This pdf is 35 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 4 pages of SRD, leaving 29 pages of content, so let's check them out, shall we?
If you've been following my reviews, you might know that I have a strange relationship with random encounters - I consider them essential to a campaign setting and its organic feel (and am an adherent of anything goes - if the lvl 2 adventurers think they can take the wyrm, watch them burn...). On the other hand, none of my random encounters are truly random - I have a set of tables, pre-drawn maps environmental hazards etc. to make the encounters feel less amorphous and more like they belong into the world. I was rather glad that Raging Swan's excellent random encounter-pdfs and especially Caves & caverns added greatly to that toolkit and now David Nicholas Ross offers us this toolkit:
After a rather enlightening and aptly-written discussion on what makes for an interesting random encounter and how to fix ones that are not, we delve into the vast array of additional information to add spice to your encounters via dispositions, i.e. elements like readiness, disguises etc.
The very first table deals with watery maydays and there are terrain features. Oh the terrain features. I love them. Good terrain features make not only combat much more exciting and memorable, it also rewards smart players and offers additional strategies. At the end of said features, we get a new hazard, the widowmaker (CR 5). After these tidbits, we are introduced to tables. Huge, expanded tables organized by environment that use the dispositions introduced earlier. The first table go up to 460, some go even beyond 500! They come with sources and are organized with CR-information, making them very useful indeed. We get these extended tables for eerie woods, jungle rivers, planar strongholds (including effects of wild magic and a wild magic d%-table),a restless volcano (including a CR 15 hazard and rules for lava flows etc.), treacherous mires, and underworld battlefields, which actually come with rules for bloody rivers that are tainted by the legendary Styx.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column standard and contains some neat pieces of b/w-artwork. The pdf is extensively bookmarked and small enough to be carried on an e-reader. I already talked about how I personally handle random encounters and to be honest, I was rather afraid that this pdf and RSP's books would contradict each other, when the opposite is the case: This pdf is a great toolkit that can easily be used to add depth and variety on the fly to any encounters, by they already completed ones or ones you create with the rules herein. This pdf is humble and handy to have around and delivers a lot of tables and organizes them in a way that makes this pdf rather useful, not only as a random encounter toolkit, but as a reference by (exotic) terrain. Combine it with e.g. Caves & Caverns for extra fun. Oh, yeah, I forgot the final verdict: While I would have loved to see more environmental hazards and complications, that's nothing to hold against this pdf. My final verdict for this very useful little pdf will be 5 stars.
[5 of 5 Stars!]