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Reviews - The Slayer's Guide to Amazons
by Matthew Pook

Slayer's Guide to Amazons cover

Slayer's Guide to Amazons

Published by Mongoose Publishing (2001)
Written by Teresa Capsey & Matthew Sprange
32 pages

Each book in Mongoose Publishing's Slayer's Guide series has cast new light upon a staple species taken from the D&D stable. So far, we have seen books on Hobgoblins, Gnolls, Troglodytes, and Centaurs. All were relatively inexpensive purchases, that for the DM injected some added mileage into races that had previously been relegated to mere cannon fodder or otherwise ill-used.

For number five in the series, Mongoose gets all feminine and butch for the The Slayer's Guide to Amazons, which should keep fans of "Xena - Warrior Princess" happy. But a word of warning, chaps: if you intend to use this book while enticing your girlfriend into joining the weekly gaming session, don't. First, check to see if she is of a liberal persuasion with regards to cheesecake – and I'm not talking desert, either. This Guide is heavily laden with cheesecake art – which, by the way, I know nothing about and so could not suggest the photographs of Bettie Page or the art of Olivia, Gil Evgren or Vargas as fine examples. :-)

To be blunt, The Slayer's Guide to Amazons contains quite a bit of cheesecake art: pictures of women scantily clad in fur bikinis ala Raquel Welch and One Million Years B.C. It also contains a centerfold.

Yes, a centerfold.

Actually, quite a nice four-panel foldout centerfold. Has to be a first for a roleplaying supplement. Pity that the young lady in question is called "Nympha."

Both centerfold and inside front cover have been drawn by Chris Quilliams and it is nice to see more of his work than has been allowed in recent Mongoose books. In general, the art is up to the series' usual standard, but this does mean that it suffers when more dynamic poses are attempted. Nor am I sure about Ralph Horsley's cover, especially when I invariably like his work.

Art aside, what of the writing? It's actually rather good, and portrays the Amazons in a less than flattering light: tough fighters, strong women, excellent jungle or forest scouts, but with a well-deserved reputation for hating men. Living in isolated communities, the warrior-women eschew all contact with the outside world, ferociously dealing with any intruding groups. Outsiders, including everyone from civilized men to Sylvan Elves and Centaurs, usually fall prey to a hail of Amazonian arrows or are lured into an ambush. Twice yearly, Amazons of a childbearing age undergo the Growling, which increases their drive to mate. This is brought on by their daily consumption of the herbal concoction known as a Mother's Milk, which both controls their reproductive cycle and makes them fearless in battle. At the times of the Growling, Amazons make every attempt to kidnap males from nearby villages, before returning them home where they undergo the mating ritual. Afterwards, of course, what happens to the kidnapped male is a mystery... though it's rumoured male children that result from the mating have their brains dashed out.

In this way, these Moon Goddess worshippers are just that little bit evil, or to put it in d20 System terms, they are of Neutral Evil alignment. The Amazons are interesting opponents, but are very rarely encountered, which decreases the usefulness of this book. Besides using the as a group for the party to interact with, there is the option of running an all-Amazon campaign (though not everyone will be enough of a Xena fan to want to do this). A third and final suggestion would be to allow a player to take an Amazon character that has left her tribe and integrate her into an existing game. Strong roleplaying skills will be required, though, as the Amazon alignment and upbringing will surely rub Good-aligned groups the wrong way.

Though a sage within a game world might see the Amazons as a separate race, they are not. They are instead a culture, one that eschews masculinity, but a human culture, nevertheless. The book examines their insular society in some depth, noting that it's geared to raising children, known as Maidens until they reach the age of fifteen. At this point they leave the village to ritually kill their first man and thus become Mothers and capable of fighting, bearing more children and otherwise serving the needs of the tribe. Those beyond childbearing age are known as Crones, and it is their duty to teach the maidens.

Characters in Amazons gain advantages as jungle or forest warriors, though still being Human, they gain no attribute bonuses. Their favored class is that of Ranger, though Fighters and Clerics are also preferred choices, and Rogues or Druids aren't unheard of. Prohibited classes include the Paladin, Monk, Bard and Wizard. Amazons society dislikes the use of studied Arcane magic intensely, though will grudgingly accept the sorceress as one of their number. Such women are extremely rare in Amazon society, though.

For those that take the Cleric class, four suitable domains are given: Sun (for Maidens), War (for Mothers), Moon, Sisterhood (for Crones). Of the four, both Moon and Sisterhood are domains new to the d20 System. Spells particular to both are listed, as well as two new ones.

For those that wish to become the best of the Amazonian warriors, there is the Red Guard prestige class. These warriors sacrifice their ability to bear children in order to protect the sisters when they are at their most vulnerable – during the Growling and the subsequent pregnancy.

As with other Slayer's Guide titles, the DM is provided with a range of scenario ideas and hooks. These are useful, though not spectacular. Finally, a reference list gives examples of each type of Amazon archetype that the players might encounter.

The Slayer's Guide to Amazons is another decent sourcebook, this time co-authored by Matthew Sprange and Teresa Capsey, but it is not immediately useful unless the DM wants to introduce the Amazons to his campaign. As a culture, the Amazons are too isolated to use on a widespread basis – which is how it should be, but this does limit the usefulness of the book. One option to consider, and a setting where would fit in perfectly, is that of H. P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands. Not only are the Amazons of a Neutral Evil alignment, but doesn't the reference to Mother's Milk suggest the worship of Shub-Niggurath? Wait then, until the release of the d20 version of Call of Cthulhu...

The terms of the Open Gaming License allow the exploration of themes and ideas that I am sure that would have been left untouched under prior editions of D&D. Certainly the examination of the Amazons given here is one such example – dark of tone and just a little disturbing. If you want to put the Amazons into your game, The Slayer's Guide to Amazons is the place to start.

The author would like to thank Roj at Wayland's Forge for his assistance


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