What Lies Beyond Reason Campaign Guide II (5e)
The second campaign guide for the unique What Lies Beyond Reason AP clocks in at 45 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page Kickstarter-backer-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.
All right, this campaign guide begins with a recap of the story so far, before taking a look at a central component of the AP as a whole: The mysteries at the heart of the rather intricately-constructed plot of the series. Considering how the components of the storyline do hinge on investigation and smart players piecing together the truth behind several grander mysteries, this guide presents some trouble-shooting advice, if you will. These range from pretty straight-forward visions, to e.g. research in Anduria’s vast library featuring books penned by alumni of mythos-related writing – from S. Peterson to A. Blackwood. These, in parts, do even come with their own read-aloud text, which is a nice plus. On the downside, one of the read-aloud texts to be applied in “Ignorance is Bliss” does designate something obviously only intended for the GM’s eyes as read-aloud, so you should be careful with that one.
The book also presents different notes on magical research regarding e.g. the runestone necklace, which, in the 5e-iteration, is rules-wise properly codified. On the plus side, various means of learning a certain NPC’s runic magic may be found – and yes, there is more than one way to potentially implement this into your game. Mechanically, it’s mostly what I’d consider to be a narrative-driven benefit, so while mechanically not necessarily mind-blowing, it does have plenty of use in the context of this Adventure Path’s storyline – so yeah, I like that.
After this section, we get several additional bits of troubleshooting regarding evolving play, a section plenty of GMs will appreciate greatly – whether it’s handling PCs rejecting becoming semi-official law enforcement or some other components of the series, we have quite a few suggestions here to keep the gameplay smooth and the story on track.
The book then proceeds to present two new sample NPCs – the first of whom, Quintus, a sorcerer-turned-lawyer, can help the PCs navigate the intricacies of Anduria’s legal system. He also despises the Seekers and has a rivalry with Damien going on, so plenty of dynamics added here. The 5e-version of his stats can be considered to be superior in pretty much every way – while his key features are just bolded (when 5e usually bolds their names AND puts them in italics), and while “Hit:” in his attacks isn’t properly set in italics either, those are just cosmetic nitpicks that don’t impede the functionality of his build.
The second NPC would be airship captain Octavio Velderve, whose damage with daggers is off by 1. He shares the formatting glitches of his buddy, but also, weirdly, doesn’t properly bold the names of his weapon-based attack actions. Both NPCs come with their own, really nice full-color artworks. Good ole’ Damien gets a challenge 13 iteration as well. Formatting here is off in a different way, as e.g. “Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack:” is bolded instead of being in italics. His bomb damage is also off. The statblocks, as a whole, while not perfect, are decent enough that they won’t break the game – the glitches here are somewhat minor.
The book also contains a total of 4 different sidetreks designed for characters level 6 – 8. The individual locales don’t generally sport read-aloud text, but do come with surprisingly nice full-color cartography, which brings me to a big plus of the series as a whole: We get proper, handout-style jpg-renditions of all maps featured in the sidetreks, with one being an isometric overview map of a general region; the others, which are more suitable for combat scenarios, come with grids – and the maps included in the archive are completely player-friendly, making them not only great full-color handouts, but also facilitating online play. Huge plus there!
Anyhow, this is as far as I can go without diving into serious SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.
All right, only GMs around? Great!
So, the first sidetrek would be “Airship issues” can serve as an introduction to the new NPC Octavio, and centers on the attempted theft of one of the cities’ few remaining airships, the Emerald Vision (which is sometimes referred to as “Emerald Dream.” On the plus-side, we do get proper stats for the ship and airskiffs featured in this swashbuckling encounter, and in the 5e-iteration, this can be a really fun, neat sidetrek – the airship’s plentiful interaction points note ACs, damage thresholds and means to jam components via the application of thieves’ tools correctly, even if skill-reference formatting is deviating quite a bit from the standards,
Bank heist centers around an item that can serve as a means of severing Eiria from the Echo of Faith – the horn of shackle breaking, and as such, happens off screen if the GM elects not to run the scenario. The PCs are called upon to defend the vault in the noble ward against hydras, elementals and the like, reaching the scene of a massacre in progress, as hopelessly outgunned watchmen struggle against the monsters. The heist also does make the PCs witness the warping effects of a particularly nasty component of the Machine, which works properly in 5e, as opposed to the ill-fated PFRPG-iteration. The artifact in question, the horn, works better in 5e as well.
The third side-trek, “Beneath the Waves”, focuses on PCs being hired for a kind of treasure-hunt – potential proof that legendary hero Drexel has actually existed may have surfaced, and as such, are hired to travel to the Sunrise Isles and dive below the sea – this whole trip is pretty neat, and the trip below the waves with optional diving gear for added tension, work rather neatly in 5e. Add to that a challenging crab-monster boss, and we have a sidetrek that is certainly worth embarking upon.
This final side trek, lost souls, has the PCs tasked by Silvira to enter the nine hells through the gate in Silverton to retrieve the soul of the dragon’s mate. Yep, it’s a trip to Avernus, and an interesting one, as it basically is a mini-sandbox in a distinctly-different scenery that includes rules prohibiting mortals from flight, notes on how to handle death while in hell, and the like. The rules here also make great use of 5e’s brutal exhaustion-engine – the trip is dangerous and, indeed, grueling. Did I mention the DMV-like stations, the hilariously nefarious hellish bureaucracy, and the means to rid the party of an item, and we have a nice change of scenery here. And yes, for their troubles, the PCs will be awarded a “call a dragon” one-use wildcard item…here’s to hoping they use it wisely.
Thankfully, editing and formatting on a rules-language level are rather good in the 5e-iteration. While certainly not perfect on a formal level, the second campaign guide presented here in functional and represents a solid addition to the campaign. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, and the book features solid full-color artworks. The cartography is well-done, full-color, and plentiful – I really enjoyed that aspect of the book, particularly the inclusion of the player-friendly versions. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Micah Watt’s 5e-version of this guide is a welcome addition to the campaign – it adds some nice additional NPCs, provides trouble-shooting advice, and all of the sidetreks have something interesting and neat going on for them. In short, the 5e-version is a book I can definitely recommend. While I wouldn’t consider it a must-own offering for the AP, it provides what it sets out to do, and allows your group to diversify the tones and atmosphere of the campaign, which is a neat plus. All in all, the 5e-version is definitely worth getting – 4.5 stars, rounded up.
You can get this nice campaign guide here on OBS!
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