This week I had the opportunity to read through Nord Games – Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery, a sourcebook packed with 30 NPCs ready to drag and drop into your campaigns. This book originally funded on Kickstarter on January 31, 2016, and is currently available for purchase online. This resource is available in both 5E and Pathfinder formats. Additionally, there are several purchase options: .PDF ($15), softcover ($30), hardcover ($40), or a combination. So, if you are interested, there are certainly ways to fit it into your budget.
My copy arrived well-packed and in great shape, with only a very minor, subtle curvature to the pages (hardly noticeable), likely the result of humidity during its journey to me. Nothing to be worked up about and only discernible by the critical (over critical) reviewer. This 232-page book is printed in full color on high-quality pages. Each NPC is accompanied by a beautiful color illustration, stat blocks, ability descriptions, background, lore, personality traits, and tips for roleplaying. The 30 NPCs are organized by alignment and are presented in six forms (levels 1, 4, 8, 12, 16, and 20) with appropriate stat blocks to match.
Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery’s cast of characters represent a crew that one might find frequenting shadowy back-alley corners or the back rooms of seedy taverns. Each NPC is thoroughly developed and detailed with extensive lore and quest hooks to blend the NPC seamlessly into any campaign setting. The NPCs are divided into three sections, with each containing ten unique NPCs. These three sections are good-aligned characters, neutral-aligned characters, and evil-aligned characters. Each section begins with a comprehensive overview of select guild affiliations associated with the respectively aligned characters that follow.
The section containing good-aligned characters holds a collection of NPCs well suited for use as allies, patrons, or temporary party members. Good aligned guilds like The Ravens, a generations-old shadow society of scribes, bird trainers, and messengers dedicated to spreading truth and knowledge throughout the realm. One example of a good-aligned character found in this source book is Criella, the chaotic good Tiefling thief. Strong in spirit and in body, Criella intends “to prove that she is worthy of a better life than the one she was given by helping raise up those below her on the social ladder.”
Among the neutral-aligned guilds rests The Purple Rose, a subtle high-class team of assassins whose clientele is made up of the upper social elite. “It doesn’t matter who the target may be. Most agents are in it for the coin, but a select few participate for the rush and the craft. Their identity remains a complete mystery to all but a select few high-ranking agents.” Representative of the neutral-aligned characters is the chaotic neutral rock gnome, Frug Timbers. A talented tinkerer, driven to obsession by his love for a woman he cannot hope to have, Frug Timbers spends his time in his master’s shop tinkering at various mechanical oddities. Necessary repairs of a complex mechanical item might lead the party to Timbers. As a quest hook, Timbers might offer an adventure party a fair price for a rare component.
The remainder of this sourcebook contains the evil-aligned NPCs. Among this crowd resides The Black Mast. The Black Mast is a pirate-like guild comprised of slavers, brigands, ruffians, and thieves. Found primarily at sea, but also occasionally on land, “it is said that there is a special place in hell for the men who crew any ship that flies the flag of the Black Mast.” One NPC that your adventure party might encounter is Bram Rothwell. This chaotic evil human can be found commanding a ship of The Black Mast. He “has a reputation as a brutal captain and tyrant. He is cold and calculating in his business deals, that are most often related to the acquisition, transport, and sale of slaves.”
These examples are just but a few of the many exciting characters to explore in this detailed sourcebook. But Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery doesn’t end there. It also contains a solid 25 pages of generic NPCs to populate your campaigns. With complete stat blocks, these lowlifes can be used to create road gangs, tavern-goers, or bands of outlaws. Further, the book contains a number of unique items and even collection of spells
This sourcebook is so much more than colorful illustrations placed next to stat blocks. If you are on the fence, Nord Games lets you download a free NPC HERE. What makes this sourcebook so invaluable is the rich lore backing up each NPC. Backstories, character traits, roleplaying tips, and quest hooks add depth that will bring your games to life. With the ability to purchase this sourcebook for $15 (.PDF) and with its compatibility to both 5E and Pathfinder, it is an accessible resource for any fantasy RPG game table. There is little doubt that a selection of these characters will end up woven into my campaigns in the near future.