Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game

Written by the award-winning authors of the GMing blog Gnome Stew, Masks is now available in print and PDF! Masks won the 2012 Gold ENnie Award for Best Aid/Accessory, and was also nominated for Product of the Year.

Just got done looking at a preview of @gnomestew’s new book, Masks, filled with cool NPCs for any game or genre. Looks great!” — Game designer Monte Cook (via Twitter)

What I’m saying is that GMs out here need this book.” — Dave the Game, Critical Hits review

These guys are onto something… something huge!” — Game designer Sean Patrick Fannon (via G+)

Playing a character is like putting on a mask: Slip on a mask, and you become someone else.

This book presents 1,000 “masks” — non-player characters that are fun to play, and that your players will never forget. Featuring a foreword by gaming industry legend Wolfgang Baur, Masks is the ultimate NPC resource.

Think of your favorite character from a game, book, or movie. What makes them memorable? It’s not their Strength score, or how many hit points they have — it’s who they are as a person: what they look like, how they act, their personality, and what drives them.

Using a simple but powerful template that features Appearance, Roleplaying, Personality, Motivation, Background, and Traits, Masks provides the core elements of a thousand great characters. Masks NPCs are designed to be used on the fly, no prep required — but with enough depth to be used when planning adventures, as well.

Within this massive collection you’ll find the resources you need to portray vivid NPCs in your games:

  • Fantasy, science fiction, and modern NPCs: 333 of each (334 in fantasy), all easily adaptable to any genre and any RPG
  • Roles and traits: Every NPC has a role — villain, ally, or neutral — and is categorized by traits like famous, criminal, and warrior
  • Clear, useful game mastering advice: Masks covers re-skinning NPCs to fit other genres, making your portrayals memorable, and more
  • Handy tools: NPCs are indexed by trait, name, and author; an appendix lists groups like Tavern Patrons and Spaceport Denizens; and Masks provides over 1,900 names in an easy-to-use format
  • No game mechanics: These system-neutral NPCs can be used in any RPG

Want to see how all that NPC goodness looks in the actual book? Download a free 17-page excerpt from Masks that includes 18 ready-to-use NPCs (6 from each genre).

Masks is a standalone volume — you don’t have to own our first book, Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters, to enjoy it, although they go great together (and you can buy them together for 20% off in our store).

Masks is designed to be used both as a “table book” and as a “prep book.” At the table, it gives GMs a tool for portraying vivid, memorable NPCs on the fly — if your players show sudden interest in that bartender, you can flip to just about any page and find a suitable personality, backstory, and roleplaying cues to flesh out that NPC. During prep, Masks provides a solid foundation for everything from signature villains to steadfast allies, as well as “neutral” characters you can use as “everyone else” — or tip one way or the other and use as a villain or ally.

Reviews

Masks won the 2012 Gold ENnie Award for Best Aid/Accessory, and was also nominated for Product of the Year.

Masks is a Platinum bestseller on DriveThruRPG (top ~75 our of over 40,000 products), and within five days of its launch, it hit #1 on RPGNow, #2 on DriveThruRPG, and #1 Small Press on DTRPG. We’ve been equally blown away by the critical reception of Masks — check out these reviews:

  • Critical Hits review — “What I’m saying is that GMs out here need this book. You may be fine coming up with awesome NPCs on your own and don’t think you need something like this, and what I’m telling you is that this book is more than just a thousand characters, it’s a million stories.
  • Gamer: The Blogging review — “From the very start, the NPCs are interesting and thoughtfully designed, especially compared to what most GMs get when they truly have to make up an NPC on the fly. I found myself wanting to know more about these people–always a good sign.
  • EN World review — “I have to say that I am really impressed with Masks: 1000 Memorable NPCs for Any Role-Playing Game, and it is a tremendous supplement, one that any game master should consider adding to their library.
  • Obsidian Portal podcast review — “I could gush and gush about this, but this book is something that I would really highly recommend that GMs pick up and have in their repertoire.
  • Fantasy Hrvatska review (also available in Croatian) — “The authors of Masks definitely exceeded the expectations set by their previous offering, Eureka. The greatest strength of this book, however, is the simplicity of its use and effectiveness in the situation which is needed the most by any GM – when there’s no or little time for prep.
  • Newbie DM review — “At first glance, it seems simple, but as you read some of these NPC’s, you’ll find that there are hidden gems there to spark your imagination and create stories around these personalities.
  • Stargazer’s World review — “A lot of the NPCs can also be used as inspiration for a whole adventure. Especially some of the villains are extremely cool. I can’t wait to put some of those to good use. Masks is definitely a book that should not be missing from any GM’s bookshelf!
  • RPG Blog II review — “If Eureka was Engine Publishing’s rookie entry in the field of GM’s aid supplements, Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs is where they show what they’ve learned. It would be a disservice to simply call this a big book of Non-Player Characters. Masks is a system-neutral, well-organized treasury of memorable, easy-to-use NPCs that will add to any Game Master’s arsenal.
  • Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer review — “Overall, Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game is an impressive product that fills a particular, specific niche in a manner that is very difficult to top.
  • Pulp Gamer’s Out of Character podcast review — (starts at 21:30) “…it is really different from any other NPC collection I’ve seen, for the use of the way that they organized the book.
  • Diehard GameFAN review — “Without reservation, I can see any GM, no matter what their system of choice is, getting plenty of use out of Masks.
  • Ruthless Diastema podcast review — “So there is much, much, much in this book for the gamer and the teacher. Great resource.
  • Game Knight Reviews review — “But what really makes this book shine beyond the sheer number of NPCs is the collection of indices at the end. The Gnomes manage to slice and dice this content just about every way you can think of — it’s almost like a paper database…
  • Paging through the Core Rulebook review — “If you buy one gaming supplement this month, this year, make it this one. You may never read it cover to cover, but I guarantee that you will use it more than you think you will.
  • Halfway Station review — “The groups index is interesting, because I can select (for example) Elite Thieves or Assassination Team and find a group of half a dozen NPCs who collectively would form that group. This is a nice way of setting up (say) rival adventuring parties.
  • Roleplaying Tips review — “While the sheer number of NPCs may seem intimidating to new GMs, finding the perfect candidate for any session is as easy as it is enjoyable; making Masks a super addition to any GM’s toolkit.
  • Wired.com review — “Eureka is a great product and one which I would wholeheartedly recommend to people — there’s something in here for everyone, whether you’re struggling to create your first adventure, are suffering from a creative block, or just want to break out of a rut.
  • Hamishakia review in Hebrew (English auto-translation) — “‘Masks’ is longer and fancier than its predecessor, ‘Eureka’, and it maintains the latter’s high level of quality and usefulness. Much thought was put into Eureka’s design and even more was put into Masks’. As I wrote earlier, this is how a game book should look, especially in PDF, and this is how such information should be presented.
  • Veg-Geek review — “Masks is the go to book at my table. Every game I have GMed in my home game or at the local gaming convention, Con of the North has felt the influence of this book. Any system, any genre its the place to go for on the fly NPCs or a pivotal character in the plot I have found both. Even the format of the entries has become my default method for NPC write ups, Yup the book is just that good.
  • Nuketown review — “Like Eureka! a lot of the value in this book lies in inspiration. Sure, it’s great when you can pluck an NPC from its pages and use it as is, but it’s also excellent kindling for igniting your own creative fires.
  • The Iron Tavern review — “This is the only book I have used for each game session and taken with me to each session. The main rule book we use doesn’t even get used as much as this book.
  • DriveThruRPG reviews from customers and reviewers:
    • (five stars) “Each NPC is vivid and brimming with personality, and I’m getting plot ideas from each one I come across.” — Nearly enough Dice Podcast
    • (five stars) “I feel that this book will enhance your game and further, will guide you into designing and orating better NPCs of your own.” — Timothy Bane
    • (five stars) “Incredible.” — Tim Loud
    • (five stars) “Another excellent item for any GM (no matter what genre).” — David Tannen
    • (five stars) “…simply put, buy this book.” — Paulo Pustorino
    • (five stars) “Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game could be a candidate for one of the best GM tools ever, at least in my book.” — William Walton
    • (four stars) “A very helpful supplement in my opinion.” — NB N
    • (five stars) “The proof is in the pudding: Masks is a supplement that I’ll be keeping nearby and consulting frequently as I plan and run RPG adventures of all sorts.” — Christopher H.
    • (five stars) “This book was good. Thousands of NPC-ideas, funny and epic, good and evil, everything you need.” — Sebastian S.
    • (five stars) “My homebrew campaign is too different to use most published FRP resources, but I found many usable NPCs in this product.” — Dan H.
    • (five stars) “I’ve already used a couple of the NPCs with little or no adjustment and the players in my game absolutely loved the detail and interaction these new NPCs provided.” — David R.

We can’t think of a single RPG that wouldn’t benefit from Masks, and we intend this to be a book with a place on every GM’s shelf. If it sounds good to you, why not order a copy from our online store?

Podcasts

We love to talk about Masks!

  • The Jennisodes podcast (ep. 57) — Don Mappin and Martin Ralya talk with Jenn about Masks, Engine Publishing, and related topics.
  • Atomic Array (ep. 058) — Phil Vecchione and Martin Ralya chat with Ed and Rone about how Masks was designed, and they put us on the spot by asking us to generate plots around Masks NPCs on the fly.