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Places of Power: Oleander's Sanctuary €3,45
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Jacob M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 11:01:32

First, a disclaimer as I want to make readers aware of my potential biases: I do a lot of writing for Raging Swan Press, and have had a lot of products reviewed by this author, Thilo Graf (perhaps better known as Endzeitgeist). That said, I felt it was important to give Graf's work a review, as his feedback is often the only comments other 3PP authors receive on their products.

Let's start with a word about the art and maps — by William McAusland and Maciej Zagorski — which are some of my favorite aspects of Raging Swan's projects (they often inspire me as an author). Alone, these components typically justify the price of Raging Swan's PDFs, as even if you didn't want to use a single word of the location, you have enough to come up with your own ideas. Map and artwork are, as usual for the line, well done here and leave me wishing I had such talent.

As for the text, Graf creates an interesting locale, pulling from various tales in ways that are at times very familiar while also offering options for how a GM wants to use it. The remote animal sanctuary known as Oleander's Sanctuary offers healing to familiars and animal companions, but also transformation, making them potentially smarter, deadlier, or more adaptable. One of my favorite parts of this Places of Power is the system Graf wisely offers for PCs who want to alter their own companions, making this a highly usable area for players who would like to upgrade the mechanics of a companion but don't want in-character to swap out a companion as if it were disposable. (Graf discusses that idea in his comments on the product.)

Oleander's Sanctuary offers several other options for how it may be used, with much of it highly adaptable to a GM's purpose. The eponymous Oleander, for example, is never fully statted, leaving what exactly she (or he, as the character is gender fluid) is up to the GM. She's set up to be the classic trope of the mysterious host, who may look and sound different with each appearance, with characters perhaps not realizing they are talking to one and the same person. Graf offers suggestions to even transform this from a more rural/fey-style setting to one of strange alienness. Though it's only referenced briefly in a couple locations, I like the idea that this sanctuary may be opposed by various druids who see it as an abomination, a nice swerve on the traditional linkage with druids that might be expected at such a location.

Now, all of that said, parts of this may not sit well with some gaming styles. The handful of intelligent animals surrounding this location are very well-described and fully fleshed-out (though not gives stat blocks) in ways that for me evoked the animal characters of Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books or C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia." Graf includes a good suggestion of how the sanctuary could be used for those playing a game with a more down-to-earth tone, but even then a pince-nez-donning owl could be immersion-breaking for some players. Some won't blink an eye at such a portrayal, but a GM may have to consider if this would work with his or her players.

Finally, to steal Endzeitgeist's format (which seems appropriate for a product he wrote): Editing and formatting are good; I noticed a few minor errors in the text (misplaced commas and the such) but 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 pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized to be printed out, as well as alternative versions for 5e and system neutral gamers (though I've not looked at those versions). The cartography 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. For me, this rates 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for purposes of this platform, as Thilo shows he's perfectly capable of designing his own content as well as those he prolifically reviews.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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