Places of Power: Dreamden (5e)
This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So, Dreamden is a rustic resort situated at the border of a vast desert; usually sporting a population that slightly exceeds the 100, but subject to obvious fluctuations, it is an opportunity for the rich and decadent to get away from the hustle and bustle of city-life. PCs doing their legwork, as always, can very much unearth some intriguing tidbits about the place – for example, that a gigantic demon was slain in the vicinity, and that the patrons that stay there tend t lose their wits.
This isn’t particularly surprising, considering that this place offers quite an assortment of properly statted magical drugs: Three sample drugs are provided, including descriptions, prices, etc., with the alchemical material narcotic sand as a helpful means of offsetting the cost when manufacturing drugs. Pretty big plus: These drugs have been properly stated and are genuinely potentially useful and interesting regarding their effects. Only in certain situations, sure, but I *can* potentially see PCs using these, particularly in low/rare magic games. Unfortunately, the 5e-conversion of these stats is very rough, with formatting not adhering to 5e conventions. The DCs are very high as well, and the drugs assume quite a few things that simply aren’t true in 5e – there are no pain effects, for example. There are no “insanities” in 5e, it’s called “madness” – and so on. These are barely functional, and the benefits in comparison to the drawbacks, are more severe than in the other iterations, which means that they move from being dangerous to being nigh useless.
As a kind of resort, this place of power does differentiate between the different types of folk that can be found here, roughly grouped in patrons, servants and staff, with notes on appearance, dressing habits and nomenclature provided. The supplement also provides an array of 6 whispers and rumors. The ramshackle-looking, exotic tent/den-place is lavishly mapped by William McAusland and Maciej Zagorski of the Forge Studios, with a piece of neat b/w-artwork representing the place in addition to the map provided – rather cool, as this allows the GM to provide a view of the place as a handout of sorts to the players.
The Dreamer, mastermind of Dreamden, basically sells enlightenment and drugs as a kind of cult using classic tactics – and indeed, if you’ve seen a documentary on some of those creepy cults for the rich and famous, disguised as coaching/life advice, then you’ll clearly get this place, particularly if you add some serious debauchery beneath the veneer of enlightenment. As such, there isn’t much trade and industry going on, and the place has very few rules beyond the utopian vision of the Dreamer and the associated groupthink-indoctrination. Life is regulated, but on a mandatory basis, and in case you require some additional help bringing the place to life, you can rely on the 20-entry strong dressing/event table.
The supplement also contains notes n the surrounding vicinity, with a d6 event table allowing you to depict the harsh environment. There are 5 sample NPCs included in the supplement, and these, where applicable, reference the 5e-default statblocks. as well as mannerisms, personality and background notes. Class references have been properly adjusted to reflect the nomenclature of old-school games. Nice: One of the NPCs is basically a quest-hook on her own, but her write-up once erroneously refers to her by the wrong pseudonym, which can be slightly confusing. The place of power contains multiple drug dens of different types, and the campus includes an impressive statue, the Hand of God, from which pleasant odors and narcotic substances seep up. And yes, there is more to this place than meets the eye, but I am not going to spoil that in this review.
Editing and formatting are not impressive on a rules-language level, very good on a formal level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard, and the artwork and cartography provided are really nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is a comfort-plus, and yes, the supplement comes in two versions, with one of them optimized for screen use, and one intended to be printed out.
Jeff Gomez’ Dreamden is a nice and intriguing Place of Power; while it is a bit more obvious than I think it should be regarding its secrets (it’d be more interesting in my book to make things less clear-cut), the pdf is still very much worth checking out. The 5e-iteration is rather weak in comparison regarding the rules integrity, which does reduce the appeal of this version drastically. My final verdict can’t exceed 3 stars.
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