Book Review: Villains by Creighton Broadhurst, Martin Tideswell, and Raging Swan Press

Can you imagine gaming in a world where all the characters were nice, polite, and agreed to everything you said or asked? [Shudder] No, I can’t either. That would probably be the most boring adventure ever. The best parts of any plot come from conflict, otherwise there’s no reason to act one way or another.

So you have to have bad guys, gals, and critters. Not all opposition has to come from pure evil either. Perhaps they have a different moral view of the universe and truly believe in the status quo. That makes your PCs their enemies simply by trying to upset the apple cart. Or maybe they’re selfish, have flexible morality, and simply do what they do for monetary gain or the adrenaline rush.

Ultimately, it takes all kinds of folks to populate a town, city, nation, world, or universe. Why can’t the villains have just as much fun as the heroes?

That’s why Villains from Creighton Broadhurst, Martin Tideswell, and Black Swan Press is so awesome. You get a ready-made collection of n’er-do-wells to drop into your Pathfinder (or D&D 3.5e I’m betting) campaign to torture harass kill bother your players in a variety of ways with a number of means…

The book starts with minions, because you know any good villain has to have some lackeys to carry out the dirty work. And after reading about Shamil the Poisoner I think all of my PCs are going to have to start hiring a taste-tester to check their tavern grub for poisons. It’s a new version of Hell’s Kitchen where Gordon Ramsay isn’t trying to insult his coworkers, he’s trying to kill his clientele. But the writers don’t stop there. They include some muscle as well. Grash is a battle-hardened warrior ready to be set loose on whatever target his current employer seems appropriate. He might even work with a group of mercenaries ready to ambush some poor sap for who knows what.

And then there are the solo acts. The Rakes. The Spies. These folks are out to prove their mettle and earn a few gold for their next expedition to the bottom of a bottle. If someone challenges you to a duel in a bar or on the street, do you ever ask if someone put them up to it? Or when you get back to your room at the inn and just know something is out of place or missing, is it the cleaning staff or was it a professional? If nothing else, my paranoia just increased as a player.

Once you defeat the minions, you know there’s somebody pulling the strings in the puppet show. The true meat of the book is with the villains themselves. Seven different villains are described in great detail – with complete stats, descriptions, and mannerisms in addition to suggestions on how to work them into the game with adventure seeds, possible encounters, and lore the PCs might have heard on the street.

I won’t spoil these lovely folks for you, but will instead give you some words of advice if you’re a player. If you see a one-eyed dwarf with a wicked morningstar approaching, I’d run the other direction. And that’s just the beginning. The ones you don’t see coming are even more dangerous. Some of these people seek to secure their positions and power by any means necessary, throwing their thugs in your way to convince you not to continue chasing them. Others are powerful solo acts working for someone even more powerful, which makes them even scarier.

Like all Raging Swan products, the book is well laid out with great art placed to have the most effect. Each of the major villains gets a self-portrait that you can keep to yourself or share with your players. Great writing, deep backgrounds, and plenty of information to make these NPCs do your bidding. Tough to argue with that combination.

Villains opens many different avenues for GMs to explore. Whether in the wilds or in a bustling city, your PCs are going to find trouble. Why not give that trouble a name?

Check out Villains and other Raging Swan products at RPGNow or DriveThruRPG today. And check out more about Raging Swan Press at their homepage!

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