With my family gaming group now well into its second campaign—battling the sinister machinations of the devil Strahd—I have discovered that I can never have too many D&D resources, be they guidebooks, tokens, or minis. But time and time again, the most important of these have inevitably been things that inspire and foster creativity for both my adventuring party and myself. Two new books from Simon & Shuster have recently proven themselves invaluable on both fronts: The Ultimate RPG Quest Keeper and The Ultimate Random Encounters Book.
Decades of my own tabletop roleplaying adventures have taught me that every group, no matter how small, eventually elects a scribe. This is the player who not only writes down everything that happens to them as the party climbs mountains and delves into dungeons but what happens to everyone else as well. They write things down for the good of the group, and the people involved (even the DM) are all the better for it.
If another player has ever asked you to recall the name of the local shopkeeper or the enigmatic musings of that traveling fortuneteller, congratulations, you are very likely your group’s scribe.
Unfortunately, most contemporary game aids aren’t designed for this purpose, meaning notes get scrawled in the margins of character sheets, haphazardly in a nearby notebook, or quickly tapped out in a smartphone’s notes app.
The Ultimate RPG Quest Keeper: A Journal to Keep Your Campaign Rolling tackles this oversized task head-on. Across 250+ pages, this hardback tome includes specialized templates for multiple players characters—10 in all, encompassing many of your personal avatars or your entire party, if you so desire. In addition to the basics like name, physical description, and abilities, it also provides space to elaborate on personal history or backstory, familial bonds, motivations, and notes concerning decisive battles.
Add to this space for NPC interactions, encounter notes, and incredibly well-designed spreadsheets for gear, gold, and belongings, and you have a veritable campaign keepsake. Perfect for deliberate min-maxers or anyone looking to make the most out of their tabletop experience, The Ultimate RPG Quest Keeper is an amazing value at a mere $14.99.
Coming in at only a dollar more (it’s currently $15.99 on Amazon), The Ultimate Random Encounters Book: Hundreds of Original Encounters to Help Bring Your Next RPG Adventure to Life is a sizable 175ish page paperback for the well-prepared campaign DM, easy spontaneous pick-up-and-play sessions, and all points in-between.
Split smartly into three sections—Encounters, Game Master Tools, and Downtime—this book has proven itself perfect for those times when I need an idea to beef up a session or when my player party zigs when I felt sure they would zag.
Part One: Encounters makes up the bulk of The Ultimate Random Encounters Book, splitting up various traditional gaming environments into logical subsections like City (including cemeteries, sewers, and seaports), Forest/Swamp (complete with abandoned citadels and settlements), the classic Dungeon, and many more, each consisting of a 100-item random table.
From dead-ends and exotic flora and fauna to diabolical doings and unique NPC interactions—the gem-eating gremlin on page 58 is destined to show up in one of my campaigns—there’s always just enough narrative to provide a jumping-off point. Best of all, non-specific encounters are easily differentiated from those requiring mapped locations, the latter’s numbers being encircled in red.
Part Two: Game Master Tools includes additional tables for Locations, Monsters, NPC Motivations, Magic Effects, and random (but never game-breaking) Wild Card effects to keep things lively. And finally, the book concludes with Part Three: Downtime, 100 conversation prompts to help flesh out character personalities and draw focus to those important moments that occur outside of the more regimented missions and combat encounters.
With hundreds of helpful entries and an easy index to make finding specific monsters, items, and environs a breeze, The Ultimate Random Encounters Book: Hundreds of Original Encounters to Help Bring Your Next RPG Adventure to Life has become a valuable addition to my own DM toolkit, and, since it’s system-agnostic, I’d highly recommend it for anyone who leads a gaming group (regular or otherwise) or simply those with a love for tabletop storytelling.
Review materials provided by Simon & Shuster. This post contains affiliate links. There’s never a bad time to introduce a gem-eating gremlin.