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Village Backdrop: Ashford (5e)
by SD M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/16/2016 12:28:48

I've really enjoyed the village backdrops by Raging Swan. This one, in particular is quite nice. The NPCs in this backdrop are described in sufficent detail to RP, but not Ad nauseam. This is the perfect type of backdrop for a campaign that involves a traveling BBEG that the PCs are trying to find. You can lead the part to believe that they might find who they are hunting for in this area, at risk of being infected by the plague, or "converted" by the cult. For example, I am using it as an offshoot of the Emental Evil Campaign, to bridge the gap between the Larrakh in the Tomb of Moving stones (who escapes), and the PCs have tracked him to Ashford, which I placed about 10 miles from the Sword Mountains to the west of Red Larch. Lots of places to explore, plots to develop, etc. Really wish they would convert the old swamps & marshes pack for 5e. Worth the cash!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Ashford (5e)
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Campaign Backdrop: Hills & Mountains
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/14/2016 06:01:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of Raging Swan Press' Campaign Backdrops-compilations clocks in at 115 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with an impressive 108 pages of content, so let's take a look!


This being a compilation of material, we begin this massive book with a handy list of statblcoks by CR with the respective page number for easy reference obviously included. Beyond that, the pdf provides advice for novice GMs on how to read statblocks and an extensive acknowledgement of author bios - I mention the latter primarily since I consider this aspect to be great and hope that other publishers will include the like in their books as well.


Anyways, as you may already know if you've read my review of the last Campaign Backdrop, we have an organization of Raging Swan Press material in this book by terrain; where the GM's Miscellany series took content and organized it by type (i.e. "Dressing" or "Villages"), these books basically provide all the material you'd need to flesh out a specific region.


The structure here is based on going from the general to the more complex/detailed; we begin with Wilderness Dressings for Hills and Mountains and move on to random encounters, which are separated by subregion - a total of 14 hill-themed encounters and 7 mountain-themed ones can be found. EL-wise, these encounters range from 1 - 9. The organization here makes slightly more sense than in the forest-installment, featuring general properties of hills and mountains (like movement through rubble, etc.) in front of the encounters with the good ole' Raging Swan Press GM-cheat-sheets I really have come to love.


Like the installment on forests, this book also has urban dressing material to reflect civilization's encroaching upon nature, with mining towns receiving their detailed dressing-due. After these more modular components, the pdf introduces us to the adventure location called prismatic tower and no less than 4 ready-to drop-in villages you can sprinkle into your mountainous region: This time around, these villages would be Denton's End, Feigrvidr, Hjalward and Silver Bluff - and yes, these rank as some of my favorites in the Village Backdrop-series.


Now, as before, gentle reader, I'd love to avoid redundancy and not rattle off the respective content again - I have covered in detail the constituent files and as such, I'd like to point you to the respective reviews I've written for them.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' two-column b/w-standard and the pdf features several thematically fitting, nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions: One is optimized for screen use and one for the printer.


John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Robert Brooks, Jeff Erwin, Fabian Fehrs, James F.D. Graham, Brian Gregory, Ben Kent, Stephen Radney MacFarland, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham deliver one exceedingly tight and useful toolkit here: Particularly if you don't already own the constituent files, this book delivers an extremely easy to use and game-enhancing toolkit for the beleaguered GM. Similarly, if you really want print of all the options herein, you'll notice that not all pieces of content in this book have so far been included in GM's Miscellany books, so there's that component as well.


As with the previous book, my one minor gripe with this is that I would have loved its terrain-related scope to be emphasized slightly more, with more hazards and mechanically relevant types of terrain...but that's just me being a total spoiled prick. The organization is slightly better this time around and, as a whole, this can be considered a true boon for any GM looking for material to flesh out the mountainous and hilly regions of her campaign. It should also be noted that the average quality of content provided herein is exceedingly high.


Now, this does not change that fans of Raging Swan Press that already have the material won't get much beyond the stellar and handy organization out of this tome...but at the same time, for people new to what RSP has to offer, this is a superb godsend indeed. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval, though with the caveat that RSP-veterans may want to skip this unless they want the book for the convenience it arguably offers.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Backdrop: Hills & Mountains
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Village Backdrop: Feigrvidr
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/13/2016 06:19:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


If the name of this village does sound like quasi-Norse, there is a reason for that "feigr" refers to "nar death" and has connotations with Odin's trances; "viðr" means wood - and indeed, this village would make a perfect addition to a mountainous region: Nestled in the headlands of the forbidding Titan Peaks, Svingal Halfbeard and his renegade band of (mostly) dwarven outcasts have tracked the flow of gold nuggets to this remote locale, ever since driving their mines into the depths of the mountains. What started as little more than an outcast's encampment in search for the big haul has since turned into a refuge for the persecuted.


Prosperous and notorious, Feigrvidr; populace may seem rough and tumble, but there is both gold and glory to be found in this remote place. The thane's search for gold and giant artifacts continues and those that cross him tend to vanish. Whispers and rumors, a total of 6 of them, to be precise, have been included: A maze of shanties, decadent Sin's roost, halfling town and middens containing the refuse and slack of the numerous mines - the village manages to properly convey its unique take on a mining town, with 6 sample events to kick off adventures/action. As always, nomenclature and local clothing customs are mentioned.


Speaking of middens - here, a cool bit of quasi-realism blends with the fantastic, for the folk of Feigrvidr have bred CR 2 pygmy-otyughs (fully statted) to deal with refuse...but they tend to breed fast and true and swarms of them can be found there and the locals whisper that they also are the reason bodies of the thane's enemies tend to never be found...


Conclusion:


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 map deserves special mention this time around, being particularly nice. The pdf sports a nice b/w-artwork of a tentacle-studded pit, probably hiding the pygmy-otyughs. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.


Stephen Radney-MacFarland's Feigrvidr is one glorious village that can stand with the best in the series; equal parts ethnic settlement, frontier/mining town and rough and tumble refugee camp, it oscillates between various themes and blends them in a concise and fun whole. The village is inspired, cool and breathes a sense of the fantastic without becoming too "unrealistic." Much like the best of the village backdrops, this immediately inspires and makes for a great "throw the adventurers in and wait what happens"-experience. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - certainly my favorite mining-themed town by Raging Swan Press so far.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Feigrvidr
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Village Backdrop: Ashford (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/13/2016 06:18:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Ashford, so let's take a look!


Ashford may once have been a place brimming with the quiet, simple life of small towns - but no longer. Reduced to a shadow of its former state, Ashford is ravaged by the bubonic plague and the empty shells of houses stand among sad remnants that are inhabited by survivors of the plague - people with broken spirits and no hope, waiting solemnly to join their deceased friends and family in an early grave - or drowning their sorrows in alcohol. Visitors risk exposure on a daily basis.


The village priest has failed to contain the plague and so hatred, rage and despair abound, as plague pits filled with the corpses of the fallen litter the landscape and the local ruler ignores his citizen's plight. The local wizard met the interruption of her studies with a fireball into the enraged mob and no help is coming on that front either. Worse, one of the village's priests not only succumbed to the plague, but hasn't been interred in the chapel, thrown instead into plague pits and now has risen from the grave, seeking revenge as a ghoulish priest. Events in the village center on enhancing this sense of desolation and collapsing buildings and feral dogs paint in thick strokes an image of anguish and end-times-like circumstances.


Sidebars depicting abandoned and burnt-out houses (10 entries each) and whispers and rumors as well as lore should help render the trip to Ashford...well. Interesting. That being said, regarding teh 5-conversion, I honestly believe that we could have used game effects. Unlike Pathfinder, 5e has, at least to my knowledge, no mechanics for it yet and I found myself wishing that they were include. While symptoms and the like are part of the pdf, the actual game-mechanics are left out. As always, I believe that certain classes, backgrounds etc. should have an easier time unearthing lore information...but by now, you're probably tired of hearing that old spiel.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard with neat b/w-art and as always, the high-res map is available to supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon. The cartography of the village is top-notch and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one for the printer.


Mastermind of Raging Swan press Creighton Broadhurst is a master of depicting dreary, gritty, grimy locales with concise writing and vivid prose - and this pdf is no different. Indeed, if anything, it is a prime example of what can be done with a scant few words - supplemented by a glorious map in b/w, Ashford is a town you want to include into your campaign, evoking a sense of ending that doesn't need a scream, but comes with an oh so much more powerful whisper - there's no villain to be fought, no monster to be defeated to make all well - this is an exercise in combating human nature, a chance for the PCs to make a point that the "g" in their alignment is not about killing things with "e" in their alignment - here's a chance to rekindle hope against all odds, combat despair and try to save not lives, but a town's very soul. We need more supplements like this and while reading it, I was constantly wishing for a true plague-outbreak module or even better, an AP in that vein. I have always loved Ashford and considered it to be one of my favorite village backdrops of all time; but alas, in spite of this, the fact remains: Ashford is DEFINED by the plague. It's literally the point of the village...and it has no effects contained herein. The pdf had the chance to make the bubonic plague for 5e, and instead opted for fluff-only, depriving the village of its mechanical heart, if you will. This renders Ashford's 5e-iteration, unfortunately, somewhat inferior to PFRPG's take on it. My final verdict, in spite of loving its writing to bits, will hence, "only" clock in at 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Ashford (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Coldwater (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/13/2016 06:16:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Coldwater, so let's take a look!


Coldwater is perched upon an inhospitable, mud-drenched coast, with one access by land, its harbor is in the delta of a miserably stream that empties its contents into the sea - and if that does not reflect a place you'd like to visit, then that's pretty much a representation of how most folks see this place. Nearby caverns sport strange stair-like features that only rarely become visible and the inhabitants of the village are just as sullen and unfriendly as the weather suggests. Both village lore and demographics reflect the relative hostility and rugged nature of the village rather well, while a Finnish-inspired nomenclature emphasizes an association with the colder climes.


Indeed, the rustic and eccentric locals e.g. sport a man named Holg, who has a well-stacked ware-house, but lets no one in - you have to tell the old man what you're looking for and mysteriously, more often than not, he procures the object from within the depths of his dubious "locker." Indeed, one cannot really fault the locals for their sullen outlook on life: As the events and the subtle wrongness in the tides underline, there is something wrong here and quite a few of the villagers suffer from tell-tale deformities. It should be noted that magic items and a local deity's brief write-up that can be found here have been properly updated to 5e's conventions and that, much like the other village backdrops, there are no statblocks herein.


On a nitpicky note: The deformity and the sense of wrongness - I do believe that the lore section of the village or the rumors would have warranted a modification away from the pure Charisma or Intelligence check to respectively unearth information.


Conclusion:


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.


Creighton Broadhurst has skill - and this one shows it pretty well. The mastermind of Raging Swan Press delivers what I'd like to call a wide open sandbox: We are faced with problems and the respective NPCs mentioned can be used to exacerbate it, change it...all depending on your whims. Basically, this is one of the village backdrops that is so compelling, it can make PCs pretty much write their own tale: Throw them in and watch what happens. It sports local color that made me think of the slight surreal elements that made Twin Peaks so compelling, at least for me -from the dwindling fortunes of one family to female, hard-working and drinking half-orc, there is a lot of quirkiness, a lot of unique bits and pieces here; enough, to make this thoroughly compelling and well worth 5 stars. My one gripe with it is that 5e so far has no Innsmouth-look style background tables, diseases or the like - a bit of crunch here would have been nice.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Coldwater (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Longbridge (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/09/2016 03:04:03

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Longbridge, so let's take a look!


Longbridge is, much like famous Riverrun, crucial to the crossing of a particular river - only that a) it's smaller and b) its leadership is divided - claimed by both Wido Gall and Hilduin Lorsch, two sets of taxes, laws and regulations have made Longbridge a hotbed of intrigue and a powder keg whose fuse has been lit - it's just a matter of time before it blows - especially with Einhard Kochel, leader of the free merchants seeking to claim control for himself...


Following the tradition of the series, longbridge gets a beautiful b/w-map as well as village demographics, a lore-section and 6 different whispers and rumors as well as notes on the type of folk that can be found in the settlement and their nomenclature. As before, it remains my firm belief that some backgrounds or classes should gain bonuses regarding the unearthing of village lore.


9 notable locations have been provided for the town alongside a stunning b/w-rendition of it and,as before, we don't get statblocks in the 5e-iteration of the village backdrop in question, instead using the freed space for extended discussions on local legends, environs or extended notes on the back story of characters. Longbride was a particularly statblock-heavy installment in PFRPG, though, and so, we expand the sample event table to 10 and also get a 10-entry strong, fluff-only table that depicts sample travelers crossing this nexus...so, depending on what you're looking for, this one may be significantly superior for you.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's two-column b/w-standard with gorgeous b/w-art and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out. As always, RSP's patreons get the high-res maps as well.


Creighton Broadhurst, mastermind of Raging Swan Press, publishes not nearly enough of his own designs - this village is yet another stellar example of why I stand by this statement: Creighton GETS relatively realistic, gritty fantasy. Almost all Raging Swan Press offerings are suffused by a sense of historicity often lost in the more fantastic offerings and this village is no exception - oozing a sense of authenticity, this settlement comes alive on its pages. In spite of the relative brevity of the supplement. Add to that the great artwork, the awesome map and the sheer potential of the volatile situation and we have a place suited for violent insurrection as well as politics on a locale scale - and everything in between. My only gripe would be that I would have loved this to be a full-blown 32-page town-supplement rather than "just" a village. This loses none of its appeal in 5e and may even work better due to more space for the descriptive elements. Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Longbridge (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Wellswood (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/09/2016 03:01:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Wellswood, so let's take a look!


In this installment of Raging Swan Press' critically acclaimed series, we travel to the village of Wellswood - which is aptly-named: Situated in the midst of a gorgeous forest, the settlement sports numerous wells - both natural ones and those crafted by dwarven hands, for the settlement sports a significant dwarven population, who faithfully serves the local dour and somewhat greedy, but none too unpleasant lord Ilmari Issakainen.


The uncommon occurrence of a forest-bound dwarven clan also results in a surprising amount of fortified stone buildings jutting forth from the massive forest. While secure, the rather significant taxes imposed are not to be trifled with, though merchants and travelers won't have too much of a problem paying them. No less than three inns (all coming with information on accommodation-prices and food) are detailed within these pages, as befitting of a village under the auspice of a church of travelers - which btw. includes a brief deity-write-up. And yes, the domains actually point towards proper 5e-domains. Industry-wise, the local lake with its fishing (requiring permission of the lord...which is, again, taxed) is based mostly on the massive influx of travelers passing through.


Oh, but I've failed to mention the interesting component here: You see, aforementioned lake, much like the hold of the dwarven clan, is subterranean and heavily regulated - though that does not mean that there are no means of getting down there sans the lord knowing...if you know whom to ask. Yes, the subterranean lake actually writes adventures of itself, considering the plethora of potential dangers there and the mere presence of it makes a potentially cataclysmic earthquake all the more dangerous. Plenty of development options are provided here, from the local color (the village sports notes on nomenclature, clothing, etc.) to more massive storylines - after all, there is a reason the dwarves are here - but to know that, you'll have to travel to Wellswood yourself! As a minor complaint, I think tying the unearthing of village lore to an Intelligence check not that elegant; Why not go history, or perhaps allow for the proficiency bonus to be added for dwarves or certain backgrounds? But I am nitpicking at a very high level here.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, 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 and sports a great artwork of a fishing trip on the subterranean lake.


Creighton Broadhurst's Wellswood is a compelling settlement that manages to strike a precarious balance: On the one hand, it is a pretty pleasant place that, in itself, is not yet an adventure and the lack of a central conflict means that you don't have a streamlined narrative cut out for you. However, unlike many a supplement with such a broad focus, Wellswood still manages to retain a sense of holistic integrity, a feeling of concise options, ready to be explored at any time. From politics to potential threats, whether as just a waystation or as a new home for the PCs, the village manages to support and accommodate threats both significant and trivial. While the supplement does not achieve the highest echelons of the series, it remains an excellent book that does offer a significant, tight array of interesting options for GMs and players to explore and, more importantly, a tight and unique place to visit that loses none of its draw in 5e- hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Wellswood (5e)
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Village Backdrop: White Moon Cove (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/08/2016 03:59:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of White Moon Cove, so let's take a look!


White Moon Cove is essentially a moderately wealthy coastal town governed by a council and features a list of 9 notable NPCs, settlement stats and a list of 8 notable locations. The town features an ex-paladin drunkard knowledgeable about Sahuagin, a brothel hidden behind a fishmonger (imagine the smell - ew!) and information on general villager-dress and mannerisms. The whispers and rumors-section this time around is a bit on the short side, with only 4 entries -these can be unearthed, as always, with a DC 10 Charisma check. Similarly, lore can be unearthed via Intelligence checks, though the highest DC at 20 is pretty steep for my tastes - it nets the information pertaining the fishmonger/brothel and could imho benefit from being lower for certain classes or backgrounds.


The pdf features 2 pages of notable locations, though, and they are going into exquisite details on e.g. the amorous advances of a local trader to a notorious female captain - who might make for a good candidate for a lesbian relationship, which is implied in the subtext via her first mate. Tavern, chapel and fishmonger/brothel make for more places to check out, as does the local lighthouse.


The final page covers trade, law & order, 4 sample events, stats for fishermen and more information on another interesting local character.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard and the cartography is excellent. Artworks are nice b/w-pieces. The pdf is fully and extensively bookmarked and the pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer.


This village is interesting - in contrast to other installments, White Moon Cove is not interesting due to some cultural peculiarities, but due to something different: Author Marc Radle has crafted a village that is captivating not via its location or culture - for there's honestly not that much here - but via its inhabitants, via its set-up. As a fisher village with some nice potential for adventures and further support coming up, I can easily recommend this pdf for its low price at a final verdict of 5 stars. One more thing: Raging Swan Press has this criminally underrated aquatic module wherein the PCs embark from White Moon Cove to explore a Sunken Pyramid, infested with sahuagin and their unique culture. This module ranks as the best take on them since the Monstrous Arcana trilogy in the AD&D days of old - if this sells well, we might actually get the module for 5e...so yeah, another good reason to get this.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: White Moon Cove (5e)
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Village Backdrop: Thornhill (5e)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/08/2016 03:57:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series, converted to 5e, is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 5 pages of content for the village of Thornhill, so let's take a look!


The village of Thornhill is situated at the border of a vast marsh, to be more precise on an island encircled by deep, sluggish waters and surrounded by an ancient, yet formidable stockade of old timbers - the only access point to the village being one bridge. At least without access to boats!


We get 8 short entries of notable folks, describing the dramatis personae of the village before we're introduced to 10 notable locations in the village. It should be noted that a lizardfolk shaman living at a nearby island is considered to be a part of the village as well as a guardian of what the lizardfolk consider to be a holy site. On a nitpicky side, village lore DCs span 10, 15 and 20 and are based on Intelligence checks, which renders the highest DC pretty high - tying that to a proper Int-based skill may have been prudent re proficiency.


To add further color to the dreary place, we also get a table of 6 rumors, which PCs can unearth via Charisma checks. The pdf includes a general primer on how the people look like (including nomenclature) and some pieces of local lore on the village before we are introduced to more detailed descriptions of the 10 notable locations of the village.


Unlike in the PFRPG-version, we get no sample statblocks herein - instead, the pdf has been fitted with additional information pertaining a curious local paste, events for the aforementioned isle and its surroundings, etc.. Beyond these, we get short entries on trade & industry and law & order as well as 6 different events.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect - I noticed that the classes tend to be bolded, but there are exceptions to this rule to be found herein. Layout adheres to the crisp b/w-2-column presentation we're by now accustomed to and the pdf comes with two versions - one for printing and one for screen-use. Both pdfs are fully bookmarked.


All right, first of all, I feel obliged to note that this is a perfect example of concise writing - with just a couple of sentences, the village's descriptions manage to evoke a sense of backwardness, desolation, decrepitude and forlornness. Thornhill is a harsh place and one that may erode the minds of those unwilling or incapable of bearing the hard life there. The subtle winks and nods towards the ever-present threats of the nearby swamp, via lizardfolk etc., could be easily used by a halfway-decent GM to create an Innsmouth-type of scenario and I think that is exactly what I'll do.


A (very) minor issue the pdf may potentially have at your table is, that if you have already used a lot of 3pp-material, you may have encountered the map of the place before...but that's about it regarding my gripes with this one. Creighton Broadhurst's Thornhill remains a great, if not pleasant place you will want to inflict on your players. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Thornhill (5e)
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Campaign Backdrop: Forests & Woodlands
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/07/2016 04:49:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This massive book clocks in at 109 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 102 pages of content, so let's take a look!


Taking a cue from Raging Swan Press' other, no less intriguing compilation books, this one features a table of all statblocks used herein by CR (spanning the range from CR 1/4 to 14) with accompanying page numbers and, as a nice service to the talented authors involved, we get a page of author bios, which is great to see.


But what is this? Well, the short answer, as already hinted at, is that this is basically a toolbox for a specific type of terrain, namely the forests and woodlands. Where other Raging Swan Press collections for example collected the significant amount of dressing files or village backdrops in a single tome, the goal of these books is to organize the tools for the GM by region he needs - in this case, that would be forests and woodlands, obviously.


The presentation of the content is exceedingly smart - we move from the non-specific to the specific, from the general to the detailed in this book; Hence, we begin with dressing for forests and woodlands and primal forests, then move on to random encounters that don't suck - a total of 21 such encounters have been collected from the respective Raging Swan Press pdfs, now available for the first time in print. If that does not suffice, two fluff-centric tables of encounters can be found as well. The one thing that's counter-intuitive in the book's organization is that the terrain-feature cheat-sheet for forests is located after the encounters - to me, it would have made much more sense before them...or in the very beginning of the book.


We move on beyond that to the dressing provided for Logging Towns, first depicted in the Urban Dressing-series and then get a proper Place of Power - this time around, that would be the Valley of the Rocks. Beyond that, no less than 4 villages with a forest theme have been collected here - namely Arrowhill, Edgewood, Star Run Falls and Trickletrek.


Now here is the thing - I have reviewed all constituent files and retreading all of the material once again would feel redundant to me, so I'll point you right at the respective reviews instead.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no particularly jarring hiccups in either disciplines. Layout adheres To raging Swan Press' two-column b/w-standard, is rather printer-friendly and the pdf features various neat b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Additionally, you get two files - one is optimized for the printer and one is optimized for screen-use - I love that RSP is going the extra mile there.


The content herein was created by Alexander Augunas, John Bennett, Richard Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Fabian Fehrs, Mike Kimmel, Jacob W. Michaels, Julian Neale, Brian J. Ratcliff, Josh Vogt and Mike Welham - notice something? Yep, these authors know what they are doing; they're pros and it shows - the content herein never dips below a "good, bordering on very good" and features several pieces that are downright excellent.


So, should you get this collection? This depends mainly on how familiar you are with Raging Swan Press' exceedingly handy books and how much you want everything in print. You see, this has quite some overlap with the GM's Miscellany collections. The focus, though, is different: Where GM's Miscellany focuses on giving you a broad toolkit for one type of thing (dressing, villages, etc.), this book focuses on giving you the tools for a given terrain...and that does have merit. PCs are going off the rails in a forest of simply freely adventuring? Whip out this book and you'll have everything at your fingertips, no need to flip between the dressing book, the village book, etc. On the downside, this means that if they leave the forest...well, no luck. It ultimately depends on how you want your material to be organized for maximum efficiency.


In the environment covered, this deals with just about everything. Everything? Well, not exactly. I may be the minority here, I'm not sure. But the two favorite and most used old-school books at my table are still the Wilderness and Dungeoneer's Survival Guide and honestly, I would have loved to see more forest-specific terrain and hazards. You know, poison-barked trees, ravines filled with strange vines, odd spores, deadly pinecone showers....you know, the terrain-specific peculiarities that make environments come more alive from a mechanical point of view. While the cheat-sheet covers the basics perfectly and while the encounters themselves do feature a lot of such tidbits to scavenge, this remains the one aspect I was missing from the book, perhaps due to none of RSP's product lines per se dealing in just that.


Should you get this? Well, in case you want a book organized by terrain, then YES. If you are new to Raging Swan Press and don't own the constituent files, then YES, this is absolutely phenomenal and useful to you and should be considered a 5 star + seal of approval file for you. If you already are a huge fan and own a lot of the constituent books/pdfs, the question remains whether you want the encounters in print and the organizational structure, but as a whole, personally I believe that the Village Backdrop and Dressing compilations have you covered. In the end, my official verdict will thus clock in at a median 5 stars for this exceedingly useful toolkit.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Backdrop: Forests & Woodlands
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Places of Power: The Mudded Manse
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/01/2016 12:01:22

I enjoyed the Mudded Manse; it was a fine addition to the Curse of the Crimson Throne AP (by Paizo), and easily placed in the swamps northwest of Korvosa. It can serve as a good destination for tracking a missing noble, or as the source of an ingredient to a cure for plague.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Places of Power: The Mudded Manse
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Village Backdrop: Revenge
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/31/2016 10:46:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review


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


Situated none-too-far away from the pirate town of Deksport, the village of Revenge was founded by the infamous captain Tarvin Brineshadow after he was deposed by his treacherous first mate Jaska Purho - surviving the trip into shark-infested waters, he eventually got the eponymous revenge against the first mate and settled for a quieter life. He may have sunk Jaska's ship and ended the reaver...but recently, adventurers have plundered it and disturbed the rest of the vile captain. Now, Red Jack is back...and life will become interesting for the aged captain brineshadow.


As always in village backdrops, we are introduced to the village, including statblock information, a surprisingly high danger value (+20 this time around) and some sample notable folk with fluff-centric write-ups. Information on uncommon items available at the market place and 6 whispers and rumors are included. Similarly, canny PCs can unearth lore about the village and information on local nomenclature and appearance are provided for the GM's convenience.


The beautiful b/w-map depicts revenge as sitting around the buccaneer river, with one small ferry connecting the two halves of the village and palisades defending the halves both in the northern and southern half. In the local trading post, strange cabinets of wonders await. The captain is pretty paranoid, just fy, so talking to him will not be that simple...and he's paranoid for a reason, for the small town hides a doom from beyond the grave waiting to claim him...a doom that arguably could render the town pretty empty if not confronted by the PCs. The pdf, as always, does feature sample events, 6 to be precise, to kick off the action., in case you'd need the like


Conclusion:


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.


Richard Green is a talented author; no question there. The village of Revenge is not a bad place to visit and its craftsmanship is solid. At the same times, it did not do anything for me. Deksport is more detailed, the village of Sea Bitch has a more intriguing angle...and revenge, ultimately, focuses pretty much on as cliché a storyline as you can find in pirate lore. Don't get me wrong - to an extent, we need such tropes to work...sure. But as a backdrop for it, as far as metaplot implementation is concerned, the very name of the place acts as a spoiler. PCs are bound to ask what's up with it; they'll hear the story. They'll expect what happens next...and when it does, no one will be surprised or particularly excited. Apart from its structure, this place simply doesn't have much going for it, as loathe as I'm to say it.


The village is pretty much defined by its metaplot and that one is as standard as it gets; Some additional intriguing features and more room for creativity would have been a blessing here. In a series defined mostly by unique and evocative places, revenge's shortcomings show all the more. Don't get me wrong - this is not a bad supplement. If you're adventuring in the Deksport region or just need a generic village with a nice map to introduce, this will do the trick just fine. Just don't expect to be blown out of the water (haha) by it. My final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Revenge
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GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II (System Neutral Edition)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:10:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second GM's Miscellany-book containing Urban Dressings clocks in at a mighty 121 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 114 pages of content, so let's take a look!


But wait, before we do: Let's rewind the clock for a second, shall we? The ardent reader may have noticed that GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing and Dungeon Dressing are on my EZG Essential list; the books also shared my number 1 best book spot in 2014...so if I consider these books so great, how come I never got as excited about the first GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing book? There is a simple reason for that: The book tried to chop up an urban environment in its constituent elements; shops, traders, parks - you get the idea. The approach sounds valid in theory, but in practice, I found the results to be...well. Too generic, there's no sugar-coating it. The book works well, but considering the vast amount of dynamic elements present in a given urban environment, it also had components missing. Suffice to say, of all the dressing-series by Raging Swan Press, the one book that does not get used ALL THE TIME is the first Urban Dressing book. (I'm not kidding: GMs, get the Wilderness and Dungeon books NOW; there literally is no GM and campaign that will not be improved by them. Players - these are perfect present for your GM...and the books will improve your playing experience!)


So yeah, when I saw, of all the dressing books, that the Urban line was continued...I wasn't really excited. This changed. Fast. You see, taking a cue from the lavishly-detailed Raging Swan press-modules, the series stopped trying to chop up towns; instead, it began focusing on types of town. Table-wise, the individual installments would contain sights and sounds to witness: Equal parts local color, atmosphere building and adventure hook; then, businesses with fluff-only owners, similarly fluff-centric folks would provide the people you'd need when the PCs suddenly start looking for the local cobbler, the tax collector...you name it. GMs lacking the immediate inspiration to get the PCs hooked in a given adventuring context could resort to tables containing hooks and complications that provide for instant action and means of dragging PCs into the respective environment - actual ROLEplaying catalysts, if you will.


This change of structure and focus has served the series EXCEEDINGLY well and subsequently, the Urban Dressing-series has turned from a mixed bag on the positive side of things into a much-used commodity at my table. This compilation, then, would be what collects this improved part of the series and collects it in one handy tome. Now why should you care? Simple: It may sound odd, but while I love using the small pdfs at my table...the organization of the big books is simply glorious. There is some level of convenience inherent in just flipping open the book spontaneously and roll with it. It's an odd phenomenon, but one that not only my group has experienced.


Traditionally, the Dressing-series by Raging Swan Press have featured bonus content in compilations like this - and this time around, we get 2 pages that provide interesting considerations regarding the naming of thoroughfares in your game -I considered the article well-written and sensible, though some tables with sample names and the like, a quick generator, would certainly have been appreciated. Now content-wise, we cover a lot of ground: Borderland towns, bridge town, decadent towns (called "decedent" in the bookmarks in one of the rare Raging Swan Press typos), dwarven towns, elven towns, logging towns, marsh towns, mining towns, pirate towns, plague towns, port towns, slum towns, trade towns and war-torn towns all are covered. They do have in common that I have actually covered the respective pdfs in their individual reviews - so please just click on the Urban Dressing tag on my site and you should get a list of them. I don't like being too redundant, so let's just give you a general impression: The vast majority of them absolutely ROCK and even the less awesome installments are "only" very good. The second season, if you will, of Urban Dressing is extremely impressive.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press's 2-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports a blending of glorious previously released b/w-artwork and new pieces. The pdf comes in two versions: One optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer. The pdf comes with excessive bookmarks to each table, making screen-navigation very easy. Unfortunately, I do not yet have the print copy, but it is very high priority to get; the wilderness dressing and dungeon dressing books, after all, are excessively used in my games and both leave nothing to be desired.


Josh Vogt singlehandedly revolutionized the series and managed to maintain a level of quality in his tables that is baffling: Each installment features this eclectic blending of the mundane and magical, the common and weird that makes the tables actually FUN to read. Not kidding you; I actually look forward to reading them. This whole book was crafted by master Vogt...and it can be considered to be a true achievement, there's no way around it. This humble, unpretentious book improves the game in much the same way as its Dressing-brethren did before for Wilderness and Dungeon environments.


So let me make the following abundantly clear - as a person, I consider this to be an absolutely superb resource. If I had to complain about one thing, then that would be that the book features basically no rules-relevant information - the NPCs have alignment and class information in brackets, but that's about it. You won't find any terrain hazards, settlement qualities or the like herein. The system-neutral version gets rid of these class information tidbits, making it truly neutral...but apart from mostly cosmetic distinctions, both versions are pretty close.


...


Yeah, that's about all of the negativity I can muster towards this glorious tome. Let me make abundantly clear how useful this book is in the most rewarding way, by simply writing my verdict. This book is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016, gets 5 stars and seal of approval and it also receives the EZG Essential tag; I literally don't want to run a fantasy campaign without it anymore! So here's to hoping that we see more from master Vogt and Raging Swan Press - there are frankly few books that have so successfully improved my game...and I play in German and have to translate these on the fly. So yes, GMs, get this now, whether you're playing Pathfinder, 5e, 13th Age, OSR - no matter the fantasy campaign, your game will benefit from this book! I certainly know that this made me a better GM.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II (System Neutral Edition)
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GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2016 12:09:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review


The second GM's Miscellany-book containing Urban Dressings clocks in at a mighty 121 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 114 pages of content, so let's take a look!


But wait, before we do: Let's rewind the clock for a second, shall we? The ardent reader may have noticed that GM's Miscellany: Wilderness Dressing and Dungeon Dressing are on my EZG Essential list; the books also shared my number 1 best book spot in 2014...so if I consider these books so great, how come I never got as excited about the first GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing book? There is a simple reason for that: The book tried to chop up an urban environment in its constituent elements; shops, traders, parks - you get the idea. The approach sounds valid in theory, but in practice, I found the results to be...well. Too generic, there's no sugar-coating it. The book works well, but considering the vast amount of dynamic elements present in a given urban environment, it also had components missing. Suffice to say, of all the dressing-series by Raging Swan Press, the one book that does not get used ALL THE TIME is the first Urban Dressing book. (I'm not kidding: GMs, get the Wilderness and Dungeon books NOW; there literally is no GM and campaign that will not be improved by them. Players - these are perfect present for your GM...and the books will improve your playing experience!)


So yeah, when I saw, of all the dressing books, that the Urban line was continued...I wasn't really excited. This changed. Fast. You see, taking a cue from the lavishly-detailed Raging Swan press-modules, the series stopped trying to chop up towns; instead, it began focusing on types of town. Table-wise, the individual installments would contain sights and sounds to witness: Equal parts local color, atmosphere building and adventure hook; then, businesses with fluff-only owners, similarly fluff-centric folks would provide the people you'd need when the PCs suddenly start looking for the local cobbler, the tax collector...you name it. GMs lacking the immediate inspiration to get the PCs hooked in a given adventuring context could resort to tables containing hooks and complications that provide for instant action and means of dragging PCs into the respective environment - actual ROLEplaying catalysts, if you will.


This change of structure and focus has served the series EXCEEDINGLY well and subsequently, the Urban Dressing-series has turned from a mixed bag on the positive side of things into a much-used commodity at my table. This compilation, then, would be what collects this improved part of the series and collects it in one handy tome. Now why should you care? Simple: It may sound odd, but while I love using the small pdfs at my table...the organization of the big books is simply glorious. There is some level of convenience inherent in just flipping open the book spontaneously and roll with it. It's an odd phenomenon, but one that not only my group has experienced.


Traditionally, the Dressing-series by Raging Swan Press have featured bonus content in compilations like this - and this time around, we get 2 pages that provide interesting considerations regarding the naming of thoroughfares in your game -I considered the article well-written and sensible, though some tables with sample names and the like, a quick generator, would certainly have been appreciated. Now content-wise, we cover a lot of ground: Borderland towns, bridge town, decadent towns (called "decedent" in the bookmarks in one of the rare Raging Swan Press typos), dwarven towns, elven towns, logging towns, marsh towns, mining towns, pirate towns, plague towns, port towns, slum towns, trade towns and war-torn towns all are covered. They do have in common that I have actually covered the respective pdfs in their individual reviews - so please just click on the Urban Dressing tag on my site and you should get a list of them. I don't like being too redundant, so let's just give you a general impression: The vast majority of them absolutely ROCK and even the less awesome installments are "only" very good. The second season, if you will, of Urban Dressing is extremely impressive.


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press's 2-column b/w-standard and is pretty printer-friendly. The pdf sports a blending of glorious previously released b/w-artwork and new pieces. The pdf comes in two versions: One optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer. The pdf comes with excessive bookmarks to each table, making screen-navigation very easy. Unfortunately, I do not yet have the print copy, but it is very high priority to get; the wilderness dressing and dungeon dressing books, after all, are excessively used in my games and both leave nothing to be desired.


Josh Vogt singlehandedly revolutionized the series and managed to maintain a level of quality in his tables that is baffling: Each installment features this eclectic blending of the mundane and magical, the common and weird that makes the tables actually FUN to read. Not kidding you; I actually look forward to reading them. This whole book was crafted by master Vogt...and it can be considered to be a true achievement, there's no way around it. This humble, unpretentious book improves the game in much the same way as its Dressing-brethren did before for Wilderness and Dungeon environments.


So let me make the following abundantly clear - as a person, I consider this to be an absolutely superb resource. If I had to complain about one thing, then that would be that the book features basically no rules-relevant information - the NPCs have alignment and class information in brackets, but that's about it. You won't find any terrain hazards, settlement qualities or the like herein. The system-neutral version gets rid of these class information tidbits, making it truly neutral...but apart from mostly cosmetic distinctions, both versions are pretty close.


...


Yeah, that's about all of the negativity I can muster towards this glorious tome. Let me make abundantly clear how useful this book is in the most rewarding way, by simply writing my verdict. This book is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2016, gets 5 stars and seal of approval and it also receives the EZG Essential tag; I literally don't want to run a fantasy campaign without it anymore! So here's to hoping that we see more from master Vogt and Raging Swan Press - there are frankly few books that have so successfully improved my game...and I play in German and have to translate these on the fly. So yes, GMs, get this now, whether you're playing Pathfinder, 5e, 13th Age, OSR - no matter the fantasy campaign, your game will benefit from this book! I certainly know that this made me a better GM.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM's Miscellany: Urban Dressing II
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Urban Dressing: Marsh Town
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/22/2016 08:20:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review


This installment of what I'd tentatively call the "new" Urban Dressing-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's take a look!


We take a step on the soggy soil of a town in a ague-infested stretch of land -and as we do so, we look at a 100-entry strong table that tells us exactly what we can see and hear: From the dark, we may see red, bulbous eyes watching us, as frogs lend their cacophony to the dismal creaking evoked by the dilapidated state of the town. Boardwalks show signs of charring, speaking unheard tales of strange rites or punishments, as strands of thorny vines seem to move of their own accord just at the edge of one's vision.


Sagging willow trees filter the light of the sun falling through the curtain of branches, as enormous lizards lounge and bask atop piles of rotten wood and townsfolk, under their stern, unimpressed gaze, cultivate gardens of vibrantly colored mosses. Yes, we seem to have stumbled into one intriguing place! Thus, we take a closer look at what this town offers - and indeed, businesses do exist here -a table of 50 of them provides more than ample opportunity to flesh out the unique inhabitants of this place.


If you're looking to make it here, in this frontier, you may want to visit Pylough's deeds, where you can purchase untamed swampland to cultivate...or perhaps, you are looking for fishing supplies? If more adventurous pursuits are what your heart craves, both mercenaries and archaeologists seem to always be looking for your type...just make sure you don't end up in the local jail, aptly called "The Sinkhole." If you risk going there, better visit "Stick in the Mud" before you do - that would be the local legal expert. And if something ails you...well, there obviously is a leecher to be found here!


But, as the old saying goes, it is the people that make a town, and as such, a table with 50 entries provides ample folk to meet: On these drenched streets, you may meet dwarven explorers looking for fabled treasures, traumatized and volatile ex-military half-elves, wanna-be-witches, alchemists who have lost their hair due to some sort of mishap and if you take a while and sit down, that disfigured gent may tell you all about how exactly he has lost both nose and ear.


Now all of this will undoubtedly occupy you for quite a while, but in case you are looking for something more, a total of 20 events and complications can catapult you and your friends right into the actions: See those will-o'-wisps flickering in the distance? Have you heard about the trapper who isn't picky about the meat he sells? Heck, beyond these, the very construction of the town may provide an angle for you - after all, there is a real chance that buildings may start collapsing and sinking into the lightless depths where only the gods know what lurks. On a more lighthearted note: Have you heard the talk? The mud-run is almost upon the town and competing there would be pretty fun...right? At least if someone can take care of this plague of giant mosquitoes that suck people dry and then lay eggs in their corpses...


Conclusion:


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' 2-column b/w-standard and the artwork is thematically fitting b/w. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions - one optimized for the printer and one optimized for screen-use.


Josh Vogt has taken the Urban Dressing series from being the one of the dressing-series I'd not consider perfect and expanded it far beyond its humble origins. Practically system-neutral, this exceedingly evocative dressing file is one inspiring array of options just waiting at your fingertips, sporting a great blend of the beautiful and horrendous, the mundane and the magical. I expected the whole theme to make this installment rather grim, though there is certainly beauty galore to be found in the marshes.


Well, turns out master Vogt seems to agree and does not fall into the classic issue regarding the trope of the marsh town: There are hints of the dark and horrific here, yes, but the pdf similarly provides enough material to make the places fleshed out not feel like hell-holes; instead, this provides a well-rounded, evocative trip through a marsh town, one that is guaranteed to enhance the game. And yes, basically everything I quoted was adapted directly from the tables herein. What more can you ask of a dressing file that such a broad scope of evocative prose? My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.


Endzeitgeist out-



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Marsh Town
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