Unfortunately I have a bad habit of downloading more stuff than I will ever read or use. I've been trying to stem the tide a bit and focus a bit more. Also, a recent slump in actual gaming has cooled any actual use of products. All of this has changed recently with the start of a new campaign, this time set in my world of Eska.
Since taking such a long break in gaming that I did, when I started back with 5e, I took a bit of an easy path, and ran some old classics like Keep on the Borderlands, which I have run with so many different groups that I could probably DM it in my sleep. From that I explored some "new territory" (at least for this lapsed gamer) the Age of Worms adventure path.
Wanting to switch things up for this new group, and to minimize my prep, I went back to sandbox mode. The biggest help in our first couple sessions was Raging Swan Press' Village Backdrops. Anyone that follows me over at Google+ knows that I share stuff from other blogs and such that I like. Raging Swan makes frequent appearances on my feed with all of the stuff that gets added to their free resources section. Tons of great stuff there to use.
I was wanting a small town to start my party off in, and I looked through their Village Backdrops and narrowed it down to two I liked best. So I downloaded Longbridge and Cahill Abbey from DriveThruRPG.
One of the things I really like about these Village Backdrops is that you can print out the free "At a Glance" pdf. At two pages, printed double sided it's the perfect handout to give to your players so they get an idea of what each town is like, and includes a map, Notable Folks and Notable Locations. Just the kind of info that adventurers would quickly find out. I do let them know that any info that they read in these sheets is not always true, or use a Sharpie on anything I'd like to keep unknown for now. For someone with more time, or is comfortable ad-libbing from a quick blurb, these At a Glance Village Backdrops gives a nice usable skeleton to build upon.
Cahill Abbey at a Glance
Longbridge at a Glance
On to the main documents. At thirteen pages for Longbridge, and ten for Cahill Abbey, these are decently sized PDFs for the $2.45 price. Once you get into the meat of it, though, you find that there is a front cover, back cover, table of contents, open game license, and the two pages you can get for free in the "At a Glance". So overall, it leaves you with less than half of the page count with actual new and usable information.
They do manage to pack a lot into those pages, though! Each of the Notable Locations and Notable Folks gets a more in depth write up, with plenty of hooks. You also get a d6 table of encounters, and Longbridge also has a d4 table of travelers. Each encounter and traveler provides hooks as well.
Longbridge an ancient dwarven constructions, crossing the river that borders two different nobles lands. The bridge is sizeable enough that a small community has built a town on the bridge itself. Each of the nobles has eyes on controlling Longbridge, but the Free Merchants living on the bridge have other ideas.
In the Cahill Abbey backdrop, a prophet spoke to the king about a savior coming from Cahill Abbey, and so the king has sent troops to this sleepy backwater, and they are currently fortifying the town. With the company of troops outnumbering the townsfolk, it has become a bit of a boomtown, with some villagers enjoying the wealth that the troops bring, and others resenting their lives being changes. Meanwhile, and ancient evil stirs in the ruins of the old abbey that overlooks the town.
Raging Swan publishes using Pathfinder rules, but I feel that those are easily converted to 5e.
Overall I really like them. Unfortunately my players didn't bite on any of the hooks in the sessions I used these, choosing instead to follow leads based on their backgrounds. I was able to use them as suitable locations that I'm sure my party will revisit, and they did provide characters for them to interact with. I give them each 5 Stars, and would download others from this series.