Hey everybody, this time I'm going to take a look at 3 sourcebooks by Raging Swan Press, namely their village supplement and 2 files of their TRIBES-line.
The pdf for the rural village Swallowfeld consists of 37 pages: 1 page front cover, 1 blank page on the inside of the cover, 3 pages credits, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover.
The formatting is concise, the editing top-notch (I didn't find a single mistake/typo) and the pdf is printer-friendly. The artwork is b/w and very nice to look at and serves to underline the old-school & old-world-feel of the supplement.
Following in line with the mood of the remote and ancient-feeling area of The Lonely Coast, Swallowfeld describes the little village in excruciating and atmospheric detail.
The pdf can be split in two major parts:
The first one consisting of 12 pages, including a b/w map that thankfully lacks annoying letters.
The village also contains evocative details like local diet, a paragraph on social order and law, passing seasons, festivals and traditions (quite cool and reminiscent of old pagan customs) and a table of local events to kick off sessions and moods. Be warned, though. The mood may get grim and is mature, but I personally like it that way.
The second major part of the adventure consists of 12 pages of NPC-stats as well as descriptions of the characters. Every one of them comes with his/her own picture, quality b/w artwork. Best of all, each entry has a paragraph on mannerisms, distinguishing features and hooks that makes it easy for the DM to make this place come to life.
After that, the pdf concludes with a 3 page player's guide to Swallowfeld, including 1 page of player's map.
While this pdf is high quality, is very detailed and evokes the awesome old-world-atmosphere we already had in The Lonely Coast, the prose somewhere falls short of the high standards set by other pdfs of Raging Swan. It's still top-notch, just not as awesome. I'd give 4.5 Rudii.
However, Raging Swan Press gives you more bang for buck:
As either free previews or supplements for the product, you can download 3 free web-enhancements on the homepage:
- One containing collated statblocks for the NPCs
- One containing the player's guide so you can mail it to your players/print it separately for them.
- One containing all of the artworks of the NPCs to show of to your players, with blank space for notes.
That is superb service and eases the workload for any DM trying to run the village or use it as an entry-point.
For this service, I'd upgrade the rating to 4.5 Rudii, but not quite 5.
This pdf is 23 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 3 pages of editorial/table of contents, 2 pages of chapter headers and 1 page back cover.
That leaves us with 15 pages of content on the dread tribe of Bleached Skull Gnolls.
The pdf starts off with 2 pages on the general behavior of the tribe, including ecology & society, lairs, customs, combat & tactics as well as a side box on lore about the tribe, including DC. The prose keeps the very high standard of Raging Swan Publishing and does not disappoint the least. Once you start reading, you immediately know that you’re not in for your run-of-the-mill-Gnoll-tribe.
This first impression is cemented further by one page containing 6 feats the tribe uses for their distinctive combat style. They are cool, atmospheric and not over-powered. Nice!
After that, we get something that is all too often sorely neglected: 6 new (grab a chair, boys and girls!) ADEPT spells with an accompanying spell-list for Bleached Skull Shamans. Yeah, Adept-spells. You know, for the NPC-class. I couldn’t believe it first, but yeah, they are adept spells. Not as strong as regular spells, but cool and almost dripping with flavor. That was a page well spent.
On the next page, we get three new magic items, all located at the shamanistic bottom-tier of magic items and each with its own illustration. We get a potentially vampiric bone knife, skulls that double as freaky alarms and a rod to curse foes.
This concludes the first chapter and we move on to stat-blocks/encounters.
At the beginning of the chapter, we get 2 pages with 4 sample encounter parties as well as a huge side-box detailing all potential circumstantial modifiers for fighting in the woodland habitat of the tribe.
After that, the stat-blocks of the tribe are listed: We get one page with 4 melee-warrior types, 1 page with 2 shamans with their respective familiars and 1 page with two ranged fighters and two stat-blocks for non-combatants. All the pages include, as a nice bonus, information the garbs the respective tribe members wear.
Then, the map features a typical encampment of the tribe with a little b/w-map. (1 page)
As if that was not enough, we get a new monster created by the horrific rites of the tribe as well as its minions, lore-section, artwork and the like. While this particular beast is nothing I’d write home about, it fits the specific fluff of the tribe perfectly and thus works awesome as a nasty surprise in an encounter.
The pdf closes with a page devoted to explaining how to read the stat-blocks to novice DMs.
The b/w-art of the file is beautiful, the editing and formatting are top-notch. The writing is concise and while there might be a bit more fluff among the stat-blocks for my taste, I still enjoy the writing.
I was very skeptical about this one – I simply am not the biggest Gnoll-lover out there and a supplement like this could have easily degenerated into a messy pile of soulless stats. The contrary is the case, though: While the Bleached Skull Gnolls remain easy to implement in any given setting, they still are unique enough to stand out – and as far as I’ve understood it, that’s what this line is all about. I’ve thought long and hard and while I wouldn’t call it genius, this file is so rounded, so well-crafted, that it will get 5 Rudii from me. From a guy who’s not that into Gnolls. If you think about it, go check it out – it’s got a damn good bag-for-buck-ratio.
The second installment of Raging Swan‘s TRIBES-series of supplements is 23 pages long. This includes 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 blank page on the inside of the front cover, 2 pages editorial and general overview, 1 page ToC with a feat-list, statblocks organized by CR, Magic items by cost and new spells by level as well as half a page SRD. That leaves 17.5 pages of gaming material, so let’s jump in.
The pdf kicks off with a page explaining how to read the statblocks and then, after a chapter-header page, kicks off with 5 pages of a gazetteer-like treatment of the tribe: Being mercenaries that are sometimes even employed by humans to harass and kill other humanoids, the Hobgoblins are an interesting bunch that even rides giant bats into battle. Names, appearances, nomenclature, views of religion and magic as well as a very cool sidebar on the organization of warband of the tribe, in the nomenclature of the mailed fist, a battle.
The Hobgoblins of the Mailed Fist get 7 new feats to use in battle, all of which fit their theme.
The 3 new spells create variations of trenches, which are quite frankly, gold for PCs who are fighting last stands or against all odds and which make nasty surprises for PCs. I really love them.
The 3 new magic items are nice and feature beautiful artwork as well as several different Lore-sections.
After that, we’ll get to the chapter statblocks, Allies & Encounters: The chapter kicks off with two pages of fluff introduction as well as 4 suggested encounters as well as 9 sample personalities to breathe life into the company. After that, we get 6 pages of statblocks for the Hobgoblins, ranging from the humble CR4 soldiers to the CR11 war-leader. We get 4 statblocks for soldiers (2 melee, 2 ranged), 3 Black Wing Riders (2 warriors, 1 sorceror) and 5 specialists (War Chanter, Battle Cleric, Mailed Fist [Cleric/Fighter], War leader, Beast Master) as well as tactics typically employed described in sidebars. We also get a page of fluff description for the carnivorous bat-mounts and two statblocks for them as well as a minor modification for plate-wearing black wings.
The pdf closes with half a page of advice to design more members of the tribe.
Formatting and editing are, once again, top-notch. I didn’t find any glitches or typos. Layout is concise and printer-friendly and writing, once again, is extremely concise and information is densely packed.
The old-school b/w-artwork is beautiful, as is usually the case with Raging Swan products.
When buying this pdf, I thought: “Oohoo, another Hobgoblin-warband write-up. Haven’t seen that in a while…*yawn*.” I was wrong. While not reinventing the wheel, the Mailed Fist has enough unique and exciting ideas to make them stand out – from their focus on killing other humanoids and their battle-feats and trench-spells (AWESOME idea!) to their giant bats, they are a worthy addition to the gritty canon of The Lonely Coast and continues Raging Swan’s streak of excellent products. Although I would have loved to see some more unique magic items, this one criticism does not warrant a downgrade of the final verdict: 5 Rudii. Well done, Raging Swan - especially for this low price point.
All right, that's it for now from me, as always, thank you for reading my ramblings. Next time I'll either have a new "Start a Campaign for Free"-post or a Spes Magna Spree.