Village Backdrop: Lady Cross (5e)
This installment of Raging Swan Press‘ cult-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Lady Cross is a village that falls squarely into the terrain of “basically an adventure” – just throw PCs into the mix, watch them interact with the locale, and slowly unearth the metaplot, for a classic, Shakespearian tragedy has marked the locale, providing a very easy metaplot for the GM to develop as a downtime adventuring site.
Situated in rough moorlands, with harsh northern winds, the village has a distinct Islay/Highlands-theme, which is generally something I enjoy and, as a fan of a good whiskey, can appreciate; indeed, with the soil is poor, Lady Cross sports no less than 6 different wells, which help emphasize the distilling and brewing as the primary resource of the settlement. It should be noted that, courtesy of the soil, the brew of choice here would be gins, not whiskey, though. Tea shops and fortified walls, visible in Tommi Salama’s excellent map, make the village seem rather safe, idyllic even.
Indeed, the village turns out to be a rather safe place…most of the time. At the same time, the shadow of the tragedy hinted at looms prominently over the village and represents a ticking timebomb of sorts.
Now, as always for the series, we do get notes for the marketplace section as well as 6 rumours. The pdf contains notes on the villager appearance and dressing habits as well as nomenclature, and PCs that do their legwork can unearth some lore. The pdf also provides information on the booming gin production and local law enforcement and the local customs, which sport a somewhat pagan tint, centering on the “Sorrow Tree” and the equinoxes.
Now, this supplement, structurally, follows the evolved form of Village Backdrops, providing a massive 20-entry table of local color events and dressing to make the village come to life. This also is mirrored in the fluff-only write-ups of the 2 NPCs, who come with a brief read-aloud description and mannerisms and personality. They have btw. been assigned proper 5e default statblocks. The read-aloud sections also extend to the write-ups for the nine notable locations. The village has an expanded sidebar, courtesy of its focus on beverages, which was something I enjoyed. Objects available for purchase are noted in their respective locations and the village has some additional adventuring potential:
The wells bespeak a system of tunnels, now mainly boarded up hastily and left forgotten, and a killer is stalking the village. Combined with the strong “main plot” of the village, this allows the village to act as a pretty efficient set-up for adventuring.
Editing and formatting re very good. I noticed no serious glitches on a formal or rules-relevant level. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes with really nice, original b/w-artworks and the cartography by maestro Salama is amazing, as always. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions – one optimized for screen use and one optimized for the printer.
This is the first file by Robert Manson I’ve read and I confess to being positively surprised. The village has a strong identity and angle that I enjoy; the fact that it basically is an adventure waiting to happen, that it can be run as a backdrop, has a dungeon-angle and one for investigation, as well as a nice complicating factor, makes this structurally well-executed. That being said, this time around, the nature of the main antagonist and focus of the storyline inherent in the setting, feels like it falls short of what it could do, courtesy of its relatively rules-lite nature. This settlement practically screams for legendary or lair actions associated with the respective locales – the creature chosen is pretty vanilla and while 5e does not have the same amount of creatures (yet) as PFRPG, I still feel like the tragedy would have made for a great way to customize the challenge here. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars for the 5e version as well.
You can get this village here on OBS!
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