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Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Ladies

Dark Ladies

A book on villains of the female persuasion might seem a rather strange subset at a first glance, but the introduction takes care of that by outlining how being female can put several whole new spins on just being a villain. The shock value of discovering that the mighty fighter that put half the party on the floor is actually a woman, the unique perspective that being matriarch of a noble line or a whole tribe might bring, or perhaps the use of physical appearance from seductive beauty to outrageously ugly hag may be of significance.

We're then plunged straight into a fantastic collection of villainesses, both historical and fictional. Each is given a detailed write-up, both in terms of D20 stats and in terms of what she's like, what her motivations are, how she approaches a fight and several possible plot hooks in which you can use her in your game. Several pages, including atmospheric drawings, are devoted to each one.

While the motivations and plot hooks for the historical characters are firmly based in reality, it is easy to imagine how you could change names and places to fit into your own campaign... and see how long it takes your players to spot Catherine di Medici or Mata Hari - if they catch the references at all! Likewise, although the fictional characters have their own backgrounds, these too can be adapted to suit your purposes.

On the other hand, you may just use these as inspiration when creating your own unique and deadly ladies to stand in opposition to your players... or even in alliance, or as patrons. New weapons and spells are scattered throughout, and these too may be worthy of consideration for your campaign.

Rather strangely, after some seventeen of these ladies, there comes an appendix on magical beast hide armour. Fascinating stuff, all about how it is made and what benefits it gives you... but while it's fascinating to know what rust monster armour might look like, or how to cure the hide of a displacer beast; I'm not quite sure what relevance it has to a discourse on villainesses. It's a useful addition to knowledge about equipment and armour, and could make for some interesting items to be found - or, especially if you use the rules for trapping, tanning and crafting these armours - a source of income for the characters.

Overall, it is a beautifully-presented work, with a delicate bluish theme in fitting with the feminine aspects of its content, yet understated enough not to interfere with the actual text. Fruitful ideas... memorable villainesses... while you'll need to do some work to fit them into your campaign the rewards are likely to be worth the effort.

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Reviewed: 30 July 2003