By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Necromancers of the Northwestis 51 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 47 pages of content.
So what exactly do we get here? We are introduced to the fabled island of Kawa’lea. On the mundane side, we start our exploration of the island with a discussion of the climate and the peculiarities of the monsoon weather there. The interesting component about Kawa’lea, though, is the non-mundane aspect of the island – due to the abundance of life-energy on the island, death is far from final on Kawa’lea – if you die, you make a will-save depending on your level. If you succeed, you are reincarnated and get mutations that might be benevolent or unpleasant. There are 3 basic categories of mutations, ranging from hump backs to backwards bent knees. You might even get tentacles, reflective spells etc. Polymorph also tends to result in mutations on Kawa’lea.
That’s not all, though: The very vegetation on the island of life is infused with magic and life and might reproduce a wide variety of magical effects. The waters of the island offer enough adventuring as well – underwater politics, a graveyard of ships wasted upon the dread reefs surrounding the island. There is a secret war being waged beneath the waves – the sea serpent wizard, the self-styled serpent king has problems with revolutionaries and the magical pearls make for powerful incentives to join either side.
The plains of Kawa’lea contain the only true speck of civilization left – after a settlement of people mysteriously disappeared and left their home Roanoke-style: Pennar, a wizard is studying the strange effects of the island and has a (very unreliable) teleportation circle. The herd of horses, unicorns and pegasi as well as awakened horses make for another rather interesting faction on the island.
The Western Forest of the Island has more in store for you – a village of awakened animals where rabbits live in harmony with carnivores. Hidden in this forest, we also find Nathrigaeus, the immortal tree that guards the orchard of enlightenment and seeks to expand his influence via his dryad slaves. The primitive gorilla-like humanoid uktans make for another potential threat in this part of the island. In the eastern forest, which is more swampy, the PCs can find an abandoned temple, which alongside the Uktan-base contains the puzzle-pieces for one of the island’s greatest mysteries. Oh, there also are demons here, mysterious standing stones….and the fountain of youth.
Finally, mount Kawa’lea features deadly foes, even more iconic locations and potentially even the secret behind the island’s mysterious properties, which I’ll exclude from this review.
A unique island like Kawa’lea also spawns unique critters – from arcanum birds with magical plumes to mutated island behemoths, deadly fish, crab jellies etc., the critters uniformly come with unique signature abilities. Have I mentioned Forgebelly Fishes and Megastirges?
The product also comes with a 15-page player’s guide, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 11 pages of content. The player’s guide comes with a wide array of rumors to lead the PCs there. There’s also the Devotee of the Sacred Isle-10-lvl PrC that comes with d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB and medium fort-saves. The PrC focuses on rejuvenations, special mutations like gaze attacks etc. and, of course, the power to transcend death even easier.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column standard and artwork is stock, which, while not great, makes for the only gripe I have with this pdf. Both the regular guide and the player’s guide come with printer-friendly b/w-versions and are bookmarked. The island is iconic in mechanics, ideas and content, there is a lot of content for the moderate asking price and in the end, just have to applaud the creative guys over at Necromancers of the Northwest. The exploration is by far the best pdf they released since Advanced Arcana. Fluff, writing, crunch – everything is stellar. my only gripe is that I would have enjoyed stats for the NPCs, but i guess that’s ok – we already get more than 60 pages of content. Seeing that I don’t have any true gripes apart from minor nitpicks, my final verdict will be a hearty recommendation alongside 5 stars and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval.
Intrepid Expeditions: The Island of Life is available from: