by Matthew Pook
After two books about foes to kill – The Slayer's
Guide To Hobgoblins and The Slayer's Guide To Gnolls – Mongoose Publishing has
released a book about a race that, while not evil, has the potential to
be equally antagonistic. To date the Slayer's Guides have concentrated upon humanoid
races, but the third d20 system release from this British company makes a slight departure with The
Slayer's Guide To Centaurs. As in the rest of the series, this installment aims to
examine the race in depth, providing useful information to help
the DM bring them to life.
This book again adheres to their standard 32-page format. It sports a very nice cover
painting by Anne Stokes, which although still dark, is very much an improvement
upon the covers of the first two books. Internally the art is decent, but given
to inconsistency, as some of it is perhaps a little too cartoon-like. Further,
one piece suffers from poor perspective, highlighting the difficulty of the right
composition for a race that is half human and half horse. Another gripe I have with the
book's presentation is the choice of art used on the outside of each page. This
depicts a wall hung with weapons ready for use, and while this was fine for the
books on Hobgoblins and Gnolls, it is hardly appropriate for a race that dwells
in deep forest glades.
The Slayer's Guide To Centaurs brings the race to life
by examining various aspects of their background, culture and society,
though their physiology is pretty much glossed over. We learn that centaur
society is matriarchal, with the females being of the majority of any
village population, making the decisions, and being responsible for running and organizing
the villages in which they live. Their place is to see to the guidance and well
being of everyone within each village. Males do much of the physical labour: the
hunting, foraging and growing of food, as well as the patrols that see to the
safety of their home. Though males see themselves as being under the guidance
of the females, they also see themselves as being free once outside of their
village. This tendency increases after having imbibed any alcohol, which drives them into great
acts of horseplay (ahem). Only males brew or drink alcohol, of which they can be
considered to be connoisseurs, and will happily trade with the elven nations for
Centaur druids can only be female, and it is the wisest of
each village's druids that leads them. In addition to administering
to the religious needs of the village, each druid also uses her magic to augment
the traps and snares that the males place around the village for its protection.
Unfortunately, the nature of how druidic spells are used for this, and how they
are used on the rare occasions when the village's males go to war, is left to the
imagination of the DM or player. It would have been good to see some guidelines
covering this area, but there are none given in the book.
The Centaur's place as part of the ecology suffuses every part of their
lives. They do not revere or worship nature so much as they are part of it.
This goes some way to explaining their woodland sixth sense. It also
explains their attitude towards anyone who treats their homeland with
disrespect or destructiveness. They have little trust for any other race
save the woodland elves, regarding mankind and the dwarves with
apprehension, and holding both orcs and half-orcs in nothing but
The section upon the centaur in war concentrates upon their
prowess with the longbow, club and lance, and their ferocious battle
charge. The centaur's usual tactics are to drive off through ambush, the
races that encroach upon the deep forests that they make their home in,
but they will hunt down and kill both orcs and half-orcs.
Guide To Centaurs is rounded out with a guide for running centaurs as player
characters and several scenario hooks and suggestions. These provide a variety of
different ideas, even plausible ones that embrace the book's title as a Slayer's
Guide and put an ordinary party of characters up against a village of centaurs.
Each of the ideas can also be used in conjunction with the sample village,
Lanhyd. This is fairly small by average centaur standards, but is nevertheless a
useful starting point for any DM.
This entry in the series is not quite as
useful as the previous two. For one thing, both the hobgoblin and the gnoll races
are far more common! Yet there is still opportunity for some decent play within
this sourcebook – persuading a centaur village that they have only friendly
intentions is a roleplaying challenge in itself. One interesting way in which to
use The Slayer's Guide To Centaurs is in combination with either of the books on
hobgoblins or gnolls. Both humanoid species are described as often being on the move in
the search for a new home, and this could be near the glade of a centaur village.
Here there is scope for the DM to run a short campaign with players as any of the three races.