Village Backdrop: Greystone (5e)
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!
Sharp-inclined hills huddle together in the deepened shadows of the Mottled Spire, where, once upon a time, settlers from nearby Languard founded a fishing village and outpost for a watchtower/lighthouse. Linked by steep and narrow, inhospitable inclines, the village that was here may once have housed up to 200 people…but nowadays, greystone is a shadow of its former self, with not even 70 souls remaining…and whether they’d constitute humans ultimately depends on your definition of the term, for there is a reason the almost palpable shadow of fear clings to this settlement, seemingly clouded in the spire’s looming shadow in perpetuity.
Astute readers may notice that the 5e iteration of this village clocks in at 1 page less than PFRPG’s version – well, the whole page depicting the degenerate creature template and the brief write up of Dagon as a deity is missing here, which is a big drawback and pretty unexplainable to me. It’s not like 5e doesn’t know special features for NPCs galore or similar modifications. I can come up with no viable reason why there is no 5e-version of the unique mutations and degeneracy of the locals…and why the cosmetic changes have fallen to the chopping block as well. A couple of unique features for the local folks would have certainly been easy to include.
That being said, the settlement does come with the traditional notes of villager nomenclature and dressing as well as local lore…which does make for an amazing warning, as the houses are supposed to contain tunnels, shielded from the light of day, tunnels that allow the degenerate inhabitants to move from place to place unseen by the light of days. Some murmur about the massacre that once took place here, when the strange antediluvian structures were found beneath the manor that belonged to none other than dread Dagon, whose deity write-up, as mentioned before, has fallen to the chopping block.
Beyond Tommi Salama’s superb cartography of the village, the pdf comes with a second gorgeous map drawn by the Finnish master of cartography, which depicts the labyrinthine caves below the hills, allowing for easy two-step functionality here. In short: This is basically a great set-up for a truly creepy village, with the closest analogue I can think of being a blending of the village in Darkest Dungeon and a backwoods horror movie flick à la Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Strange carvings, mostly rendered unintelligible, weirdly mixed architectural styles and two tables to depict minor details for the caverns or add in small events can be found here as well, though the die to roll is d12, not d% as noted here. These cosmetic glitches, however, should not be taken as an indicator that this pdf contains anything but the most impressive of prose, which generates an atmosphere so thick you can almost cut it. Much like in PFRPG’s version, these dressings and minor events remain system neutral and do not have mechanical repercussions.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant 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.
Creighton Broadhurst, master of Raging Swan Press, is an absolute master at depicting desolate places, decrepitude and a general sense of a world that has moved on, to paraphrase the classic King-sentiment. Indeed, even among the offerings he has penned, this stands out. That being said, while I absolutely adore the prose herein, the pdf falls behind by cutting not only the rules of the deformities and Dagon, but also the flavor these brought. This was jarring in the system-neutral iteration. In the 5e-version, I am even more baffled by the decision. This makes the pdf excel in prose…but also means that it can’t mechanically back up the promise of the amazing prose.
I am really torn regarding the final verdict of this version. The prose does not deserve being rated down to 3, but at the same time, the lack of unique mechanical tricks when they would have been so easy to integrate is jarring to me. Ultimately, in spite of my policy of in dubio pro reo and the strength of the prose, I feel I need to round down from my final verdict of 3.5 stars. If you have the luxury of choice and feel that you can handle the basic conversion, I’d instead get the PFRPG-version and do the conversion of the minimal crunch herein – the lore DCs have, e.g. not been modified, which makes the 5e-relevant material mostly pertain the abbreviated statblock-references in the important NPCs-line. If you do not care about the mechanical components, consider this a 5 star-offering instead.
You can get this flavorful village here on OBS.
You can directly support Raging Swan Press here on patreon.