" Any monkey with a little free time can come up with more interesting and useful NPCs (even Chimpan-A)... "
Title: Skreyn's Register: the Bonds of Magic by Sword & Sorcery Studios (Malhavoc Press)
Format: D20 NPC Folio
Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong
The Hype: A character book featuring fifty original spellcasting NPCs, as well as eleven new feats, and multiple unique spells and magic items. It could very well be the lazy DM's answer to NPC generation.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Drama: The Bonds of Magic presents fifty original NPCs all linked by one common trait - they are spellcasters. Be they sorcerer or wizard, paladin or cleric, bard, ranger, or druid, each one comes from a spellcasting character class. And that's about it. While two or three of the NPCs may be linked together with some sort of brief back story, the links are generally tenuous or unimportant (friends, onetime traveling companions, were in the same place at different times), with a couple being slightly more intriguing but not worth writing a novel about. Each brief background and personality is about the length of what a clever DM could pull out of his ass at a moment's notice if a character pressed too hard - this is nothing particularly creative or groundbreaking. The most interesting facet of most of the NPCs' backgrounds is what race they are - there are tieflings, half-dragons, aasimar, half-medusae, aranea, kobolds…the author (Sean K. Reynolds, as you're told repeatedly throughout the book) has a flair for the unusual when it comes to choosing races. Unfortunately, this means you see a ton of exotic spellcasters and not very many mundane ones, which limits their use in an everyday setting. For example, the number of dark elves in the text is greater than the number of normal elves. The stories and characters are nothing to write home about, and would certainly work fine in a generic fantasy setting, but you're left wondering why you couldn't have come up with them yourself. 2 out of 5.
Layout and Presentation: The book is laid out sensibly with a brief introduction leading immediately into the NPCs. Each NPC gets a page, with stats to the left and story to the right, and a small picture of each one. Feats have their own spread in the back, then magic items, then spells…so you'd have to be Dungapult to lose track of where information is. The NPCs are organized in two sections (arcane spellcasters and divine spellcasters), with the characters organized alphabetically from A to Z (and, not coincidentally, there is a character in each section whose name starts with every letter from A to Z, with the arcane section skipping Q and the divine section skipping X - it's very cute). The front cover is an impressive computer-generated image, though I'm rather confused as to why the spellcaster's forearms are ripped off so you can see his radii and ulna. Still, Lars Grant-West is a talented artist. Toren "MacBin" Anderson handles all of the interior artwork, which is mostly of fantastic quality. The majority of pictures are memorable and excellently rendered, showing "MacBin's" talent, but there are a few notable exceptions. For one, the man should never, ever draw dwarven women again, and for another, anything he draws which isn't primarily humanoid in appearance is a little…off. Still, the artwork is great beyond that, and the book is easy to look at and navigable. 4 out of 5.
Playability: The NPCs listed within the pages are statted out for you, so if you're a lazy bastard, these are your pre-made spellcaster NPCs. However, if you actually prefer to make your own NPCs and don't mind statting them out yourself (as most DMs prefer), this book is all but useless to you. If you're a player, you're in double trouble, because the NPCs don't really help you out at all regardless. The Feats are interesting (and a few are exceptionally so), and there are a few very cool spells, but nothing worth writing home about. In the end, it is obviously a lazy DM's book, and anyone with a little creativity and free time could write up NPCs more fitting to their own campaign. 2 out of 5.
Desired Content: If you wanted a book of spellcasting NPCs, that's exactly what you've got. There are fifty of all shapes, sizes, races, alignments, and classes, just waiting to be thrown into a campaign. Their stories are a little weak and uninspired, however, and there's nothing about them that makes them particularly special or well suited to inclusion. The feats within are an added bonus, and a few of them are worth looking over, as well as some of the better spells. However, this monkey was looking for a bit more story and background, and what he got was…not that. 2.5 out of 5.
|Skreyn's Register: the Bonds of Magic isn't a bad supplement so much as it is a supplement of extremely limited use. Any monkey with a little free time can come up with more interesting and useful NPCs (even Chimpan-A), and anyone who bought the book hoping for depth and personality from these fifty magic users is going to be a little disappointed.|
The Good: Fifty spellcasting NPCs, ready to use, plus some cool feats and spells (and don't forget the artwork!).
The Bad: Very little story and detail, extremely limited usefulness, and too many exotic (and somewhat unusable) NPCs
The Overall Ugly: Good to have if you're too lazy to make up your own NPCs, but fairly worthless if you've the creativity to do it yourself.
What it's Worth: Pick it up cheap during a sale or something.