EZG reviews Urban Dressing: Theatres
This installment of the Urban Dressing-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This pdf kick off with a table of 55 entries for external theatre appearances – from humble stands of a puppet theatre to circular halls and strange doors engraved with words that prompt the reader to sing to have the door open, we get a surprising array of external appearances that run the gamut from humble to easily inserted to tantalizing – neat!
The second table, spanning 50 entries, depicts internal characteristics -which include illusions used for scenery, twisting galleries, blaring lights and weird occurrences, like apples bouncing down the stairs – quite a bit of interesting entries, though some feel more like “things that happen” than “characteristics/appearances of the theatre inside.”
We also get a table of 20 complications, which include couples fighting and full-blown fires breaking out as well as a sample list of 20 names for respective plays. Beyond these, a table of 50 sights and sounds provides ample food for further complications – from children trying to sneak in sans paying to actors being fitted for their costumes to mages testing their illusions, quite a nice table to add color to the theatre…though perhaps not a table to roll spontaneously on, since the respective happenstances diverge wildly from mid-performance to backstage. Smaller, more thematically limited tables would have probably helped here in making the overall entries easier to use for the DM.
The final two-pages are devoted to fluff-only short write-ups of sample people to meet in the theatre – from stage magicians and actors to bards, they run a surprisingly versatile gamut and include even a doppelganger and a LIZARDFOLK ARISTROCRAT. Yes. Awesome. So far my favorite selection of such short NPC-write ups in any of the Urban Dressing-series’ installments.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdfs comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
The Urban Dressing-series has often a problem with trying to fit a rather complex environment into a couple of tables and this one, partially, also suffers from this – the internal characteristics table feels a bit unfocused, with some entries depicting what happens rather than what’s there – which becomes especially relevant since the sights & sounds-table already covers that ground. Furthermore, the latter table could have benefitted from being split up -why? Because, as a DM, were you to try to make the theatre in question on the fly and supplement it with this table, you could potentially encounter some issues due to entry/back stage etc. being not clearly separated. When used beforehand, it is great and works well, but still – a comfort detriment there. The writing by Liz Smith is actually really, really good, with the sample NPCs rocking and the overall entries also being quite nice. Still, I can’t help but feel that, as a spontaneous generator, it could have been improved further. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down by a slight margin to 3.