Languard Locations: Beyond the Walls (5e)
This installment of the Languard Locations-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Well, first things first: This pdf does contain a list of author biographies in the back that spans 1.5 pages – and this is a damn good thing as far as I’m concerned. Freelancers have it tough, and such sections help generate name recognition, so kudos for that! And yes, locations are noted by designers. A handy list of the locations with brief descriptions is also provided on the final 0.5 page before the author bios – and it makes sense that it’s here.
Anyhow, we do begin this pdf is a slightly different manner: On the first page, we discuss the surrounding lands of the city of Languard – the plains, hills and sea are all described in details here, allowing you to get a feel for the vicinity. The excellent map of Tommi Salama is also provided, with the city proper grayed out to highlight the locations that this pdf covers – you know, the ones outside the walls. A total of 12 such locations are presented.
As before in the series, each location does come with notable folks presented in a fluff-only manner. Only race and an approximate level suggestion as well as gender and alignment are stated. In the 5e iteration of the file, these pieces of information point towards the proper NPC default stats. Beyond that, each of the locales does come with one or more specific adventuring hooks, designed to kick off a diverse array of possibilities.
And this is where I need to interject something: As much as I enjoy Raging Swan Press’ gritty and down to earth style, I freely admit to being worried about this pdf. Why? Because the style is contingent on a sense of realism, and which places to put in front of the city, beyond the walls, can have pretty tangible effects and contradict what we know of medieval structures. So, does this break the conceit established by the series?
Well, the first location certainly makes sense: Tor’s Tannery does belong outside the walls. Historically, being a tanner was considered to be an unclean profession in Judeo-Christian influenced culture, and the scents emitted from tanning…well, let’s just say that it makes sense that it’s outside the walls. Tanneries aren’t depicted often enough, and this one actually has an interesting angle as well…not all is as it must seem. And before you ask: No, for once, the Tors are not the cliché standard serial killers/evil cultists. To the north of Languard’s walls, situated at the cliffs, a prophet of the churning waves makes proclamations of repentance and doom, hiding his name beyond the moniker of being the Mouthpiece of the Waves – and his message is gaining traction.
Gallen’s Lost Manor, a many-winged monstrosity of a mansion, makes for a perfect example of the sense of decrepitude that suffuses Raging Swan Press supplements so often; it is inhabited by the last member of the Gallen family, though, oddly, he does have a lot of visitors – who curiously can’t ever remember much about their visits. Now if you can’t make something creepy out of that one, I don’t know. Pungent Grove, maintained by an unhinged halfling druid, is a place that thrives on the refuse of Languard – though, once more, there is more to this than a story of an addled mind with a massive cockroach pet…
The Mother’s Garden is a megalithic open air farmer’s temple that focuses ritualistic power via Stonehenge like rings, a formation of ancient trees and cottages tended by the Daughters – a title that made me flash back to the classic 70s version of Wicker Man. But that may just be me. The Twisted Wreath is amazing: An ancient oak, once a hanging tree, now split by a bolt from the skies, bent by the weight of curses and sorrow, watched my Mother Illona, who crafts poppets and hangs them on the tree – cursing those that the poppets represent. This is amazing.
Heckler’s Hall is unique – part mobile circus, part jester’s academy and part rent-a-riot, this locale is led by the gnome Satu Tylik, and most assuredly makes for an interesting foil…or tool regarding the politicking going on in the city. There would also be a capable freight operation that is bound to have some gainful work for adventurers, and an out of city boarding house also makes sense: After all, the gates won’t be open all the time! Weary travelers can find the vandalized shrine of a barbaric god, tended by a lone caretaker, and just south of Languard, a stone shack is pierced by a mighty olive tree, where a rail-thin and pockmarked misanthrope sells herbs. The aptly-named Outside Inn is a traveler’s place that can be a great source of information when visiting Languard for the first time.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports solid b/w-artworks. The cartography is great, and the city backdrop supplement does have a player-friendly version. The pdf is fully bookmarked and comes in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one that has been optimized for the printer.
This pdf is the work of a surprising amount of authors: Christopher Bunge, Sam Cameron-McKee, Kim Frandsen, Christopher Hunt, Aaron King, Ben Martin, Rebecca McLaren, Hilary Moon Murphy, Adam Ness, Treyson Sanders, Kris Vezner, John Whyte. It is surprising, then, to note how unified the content feels. The locations outside of the walls are intriguing and captivating, blending the rural and the more metropolitan. Personally, I think that the entries that directly reference in some way Languard’s dynamics are the strongest. Where a sense of realism is enforced by businesses or dubious characters, where refuse makes for a disgusting grove, where enigmatic mansions may present a shadowy puppeteer behind the scenes, this is where the pdf excels. It is surprising, considering how many of these authors are names I don’t regularly encounter among my reviews, how refined and intriguing these entries are. So, all awesome? Well…almost. A couple of locations are off the map, and some traveling distance from the city gates would have been nice, but, as a whole, this is indeed a very good supplement. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.
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