This installment of Raging Swan Press’ groundbreaking, critically acclaimed GM’s Miscellany-series clocks in at 101 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC (including statblocks by CR-table), 1 page author-bios (which, frankly, more books should feature!), 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 93 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
This review was moved up on my review-queue as a prioritized review at the behest of my patreons.
If you don’t know at this point what the Village Backdrops-series is, let me enlighten you: Village backdrops are small pdfs, each detailing a fully mapped village (in this book’s case, crafted by Simon Butler, Matt Morrow and none other than Tommi Salama)….but they are so much more. Know that one adventure that sports non-descript fantasy village XYZ? Know how e.g. your PCs got attached to Sandpoint, but not to such bland default-fare villages? Well, basically, this series is all about providing the ultimate antidote for bland villages – with a healthy selection of these up your sleeve, you’ll not only have truly awesome villages at your disposal, your players *will* care.
Beyond simply depicting a village, it is the sheer amount of detail crammed into each and every one of these settlements that ultimately make the village backdrops so exciting: Beyond the concise settlement statblocks featured, it is via the local customs, nomenclature and information on clothing habits that the places come to life. The supplements also feature whispers and rumors, magical items for sale and sample events – in the best of cases, they actually work as adventures of their own. One village contained herein, John Bennett’s Kennutcat, particularly made the heart of this Ravenloft-fanboy skip a beat. You know, I got this when I simply had no time to prepare anything and I simply dropped my PCs there – by virtue of the interaction with the place, an adventure developed organically, all on its own – my players couldn’t believe this was no module, but simply a settlement set-up.
There is another peculiarity you have to be aware of: Most of the respective settlements feature NPCs, monsters, haunts and similar hazards…and the series is actually a record-holder. No other series has managed to accumulate so many seal s of approval. No matter how ridiculously high I set my standards, this series does not disappoint, surpassing itself time and again.
This compilation does sport btw. some of the most awesome books in the whole run of the series. In case you’re curious, this book covers Aubade, Arrowhill, Aldwater, Coldwater, Denhearth, Edgewood, Fulhurst Moon, Hopespyre, Idyll, Kennutcat, Red Talon, Sea Bitch, Starspun Hollow, St. Fiacre and Wellswood. All of these installments have in common that I have covered them in my respective reviews for them – and since I hate repeating myself unduly (and wasting your time), I’d simply advise clicking on the Village Backdrop-tab on my homepage endzeitgeist.com for a handy list of all of the reviews.
And, well, yeah – that’s about what I can say about this compilation – it collects thoroughly awesome material, presents it in an easy-to read and use manner and overall makes for a great purchase, particularly if you’re like me and simply prefer print.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf comes in two versions, one for the printer and one optimized for screen use. If you want key-less, high-res versions of the map, you can get them by signing up for Raging Swan Press’ patreon. Artworks featured herein are high-quality b/w and a particular shout-out should be extended to the brilliant cartographers that make each village feel distinct and unique.
Oh, but don’t take my word for it – take a look at the authors: John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Richard Green, Mike Kimmel, Jacob W. Michaels, Jacob Trier, Mike Welham. Notice something? Yes, this is a veritable who is who of some of the most talented mood-crafters among the authors currently active in the 3pp-circuit – it should come as no surprise, then, that one village herein actually has managed to achieve nomination as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015 – an honor I need to extend to this book alongside 5 stars + seal of approval, mainly because its array of thematic excellence and diversity makes it an even better deal than the individual pdfs were. If you already have them, though, then there’s admittedly not that much of a reason to get this, unless, as mentioned before, you want a nice, easy to sue print version of this.
If you haven’t yet seen how good this series is, well, then this is the perfect way to check it out!
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