This installment of the Village Backdrop-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Echo harbor is somewhat uncommon, as a brief look at the village’s demographics should point out immediately: Of the almost 200 inhabitants, more than ½ the population actually comes from rather uncommon stock, namely, we’re talking orcs and merfolk. There is a reason for this: Not too long ago, this was the solitary home of a tribe of merfolk, but that did change when a wounded, old dragon turtle and her orc attendants entered the bay, tired of a nomadic lifestyle. A deal was struck: Protection would be granted by the orcs and their mighty guardian, but in turn, they’d be allowed to settle. The alliance was the founding event of the settlement, with the council of community leaders, the “Recognized” making smart business decisions. Recently, though, the mighty dragon turtle vanished – and it remains to be seen whether Echo Harbour can stand on its own.
Still, for now, the village remains relatively safe. Following the evolved village backdrop-formula, we get a generic marketplace section denoting items for sale, an entry on villager appearance and nomenclature as well as some village lore for PCs to unearth. 6 different whispers and rumors can also be found to add some spice to the experience.
The b/w-map by Maciej Zagorksi is really nice and the pdf does provide some nice, detailed notes on law enforcement, trade and local customs and traditions. Contests of skill and former adoption into the village’s fold are mentioned and the pdf comes with a total of 20 entries of dressing and events, which can add some nice local color to the village. The village of Echo Harbour’s vicinity is one of tropical coastlines, with reliable trade winds blowing in customers; obviously, this does mean that there are pirates as well – and in a cool twist, the village’s surrounding area also includes a description of the underwater area near the village.
Now, the pdf also contains a total of 7 notable points of interest and 5 different NPCs. The NPCs, as always, focus on a fluffy, statless depiction, with mannerism, personality and distinguishing features noted. Big plus: The suggested levels for the NPCs refer to the proper classes of the old-school systems – magic-users and thieves, for example. Both the NPCs and the locations do feature their own read-aloud text for your convenience. As following the expanded formula of the series, the pdf also features one single, brief and localized table of events for the marketplace of the town, notes on food and drink in the local tavern, and we get notes on the kelp farms, the cave where Echo Harbour was founded as well as on the local shipyards. It should also be noted that magic items for sale have been adjusted to reflect items in line with old-school gaming. One of the locations also has two small quest-hooks suggested.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches on a formal of rules-language level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant, nice two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features amazing cartography and art, both in b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and it comes in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Amber Underwood’s “Echo Harbour” is an interesting village: Its cosmopolitan nature makes it a good hub for an adventuring group and the recent disappearance of the village’s guardian means that there is plenty of reason why it’s not as fortified or well-defended as it should be. There is a lot of room for the times to change. While the prose of the village didn’t captivate me to peak extent, the village excels in its sheer functionality.
You see, Echo harbor acts as a perfect hub and transition axis – the village’s trade connections can explain getting the exotic goods PCs are known to like, and its location allows it to act as a hub and transition point from in-land adventuring to naval or underwater adventuring and vice versa, acting as a great starting point for a change of pace. This makes the village rather valuable for longer campaigns that cherish changes of scenery. The system neutral version loses nothing of the charm of the other versions. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars – very much worth getting!
You can get this village here on OBS!
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