Curse of Kabis

a review by Bent Dalager
<bcd@pvv.ntnu.no>


This document may be distributed freely as long as its contents remains unaltered.

Having finally read through the 110-page adventure module for Shadow World, here are my impressions and judgements. Do note that as I have not yet tried the module out in real play, my judgement may be somewhat lacking. Also, I will try to focus more on what is in there than on how I felt about it. That's no easy task though.

A systems note - this module does not come with Hero stats in it.


Cosmetics

Title

Personally, I feel that "A look at Politics and Power in the Scorpion Ridge and Meluria" would have been a more appropriate title, but "Curse of Kabis" sounds a lot better, I admit.

Cover

The book has the now familiar RMSS look to it, a kind of dark marble pattern in the background with the new RMSS logo on the front. The cover shows a neat piece of art with three characters about to be ambushed coming out of an alley.

Personally, I missed the Shadow World look on this, the last SW module. I would have preferred the standard SW back cover with the world map and the nice big SW logo on top of the front cover.

Art

The interior art is passable, and, as usual, serves to give the artist's impression of some of the persons and selected places presented in the book. I guess there could have been more of it, but then, one is never satisfied in this respect.

Maps

There are beautiful colour maps of Jaiman and Emer on the inside covers of the book. These are the same as those drawn maps that have been seen in previous SW products.
The black/white maps within the book itself are a bit small. The area maps of Meluria and the Scorpion Ridge could have been a bit bigger (one page each) and had some more information on them (such as the locations of towns and villages in Meluria). They do contain the vitals, though, and they have even remembered to print the scale and compasses on all of them! One minor gripe is that most of the vertical-slice maps could have had a vertical scale put on them for clarity. This being absent, one just have to assume that it is the same as the horizontal scale, and that leaves me with an uneasy feeling.

Layout

The interior does seem kind of dull, but it could just be the paper/ink combination or something, I don't know. They use two coloumns of text and sometimes put clarifying little tidbits in the margins. Someone obviously read a GURPS book or two.

The lack of an index is irritating.

Contents

Major plotline

The major plot presented in the book centers around the Voidal entity called Kabis. It entered the Shadow World long ago and started amassing servants and power. It is extremely powerful (like level 300+). It was emprisoned after the Wars of Dominion by Eissa and Iorak into an enclosed plane created by Kadaena in the First Era and since forgotten. It has wandered that plane for millenia and is biding its time. It has weak links to some of its still loyal servants on Kulthea, and is patiently awaiting a means of escape. Meanwhile, it directs its servants to act as spies and forces of disruption in the world.

Compatibility

I feel that the Kabis concept ill fits SW, but that may just be me. As it stands, if Kabis is unleashed on the world, he might represent a greater threat than any of the current entities and organisations. His magical and mental prowess alone would be a match for the Ahrenreth. This might also be his undoing, as everyone else would seek to destroy him, from Dragonlords to Lords of Orhan.

Ditching Kabis

It seems that the campaign info in CoK can stand on its own though, even if you should choose not to involve Kabis into your version of Kulthea. The rundowns on Meluria, Sarnak and the Scorpion Ridge contains heaps of valuable campaign material. Personally, I do feel tempted to run a campaign that traverses the Kabis adventures, however.

The Places

The quest in the Adventures section of the book takes the adventurers through a series of places on Kulthea. Two of these areas are detailed within the book itself, while everywhere else is pretty much covered in previous SW releases. The places in CoK include the whole of Meluria (S/SW of Rhakhaan on Jaiman) and the Scorpion Ridge (on the west coast of Emer, the scorpion-like mountain chain).

Meluria

This section contains a small, but usable, map of Meluria, as well as a rundown of Melurian politics, the five ruling families, and the two cities of the land. One of these cities (Bazilar) is described in detail while the other is left more vague.
A number of important NPCs and organisations with different motives and alignments are descibed in short paragraphs.

Sarnak and City

A complete rundown on Amazon society and how it came into being, as well as details on their military structure and economic profile. There are descriptions of the ruling council and some of the nominees for positions on it, their motivations, etc. Also, a map and description of Sarnak City and the resident Local God.

Scorpion Ridge

The Ridge is to the south and west of Sarnak, and contains logruki, goblins, dwarves, trogli and men of varying motivations and goals. Also found here are the ancient Scorpion Drakes who play a dormant-seeming but important role in the area. Descriptions of the Murlog Realm and the Earth-Demon High King of the goblins, two Dwarven realms, a human settlement and several independent Goblin settlements as well as assorted Lugroki and Trogli tribes. Of particular interest is Sagaroth, a city where all the above races (save the Drakes) live in uneasy peace, a peace enforced by the half-god half-titan cyclops that rules the city. Certainly a place of intrigue, espionage, and lucrative trade opportunities.
A section on the Depths of the Ridge contains more secret and reclusive cultures of various origins. One of the Dwarven realms (unknown to the world), three nations of elemental beings transported there through a freak flow storm and other, more hideous beings make their home in the Deeps.

The adventures

The adventures are not complete with all you need to know to run them. They provide the basic framework, NPCs, locations, etc., but the GM will have to add some detail before running them. I rather feel this is good, as this is the kind of thing you can easily come up with, on the fly if necessary, and there's no reason why it should take up valuable pages of the book.

The adventures all focus on Kabis, and were meant to be played in the order they are printed. The grand task is to gather all the pieces of an ancient artifact created by Tethior and put them back together. Conveniently enough, one of the pieces (the first found) points the way to the others.

The adventures take the PCs from a murder investigation in Bazilar, Meluria to the war-torn border between Rhakhaan and Zor, further to a mystical isle off the Urulan coast, an isle that seems to shift in and out of existance. From there to a tomb in Plasidar, where a curse is awaiting fulfillment - and the PCs are the final ingredient. Further on to Emer and the Scorpion Ridge, they must enlist the aid of and thereafter survive a half-insane spellcaster, then travel into the heart of the mountains and embroil themselves in the politics of the Underearth, an adventure that might involve Goblin hordes pouring over them and Dwarvish armies seeking an item the PCs possess. From the Ridge, the final conflict takes them via the moon Charon into Kabis' prison, where they must face the evil entity itself and its numerous servants on that plane, or risk death or worse.

Finally, there is a list of possible 'complications' for the various adventures. Things to clog up the PCs' machinery, if that should be needed. These are generally good suggestions, and I could see myself using a series of them.
I must also add that this is the kind of campaign which you would want to dot with small side-stories and sub-adventures, but you already realised that, of course.

As a conclusion, even though I feel a bit uneasy about the Kabis thing, the adventures seemed real cool, and I might have to introduce Kabis just so I can try them all out :-)

The little things

NPCs

The NPCs follow the standard SW presentation, with one annoying oversight - there are no prime stats for any of them. I kind of miss those. Other than that, they seem ok, but I haven't really studied them intensely. I guess I should mention here that there are a series of local gods presented in the book, most of these are a lot lower level than what I would expect.

The NPC, Races, Armies, etc., tables are very comprehensive and should prove to be a very useful tool.

Tables

The Random Encounter Chart is presented in much the same way as in previous SW products, but with some added details which make them a lot more useful. Like a listing of possible hazards, traps, etc.

There is a Random Feature Chart to be used when strolling underground. Roll 1D100 for the terrain features (i.e., the lay of the cave). This looked real useful, and is probably usable for strolls through other cave systems as well.

Conclusion

In my opinion, CoK is one of the best buys in the SW series yet, and is a worthy end to the series. I did have some misgivings about it when I failed to find Terry Amthor's name in the credits, but they seem to have done a good job nevertheless. If these are the guys who are going to do the new RMSS world, I think we have something to look forward to.
The campaign material seems to be of high quality and fits perfectly with the provided adventures, in addition to having tons of possible plot hooks, quests, etc., just screaming for a creative GM to exploit them.

Well, what can I say, I loved it ... :-)


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Last modified: Tue Feb 25 01:48:57 MET 1997