Village Backdrop: Idyll 2.0 (OSR)
The OSR-version of the expanded 2.0-version of the supplement depicting the village of Idyll 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!
As always with Raging Swan Press’ critically-acclaimed Village Backdrop-series, we are introduced to a sample town herein, local nomenclature, market place-information on magic items for sale (which have been properly adjusted for old-school gaming’s decreased power-levels), some sample lore to be unearthed via roleplaying, as befitting of the OSR-version, and, obviously, some rumors and adventure hooks. Speaking of which: References to classes have been properly adjusted, and the same holds true for the surprising depth of skills and magic referenced in the village. Roleplaying acts as the substitute for skill checks where prudent, while others, like opening locks, have been properly adjusted as well. Kudos! Further relevant for OSR-games: It should be noted that Idyll is a bit more high-fantasy in theme than many of Raging Swan Press’ settlements, but not in a way that’ll break your game, immersion, of consistency of a more low-powered, gritty world.
The village has gained two new NPC-write-ups since its original iteration, both presented in Raging Swan Press’ tradition: I.e., we get no stats, but we do get read-aloud descriptions as well as notes on mannerisms, personality and background. One of these individuals also comes with their own adventure hook.
A brief glimpse at the village map shows that the settlement is close to a little stream – and, frankly, if “idyll” as a name evokes pastoral scenes and romantic notions of a farmer’s life…you’d kind of be right. Export-wise, Idyll is pretty much defined by the tasty crops, wine and meats the village produces. At the same time, there are numerous interesting components that set the village apart, first of which would be the propensity for ancient artifacts littering the nearby landscape. This landscape, blasted in antediluvian wars, is now in the 2.0-version properly described in its own section regarding the surrounding locality. Speaking of improvements made: The original 6 entries for events and dressing have been expanded to a full set of 20, making it significantly easier to make the village come alive.
And then there is the fact that 4 odd monoliths, one in each cardinal direction, seem to guard the place. And that magically capable PCs will realize that the place uses magic to e.g. keep their silos properly purified. Perceptive PCs may notice an absence of children. Did I mention the constantly optimal weather conditions? There is a lot about Idyll as a place “too good to be true” that may spark the paranoia of the characters… and the village is governed by an odd council that seems to encompass the worst discrepancies of the alignment spectrum, thus rendering it rather impotent. Yet, the place is peaceful…so how can that be? If paranoia does not suffice, the new version also sports a couple of novel adventure hooks.
Magical characters may also notice a curious phenomenon, namely, that neither alignment-detection, nor proper scrying seem to work within the confines of this village and the fact that people of such vastly diverging ideologies seem to peacefully coexist also hints at the true nature of this unique settlement – a nature I am not going to divulge in this review, instead leaving you with the information that I haven’t seen the idea executed thus anywhere before. I absolutely love it! While I briefly considered spoiling the truth here, I believe that refraining from doing so is indeed for the best – you’ll see once you read about this unique village yourself.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any serious glitches on a formal or rules-language level. 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. We get pretty neat b/w-artwork. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.
Mike Welham’s Idyll once again is a perfect reminder why he ranks among the authors who continue to score seals of approval – Idyll is an inspired, intriguing settlement that begins with a mystery and offers a great answer to it, one that makes sense on multiple levels. The potential for uncanny valley-esque creepy-factors is here, as is the option for players to later utilize the village’s unique properties for their own agendas… provided they dare and manage to come to an agreement with the village’s masters, that is.
Idyll 2.0 has been expanded and improved in careful and well-chosen ways that genuinely improve the ability to run the excellent settlement further. Moreover, the OSR-iteration has been carefully crafted and adapted, losing nothing of its great appeal. Idyll is novel, interesting and creative, warranting 5 stars + seal of approval. It’s one of the gems in the excellent series.
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