A Review of the Role Playing Game Supplement Village Backdrop: Ashford

Village Backdrop: Ashford by Creighton Broadhurst is a role playing game supplement published by Raging Swan Press. The supplement is written for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and, as such, is covered by the Open Game License with some of it being considered Open Game Content. Although this was produced well before the release of the Gloamhold Campaign Guide, Ashford has been incorporated into the Duchy of Ashlar in which the megadungeon is located.

Village Backdrop: AshfordThis is a thirteen page bookmarked PDF which is available from RPGNow at the regular price of $2.45 but was purchased as part of a special bundle at the greatly reduced price of $0.11. Two pages are Raging Swan’s standard, plain, front and rear covers, one page is an ad for the free mini-setting The Lonely Coast, three pages are the front matter, hyperlinked Contents, stat blocks by CR and Foreword, one page is a standard page on Reading Stat Blocks, which explains how they are used and one page has the Open Game License and ads for other supplements. The supplement comes in two formats, one optimised for print and the other for screen. Ashford is also one of the villages included in GM’s Miscellany: Village Backdrops.

Ashford At a Glance provides an overview of the village. Ashford has recently been devastated by plague and has lost many inhabitants as a result, with many homes being burnt out or deserted, and the survivors are not fond of visitors, as one brought the plague, or even of each other. This section gives the town’s demographics, notable NPCs and location, its marketplace, village lore, a description of the villagers and a short, d6 table of whispers & rumours, some of which are false. There is also a labelled map of the village.

The next section, Notable Locations, covers the six important locations, from a player’s point of view, that were mentioned in the previous section in detail. This has sidebars on the abandoned and burnt out houses (GM’s Monthly Miscellany: June 2016 has two d10 tables on things to find in burned out and plague infested buildings that would be useful with this) as well as stat blocks for two NPCs, one a wizard and the other a variant ghoul who spreads plague not ghoul fever (GM’s Monthly Miscellany: November 2014 has a table of things to see in a plague town).

The final page, Life in Ashford, describes trade & industry (very little now), law & order (largely none, but no-one really feels like committing crimes) and a d6 table of random events. Stats are also provided for a typical villager and the town’s, drunken and fanatical, cleric.

Village Backdrop: Ashford in Review

The PDF is very well bookmarked for its length, with only the sidebars and stat blocks missed out; all the other major and minor sections are covered. The Contents is also hyperlinked, so navigation is well above average for its size. The text maintains a two column format and no errors were noticed. Bar the map, the only illustrations are a couple of pieces of stock.

The village is easily dropped into another setting – after all, it was not originally placed in the Duchy of Ashlar, but was added at a later date. Doing the same in another setting will therefore not be a problem.

The village itself is depressing – as, indeed, it should be and is intended to be. Most of the people have died and the settlement has fallen apart. Players could get involved in trying to bring it back together – or, worse, plague could spread from the village to somewhere else, meaning that they may be required to stop it somehow. If that somehow involves killing the infected, this could easily cause moral problems for good characters.

The supplement is a nice, well written description of a village that can be used not simply as a place being passed through but as a source of potential adventure hooks. Village Backdrop: Ashford is well worth the full price, let alone the discounted one, and it can be found by clicking here.

 

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