This is the first of several installments of Villains & Lairs. I’ve had a review copy for quite some time but for various reasons that aren’t worth going into, I am just now reviewing it. My deepest apologies to the creators for the delay.
Do you know how a good chef can glance into a pantry, take stock of the items on hand, and then come up with a great meal from what he saw? That’s essentially what Villains & Lairs is. Jeff C. Stevens was looking for stock art for other adventures and nothing he found matched his needs. So he commissioned art for those but hated to let the inspiring stock art he found go to waste. So he sent out a request to several creators to create personalities around those images. This supplement is the product of that collaboration. These “chefs” converged upon a single feast and we get to enjoy a smorgasbord.
Savage Encounters: Villains & Lairs by Jeff C. Stevens, et al.
Writers: Jeff C. Stevens, Al Spader, Alan Tucker, Alex Clippinger, Anthony J. Turco, Beatriz Dias, Casey Bax, Casey Machado, Chad M. Lensch, Chris Bissette, Chris Karelis, Christopher Walz, Courtney Hilbig, Dan Beal, Drew Derby, Elven Tower, Emily Smith, Garin Jones, Ginny Loveday, Hannah Carlan, Janek Sielicki, Jean Headley, Jean Lorber, Jeff C. Stevens, Joe Raso, Josh Kelly, Justin Handlin, JVC Parry, Lilah Isaacs, M.T. Black, Micah Watt, Patrick E. Pullen, Remley Farr, Robert P. Davis, Stephen Wight, Tony Petrecca, Travis Legge, Troy Taylor
Publisher: DMs Guild
Product Length: 217 pages
Ready NPCs are always a boon to dungeon masters. At a minimum, you need a brief physical description, a name, and an occupation (or purpose for being included in an adventure). A good DM can come up with these on the fly but it’s nice to not have to. With Villains & Lairs you get these minimum requirements and so much more.
You get over 50 NPCs, all easily considered villains from the casual observers. However, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to cast some of them in more sympathetic light despite the fact that only a few have a good alignment. Since each entry has its own art, you aren’t blasted with walls of text tediously describing scars, hairlines, and clothing colors. But beyond their names and descriptions, you also get their backstories. Detailed enough that you can immerse them into your adventure or campaign as if they were meant to be there from the start. You also get their motivations, their aspirations, and even their flaws. Some of my favorites are a fast-talking antiquities dealer named Brondike, a sadistic goblin (even by goblin standards) named Joy, the Whispercraft, and a chieftain’s son possessed by bloodthirsty sentient sword named Tenoch. The son is Tenoch. His sword is Rapture.
Joy, The Whispercraft
The images above touch briefly on who these characters are. But each character’s page or so of background, current and long term motives, flaws, and suggested uses for them (i.e. as a guide, quest giver, honor seeker, or victim) gives you a deep insight into who they really are. You will also find unique magic items for many characters. Since Jeff scoured resources for art and felt they shouldn’t go to waste, the creators wrote specifically to the art. Thus, Tenoch’s sword has a name and even a background of its own.
Additionally, several characters also have descriptive lairs and accompanying maps with them. The maps are in a separate zip file and inline in the document. The recycled art from old WotC stuff is actually pretty good. But you will also find stock art from Patrick E. Pullen, Dean Spencer, Daniel Comerci, and more. Nonetheless, it is quality art we’re talking about here. Jeff didn’t cut corners to save a buck on his production and it shows. Villains & Lairs deserves its mithral best seller status. Indeed, it deserves admantine.
There are currently four Villains & Lairs installments including a free one (grab a copy here) that you can check out to see if you’re interested in buying the others. They’re worth it. Certainly this first one at 217 pages is.
- very minor formatting and proofing errors (spacing, table of contents not clickable, spelling)