Game: Dark Ladies, Villainesses in RPGs
Publisher: 0one Roleplaying Games
Review Dated: 17th, July 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
Dark Ladies is a PDF collection of villainess from 0one Roleplaying Games and has Andrew and Chris Hind as the lead writers.
There are seventeen Dark Ladies in the supplement and so that’s seventeen portraits, character sheets and backgrounds. A few of the backgrounds are world neutral. I’d consider a world neutral background to be one without reference to any significant place, event or person. A world neutral background is one that can be applied to your own campaign with minimal fuss. The majority of the backgrounds are written for a fantasy version of historic Earth.
We’ve a low fantasy background and stat block for Catherine dei Medici. She marries Henry, the dauphin dies and she becomes queen of France – just has happened in history. There’s no mention of orcs, elves or dwarf miners. Catherine is a 10th level Aristocrat. We’ve stats for Countess Bathory. She’s a 6th level Aristocrat and the lesbian sadomasochist who probably inspired Stoker’s Dracula. Then there are some villainesses straight from historic myths so have a rather more tenuous claim to reality. Morgan Le Fey is a 4th level Aristocrat but she’s an 11th level Druid too. Don’t let me lead you into thinking that every lady here is an Aristocrat. Artemisia is a 4th level… go on, guess, Aristocrat and a 4th level Fighter too.
There are fantasy race femme fatales too. Anima is a ghoul. Okay. She’s not your typical D&D ghoul since she was born one after her pregnant mother stepped over a grave, she’s married to some farmer and gets her kicks by polymorphing visiting strangers into barnyard animals. It has the whiff of a legend I’m not familiar with. There are half-elves, elves and even half-ogres. Kerbela is a half-ogre tanner who likes to turn any customers who are too pretty into a pair of gloves. There’s a halfling, dwarf and sea-hag. Circe is down as a half-fey. In Greek legend she’s the daughter of the god Helios and the sea nymph Perseis.
Backgrounds vary in length from just a few short paragraphs to about an entire page but the writing is consistently good throughout. In addition to the background for each NPC there’s a section on the motivation and goals of each, combat techniques, base of operations, and adventure hooks.
There’s a little more to Dark Ladies than just these NPCs. The PDF gets going with a look at general types of villainess. Seductress, Hag, Manipulator, Duellist, Brawler, Matriarch, Tyrant and Rival are put forward as the main archetypes. That’s not an alphabetically order list, I’ll resist the urge at pop psychology and guess why the seductress and hag come first and in the order they do.
There’s no doubting that Dark Ladies is a pretty offering. The 46-paged PDF has a dark blue sidebar of baroque art that suits the illustration style and characters like Bathory and dei Medici. There’s no light-weight printer friendly version but Dark Ladies shouldn’t be too bad on your ink if you set it to print out in greyscale only.
Dark Ladies is a niche product in an even smaller niche. You’ll be interested in Dark Ladies only if you’re interested in NPC galleries. You’ll be interested in this gallery if you’re after either the low fantasy leaning NPCs here or the fantasy interpretations from historic of mythic Earth. There’s a jinx in here that in most interesting of the Dark Ladies are ones that I can’t see fitting into most campaigns or scenarios. The exceptions here are the notable dark d20 worlds. If you’re using the d20 Ravenloft (hopefully without the supplements that dropped the ball), Mystic Eye’s The Hunt: Rise of Evil or something similar then there’s rich pickings to be had here.