Monstrous Lair: Wyvern’s Nest (system neutral)
This installment of the Monstrous Lairs-pdfs clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Sometimes, you just need a bit of dressing for a wayside encounter – or something specific to a monster type. Finding appropriate entries can be rough, and so, this series attempts to remedy this shortcoming on 2 pages, with a total of 7 d10-tables.
Okay, so, wyverns – that ought to be a tough cookie to crack, as they are basically aerial predators that don’t have much in the ways of culture to set them apart from other monsters, so how does the pdf fare? Well, in the vicinity of wyverns’ nests, you can find rotten cow carcasses dangling from trees, discarded bear bodies, mazes of broken bodies and shattered bones, markers with serpentine patterns or huge swarms of flies – essentially, the pdf runs with the vast size of these creatures and capitalizes on their predatory diet, using other animals and sheer quantity as hints of the things to come. Clever! As for what’s going on, we have wyverns attempting to dislodge bones from their maw, to ones that ask corpses stupid questions or ones scratching shedding skin. The wyvern might also be lamenting a shattered egg. This one is solid, if not necessarily genius – but considering what the author had to work with, a solid table – I also like how it takes the prey-themes (bears, cows) from the previous table and develops them further.
The major features table is gruesome in a cool and savage manner – rotting intestines used as tripwires, vomit laced with rocks, remnants of a Pegasus, drying venom – these feel visceral and brutal – as befitting of the wyvern. Minor lair features include splintered wooden shields, broken tree trunks used as scratching posts, rudimentary pits and bodies impaled on branches for storage. Once more, leitmotifs maintained. As for the appearance of wyverns, we have different skin/scale tones – but also crowns of tusks and horns, intended to masquerade as a dragon, or broken manacles. These are solid, if not always genius. The treasure table includes blades emiting clou-like shadows, venom-dripping spears, crowns that allow for communication with dragons, and more – this table is once more a winner. Trash includes tattered cloaks, which might seem generic, but the heraldic crest depicts a wyvern – coincidence? It’s a small thing, but such flourishes maintain thematic rapport and distinguish, ultimately, a good or excellent dressing file from a mediocre one. Bent and twisted thief cages, candles with writing scratched in…it’s an interesting little table, if once more not the best herein.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and we get a nice piece of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity (kudos!) and is included in two versions – one optimized for screen-use, and one for the printer.
I fully admit to the fact that I’d have a hard time writing a dressing file, even a short one, for wyverns. They don’t exactly have a huge tradition of D&D-adjacent lore or culture to choose from, and that makes things harder than writing for e.g. a humanoid monster. Particularly if you want to differentiate them from dragons. Surprisingly, Steve Hood manages to make the entire little pdf feel very much distinct and “wyvernish” – savage, brutal, primitive, and yet, suffused with a sort of horror bred by sheer size and sapience. This is quite an achievement, and while not all tables are brilliant here, there is plenty to love, more than I deemed possible. 5 stars.
You can get this cool dressing file here on OBS!
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