The Introduction sets the scene: this book contains four very detailed locations, settlements within the Thirteen Colonies and elsewhere on the North American continent that can provide suitable settings for your adventures. The descriptions include each place's history as well as notable current inhabitants, mysteries and intrigues - plenty to spawn ideas for adventure there. The first two - Plymouth and Elizabethtown - have previous Colonial Gothic supplements dedicated to them, but even if you already have them the information is expanded on here, and of course there are two new places as well, Savannah and the new settlement of Charlotte Haven in Florida, a territory only recently acquired by the British.
First up, Plymouth. One of the oldest settlements in the Colonies, and the place where the Pilgrim Fathers first settled, it's to the south of Boston and serves as a major port. We first read of the town's history, a rich and detailed one, and learn of the original inhabitants, the Native American tribe the Wampanoag. It makes for fascinating reading, and the historical material is accurate and informative. Ironically, it appears that the original Puritan settlers, despite being motivated by a desire for freedom to practice their chosen faith, had little tolerance for anyone else's religious freedom! By the 1770s, the period in which Colonial Gothic is set, most had moved elsewhere and the predominent denomination was Roman Catholic.
The history section is followed by one about the people and places of note in the 1770s. There are a lot of well-developed people who will prove invaluable as NPCs whenever your characters visit, all with their own lives to lead and ambitions to pursue which adds to the sense of reality. This leads on to a section on Societies, the various groups which meet or associate in the township to various ends. Some have both overt and covert intentions, you'll generally only find out about the latter if you are invited to join.
Next is a section on Events and Mysteries. Whilst at least some of the earlier material could be made available to players, this is definitely 'GM only' stuff, things that can take place during play, perhaps spawning whole adventures of themselves. The ideas are presented as letters, which could be sent to the characters (or found by them) as a jumping-off point, although you will need to develop the events mentioned in each letter to make a full adventure of them. Even if your plot deals with other matters, throw a few in as background events to help the place come alive.
This is followed by Mysteries Revealed. Herein lies all manner of truth about the people, societies and events that have been mentioned earlier, so as to inform the GM's development of plotlines and adventures. To round up the information on Plymouth, there are two Campaign Starts - actually outline campaigns based in and around Plymouth for you to use as a basis for your stories. Each has several hooks, details of what is going on and a basic timeline of events.
Next comes information on Elizabethtown. Opening with a map (something lacking for Plymouth) and the history of the town, this part of the book follows the same pattern as that for Plymouth: history, people, places and so on. Elizabethtown has its own character, well-developed and distinctive, with its own secrets and scope for adventure... and, it appears, more of a penchant for evil! Perhaps that's why there is a list of monsters including in this section, one of which features in the associated campaign outline.
We then move on to Savannah, in the colony of Georgia. It is but recently established, in 1733, and has been laid out according to a definite plan. It is a trading centre, quite cosmopolitan and a place where the devout of several faiths can find a place to worship.
The Savannah section includes some notices and graffiti found around the township, an interesting and colourful addition to the rumours and events also presented. Several strands come together in the campaign outline, giving you scope to embed it well into the ongoing story of the settlement as well as making it the focus of your adventures.
Finally, the settlement of Charlotte Haven in Florida is presented in similar detail. Originally colonised in the sixteenth century by Spain, Florida was ceded to Britain in 1763. Charlotte Haven is a fishing port, the local soil is not conducive to food production although mangrove trees grow well and the wood is exported. It is, however, a nodal point for spies and conspirators with everyone - Spanish, British Loyalists and budding revolutionaries - wanting a foodhold in Florida, as well as being a known refuge for escaped slaves. Plenty of scope for those who thrive on intrigue! The Events and Mysteries in this section are presented as snippets of conversation: GMs who like role-playing their NPCs could have the characters overhear these as starting points for adventure. The campaign outline is a fine romp concerning pirate treasure and 'Siempre Protege' - a mysterious person (or is it organisation) that seems to have a hand in just about everything that happens in town.
Beautifully presented with a wealth of period-style woodcut illustrations and snippets of period maps, there are signs of a lack of proof-reading, as if the author got carried away scribbling ideas as fast as they occurred and never read it over throughly. However, that's a niggle rather than a real flaw (the teacher in me!), and this is a fine work providing four well-detailed towns for your characters to visit or even settle in, scattered around the America of revolutionary days, thoroughly recommended!
[5 of 5 Stars!]