Village Backdrop: Fraywrack 2.0 (OSR)
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!
…wait. Fraywrack, Fraywrack…that wasn’t nominally a Village Backdrop before, right? Indeed! Fraywrack was originally released in the Places of Power-series, but even in its original iteration actually was, well, a village. As such, having the expanded version adhere to the formula regarding presentation makes sense, particularly since the original already pretty much adhered to that standard.
Formally, the supplement has been expanded in the usual way for these second visits to locales: That means, we get more extensive information regarding the surrounding locality, and the very helpful notes for the GM on life in the settlement, local laws and customs and tradition all are here. The super helpful dressing/event table has been expanded from an original 6 entries to 20, making it much easier to portray the place as an alive and organic environment. Unlike most of the supplements in the series, this has not received read-aloud text for the keyed locales. The revised version also introduces a new keyed location, EDIT: and a previous map-issue has been fixed.
Fraywrack is rather captivating:
On a lonesome shore of rocky headland, known as the Harpy’s Head, there lies the wrecked ruin of an erstwhile powerful ship – and it conceals an alliance most peculiar: You see, a flight of harpies has lured the vessel ashore – but the wreck contains no signs of slaughter, but rather an impromptu war-camp, for the harpies thus forcefully recruited the crew of survivors as soldiers in their desperate fight against Dagon and his strange, deformed minions that rise from the depth in a truly unique coalition.
The unique constellation of characters is a boon here as well: From harpies not being too keen to be forced to play with their food to drunken sailors, there is an intrinsic tension that suffuses the set-up that, by means of its very definition, is upset by the arrival of PCs.
It is btw. nice to see that the pdf does come with a nice marketplace section for consumables, magic, etc., featured among the keyed locales – it has been properly adjusted for the realities of old-school gaming. The location sports also a ramshackle settlement, as you can imagine – and honestly, I could elaborate on how the individual locations are cool and evocative, but frankly, that would be redundant as far as I’m concerned – the set-up at the grand scale is creative and full of potential, something that is continued seamlessly to the individual locales, generating a truly amazing location. Much to my chagrin, the revised edition has not seen fit to include some modifications or stats for the 4 new NPCs featured, which are depicted in Raging Swan Press’ usual, fluff-only manner. Getting some unique attacks or abilities for them would have been neat.
Mechanically, the pdf is not necessarily OSR in that we’d get old-school stats for the NPCs (which’d have been easy enough to fit in), but rather an expansion of the system neutral version of the original pdf. So if you expected some juicy mechanics, you won’t find them.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches on a formal level, though the map-glitch is pretty damn bad. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artworks are amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press’ patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.
Jacob W. Michaels’ Fraywrack s creative, cool and unique – the idea is simple, but the execution is frankly inspired and chock-full with roleplaying potential. EDIT: The map glitch has been fixed. The writing is top-tier, but the decision to omit any old-school rules per se also is a missed chance; this is essentially based on the system neutral version of the original, and fails to add relevant mechanics. If you have the original iteration, I’d round down from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.
You can get this supplement here on OBS.
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