by Matthew Pook
Slayer's Guide to Amazons
Published by Mongoose Publishing (2001)
Written by Teresa Capsey & Matthew Sprange
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
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
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
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