An Endzeitgeist.com review
This installment of the Places of Power-series clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let's take a look!
So, we all have presumably played an adventure in a Sanatorium, right? At least those of us who enjoy dark fantasy and roleplaying games will know the tropes at this point. There's a reason for that, and it is mainly due to reality and how we see sanatoriums and the treatment methods employed there - while, from our modern perspective, e.g. lobotomies may look barbaric, not so long ago, they were considered to be a fantastic, extremely humane form of treatment. The advances in medicine have colored our view of these facilities and that bleeds, of course, into the games we play.
This modern notion of medicine has influenced and shaped the respective representations of sanatoriums in the fantasy games we play - which btw. is closer to a Early Modern period in mindset and technology than the Medieval Age, but that as an aside. Sanatoriums are a pretty recent innovation, as far as our species is concerned, so we do have, by definition, a sort of anachronism here. At the same time, however, it is surprising that the original spirit of sanatoriums has not really been represented in gaming -the idea of healing the body and mind in an environment conductive for such treatments is something I have only very rarely seen in gaming -perchance due to the prevalence of divine magic. Now, if one takes into account, however, the different afflictions that beings can have in a fantastic context, the institution suddenly makes sense once more - from curses to possessions and worse, there are plenty of afflictions that aren't easily healed by means of magic. This is where this sanatorium comes in.
The institution is headed by a rather brilliant scholar, with further staff being a doctor prone to quick diagnosis, a none-too-nice chief of staff...and the fortified grounds include a garden and some fluffy write-ups for patients - from beings halfway transformed to a skum, kept here to prevent the poor being from going to the ocean, to the possessed, with malignant spirits seeking freedom, the patients here are dangerous...and include benevolent werewolves. Still, with the marketplace section of neat items to purchase and 6 sample rumors (some being nasty and playing to the bad reputation of sanatoriums) as well as 6 events, we have an overall great locale...and if you do want to use this in a more traditional manner, you're covered - one NPC can be used as a malignant infiltrator and BBEG, if you wish to use the place in a more traditional manner...or if you want to have this place of healing transform...or come under threat.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious glitches. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press' elegant two-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The b/w-artwork of the sanitarium is an amazing pieces. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out. The cartography by Maciej Zagorski is well-made and in b/w. Supporters of Raging Swan Press' patreon can get access to a player-friendly, key-less version of the map, at least to my knowledge.
David N. Ross' sanatorium is a great place - it inverts the traditional expectations of such locales in roleplaying games, while still allowing for the use in a traditional context. the characters presented, from the staff to the patients, are similarly colorful, with most being capable of carrying at least a session or sidequest, making this a rewarding place to include in your game. In short, the pdf is great and rewarding for the low and very fair price point. The optional trope inversion adds a nice level to this pdf as well - nothing to complain regarding this gem. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.