Here is a new episode of the column "Who did it better?"! Today we see which, among the various editions of D&D e Pathfinder, made the historic Wyvern better!

Today dragons are finally being reviewed (almost). In the semi-serious column Who did it better, we have now touched many other historical monsters from D&D and other RPGs. We have in fact talked about the Trolland Driade,Beardog, Goblin and Bulette.
This time, in the search for a monster that was present in all bestiaries, my choice finally fell on this: the Wyvern.

Wyvern is one of the monsters that I often use as a master, and that I was lucky enough to fight as a player (not yet in real life, but I don't think I would do as well). Being a monster that has a long-lived presence in the basic manuals, I preferred it to other creatures, and it allows well to see how aesthetic taste has evolved for this monster over the years.
So let's see how it was rendered in the different manuals of D&D e Pathfinder, with some special guests too. At the end, you will also find some little ideas for adventures that revolve around this monster.
As always, I remind you that Who did it better It is an address book semi-serious based only on my personal taste. So if you enjoy a Wyvern that I don't like, that's more than legitimate!

History and origin of the Wyvern

The Wyvern is a monster present in European folklore. The main descriptions of the Wyvern come from the Welsh area of ​​the British archipelago. The Wyvern, in its canonical aspect, is of purely medieval origin and has been used with great success in the heraldic field. So I guess the guys at TSR had some nice heraldry books to draw inspiration from to fill the first one Monster Manual.
Its origin probably derives from the tradition of Nordic wyrms, mixed with some tales of flying snakes such as the Anphitere. Then some genius came up with the idea of ​​putting a stinger on her tail and SBAM! Idea of ​​the century (VIII or IX century more or less).

Let's face it, I don't want to stay here to make a treatise on dracology. I don't even want to foment the useless "dragon / wyvern" debate. Snakes have always been a danger to humans (and many other animals), which has been etched in our brains since we came down from the trees and walked on two feet in the savannah. We instinctively know that we must treat snakes with caution and attention and this has given them a place of honor in our imagination. 
Every human culture will have some major magical snake or myth centered around our favorite limbless reptiles. In the case of Wyvern, someone just took the various myths of flying snakes and big snakes, and stung it because they did. And he did well.

Relief of Viverna on the cathedral of San Vigilio, in Trento
Relief of Viverna on the cathedral of San Vigilio, in Trento

Instructions for Use

Wyverns are a good monster for partying. They have a medium level (lowered over the years) and I am a brutal monster, but who fights with strategies other than "charge & bite". Indeed, his strategy is: “Swoop, poison & bite”.
Wyvern is thick the first dragon (or almost), which adventurers will face in their career (unless you have them beat up baby dragons: in that case, you are monsters). Seeing young adventurers fighting and subjugating their first large winged reptile is always a satisfaction!

A note on Wyvern poison

The Wyvern is obviously famous for the poison.
Personally, I'm not a fan of poisons in RPGs because in the editions I played they had rules that I found stupid or boring. Only in the latest edition of Pathfinder I'm finally enjoying using poisonous creatures.
However, one should not underestimate the idea of ​​occasionally putting on a monster that you use poison for gratify the player who has a scroll of Neutralize Poison or the one who finally drinks that vial of antidote bought during character creation 423 sessions ago when watching a Wyvern.

Also, you might consider Wyvern as a monster of "softening". In fact, this monster will have no particular chance of taking out the characters or putting them in difficulty, because it is solitary and is often dealt with in a few numbers (although I would appreciate the master who puts a flock of Wyverns). However, if he manages to land a couple of blows with the sting, he will have damaged the PCs sufficiently for the next fight, making him tougher.

The Wyvern in relation to its ambient

It is also very important to insert the Wyvern in a environment that knows how to exploit its peculiarities. In fact, in my opinion, in a d20 System most of the fighting should not be carried out in neutral conditions: environment, status, terrain and climate should always be felt in some way. Fights in empty and aseptic spaces, which do not involve changing strategies to be dealt with, are of little interest in the long run. But that's just my opinion.

As a master I have fielded numerous Wyverns. They have been pest monsters occupying mountain passes, creatures guarding treasure or mounts for particularly pissed off Orcs. Seeing them mangled by the swords of adventurers after a fight where death was close has always been satisfying (for me, at least).
As a player I have also faced a couple of them, and in both cases the victory has always come at a high price (for other players in the party). One of the last combat deaths of an adventurer I have experienced occurred precisely because of the sting of a Wyvern ... fairy. Ask Seeker G. for more details: the master it was her.
But no more chatter and nostalgia, let's take care to see who did this creature better!

La Viverna in the first edition of D&D
La Viverna in the first edition of D&D

D&D first edition: a silhouette that says it all!

I admit that I like this a lot.
The designers of the very first Monster Manual always had to work with very little space: a tiny rectangular and vertical vignette for most monsters.
Here they used it well, because the Wyvern is a more or less known beast. Thus, the illustration was not so much for describing the creature as for convey a feeling.

And in this the author Trampier has succeeded in a great way. The black silhouette of the creature silhouetted against the full moon, its wings spread as it soars with its prey gripped in its claws. The creature's shadow allows you to grasp all the necessary anatomical details, from the dragon head to the scorpion sting. The image is synthetic, but in its simplicity it evokes the sense of threat that this creature generates.

Vote: 9/ 10. Perhaps the first tall face that takes the Monster Manual.
The Wyvern in AD&D
The Wyvern in AD&D

AD&D: a pear tired of life

So far, the manual ofAD&D he had never let me down. Sooner or later it should have happened. Better with the Wyvern than with, what do I know, the Vampire or the Lich.
This Wyvern it is not well and is not well done, and when I don't like things I talk about them longer than when I like them.
But before listing the things I don't like about this design, an explanation is urgent.
There are two ways to draw dragons: as lizards with wings, or as winged dinosaurs. The second way is more recent and has established itself with the evolution of paleontology. Honestly, I prefer this second approach.

The Wyvern of the second edition obviously goes in the opposite direction and looks like a tired lizard. Look at the disconsolate face, the vacant eye and those downward horns. The torso lacks sufficient pecs to make those wings move. Instead, he has a remarkable pear-shaped body supported by very heraldic paws. 
The method of hunting in the description is interesting, but in the eyes of the authors it is such a loser animal that they spend an entire paragraph explaining that nothing is derived from its body.

Vote: 5/ 10. Tired and exhausted.
The Wyvern of D&D 3.0
The Wyvern of D&D 3.0

D&D 3.0: a well detailed hybrid monster

This is a Wyvern that I respect.
A beautiful pose in profile that shows all the anatomical peculiarities of the case. I particularly like certain details such as the scales on the legs and the muzzle that looks almost like a beak.
The creature's skin also appears to be made of scales, but ruffled like bird feathers. We are facing a hybrid monster: partly rapacious, partly dragon, The tail is less scorpion than the previous versions, and instead takes the shape of the "thumbs" on the wings. 
The pose itself and the composition of the image are well structured to simulate the impending attack.
The only flaw that costs her a higher grade are those funny structures halfway between the auricle and the wings at the side of the eyes.

Vote: 7/ 10, a marked improvement.
The Wyvern by D&D 4e
The Wyvern by D&D 4e

D&D 4e: a simple but well made Wyvern

I have to say, this Wyvern is acceptable. Rather, not bad!
Beautiful pose in flight, with the Wyvern gliding towards the halfling on duty. I really like the golden-brown color, and I appreciate the leaner and lighter structure.
I don't understand why you fly with the tail in that position. That is, I understand that it serves to show the main characteristic of the Wyvern, but it is not the most sensible position.

Vote: 8/ 10.
The Wyvern from the first edition of Pathfinder
The Wyvern from the first edition of Pathfinder

Pathfinder: Dancing queen, feel the beat from the tambourine!

A lot of things are happening here, let's go in order.
First of all, what is this tail? Are they tagomizers like those of a stegosaurus? Is the second spike placed at 90 ° to the main one?
Then, why does this beast's forelimbs have five toes and only three toes? Why is this creature's neck longer and more massive than its torso? 
But is he smiling? To me?
E what a pose it is the one in which they depicted her? Did he risk stepping on a poop? Are you doing a ballet? Is it a pose in a complicated courtship ritual? 
Well, it would be cool if they really wanted, at least once, to portray a creature in an activity other than attacking adventurers.

Vote: 3/ 10. Too many questions that will remain unanswered.
The Wyvern of D&D 5
The Wyvern of D&D 5

D&D 5e: the Wyvern-Cobra

Good good good. 
After the Wyvern of Pathfinder, this is a pleasant sight. I believe that we are always in the vein of depicting the Wyverns during courtship rituals, given the pose.
The first thing that catches the eye of this remarkable specimen of Wyvern is the neck: the skin in fact forms a hood similar to that of cobras. I don't know why they chose this anatomical addition, but I personally find it very interesting. We had Wyverns that were Dragon-Scorpio, others that were Dragon-Raptor and now Dragon-Cobra. 
Personally, I can be satisfied with this creature.

Vote: 8/ 10. It does its job well and brings some innovation
The Wyvern from the second edition of Pathfinder
The Wyvern from the second edition of Pathfinder

Pathfinder Second Edition:

How low have you fallen, oh noble beast! In this manual, the Wyvern doesn't even have its own bestiary voice but is instead merged with the Drake (“Drachi” in Italian). 
For those unfamiliar with the bestiary of Pathfinder, the Drakes they are minor versions of the Dragons. They do not have front legs, they are often smaller and slender and usually have adaptations that reflect the territory in which they can be encountered.

I appreciate the work of systematization operated in Bestiario of the second edition of Pathfinder. I find it sensible and well done: bringing the various monsters into families according to their traits is a good idea. Before it was done only for outsiders and their subtypes, now the system has been extended to all creatures (where possible). 
From an anatomical point of view, I understand the desire to associate the Wyvern with the Drachi: it is so gaunt and dry that it has become a shadow of itself.

The design, very similar to that of the previous edition, does not convince me. The left foot has the thumb in opposition, like that of a bird of prey. The Right foot but no (and there is also something in the bones of the foot that convinces me a little).
Then they continue to put two stingers on the tail, this time both eventually turning the tail into a kind of fork.
Furthermore, the structure of the torso convinces me a little. The pectorals are very human, whereas a flying creature would have had a much more pronounced sternum, and the skin clings too closely to the musculature. This is the classic phenomenon of skinwrapping: a mistake made by far too many paleoartists who cannot imagine layers of fat or limp skin but instead draw each creature as if it were vacuum packed.

Vote: 4/ 10. Several anatomical errors and little character
The Wyvern in Dragon Age
The Wyvern in Dragon Age

Special mentions

Now let's see some Viverne from other franchises, playful or videogame, that have particularly impressed me.

The Wyvern in Dragon Age

Dragon Age had the valuable intent of rethink dragons. Not so much in their appearance as in the life cycle and evolution. The Wyvern in this case fulfills its function as the dragon's "cousin" well. The vibrant coloring, dragon face and structure are very reminiscent of the drakes (wingless males) of the game. 
The detail that I like the most about this creature is precisely the vestigial wings: the long winged but useless toes folded back on the front legs. The coloring and these long protuberances also recall the scorpion fish (so we could say that this is the fourth hybrid: the Dragon-Fish). It is precisely these details that reveal good design work.

The Coastal Wyvern in Atlas Animalia

Five, the perfect number. With this creature we finally have the definitive hybrid: after the Dragon-Scorpion, the Dragon-Raptor, the Dragon-Cobra and the Dragon-Scorpion Fish, we have the Dragon-Pterodactyl.
Beautiful coloring, adorable nose with protobeak and teeth suitable for catching fish. I really like the wings on the single finger and whose shape resembles those of the Quetzalcoatlus. 
I have only words of admiration for this creature.

The Wyvern of the Atlas Animalia
The Wyvern ofAtlas Animalia

Ideas for adventures

  • Good luck. A wyvern has settled in the pastures of the Duchy of Abrea. He is killing sheep (and shepherds). The Duke, however, refuses to drive her out. On the coat of arms of his family a Wyvern is depicted and he is convinced that this is a sign of destiny. Adventurers can take advantage of the situation by defrauding the Duke, or find a solution so that the Wyvern coexists with the breeders. Or make it disappear with more or less violent means, as long as the Wyvern agrees ... 
  • The cure. Patriarch Ulmes was stung by a Wyvern. The beast was aiming for his horse, but so be it. The court doctor is doing everything possible to keep the Patriarch alive, but an antidote is needed as soon as possible. To make a powerful antidote, however, you need the poison of a Wyvern, even better if extracted from the same that injured him. For the Characters it could be the opportunity to have the gratitude of an important religious figure, and also an opportunity to discover why no one dares to launch Neutralize Poison on the Patriarch.
  • The right steed. Wyvern Xalta has been driven out of its hunting territory by the dragon Mirzas. Rancorous and defeated, the creature engages the adventurers in a sordid plot: in exchange for the revelation of a secret passage to Mirzas' lair, they must find an Orc for Xalta. Not just an Orc, but a warlord worthy to ride it, so that he can manipulate him into attacking Mirzas' lair with his hordes in search of revenge. For adventurers, it's all for the money: access to a dragon's treasure and many fewer orcs in the region at the end of it all. There is only one problem: the only Orc warlord in the area is Oblung Manopesante, and he is terrified of flying.
The cover image is The Wyvern Artist, of Khyaber