The first installment of the second spin-off of the Dungeon Dressing-line is 17 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 10 pages of content, more than in most dressing-pdfs, so let's check this out!
Now what to expect? Instead of getting tables that depict individual trees, undergrowth, bushes etc., the supplement opts for a different way: Instead of detailing the forest, we get 100 different minor events that range from butterfly-swarms to hidden caches of bandit loot, painters currently painting nature, abandoned (or are they?) tree-huts, suspension bridges between branches, mad hermits, sleeping opossums and birds that weirdly track them, resulting in a nice, breathing array of beings that make the respective forest come alive as both a location and an eco-system.
Now instead of providing multiple small tables for components of woodland dressings, we instead gain one massive table of dressings that include gnarled trees with humanoid-looking trunks, rivers and ravines intersecting the paths, remains of old battlegrounds, soporific pollen-producing plants (substitute xtabay flowers if particularly sadistic...), streams with rotten tree-bridges, kudzu-like infestations, old houses surrounded by rune-covered trees - you get the idea. Rather than going into explicit detail with regards to multiple components, we get 100 "stages" or hooks, backdrops if you will, to spin encounters from, many of which also feature some short DC, rules-information and the like.
We also get a one-page table that details 12 different random encounters to insert into your game as well as a page of general features of woodland environments that sums up e.g. modifications to stealth and detection range, rules for trails and undergrowth as well as e.g. fallen trees etc. and their effect on you when encountered. Very useful and collected on one page for your convenience.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, as I've come to expect from Raging Swan press - I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks included are atmospheric indeed. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out, which is still great and something I'd love all 3pps to adapt, but oh well.
When I read the title of this installment of the Dressing-lines, I thought: How do they want to do this? Author Mike Welham has opted for one of the two approaches: Instead of providing you the tools to customize the forest per se (via percentages of leaf-carrying trees, tables for undergrowth, mosses etc.), we get a more general approach that brings the forest to life by focusing on its eco-system, its inhabitants and weird (or beautiful) locations. Less a cosmetic generator of how a forest looks like/sounds/feels, but rather a pdf depicting what the place holds surprise-wise. If you've been looking for a generator like the one I mentioned, then this pdf will not cater to your needs. What it does, though, is lending a hand with regards to sketched out adventure-hook-worthy ideas/locales to develop and add life to your forest. Especially when used in massive woods or to complement supplements like Kobold Press' "Tales of the Old Margreve", you'll have a whopping 200 descriptions to fall back on and lend credence and believability to your forests and bring back the sense of wonder journeying through the vast woods should entail. That being said, the table of random encounters, while useful, felt like it could have been better used for more details instead, but that's a personal preference. Now, for what it's worth, this pdf is a joy to read (quite a feat with list-pdfs like this) and features some exciting ideas that should spark all but the most dried-up creativity and for what it tries to be, it works. My final verdict will thus be 5 stars + seal of approval. However, I'm still hoping we'll see a sequel themed more on "Dark" woodlands, primal forests (not jungles - that would be a separate one!) where the light of the sun scarcely falls to the forest floor as well as a pdf that allows for customary forest generation - perhaps a "So what's that forest like, anyways?" to supplement this.
[5 of 5 Stars!]