I’ve only written a handful of reviews, but they tend to be for single products or perhaps a very small number of related products (such as if I were to finally do the review I’ve been threatening to of Jack Shear’s Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque books).
Sometimes, though, reviewing a single product doesn’t really do enough, and I feel I have more to say.
Today, I start a new category of post on my blog: Spotlights, where I write about a publisher or site as a whole, rather than one specific product or example.
I’m going to start with a remarkably good source of GM reference material, Raging Swan Press.
Raging Swan Press
Raging Swan is probably one of the lesser-known publishers out there, but they are fairly prolific and much of what they have published is available at DriveThruRPG (and d20pfsrd, e23, Paizo, and Amazon UK and Amazon US). They produce a fine range of GM resource books (technically for Pathfinder, but typically trivially adaptable for other games — so far I have rarely seen much by the way of Pathfinder-specific mechanics in the books I have).
I dug into some of their supplements recently, primarily in their “Dungeon Dressing” series. Each document in this series provides about ten pages of useful content focusing on a single topic (door, statue, fountain, and so on). There are usually several tables (1d100 tables, too, they play hard) for descriptive elements and for additional features or points of interest. There are also usually a few traps appropriate to the element, and so on. The list at Raging Swan’s web site (with links to DriveThruRPG, for those published there already) is shown below.
- Doom Paintings
- Double Doors
- Dungeon Names
- Fiendish Traps I
- Secret Doors
I have about half of those listed above, and have wishlisted the rest that are available. As I get them they get printed and added to my GM notebook, to be used when I feel the need for something special.
There are related series for Urban Dressing (Alleyways, Market Stalls, Shrines, Temples, and Traders & Craftsmen so far) and Wilderness Dressing (Hills, Mountains, Plains, Swamps, Travellers, and Woodlands so far).
I’ll be collecting those soon enough as well.
Another area I’ve explored a bit involves treasure and magic items. I have printed and bound (but not yet read, it’s about 150 pages) All That Glimmers, and printed and bound (and read, I had immediate need of the content) So What’s The Spellbook Like, Anyway?
They have also published a few adventures, books of encounters, books describing various groups and tribes that can be dropped into a game, and several other entire categories of material. The “100% Crunch” series interests me as well. Each book focuses on a single monster type such as orcs or liches, and provides variations and concrete advanced versions of each.
I imagine that all told I’ll end up with a DM’s guide worth of valuable material out of these documents, far richer and more detailed than I’ve seen in a single book.
The books themselves are quite utilitarian, and that’s something that appeals to me. A simple black cover with the title in white (that I never print, to be honest — full-bleed black uses a lot of toner!), but otherwise pretty much straightforward black text on white. The books I have looked at so far have been pretty light on graphics and without fancy layout, and I appreciate that presentation — I skip the first two pages of each PDF (cover and series information; content starts on the third page) and the last page (back cover, again full-bleed black), but the rest goes straight into the binder.
As you may have guessed, I really like the material Raging Swan publishes. The focus on specific topics makes each book I have looked at so far very useful and easy to apply, and the layout aesthetic chosen works for me. Individually they are quite reasonably priced ($1.99 – $3.99 mostly, with a few of the larger works running higher), in the aggregate I think Raging Swan is going to cost me a fair bit of money.
Worth it, though.