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Reviews - Slayer's Guide to Bugbears
 
by Matthew Pook


Slayer's Guide to Bugbears cover Title: The Slayer's Guide To Bugbears
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Written by Sam Witt
Illustrated by Anne Stokes, Chris Quilliams, David Griffith, Philip Renne, Nathan Webb
Price: $9.95

The seventh entry in Mongoose Publishing's inaugural series of d20 sourcebooks is devoted to the hardiest of D&D's goblinoid races, the Bugbear. The Slayer's Guide to Bugbears is a 32-page book, nicely laid out in the Mongoose house style. The supplement is easy for the DM to both read and make use of, should he wish to add Bugbears to his campaign. Although there has been a drop in the quality of art in some recent Mongoose books, this is not the case with Bugbears. Anne Stokes' cover captures the ferocious nature of these humanoids, and beside Chris Quilliams' anatomical piece on the inside front cover, the illustrations by David Griffith and Philip Renne really stand out as excellent.

The purpose of any Slayer's Guide book is to throw the spotlight upon a particular species and suggest how a DM can make something more of them than cannon fodder to be led onto the party's pointy bits. Thus the bugbear has the cunning of the common, humble goblin, but not the numbers; and the strength, but not the discipline of the more organized hobgoblin. The bugbear is strong, cunning and sneaky, but is given to a chaotic nature and driven by a sometimes overwhelming and insatiable hunger -- usually for a really good and filling meal but at certain times of year, for loot of the shiny, valuable kind.

Even small bugbear tribes will often strip an area bare of resources, such that it is no longer ecologically viable. Druids and Rangers hate bugbears for this reason, seeking to hunt them down or drive them away. Sometimes a tribe will lair in the sewers of a city or town, but though careful not to make themselves known to the population above, they rarely stay unnoticed for very long. In rare circumstances, they will provide muscle for the local criminal groups, but this does not last long, as bugbears hate nearly every other species. This leads them to dominate the weaker ones and usually avoid the stronger ones. In combat, bugbears prefer guerrilla tactics, using scouts, stealth, ambushes and hit and run tactics to wear down their opponents. It is not in their nature to take the field of battle in a coordinated fashion like the hobgoblin cousins.

Most aspects of bugbear society and philosophy are explored in the contents of the book. This includes the state of the bugbear throughout the year, as they are rather sedentary during the winter. In spring, the foul humanoids stock up on fresh meat, scout for new lairs and give birth to their young. In the summer, bugbears gather supplies for the winter, and in the autumn find themselves acquiring yet more loot as well as food.

There is only the one new Prestige Class provided for the bugbear. The Dark Ranger is the equivalent of a standard Ranger, but is less concerned with ecological balance and specialized in stealth and the use of poisons. They work alone, often away from the tribe, concerned with its future survival and looking for sources of food and potential lairs. Invariably, Dark Rangers are devout worshippers of Stalker, one of the two bugbear gods described in the book. Where Stalker's domain is that of cunning and survival, Render is a more violent god with a very cruel nature. Worship of Render is more common, and it is he who exhorts his followers to commit atrocities in his name, from which bugbears have gained a well-deserved reputation.

A complete small lair is described and mapped for the DM to use. This makes use of the list of typical bugbears at the rear of the book. The lair also includes a breakdown of the tribe's action and tactics, should their home be invaded.

The Slayer's Guide To Bugbears is another solid entry in the series from Mongoose. It is perhaps not as interesting as those books on the Gnolls or Hobgoblins, but is nevertheless useful. As with the rest of the series, this is the perfect guide to a race should the DM want more than cannon fodder.


 

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