Village Backdrop: Greystone (system neutral)
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 system-neutral 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, as both contained flavorful descriptions that most certainly would have been appreciated herein as well.
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.
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, making this system-neutral, yes, but also stripping away some nice dressing that most certainly wouldn’t have been out of place once stripped of the crunch. As much as I adore the vivid prose herein, losing a whole page in comparison to PFRPG makes this a weaker version of the village, one that lacks one pretty flavorful component. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars for this one: The prose is still excellent, but unless you REALLY hate any semblance of rules in your game, get the PFRPG-version instead. You can still ignore the rules-components of the degenerate tables etc., but you’ll have more content as a whole.
You can get this version here on OBS!
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