Full Disclosure: I was supplied these supplements by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Let me start with saying I really enjoy Cawood Publishing’s supplements. I’ve found that the one’s I have seen could quickly become an essential part of a DM’s toolbox. Supplements like the Between Adventures Handbook (read my review here) and Hirelings and Henchmen (read the review) give a Dungeon Master a quick and easy reference for NPCs or Shops or downtime activities that they may not have prepared but need at a moments notice because, well, players like to destroy all your carefully laid plans.
Friends and Foes I & II are much in the same vein as Hirelings and Henchmen. It provides both friendly and antagonist NPCs for a DM to either plan to use or pull out when needed. Part I provides stat blocks for characters from levels 7-12 while part II is 13-20. Unlike Hirelings and Henchmen however there is a wider range of subclasses and races used in these two books. Being published on DM’s Guild and not DrivethruRPG allowed Andrew Cawood to use races and classes that are unique to D&D. I was happy to see this as it was one of my main critiques of Hirelings and Henchmen, though it was far from a major downfall.
The sections are divided by class with a NPC for each level and a variety of subclasses. It’s the same setup for the Foes section of the supplements. Of course if you’re planning ahead of time these can be used as templates and can be mix and matched to suit your needs. Or pull one out at the drop of a hat and use as is in game when the need arises. Personally I would see myself using them to fill out my NPC and villain needs.
One things I really like about these is they aren’t just statblocks, it also has their bios, characteristics, backgrounds and equipment. This takes a lot of the work out of creating your own and again can be mix and matched to suit your needs. There is some repetition in the bios between the two supplements but this is hardly a major flaw.
As I was reading through the two supplements I found myself looking at the backgrounds and thinking about how they would be incorporated into and adventure, particularly in the monsters section. It would be easy to use these, much like using the Monster Manual, to help with coming up with an adventure. Many of the backgrounds for the monsters would serve as great plot hooks. For instance Zaggish, the first monster of the Foes/Monsters section of Part I, lives in the sewers beneath a large city, he has minions, and he’s searching for a lost tome. This is enough detail to build an adventure off of and can be incorporated into a larger storyline. I love supplements like this that get me thinking of a story right away with just a few vague points. It gives a DM a jumping off point and that’s normally all I need to start coming up with a story. And of course the minions of this Beholder can be taken from the Foes section of the book or from Hirelings and Henchmen. So right there you have your big bad and lower level henchmen.
The monsters section doesn’t follow the same leveling idea as the rest of the book. They are generally higher CR creatures but this isn’t really a negative since there is enough to play with that they can be kept until the end when the party is strong enough to fight them.
If you’re looking for fluff and lore you won’t find it here. But that isn’t what these supplements are for. They are there to help you when you need a quick NPC or idea, and for this they work perfectly. Considering each of these PDF downloads is around $5 they hardly break the bank and are worth the cost. Each Friends and Foes volume clocks in at 200+ pages of character after character, if you can’t find what you need here or at least something to can modify for your purposes then may the gods help you. I’ve made these an essential part of my adventure building and DM toolkit. I can see myself, and any DM, using them when they need a bit of inspiration and that in itself is worth the cost.
Are there any supplements you enjoy that help you as a DM. Let me know in the comments.