Demon Cults: Doomspeakers
This installment of Kobold Press’ Demon Cults-series clocks in at 14 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 3/4 of a page SRD, leaving us with 10 1/4 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So what are the doomspeakers? Are they the homeless persons with the “The end is nigh”-shields? Nope, and neither are they doom metal enthusiasts – in this context, the doomspeakers are the antipaladin champions that have drank deeply from the well of profanity that is the Book of Nine Dooms, chaotic demon-worshipers, one and all.
Know how often alignment doesn’t work so well in my preferred mode of shades of gray morality? Well, even there, sometimes, you have people that just *fit* the alignment system – their ideologies match up perfectly. This is one such example. If you’re tired by moral conundrums, these guys fit the bill – it doesn’t get more evil. These are guys that do not even try to seem morally ambiguous – we have capital E level, vile demon worshippers here and their methods and ideology reflect that. Now, unlike the first installment, we receive a bunch of statblocks, not one – from Narn, a straight 16-level antipaladin build (also known for crucifying captured enemies and minions) to a savage level 11 gnoll antipaladin, the first two builds are nasty pieces. A somewhat tragic tiefling oracle (level 12 of the pit-born subtype, btw.) is a more diverse character – severely mutilated by ignorant townsfolk, her descent into utter darkness was traumatic indeed. Oddly, her type is wrong – she is stated to be a humanoid (elf, human), when obviously, she should be a native outsider. Finally, a gnoll cleric and a half-elven arcane duelist (level 8 and 7, respectively) complete this array of champions of evil.
Now in direct comparison to the first installment, the doomspeaker’s hooks have been greatly expanded: Each APL-array receives a plethora of exceedingly detailed hooks – essentially, this provides enough fodder for the DM to potentially run a whole campaign centered on the doomspeakers – and honestly, some of these hooks are significantly more compelling than quite a few full-blown modules I’ve read – without this section, the doomspeakers would feel like a cardboard cutout cult; with it, they come into their own as a distinct entity. Fans of Midgard should be aware of the sidebox that contains information on the cult in Midgard. Kudos for the inspired writing here!
The supplement also sports 2 new magic items – the bone whip, which is nice and the primal doom – these items can be thrown at foes, conjuring forth the very worst fears of the target, with the save influencing the particular CR of the doom called forth. Nasty and a cool storytelling device. The pdf also sport a new spell, the Doom of Ancient Decrepitude, which temporarily ages all targets, including the caster, while in the area – a nasty debuff indeed, and one that can have fatal consequences – be sure to take a look at the SRD-page, btw. – the spell’s text carries over to this page.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any truly 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. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Jeff Lee’s Doomspeakers were the Demon Cult I was least excited about – it is a personal preference, but I simply enjoy less obvious black and white morality more. That, and I’m quite frankly burned out on evil demon cults that are evil for evil’s sake. I was positively surprised by the rather intriguing hooks for the sue of the doomspeakers, which help bringing the straight builds for the NPCs into a given campaign – they provide a depth I honestly did not expect to find. At the same time, however, I couldn’t help but feel like the Demon Cult could have used a tad more elements to set it distinctively apart. What remains here would be a very straightforward cadre of vile opponents, foes worthy of radiant heroes. In the hands of a lesser author, the doomspeakers could have been a textbook example of evil blandness, but Jeff Lee’s inspired and exceedingly detailed hooks set them apart and improve this book to a point where I’m considering this to be a worthwhile addition to a campaign.
The unique spell and items further help establishing a unique identity and manage to do an admirable job within the confines of this pdf. Now personally, I would have liked a tad bit more unique tricks for the cult – more distinct, exclusive crunch to set them apart more. The primal doom, for example, is a great narrative device and adding some special qualities to the creatures called, perhaps via a modular template, would have been the icing on the cake. As written, this pdf remains a surprisingly good installment and clocks in at a final verdict of 4 stars.