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Reviews: 1000 Faces - Villains & Scoundrels
 
by Cedric Chin


1000 Faces cover

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
$19.95

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.

Contents
The book is divided into 13 chapters, plus some PHB reference sheets, as follows:

  • 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 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.

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.


 

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