Fantastic Encounters (Fifth Edition Fantasy #7), by Bob Brinkman, Michael Curtis, Chris Doycle, and James Floyd Kelly
With a title like “Fantastic Encounters,” a lot of people can imagine writing about some truly unfortunate scenarios, but what is meant here is someone who is engaged in a lengthy set of scenarios and who might want ideas on how to spice up some text-based roleplaying. To be sure, this sort of activity is not to everyone’s tastes, and even for those in whose tastes it is, it may not be to everyone’s time, as the scenarios discussed here could take several hours to play out, and therefore would have to be for a group of people who was pretty heavily committed to playing together for quite some time, since the focus of these particular scenarios appears to be to prompt alertness and overcome laziness or greediness on the part of those who are playing, as a way of giving them something to spur them on to being alert and aware of what is going on around them. A great deal of the experience provided in the scenarios is not for fighting, but for figuring things out, and for being alert and aware. Thus, the book is in many ways an instruction guide for fairly introductory to mildly seasoned parties of role playing gamers.
The book itself is short, about twenty-four pages in length, and consists of about a dozen different scenarios. Each of the scenarios was written by one of the book’s authors, and includes text for the DM to read out, detailed information as far as worldbuilding and constructing the scenario, such as its placement within the larger world the DM has constructed and various potential and challenging monsters inside of it. Each of the scenarios also contains possible adjustments to make depending on party strength and also some guidance on the passing out of experience. It should be noted that the experience that is passed out is often highest when fighting is avoided, which gives these scenarios a bit of an unusual flavor considered to the fairly combative attitude of many who play roleplaying games. The dozen scenarios included a rusting pit with a rust monster, a forest with creepy sentinel trees, a tense graveside scene, a lesson on the importance of avoiding idols, ferry trouble, an attacker who is testing out chemicals on unwary people at a market, a troublesome encounter with a smoke monster, a mirage at a pier, a curious and troublesome book, a dog that defends the body of its dead master from looting, an ominously broken church window, and a deceitful compass to teach lazy adventurers to pay attention to their surroundings.
This is a short book and it succeeds at its modest aims. It provides short and ready-made scenarios that are designed to teach and instruct, and reward the observant and clever and those who are virtuous in their way of dealing–who are not greedy for possessions, who do not instinctively go after violence, and who seek to understand and communicate with others. Much is said about the way in which people who are most fond of role playing games, and I must admit to being such a person myself, are socially maladroit and particularly awkward. Yet the most obvious thread running through these stories is that those who play games can learn and appreciate real life matters even from games with obvious fictional and fantasy elements. Being reasonably alert to one’s surroundings, showing self-control in the face of temptation, and seeking to understand others without resorting quickly to violence are good lessons to learn. The fact that they can be modeled in role playing scenarios only means that the perceptive player of such games can then extrapolate such lessons to dealing with life, and can thus be far more adept at handling people than many others happen to be at present. That is far more useful value than many books can claim to have–much less books which have no obvious aims apart from providing education and entertainment to gamers.