Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Product Review: Kobold Press' Demon Cults #1: The Emerald Order

Full disclosure: Even though I love it, I find the large Midgard Campaign Setting difficult to navigate.  I know the point of creating a large 3PP campaign setting is to have all the fun with all of your fun subsystems, but it can be a little difficult for me to keep track.  That said, it didn't stop me from contributing to the Southland's Kickstarter.

And that’s one of the reasons that I really like the way Kobold Press has developed Jeff Lee’s Demon Cults #1: The Emerald Order.  It’s got 14 pages (9.5 of actual content when you take out the front and back cover, TOC, a full-page art piece (good art though!), and ¾ page of OGL).  Of that 9.5 pages, .5 is dedicated to anchoring the Emerald Order in Midgard.  The other 9 pages are chock full of great ways to take this evil order and incorporate it into any campaign setting.

The Emerald Order begins with a three-page spread that covers the organization’s goals.  We know that they derive a lot of power from an Emerald Tablet and that they like to work behind the scenes.  Jeff Lee has done a good job of being vague enough to make the organization slottable into any campaign while providing concrete examples of how the Order works to achieve its goals.  We also get stats on the organization’s leader and a full-color, full-page piece of art illustrating him.  Finally, we learn how members of the organization interact with each other and with outsiders. 

I love the next two pages.  The kids at Kobold have created sections for APLs 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12 and provided us with three plot hooks for each category that show how an adventuring party might cross paths with the Emerald Order.  These reinforce that the Emerald Order is a secret society and some of them sent some shivers up my spine just reading them.

We’ve then got two pages describing the Disciple of the Emerald Esoterica prestige class.  It’s a bit overpowered compared to normal prestige classes, but I’m willing to ignore it for a couple of reasons.  First of all, it’s a 3PP prestige class, and I feel like they are normally stronger, more in line with 3.5 prestige classes rather than with Paizo-produced Pathfinder prestige classes.  Secondly, it’s highly unlikely a PC is ever going to use this prestige class—it’s really just for villains.  Next we have the Emerald Tablet itself, along with examples of what happens when people experiment with shards of it and the emerald deposit from whence it came.  These include new emerald shard ioun stones and smaragdine golem.

Overall, I really liked this product.  I especially liked the organization.  I have a pet peeve for organization.  It can be maddening to have a plot detail hidden away in a specialized monster’s bestiary entry, for instance.  The Emerald Order admirably avoids this.  Overall, I’m very pleased with this and look forward to the rest of the Kobold material in development to support their Southlands expansion.