An adventure without decent NPCs is like a hamburger without fries. You can get by without them. But should you? That is not to say that Versatile NPCs II by Darrin Scott is the equivalent of nutrient-deficient fried potatoes. But it is to say that this product is a nice side to create a satisfying meal.
Versatile NPCs II
Writer: Darrin Scott
Publisher: DMs Guild
Product Length: 75 pages (plus a printer-friendly version)
I don’t know of a clever way to ease into this so I’ll just put it bluntly: this is an amazing accessory! Over 60 NPCs and stat blocks would have been enough to make for a good product but Darrin has put a personal touch to each and every entry in this compilation. I want to meet them all. He opens with an Introduction on page ii and explains the point in Versatile NPCs II. I can boil that down to a single sentence. It fills a void.
Without a doubt, Wizards of the Coast has provided DMs with wonderful tools to run fun and engaging games for people. But some things leave us less than fulfilled. A good product answers a need for a given community (or creates a need it didn’t know it wanted…looking at you Apple). Darrin answers a need for having full-fledged NPCs for our campaigns. A veteran from the Monster Manual is useful in its own right. But the Sample Soldier NPC from Versatile NPCs II provides a more vivid character:
The world blurred and warped before Sukriye’s eyes. The desert heat was becoming a more powerful foe than the one she and her company had fled.
Even if you don’t go with the (longer) full description from the text, I’ll wager that this has at least inspired your creativity and pushed you to do something more than just including a garden variety veteran.
But wait, there’s more!
The NPCs each have a paragraph of general description, one to three sample NPCs (similar the sample excerpt I shared above), and a stat block. This collection of 60-ish NPCs effectively gives you twice as many options as what you see in the table of contents. There are Diplomats with challenge ratings of ⅛ and Legendary Mages with challenge ratings of 19. And, of course, there is a whole slew of things in between.
Like I said, Darrin could have stopped at just a summary paragraph for each entry and a stat block. Instead, he took time to give at least one Sample NPC (most have two…some have three) for them all and these are each short but powerful. There is enough in each one to really breathe life into them. Like I also said, I want to meet them all. Especially that firenewt Cavalier, Agarax.
This is most likely not a product you’re going to sit down and read through from start to finish. You’ll likely skim the entries and take your time with the ones you find more interesting. That being said, the entries are simple to read and none of them overstay their welcome. So even if a Gunsmith Artificer ain’t your thing you won’t spend long on it anyway. But that entry is pretty cool. I’d love to walk around with a Thundercannon and dish out 4d6 + 3 thunder damage. Sounds like a good Eberron character.
Fun fact: this was edited by Christopher Walz. You’ve read about him on this site before.
Top marks! There were no punches pulled where it concerns production. Darrin makes great use of some of the best artists available: Omercan Cirit, Tia Rambaran, Murilo Araujo, Dean Spencer, Daniel Comerci, Kevin Crawford, and even some supplemental work of his own. You can tell a difference in each artist’s unique style but they all come together to create a beautiful and consistent amalgam. The layout is professional and flows nicely. Most importantly, its easy to use. Makes for a good page-turner. Even if you aren’t reading every word, you will be looking at every piece of art this has to offer. All forty-six of them.
The design is simple. Versatile NPC title, a paragraph, a sample or three, a stat block, and sometimes art. Lather, rinse, repeat. Of course, I don’t have time to playtest each and every entry so I cannot vouch for the balance of them or whether any are over-powered. But there are twenty-eight playtesters named in the Credits so it stands to reason these were tested several times in order to bring you some incredibly thoughtful NPCs. Nothing I read stood out to me as unbalanced by any stretch. Challenging? Sure. As I like it!
At $7.95, I wouldn’t exactly classify this title as “inexpensive” but it’s far from exorbitant. My thought on cost is, simply put, that it is a function of what you get for your money. It’s one thing to know something’s cost. But it’s something more to know its value. $7.95 is a bargain for the value you get from this product. It is gorgeous, functional, and useful. Add NPCs in a pinch or use this to plan out your sessions. You might even find yourself modeling your next PC (your players will soon give you a break from DMing, right? RIGHT?!) after one of the entries. Versatile NPCs II is already a Gold Best Seller after just eight weeks on DMs Guild. Go grab a copy so you can say you helped this thing go Platinum. It’s gonna.
Thanks, Darrin Scott, for the review copy of Versatile NPCs II!