I recently got a hold of “Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom” by Nevermet Press. This third party publisher is dedicated to building a better gaming community and this is one of their first big forays into publishing adventures for 4e D&D.
I very much enjoyed the introduction section of the book. It reminded me somewhat of the pyramid scheme episode of the TV series Angel, where Harmony, the vamp valley girl betrays Angel and his gang to a bunch of biters being led by a Draculean motivational speaker. Though i will say, the introduction isn’t nearly as campy as that episode of Angel (or Angel at all).
The Red Harvest is a great story element. I think it really does what it should: scare people. I would be really scared, as a player, if I faced potential exposure to that disease. Near the middle, and even towards the end of the adventure, I began having flashbacks to my time playing Resident Evil, especially at the Manor. Very powerful imagery going on here.
All of the Items presented in this book really help to add to the theme presented. I particularly liked the idea of the Golden Oak Mask, which I could see as being very useful for some characters even outside of the Adventure. I think the Bone Embalming Dagger is dangerously close to being broken, but walks that line between awesome and too awesome very well.
As a whole, and in general, I would say that the Adventure is extremely well written and is very well planned. It flows very well as an adventure and combines several really interesting elements. I like that it contains multiple small side quests that could be truly entertaining to play out. The NPC’s are all very well constructed and I found their back-stores to be very well laid out. I really liked the final part of the adventure. It makes for a VERY interesting conclusion to the campaign, if the player’s actually let it happen (not going to give away any spoilers here…).
The bones I have to pick are mainly small and mechanical. Some of the monsters seem to be a bit too powerful, or have too many powers. I also wasn’t terribly fond of the Feats section. Some of the feats presented here I feel are a bit off. They seem more like disadvantages to me than feats really. When you consider that the primary means of attaining these feats is through the use of a ritual, they really aren’t like feats at all. The organization for which I would have liked to have had Feats, Soul’s End, was not very well represented in the Feats Section. The familiar feats I found to be interesting though. They sound like they would give some good flavor to a character.
Some of the DC’s seem to be a bit off in places. For example, the DC for knowing that Brother Ptolemy is dead is only a 10 – this is below even common knowledge for Heroic Tier players, but that is something that can easily be worked around. That being said, some of the monsters are simply brutal. Ptolemy himself seems like a very well built, monster (as in hard) NPC. I would love to throw a group of the Red Monks at my players and see how they stand up to that encounter.
In conclusion, I think Nevermet Press really came through on this one. This is a story heavy adventure which relies less on the big picture and more on small relationships and small scale goings on in a little corner of the world. It feels like it could fit easily into any campaign setting, which makes it a very strong BUY recommendation if you are building your own setting, like I am, and will need an adventure to keep your party entertained while you are busy world building. Although the book had a few typos and some of the mechanics weren’t perfect, I definitely would rate this as a first class adventure for 4e D&D which easily rivals any of the material put out by Wizards of the Coast; i definitely would rather have bought this than the 'Slaying Stone' which I picked up a few months back. I think this is really a sign that even under the GSL, 3rd Party Publishers can still successfully write and release good material for 4e D&D.
Not only is the adventure really good; the people that made it are pretty generous. This month, Nevermet Press is holding a contest for the release of "Brother Ptolemny & The Hidden Kingdom". You could win yourself a free ebook copy of the module just by taking a picture. Check out the full details of the contest at their website: http://nevermetpress.com/thk-out.