Village Backdrop: Roake
By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Raging Swan Press is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page advice on how to read statblocks and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 5 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
Roake is the first of Raging Swan’s new series of VILLAGES, in which we get small readily-made settlements to drop into your game. The village of Roake is a rather interesting place in that an incursion of orcs a generation ago has led to a disproportionally high birth-rate of half-orcs, children of said traumatic days in orc captivity. The villagers, though, fail to acknowledge the tragedy that has befallen them and bury the ancestry of their children behind a wall of silence that is endangered by anyone coming to the isolated town.
On the crunch-side, we get a village statblock as well as an overview of the interesting locales in the settlement including the mills, inns etc. A list of d6 rumours and a sidebar on buying exotic animals is provided as well. On the NPC-side, we get mannerisms etc. for the retired adventurer-leader of the town and two sample half-orc children that run the gamut from suffering the resentment for the past to being wholly accepted and lovingly raised. The topic of the wall of silence surrounding Roake’s history is also addressed in a side-box as well as the consequences of revealing the horrible truth.
The pdf also includes a section on law and order, 4 bullet-point style sample events and two sample villager statblocks for your perusal as well as a map of the town.
Editing and formatting are very good, though I noticed a plural mistake where “child” should read “children” – thus, not wholly on par with RSP’s track-record of almost perfectly edited pdfs. Layout adheres to RRSP’s elegant, printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the new cover-layout is nice indeed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions – one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for printing out. The cartography of the pdf is nice indeed, though it hits a pet-peeve of mine: It lacks a player-friendly version. As presented, we only get a map with annoying numbers.
Roake is an interesting first offering for the line, as it asks the question whether goodness can rise from despicable deeds and the isolationist village with its wall of silence feels distinct indeed. On the down-side, the lack of a player-friendly map and the editing glitches are downers. What is more relevant, at least for me, is the lack of information on how they have managed to keep travellers and foreigners from revealing the truth about the births of half-orcs – the village supplement fails to address this rather essential fact that could easily turn Roake into a slightly more benevolent wicker man-style scenario. A sample encounter including DCs for revealing the truth to the people, perhaps via a series of skill-checks/evidence etc. would have been nice as well. Due to this lack of help for the DM regarding the key distinct element of the village and the lack of a player-friendly map, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 3.5 stars for an otherwise great supplement – this line has potential! For now, though, I’ll round down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.
Village Backdrop: Roake is available from: