Look out, adventurers, they're here!
This handbook describes in detail over 20 humanoid races that can be run as player characters - from mischevious pixies to stubborn minotaurs, from the lizardlike saurial to the savage half-ogre - and many more in between. In addition to many new character types, this handbook contains new proficiencies, humanoid kits, unusual equipment, and a few new surprises that will open worlds of adventure within any ongoing campaign.
Move over, common adventurers, The Complete Book of Humanoids is here!
After the creative yet overpowered PHBR8: Complete Book of Elves, it's a shame that some gaming groups started to look askance at the Complete race books. They might have missed this one.
PHBR10: The Complete Book of Humanoids (1993), by Bill Slavicsek, is a solid, well-considered approach to playing monsters as PC races. It recognizes that humanoid player characters are more than just humans in a bullywug suit, and it provided a wide range of racial options for players to try. Whether an all-humanoid campaign or one that combined traditional races with the monstrous, this book paved the way toward expanding the traditional racial boundaries of AD&D, and it worked hard to do so in a manner that kept the game balanced.
Waiter, There's a Humanoid in My Soup. This supplement spread its net wide when giving rules for new races. Fully 30 races are detailed, including such classics as the aarakocra, bugbear, bullywug, centaur, gnoll, goblin, hobgoblin, kobold, lizard man, minotaur, ogre, ogre mage, orc (including the triumphant return of the half-orc to 2e), and the satyr. More esoteric races were also included, such as giant-kin, half-ogres, pixies, saurials of many types, swanmays, and wemics.
Each race's power might be constrained by special disadvantages, monstrous traits, XP penalties, level limits, ability score restrictions, and the roleplaying restriction of certain superstitions or core beliefs. Many gain special advantages as well, of course, the most powerful of which are phased ingradually at certain hit dice. It's somewhat more acceptable to have an ogre mage in your group when they require twice as much XP as anyone else to level and don't gain their cone of cold until 5th level (which would thus be 10th level for humans in the group.) This system isn't perfect; even at 1st level, a pixie is naturally invisible, can create illusions, cast a permanent confusion, and polymorph herself. That's the far end of the spectrum, thankfully, and the less magical races are fine mechanically.
Assembling Your Kit. Accompanying the racial information are 19 new kits for humanoids. There's no reason these can't be adapted for non-humanoid races as well, of course. The new kits are broken up between warrior, wizard, priest, and thief classes. They're generally balanced and useful, with a modicum of power inflation but a concerted effort to balance off mechanical advantages with mechanical disadvantages. The kits are fairly low-fantasy, with entries like pit fighter, outlaw mage, shaman, and scavenger. A few transcend this, such as a re-introduction of the instant-killing assassin class under the less alarming name "shadow."
Role-Playing Humanoids. I'm pleased to see that several chapters are given over to advice for role-playing humanoid characters and their superstitions. Is your character superstitious about noises, for instance? It's up to the player, but a bugbear with this superstition might have to blink three times and spin once counter-clockwise to ward off the evil effects of thunder every time she hears it... for after all, that's the sound the bugbear god of fear makes when passing from the Abyss to the Prime Material plane in search of a bugbear to carry off.
The inherent racism a humanoid character will face when trying to fit into a human world is explicitly detailed, along with the disadvantages of trying to find armor and magic items when you're 12 feet tall or have four legs. Let's face it, you won't be seeing many centaurs climbing ladders in a dungeon. New arms and armor are detailed, and some excellent charts summarize all the new races in one place for easy reference.
Overall, this is a tremendously useful book that leans more on rule crunch than on flavor text for introducing new humanoid races into AD&D. Slaviscek managed to fit an extraordinary amount of rules into a 128-page volume, and did so in such a way that players are given a wealth of new options.
About the Creators. Bill Slavicsek is the former Director of Roleplaying Design and Development at Wizards, and is currently a writer and content designer at Zenimax Online Studios.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.