This installment of RSP’s 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 take a look at the settlement Greg Marks has crafted here, shall we?
Hulw’Ma translates roughly to “Sweet Water” in the local tongue and as you may glean by this, the village is actually build around an oasis! Great to see Raging Swan’s Village Backdrops broaden their horizon thus! As has become the tradition with the series, we get a fully detailed marketplace, village statblock, lore-DCs, a short paragraph on how the villagers look as well as 6 rumors.
So what makes Hulw’Ma distinct? Well, the village is ruled by a theological autocracy that worships the very water of the settlement, which is not only taken in by the folk and travelers here, it also may assume humanoid form in the guise of Musheer. Said being, essentially treated as an avatar of the life-giving waters, is actually a marid with a sinister agenda unknown to the people of the village. What agenda? Well, you’ll have to get this yourself!
Further complicating factors in the village are the power-hungry druidic ruler of the village, the nearby ruins of Xa’Niphan and the exiles that have fled the tyranny of the oasis, the Naji Su’ad, who wander a thin line between bandits and freedom fighters and may actually be both. Oh, and then there’s the fact that the daughter of the local spice mogul, the most important employer of the village, has taken Musheer as a paramour…with potentially volatile consequences.
Both Naji Su’ad raiders and Musheer get btw. full statblocks and 6 events can serve the DM as catalysts or further complications for the PCs staying in the village. Oh, and of course, as always, law and industry and covered herein as well.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a nice map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs on RSP’s homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.
Author Greg Marks has done a great thing in diversifying the breadth of themes Village Backdrops cover – the desert settlement is a welcome change of pace for the series utilized with surprisingly efficiency – from the neat statblocks to the flair that should make both fans of Al-Qadim/LoF/Qadira as well as Sword & Sorcery-fans happy, this village offers a moral dilemma, shades of grey, intriguing customs and adventure potential by the spades – so much, I’m astonished that all fit on the scant few pages herein – a superb example of concise writing, this pdf is easily worth 5 stars + seal of approval – be sure to check this awesome village out!