shows footprints that lead to a blank wall.
Heck, that's some pretty good flavor for the city, huh? A few of those are downright intriguing, too, and not just flavor.
While in the Country...
...around the Campsite - Thickets of thorn bushes surround a clearing where one might set up a campsite.
...before a Shrine - An elderly woman chants hesitantly while two younger girls correct every third or fourth word.
...at a Crossroads - Near this intersection is an outcropping of rock, with an obvious cave, in front of which sits a hermit.
...in the Forest - The moss-covered ground undulates as if some small creatures are moving underneath.
...in Unusual Terrain - Stink plants are only smelly if someone disturbs them, which is hard to avoid here.
...on a Farm - Several workers are collapsing an old outhouse in on itself and filling in the pit below.
...at a Festival - A young woman carrying four heavily-laden plates of food is having trouble moving toward the table she seeks.
...by the Sea - An anchor with a severed chain rests on the bottom, perhaps separated from its ship during a storm.
...on a Boat - A man is doing the backstroke and has a very small person on his chest giving him directions.
...near a Waterfall - There are slick, mossy stones in the water that would allow crossing the river above the falls.
A couple of creepy results there. That ritual by the Shrine could go bad. The ground undulating is never a good thing (especially if it's actually an Earth Elemental or something).
...at an Entrance - The door opens onto an interdimensional space that is a tunnel leading to some distant place unless the word “door” is spoken aloud.
...at an Intersection - There is a ragged uniform coat with military patches a few feet down one hallway.
...in a Narrow Passage - A bag of marbles lies in this passage, many of them spilled out and arranged into an arrow pointing forward.
...in an Expansive Cavern - Many of the stalagmites from the cavern floor have been expertly carved into the shape of human faces.
...by a Stairway - These steps are slick with oil and burning torches hang precariously at a midway point.
...by a Fountain or Statue - The most prominent feature is a mouth with a forked tongue.
...near a Stream - The obviously powerful current is made more troublesome by the loud crashing water that makes communication in the area nearly impossible.
...in a Pit - Two pair of underpants are crumpled on the floor of the pit but they are so large they would fit an ogre.
...at a Secret Door - Scrape marks on the floor giveaway a concealed, closed portal.
...Finding a Treasure - An ivory scroll tube with ornate, platinum filigree has two end caps, one with a sunburst and the other with a moon.
Good stuff? That last result is either extremely decorative, or the things Artifacts are made of. And how about those stairs?
WHAT WORKS: It's a book of random tables...and it gives me an excuse to use my d30. Hard to top that. Especially since the tables are set up to use d10s or d20s as well, maximizing utility.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK: $6 might sound like a tad much for 30 pages of random tables. Obviously, if you don't like random results, look elsewhere.
CONCLUSION: Creative Mountain Games knew this was going to get high marks from me, because I mention random tables *all the time*. Strong recommendation if you're into that sort of thing. Stay away if you don't.