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
Aldwater is immediately set apart by the map it sports – you see immediately an uncommon village on raised platforms, situated where the Blackraven Creek runs off into the Deepmire Marshes, with one bridge connecting the platforms with an island containing a labyrinth, which doubles as a final resting place for the village’s ancestors. navigating the labyrinth has been the providence of the spiritspeaker of the town since time immemorial.
Against this backdrop of old, pagan customs, the village has certainly seen its fishing grounds become less fertile, with the spirits being goaded to provide information for strangers – on, for example, strange ruins in the swamp. Alas, what the ultimate consequences of outsider meddling turn out to be, none knows at this point, rendering this a nice potential set-up for either nasty Wicker-man-like scenarios and progress vs. tradition narratives..
Two sample characters/villagers complement this set-up, rife with adventuring potential. As always, this village comes with the full array of marketplace, village statblocks, demographics and yes, information on names, garb etc. worn by the villagers. Rumors provide more hooks and local color and yes, there are 6 sample events, as always.
The strange practice of the town and the magic item facilitating it are provided as a bonus in the pdf and both make sense, though I wished the ritual itself to have a slightly more complex depiction.
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 nice map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs on RSP’s homepage. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.
Jacob Trier’s Aldwater is very much one of the more subtle village backdrops – it doesn’t bash you over the head with its premise and very much puts how it will work in your campaign in your hands – from acting as a travelling station/waypoint on a journey to horror or benevolent interpretations, this place has all the potential for untapping right at your fingertips without forcing your hand via a written-in basic conflict. Whether you go for benevolent mysticism or full-blown horror, Aldwater supports your choice and thus can be considered a great installment in the series – granted, one I had to read more than once to make it “click”, but when it did, the results were beautiful. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.