Game: Behind the Gates
Publisher: Mystic Eye Games
Review Dated: 18th, July 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
Following on from Beyond the Walls in the Foul Locales series we have Behind the Gates. Behind the Gates aims to provide interesting locations for small towns, villages, hamlets and small communities. There are all sorts of things to stress there. This isn’t a book of adventures; it’s a book of places that should spawn encounters. These aren’t places or people that would be best deployed out in the wilds, they need to be associated with some community but it would be fairly easy to adapt a few. Similarly, these encounters wouldn’t work in a busy city without adaptation. The idea is that these locales are here to adopt, not adapt. Your running a game, your players march off west when you thought you’d made the clues to go east obvious enough and now they’re in some small town you’ve just had to invent. Behind the Gates targets itself at being your saviour, its here to provide the night’s game. The chances are that there’s no time to adapt the offerings. If time’s crucial then Behind the Gates risks falling at the first hurdle. The settings and scenes aren’t of the size that can be scanned surreptitiously by the GM while distracting the players with shadows in the trees. If you’re willing to give the GM a pizza break or even the luxury of using the book to provide the Sunday half of a weekend of gaming then Behind the Gates is right back on target again.
There are 16 Behind the Gate locales in the 135ish paged book and that could be fair indication of the complexity for each. In truth it’s a little deceptive because the supplement makes jolly good use of Open License material and comes quite a few prestige classes, new creatures, feats and other d20 paraphernalia. The six prestige classes making an appearance in the book are Bounty Hunter, Crocodile Warrior, Explorer, Road Warden, the White Witch/Warlock and The Wise. I won’t list the new spells, items and feats but there is a similar number of these. This leaves about seven pages for each Foul Locale and that’s about right for our pizza break scenario. Each of the locales is introduced by a super-quick code that simply states the effective level, climate and terrain for which it would be suited to. You can find your emergency location quickly enough and then spend the rest of whatever time you have available reading it over. You can be sure that there’s at least one plot twist or NPC catch that you’ll need to sort out so you can spring it on the players later. This is a good thing.
Plot twists, hmm, yeah. Even though Behind the Gates likes to stress (and with good reason) it’s not a set of adventures you should go find something else on the site to read if you’re worried about spoilers.
Still here? Good.
The butler did it. No, actually, there are no butlers but there is a lich who’s settled on running a small family orchid rather than the usual world domination. The lich is made of reeds rather than your usual undead flesh. This isn’t actually such a silly twist for the “Apple of His Eye” locale at the start of the book. The Wytchreed Lich is strongly reminiscent of olde English Green Man tradition. Innocent on the surface but twisted underneath is the common theme in the book; it is in the _Foul Locale_ series after all. You’d have to hide the front cover from the players lest you give the game away. A trilogy of shops; butcher, baker and candlestick maker are actually using meat from dead bodies for the butcher, ground bone for bread and body fat as an ingredient for candle wax. A priestess suffers from lycanthropy. A statue in a fountain is actually possessed by the mind of a Psion. The statues of a famous sculptor are actually stone to flesh victims. Ouch. Okay. That last one won’t win any prizes for originality, I think it’s even in GameWyrd’s tongue-in-cheek Cynic’s Quest quiz. One of the plot twists that especially appeals to me is the kind hearted healer who’s really a death and disease cleric who uses her position to slyly spread disease. This encounter suits Mystic Eye Games’ The Hunt: Rise of Evil especially well. It’s perhaps a shame that d20’s dungeon parentage favours immediate acting poisons and nearly as fast diseases. There’s also some bluffed foul locales if you want to see them that way. The scary dome full of strange insects and maintained by an extremely fat elf druid is just a dome full of strange insects maintained by a fat elf druid. The dragonfly-men who aggressively defend their territory near it are (as the druid says) only defending their territory and will leave people alone if they’re left alone. That’ll confuse players.
Behind the Gates does the job – if you’re willing to cut the job some slack. It does work well as an emergency game preparation assistant. Behind the Gates wouldn’t be worthwhile if the locations-cum-scenes in it were substandard but this isn’t the case. The locations run the gambit of EL 4 through 20 and there’s a summary chart right at the back of the book. The mix of combat to social interaction locations is about right for a book like this. Some encounters will spawn combat quickly, some are purely social but most can go either way depending on how the players play it. Fans of Foul Locale will welcome this addition, it’ll serve as a good introduction to those people yet to sample a book but if you’ve already decided that you don’t like the series then Behind the Gates is unlikely to win you over. I think Foul Locale are a useful accessory, I’d use them as part of game preparation as a ‘just in case’ on some of the more unlikely player choices and I’m happy to use Behind the Gates for this too.