RPG Review: Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom

I recently was in contact with Dr. Jonathan Jacobs of Nevermet Press, and received a review copy of Nevermet’s latest endeavor, Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom.
The book is a 4e “Adventure Setting”, which means that while it does have an adventure, that’s only a small part of this book in comparison. It’s a really cool concept, so let’s see how it works!

Chapter one opens with a history of who Brother Ptolemy and the Hidden Kingdom are, a group of monks who have found the secret to undeath. The chapter gives information on the group’s goals and organization. The group often recruits the homeless and forgotten, considering no one will miss them once they’re gone. They also hide their undead faces behind masks as part of their garb.

The chapter includes stat blocks for Ptolemy and his monks. What impressed me most was that there are seven different stat blocks for the monks, not including Ptolemy. And they’re different, unique monsters, of mid-heroic tier. It would be pretty easy to begin slipping this group into your campaign from the beginning, reaching a boiling point around level six in your campaign.

Chapter two introduces a new disease, the Red Harvest, a fairly brutal 9th Level disease which has the opportunity to permanently change a character into a “plague stalker”, driven mad with the desire for blood.

The disease even effects plants, turning all into a deep rust color. Soon the land looks bathed in blood, not the type of place you want to visit on vacation.

The plague stalker template itself can be truly terrifying, as entire villages will be overrun with the disease and turn into a zombie-like horde. Not only are the villagers themselves overtaken, but animals as well. There are some really terrifying ideas presented, which could end up becoming quite a plague (no pun intended) on your players.

Chapter three presents the City-State of Corwyn, a sprawling city on the banks of a river, which could really be placed in any fantasy world. The chapter talks about the Red Monks of the Hidden Kingdom rescuing the city from almost certain doom when the Red Harvest overtook the lands many years ago, putting the city in the monk’s debt. The monks now walk freely in the streets, and the townspeople are blissfully unaware of the sinister secrets behind the brotherhood of monks.

Chapter four is the adventure proper, with the heroes finding themselves at odds with the Hidden Kingdom. It’s designed for 5th level heroes, and deals with the resurgence of the Red Harvest. There are quite a few NPCs introduced throughout, and a lot of opportunity for roleplaying. There’s a really large chunk of the section designed purely for information gathering and roleplaying, which I like a lot. Eventually, however, the Red Harvest comes calling, and the plagued walk the streets, giving the players a run for their money, until they must go to the Von Brandt manor to face the leaders of the Hidden Kingdom in their base of operations. The game doesn’t end there, but in the eventual trial of the monks, which is pretty cool to read about. I’ve wanted to run a trial in a game for a long time now, and this shows me how to do it.

Chapter five has magical items, including my favorite, the Beggar’s Coin, which takes the hunger out of a hungry man by simply pressing it into their hand, but only if you have less than 5gp on you.

Finally, Chapter six presents new feats and rituals for the members of the Hidden Kingdom to perform, which are good, solid new rules.

The Appendix in the back has some great adventuring hooks for getting your players involved in the intrigue behind it all as well.

In all, at 110 pages, this is a fantastic book for anyone looking for some awesome and creepy new adversaries in their 4e D&D game. Definitely check it out.

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