Game: The Wise and the Wicked
Publisher: Sword and Sorcery Studio
Review Dated: 4th, March 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
You don’t need this book but you might want to buy it anyway. The Wise and the Wicked is simply a collection of NPCs.
I’m not really keen on the idea of someone else bundling together a couple of characters and then trying to sell the stats to me. Fortunately, the Wise and the Wicked is a little more than just that. It’s a professional quality book, that might sound obvious but it is no longer something than you can take for granted in this brave new world of the Open Game License, it’s a pleasure and not a chore to flick through the book and idly scan the characters. The artwork helps and each and every character has a portrait. You can ogle at the barbarian girls and queens or terrorise your players with full-page pictures of spider-eye goblins while you mutter something about being a high level fighter. The shady fellow on the front cover is in the book too, you’ll be surprised how often that that doesn’t happen.
The characters are often high-level; Yugman the Sage is a 25th level, rule bending Wizard and Queen Ran is a level 20 kraken. Other NPCs push their Challenge Rating above 20 by reaching the high teens in their character class and by being more (or less) than entirely human. There are some lower level critters too, notably the slitherin/ratmen. The more munchkin of the NPCs aren’t wasted though, almost all of them are responsible for inventing new magic spells or items and these trinkets and arcane findings are given the full game mechanic treatment in the book.
There are 99 pages given over to 46 NPCs (with pages taken up by the introduction, etc) so that’s an average of 2 pages per NPC with some extra pages left over for the really interesting or complex characters. Another saving grace for the book (I speak of saving graces given the concept that a simple list of NPCs is doomed) is that these are not random NPCs. Many of the NPCs here have been foreshadowed in previous Scarred Lands books. For example, I’ve just finished reading the very good Hollowfaust: City of Necromancers where its briefly mentioned that the necromancers are slightly sceptical about everything they’ve heard about Credas the Necrotic King of the renegades… and sure enough, you’ll find him and the truth of the story on page 26. The presentation of all the required NPC facts are mixed, the stats are put up front and are pretty much complete, you’ll know to what level a villain’s Armour Class will drop to if you steal his magically enhanced parrying dagger with just an easy glance. You’re given short sections on how to roleplay the character and how they might act in combat. I accept the first but get annoyed by the latter. I don’t really need to be told that a barbarian will attack fiercely and furiously, that the assassin attacks slyly from the shadows and I certainly don’t want to be told that the wizard tries to avoid direct combat. I would much rather have seen the space given over to plot hooks or suggestions on how to involve the NPCs. I can’t accuse them of skimping on the background section for the NPCs though, there’s always enough information there and you’re left with a pretty good feeling of what the character is liked. I have mixed feelings over the sometimes occurring “the true history of this character remains a mystery…” because I’ve just paid money to read said history but at least in most cases there are suitable rumours or widely held believes as to the origins of the legend. Perhaps more importantly, the presented characters manage to steer a fairly careful path away from the more clichéd histories. Yugman the sage, though, is the exception. The scarlet robed, mysterious mage who’s short enough to be mistaken for a dwarf has been done before – he even had his own Sunday morning cartoon show for a while. That said; it’s easy enough to tinker with those superficial details.
The Wise and Wicked host a mixture of good, neutral and evil persona from Scarn. The book scores more bonus points by including a number of non-human and even non-humanoids among their ranks. Some of the characters are linked together; powerful kings have famous queens and heroic bards have their legendary lovers. Despite these faint connections and inter-weavings the Wise and Wicked does not compare to the Divine and the Defeated. It’s worth noting that the Divine and the Defeated is a large hardback book, though.
The introduction says that at the very least the authors have saved you, as the GM, some time. That only really applies if you find an NPC in there that suits your game. I’ll run through the list in case any of the names, like Credas, ring a bell from previous books.
Nerith Aila, Oberyn Amethyst, Andelais, Anteas, Telos Asuras, Credas, Lucian Daine, Dar’Tan, Alliastra Denier, Paunles Finn, Galdor, Queen Geleeda, Gothrin, Grakis, Hevestian, The Hunter of Vesh, Kaltaag, Kimer the Shatter, Jerhard Landereaux, Lerois, Lianca, Luficint, Lysear, Mazat, Menava, Meerlah, Orzu, P’kouro’nk, Queen Ran, Loren Rizzen, Hassek Ruukbrood, Sangus, Severin, Shanti, Lord Skrikt, Talina Som, Thadorius, King Thain, Duke Traviak, Felby Undershovel, King Virduk, Lilly Weedspawn, Katonis Woodarbor, Yugman, Mistress Yvestil and Zarra.
A breakdown of alignments:
Lawful Good: 2
Lawful Neutral: 2
Lawful Evil: 11
Neutral Good: 4
Neutral Evil: 6
Chaotic Good: 6
Chaotic Neutral: 3
Chaotic Evil: 8