A look and review of the Adversaries & Allies package of NPCs for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition.
- Nice assortment of pre-created stats for Dungeon Masters to use for characters
- Consistent since it sticks quite close player creation rules
- 38 pages long
- Free (well, pay what you want)!
- Challenge ratings are often a bit off in my opinion
- Nothing exotic is included since it only contains player like characters
I'm always on the lookout for things that make my job as the Dungeon master easier. As such, if I'm quickly drawn to new monsters I can unleash on my players as well as new characters. Adversaries & Allies caught my eye for that reason. It was also free (well, pay what you want), which meant I couldn't resist grabbing it.
It's a really nice collection in general. It's 38 pages of stat block after stat block. It's free (well, pay what you want) so I wasn't expecting any art, and that's just what I got. Although a Dungeon Master could make many of these stat blocks themselves by consulting the rules and making appropriately leveled characters (same rules players use to make theirs), having them already done is a nice time save. I find that many of the characters in a campaign tend to be more normal anyway and more like the players than an ancient evil lich. This makes the adversaries and allies provided quite useful. The author of this collection doesn't always adhere strictly to the player rules, adding further variety than if you just strictly used them. You still can do so but mixing the two together could make things more interesting as well as giving the Dungeon Master options. For me, it's also nice since some of the ones I created are a couple of levels off in either direction. Already made stat blocks like this also serve as an easy way to create more variations by trimming back levels (apply creation rules in reverse) and spell lists (spell list construction often takes me longer than any other part). The stat blocks also cover a nice variety of roles.
There are also some stat blocks, like the expert, that are made without using the player creation rules. Though these are probably the minority, they are extremely useful and far less likely to be come up independently. I personally like seeing these kinds of creatures and characters that Dungeon Masters come up with. They are also a great to use as is, as inspiration, or just to see how another Dungeon Master's mind ticks.
The main issue I have with this collection is the challenge ratings. As an example, let's look at the cleric. It's a challenge rating 2 while being a level 8 spellcaster, while the priest in the basic rules (also all other rules) is a level 5 spellcaster while also being a challenge rating 2. This also means that the experience for the combat encounter is not what it should be. Some of them I think are perfectly reasonable. Others, I think are might be slightly off but not by much (or might be made more powerful with a slight tweak to their spell list). In general I think they are solid. I also don't think challenge rating is a great representation of challenge, but it represents a starting point and translates to the amount of experience given. Experience is often also used to construct encounter according to the tables in the rules. If you are a new Dungeon Master, be aware that some of the stat blocks may not have the right amount of experience. Be ready to change the challenge rating and award experience accordingly. It's these kinds of things that tables like in Unearthed Arcana could help prevent. Since they are based around normal characters, some people may also find them a bit boring (in this case you can add a twist) and lacking in the exotic.
Note to New Dungeon Masters: Remember that like any other stat block, you are free to modify and not use them however you see fit. If you want to use the noble stats instead of ruler (provided in these rules) for a king, go ahead and do so. Not every ruler needs to be as tough as the stats provided here. Not all rulers need to be as weak as the noble. Some might be better with some form of mage stats.
I'd say grab the free PDF and use it as a resource (if you like it, throw some money at the author). It's really a nice collection that can easily be consulted along with the current Monster Manual. Just be aware that some of the challenge ratings are a bit off so be careful and adjust as you see fit. It's not consistent throughout so it needs to be looked at on a case by case basis (we might disagree on what a good challenge rating is anyway and challenge ratings are often not useful anyway).