This is a review of Rackham Vale, a fascinating RPG sandbox supplement based on the classic illustrations of Arthur Rackham. There is a lot to enjoy here if you love classic art to read and enjoy, as well as an addition to your fantasy RPG!
Back in February I promoted a Kickstarter called Rackham Vale. The Kickstarter promotion states it is “A fey-filled mini-sandbox teeming with fantasy creatures and locations from the mind and paintbox of the immortal Arthur Rackham. Available now in multiple formats at crwbr.com and DriveThruRPG.”
Well, the Kickstarter has now been delivered and it has delivered far more than was ever promised – a rarity for Kickstarter! Let me elaborate.
As part of the zinequest promotion (which is to create A5 sized folded, staple, or saddle-stiched zines). Rackham Vale aimed to meet this requirement with a 40 page zine and some art cards. Well, the project funded and even met some stretch goals. But the creator was truly committed to making this the best project he could, and what he has produced is a 153 page book(!) with 24 art cards on solid card stock, a map of Rackham Vale (all of these are A5), and a 22 minute soundtrack available to accompany any adventuring you might do.
This book is filled with rich details, encompassing mythological creatures, seelies and unseelies, key features of the map of Rackham Vale (the map is available in the book and as a sturdy 5×7 card), and lots of charts and tables you can roll on for inspiration or variety. Factions are detailed, and there is a nearly 80 page bestiary. The monsters have an Old School Essentials stat block, but then have additional fun categories and details such as: what they like, what they hate, what they want, allies, and enemies (try and zoom in on the pictures I’ve linked above and below). This gives a GM a lot of fun roleplaying and adventure design ideas. Through the short and succinct text you can use these creatures many times and emphasize something different. Of course, the motivation for this project was to tie everything in to Arthur Rackham’s art, so each monster gets a full page picture to itself and art is visible on almost every page of the book – Brian Saliba took true advantage of Arthur Rackham’s art to provide detail illustrations for monsters, people, and landscapes, bringing a full environment to life. You really feel immersed in this world.
I supported this Kickstarter at a high level and received 24 art cards (these are available for purchase on the website linked below). I think they are worth it. On one side of the card is a full color illustration of a creature by Arthur Rackham, and on the back are all the details you need to run it. This is great for the GM to hold up to the players during an encounter while referencing everything on the back. The card stock is thick and sturdy – quality stuff.
There is also a map card that comes with the book. It is 5×7, but the text and locations are a bit small since this place is so richly detailed, but it is fine for a quick reference for the lay of the land. I would use it as reference during gameplay and utilize the zoomed-in PDF for game prep (there is also a more close-up version of the map as a 2-page spread in the book).
The art within the book is black and white (which is apparently a zinequest requirement. However, the PDF is in color as are the art cards, and there may be a printed color version of the book available in the future). The print size is also a bit small (for me at least), and due to the glued binding some maps, text, and art might be difficult to see without forcing the book open more than you’d like.
Overall Thoughts and Possibilities
That said, I love this book enough that if it were to become available in a larger print format (A4 with larger font) with color art, I’d get another copy. As it stands right now, I will most likely research material on Rackham Vale for a game session through the PDF on my computer and use the printed book and art cards during play.
If you are running a Dolmenwood campaign, this would complement that greatly. Once Gavin Norman releases Dolmenwood (hopefully in 2022), I plan to use Rackham Vale and Dolmenwood together to expand the realm of possibilities for the Otherworld/Realm of Faerie when it bleeds into my fantasy world (with probably some elements from Glynn Seal’s Midderlands to increase the level of strangeness). Rackham Vale is a really fun product with a plethora of creative possibilities for the GM, and I am very happy that I supported this project.
More information and how to get this product.
Questing Beast has done a great review of this book detailing its many quirks and possibilities for use, so feel free to take a look at his review for a clear presentation of what is on offer with this great product.
The product is now available on crwbr. The shop allows you to get the book, art cards, and map. All of them are worth it if you like Arthur Rackham’s art and want a full mini-setting to explore.
If you have Rackham Vale, let me know what you think of it!