Campaign Backdrop: Forests & Woodlands
This massive book clocks in at 109 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 102 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Taking a cue from Raging Swan Press’ other, no less intriguing compilation books, this one features a table of all statblocks used herein by CR (spanning the range from CR 1/4 to 14) with accompanying page numbers and, as a nice service to the talented authors involved, we get a page of author bios, which is great to see.
But what is this? Well, the short answer, as already hinted at, is that this is basically a toolbox for a specific type of terrain, namely the forests and woodlands. Where other Raging Swan Press collections for example collected the significant amount of dressing files or village backdrops in a single tome, the goal of these books is to organize the tools for the GM by region he needs – in this case, that would be forests and woodlands, obviously.
The presentation of the content is exceedingly smart – we move from the non-specific to the specific, from the general to the detailed in this book; Hence, we begin with dressing for forests and woodlands and primal forests, then move on to random encounters that don’t suck – a total of 21 such encounters have been collected from the respective Raging Swan Press pdfs, now available for the first time in print. If that does not suffice, two fluff-centric tables of encounters can be found as well. The one thing that’s counter-intuitive in the book’s organization is that the terrain-feature cheat-sheet for forests is located after the encounters – to me, it would have made much more sense before them…or in the very beginning of the book.
We move on beyond that to the dressing provided for Logging Towns, first depicted in the Urban Dressing-series and then get a proper Place of Power – this time around, that would be the Valley of the Rocks. Beyond that, no less than 4 villages with a forest theme have been collected here – namely Arrowhill, Edgewood, Star Run Falls and Trickletrek.
Now here is the thing – I have reviewed all constituent files and retreading all of the material once again would feel redundant to me, so I’ll point you right at the respective reviews instead.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no particularly jarring hiccups in either disciplines. Layout adheres To raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, is rather printer-friendly and the pdf features various neat b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, you get two files – one is optimized for the printer and one is optimized for screen-use – I love that RSP is going the extra mile there.
The content herein was created by Alexander Augunas, John Bennett, Richard Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Fabian Fehrs, Mike Kimmel, Jacob W. Michaels, Julian Neale, Brian J. Ratcliff, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham – notice something? Yep, these authors know what they are doing; they’re pros and it shows – the content herein never dips below a “good, bordering on very good” and features several pieces that are downright excellent.
So, should you get this collection? This depends mainly on how familiar you are with Raging Swan Press’ exceedingly handy books and how much you want everything in print. You see, this has quite some overlap with the GM’s Miscellany collections. The focus, though, is different: Where GM’s Miscellany focuses on giving you a broad toolkit for one type of thing (dressing, villages, etc.), this book focuses on giving you the tools for a given terrain…and that does have merit. PCs are going off the rails in a forest of simply freely adventuring? Whip out this book and you’ll have everything at your fingertips, no need to flip between the dressing book, the village book, etc. On the downside, this means that if they leave the forest…well, no luck. It ultimately depends on how you want your material to be organized for maximum efficiency.
In the environment covered, this deals with just about everything. Everything? Well, not exactly. I may be the minority here, I’m not sure. But the two favorite and most used old-school books at my table are still the Wilderness and Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide and honestly, I would have loved to see more forest-specific terrain and hazards. You know, poison-barked trees, ravines filled with strange vines, odd spores, deadly pinecone showers….you know, the terrain-specific peculiarities that make environments come more alive from a mechanical point of view. While the cheat-sheet covers the basics perfectly and while the encounters themselves do feature a lot of such tidbits to scavenge, this remains the one aspect I was missing from the book, perhaps due to none of RSP’s product lines per se dealing in just that.
Should you get this? Well, in case you want a book organized by terrain, then YES. If you are new to Raging Swan Press and don’t own the constituent files, then YES, this is absolutely phenomenal and useful to you and should be considered a 5 star + seal of approval file for you. If you already are a huge fan and own a lot of the constituent books/pdfs, the question remains whether you want the encounters in print and the organizational structure, but as a whole, personally I believe that the Village Backdrop and Dressing compilations have you covered. In the end, my official verdict will thus clock in at a median 5 stars for this exceedingly useful toolkit.
You can get this exceedingly useful book here on OBS!