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Reviews of 'The Sylvan Veil'

The Sylvan Veil

by Miranda Horner & William W. Connors
Battle Lines, Volume 1

Reviews of 'The Sylvan Veil'

Here are the visitor reviews we have of The Sylvan Veil. For more information about this title, please visit the item detail page.

Reviewer: Morten Brattbakk

Rating: Stars

I'm starting with the cover. The painting is done by David Martin who also did The Puppet King cover; it is OK but nothing special. While he's better than Jeff Easley, he doesn't come close to other current Dragonlance artists. The Dragonlance logo, which has previously been obscured by a dragon, now also has a banner behind it, marking the 15th anniversary. I think there is a bit too much stash on the logo now.

And now for what's inside. I generally found it to be a good product, with the potential to be very good. I absolutely loved the source material; it presented the land and people of Silvanesti relatively detailed. It did not go overboard with "in-world" writing (as in my opinion was a fault with Palanthas), neither did it get too obsessed with the "in-world" narrator at the expense of what's being written about (in my opinion a fault with The Bestiary). It alternated between omniscient and character narration, in most cases with success. The authors obviously knew when character narration was appropriate and when it was not. As the book described the various life phases of a Silvanesti elf, it described the general info with an omniscient voice, and then examples from a character's journal. I liked that the culture and politics and geography were all described. It is area descriptions like this that Dragonlance needs much more of. What was was good. However, there was not enough space left for a completely satisfactory area description of Silvanesti. Some important things were also left out.

I missed some of the more basic things about Silvanesti and its populace. For example how the people dress, how many live there and how is the population divided between cities, towns, villages and land, what kind of creatures are commonly encountered in the forest, what kind of trees does the forest consist of etc. are all details which are easy to forget and might seem irrelevant, but does help create a picture of what the land is like. I would also like more detailed descriptions of the populated areas, and in addition some geographical features like Coshee Gulf (along with all the bays), the rivers and the forest itself should have been added. Something almost as extensive as the description of Silvanost on most major towns and selected sites could have been put into there if the adventure or portions of it had been cut out. The adventure hooks at the end of the book were a bit uninspired (and uninspiring) in the sites section (exceptions: The hooks for Qualune, Solune and Tarithnosti were great), but the hooks on the artifacts section were very cool.

The Sylvan Veil seemed to me to be consistent with what else we know about Silvanesti (though it's been a long time since I've read Elven Nations), and worked concepts and characters from DL10 Dragons of Dreams and DLS2 Tree Lords without uncritically taking them as granted and spending too much space repeating information from there. And it didn't have a large "History of Silvanesti" section, which was very good. It explained Silvanesti as it is now, but connecting it to history where needed. A very good approach which should be applauded.

The maps are OK, I especially like the one of Silvanost. The map of Silvanesti doesn't add anything new; all the locations (except Daganeer's Tomb, of course) are noted on the Tales of the Lance world map or the Heroes of Hope map. I would have a liked a fold-out, more detailed map of Silvanesti in what is the definintive Silvanesti sourcebook. Also, the forest is somehow bigger now than it used to be. All Fifth Age maps of Ansalon/Silvanesti (Fifth Age Dramatic Adventure boxed set, Heroes of Hope, The Sylvan Veil) show forest in the Southwestern area of Silvanesto where there on Fourth Age maps (DL5, DL10, The Atlas of the Dragonlance World, Dragonlance Adventures, and ) was no forest. Why is there a forest there now? Was it grown and shaped during the reclaiming of Silvanesti after the War of the Lance? At the very least, this matter should have been addressed in The Sylvan Veil. While Diesel is an OK cartographer, the map of Sithelnost should have been drawn by someone like Heather Hudson (who did great work on the Citadel of Light map), making it more a picture than a map. This product really could have needed a picture/painting of an elven city with the graceful marble and crystal tower and tress and gardens in all its beauty, to visualize it.

Oh well, on to the adventure. It is structured very much like the other Fifth Age adventures with acts and scenes, and consequently it is very linear. Though it is not the worst of them, having a relatively interesting storyline, it does not provide players with much choice. I still think that areas and events are the best way to structure an adventure (as was done in Seeds of Chaos). The Atmosphere, Characters, and, most importantly, Actions sections from the old Fifth Age adventures are gone; instead the text from them is worked into the rest of the text. This is less confusing, because as you read the text, you know when to perform an action.

The adventure has, as I said, a somewhat interesting storyline with the shield, the Heart of the Irda, invading ogres and Alhana Starbreeze, and a possibility for interesting spin-offs. I might run it in an adjusted version sometime.

The adventure could have been cut down some, and I don't think it was a good idea to tie it so much to the pre-generated characters. Face it, there'll never be pre-gens as popular as the Heroes of the Lance again anyway. Also, one page each of the pre-gens was way too much, taking up space for what should have been source material instead, especially when much of the text has been written before in earlier products (like Heroes of Defiance). Even the Heroes of the Lance in the original modules were all listed with pictures, stats and descriptions on just 2 pages.

And then something about the game systems. The product features both game rules, although it is obvious that this is more a SAGA product than an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons product, but Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is treated as less second-rate than it was in The Ice Tyrant from Dungeon Magazine and SAGA was treated in Seeds of Chaos. Still, some sloppiness with the Advanced Dungeons & Draongs stats occur. However, despite stats of both systems, what is perhaps my single biggest complaint against all Fifth Age products; the notoriously linear adventures; is a complaint valid also for this product.

Well, in all general I like The Sylvan Veil a lot. Too little source material and too much adventure is, apart from minor nit-picking, its one fault. But I love the source material. It tells us something about Silvanesti and not Solace, the Heroes of the Lance, or Krynn's history. Definitely a huge step in the right direction towards area sourcebooks that this world would benefit so much from. Dragonlance, Krynn, and Silvanesti has benefitted a lot from The Sylvan Veil, that's for sure.

Review made Monday June 21st, 1999 on the newsgroup.

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