Brother Ptolemy and the Hidden Kingdom is a massive undertaking by Nevermet Press of 112 pages (including the front and back cover, title page, SRD and company introduction). Even with a single blank page at the end this leave a meaty 106 pages of awe-inspiring, titillating terror for any DM to gnaw upon. It is compatible with the fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons setting – but I believe could be inserted easily into other editions as well.
The product is labelled an Adventure Setting – I disagree with this term and would call the product a super module reminiscent of the bygone days of the Ravenloft Campaign Setting. The clarity of background information draws the DM into the story and entices him/her to interweave their campaign into the action presented in this product.
The storytellers from Nevermet Press begin by detailing the life and curse of the master villain. They accomplish this by skilfully pulling the DM into the world and creating empathy and understanding. By the time the DM has completed the background material and setup, they have a true grasp as to what drives “Brother Ptolemy” and what his goals are for the world. (5 pages)
Following the life and curse of Brother Ptolemy is the growth of the Hidden Kingdom. This section details the structure of the Hidden Kingdom and the part each member must play. This is the meat of the product and includes all necessary stat blocks and rules. (10 pages)
The following pages detail what is termed the Red Harvest; a debilitating and deadly disease created by Brother Ptolemy. This is what gives the villain and his followers a way into the communities they strike. (8 pages)
The next step is to introduce a location ripe for the plucking by Brother Ptolemy and one that is of interest to a group of players. Whether a DM chooses to implant this festering menace in their own campaign, or use the ready-made location of Corwyn (5 pages), many nights of thrill packed adventure wait to pounce on unsuspecting players.
The bards of Nevermet Press have a selection of introductory means to draw the unsuspecting into the grasp of the Hidden Kingdom. This is one of the very few negatives I must mention as these adventure hooks are the typical clichéd net for the players – you know one of the affected people; your church is sending you; you receive a package; et al. But even these old standbys are not enough to prevent huge thumbs up on this product.
The writing is effective, intriguing and clean. The editing in the material is superior and I noticed only a couple of minor errors of notation in the product where the stat blocks were actually on the page after the one noted.
This product is for lovers of mystery, puzzles and true role-playing. There is plenty of adventure and action but it is well-balanced. The villains and encounters are well-thought out and the enemies being thrown at the PCs have reasons to be where they are and have plans of their own.
The maps and artwork are in black and white, but there are full color versions on the web at Nevermet Press’ website. The ones included are not burdensome for typical printers. The product is a bit of a beast if the intention is to print it out. Portions may be selected such as the stat blocks – otherwise a DM should probably have a portable reader available for the actual adventure at a hefty 63 pages plus another 14 for feats, rituals and items specific to the campaign.
Some experience is required to pull off the true panache intended for this superb product. Intermediate and advanced players will revel in the quality of work produced by Nevermet Press. Novice players and DMs may be overwhelmed by the intensity of story. I devote a hearty 4.5 stars out of 5 for this masterful product. It was a true joy to read and I have many simmering plans in the back of my brain to lay low on my own unsuspecting players because of this experience. I can feel the wayward mists clinging to the heels of the storytellers at Nevermet Press. Well-Done!
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