Village Backdrop: Bleakflat 2.0 (5e)
This expanded version 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!
The settlement’s nice little marketplace section has been properly adjusted for 5e, and we get the classic notes for villager appearances, dressing habits and nomenclature. As always, we receive 6 whispers and rumors that help keep the PCs on their toes/drive along proceedings and village lore, with the checks properly adjusted.
Cartography is provided by the expert skills of Maciej Zagorski. Notable locations include various families and their interaction with their somewhat “benevolent” overlord. Anyways, the pdf sports some seriously nice b/w-artworks of the dilapidated hovels, and the expanded version now comes with full elaborations regarding trade and industry, and the section on customs and traditions does come with a potentially creepy and interesting angle. The dressing/event table has been expanded to a full 20 entries, which is a big benefit regarding the ability to make the place come alive in a dynamic manner. We also get quite a bit of information regarding the surrounding locality. The pdf includes a selection of 6 NPCs, presented in Raging Swan Press’ usual flavor-centric standards, with references pointing towards established creatures; getting some noes on a kind of Template for use in 5e would have been nice, though.
The following is important to know about, but may be considered to be SPOILERS. Potential players should skip ahead.
All right, only GMs around? Great!
Bleakflat! What a name. I have rarely read a village with a name that evoked desolation quite to the extent as this does, so from a nomenclature angle, we’re off to a good start. From barren soil rises a rocky bluff far from any dungeons, ley lines, trade routes, or, yes, reasons to traverse the desolate waste. And the leitmotif carries over to the local populace, who, with relatively listless gait, slurp watery mutton soups in silence. Bereft of special talents, armed forces or the like, one cannot help but wonder how the local population manages to fend off the wolves and giant bats that seem to have no compunctions about attacking travelers. Well, the reason is as easily evident as the expert roleplayer may have guessed: The warm and welcoming mayor is actually a vampire who tends to “his” humans as a benevolent farmer would…but relations tend to become strained when his elitist dhampir daughter (ironically, more despicable than her full-blown undead father…) and her treatment of the humans are concerned…and when he has undead guests, they don’t always behave.
Did I mention the blood baths…oh, and the bleakwood, where the vampires sometimes hunt for the thrill and sport of the chase? Yeah. They’re vampires. What did you expect? Sparkling? Regarding his psycho-kid: The pdf remarks “Aldrich hopes this is just a phase.” This sentence, usually connotated with parents talking about their goth/punk/whatever kids perfectly exemplifies the mindset of the master of this place and really made me smile. Oh, and obviously, horses are not used for riding round here – they are food for the roaming giant bats… As far as system is concerned, vampires in 5e are less template-driven than in e.g. PFRPG – getting a quick way to make e.g. a “vampire spellcaster, as noted by the NPCs” (that’s the reference of one of the NPCs), or better yet, proper stats, would have been nice. I’d also have loved to see a few lair actions for the bloodbaths, while we’re at it.
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.
Jeff Gomez’ Bleakflat is interesting in that its theme of decrepitude is supplemented by a leitmotif of conflict between generations and a bit of social commentary, if you’re inclined to read that into the supplement: The population needs their master to survive, but at the same time is slowly destroyed by him. Sounds pretty much like dominant employers in remote communities everywhere to me. Anyways, the settlement is nice, has some thematically consistent angles and can go in several ways, depending on the morality of the PCs and how the GM elects to depict the situation – from full-blown horror to shades of grey “lesser of evils”-gameplay, there is a lot of potential here. This is a “straight” conversion – it is a nice expansion of the cool village, but if you have the original already, it’s less compelling. If you don’t have Bleakflat’s original version, consider this to be a good offering. It is somewhat weak regarding its potential regarding mechanical expansions – the original got a pass based on the strength of the concept, but for the expansion, I can’t help but be puzzled regarding the fact that this doesn’t add more 5e-specific components, when the context basically demands it. As such, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.
You can get this village here on OBS.
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