This installment of RSP’s Village Backdrop-series is 11 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 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the settlement!
Shroudhaven is a foreboding place – nestled within a valley that is defined by not having seen proper sunlight due to the eponymous shroud above the village, the place greets travelers with signs proclaiming that law-breakers will be eaten and that necromancers are forbidden around here. Yeah, you probably can see where that goes, right? Indeed, beyond mannerisms and exquisite artisanship that could hearken to the genesis of the place, with the famed theater mellavious, the place seems affluent and culturally more than relevant – and it does feature a ghast population. And vampires. Yeah, this place can be dangerous…though the undead do try to put visitors at ease and ultimately convince them of their civilized nature. The shorthands of the notable NPCs have been replaced with appropriate NPCs drawn from 5e’s array, and we obviously don’t get a settlement statblock.
Depending on the type of game you’re running, you may also want to know that the place does not sport a market place of magic goods like in the PFRPG-iteration.
The local undead do hunt for “feral undead” beyond the village’s confines, though, as some research can unearth, we find out that locals have a hard time leaving the place…they are subject to a wasting disease until they return. As always, we do receive notes on appearance and dressing style, though this time around, we do not receive sample names. However, 6 rumors and events provide further adventuring potential, in case an eccentric vampire wizard seeking to synthesize artificial blood, a ghast-run manor-house-come-in. And yes, there are farms, courtesy of restricted daylight spells, a cathedral and the relative affluence of the place is evident in architecture and occupations.
Speaking of farms, ghasts and vampires…know how the undead here require sustenance? Well, there is another type of farm. Yes, it includes the nightmarish combination of words “chemically” and “lobotomized.” And yeah, any semblance of civility and culture here is skin-thick at best; sure, you don’t eat intelligent people…but let’s not talk about people made deliberately non-intelligent. Urgh. Similarly, the curse of the place has special conditions – ones that allow for semi-regular (once a decade) explorations beyond the confines of the place. After all, the place may have sucky weather – but there are so many distinguished people here! Have I mentioned that they sell magic mushrooms here?
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.
Mike Welham’s Shroudhaven reminded me of the classic horror-movie/satire “Society”, as seen through a feudal/pseudo-Victorian filter of decadence and manners. The write-ups of the NPCs themselves paint a sympathetic and even kind picture…and honestly, the horrific aspect here lies in the fact that shroudhaven may well be the kindest possible solution for the undead persons; so can you really blame them? Don’t they have a right to exist? Beyond the veneer of polite society, beyond the horror that you can or cannot emphasize, shroudhaven is an uncommon village that generates questions and responses – whether it’s finding shelter, a solution…or involves copious amounts of kindling and pitchforks.
This is an engaging village and an exercise in concise writing -while I have seen the angle been done before, I have never seen it done in this concise and unique a way, with a focus on the leitmotif of consumption – cultural and literal. The 5e-iteration is solid and closer to the system-neutral one than to the PFRPG-version, which is a bit of a pity: The curse of shroudhaven and 5e’s exhaustion mechanics look like a match made in heaven to me and tying them together in a mechanically-relevant manner would have been the icing on the cake. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars, just short of my seal of approval.
You can get this nice village here on OBS!
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You can directly support Mike Welham here on patreon!