3rd Party Review: Top 5 System Neutral Supplements
"Mausoleum" by Lore Wise Games
After spending nearly three years developing and writing Organic Towns, I have a newfound admiration for tabletop roleplaying supplements that are not just system agnostic but genuinely useful. I've found that often, when supplements are written to be applicable for every system, they are often too generic to be useful for any system.
After backing 200+ Kickstarters since 2019, scouring New England's game shops and gaming conventions, and searching the dark corners of the internet, here are my top 5 favorite system neutral supplements that will add something awesome to your fantasy RPG.
Dangerous Destinations by Nord Games
I had originally planned on telling you all about the virtues of Spectacular Settlements but while I was writing this article, I received my Kickstarter copy of Dangerous Destinations and I think it's actually even better than its spiritual predecessor.
Dangerous Destinations is a 400+ page supplement that is loaded with tips and random tables for describing, populating, and planning adventure locations. This is an incredible supplement for anyone running a campaign in any fantasy setting. I think you could dramatically cut down on prep time by leaning on this book to create 2-3 possible adventure locations the party might discover in the next session. To give you an idea of the depth, imagine you wanted to include a wilderness camp in the next session. With this book, you can go to the Camp section and then roll on random tables to determine the camp's age, size, condition, organization, key elements, alarms, traps, vigilance of its guards, location, and danger. You can do that for a number of locations like burial grounds and outposts, but the book also includes comparable sections for a range of biomes like forests and tundra. The next time I run a homebrew sandbox campaign, I will be utilizing this resource heavily. At the time of this writing, the Kickstarter rewards are still being shipped out so only the PDF is available at the link provided but I imagine the hardcover should be available soon.
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The Book of Collected Rumors by Philip Reed Games
The Book of Collected Rumors was one of 53 Kickstarters run by the extremely prolific Philip Reed over the last few years. I had been skeptical to back his projects because given the incredibly fast turnaround on most of the projects, I assumed they would be poorly made and riddled with grammatical errors. I'm here to tell you that I was wrong.
The Book of Collected Rumors has 200+ "rumors" which are essentially one-page encounters that you can drop into any fantasy TTRPG. The encounters actually have a surprising amount of nuance given their brevity. Each rumor contains lines of dialogue for how the party is likely to hear the rumor, full color art to bring it to life, and perhaps most intriguingly, resolution variants based on if the GM decides the rumor is true or false. The rumors are specific enough to be genuinely helpful but adaptable enough to fit into almost any setting. The one frustrating part of this book is that it lacks both a table of contents and an index.
If you're interested in getting inspiration for some cool rumors, make sure to check out our generator. But if you want some fleshed out encounters that can be fun (and easy to run) additions to your game, check out this system agnostic resource.
Remarkable Inns and Their Drinks by LoreSmyth
This is the "Remarkable" book that kicked off the series to include Remarkable Shops and the forthcoming Remarkable Guilds. Remarkable Inns is short, weighing in under 80 pages, but it's absolutely loaded with excellent details and guidance for making intriguing inns and taverns for your players to discover. In addition to loads of random tables, it also includes premade establishments, tons of detailed NPCs, and lots of dishes and drinks for players to enjoy. I should note here that while the book is touted as system neutral, many of the drinks do have effects on consumers that use 5e mechanics. The vast majority of the book though is system agnostic and should be an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to make memorable taverns and inns for their players to encounter.
LoreSmyth is currently having a sale on their website and you can save 15% by using the coupon code FALL22
The Ultimate RPG Character Backstory Guide by James D'Amato (Simon and Schuster)
This book is made for helping players come up with interesting backstories for their characters but I would argue it is every bit as useful for GMs to write interesting NPCs or even for writers to think about their fictional characters. The book has hundreds of questions for you to answer about your character that will help you reach a deep understanding of who they are and will help you avoid the common clichés and tropes of fantasy roleplaying games. If you're tired of the same tired "my character is an aspiring adventurer with a tragic childhood" backstory, this handbook will inject some much needed life into your characters.
The Book of Random Tables 1-5 by Dice Geeks
Isn't this a top 5 list? Yes. And aren't there five book just in this one section? Also yes. My only defense is that combined, these five books still cost less than a lot of single book supplements. Also, I couldn't pick just one.
Matt Davids puts out a ton of system neutral fantasy content that you can find for relatively cheap on Amazon. The print quality isn't great and the artwork - when there is any - is also not the best. But these slim books have solid random tables that are guaranteed to help you, say, name the random elf merchant the party just met or to randomly populate the contents found in an alchemy laboratory that you weren't anticipating the party discovering. For the homebrew GM who sometimes needs an assist overcoming writers block for random Inn encounters or descriptions for NPCs, I highly recommend these books. You're basically getting fantastic random tables and idea resource lists for stocking stuffer prices. The same author also has other series focused on quests, dungeons, and more.
What your favorite System Neutral supplement? Let me know what I missed in the comments below!