Andrew Cawood’s The Travellers’ Handbook is a grab-bag of various tables and charts that may offer some inspiration or aid during a session. As the product’s title states, the overarching theme is things that can be useful while travelling.
Thus, it begins with a summary of the general travel rules – detailing the rates of travel, the costs of hiring mounts and vehicles, what activities can be performed – before giving a list of mounts and their traits. An equipment table seems to be randomly inserted, before seven random event tables give 350 possible events that might occur while travelling. There are random encounter tables, lists of monsters found in various types of terrain (including bridges and rural roads). There are also tables of random NPCs, with descriptions like “irritable guard” and “noisy apprentice”, and finally a set of random pre-rolled treasures, sorted into lists by tier.
It’s big. It’s messy. And, despite occasional problems with formatting and usability, an oddly charming product. The highlights for me are the random event and NPC tables. They’re not greatly detailed. “Nearby Forest is on Fire”, “Man has a Cat on His Shoulder”, “Rude Warlock”, “Vain Pugilist”. However, they’re wonderful as sources of inspiration. Could I take a couple of the entries and spin them into hours of entertainment? Definitely. And that’s what makes this product so interesting.
There are some things I consider misses. The NPC Stat Blocks (rather than the NPC descriptions) list a background, class, race, gender, alignment and the six ability scores – and that’s it. It’s not enough to run a combat, but for role-playing it’s more useful to have personality traits. The treasure hoards are not well described. If you roll once, the “hoard” could be as little as a Quiver of Ehlonna. A “hoard” of 700 cp at level 5-10? Not really. If they were proper hoards, with multiple types of coin, gems and magic items all predetermined, that would be much better.
The Travellers’ Handbook is by no means a perfect product, but it isn’t without charm. It has so many bits and pieces, it’s likely DMs will find something they can use in it. It includes material that helps inspire, and that’s why it’s worth looking at.