GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops (PFRPG)

5.00/5 (based on 4 ratings)
GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops (PFRPG)

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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 a PC’s home, Village Backdrop present the details so the busy GM can focus on crafting exciting, compelling adventures.

This GM’s Miscellany collects together the first twelve Village Backdrops, along with bonus, never seen before material.

GM’s Miscellany: Village Backdrops is the work of many talented designers and features the following villages:

  • John Bennett: Bossin, Denton’s End, Hosford, Oakhurst
  • Creighton Broadhurst: Ashford, Longbridge, Thornhill
  • Eric Hindley: Golden Valley
  • Ben Kent: Apia, Roake
  • Greg Marks: Hard Bay
  • Marc Radle: White Moon Cove

For free samples head over to ragingswan.com/vbm1

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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5.00/5 (based on 4 ratings)

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5/5

GM’s Miscellany: Village Backdrops details twelve small settlements that are part of Raging Swan Press’ Lonely Coast mini campaign setting (which is free to download and well worth a read), though they are intended to be easily divorced from that setting and dropped into any campaign with a minimum of fuss. Each village write up consists of a chapter heading page and five to six pages of description which includes a ½ to ¾ page hand drawn map.

The book starts with a page of author bios, which is something I’d like to see in more RPG books. This is followed by the table of contents, a list of stat blocks by CR, a section on how to read the stat blocks, and three pages on using this book with Ultimate Campaign.

Designing Villages is the first proper chapter of the book, and really it could be called Village Dressing. It starts with some useful tips on village design and then moves straight into tables detailing everything from government to industry to external conflicts to internal secrets to a 100 item table of sample village names. Using this chapter and a little imagination, a GM can make up a flavourful village in remarkably little time.

From here we move into the villages proper. Each village opens with a few paragraphs describing the village followed by a settlement stat block, a short list of notable residents, a short list of notable places, village lore which includes Knowledge check CRs, and a brief description of the average villager. The notable locations in the village then get expanded upon with a few paragraphs each. Each village closes with a table of possible events and a selection of whispers and rumours.

I want to commend the various authors of this book for making each and every village unique and interesting despite the relatively scant page count. While some of them tickle my fancy more than others (Apia, Bossin, Denton’s End, Oakhurst, and White Moon Cove are particular favourites), there isn’t a dud among them. Each village has enough unique flavour, interesting locations and plot hooks that a GM could keep his players busy for ages. While I was reading through the villages, I found myself constantly pausing to write down notes and ideas for adventures; this isn’t something that I find myself doing while reading most setting supplements.

The book itself is a nice solid black and white softcover with appealing black and white illustrations and simply beautiful cartography; I really like the hand drawn style of the maps in this book.

If I had to complain about anything, I’d say that the lack of a map of the Lonely Coast noting all the village locations in relation to one another was a missed opportunity, but otherwise this book is excellent. Once again, Raging Swan Press ably succeeds at their goal of supplying time strapped GMs with flavoursome, easily digested material that is dead simple to drop into a campaign; this book is worth an easy five stars. I can’t wait to delve into GM’s Miscellany: Village Backdrops 2!


GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops

5/5

No matter how experienced the GM, one of the greatest challenges in creating a memorable and engaging game is designing locations which are fresh, interesting and unique, without being preposterous or banal.

I have always found settlements to be particularly demanding. The earliest days of D&D gave us Hommlet, Orlane, Bone Hill and The Keep, to name a few. To me these places felt alive and vibrant, full of mystery and intrigue which my own attempts failed to match. The decades may have passed, but the task has not diminished.

Enter GM’s Miscellany: Village Backdrops from Raging Swan Press. As with all titles from this publisher, it has a distinctive retro feel to it, reminiscent of some of the products from the 1980s, with clean uncluttered pages supported by simple yet effective black and white line-art.
A closer look reveals the product’s true potential. At 98 pages this is not merely a collection of detailed villages. Its exquisite versatility is apparent from some of the very first pages, which contains a section on designing a village. GMs familiar with the Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide rules for designing settlements will find the format familiar, but as with all Raging Swan products, you have the idea fully realised, with tables galore, ideal for random generation or equally as a pure mine of ideas. Do you want to know the primary settlement’s industry? What about its secrets? What is the conflict potential? It’s all there, and plenty more besides. Add a list of village names, events and traditions and voila, you have a sturdy frame with which to build a unique settlement.

What more could you want; a list of magic items for sale? How about 32 individually designed lists of ‘for sale’ items to choose from and a table of NPC sellers with personality and backgrounds; the good, the bad, and the corrupt….

Of course this is merely the prelude to the main event. There follows 12 individual settlements, developed sufficiently to be capable of dropping into any campaign at a moment’s notice. With villages set in a variety of surroundings, from woodlands and swamps to coastal coves and river crossings, there is plenty of scope to use these in a campaign. It would be nice to see some other settlements which focus on hilly or mountainous terrain, but this book does not suffer for it, and doubtless there will be opportunities to address more diverse locations in future products.

Each settlement has a neat twist which has plenty of plot hooks, and makes the location easily adaptable as the basis for its own adventure. It is fully detailed with a series of key locations, cast of NPCs, items for sale and general details of the inhabitants. Each village has a wonderful hand-drawn map accompanying it, listing the key locations, which are covered in full thereafter. The concluding section covers such topics as Law and Order, Trade and Industry, Events, and Rumours. Where appropriate these are accompanied by tables of information.

In summary, this is a clear 5 star product, delivering exactly what I would want from a book entitled ‘Village Backdrops’. For its price it is great value, and in my opinion the production quality remains high throughout; well edited, clear and concise. The artwork is very pleasing, especially the maps (and I am a sucker for a great map). What particularly impresses, is the exquisite details, which can be used as written, or equally lifted and placed in any setting. This is truly a mine of ideas for the GM looking for some creative ideas, whilst equally being a well detailed and original series of locations ready to drop into a campaign with little or no work required. A real boon.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

5/5

This compilation of Rgaing Swan Press' critically-acclaimed and well-received Village Backdrop-series is a massive 101 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page author-bios (read those, fellow gamers - if only so you remember who wrote your favorite supplements), 1 page ToC, 1 page advice for novice DMs on how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 91 pages of content - so let's get this on, shall we?

Well, first of all, we kick off this massive compilation with a list of all the statblocks in this book and the respective villages in which the beings reside - thus we know in which chapter the respective entry can be found, which is relevant for while the book does have a column of page-numbers, unfortunately the page-numbers themselves seem to have gone missing. So, as a courtesy to my loyal readers, who endure rambling review after rambling review, here are the page-numbers, from top to bottom: 96, 84, 84, 53, 36, 41, 54, 89, 34, 28, 89, 36, 77, 54, 65, 71, 41, 90, 78, 70, 40, 35, 53, 72, 29, 60, 65, 48. You're welcome. :)

Back to the review: Want a good example why Raging Swan Press is one of the major players among 3pp? They listen to their customers. In one of my reviews, I mentioned that support for Ultimate Campaign would have been the icing on the cake. What do we get here? Essentially an Ultimate Campaign-style breakdown of all the villages and development options etc. - that is AWESOME.

What's also awesome would be the following section of the book, which I term "So what's the village like, anyways?" - not content with simply providing an array of iconic villages, we get a full-blown village design-guide/generator: From basics like conflicts, flavor etc. to tables to determine government, alignment, prominent features, industry, population, notable buildings, conflicts and secrets, to 100 sample village names, 20 generic events and even 20 traditions, we essentially get all the tools to create iconic villages on the fly. Better yet, we also get a massive array of no less than 32 sample market place-entries containing magic items that can be bought in your village and even 20 sample sellers to add flavor to the purchasing experience. This chapter is gold for the time-crunched DM: Literally, with just a couple of rolls, you can craft the basics of just about any village - this is preparation gold!

So...next would be the respective villages: From bee-centric Apia over plague-ridden Ashford to Bossin in the grasp of bullies, Denton's End, where the dead rise to the Golden Valley, a settlement in the declining stages of a gold rush and lovecraftian, decadent Hard Bay; Hosford, where people have been disappearing; disputed Longbridge; xenophobic Oakhurst; Roake with its troubled past and fragile idyll; Thornhill's dreary mood to finally White Moon Cove, the seaside village featured in "The Sunken Pyramid" - the villages are essentially all characters of their own, coming with lavish mapped, each and every one studded with rumors, market places, personalities, events and awesome maps. (Of which you can find player-friendly versions on RSP's homepage.)

Want to know more about the respective villages? Well, I've written an in-depth review for each and every one of them, so check those out - I'm not going to repeat myself and bore you.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, aside from the unpleasant glitch in the statblock-summary-table, is superb and just about flawless. Layout adheres to RSP's 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with an array of thematically-fitting b/w-artworks, many of which actually take up a whole page. Cartography is universally awesome. As a pdf, the book comes in two versions, with one being particularly printer-friendly and one optimized for screen-use. The print edition, which I'm holding in my hands right now, is of top quality with nice, solid paper. I would have loved to have the book's name on the spine - to find it easier. The pdfs come fully bookmarked for your convenience.

The authors John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Eric Hindley, Ben Kent, Greg Marks and Marc Radle have all contributed their fair share and talent to making the Village Backdrop-series as awesome as it turned out and this book, not content with just compiling the first 12 installments of the series, this pdf instead adds additional material galore - extremely useful, cool additional material that helps with the use of Ultimate Campaign and with the generator, this should allow beleaguered DMs to create a nice array of on-the-fly villages. Not only is this a great collection of iconic villages, it adds so much more value and for the fair asking price, should be considered a steal. And with only one gripe tarnishing what otherwise should be considered a simply stellar collections of iconic locales, this book leaves me no real choice but to recommend it at a full 5 stars + seal of approval. If you already own all the backdrops, this is better than printing them out thanks to the added material, but probably should clock in at a star less. If you only own half of them, then this should still be considered an excellent purchase and well-worth getting.

Endzeitgeist out.


The 12 Days of VIllages...

5/5

"GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops" by various authors, brought to you by Raging Swan Press, 101 Pages, Pathfinder compatible.

There are twelve villages that are given life in this booklet, as well as info on how to design your own. There's a great section about using these villages with Ultimate Campaign. Then, there's ten pages of village design info, including many good charts. Each village includes a couple notable locations.

The Villages:

01 - Apia includes a really strange NPC. There are six pages of info on Apia.

02 - Ashford has a great NPC and a curse to lift. There are five pages of info here.

03 - Bossin is a town looking for a saviour. There are five pages of info here, too.

04 - Denton's End is a village with an unusual background. There are five pages here, too.

05 - Golden Valley is a town on the verge of the end of its gold boom. Five more pages here.

06 - Hard Bay is a good village by the sea with a secret. Five more pages here.

07 - Hosford is the seventh village. Five more pages here.

08 - Longbridge, a hotbed of intrigue and worse between two lords. Five more pages here.

09 - Oakhurst, a village with unusual NPC's to add to your campaign. Five more pages here.

10 - Roake, another village with a secret. Five more pages here.

11 - Thornhill, a focus for adventurers delving deeper into the swamps. Five more pages here.

12 - White Moon Cove, the last of the villages, contains a link to the Sunken Pyramid, and five more pages.

Finally, there's the usual OGL.

Every village info block contains a map of the village, all include info at a glance, demographics, notable folk, notable locations, info on the village marketplace, village lore, and general info about the villagers. Each includes detailed info on Notable Locations.

Only one page of ads, and that for the link to "Sunken Pyramid", and the rest practically pure crunch. A great resource for GM's searching for a jumping off point or two, and a good look at a design system that will provide many more villages.

Folks, you need look no further for a starting village reference source. Considering the price, I think this should rank high on every GM's short list of things to buy.


Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Is now available at the Paizo store.

Even better, you can download a completely free version of this product from ragingswan.com. Just hit this link.

I hope you enjoy it and it enhances your campaign!


Ooh, printed. That's nice. I hope people check this out!

Liberty's Edge

Cool, can't wait to see a copy of this bad boy!

And, if after reading through White Moon Cove, you happen to find yourself really getting intrigued by all those adventure hints and hooks about sahuagin, mysterious night raids and a strange, under sea stone edifice, be sure to pop over and check out ...

The Sunken Pyramid!!! :)

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

As far some of the extra material- I contributed a short piece on how to use the villages with the kingdom building rules in Ultimate Campaign. So now, after you save White Moon Cove from the sahuagin, conquer it and incorporate it into your growing kingdom!

Liberty's Edge

John Benbo wrote:
As far some of the extra material- I contributed a short piece on how to use the villages with the kingdom building rules in Ultimate Campaign. So now, after you save White Moon Cove from the sahuagin, conquer it and incorporate it into your growing kingdom!

Nice - I love it!

Webstore Gninja Minion

Free Preview PDF now available!

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thanks very much for the terrific review. I much appreciate the time it took and I'm glad you enjoyed GM's Miscellany: Village Backdrops!


Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com!

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thanks so much for the review, End. I'm delighted you enjoyed this book! I'm sorry about the lack of text on the spine. It'a bit baffling, as the copies I have at home have spine text. Has anyone else had this issue?

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 8

Sweet review, thanks! Glad you enjoyed the Ultimate Campaign material. It's been useful for my home game. Also, my copy has spine text as well.


Lol, looks like I have an ultra-rare misprint. Creighton, do you think this will become a collector's piece? ;)

And yeah, RSP-compilations are fun to review - the new material usually has me cackle with glee. ^^


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Sold!

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Thanks very much for the great review, John. I'm glad you enjoyed the book.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I recently became aware of this line. I like what i have seen,(in particular the Ult Campaign inclusions!) and will be snagging this one for my own use. Thanks RSP (and Endzeit, who's review on one of the villages was my gateway for it) Credit where it's due! ;)


Thank you so much, Rathendar! Made my day! :)

Sovereign Court Publisher, Raging Swan Press

Rathendar wrote:
I recently became aware of this line. I like what i have seen,(in particular the Ult Campaign inclusions!) and will be snagging this one for my own use. Thanks RSP (and Endzeit, who's review on one of the villages was my gateway for it) Credit where it's due! ;)

No thank you - you've made my day! I hope you find the villages useful additions to your campaign.

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