This Village Backdrop clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Starspun Hollow may seem like a mirage to the weary traveler – situated in the midst of a rather unpleasant swamp, the village breathes an air of hospitality one would not expect from such a remote location – and indeed, the population, mostly made up of humans and halflings indeed seems to be friendly and surprisingly wealthy – mostly due to an exotic resource of most fantastic and yet easy to integrate into a given campaign.
Not too long ago, a druid observing a rare species of spider noticed the reflective properties of their webs, which not only reflects moonlight, but which subsequently brought wealth to the remote locale – after all, what better way to clad the resplendent beauties at court than in comfortable clothes that shimmer and reflect?
Alas, this influx of demand also brought traders and more humans to the formerly halfling-dominated settlement and with them came demands on a more high-scale production of starsilk, echoing conflicts we can observe in real life – progress and the lure of wealth versus the old ways, with one side accusing the other of being overly cautious and the other smelling the taint of greed behind the looming progress.
Which of these proves to be true and how the village further develops is very much up to the DM, the players and the usual amount of whispers, events and characters help further fleshing out the village. The CR 7 sample character and her animal companion are also neat, though I have to say that I consider one thing a true pity – with such a rich, evocative background, why not make the silk a new magical material and provide tangible benefits for it? While not beyond the capabilities of any Dm, this constitutes the one oversight in an otherwise glorious installment of Village Backdrops.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s superb, streamlined and printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard. The pdf’s b/w-cartography (of which you can download player-friendly versions on Raging Swan’s homepage for free!) is just as awesome as I’ve come to expect from the series. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.
Nicholas Wasko’s first Village Backdrop is a winner – Starspun hollow breathes adventure-potential, subdued, yet tangible fantasy and ideas galore – it is a village most players will love exploring and devising a reason to visit the place is built into it as well – this is a furious, glorious installment and were it not for the obvious oversight with the silk as an alchemical/magical resource, it would be an instant seal of approval candidate. Without it, it misses the seal by a margin – for “only” a highly recommended 5 star final verdict. Two thumbs up for the author – consider me stoked to read more from your pen, Mr. Wasko!