Village Backdrop: Thornhill (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Roleplaying Game GM’S RESOURCE by Creighton Broadhurst

Standing on the fringes of a vast and noisome swamp, Thornhill is a miserable, hard place of cloying mud, grasping thorns and insular, superstitious folk. There is a little cheer to be had in Thornhill; the few visitors describing it as dull and dreary as the surrounding swamps. For all that, though, a steady trickle of adventurers visit Thornhill for the half-buried and drowned ruins of several tombs are said to lie forgotten in the surrounding marshland and the villagers have friends among the nearby degenerate lizardfolk who make excellent guides in the trackless, far reaches of the swamp.

Village Backdrops are short, richly detailed supplements that each present a single village ready to insert into almost any home campaign. Perfect for use as a waystop on the road to adventure, as an adventure site themselves or as PC’s home, Village Backdrop present the details so the busy GM can focus on crafting exciting, compelling adventures.

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This product is a Dual Format PDF. The downloadable ZIP file contains two versions, one optimised for printing and use on a normal computer and one optimised for use on a mobile device such as an iPad.

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Village Backdrop: Thornhill


After putting together a swamp adventure I needed a nearby village to bring it all together. It was tempting to just plonk down the generic village but it would be so much better to have a village that had an affinity with swamp life. Because of that I decided to try out Raging Swan’s village backdrop, “Thornhill” - swamp township.

It is set out in a way that seems to be standard for all of their village backdrop publications. It contains information on the town, its surroundings, notable locations and notable folk including stat blocks on key people. It also contains a good sketch of the town showing all notable locations.

I would describe the information contained as “all meat and zero fluff”. Everything mentioned is aimed at giving the Game Master information they can use in the game. Every description you read is believable and full of quirky ideas that inspire you to expand on, such as the kleptomaniac owner of the inn with a hacking cough.

Standout information for me was the marketplace, a range of rumors you could choose from and the list of events that could happen while the PCs were in town.

I only have one small negative thing to say which is that the description of the locations includes detail about the people associated with the location. So when a PC was interacting with one of the notable folk I had to look at the notable folk section and the notable location section to get the full feeling for the person. I ended up writing out the notable folk descriptions myself to have a full description I could glance at during the game. I included their main locations to that as well so I could cross reference that with the location. For example when the PCs walked into the tavern I had a good idea who the regulars were.

In summary this is well worth the money and turns an average stay in generic town that would soon be forgotten into an exciting stay in a memorable town. All information contained is imaginative, relevant and full of hooks and ideas to expand on. Well done!

EDIT: With the new map/added DM-map to the web-enhancement, this is 5 stars!


EDIT: Ignore my ramblings on the map: Not only has Raging Swan press revised the map to improve it, the web-enhancement now alos includes a DM-map high-res version! Eliminating my concerns, this adds 1.5 stars!

The second installment in Raging Swan's Village backdrop-series 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 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 adept 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. Also rather cool: We get a marketplace entry (which I hope to see in future entries of the series as well) that provides a primer on the goods available as well as a short selection of magical items for sale.

To add further color to the dreary place, we also get a table of 6 rumors, 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. We also get the statblocks for the village's wizard in residence, the half-orc tavern-keeper and aforementioned lizardfolk adept as well as for standard villagers. Beyond these crunchy bits, we get short entries on trade & industry and law & order as well as 6 different events.

Editing and formatting are top-notch and up to the almost flawless track-record RSP has set for itself. 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. It should be noted that a high-resolution, keyless .png-version of the village's map, sans annoying numbers etc., can be downloaded for free on Raging Swan's homepage - though I would have preferred it t be included in the pdf.

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 Dm to create an Innsmouth-type of scenario and I think that is exactly what I'll do - perhaps adding the Lizardfolk of the Dragon's Fang as the creatures that at first start to wage war on the settlement, only to turn out as beings that want to purge this blight from the swamp - but that's just my suggestion of how to use this dreary, slightly xenophobic settlement. Add to that the nice market-place section etc. and we're in for a good village.
But why not excellent? One word: The map.

Raging Swan Press has heard my pleas regarding the availability of player-friendly maps and now provide them as web-enhancements. What I don't get, though, is that the map of Thornhill in the pdf is scarcely half a page - if a DM wants to print it out, he's essentially screwed, since the numbers of the interesting locales vanish in the excellent, beautiful b/w-cartography. Roake got a one-page DM-map, why not Thornhill? Seriously, without zooming in on the DM-map, I couldn't make out where the respective numbered locales were supposed to be. Why not create half a page more content and get the map its own page? The player's map I downloaded suffers not from these problems and is large enough (and high-res enough) to make for a nice print-out! If you're like me and want to have dead-tree-versions of your pdfs (which lack the option to zoom), you'll have to resort to hand-drawing the numbers on an extra-PC-map. That's a serious comfort-detriment, at least for me and the only reason why this pdf will get "only" 3.5 stars from me, rounded down to 3 for now. As soon as the map-issue is rectified, I'll happily add a star and round up, but for now, I was rather annoyed by the decision.

EDIT: With the added maps, my new verdict will clock in at 5 stars! Once again, superior customer service on part of Raging Swan Press!

Endzeitgeist out.

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Is now available on the Paizo store!

You can check out free samples and grab a free Player's Map here.

nice map thst oozes flavour of the place

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Thanks very much. I wish I could draw like that!

Reviewed here, on DTRPG and sent to GMS magazine. Please revise this and add a one-page DM-map - this is so 5-stars material!

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Thanks for the review, Thilo. I'm glad you liked the writing!

I'm looking into the map tagging and no doubt I'll upload a new version soon. I just wanted to clarify one thing, though. I'm not sure what you mean by the one-page DM map in Roake. The two maps look basically the same size to me. Was it that Roake's was just cleaner and better tagged?

Roake is a smaller settlement with the map featuring less details. The map of Thornkeep is awesome, but I can't see the numbers on the GM-map, since it's so small and detailed. I'd love it if you could keep the level of detail and just include a bigger map in the pdf.

Hope that helps!

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Right! I've got a new mapping supremo onto making the tags more legible. Once he's done I'll upload a new version of Thornhill and add the tagged map to the web enhancement download. Thanks for the feedback!

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

I've enhanced the maps in this product (courtesy of Mapping Supremo Simon Butler) with better tags to make them more clearer and easy to use. I've also uploaded high resolution versions of these maps to the map web enhancement available for this village on I hope you enjoy the improved maps and that they make your game better!

And revised my reviews here and on DTRPG - awesome customer-service, Creighton! That and the excellent quality and usability is why Raging Swan became a major 3pp as fast as it did! :)

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Thanks very much for updating your review so quickly, Thilo. I really appreciate it!(Also thanks for the kind words - I'd dispute I'm a major 3PP - but I am psyched that people use and enjoy my stuff).

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