TSR’s eighth FR-series module was odd even by the standards of the odder entries in the series. It was a slim boxed set, containing a booklet of advice about how to run city adventures, four sheets of miniatures-scale maps (meant to be cut down into a total of 12 segments), and several cardstock sheets of TSR’s latest round of paper props (like pretty much all of the others, done by Dennis Kauth).

Despite it’s position in the FR series, and the branding on the cover, this supplement has nothing to do with the Forgotten Realms at all. Well, other than the fact that there are cities in it that haven’t been detailed yet that a DM might want to work up. The bulk of the 64-page booklet is an introductory treatise on cities (very introductory at the beginning), starting with likely locations, sizes, governments, and so on. A pair of adventurers discuss the topics themselves (in boxed text), which doesn’t help the presentation. More usefully, an example city is fleshed out during the course of the booklet. One might expect it to serve as an obligatory tie-in to the Forgotten Realms, but it’s an entirely new location, in its own world (in fact, it is described as being on the northern coast of its continent, a location that wouldn’t work with any of TSR’s settings of the time).

It’s obvious that the main target of this package was new DMs, who are just expanding their campaigns out of the dungeons, and starting to explore the world around. The middle part of the book starts getting into some good advice, encouraging thought about what the city leaders (who, in a small city, adventurers could easily encounter) are like, encouraging some actual fantasy elements to crop up, and of course providing random tables for leaders, businesses and encounters. There’s a very basic form provided to write up all these notes, but it’s not well organized.

The map sheets are marked in 1-inch square grid, much like the 3D-Adventure products (such as AC3 and AC8), but are double-sided color sheets and meant to be put together in any number of ways as geomorphic boards. The ideas there are probably the highlight of the product, even though all the maps are fairly dense with buildings. The buildings marked on the map are in standard sizes, that can take the various papercraft buildings in the set. Some of these are flat topped, and designed so they can be stacked together to create taller buildings.

Interestingly, the buildings only anchor to the roofs on two sides, and are scored down the middle of the unattached sides so they fold flat and don’t take much room to store. However, this leaves buildings that will want to return to their flat configuration as you stand them up. Still, long-term storage is better in this set. Getting some removable tape and bracing the insides will do a lot to solve the problems, though even that will damage what is always a transient prop in the long run.

The last section of the booklet are five example mini adventures, and then a dozen plot hooks for adventures. The plot hooks are generally good, and are all urban-based. The mini-adventures all have bare-bones suggestions for a street layout, and do generally happen in/around more than one building, so there is motivation to set things up and show the local scenery. They’re all short (the module suggests most of them will go an hour or two except for the longest, which should go a fair bit longer), generally getting two page writeups. The good news, is they’re all fairly well described for their length, with the main background, the main encounters, and descriptions of the people involved. I wouldn’t want to run all of them (“The Horrible Haunting of Mycky Fynn’s” seems problematic to me, though “A Grand Illusion” looks well worth the effort), but they are good examples of in-city adventuring.

I can only assume that the Forgotten Realms branding on the cover gained TSR more sales than they lost from people who were skipping the line who might have been interested in a general city adventures product. However, there was never a sequel (one is discussed in the booklet), and I imagine positioning this one in the FR series only hurt the chances of that happening. If you want some easy-to-use buildings for miniatures, this isn’t a bad set (if you can find an intact copy, or print out the sheets from PDF onto good cardstock). Past that, there are much better (longer) sourcebooks for city adventuring, though this is a good start, and could have fit well into the DMGR line (assuming a willingness to play with its format, which leads me to wonder if this started as a proposed City Guide for that series). A final irony is that while the slim boxes TSR was moving to at this time look much better than the old fold-up style ones, the partly-assembled buildings inevitably need more space, and the slim box has trouble holding it all, while the older ones would be a much more comfortable fit.