This installment of RSP’s Village Backdrop-series is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the settlement
At this point you probably know this already -after all, Raging Swan Press’ Village Backdrop series is pretty much one of the longest-running ones currently available from any 3pp – the basic premise is that you get one sample village – with full settlement statblock, map, etc. However, what made the series the success it is, would be essentially the level of detail the series brings to the table – we get information on local clothes, nomenclature, sample magic items to purchase as well as local rumors and sample events to bring life and local color to your table – this makes the villages stand out, feel distinct and ultimately, alive. This pdf is no different and sports all of these traditional virtues. It also, theme-wise, plays against the expectations evoked by this settlement’s name.
When i read “Hopespyre”, my association was that of a gothic place, dark fantasy – a religious tyrant burning unbelievers (or those in his path) at the stake – I thought about a place of oppression. Pretty much the obvious is the case. Hopespyre was founded by a visionary half-orc blessed by the flame as a refuge from the sins of his former life and now represents an enclave of per se nice people, who are still considered heretics by the vast majority of outside forces. Still, the church of the redemptive flame seems to be benevolent in its claim that the eternally blazing pyre in the middle of the place actually burns away past sins.
Now the brilliant component of this pdf ultimately does not lie in this inversion of expectations or the sample NPC provided – to me, the compelling nature of this place lies in the truth behind the pyre and the theme – you see, these people have seen horrible things and now, they have found solace, peace, if you will – and much like real world adherents of some of the more bonkers religions they will fight to retain their place. When handled correctly, this settlement may provide a thoroughly compelling example of “good people doing horrible things” – especially, since there are forces seeking to destroy the place or use it for its own ends. From the benevolently creepy to the truly blessed, Hopespyre provides a number of different interpretations a GM can use. blend and play with, for an individualized experience – and this is what makes it great.
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 is a damn talented author and this pdf pretty much showcases some of his talents – by being as versatile as this pdf is, the village of Hopespyre actually constitutes a fun, unique place that utilizes themes and motives in a rather complex, interesting way – and yes, this settlement can actually end in heart-rending tragedy, allowing you to explore quite a few themes not many supplements explore. This is one of the crown-jewels of the excellent series and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.
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