This installment of the Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial,/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s visit Chasm, shall we?
Like all village backdrops, we get full settlement statblocks, short primers of local folk, demographics, a market place sections of items for sale, information on villager customs and clothing, sample rumors and village lore.
So what is Chasm all about? One look at the lavish b/w-map makes it immediately clear – we have a case of nomen est omen here – formerly known as Callowright, the village has been hit by a terribly disaster, with the eponymous chasm opening mid-village, swallowing buildings and people, sending them crashing down into the dark recesses of the earth. Now, years later, a twisted web of ladders, latticework and rope pulleys connect the halves of the village, with the looming threat of deadly duergar skulking in the darkness of the ravine.
Law and order, strange events and a mixture of oppression and an all-too-present catastrophe loom above the village, all while rare materials like mithril and adamantine draw fortune seekers like your adventurers into a setting, that will prove rather uncommon – for the duergar have entered a mutually beneficial alliance with the surface-dwellers, sending your PCs into an oscillating loop between pragmatism and idealism in a place that aptly visualizes not only the incision of catastrophe, but also the cultural divide between the two races. Included in the package is a statblock for a duergar mine guard and, as always, you can get player-friendly versions of the map on Ragingswan.com.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s printer-friendly, elegant two-column standard and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the printer and one for screen-use. The map is great. The pdfs also come with extensive bookmarks.
Christian Alipounarian has crafted a glorious village full of overt and covert symbolism and adventuring potential – beyond its top-notch adventuring potential, Chasm displays an unobtrusive, concise symbolism that adds an additional gravitas to the village, one that makes it resonate even beyond its unusual construction. Were I to complain about one thing, it would be that I would have loved a 3d/side-view of the village/inside of the ravine. Note, however, that at this price-point, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding village to visit. Even if your players don’t get the symbolism, their subconscious will – and when handled by a capable DM, this will resound triumphantly within both PCs and players. A superb offering and, alongside Retribution, one of the few modules, where subtext unobtrusively underlines the point of the supplement, proving that intellectual concepts don’t have to be shoved down the throat of one’s audience. A joy to read – 5 stars + seal of approval.