The Law of the Ape is the Law of the Jungle!
The son of a declining noble house, Josef Kortz sought his fortune in the Southlands and stumbled on an ancient vault of lore deep within a ruined city guarded by fierce white apes. Now, a decade after entering the dark heart of the southern continent, Kortz and his army of apes and magic-devouring undead have conquered the nearby tribes—and the brooding aristocrat turns his eyes to the countries of the north…
Demon Cults: Servants of the White Ape includes:
- NPC stats for Josef Kortz (CR 15), his great white ape eidolon, and an awakened dire ape warrior (CR 5)
- Plots and adventure hooks for party levels 1 to 12
- New Spellscourged Creature template and a spellscourged couatl (CR 10)
- New magic items: The father’s staff and white ape hide
Using the Servants of the White Ape in the Midgard Campaign Setting
Can your PCs survive a journey into madness and horror, and put an end to Kortz’s schemes? Show your players a new challenge with Demon Cults: Servants of the White Ape today!
Megan Robertson –
With a gloriously scary cover illustration this, the fifth installment of the Demon Cults series tells of a cult that has its origins deep in the jungles of the south. Whilst you can locate it in any suitable jungle in your campaign world, it is ideal for Kobold Press’s Southlands, part of their Midgard setting, and appears – much more than the other Demon Cults – to have been written specifically for it.
The first section (titled Leaders, Organisation and Goals) tells a compelling tale of a lordling in pusuit of profit who encountered savage white apes deep in the jungle and in his attempst to survive he discovered hidden lore that enabled him to eventually become a powerful summoner and almost a god to the apes. His eidolon, a giant white ape, is exceedingly savage and together they have conquered not only the apes but several surrounding tribes. Now they are spreading further afield…
Detailed stat blocks for both lordling and eidolon are given, followed by a collection of adventure ideas organised by APL. Hidden away in the eidolon’s stat block – and shared, it appears, by all the white apes – is a nasty disease called spellscourge. Mentioned in the opening story (in passing but unexplained there), this affects the victim’s Int or Wis scores, thus diminishing whatever spellcasting abilities they might have had. Scary stuff in a fantasy world. Many of the adventure ideas that follow involve the spellscourge, either seeking its origins or trying to combat its effects, many of the rest are explorations that will bring the party into contact with the white apes even if they don’t come looking for them in the first place.
The New Material section goes into greater detail about spellscourge. Apparently those who die of it have a chance of returning from the grave as crazed undead driven to spread the disease even further. This is modelled by an acquired template of ‘Spellscourged creature’ that can be applied, the more powerful the spellcaster was in life, the more terrible he is as an undead creature. As an example, a spellscoured coatl (who pops up in one of the adventure ideas) is provided. Finally, there’s a couple of magic items. The Father’s Staff is a relic from the ancient city that’s the origin of the white apes, property of a mighty sorceror, and you can cast a selection of spells from it. The other one is a white ape hide made into armour (+2 hide) which also confers additional ape-like properties on its wearer.
This is a mixed delight. The spellscourge concept is truly scary for any fantasy world, and the idea of a horde of white apes living around a ruined city deep in the jungle is one that has been around for a long time. The various exploratory adventure ideas, in particular, pick up on that well. However the so-called cult itself has prefunctory treatment, with the lordling leading it seemingly both fairly insane and desirous of power… but with no clear idea of what he wants it for or is going to do with it. Plotwise, the idea of an exploration of a jungle region that discovers giant white apes and a terrible disease has merit… provided that you have worked out how the disease can be defeated before your campaign world is denuded of magic-using characters!
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This installment of Kobold Press’ Demon Cults-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
The fifth Demon Cult introduced by Kobold Press’ series details what could be considered the most pulpy tale in the series yet – when a disenfranchised aristocrat had to escape into the jungles and stumbled upon a hidden, ruined city, Josef Kortz would have not dreamed that the carnivorous white apes haunting the ruins would one day bow to him – and bow they do, for he is the summoner that commands the Great White Ape, his eidolon being akin to their tribal deity. Over years of study and careful planning, the mad master, now known as the New Father, has commanded the white apes in combat, subjugating all that dare oppose him and his simian slaves. Kortz and his powerful eidolon receive statblocks and so do his simian warriors, but that’s not all – the awakened apes spread a dread condition, the spellscourge, which not only renders those infected into primal, degenerate and evil undead savages, but also allows them to devour magic. Yes, this pretty much could have been drawn from the pen of Rider Haggard or similar authors and yes, we get a sample couatl.
Now on the anal-retentive/nitpicky side, the template does sport a minor terminology hiccup, but none that would impede functionality. As always in the series, we do receive copious hooks to organize, potentially, a whole campaign with multiple choices for each general array of APL-groups and, as has become the tradition, the quality of these hooks is superb and diverse, providing narrative potential galore. Midgard-specific sideboxes help fans of the setting use the cult. The two new magic items, the unique staff of the father (okay, could have used some unique abilities…) as well as hides made from the white gorillas both are cool and diverse… the latter also allowing for the spreading of the dread disease.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a modification of Kobold Press’ beautiful 2-column full-color standard, with the borders evoking the theme of the gorgeous front cover..of installment #4, which feels like an odd oversight. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
All right, I’ll come right out and say it – I’m biased regarding this pdf. My childhood heroes were Conan and Solomon Kane; where other kids liked He-man, I was a fan of the tales of sunken Lemuria and Red Sonja remains one of my favorite heroines. I adore the pulpy feeling this evokes, the sense of ancient gravitas this evokes, the theme of disease and degeneration spread by the isolated apes – all of that sends my facial muscles smiling in a major way. I can’t help it, I’m sorry, but for me, this hits all the right notes – this feels savage, brutal and inspired to me and captures my interest infinitely more than yet another bunch of hooded sops worshiping abyssal prince 386-b. This resounds with the themes I adore in fantasy, with a threat that is not one of a simplified morality, but one that attacks civilization and what we consider the foundation of society itself – and then adds the threat of losing magic for yet another nasty spike, merging themes of classic literature and amplifying them via the collective mythmaking we engage in while partaking in a roleplaying game session.
Now if the above left you cold and sent you shrugging away, I can understand that – I’ve seen the set-up before as well; however, the execution is significantly better than in most variants of the theme I’ve seen and personally, I absolutely adore this installment of the series. Yes, the supplemental material is slightly less pronounced than in the previous ones, but I can’t help myself – I love this pdf. It showcases well the strengths of Kobold Press as a publisher – the narrative potential, the evocative dressing. Jeff Lee, delivers here and my final verdict, in spite of e.g. the layout-hiccup, clocks in at 5 stars +seal of approval; however, be aware that this is predicated upon my own personal preferences – if the basic idea does not appeal to you, detract a star.