Town Backdrop: Dunstone (PFRPG) PDF

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A Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible GM’s Resource by John Bennett

Dunstone’s granite walls sprawl lazily across a hilltop south of the massive Mottled Spire. In bygone times, monsters sallied from the Mottled Spire’s twisted canyons, their onslaughts only stopped by the brave Dunstonian forces. Now after generations of quiet, the town’s once formidable moat is used by grazing sheep and playing children. The insular community has become peaceful but peace has led the town to become stuck in its old ways. A new ruler seeks to slough of Dunstone’s years of quiet and idleness to usher the town into a new era. Guilds practice their crafts, preparing to send their goods throughout the Duchy of Ashlar. Yet, the Mottled Spire and the environs beyond are never quiet. A vile creature has emerged from Gloamhold’s depths to prey on the unsuspecting townsfolk.

Town Backdrops are short, richly detailed supplements that each present a single town 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, Town Backdrop present the details so the busy GM can focus on crafting exciting, compelling adventures.

This product is a Dual Format PDF. It comes in two different 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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An review


This town backdrop clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We once again return to the Duchy of Ashlar in this Town Backdrop – the place where the Mottled Spire and dread Gloamhold loom. This time, we travel to Dunstone – once, the place that stood steadfast between the horrid things spewing forth from the dark recesses and the world, the world has moved on for Dunstone: Nowadays, the complacency of peace has sheep graze in the erstwhile moat, sedated by the lack of danger.

Speaking of danger: The PFRPG-version does come with settlement stats and a market place section of magical adventuring goods to purchase: Minor ones, obviously, but still nice to have.

As always in the series, we do receive information on local nomenclature and dressing habits, town lore to know about the place, provided the PCs do their legwork and 6 sample whispers and rumors that act as adventure hooks (or good ole’ misinformation). As a whole, Dunstone looks like a town that had its heyday – its old ruler Benjamin Oksanen mirrors that, though his grandson Aavo, whose father was lost in the spire, seeks to change all that: His plans include tax incentives to draw in merchants and he wants to re-establish the Knights of the Eternal Watch as a more formidable force. He also is willing to have adventurers chart out the canyons and crags that lead to Gloamhold. In short: He seems to be hell-bent on breaking the lethargy that has taken hold of what once was the first line of defense against the darkness below.

Alas, while Aavo is championing changes and as a heroic figure, he is bound to be opposed – unbeknown to him, his idyllic town harbors a horrible thing that has crept up from below, establishing a thieves guild and plotting the downfall of the town. Two prominent guilds, the butchers and brewers (specialty: whiskey!) are further power players and the PCs can find a dilapidated mansion where once, the arcane arts were taught and now only faded glories and a lack of students as well as the traces of mishaps long past remain, as old Vieno Rekola laments the fall of his erstwhile powerful family. Smart PCs may also unearth a rather disturbing option to get “custom” meat. Unbeknown to most folk, the legendary sword Heaven’s Vengeance has recently been stolen from the sacred tower erected to guard it…you see, while this place looks tranquil, appearances can be deceptive.

As in Dulwich, we get a GLORIOUS b/w-map of not just the Duchy, but also of the town, penned by Tommi Salama, and in another parallel, we do get notes on street names and their characteristic feelings and look – this is a small tidbit, but it is a really efficient way of creating familiarity and character as the PCs explore the town. On the downside, this time around, we do not get any sample events. Similarly, none of the taverns and inns sport sample menu prices. It’s a small thing and nothing bad, mind you, but it was noticeable for me.


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf sports nice b/w-artwork. The cartography by Tommi Salama is gorgeous and in b/w. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out – kudos!

John Bennett’s Dunstone is a great hometown-style place for PCs – it’s idyllic and nice and has some serious changes looming in its future. The threats that hide behind the veneer of calm lethargy are very real and a competent GM can easily work with the flavorful place. That being said, I couldn’t help but feel that it is a bit reliant on Aavo as a character – he seems to be a savior-like figure, the big hope, if you will – and while that is nice and dandy, the focus of the town on this man for the meta-plot does limit the pdf a bit more than e.g. the complex political situation in Dulwich. This is a nice, serene town and certainly a place that the PCs will want to protect, but to me, it felt more linear, less versatile. Where Dulwich set my mind ablaze, this one has its story pretty much written for you. I don’t mind that too much, courtesy of John Bennett’s excellent prose, but I couldn’t help but feel that a bit more complexity in the general set-up and a decreased focus on the main conflict would have helped this town shine more. The missing events and hints of illicit goods could have yielded the ways to heave this town to the levels of excellence, perhaps with some strange drug or other small, crunchy tidbits or dressing?

That being said, this is still a very worthwhile settlement – my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Sovereign Court Raging Swan Press

Is now available at the Paizo store!

You can download a free sample here!

Reviewed first on, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS, etc.

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