What you get: Two black and white PDFs, each 17 pages long; one is formatted for printing, the other formatted to be viewed (portrait or vertically) on a tablet. Front and Back Cover, Title page, Ads/OGL, and Credits/Table of Contents/Foreword take 7 pages, leaving 10 pages of content. Two tables (one of minor events and one of woodland dressing) are tables of 100 ideas/hooks/environment descriptions. One table has twelve woodland encounters. One page is woodland features.
Artwork: Artwork was black and white and was of good quality. The style hearkens back to the art in old D&D books. The art does not directly correlate to any items in the table, but is all woodland themed and provides an appropriate “flavor” to the subject matter.
Layout and Editing: Layout was two column standard. Editing was very good. Since the tablet version is formatted for portrait or vertical view, and I read on a landscape monitor on a netbook, I am not able to comment on the difference/convenience of the tablet version over the print version, both provided an identical reading experience for me.
Overall Impression: Raging Swan Press’ books are immediately recognizable by their black covers with white text. This book is strictly a GM resource. There is nothing here for players. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the purchase. Within, you’ll find three tables (two of them MASSIVE) and a page of terrain features to make woodland combats more interesting.
The first table is 100 minor events. They range from animal sightings to trees falling on PC’s to adventure hooks, to creepy ghostly meetings. There is not a lot of information given for each one, but each one seems to be designed to get a GM’s creative juices flowing. Players can interact with or ignore the events as they will, but could end up with some fun side quests or at the very least, believable reasons for having a random encounter.
The second table is 100 items of “woodland dressing.” These items are designed to give GM’s material for making campsites or encounter areas a bit more interesting. You’ve got lots of different tree descriptions and geological features to play with. No more boring circles on the battlemat to signify the campsite.
The third table is twelve random encounters ranging from EL 2 to EL 10. Each encounter has a block of text outlining why the PC’s might have this encounter. Rather than having woodland creatures attack for no reason, you have enough background to make these encounters somewhat believable. Your players may just think that they are still on the main quest instead of just getting a random encounter!
Finally, you get one page of woodland features. These are dressing to make encounter areas more interesting. You get different things that PC’s and NPC’s can interact with in the environment during a battle. If your battle site has a fallen tree in it, how can it be used as cover? How do you adjudicate movement through the leafy top of the fallen tree? The rules governing these sorts of situations are outlined on this page. Of the entire document, this is the one page that I will print out when my players are getting into woodlands.
When I started counting up pages, I was surprised at how many of the pages in the document were “non-content” pages. The 10 pages of content were so densely packed with gaming goodness, that this is not a huge detraction from the product, but I did notice it. To be fair, the document IS short, and the number of pages that are non-content (covers, OGL, ads) are no more than what I find in Paizo’s products, the low page count makes the percentage feel high.
When I first glanced over this product, I cringed, thinking, “How am I going to read through a book of tables?” I was pleasantly surprised to find that these tables were interesting to read! I wasn’t bored, rather my mind flew between thinking, “How would my players react to that?” and “Can I find a good way to slip this into my current adventure?”
Final Rating: Five stars. Any product that is essentially 10 pages of tables, that keeps me reading and keeps me thinking, “I want to use that!” deserves a five star rating.
[5 of 5 Stars!]