Review: Masks

MasksOne of the things I have a lot of in my RPG book collection is generic books that help with setting.  I like books on NPCs, businesses, countries, cities, or just odd encounters I can borrow and use.  A good friend of mine who was one of the ENnie Judges in 2012 bought this for me for Christmas.  It was in his opinion one of the best and most useful RPG books he saw that year and as an ENnie Judge he saw a lot.  It also won the Gold medal for Best Aid and Accessory so a few other people agreed with his judgment.  It is not an adventure but it is one of the more useful books I’ve found.  The book is called Masks by Engine Publishing and written by the guys at Gnome Stew.  It is a collection of one thousand NPCs and has been used each session of my current campaign.

Masks is an over three hundred page book of a thousand NPCs.  The NPCs are written up without stats or attempts at stats.  Sometimes a system less book tries to give combat ratings or make up their own stats that don’t correlate to any game.  They don’t do that here and that makes me happy.  The book is simply divided into modern, fantasy, and science fiction sections.  Each of those sections is then divided into villains, neutrals, and allies.  I have found though that I can search for a useful NPC outside of the genre I’m playing.  The current campaign is a modern game but I’ve found NPCs in this book from the Fantasy and science fictions sections that work and work well.

The most useful aspect of the book are the indexes.  They make it easy to keep track of the NPCs one uses.  Each NPC is numbered one to one thousand.  They each have a list of traits on them and in one of the indexes all the traits are listed with page number of an NPC that has that trait.  So, if you need a mysterious NPC it is easy to find them.   There is also an index of all the NPCs in alphabetic order.  The index I found most useful though is one that collects NPCs into different groups.  If one needs a crime lord and his minions they list the NPCs that would work for that.  I would have liked if they would have done more of that.

With a thousand NPCs they are not all winners but there are plenty there to be easily used.  This is the only book I have used for each game session and taken with me to each session.  The main rule book we use doesn’t even get used as much as this book.  One of the biggest uses for me is just names.  I used to use a book called Everyone Everywhere that was a great name generator.  Now we have the internet and names can be found much easier.  Many times just the smallest spark is all that is needed to really get an NPC moving and this book defiantly provides that.

Chris Gath.  I’ve been gaming since 1980 playing all kinds of games since then.  In the past year I’ve run Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classic, Paranoia, and Mini d6.  My current campaign is mini d6 and we are using that for a modern supernatural conspiracy investigative game.  On some forums I’m known as Crothian and I’ve written a few hundred reviews though I took a sabbatical from reviewing for a few years as it burnt me out.  I was also an judge for the Gen Con awards (ENnies) six times.  Jeff, the owner of this blog, is one of my players and a good friend.