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Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom (4E D&D Adventure)
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)
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Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 2
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/04/2014 16:12:01
When I reviewed Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Volume 1 back in October 2009, I felt it was a monumental and worthwhile compilation of game material from around the blogosphere. Jonathan Jacobs somehow managed to do everything from curating the articles to having the book printed and available. The result was a book that managed to provide players and gamemasters, both new and old, more inspiration than you could shake a stick at.

With Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Volume 2 (OGTv2), Jacobs managed to get much more help with nearly every part of the process – from nominating material to editing, art, and so on. He even managed to get sponsors to help foot the bill to pay for part of the publishing effort so it wasn’t all out of his wallet.

To avoid any misconceptions, I helped with a couple of parts of the process of OGTv2. I worked as a peer reviewer and contributed some funds to help get the book printed. But even with my help and the help of many other folks, I suspect Jonathan put in the lion’s share of the work on this book.

That said, this book is simply astounding from the description of the daily gaming convention on the web in the foreward from RPG industry veteran Justin Achili to Trent Colwell’s hilarious article – “The Tale of Jacques: A Study in Ignominious RPG Death” – in which poor Jack’s character drowns in spectacular fashion teaching everyone to make sure the rope is tied off before you jump into a torrential river of death… I think there’s something for everyone stuffed into this 158 page volume.

Just to provide some context, I’ll provide a bit of information about a few articles…

Jeremy Jones’ article “The More Fantastical It Can Be: Map Talk with Jonathan Roberts” (http://www.koboldquarterly.com) provides a bit of background on how Roberts’ cartography skills developed to make him one of the more sought-after map artists in the industry. He started out developing maps for virtual tabletop (VTT) programs like Maptool and eventually shifted to using Gimp, a free image editor that provides a ton of functionality for free (unlike Photoshop). By using a graphics tablet, he captures the freeform approach of hand-drawn maps and expands on them digitally. The work I’ve seen of his in Kobold Quarterly is just stunning, managing to not only provide a functional resource but one with a character of its own. Great interviews like this provide insights budding cartographers can use to enhance their own game maps.

The entire section on “New Players, New Games” provides many great articles for inspiration on how to bring new people into the hobby we all know and love already. The article “A System for Playing D&D With My Kid” from Enrique Bertran (http://newbiedm.com) describes a new, simple rules system for the preschool and elementary school players that may be lurking at your house. I’ve often toyed with the idea of getting my 5 and 9 year old girls involved, because they love to use their imaginations already. RPGKids fits that niche perfectly and is something I hope to explore soon. Teaching tactics, using basic math skills, and using their brains should be great practice for the real world – let alone future sessions of D&D!

And “Campaign Success & Failure” also had some great food for thought, including an article that really got my brain going a bit… “The Short Campaign Manifesto” by Yacine Merzouk (http://www.dungeonmastering.com) provides a list of 15 demands for a simple set of rules for a short (2-3 hour) campaign in a session. I have a bit of experience with fighting scheduling issues for groups as of late, so the idea of a shorter story that gets wrapped up in one sitting has some serious appeal. As Merzouk says, “How often can we realistically tell an epic tale? Not often.” I know when I was a GM, I felt compelled to create bigger, better, more epic adventures for my groups. Maybe now I need to rethink that and go back to the drawing board.

And that’s just the first third of the book. That doesn’t even get you to the “Campaign Design Choices,” “Of Sandboxes & Railroads,” or “The RPG Toolbox” sections which come later…

Once again, Jacobs has helmed an excellent resource for gamers of all levels and types. If all of the projects from his Nevermeet Press do as well as the Open Game Table series, he’s got many years of success ahead of him.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Volume 2 as a PDF or hardcopy today!

(This review first appeared here: http://blogcritics.org/rpg-book-review-open-game-table/)

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 2
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Nmpsa Rt003
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/11/2012 23:54:30
This piece would have been my first stock art from Nevermet Press, and I have to say I was highly impressed with the quality of the illustration. Yet another piece perfect for small publishers looking for good affordable artwork.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nmpsa Rt003
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Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 2
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/10/2012 13:51:02
Much like the first volume, this anthology contains some great articles covering a variety of RPGs (though D&D tends to receive the lion's share). While not every article is going to appeal to every reader, the overall contents and sheer variety of topics makes this worth the price for the PDF.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 2
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Stories in the Ether, Issue 1 (ePUB)
by Ray M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/16/2011 16:34:37
A nice mix of stories, but the quality was inconsistent. A couple of 4 star stories, a few 2 star stories and the rest somewhere in between.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Stories in the Ether, Issue 1 (ePUB)
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Stories in the Ether, Issue 1 (PDF)
by Mat N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/15/2011 23:36:58
"Stories in the Ether" is a compilation of short stories from Nevermet Press. While I'm not a huge fan of un-themed anthologies, I found a lot to enjoy in the mix of sci-fi, fantasy, horror and steampunk tales "Stories in the Ether" presented. The book does have some of the editing/proofreading problems you find in a lot of indy published books, but they don't take away from the enjoyment of the better stories in the bunch. It's a great introduction to a bunch of new/unknown authors with some fun stories to tell.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stories in the Ether, Issue 1 (PDF)
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NMPSA PH001 Aelfie of Glen Coe
by David B. S. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/02/2011 12:39:06
A fun piece, with rich, deep colors. Great for a clockworks or victorian-flavored setting.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
NMPSA PH001 Aelfie of Glen Coe
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NMPSA RT015 Steampunk Chinatown
by Liz S. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/24/2011 10:53:04
An excellent piece of artwork. The focus is in the right place with the guy on the foreground and has plenty of obvious steampunk theme to it without being massively intrusive. The colours are great and definitely gives the feeling of chinatown!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
NMPSA RT015 Steampunk Chinatown
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Nmpsa Mm007 Village
by Dale M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/28/2011 10:36:09
I've bought NMP stockart before and have been happy with them. So this one was an easy purchase. What I downloaded was a 400 x 208 pixel image. I contacted NMP and very quickly they replied back with a copy of the correct image and license. If I could give NMP a 5 stars for the image quality and another 5 stars for their customer service I would do so.

The image is excellent and the license is very publisher friendly. Recommended.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nmpsa Mm007 Village
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Open Game Table - Volumes 1 & 2 [BUNDLE]
by William W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/30/2011 13:20:09
Open Game Table Volume 1: A a collection of blog posts from various roleplaying blogs that belong to the RPG Bloggers Network. Compiled, they create an impressive tome on roleplaying advice and theory, with sections on Play Style, Game Play, Characters & Players, Monsters & NPCs, Encounters Settings & Location, Adventure Design, Campaign Setting Design, Classes Action & Equipment, RPG History & Commentary, and the RPG Tool Box.

A lot of of the material is geared for fantasy campaigns, and much of that is for D&D 4e specifically (an article on monks in D&D 4e, for example. takes up 16 of the 130 pages). But many ol the articles are useful for players and GMs of any RPG, such as Andrew Reyes' "Adventure Funnel" and MJ Harnish's "The Principles of Scene Framing" (two of my personal favorites).

This book contains some profanity, so parental discretion is advised.

Open Game Table Volume 2: The OGT returns for a second volume of blog posts from members of the RPG Bloggers Network. This volume contains sections on Gaming Roots & Reflections, New Players New Games, Campaign Success & Failure, Lies Tricks & More Damned Lies, Campaign Design Choices, Of Sandboxes & Railroads, Play Style, Character Style, On 4E D&D, On Old School RPGs, Make it a Challenge, The RPG Toolbox, and Laughing Hyenas (a humor section)

While I personally have nothing against the many editions of D&D (and have played most of them myself over the years), I'm glad to see this volume contain a larger portion of general gaming subjects than the previous volume did. There is a lot of useful material for players and GMs of any RPGs in this book, along with a good portion of D&D-specific material.

This volume contains interviews with Dave Arneson and Robin Laws, a discussion on maps with RPG cartographer Johnathan Roberts, and articles on introductory games for new roleplayers, roleplaying games as a teaching tool, "diluting" the story, learning from mistakes, character creation tips and tricks, uncommon character concepts, creating interesting villians, to name just a few.

I enjoyed the first volume, but I feel that this volume is a great improvement over it. The material is valuable, great fun to read, and accessible to everyone.

This book contains some profanity and adult themes, so parental discretion is advised.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Open Game Table - Volumes 1 & 2 [BUNDLE]
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Nmpsa Rt010
by Dale M. Date Added: 01/26/2011 19:56:01
The licensing language has now been clarified. Again, thank you, Johnathan.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Nmpsa Rt010
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Nmpsa Rt007
by Dale M. Date Added: 01/26/2011 19:53:54
The licensing language has now been clarified. Thank you , Johnathan.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Nmpsa Rt007
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Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 2
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/24/2011 19:49:04
Much like the first volume in the anthology, there are tons of articles on tons of topics. There are character options, DMing tips, tips on player styles, and things to spice up your game. Again, $5 isn't much money for ton of advice on gaming. I like the short articles that are quick reads and interesting.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Open Game Table: The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 2
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Open Game Table - The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 1
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/24/2011 19:40:37
Short and sweet on this one. There are 160 pages of short articles featuring tips on running games, being a player, character options, and anything else dealing with RPG advice. The articles are well written and feature some useful advice. It's a hodge podge of topics, so you can surely find something useful in here. It's only $5. Why not take a chance?

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Open Game Table - The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 1
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Brother Ptolemy & The Hidden Kingdom (4E D&D Adventure)
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)
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