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FR8 Cities of Mystery (2e)

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Dungeon Delving can be delightful. Wandering in the wilderness is a wonderful way to pass the time. But for the ultimate in opportunity, intrigue, and unexpected danger, try visiting the nearest village, town, or city.

A city is much more than a rest stop, a watering hole, or a placee to but equipment. Any community, from the smallest hamlet ot the most crowded medievial metropolis, offers adventuring possibilities that can't be found in any other environment. Cities of Mystery describes for the Dungeon Master how to create realistic, exciting, and vibrant communities-and gives him the tools to make his creations com alive.

Inside this folder are 12 different street layout patterns that can be combined in a multitude of ways, plus 33 buildings of various shapes and sizes that can be cut out and assembled. The components, scaled for use with 25mm miniature figures, allow you to create three-dimensional city scenes for characters to explore. Also included is a 64-page book that takes you step by step through the process of defining and designing the villages, towns, and cities of your campaign world. The book contains five adventure scenarios that make use of the street layouts and fold-up buildings-ideas designed to get you started on the way to making your cities come alive.

Product History

FR8: Cities of Mystery (1989), by Jean Rabe, is the eighth Forgotten Realms supplement. It was published in June 1989.

Origins: FR Modules. The early AD&D 2e (1989) "FR" adventures were quite varied. Following the NPCs of FR7: Hall of Heroes" (1989), this boxed set was all about designing cities — and not really about the Forgotten Realms at all, despite the branding.

City Tropes. How do you design a city? TSR had many answers for that question over the years; the methodology of Cities of Mystery is surely the most analytical, asking numerous questions like where to put the city, what size it is, and what sort of government it has. There's even a "city design sheet" which provides a place to list all your answers. In fact this supplement feels the most like the design methods of Traveller (1977), where worlds were detailed by combining multiple choices from multiple lists into a unique whole.

Random businesses and random encounters help to fill out the details of the city; this is a design style that was more commonly used for D&D cities.

About the Accessories. Though Cities of Mystery has a hefty 64-page city book, the heart of the supplement is its square-gridded battle mat and the fold-up three-dimensional buildings that can be placed on it.

This sort of battle map was extremely rare in the late '80s, a full decade before D&D went fully tactical. However it was a close match for the mat and buildings in the two "3-D Dragon Tiles" accessories for Basic D&D, "AC3" (1984) and "AC8" (1985). It also precisely matches the numerous fold-up buildings found in the "WGA" series (1990) of Greyhawk adventures.

Adventure Tropes. A number of short encounters end the book. They tend to be just one or two scenes each, of similar length to the adventures in TSR's "Lair" books (1986+). Each adventure features an encounter built using a few of the battle mats and buildings, showing their power as a new style of full-color, three-dimensional geomorphs.

Exploring the Realms. Despite the branding, this supplement has virtually
nothing to do with the Realms. It's a generic supplement on creating cities, followed by some generic adventures, and a bunch of generic accessories.

About the Creators. Rabe was the Network Coordinator of the RPGA in 1989, working on products like LC1: "Gateway to Ravens Bluff, The Living City" (1989). This was one of her first digressions into the larger world of D&D design.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons — a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

Reviews (2)
Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
Ralph T January 07, 2018 11:56 pm UTC
I must say if the actual PDF is of the same quality as the Full-Size Preview (which is not in a good reading condition) Wizards of the Coast has some real balls trying to sell it for $4.99. And since the question below me is dated June 30, 2017 6:22 pm CST has no answer it would appear Wizards of the Coast doesn't spare any time to check their account.
Customer avatar
Anne T December 11, 2019 2:40 am UTC
It's just a scan of a mint- or near-mint copy of the original box set, the book and building sheets. No OCR and therefore no cut-and-paste capability. But seeing as how there's not nearly enough demand to justify that extra labour, in many cases OneBookshelf had to buy copies to sacrifice for proper scanning, and the exceedingly high cost to get your hands on this in print, then this is actually one hell of a bargain, IMHO.
Customer avatar
Ralph T December 11, 2019 8:26 pm UTC
Not sure who OneBookshelf is or why they are even mentioned, but I do know it is not that labor intensive to make a decent scan.
Customer avatar
Michael V June 30, 2017 11:22 pm UTC
Just to clarify, the box set is available with all of the buildings included with the instructions?
Customer avatar
Anne T December 11, 2019 2:37 am UTC
A couple of years too late, but hopefully this helps you anyway. Yes, it has all the buildings included. The whole thing downloads as one PDF file, the first 66 pages being the book, and the rest the building sheets. Every page is a single scan--no, they didn't have original print files to go by, an actual copy was sacrificed for the scanning, and there's no OCR and therefore no cut-and-paste. However, they scanned both the front and back of each building sheet, so you get the imagery interspersed with the back of the page which includes instructions and the occasional drawing to show how it goes together. The buildings are perfectly usable; it's good enough for my purposes, but it's a nostalgia item that most newcomers to the game won't go for.
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on June 20, 2017.