Village Backdrop: Black Wyvern
This installment of RSP’s Village Backdrop-series is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the settlement!
So, Black Wyvern would be the final village in the vicinity of the town backdrop Deksport, situated on the relatively lawless Picaroon Peninsula. And guess what? It was founded by a pirate captain and named after his ship. Did not see that one coming, right? Sarcasm aside, the village actually does have a somewhat unique angle: The base premise of the village would be evil colonialist pirates displacing similarly evil local goblinoids and orcs…but it turns out that the pirates inherited more than they could chew: An ancient moon oak, gnarled, withered and used to execute countless folk, has gained sentience and now looms over this place an arboreal overlord that controls access to the woods…and to an extent, the population here.
The settlement comes fully equipped with proper settlement statblock characteristics as well as a marketplace section of items to pursue. Nomenclature is similarly covered, though, oddly, mannerisms and dressing habits are nowhere to be found. On the plus-side, we receive village lore, the usual 6 whispers and rumors for hooks and red herrings as well as more precise details on the local population and sites of interest within the beautifully mapped village.
An extra section on local industry and law and order (or their relative lack of) complement the pdf alongside 6 sample events you can use to jumpstart proceedings if the PCs are idling. That being said, the final page is a one-page illustration of the dread tree…a great b/w-artwork, for sure…but personally, I would have loved the space to instead be used to provide actual unique stats for the evil treant-monstrosity lording over the place – just making it an NE treant feels…I don’t know…kinda lame?
Particularly considering the importance of this BBEG for the dynamics of the town, some crunch would have been warranted here. Come on: An animate hangman’s tree? Where are the animated carcasses? The flung corpses that spit forth thorny seeds? The body-snatcher plant-invasion angle? Where is the creepy cult iconography? The table of strange utterings à la “Death to you, life for your seed”, where is the Wickerman Summer Isle-style angle? There is another issue: One inhabitant has access to a paste, which, when smeared on the treant’s roots, can take away its abilities to animate trees. Okay, why don’t we get stats for that? Also, it is called a “poison” here – and guess what: Plants in PFRPG are RAW immune to poison. Worse, this implies the tree can’t move, which breaks completely the whole angle – just lob fire at it and be done with it.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s smooth, printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks as well as a gorgeous map, of which you can, as always, download high-res jpegs if you join RSP’s patreon. The pdf comes in two versions, with one being optimized for screen-use and one to be printed out.
Richard Green’s Black Wyvern has a more unique angle than his last pirate-y settlement, so that’s a definite plus. On the downside, this village is very straightforward in how it’ll work in play and doesn’t fully capitalize on the straightforward angle. If you depict a threat this explicit in how it’ll be used, why not make it shine and go all out? Slapping an evil alignment on a critter does not make for a compelling adversary on its own as far as I’m concerned and the pdf certainly has the space to further elaborate on the creature in question. As a whole, this feels like one of the weaker installments in the series and is slightly briefer as well. It lacks the stats for the unique gizmo for resolving the settlement’s storyline and its implications contradict rules. In short: In a series this beloved, that has so many amazing installments, it falls flat for me and is utterly uncharacteristic for the author.
My final verdict can’t go higher than 2.5 stars for this one…and I’m only rounding up because the angle, in spite of the logic issues, is too cool to deserve a 2-star-slap.
You can get this village here on OBS!
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