If you play Dungeons & Dragons, especially as the DM, you’ve probably come across the Game Master Books. They’re a series of 5e books designed to help you create your games and sessions that are meant to apply to a variety of campaign settings—as well as offering tools for people who homebrew. I got lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of The Game Master’s Book of Astonishing Random Tables to review before it was released. I love that book so much, I knew that when a new volume in the series came out, I had to check it out. Luckily, Media Lab Books was kind enough to send me a copy of their upcoming release, The Game Master’s Book of Villains, Minions, and Their Tactics.
What Is The Game Master’s Book of Villains, Minions, and Their Tactics?
The Game Master’s Book of Villains, Minions, and Their Tactics is a 5e-compatible book designed to help DMs with villains. The volume includes things like a gallery of new villains, as well as tools for designing your own villains. There’s an additional section on villain tactics and even creating minions. Like other volumes in the series, it even includes a trio of one-shot adventures. The book was a collaborative project with Dan Dillion, Hunter Henrickson, Aaron Hübrich, Alexander LeFort, Jim Pinto, and Vall Syrene listed as the authors, as well as a new Warlock Subclass from Ted Sikora, and a foreword by Matt Colville of MCDM Productions.
What’s Is in the Book?
The book is divided up into several sections, so I’ll break down each one. I will fairly warn you that they’re kind of a rabbit hole and it’s easy to get sucked into flipping the pages and lose track of the time, so you may want to give yourself a good chunk of time to really look through and appreciate everything in the book.
Villains & Minions
This is a collection of 25 premade villains. Each Villain comes with not just a stat block for themselves and their minions but things like their goals, their motivations, story hooks, encounters, tactics, treasure, advice on scaling for encounters, and additional notes for the DM. I was really impressed with the inclusion of all of those little details, and I think they’ll be appreciated by veteran DMs, and also be the help and support baby DMs need when everything is new and they’re still a little overwhelmed.
The variety of villains was really nice too. I’m not just talking about the levels either, although the book contains a nice spread. Most of the villains fall between levels 2 to 14, which covers a lot of levels honestly. But there are also some level 17 and 19 villains, as well as one at 20, and another at 30. It really does do a great job of making sure there’s something for everyone. Like I said, the level variety is great, but so is the variety in the types of villains themselves.
I’m running Ghosts of Saltmarsh and Animal Adventures for my different groups and was pleased to discover that there were villains that made sense for both with a pirate villain for my first group, and even a Vermin King that would fit in nicely for the second. Giants, warlocks, dryads, blacksmiths, a child ruler, a Fey dragon, undead, and more make up additional choices in the rogues gallery of villains. I’ll certainly be sharing this with the other DMs at our FLGS where I run things.
Tucked into these pages is also the Pact of the Reclaimed, a Warlock subclass that manipulates the environment, creates illusions, and restores expended spell slots. Some of the abilities also let you reclaim failures, regain charges on magic weapons, and swap positions with corpses so they take the damage instead.
The next section feels like an add-on to the Monster Manual. It goes through all of those monsters you’re used to rolling out, lists its role (like Brute, Commander, or Control), and breaks down its skill and strengths to give you an idea of how to play it in a way that doesn’t just let your players steamroll over it. There are even little DM notes with additional pieces of advice. This is great stuff for DMs who want to level up their DM abilities. Your players might not quite know what hit them.
Another section goes over creating a villain. It starts with archetypes and guides a DM through things like Hit Points, AC, and Damage Per Round. Questions of where and when a villain is introduced as well as scaling encounters, spell lists, and special actions are also addressed.
The final section has notes on creating minions, including the different roles that minions tend to fill.
The book also contains 3 one-shots:
- “The Wound of the Forest”: The party must stop a dryad seeking revenge. Levels 2 -4.
- “Love Locked in Iron”: What’s the appropriate gift for a troll’s wedding? Levels 7-9.
- “Contaminated Corruption”: A bounty hunt becomes a fight for survival. Levels 7-9.
Why You Should Buy The Game Master’s Book of Villains, Minions, and Their Tactics
When it comes down to it, these are great books that are extremely useful. I’m a baby DM of not quite a year, and I feel like every time I open one of these books, I find stuff I can use that will help me round out stuff in my campaigns or level up my DM skills. I often encourage new DMs to start with pre-made stuff to get a feel for what they need, but a lot of DMs also seem to get into the DM side because they are inspired by a homebrew idea they have. That inspiration is great, but it often ends in a lot of panicked posts to online groups as they quickly get overwhelmed at how to take their ideas and turn them into actual mechanics and stats. This is one of the books that helps you figure out the how and the why of creating those mechanics and stats.
I do think even experienced DMs will either learn new things or at least be able to pull from the long list of villains next time they hit a brain block or need to create something on the fly. Having extra one-shots around never hurts anyone either. Sometimes enough last-minute cancelations leave you wondering if you should cancel or run a side adventure for those who can make it, so having a few ready-to-go adventures is great.
Overall, I feel like these are the books you didn’t realize you needed until you start flipping through them, and then you realize you need not just the book in front of you but the rest of the series as well. With a list price of $29.99, this is a much more affordable addition to your DM library. This book releases October 31st but can be pre-ordered via Amazon here for $26.99.