by Cedric Chin
One Thousand Faces: Villains and Scoundrels
Written by W. Jason Peck, Richard Pocklington, Ross Watson, and Ryan Wolfe
Art by Larry Elmore and Thomas Denmark
Published by Citizen Games
144 b&w pages
Citizen Games' One Thousand Faces: Villains and Scoundrels
contains 250 NPCs for... waitaminute. 250? I thought the title said one
thousand. Well, yes it does. Villains and Scoundrels is Book 1 of
4 in the One Thousand Faces series. This series features premade
characters for the Citizen's Myrra and other fantasy campaign settings. Each NPC
receives about half a page of information. In addition to eight chapters
of bad guys, the book has monster NPCs, villainous organizations, an
index (yes!), and some Player's Handbook reference sheets. Aside from the monsters,
roughly a third of the races are non-human PHB races.
Each NPC writeup has a stat block (including languages and possessions),
personality, roleplaying notes, history, and homeland. Personality,
roleplaying notes, and history are given a paragraph each. Although
Myrra is often mentioned in a writeup, the NPCs are still easily
transferable to another fantasy setting. Most of the NPCs seem to fit
better in a city environment. Magic items owned by the characters are on the light side, leaning
towards potions and miscellaneous items. The NPCs are quite colorful,
and will provide the GM with plenty of personality hooks for vivid
(over)acting. At the least, they'll give your players some definite
examples of what Chaotic Evil really means. One rather nice touch
with the NPCs is that, though vivid, they're not so exotic that they
can't be plugged into a generic fantasy adventure.
The book is divided into 13 chapters, plus some PHB reference sheets, as follows:
The three-page Introduction explains the stat block each character uses,
and provides a glossary of Myrran terms that occasionally show up in NPC
descriptions. Chapters 2-10 (about 13 pages each) have thirty or so NPCs each, of Challenge Ratings from 1/2 to 16 or
20. Even though a chapter is dedicated to Arch-Villains, each chapter
has a handful of major NPCs who should fit the role nicely. The
Arch-Villains themselves range from CR6 to CR22. With every chapter
containing good major NPCs, Unique Personalities might be a better name for
the chapter. With "only" forty and twenty-two NPCs, the Multi-Class and
Monster chapters don't cover the range of classes and monsters you could
have as NPCs; swap stat blocks (or create new ones), do some
development, and you should be set.
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: Aristocrats, Commoners, and Experts
- Chapter 3: Fighters and Warriors
- Chapter 4: Barbarians and Rangers
- Chapter 5: Bards and Rogues
- Chapter 6: Clerics, Druids, and Monks
- Chapter 7: Adpets, Sorcerors, and Wizards
- Chapter 8: Multi-Class Characters
- Chapter 9: Monsters
- Chapter 10: Arch-Villains
- Chapter 11: New Monsters
- Chapter 12: Queen Titania's Faerie Court
- Chapter 13: Villainous Groups and Secret Organizations
- Character Index
- D&D Reference Sheets
The other chapters are more like appendices, adding race or organization
background to a few of the NPCs. Personally, I would have rather had more
text devoted towards fleshing out some of the generic NPCs. Chapter 11
(3 pages) introduces two new monsters: The Saldaur, a race of cursed
humanoids; and Sevren, a degenerate race of once-sorcerous reptile-men. This
background adds information to the two Sevren NPCs, and one Saldaur.
The next two chapters (4 pages each) are secret organizations. Chapter 12
describes Queen Titania's Faerie Court, and includes the Knight of Fey, a
Prestige Class. This chapter adds background to (at least) one NPC in the
book. The court is something of a pro-nature, anti-humanity group, who, given
their long lifespans, accept long-term goals. The Faerie Court will add some
motivation to your NPC fey creatures, and can be used as a model for other
good or neutral-aligned non-human races.
Chapter 13 describes, in brief, ten
secret organizations. These organizations further flesh out some of the NPCs
in the book, and sometimes an adventure hook is included. Both chapters
provide some conspiratorial color to your NPCs, but will require some
development to fully use. An oversight with these chapters is that the NPCs
they relate to are only mentioned by name, if at all. Since neither the book nor
the index is arranged by name, you'll need to read the entire index to find
the character associated with the organization.
The Character Index (5 pages) is arranged by Chapter and CR. Each entry has
the NPC's CR, Name, Sex, Class/Level, Race, Alignment, and Page Number. Not
that there was any space in the entry, but I would have liked to see a brief
description of the character's personality (eg. lecherous halfling, fallen
Paladin, lazy bodyguard) so I could narrow down the candidates for a key NPC.
The D&D reference sheets (3 pages) are the Armor and Hard Object tables,
Grenade-like Weapons and Poisons, and Weapons chart.
Layout is done in the traditional two-column format. Some NPCs suffer from widows and
orphans (an entry begins at the bottom of a column or page). Most of the
interior art are head shots by Larry Elmore, lending a "classic D&D" feel to the book.
NPC Essentials and a Trial Run
I might mention that this book works well with Johnn Four's NPC Essentials.
While 1000 Faces provides basic stats, personality, and history, NPC
Essentials explains how to further develop an NPC. 1000 Faces provides the
basic character design and does the hard work, while NPC Essentials fills in the details.
As something of a test, I decided to create an important evil NPC, with
the requisite bodyguards. Their role in an upcoming adventure is to
provide evil PCs with a quest. I printed out some the half-page
worksheets from NPC Essentials and began looking through 1000
Faces for suitable NPCs. While the chapters made it easy to narrow
down which NPCs I was going to look at, I ended up skimming every
NPC in the "Aristocrats, Commoners, and Experts" chapter for a key NPC.
(Hint: Use sticky notes so you don't lose track of a good candidate!) Being
lesser NPCs, the bodyguards were pretty easy. The "Fighters and
Barbarians" chapter has plenty of NPCs with a bodyguard description.
I was actually quite pleased that I found a suitably evil NPC (a collector of
magical books whose covers are made of humanoid flesh!), so I tweaked the
adventure treasure to suit his eccentricity. (The boring Masks of Disguise
became the Book of the Dead's lesser cousin...!) Entering character
information into a character sheet wasn't a problem, although the NPC
languages are particular for Myrra. You'll have to flip to the introduction
so you know what generic fantasy races correspond to Myrran languages, such
as Jawnee, Kelnari, and Shreen (elvish, dwarvish, and halfling,
respectively). Thanks to 1000 Faces, not only do I have a colorful NPC, I
created a memorable, nasty magic item.
Complaints and Conclusions
One quibble I have is that the NPCs aren't scaled. That is, if you find an
NPC with an interesting background but a CR that's too weak (or too strong)
for the party, you'll have to adjust its stats and possessions by hand. Since each
chapter is sorted by similar NPCs, you could try swapping stat-blocks on the
fly to match the party. Of course, had they done more stat blocks per NPC,
you'd have fewer of them in this book. Or a much bigger book.
Another note is that this book is entirely devoted to villainous
NPCs. If you introduce an NPC to the party and your players see you
holding this book, it's pretty obvious how'll they'll react to him. This
is just a logistics problem, though. Looks like it's time to hide behind
the Citizen Games MasterScreen! :-)
The back cover says the NPCs are "fully developed", but I definitely found
NPC Essentials useful for further NPC development. Mind you, I found the
80-page "from scratch" approach of NPC Essentials to be quite intimidating,
and appreciate how 1000 Faces gave me a head start in the design
process. Unless you're a GM who's able to improvise NPC roleplaying, I also
wouldn't recommend using the book cold. Finding the right NPC for a situation
may require some browsing. And finally, so you can have some nice, boring,
normal people in your city, I highly suggest Ambient's Everyone Else.
1000 Faces provides a time-saving head start in your NPC designs –
emphasis on the plural. No longer will your NPCs (at least the bad ones) be
the rotating cast of predictable stereotypes. No longer will your games be
restricted to monster-stomping dungeon crawls and wilderness encounters. I
look forward to the other 750 faces and other GM aids by Citizen Games.