This will be our final preview of Gnome Stew’s upcoming second book, Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCS for Any Roleplaying Game. If you haven’t checked out the other previews yet, fear not: this one collects all of them, as well as providing new material.

If you’ve been curious about Masks — and I hope you are! — this article also includes vital stats (page count, etc.), a status update, and a discussion of the artwork in the book.

The new material in this fourth preview is from the GMing advice chapter (which offers up a wealth of tips and tricks for running great NPCs, re-skinning your NPCs to suit other genres, and creating your own awesome characters) and the indexes. It also showcases the artwork of our fourth interior artist, Andrew McIntosh, who most notably produced the splash page illustrations that introduce each chapter. (Fans of our first book, Eureka, will remember Andrew as the cover artist for that book.)

This is a meaty preview — we want you to have a really good sense for whether or not Masks is for you before you preorder.

On Artwork

I’d like to take a few moments to talk about artwork in Masks. Our art director, John Arcadian, did a fantastic job on this book, as did our interior artists, Avery Liell-Kok, Andrew McIntosh, Matt Morrow, and Christopher Reach; our border artist, Peter Szmer; and our graphic designer and layout ninja, Darren Hardy.

When it comes to artwork, taste is subjective; I think the artwork in Masks rocks, or I wouldn’t have bought it and put it in the book. I hope you love it as much as I do.

What’s not subjective, though, is quantity. When we produced Eureka, we couldn’t afford a lot of artwork — 41 pieces (plus the cover, borders, and small graphical elements) in a 312-page book. Thanks to you, Eureka sold well enough that we could take a bigger financial gamble this time around, and one area we focused on was artwork.

Masks is 336 pages, and features 81 pieces of interior art (plus the cover and border) — nearly double the amount of artwork in Eureka. Flip open a gaming book by a major publisher, and you’re likely to find a piece of artwork every four pages. Despite not being a major publisher, Engine Publishing and the fantastic team that worked on Masks have pulled that off in Masks — that blows me away, and even though I’ve spent hours staring at the PDF, I still haven’t gotten used to it.

From a GMing standpoint, you’ll also be able to get immediate use out of the majority of the artwork in Masks: 71 of those 81 pieces are portraits of characters from the book.

Vital Statistics

Here are the “stats” for Masks, some new and some collected from past updates:

  • Masks is a 336-page, 8.5″x11″ hardcover with a full-color cover and a B&W interior — this is a monster tome!
  • When you preorder the print edition, you get the PDF immediately — for free; this will be true when the book is widely available, as well. And that PDF is DRM-free and extensively bookmarked.
  • Inside, you’ll find 1,000 NPCs: 334 fantasy, 333 sci-fi, and 333 modern, all easily adaptible to any genre and any RPG. They’re further broken down into roles villains (25%), neutrals (50%), and allies (25%) — and categorized by traits like “famous,” “criminal,” and “warrior.”
  • Also included are a GMing chapter packed with useful advice, three indexes (NPCs by trait, name, and author), an appendix of NPC groups (like Tavern Patrons and Spaceport Denizens), a foreword by Wolfgang Baur, and a “name ribbon” that runs through the entire book, giving you easy access to over 1,900 given names and surnames

Status Update

Holy shit, Masks is at the printer!

It takes a little while for them to set up the book, after which they overnight me a proof copy. If the proof looks good, I can order our first print run; if not, we’ll have a bit of tweaking to do. I expect it to look good.

I’m currenty working on lining up reviews for launch day, something we also did for Eureka. I believe in the quality of this book, as does the whole creative team behind it, and we want to put our money where our collective mouth is.

Right now, it’s looking like preorders will open up in early July. There will be a big announcement here, of course — I can’t wait to share this book with you!

In the meantime, enjoy our free 17-page preview — and if you have any questions about Masks, fire away!