By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Louis Porter Design is 21 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page combat & initiative tracker, 2 pages of mini-sheets for monsters and 1 page SRD, leaving 15 pages of content for the Kaga’s church, so let’s give them a closer look!
First of all, we have to take a look at what the Kaga is to get any confusion out of the way and subsequently get an aptly-written introduction to the organization – to make it short, the Kaga is one of the major players of the world of NeoExodus, one of its unique, distinguishing features. The Kaga is the reason why mankind and all other races could break from the chains of the vile entities/races called “First Ones”, sundering the first empires and jump-starting all of human evolution and cultural development. What is the Kaga, then? The Kaga is the collective minds and knowledge of the best and most wise of humankind, a kind of extranet of divine proportions that has accumulated even more knowledge in the decades since then by gaining the knowledge of its adherents. The Kaga is essentially an arcane collective intellect and accumulation of knowledge on par with most deities and subsequently also has its own church with its “clerics”. The Order of Kaga is the secret section and strong arm of the church and, while the recap sounds like an unproblematic/allied organization, there is plenty potential for conflict – turns out the Kaga is devoted to the progress of mankind and mankind alone, paving the way for any racial tensions/jingoistic storylines you might want to throw at your possibly multi-racial group.
What has a church going for itself, whose believers can commune directly with the font of knowledge and might even get some answers? When they know the correct syntax and ask the right questions, that is… Mechanically, there are some interesting bits here: We get a new archetype, the cleric of Kaga, which is essentially a cleric that counts as an arcane caster – thus they don’t qualify for divine caster prerequisites, but gain spells and domains normally and can select a familiar. I like the idea, but I’d like to know whether channel energy is impeded in any way. We also get 8 new feats, 2 story-feats focusing on order-memberships and some that help using items, as well as one to craft a new kind of item, the so-called grafts.
My favourite bits of crunch in this instalment, though, are definitely the 2 prestige classes: The Auger (5 levels, d6, bad BAB, 2+INT skills, moderate will-save, full spell-progression) is an awesome piece of writing – a class that focuses on knowledge. Yes, I can see you yawning and so was I – at first. After rereading it time and again, I can attest, though, that this class actually is one of the VERY rare takes on the smart guy that works IN COMBAT. Yes, the class may be a bit short on the skill-side, but the abilities of the class enable it to be a more than valuable assistant to his friends in combat – excellent! A smart supporter-class that actually works! The second PrC we get are the Harbingers (10 levels, bad BAB, d6, 4+INT skills, medium will save, full spell progression), a class focusing on a rather creepy apotheosis towards a construct-like executioner of the Kaga’s will, slowly losing his/her humanity over the course of its transformation, but gaining the ability to drain magic items for power and even additional item slots for the price of the same humanity, whose dominance as a species paradoxically the Kaga seeks to uphold, serving as a nice potential hook.
There are 2 new spells dealing with communion with the Kaga and a section detailing 8 new grafts, modifications, that while not taking up item-slots per se, prevent the slots from being used while active. They serve as nice tools for people who want investigator-style characters and had pleasant reminiscences of DeusEx I for me – with some minor work, they might also fit into a completely different setting, which is always nice. Furthermore, we get a new helmet (to commune with the Kaga outside their temples) and a new tome complete with lore section, as well as the so-called avatar of Kaga-creature, a minuscule construct avatar (potential familiar, btw.!) that serves as both a link and a potential means of surveillance.
After these crunchy parts, we get 3 short write-ups (sans stats) of NPCs, the relationship of the order with the major players of NeoExodus (both nations and organizations), ideas for campaigns, advice on using the order as either ally or enemy as well as some adventure seeds. This last section does not completely hold up to the very immersive and cool writing from the beginning of the book and the hooks didn’t impress me too much – I came up with some…better *muahaha* ideas.
This book, as all books from LPJr Design’s NeoExodus-line, is beautiful and adheres to the top-quality, full-colour layout and features some pieces of stunning and evocative pieces of artwork. Editing, while not perfect, is ok – I did notice some minor punctuation errors, but the overall quality has vastly improved. I really like the concept of the Kaga, as it makes the world feel more unique and hasn’t been done to death in similar settings and I really enjoyed both PrCs. HOWEVER, one word of warning – it’s impossible for me to determine the long-range balancing of the additional item-slots without some expansive play-testing, which I didn’t have the time to do. The Auger is awesome, though. I liked the feats and the new graft-items, as the serve to enhance the rather disturbing aspects of the order, but I wasn’t convinced by the new archetype, as it, at least in my opinion, does not offer enough information on the potential repercussions of substituting arcane for divine energies and all class abilities. What about oracles and the Kaga? They seemed practically predestined for the order and yet don’t get any specific treatment. Another minor gripe I have with the book is that e.g. in contrast to the Sanguine Covenant, we don’t get “holy” or important sample places or NPCs. My basic gripe, then, can be summed up as: I want more and I think this book would have benefited from being a bit longer and possibly more expensive. Thus, with my minor gripes and concerns, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 4 stars – a good buy and a cool organization, that, with a bit more room, could have been a 4.5 or even 5-star file.
Secret Societies of NeoExodus – Order of Kaga is available from: