This book’s subtitle doesn’t exaggerate. The volume really does contain 1,000 NPC write-ups across three common RPG genres: fantasy, sci-fi, and modern. Within each genre, NPCs are sorted into three categories: villains, neutral, and allies. Each NPC takes up about half a column (at two columns per page), and follows a consistent “stat block” that briefly describes the NPC’s appearance, behavioral tics (under the heading “roleplaying”), personality, and motivation, as well as tagging the NPC with a list of traits. Aside from finding it a little annoying that characteristic behaviors are labeled as “roleplaying”—as if a character’s appearance, personality, and motivation were not part of the “role” that the GM is “playing”—I like the stat format and find it very effective and easy to use.
In a supplement of this scope, the biggest hazard is undue repetition, and Masks occasionally does fall victim to that hazard. The “barely socialized geek with amazing computer skills” crops up in the modern genre rather too frequently, for example. The repetition that exists seems to result from multiple contributors offering similar NPCs, and I think the editorial staff would have done well to reject some of the doppelgängers and impose more variety at the editorial level. Other than this small complaint, I have nothing but praise for Masks.
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. Indeed, as I read through the first time, I marked several entries for inclusion in a shared-world supers campaign that my sons and I recently started. Although the NPC write-ups occupy the bulk of the volume, the book begins with a few pages of indispensable GM advice. The Gnome Stew gang has a well-deserved reputation for excellence, and Masks easily lives up to the standards set by Eureka (which you should also get if you run any RPG game at all).
[5 of 5 Stars!]