Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: The Lonely Coast

Okay, so today I'd like to review The Lonely Coast by Raging Swan Press.  It's meant for levels 1-5 and is what I'd call a starter setting.  The Lonely Coast is not an entire campaign world but a section of a larger world, featuring a coastline with several inhabited locations backed by an area of woods and finally the start of a mountain range.  The area on the map is about 20 miles of coast and 40 miles of depth back to the mountains.  That's enough area for the start of a campaign, since there are several locations no more than two days away from the main town on the coast.  There are other publications from Raging Swan Press detailing parts of this setting.

The book begins with a brief historical introduction.  Next is a short set of ideas on how to use The Lonely Coast in a campaign, either as a starting area or slotted into an existing setting.  I liked this because a lot of books about small settings are tied heavily to an existing larger campaign setting or worldview.

Then there's an overview, including an area stat block, geographic features, key locations, and  an extremely handy table of travel times.  There's also a map, which like the rest of the artwork, is all black and white.  It's simple but attractive and usable. Then there's a section of thumbnail sketches of the major settlements; these are quite adequate but one thing missing here is detailed settlement stat blocks for each place.

Following that is a bit on each of the core races in the setting, which is handy not only for GMs but for players if they are creating characters starting here.  Also in here are four generic NPCs for local inhabitant types, including a hunter, merchant, smuggler, and villager.  Next is a section on how each of the core classes fits into the setting.  As a big fan of the Advanced Players Guide for Pathfinder I would have liked to see the APG's base classes included.  However, I know a lot of people don't use the APG so it's reasonable for the author to stick to the core.  And actually, when I started my new campaign I eagerly offered the exciting APG for the players' perusal.  They all passed on it.  But it's okay, I'm pretty much over it now.

The book then details the main non-town locations.  The descriptions might be a bit brief for an inexperienced GM to work with but they do a good job of conveying the essence of each.  There's also a "random flavor encounter" table in here as well for things travelers might encounter.  This table is very handy for a new GM who might not think to add bits like these during play.

Weather tables are next.  I like including weather in my games so this was a welcome find.  I'm also glad to see that it all fit on just two pages.  Simple and effective.  The two-page format also makes it great for printing out as one double-sided page and sliding it into a clear plastic page protector as a quick reference guide.

Then there are some nice plot hooks,  random encounter tables, and a nice "Whispers & Rumours" table.  I like having rumors, clues, and gossip in games because I can provide information while disguising plot hooks.

The artwork needs mentioning here as well.  It is all in black and white by several artists.  The quantity is good, enough to enhance and provide atmosphere.  The quality varied from excellent to middling; I wouldn't rate any of it as outright bad.  My personal favorite was the grassy mound with the cairn or tomb on page 4.

So, again, this all makes for a nice complete package for a small setting.  It is particularly good as a starter setting for a campaign but obviously would need expanding later due to the limited geographic area covered.  But wait, there's more!  After the main section of the book there are two appendices, entitled New Stuff and On the Road.

New Stuff is a collection of, um, new stuff.  It's a pretty random, such as a couple deities, a creature template, several pages on an interesting new race (the half-goblin), and a monster (the shadow wolf).  I'm not really sure what any of this really has to do with the point of the main part of the book.  Most if not all of it probably should be in some other sourcebook for the setting, but there it is.

On the Road has a small rangerish NPC group called the Green Cloaks (who appear in the random encounter tables above), and five encounters appropriate to the setting.  This bit is very good and ties in well with the main body of the book.  The encounters are compact but well-detailed.

So overall I'd rate it a buy--but wait, it's already available as a free download!  So what are you waiting for?

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