Exemplars of Evil (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, December 24, 2007
To me, the Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons supplements fall into one of four classifications:
Core Books which are required for play
Books which are not core, but are so well designed as to be essentially core.
Non-core books which are entirely optional. They may be well designed but are fringe enough that you can get by without them no matter how good they are.
Non-essential books. Look lets face it…WOC puts out a lot of books that are simply too specialized and simply not necessary but they put them out because there are a lot of completists who will buy anything they out.
Exemplars of Evil (Examples of Evil?) falls into the third category. It’s well designed and written and there are some great examples of evil villains provided but it’s hardly required reading. I think most DMs revel in creating powerful and evil villains for their campaign and like to do them their way. But if one is in a pinch or is struggling to develop their villain, then this can be a useful book. The first 32 pages of the 160 page book contain the guidelines and concepts for creating truly rich and memorable villains.
The villains can be one of several archetypes (think framework or foundation). These can be the thoroughly wicked Disturbing Villain; the Faceless Villain who is hidden and yet everywhere at once; The Rival who is tied to a particular player character, ala The Joker tied to Batman (although I supposed the Joker could easily fit into the Disturbed Villain as well). These are just a few of the archetypes with which you can begin to construct your arch-baddie.
Once you’ve established your archetype foundation you need to figure out your villain’s motivations. Does he seek wealth? Power? Immortality? Is he/she motivated by vengeance? Guilt? Madness? In other words, what makes him tick? You’ll need to construct his personality and his psyche. Is your villain a megalomaniacal Nihilist? Is he vindictive or cruel? All of these traits or ones you might devise yourself go into the design of your villain. Various new feats and spells, specifically designed for villains are included to add even great depth to their character.
Now, the remainder of the book features eight different, and fully fleshed out examples of villains. These can be used solely as examples to show the DM how to go about creating a villain, or, they can be dragged and dropped right into a campaign because not only do you get a ready-to-play character, you also get a mini-adventure with a fully-mapped lair and encounters. The book even provides instruction on using these villains with either the Forgotten Realms or Eberron settings. My favorite example was Valbryn Morlydd, The Queen of the Fire Giants. This was interesting because you don’t see a lot of great female villains in D&D. Her mountain stronghold, Gilgirn, is surrounded by a mote of molten lava. It’s a nice, high-level adventure.
These examples are very well done and if one are going to use them directly in their own campaigns then you can get a lot out of the book. If you’re comfortable with your own villain design then the book is probably not for you although it still may provide some interesting ideas.
Mania Grade: B
Written By: Robert J. Schwalb
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast