Secret Societies of Vathak: The Final Phase
This Vathak-supplement clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
The Final Phase is a cult that sprung form an appropriately nihilistic vision of life as sorrow unending and thus, it should come as no surprise that the already questionable ideology (as much of it as the well-written intro-fluff showcases) has been perverted even further in a world like Vathak – now, the cult is pretty much a decadent accumulation of cultists with a surprising range of influence. More disturbingly, the cult believes that the Great Old Ones hold the key to prevent resorption into the unending cycle of sorrow the multiverse propagates – and while this may sound angsty, in a fantasy setting with demons, angels etc., the clue is – they are kind of right. Okay, bringing the Great Old Ones to the world is not a good idea, but the aforementioned point has been a central and very effective theme in my last campaign: In the words of one of my favorite metal bands: “If my soul could revive from my carnal remains, what does it matter to me? If it all fades to black and I’m born once again, then no one really is free.”
A pyramid structure that mirrors their inverted ziggurat ritualistic place is detailed alongside the current headquarters and initiation into the cult – particular mention deserves that WE ACTUALLY GET THE OATH the initiates recite. See, *this* is exactly what makes a cult come to life, what makes it more than just a collection of cultists.
The pdf also sports unique magical items, namely the Belt of the Great Old Ones that not only bestows ooze-like immunities and a miss chance on the wearer, but also allows you to squeeze through tight spaces – and make foes rue the day they tried to see through your miss-chance… On a nitpicky side, the item has a minor italicization glitch. The second item would be the Lamprey Sleeves. In the lower sections of aforementioned ziggurat is a vat, wherein lamprey await – upon plunging your arm inside, the lampreys devour the arm and magically turn into a disturbing facsimile of the arm, returning to their original disgusting form only upon activation, acting as a buckler and allowing for the wearer’s choice of either vampiric touch or touch of madness 3/day, though again, with minor italicization glitches.
The pdf closes with adventure hooks.
Editing and formatting are good, apart from some minor italicization glitches, I noticed nothing severe. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork is thematically fitting.
Jeffrey Swank’s Final Phase has been an odd pdf for me to review. This began, to be honest, with me not being particularly excited – yet another nihilistic cult? Yawn. Only slowly did the themes and leitmotifs of self-determination emerge and lend an actual identity to the cult herein. The sample oath provided in particular made me wish this pdf sported more fluff like that, for it is here that the pdf shines -at this point, I expected this to be pretty much in the mediocre/good range. Then the items hit and hit hard – they are unique, strange and downright creepy, adding an element of body horror to the philosophical underpinning of the cult, blending a strange mix of psychological and body horror with the utterly creepy premise of elitism and “good intentions for the enlightened” to form an amalgam that is something I did not expect this pdf to deliver – something genuinely creepy.
Now granted, not all components of the organization hit home perfectly, but the blending of themes makes this work better than I honestly expected, rendering the cult a fun, inexpensive addition to one’s game, mainly hampered by the brevity of the format – with a couple of additional pages to showcase ideology and rituals in more detail, this could have been top-tier awesome. As provided, it is a compelling secret society just short of true excellence and thus well worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.