By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Purple Duck Games is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2.5 pages of SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving a total of 26.5 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
We all know the feeling: The Pcs return to town, look around…and instead of well-rounded NPCs, a beleaguered GM has to improvise a badly-conceived standard NPC whose name he forgets until the next session. Purple Duck Games’ latest offering seeks to remedy that by providing new NPCs, at least in the first half of the book.
The NPCs herein thus reign from a soothsayer/diviner that tries to cold-read people instead of using her true power to bored bards and alchemist barkeeps. Cr-wise, the NPCs range from Cr 1 to 8 and all come with full stats for you to use. A total of 12 NPCs are provided and all of them come with quite extensive additional information, somewhat similar to what Raging Swan tends to provide for NPCs, but going even beyond that: Each entry comes with services the character can provide for the PCs, a boon if they are on good terms, information on starting attitude and personal prejudice, a write-up of the overall impression, on the personality of the NPC, the background and a kind of adventure seed in the form of gossip about the respective individual. There are also multiple boxes detailing bits and pieces of Purple Duck’s upcoming Porphyra-setting, which can be easily ignored, but make for interesting bits and pieces, if you care to read them. More impressively, each of the NPC-entries comes with a high-quality full-colour artwork – something I definitely didn’t expect at this low price-point. Great to have these mug-shots to show to your players!
But we all know it: You can create as many NPCs as you like, you’ll still have to improvise sooner or later. To help with these instances, we get 2 pages of d%-tables for appearance, personality, origin elements and motives to randomly generate NPCs.
The second larger section of the book provides us with 4 sample settlements: From the almost lawless frontier-town of Rusty Waters, to the encampment of the halfling quickstep clan to the hidden elven town of Illuriel and the academic town of Rexton, these settlements provide a background against which the new NPCs can be used and come with full settlement statblocks, which are also explained in detail. This section also provides quick and dirty rules to call for the guards and 8 qualities for settlements. More importantly, each of the settlements gets a STUNNING full-colour artwork that immediately evokes a sense of intrigue.
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect – I noticed some minor punctuation glitches in e.g. the settlement write-ups. Layout adheres to PDG’s printer-friendly 2-column standard and the full-colour artworks by Gary Dupuis are awesome, especially for the price! The pdf also comes with bookmarks. This pdf’s premise is to provide memorable NPCs and it delivers – while the individual NPCs use some of the stereotypes common in fantasy, they all add some kind of spin via the gossip-section or other components of the write-ups. The friendly barkeep? He’s a dwarven alchemist who might be drugging beautiful females. The stern, xenophobic, prude priestess? She once worshipped a deity of revenge and seduction. You get the idea. The random NPC-generation-table is neat and the settlements are well-presented. However, in spite of the gorgeous artworks, this pdf felt like it lacked something: While the NPCs have some nice twists to the tropes, they still adhere rather closely to what you’ve probably seen before – some more far-out ideas and perhaps even unique qualities/services would have been awesome. The section on town statblocks is ok, but I would have loved to see some new settlement qualities or additional hooks – more information on the settlements would have been nice. Don’t get me wrong – this is a good purchase at the low price and provides what it delivers, but overall, I still feel that the pdf falls short of what it could easily have become. Combine that with the minor glitches and I’ll settle for a final verdict of 3.5 stars, which I’ll gladly round up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.
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