About OgreCave and its staff

Recent Reviews
Little Wizards
(Crafty Games)
Pathfinder Card Game
(Paizo Publishing)
Cthulhu Invictus Companion
(Chaosium)
Boss Monster!
(Brotherwise Games)
Murder of Crows
(Atlas Games)
Building an Elder God
(Signal Fire Studios)
Cthulhu Gloom
(Atlas Games)
D&D ShadowPlague v1
(IDW Publishing)
More...

Archive highlights
GAMA Trade Show 2008 report, part 2
(4/28/08)
GAMA Trade Show 2008 report, part 1
(4/24/08)
Frag Beta Capsule Review (4/14/01)
Battle Cattle Minis Preview (2/28/01)


Reviews - Beyond the Veil
 
by Matthew Pook


Beyond the Veil cover Title: Beyond The Veil
Publisher: Atlas Games
Written by Monte Cook
Illustrated by Helena Wickberg & Mike Dutton
Price: $9.95
48-page saddle stitched soft cover

Monte Cook is a name well known to devotees of the d20 System. Not only did he co-design Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition for Wizards of the Coast, having written the new DMG and the excellent campaign pack, Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, he is also the co-author (with John Tynes) of the forthcoming d20 Call of Cthulhu rules. Cook also has his own imprint, Malhavoc Press, for which he recently penned The Book of Eldritch Might, available both online and in print through the Swords & Sorcery label. Besides all that, he has written a D&D scenario for Atlas Games' Penumbra line, Beyond The Veil.

This being a Penumbra title, the production values are high. Helena Wickberg's cover serves as an illustration for the adventure, but pleasingly gives little away to the casual observer. Inside everything is well laid out, and it is good to see that both NPC and monster details are given room to breath. So often in other books, these statistics are cramped and therefore difficult to actually use during a game. Besides the usual black and white, the extra color chosen to compliment in Beyond The Veil is a washed out grey-green that perfectly matches the swamp and acid themes of the adventure. Mike Dutton's interior illustrations maintain the washed out look, but adda certain sense of spikiness that together really imparts an unnatural atmosphere of gloom and imminent threat.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Designed for a party of ninth level adventurers and above, Beyond The Veil takes the characters to the village of Iversham on the edge of the Derideth Swamp. Two centuries before, the area was subject to the rampages of a black dragon known as Storamere. Eventually, monks of the Order of St. Chausle lured him to their monastery and killed the dragon in an ambush, but not before Storamere had left them with a curse: "You could not have defeated me in my lair. I am forever invincible in my lair." Now it seems the dragon has reappeared, but with strange powers -- the ability to pass through trees, a deadly gaze and a touch that saps the life from anyone the dragon comes into contact with.

A few facts can be learned from the inhabitants of the rather English-feeling Iversham, but the party will need to enter the swamp itself. Not just in search of the marauding Storamere, but also hoping to locate the same monastery where the dragon was supposed to have died. Along the way, they will have their first vicious encounter with the current incarnation of Storamere. This will teach them just how tough a creature they are facing -- it takes two pages to fully explain their foe's entire range of attacks, defenses and special abilities. Storamere has plenty of the latter, ranging from frightful presence, incorporeal nature, spell resistance, withering touch and lots of extra senses.

Yet the dragon is not out to kill the characters -- he is driven to taunt them with the same words he cursed the monks with two hundred years before. This continues once they have found the monastery. The two remaining monks will be able to tell them more about the dragon, but their decrepit mental state will make getting this information from them quite a roleplaying challenge. Sample dialogue is provided as a guide for the DM, who should have some fun playing both of these NPCs. At this point, Storamere sends his emissary to taunt the party some further. The nature of the emissary -- Gaulmeth the Half-Dragon Half-Giant -- should be an indication to the players that something a bit strange is going on.

All this is confirmed once the dragon's lair is located and entered. Inherited from his father, Storamere's home is a palace constructed of liquid corrosive, residing on the ethereal plane of existence! Members of the dragon's family and their allies guard the palace, but not all of them are happy with Storamere. The dragon is, at the very least, unhinged. This is evident by his desire to mate with everything -- a Lotion of Size and Shape Alteration helped in this unsavoury endeavour. Thus, among Storamere's offspring, we have a Half-Dragon Half-Manticore, a Half-Dragon Half-Constrictor Snake, a Half-Dragon Half-Carrion Crawler, and a Half-Dragon Half-Umber Hulk! Mike Dutton's illustrations of these last two creatures really capture the strangeness and menace of both.

In addition to a few new magical items, the book gives some short and simple rules for creating 'Dragon Bloodspawn,' creatures with a quarter of dragon blood. They gain increased Strength, Constitution and Charisma as well as a better Armor Class and a natural resistance to their dragon grand sire's breath weapon.

[END SPOILERS] Make no mistake, bringing an end to Storamere's existence within his lair and thus completing the adventure is a tough challenge. Should the ninth level characters succeed, they should receive enough experience points to reach tenth level, and a breakdown of the points awarded is listed at the back of the book. This is a nice touch, but there should have been some suggested rewards for the roleplaying aspects of the adventure. Instead, this is a still-useful list of points earned for overcoming creatures and traps. Another useful inclusion is the short index on the last page of the book.

Beyond The Veil has the advantage that its setting is so generic, it could be set anywhere, though it should be pointed out that this is an adventure that probably won't last more than two good sessions. That disadvantage aside, the real reason to buy Beyond The Veil is that it provides high-level characters with a tough, and more importantly memorable foe to be overcome.

The author would like to thank Roj at Wayland's Forge for his assistance


 

Back to reviews index

Site copyright 2001-2011 Allan Sugarbaker. Trademarks/copyrights mentioned are owned by their respective owners.