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Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom (4E D&D Adventure)
 
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Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom (4E D&D Adventure)
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Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom (4E D&D Adventure)
Publisher: Nevermet Press
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/04/2014 16:16:37
Though I feel I’ve become a bit jaded over the years as I’ve seen story after story, plot after plot, character after character repeated over and over in popular fiction, television, movies, and game materials, it’s nice to occasionally find something that is refreshingly unique and thought provoking.

No, I’m not talking about AMC’s The Walking Dead (though I have been enjoying the first short season).

Instead, I’m talking about Brother Ptolemy and his quest to free the people of the world from “the pain and suffering of a living existence by ushering them into the freedom of sentient undeath.” Just ponder that statement for a minute. We’re not talking about mindless zombies or magical liches. We’re not talking about Frankenstein’s monster or vampires stalking their next meal. This is a man who has achieved a form of immortality at the ultimate cost of his sanity.

That’s the premise behind Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom from the creative minds of Nevermet Press. BP&THK is an adventure setting for 5th level characters using the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons from Wizards of the Coast. I would hesitate to say that the book was meant for players 16 and older and not for anyone under the age of 14. But as with all settings and game materials, your mileage may vary.

In the first chapter, you are introduced to Brother Ptolemy and his rise to power as the leader of The Hidden Kingdom – an organization bound and determined to ease suffering one city at a time. And Ptolemy, once the rich Duke Gerhardt von Brandt, holds power over all the members of his dominion. Gathering wealth and power, Ptolemy and his “red” monks (named so for their red robes) of The Hidden Kingdom are gaining sway over more and more cities. Though they may be responsible for many charitable works, their ultimate aims are like those of the Borg of title="Star Trek: The Next Generation" rel="imdb" href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092455/">Star Trek: The Next Generation and “Resistance is futile.”

Brother Ptolemy makes one heck of a scary villain in my book. Not only is he powerful, but he’s also anonymous – one Red Monk looks like every other Red Monk and nobody knows who or where he may actually be. Plus, how do you kill something that’s already dead? Add to that his high-ranking officials scattered throughout The Hidden Kingdom and you have a plague you must somehow stop at its source.

As a gamemaster (GM), there is more than enough in BP&THK to gradually introduce the monks and their nefarious ends to an existing campaign. Each chapter introduces tools and techniques for getting the player characters (PCs) involved and trying to get to the bottom of the mystery and misery as it unfolds.

“The Red Harvest” in chapter 2 starts things off with a disease. That leads to Corwyn in chapter 3 where the Red Monks where you get the sense that the gorgeous, crime-free city of Corwyn, is hiding a rotten core. And in chapter 4, you have a full blown adventure that pits the PCs against the hidden goals of the charitable and magnanimous Red Monks who may be holding a young woman against her will.

Now, I have to admit to not being familiar with any of the materials for 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons, but I have to say that this adventure is extremely well laid out with enough flexibility to allow the PCs a chance to get into and out of many scrapes, close calls, and mob scenes. Want combat? It’s in there. Want some great roleplaying opportunities? They’re in there too. It seems to have a great balance.

The remaining chapters flesh out items, feats, rituals, and adventure hooks. My favorite item is a very low-magic item – the Beggar’s Coin. This doesn’t grant the owner any huge magical benefit, but with today’s economy in our own world, I’m sure there are plenty of people who would want one. “When one of these coins is pressed tight into the palm of a hungry man, the hunger slips away; when these coins are dropped into the cup of a cold man, warmth slips over him.” Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

The backstory is what grabbed me – the concept of someone who through his own vanity finds a form of immortality and wants to share that with his fellow man. He thinks he’s doing the right thing. But the question remains – even though you’re giving up everything to live forever, is it really worth it? These “things” his disciples become are truly the walking dead and yet retain their mental faculties. So can you lose your life essence and still retain your humanity?

BP&THK presents a unique story in a way that should provide twists and turns to GMs and players alike. If you’re a GM looking for some inspiration, definitely check out Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom from Nevermet Press. Paul King, Jonathan Jacobs, Dennis “Wyatt Salazar” Santana, Sean Holland, Christian Martinez, Steven Schutt, Stephen Dewey, Matthew Cicci, Liz Courts, Rob Torno, Matt Lichtenwalner, Matt Meyer, and Kenya Ferrand put together a heck of a book!

(This review originally appeared here: http://blogcritics.org/rpg-book-review-brother-ptolemy-the/)

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom (4E D&D Adventure)
Publisher: Nevermet Press
by Patrick B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/23/2010 18:11:53
I was sent a copy of this product to review for Gnome Stew. You can read the full review here:

http://www.gnomestew.com/spotlight/spotlight-review-the--
hidden-kingdom

Overall I like this product. It is original, intriguing, and has a great deal of potential as an addition to any 4e campaign.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom (4E D&D Adventure)
Publisher: Nevermet Press
by Phil S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/22/2010 11:47:19
My overall impression is vaguely positive. If you are an avid consumer of all things related to D&D, then by all means, grab the book, you'll love it. If, like me, you're far more accustomed to traditional modules and adventures, grab it, skip to chapter 4, and start reading there. Ignore about half of the art; the thing is actually over-populated with pictures which actually detract from how I was imagining the setting as I read through. If you are extremely nitpicky about writing style, I might suggest you go read some classic literature and stay away from D&D in general.

Jenny Snyder
Level 30 Yinzer

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom (4E D&D Adventure)
Publisher: Nevermet Press
by Mark M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/21/2010 14:37:37
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 permenantly 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.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom (4E D&D Adventure)
Publisher: Nevermet Press
by Greg S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/15/2010 02:28:13
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.

-Shinobicow
thedumpstat.blogspot.com

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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