Village Backdrop: Vaagwol
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
Vaagwol is neither a black metal, nor a pagan metal band, though the name could grace such a formation. Nestled at the marshy edge of the Twyll river delta, dreary, solid walls rise amid ever present fog and a danger modifier of +20 does not bode well. Indeed, were one to visit this dreary place, with quarters separated from one another by even more walls, one can see a much larger settlement that has dwindled to become less than it once was, exhibiting a dread sense of the foreboding – dare I say, even post-apocalyptic. You see, a disease ravages this place and the nearby bog – one called “The Hunger”, which, unsurprisingly, makes the sufferers crave fresh meat and finally succumb to become one of the walking dead via anew CR+1 template that, alas, is not particularly exciting. I’ve seen this component done better.
At the same time, though, the settlement does offer a level of internal consistency I cannot help but applaud: Beyond bandits in the marsh, forays of clay and peat cutters, armed to the teeth, are interesting and the constant siege of the living dead has resulted in a surprising knowledge of herbalism and medicine, while the lack in manpower means the city’s various clockworks utilized to fill tasks that would otherwise go unfulfilled means that you can add a clockwork-y, Zobeck-like element to the village…or ignore this component for the most part, all depending on your tastes.
The presence of the Bereavement Watch under the command of Scythemaster Ecta Jenigan, the driven physician, the threat posed by nearby, bandit-riddled Feyhall -all of these conspire in accordance with the traditional plenitude of local color (nomenclature, appearance, etc.), events and whispers as well as the marketplace-sections to make the settlement, in spite of a theme that has been covered before, feel alive and concise.
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 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.
My first impulse upon reading Greg Marks’ Vaagwol was not one of excitement – you see, I’ve seen the topic of the zombie-besieged town and the zombie-plague one too many times and indeed, the mechanical representation of the disease is not too interesting. At the same time, however, this pdf does sport one component that is pretty hard to convey in a given review: Beyond feeling concise, the prose is simply excellent: From the titles of local offices to the descriptive writing, the sense of dread permeating this little pdf resonates quite strongly with my dark fantasy and horror-loving heart – more than I quite frankly would have anticipated. By all means, all this pdf should do is elicit a yawn from me; instead, I found myself enjoying the prose and even being somewhat sad when I was done with it – this is indeed a good read and it sports quite an array of fun options and hooks for the GM to develop. In the end, in spite of me not being too compelled by the crunchy bits herein, I found myself thoroughly enjoying this book and contemplating using this in my campaign rather sooner than later. The angle may be old, but the execution is superb – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
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