Village Backdrop: Blackhill Gaol (system neutral)
This installment of RSP’s Village Backdrop-series is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the settlement!
Blackhill Gaol once was a one-way-trip – the place was conceived as a forced labor camp for debtors, for political prisoners, for the wicked – for those that were to never be free again. As such, the village was constructed in a pretty remote area that is known for being pretty darn dangerous. The prisoners, alas, revolted against their overseers in a coup masterminded by Lady Ephael Areva (who now has her base n the clock tower), and now remain a self-governing entity of sorts – they avoid reprisals as long as they don’t stray too far from the village, and as a result, this place has garnered a reputation for offering pretty much any blackmarket goods you want.
If you’d be thinking that the revolt resulted in a type of anarchist utopia, you’d be sorely mistaken – the leaders of factions have been vying for control ever since, making Blackhill Gaol a dangerous spot to visit.
As always, the supplement does include information on local nomenclature and dressing habits alongside several whispers and rumors – one of them mentioning that the well’s been poisoned, which, alas, remains a non-sequitur. It’d had been nice to have this represented in some way. The buildings of conjoined cellblocks have a PFRPG-remnant that refers to a “DC 30 Open Locks”-check. On the plus-side, the sections pertaining goods to be purchased have been adapted properly to the realities of old-school gaming.
A significant plus, as always, would be the section that provides 20 different entries on local dressing and events, as these act as an easy way for the GM to introduce some action and local color to the proceedings. As a supplement very much driven by factions, the place does come with 7 sample NPCs, all of which are presented in the fluff-only type that we’ve come to expect from the series – i.e. they note background, mannerisms and personality traits. They also come with a bit of read-aloud text depicting the NPC, and information on class/race/etc. Kudos: These pieces of information represent the proper old-school nomenclature.
A total of 11 keyed locations may be found within this supplement, with all of them sporting a descriptive read-aloud line – where applicable, they list their own section regarding things you can purchase there, and a few of them also feature short quest/adventure hooks. Interesting here would be that many of the beings here have explicit or implicit consequences for interaction with the PCs. For example, a remaining staffer who survived the riot may well turn down a dark road unless confronted by the PCs. The commander of the “watch”´, Skella Grint, may recruit the PCs to help her clear up ritual murders and the like – a standard scenario, but one made more interesting by the village’s unique angle.
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 gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP’s patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.
Jacob W. Michaels’ Blackhill Gaol is a per se cool supplement – with a clocktower and the cellblock angle, it has a unique atmosphere to it, one I genuinely consider to be fun. I’d have loved to see a bit more in the goods-department or sample prices for services rendered, but that is nothing that a good GM can’t provide. All in all, I consider this iteration to be slightly superior to the 5e-iteration – as such, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.
You can get this settlement here on OBS!
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