Available: DM’s Guild
Villains & Lairs is the perfect product to review first for the blog since I absolutely love villains and everything to do with villains. Just the other day I was texting my wife about villain quotes.
Hero quotes get all the fame: “Hasta la vista, baby.” “For Aslan!” “There must be some mistake. I’m not a–I’m Harry. Just Harry.” “Yipee ki-yay, mother f**ker!”
But some villains have excellent quotes as well. Why aren’t these more famous? “Even when you have nothing to lose, you still can’t do it. You’re weak. And I’ve outgrown you.” “If God were a villain, he’d be me.” “I never wanted the throne. I only wanted to be your equal!” And my favorite: “Let the mayhem begin.”
Bet you can name the owner of every hero quote. Can you name any owners of the villain quotes?
But I digress. The point of this post is to review an RPG supplement. However, I wanted to establish my love of villainy and all things villain. After all, how many people do you know who can name all of the James Bond movie villains from memory? There is no one better qualified to give an opinion on this product.
And my opinion is two very enthusiastic thumbs up. This is an excellent supplement that could be used in any Dungeons & Dragons 5e campaign as-is. Typical of 5e, the assumption is that you’re running a Forgotten Realms campaign so when specific places and events are mentioned, they correspond to geography and history of the Realms. However, a good DM should be able to modify that without a problem.
This is similar to GURPS Villains, a very useful and inspirational supplement that I’ve used despite not running a GURPS campaign.
Inside Villains & Lairs, you find a list of 46 NPCs meant to be obstacles to your PCs during an ongoing campaign.
Many of the NPCs detailed are “irritants.” They aren’t material for main villains. Instead, they present obstacles for a single encounter. If you are looking for your campaign’s Big Bad, this isn’t your book. But if you want the PCs to work harder than “I find a merchant and buy a shortsword +1” to get an item, this will give you endless inspiration. If you’re between adventures and the PCs need just a few more XP to level up, this is your book.
Each entry has a detailed backstory for the NPC. Some are not purely evil villains. Instead, they are anitheroes or even fallen heroes who have succumbed to darker impulses. One in particular, Aurelia Sing, seeks to restore herself to human from a magical experiment gone awry. She’s willing to push further than standard ethics would allow and lacks a moral compass. (Kind of like Ghost from Ant Man and the Wasp.)
Many of the villains have a section detailing their character flaws. These are weaknesses that the PCs may exploit. Keeping with Aurelia, her main flaw is that she is disgusted with her new form and won’t allow anyone to see her in it. Jeff C. Stevens, Aurelia’s creator, is mum on what that means. I envision her withdrawing and retreating, even from a fight she may be winning, if she is forced to reveal her true form. Maybe you see it differently–these villains are wide open to DM interpretation and offer role play opportunities.
All of the villains have a list of suggestions for how to use them. Aurelia, for example, could be an employer or a menace, depending on the DM’s need. She may have a rare spell component that a wizard needs, so she could be used as a merchant.
Of course, all the villains have a stat block.
My favorite feature is the eleven villains that have a detailed lair. The cartographers are people I follow and love on Twitter: including Elven Tower and Dyson Logos. That translates to eleven mini-adventures, ready-to-run.
- Has a villain for every possible party of PCs, ranging from CR 1/2 to CR 22.
- Variety of species–from typical (orcs, liches, mind flayers) to far-out (intelligent oozes and aliens in full space suits armed with laser blasters).
- Creative flare in storytelling, giving us evil villains (Agrod the Mountain Slayer) as well as fallen heroes that would simply oppose the PCs (Lars Hamerstein).
- Great cartography from outstanding mapmakers.
- Group of some of the best writers around.
Final Verdict: This will be a great addition to anyone’s bookshelf. Even if you don’t use the villains within as written, they can serve as inspiration for your own assortment of baddies. These are all writers and cartographers worth supporting, too!