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Midgard Campaign Setting $49.99 $19.99
Average Rating:4.8 / 5
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Midgard Campaign Setting
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Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/14/2013 19:18:39
I'm currently using this setting for my 13th Age campaign, and it's been a great fit for my group. It has a good balance between defining enough, so that I know, in a general way, what each portion of the world is "all about," but doesn't define so much that I can't insert my own details. It has a great take on the pantheon, which is unique to Midgard. Personally, I like some of the more unusual races that play a larger role in Midgard: kobolds, ravenfolk, gearforged, and minotaurs. The world is large enough that it features areas that are influenced by the culture and myths of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Arabia, the Italian Renaissance, and even a bit of post-apocalyptic goodness. The world is sufficiently dark, where you know heroes are needed, but not so dark that it's overly Gothic or gritty.

The source books for Midgard are also great additions to my game, and are worth mentioning. There are supplements for several major areas as well as some of the races I mentioned above. And the adventures that I've played through have all been a blast.

I recommend that you check it out!

Originally posted at: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?348246-Midgard-C-
ampaign-Setting-Impressions&p=6219353&viewfull=1#post6219353

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Bryan P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/15/2013 15:50:59
MIDGARD CAMPAIGN SETTING REVIEW
(This is my 1st review.)
I’m a sucker for campaign settings. I have been since I purchased that first Greyhawk Campaign Setting with the charging knight on the front. I’ve used them as the foundation of my campaigns (Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Birthright, Golarion) and I’ve taken and ported elements that I liked from others (Ravenloft, Scarred Lands, Krynn). But despite my love of campaign settings, as with most things gaming, I’m pretty damned picky. If something doesn’t work for me, it usually [i]really[/i] doesn’t work for me.

Also, for the record, prior to a few issues of Kobold Quarterly and an Advanced Feats PDF or two, I had not purchased any Open Design/Kobold Press products prior to the Midgard Campaign Setting, so I’m not reviewing this product through the lens of a Patron, a Kickstarter supporter, or as an established fan of the setting. I’m also someone who initially avoided the setting as it seemed to me that in those dark days before the PFRPG was launched, the setting was fully embracing 4e. (Full disclosure, there is little in 4e that appeals to me.) This review is of the PDF (but I’ve ordered a hardcopy).


[B]WHAT COMPRISES THE MIDGARD CAMPAIGN SETTING?[/B]
The Midgard Campaign Setting is a gorgeous book. Layout is clear, yet attractive with full-colored illustrations & detailed maps (with a scale on each map!).

[b][i]Chapter 1: Midgard[/i][/b] presents the setting at a high level and introduces setting-specific characteristics. Most notable are the “Seven Secrets” that present some core fundamentals about Midgard, in particular, that dragons seek to rule in parts of the world, ley lines are a major conceit of the setting, and that while the timeline isn’t overtly fixed, it is assumed that the setting can change in significant ways. While that last bit may be old hat for seasoned gamers, I’ve rarely seen the “permission” to change the world so explicitly stated.

History, calendar, recent events, festivals, and planes are presented next. The history is detailed enough to present a sense of scope and backdrop without bogging down into textbook-style reading, the planes are flavorful and presented more in a tone of myth and uncertainty than a scholar’s treatise on their characteristics. Calendars, festivals, and recent events, which are often relegated to later chapters in other setting books, help ground the reader in the setting by showing up earlier than usual.

Finally, Ley Line mechanics are presented. These support the richness of the setting lore within the familiar framework of Pathfinder feats. Some subsystem details complete the Ley Line rules without becoming a burdensome add-on.

[b][i]Chapter 2: Heroes[/i][/b]
Races, Languages, and campaign-specific Feats & Traits are up next. Here are many of the things that make Midgard distinct and they are the same things that foolishly deterred me from looking at the early Open Design releases when they were 4e-centric. Kobolds as a major race? Minotaurs as a player race – didn’t we already get that with DragonLance? Dragonkin, -er Dragonborn… can you see the eye-rolling from here? Except that it all works and deliciously, flavorfully, so. The dragonkin & kobolds tie directly to the setting conceit of empire-building dragons. The dragonkin are more akin to Arcana Evolved’s dragonman race than the 4e dragonborn fluff hyped by WotC (IMO, at least). Much as Paizo has done for Goblins and Ogres, dwarves and elves are familiar but varied slightly in their own unique ways. I’m still not a huge fan of Gearforged but they’re not omni-present in the setting. Centaurs, gnolls, and tengu get more prominence than they do in many settings. Every race is recognizable from Pathfinder RPG core concepts, but all have a distinctive Midgard spin to them.

The standouts of this chapter, however, are the Midgard Feats & Traits. Broken down by region, they are mechanically sound yet dripping with setting flavor from evocative names to concise descriptive text. These reinforce the cultural differences of the various regions while avoiding long stretches of description-by-essay. By not having to hit the “generic PFRPG” button that the PFRPG line has to do, these all feel very connected to the setting yet can easily be ported to other settings. They avoid the sometimes over-specific traits found in some of the PF AP player’s guides, but those are designed to serve a slightly different function anyway.

[b][i]Chapters 3-9: The Regions of Midgard[/i][/b]
The bulk of the campaign setting, it is also the part I will summarize the most as this review is lengthy as-is. Here are the sections where Midgard is painted in vivid colors and contrasts. Each chapter covers a particular region: The Crossroads, the Wasted West, the Dragon Empire, the Seven Cities, the Rothenian Plain, the Domains of the Princes, and the Northlands. With the exception of the Northlands, the names themselves are evocative and inspire further investigation. Yet all of the chapters have a structure and flow to them that encourages one to continue reading through – a feat most campaign settings fail to achieve. Plot hooks and adventure seeds are laden throughout and each region is distinct. Yet by pulling from Earth-based myth, particularly of Norse and Eastern Europe, it has a familiarity that allows the reader to quickly grasp the cultural concepts of each region.

Important game info is presented for each region: a more detailed map, population info, gods worshipped, etc. as one would expect. But it’s the little details that stand out. Details that are often hand-waved away in other settings are found here as well. Travel times & costs between various cities, trade goods, prominent castles, cultural tidbits, and relevant game mechanics all combine to form a rich, yet cohesive whole that can support a very diverse range of themes & playstyles. It’s a customized kitchen sink, not a generic one, and the setting is stronger for it.

Midgard is a darker setting yet is still a setting ideally suited for High Fantasy. Most settings chose to hew strongly towards the dark (WHFRP’s Known World) or the High Fantasy genre (Forgotten Realms), with only token attempts to support other genres and styles of play. Midgard strikes a great balance, making it easy for a GM to lean whichever way suits the campaign or players without having to drastically change the tone of the setting.

[b][i]Chapter 10: Pantheon[/i][/b]
Once again, my expectations were dashed with this chapter. Fantasy pantheons are a favorite setting aspect of mine and compared to a [i]Book of the Righteous[/i] or [i]Scarred Lands’[/i] pantheon, how could gods pulled from Norse, Eastern European, and Egyptian myth possibly compare?

As it turns out, pretty damn well. Forgive my soapbox-grandstanding for a moment, but gods should not be the top of the monster pyramid for homicidal players to slay. In a game where alignment provides a shorthand for a character’s morality and ethics, portraying the gods as relevant for something more than the source of a cleric’s power can be a difficult goal to achieve. Pages of backstory on a god’s personality might make for an interesting read, but often has little bearing on the playing of the game. Too often, there is little room for theological debates, heresies, or wars and a rich source of conflict and story/setting development is lost.

So how does Midgard avoid these pitfalls? Masks & alignment. See, some of Midgard’s theologians believe that the gods represent themselves differently to different cultures. Few regions agree which of their gods are the “masks” of another in a different region. One man’s Thor may, or may not, be another man’s Mavros. Also, most gods, being unknowable and beyond mortality, usually only have one alignment axis fixed (Law, Chaos, Good, or Evil) and the other is variable. The result is a world where the familiar mythological figures shorten the learning curve for new players and where mystery is injected back into fantasy RPG religions.

In short, it rocks.

Of equal import, rather than paragraphs and pages on a god’s personality, we get more practical, game-relevant info: expectations of worshipers, symbols, holy texts, shrines, priests, and interactions with other faiths along with standard domain & favored weapon info.


[b]WHAT SETS MIDGARD APART FROM OTHER SETTINGS?[/b]
I’ve considered writing RPG reviews of other products. However, with Midgard, I was [i]inspired[/i] to write a review. Honestly, that bugged me. What was it about this setting that made it stand out among the many I’ve read and used in my games over the years? I’ve been ruminating over it for a few days and these were my “Aha!” takeaways:

1. [b]Seasoned, not saturated.[/b]
This was the setting I shouldn’t have liked. It allowed for dragonman characters, gunpowder, clockwork/steampunk, and Earth-myth gods. All things I generally do not like in my FRPGing. But they’re placed in the setting in such a light-touched and organic way that the “coolness” outweighs my reservations. Limitations are placed in a way that seems plausible rather than forced. Most importantly, the writers understand that a little can go a long way and that it’s easier to increase certain elements to suit a GM’s game than it is to rip something out.

I love the clockwork city of Zobeck and the fact that dwarves have invented gunpowder. But I still get to have orders of knighthood, witches in the forest, and all of the medieval tropes that I embraced when I bought that first Greyhawk campaign setting. It doesn’t feel forced and it’s not laden with anachronisms that break the immersion in the setting.

2. [b]Rules serve the setting rather than the setting serving the rules.[/b]
This is perhaps an unfair critique against other settings, and I’m sure it’s not true in all cases but it rings true to me. It’s how I felt after reading this book. I look at things like Ley Lines, the Mana Wastes, gearforged and the rest and it’s clear that they are there because the writers thought they were interesting and cool. They added to the distinctiveness of the world, the plot hooks, the adventure seeds – they added to Midgard’s character. They didn’t build a world to fit the Pathfinder RPG. They built a world and then built PFRPG rules that made the integration seamless.

3. [b]“I want to run a campaign…here”. [/b]
This is the first RPG setting where I could not only envision running a campaign in every region, I [i]wanted[/i] to do so. There were no regions that didn’t interest me, nowhere that I definitely wanted to stay away from, no place that didn’t “work for me”. I don’t know that anyone else will feel that way, but it was a first for me.

[B]WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?[/B]
Not a great deal, honestly. There are a few errors/typos such as the omission of the “Time Flies” optional rule while reference to it survives and things like races having a Favored Class rather than a character choosing their favored class.

While some will find it part of the setting’s charm, fans of elves and half-elves may be surprised at how elves are less common than in other settings. Halflings return to their Tolkein-esque roots and seem almost an afterthought.

After Paizo’s much-cheered revamp of gnomes into an interesting race, some might be taken aback at the dark circumstances of many of Midgard’s gnomes. However, it’s not a universal situation for the entire race, so again, season to taste.

There is little mention of orcs, and I’ve always had a soft-spot for orcs as one of my go-to bad guys. I hope that they gain some prominence in the setting if the line expands to regions beyond the seven described in the campaign setting.


[B]CONCLUSION[/B]

Midgard is a rich, vibrant campaign setting that should be in every fantasy RPG library. It’s familiar without feeling rehashed. It’s unique in a way that enriches the differences rather than overshadowing other genres or aspects of the game. It’s written in a way that provides a massive amount of info in manageable chunks and ignites the imagination.

Yes, it’s that damn good. Go get it now. 5 of 5 stars.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/16/2013 07:30:34
This massive pdf is 298 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page patron list, 3 pages ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 289 pages of content.

This review is based on both the pdf for formal page-count etc. as well as the GORGEOUS full-color hardcover patron edition of the book – number 26 of 206, if you want to know. Mainly, I’ll base everything on my hard-cover, though – I always print out pdfs prior to reading anyways. Oh, and to avoid any implications of not being neutral: I did not contribute any significant pieces to this particular patronage project due to time-constraints, but I have contributed to the Northlands book and have been a patron of just about every Open Design-project since I found all too late out about them. The only pieces of lore missing from my collection would be Castle Shadowcrag and Steam & Brass – so if any of you gentlemen ever wishes to part from either a print or pdf-copy, drop me a PM.

This, admittedly selfish disclaimer out of the way, you’ll probably wonder why it took me so long to get to this review. Well, the answer is surprisingly complex and will be answered over the course of this review, so bear with me. Without further ado:

What makes Midgard distinct? Well, it is a campaign-setting that includes the most famous clockwork city in fantasy, where two ennie-award-winning anthologies are set. But Midgard is more: It is a world unlike the ones you’d expect: In contrast to most campaign worlds, Midgard draws HEAVY influence from Germanic and Slavic traditions and legends and it shows even in the shape of the world – unlike most places, Midgard is actually flat and most people believe it resides in the coils of the grand world-serpent Jörmungandr – it is a world not of straight, contextless popular culture fantasy, but of the mythic, of the archetypical not in the PFRPG-rules-context, but in the Jungian sense of the word, a resonance of myths and legends through a lense and a world where the magic that makes them possible is a very real force.
If you’ve been following open design releases (and if you haven’t, remedy that NOW), you’ll recall e.g. the fall of Ankeshel from Sunken Empires, you’ll know about the alien Shadow Fey and the existence of ley lines throughout the land. If you’re lucky and have the glorious “Halls of the Mountain King”-mega-module (which is not available to the public, alas), you’ll also recall the lavish detail in which dwarven culture is detailed and you may have read hints here and there about the golden age the elves brought on before starting their retreat. If you’ve read the best Planes-book since the Planescape-setting of old, “Dark Roads & Golden Hells”, you’ll already have a distinct knowledge of what to expect planes-wise and thus I won’t go into that much detail regarding the planar set-up of Midgard and only mention that t is at once distinct and easily modifiable via plug-and-play. If you’re familiar with Norse myth, you’ll see the nods and obvious inspirations, but that’s by far not all – the months, days and planets of the system also get a quick glimpse in the run-up on this component of the setting. Now where the book gets crunchy in this chapter is with its depiction of ley lines – 8 feats are provided to tap into the power of those global arcane conduits and we get 3 distinct tables for effects of different ley line strengths as well as a table of ley line backlashes, but more on ley lines later. After the general history and cosmology have been addressed, we are introduced to the heroes of Midgard and the interaction of races in the setting. One final word o the history of Midgard – while resonating with legends like sunken empires, the grand schemes of Baba Yaga and similar cataclysmic events, the history leaves by design much more free room for DM-modification and details than similar settings I’ve read – whether they be Faerûn, Mystara or Golarion, focusing more on high concepts than details. A decision, which I actually encourage.

With Wolfgang’s words from the introduction: Onwards! The chapter on heroes covers the dominant races of Midgard: Humans get paragraphs for their respective ethnicities, which is nice, but in this regard, the setting falls behind Paizo’s Golarion: There, we actually got full fluff-entries for the respective ethnicities, something I would have loved to see here as well, but oh well. The first new and distinct race introduced is a concept by now almost cliché: The Dragonkin. I get their appeal and I understand how people can enjoy the race, but personally – I don’t like them. Not due to some rules-gripes, for +2 Str and Cha, -2 dex, darkvision 60 ft., DR 2 versus a chosen energy, +1 natural armor, fly as a class skill and +2 to intimidate and diplomacy don’t feel overpowered at all. My dislike stems probably still from an oversaturation with half-dragons, dragonkin and the like in the 3.5 days of old. Speaking of dragons, one thing I really love about the dragons of Midgard is the fact that they are not into gold or color-coded by alignment: Dragons are elemental forces and greedy for power more than gold, which for me feels more in line with the ideal of consummate, hyper-intelligent schemers, so kudos for that. In this context the dragonkin-race has its role cut out in the world and feels like it belongs, though I still can’t really warm to it.

Now dwarves in Midgard are interesting in that they are the makers of the first signs of an industrial revolution, a proud race of craftsmen and reavers, pioneers of gunpowder and airships and more in line with my personal vision of the race. Elves in Midgard take a distinct bow to the Tolkienesque tradition of retreating from the earthly affairs, leaving at what in retrospect may feel like a golden age and subsequently they and the elfmarked (a feat that lets you count as elven) still enjoy a higher status than most races in Midgard. Status? YES! Beyond reputations in a given organization, an interesting component of the Midgard setting is the class- and race-dependant status-score that denotes your place in society and should make depicting believable world much easier: After all, as history-buffs can attest, status tends to have been of utmost importance in almost every culture and having a pointer towards one’s place in a given social environment is helpful indeed.
Now the other two major races of Midgard might come as a surprise to those not yet familiar with the world’s lore: Of course small but fierce kobolds join the fray of playable races with -4 Str, +4 Dex, -2 Con, small size, darkvision, +1 natural armor, +2 to Craft (trapmaking), Profession (Miner) and Perception. They always treat Craft (Trapmaking) and Stealth as class skills and get light sensitivity. The final new race detailed with crunch would be the Minotaurs, a noble race that gets +4 Str, -4 Dex, +2 Con, -2 Int, -4 Cha, 60 ft. darkvision, are never flat-footed, gain +2 to Perception, Profession (Sailor) and Survival and always treat the latter as class skill. They also get a natural attack with their horns for 1d4 damage.

There also are 7 minor races, though each only gets a short paragraph: Centaurs, Gnolls, Goblins, Tieflings and Halflings play minor roles in the world, with haflings being more a Tolkienesque stay-at-home-race. Gnomes in Midgard are interesting as well: As a race, they have been cursed by Baba Yaga and are still haunted by the legendary crone’s predations. Worse, as a race, they have entered a covenant with the 11 hells, making dealing with gnomes in Midgard a harrowing experience – after all, you never know whether Grandmother or some infernal master is after the gnome you’re just talking to. MY favorite race among the minor ones, though, would be the Huginn – essentially Tengu, these raven-headed humanoids fits surprisingly seamlessly with the Germanic mythology, as one of their names implies.
Abrakadabra – everyone knows these words of magic. But did you know that they are probably derived from Arabic and roughly translate to the act of creating by uttering? Languages define not only our perception, their descriptions carry the power of categorization and an inherent word-view, a vast array of classifications that slowly is subverted the more languages you truly master. Hence, languages in Midgard (and 26 common and archaic ones are provided on a single page) allow those who learn and master them actually some tangible benefits beyond communication. As one who has banished any form of common from all of his settings, I welcome this great idea to provide an additional incentive for player characters to learn more languages.

In order to not bloat this review up to over 5o pages and one day get it done, I won’t go step by step through the vast array of regional traits and feat that conclude this chapter and which are organized according to region. Now speaking of regions: Let’s take a look at the first major region of Midgard, the so-called Crossroads!

Now we get customs and festivals for the whole region before we kick off with perhaps the so-far best-known region of Midgard: The Clockwork city of Zobeck, lavishly detailed in the Zobeck Gazetter, setting for the two ennie-award-winning anthologies “Tales of Zobeck” and “Streets of Zobeck”, home of Rava’s faith, the kobold miners, gearforged clockwork magic, the illumination school and infinitely more, one of the most distinct fantasy cities comes with its excellent 2-page map.

Speaking of maps: Each region of Midgard gets a GORGEOUS, lavishly illustrated full-color map and it is my true pity that, as per the writing of this review, there’s no physical map-pack of these glorious maps: An oversight I hope that will be remedied sometime in the future. The crossroads have more to offer than Zobeck, though: Trade with the shadow fey via Zobeck is just one of the potential past-times for brave adventurers here – if you’re more of the righteous crusader type, there are two nations that should keep you interested: Detailed more in-depth in the excellent Imperial Gazetteer, the Empire of Ghouls, a subterranean empire of intelligent ghouls forever scouring the lands for flesh to feed their ravenous hunger (first explored in the closed patronage project of epic length) and the principalities of Morgau and Doresh, led by their vampiric aristocracy that is in line with the gothic ideal of vampires as sophisticated foes, should make for worthwhile, albeit deadly playing grounds. If you’re more for ancient wildernesses, the Margreve (featured in the superb Tales of the Old Margreve) and the Cloudwall mountains where Baba Yaga’s hut wanders should have you covered as well. On the more bright, but not necessarily harmless side, Perunalia, a nation of amazons led by Perun’s (supposedly at least) demigod daughter might be not evil, but it’s inversion of gender roles and the general disregard and belittling of men should make for some interesting roleplaying experiences, as should excursions to the dwarven Ironcrag cantons, which back in the 3.5 days also got a gazetteer that accompanied the now alas no longer available, stellar mega-module I already mentioned.

A classic good kingdom to stem the tide and serve as a backdrop for both glorious tourneys and disheartening war-campaigns versus the other forces of Midgard can be found in the Magda Kingdom, with the kingdom’s order of the undying sun and military getting special mentioning. Not as democratic as Andoran, though also deemed rather revolutionary would be the electoral kingdom of Krakova, whose fluff also hearkens to some of the more romanticized aspects of Nibelungen-lore.

Beyond the crossroads, one may find the Rothenian Plain, vast steppe that also serves as a roaming ground of Baba Yaga and her daughters. Guarding the Northlands, we can find the silver mountain kingdom of Domovgorod, where a world-tree can be found who branches into other realism – whether a sapling or semblance of legendary Yggdrasil, it offers paths to many a strange place and the local Halfling populace actually makes for fierce winter warriors. The endless tundra and steppes that spread throughout Midgard is also the home of the Khanate of Khazzaki, a place inspired by the Mongolian warlords as well as probably the Dothraki and sports no permanent towns, though that does not mean that the Khanate is peaceful or a force to be trifled with – after all, they managed to repel even the forces of the Mharoti, but more on them later. The Rothenian plane is also the home of the Demon Mountain and its mystic, legendary master: A mysterious entity with distinct appetites that has spawned various tieflings and who actually receives visitors ranging from troll kings, shadow fey dignitaries, barons to even archdevils. In the northwest, nestled at the Nieder Straits, lie the nine cities of Neimheim, home to the crafty and disturbing devil-worshipping race of gnomes under the command of their supreme ruler Redbeard, still as a race haunted by Grandmother’s vengeance and the need to escape the doom of an eternity in hell to which all gnomes are born.

Of course, the Khanate is not alone in claiming their own swath of territory in the plains: The Rothenian Plains are also the home of numerous tribes of centaurs roaming the vast sea of grass, raiding and counting their wealth in goats and sheep as well as to the wanderlust-inflicted Kariv, Midgard’s very distinct ethnicity of gypsies that is really set apart to the point where they are as interesting to me as the Vistana of Ravenloft and if you know that this setting is still my first true love setting-wise, the amplitude of this complement should become apparent. A variety of Great Kariv families are covered and recalling the cool and very distinct social customs pioneered by various KQ-articles and other books, I can’t wait to one day see a full-blown sourcebook on them. The final nomadic people laying claim to the plains would be the totemic, dark-skinned windrunner elves with their own windrunner kites and complete rules for flying these contraptions – rather cool and fortunately relatively bereft of the clichés I expected to read in their entry. The final nation of note here would be Vidim, the kingdom of ravens, where the tsar and the huginn maintain an alliance: The raven-headed folk make up the supreme spies and best soldiers of this interesting nation, another region I can’t wait to read more about.

Now I mentioned the Mharoti Empire and it is an interesting place: Goverened by a Sultana, the empire serves the ambitions and hungers of a conglomerate of dragon lords that demand tribute. Superbly powerful, the empire has a huge military machinery that constantly reaches out to expand and serve the will of its draconic masters. The empire is also a place where, true to the service of dragons, humans are second-class citizens: Koboldi (the local term for the race) and dragonkin are valued much more and actually constitute not the majority of the almost 50-million-people nation, which actually gets its own, very detailed map as does the imperial capital of Harkesh. Marrying Al-Qadimesque oriental flair with labyrinthine politics, the feeling of an empire of culture and wealth still expanding and draconic ambition and egos and we have a truly intriguing hodge-podge that is even enticing to people like yours truly who avoid using dragons very much and when they do, player characters tend to die. Short paragraphs and provinces are also covered. If you think the aggressive attempts of expansion of the Mharoti might make them villains, you would be right as well as wrong, for the other nations around are not necessarily better:

Take the Despotate of the Ruby Sea, where slavers rule and continuously scourge the Rothenian Plain or the seas to feed their flesh markets. Or Nuria Natal, a nation that has repelled the Mharoti time and again, but paid a dire price: The Egyptian-influenced nation has resorted to resurrecting its god-kings and their armies to repel the Mharoti time and again and the resulting influx of extremely powerful god-kings and queens refusing to get back to eternal sleep puts a strain on politics, essentially hamstrings the current King Thutmoses and may well result in an unpleasant segregation. There is light and hope here, though: While the nation has been crushed by the Mharoti, Ishadia still exists – while a shadow of its former glory, the nation touched by the heavens with its array of aasimar might one day reclaim its former glory. Finally, there is Siwal, home-base of the famous traders and their sand-ships and original setting of the “6 Arabian Nights” close patronage project. Siwal is perhaps the best-suited for traditional 1001 Nights-style playing in the region.
There also are rules for purchasing exotic Mharoti animals, dry goods, several magic carpets and other curios but mundane and magical as well as a total of 12 spells that can be found in the dragon empire and its surrounding regions.

Now if you’d rather tell a story of war, political intrigue or any combination thereof, I’d suggest you take a look at chapter 6, which details the seven cities – 7 cities (two of which are mapped in the lavish quality of the book) that have sprung up in the aftermath of the eleven retreat and ever since been at war with each other. Now if you’re familiar with the codes of conduct of warfare and conquest in the medieval ages, it should come as refreshing that the warfare between these nations also follows a kind of seasonal etiquette as well the rules of economy: While plundering, rapes and the less savory aspects of warfare cannot be wholly prevented, the war-god-Mavros-worshipping cities mainly wage relatively civil campaigns versus each other not to destroy, but to humiliate, to extract ransoms, to gain territory etc. War is a means to an end, a motor of a war machinery and a whole intricate web of war economies dependant on not campaigns of annihilation, but of almost ritualized conflict. As such, there also are 5 classic pretenses accepted for war that are displayed in the chapter and political as well as economic reasons galore for them to go to war. Beyond these, we also get detailed pieces of information regarding e.g. the special breeds of horses cultivated in the republic of Trombei, the armies that the respective cities can muster and hooks galore beyond the obvious warfare and political backstabbing. If you want to play a “Song of Fire and Ice”-style intrigue-laden campaign, this region’s instabilities and feuds should provide you with fodder for years to come. Before I forget it, the region is also home of the seafaring nation of Kyprion, homeland of the minotaurs and for now owing fealty to the republic of Triolo: Here, the Minotaur queen reigns supreme and both friends and enemies are invited to her palace. As the screams at night attest, only her friends tend to leave… I’m not going to get into more details here, but rest assured that the chapter is indeed intricate in the variety of options to develop and play.

Chapter 7 holds an especially dear place in my heart, for this region, called “The Wasted West” utilizes and imagery I am all too familiar with and enjoy: It is here that the setting takes a short bow to Lovecraft and the Dark Tapestry. Serving as a grisly reminder of the other side of warfare, these wasted plains were once the home of grand magocracies. Emphasis on “were”. It is here that magic was used to wage total war, escalating further and further and culminating in a terrible series of rituals that called down the Great Old Ones. Now we’re not talking about Cthulhu, Nyarly and co, but rather a series of immortal, mountainous abominations that destroyed one another and crushed city upon city. When the escalation got worse and worse, the ley lines torn, magic unstable and vast titans waging unholy war, the Great Slumber was conceived – a titanic invocation that did not slay these beings, rather slowing them to a very crawl or halting time almost completely for them. Thus, these alien entities now shamble across blasted plains, trudging eldritch symbols into the scarred earth, fighting in erosion speed amongst one another or staring at the sun until their eyes had been scorched out. These grand abominations are actually large enough to serve as their very own ecologies, serving as both gods and locales to house whole tribes of goblins, cities on heads or have wizard’s towers strapped to their bellies – and woe to Midgard should they ever awaken from their slowed somnambulant trance, for just the Magocracy of Allain remains of the cities of old. Beyond the dust goblins worshipping the weird creatures and roaming the plains, we are also introduced to the Duchy of Bourgund, resting in the shadow of the only Great Old One felled by mortal magic and steel, the city actually constitutes a very lawful, strictly regulate society, including a flourishing black market and famed armor-bonded mages who can’t all stand up to their illustrious legacy as abomination-slayers – complacency and magic-reliance might one day prove to be the undoing of the duchy, for beneath the surface, it simmers.. They are also known for their perfumeries, while Bemmea, capital of the Magocracy is known for its magic and the glyph-shaped streets shown on the beautiful map made me come up with some interesting ideas – think Perdido Street Station meets Fall of Utopia. *muahaha* Speaking of evil laughter: A massive table of potion side-effects and mishaps should also prove to be an interesting surprise for the PCs, should they deem to visit the bottle market. Beyond these, there also is the haunted land where giants rule, the small human barony of Trenorra and the Gardens of Carnessa, where intelligent plants now rule – whether commanded by a Mu Spore, an old one or some other inscrutable force, these once wondrous verdant places now should test the mettle of even the most hardened of adventurers.

Since Midgard is flat, there is Barsella, the city at the end of the world, but I’ll go more into detail about this place and the isle of morphoi in my upcoming review of “Journeys to the West”. The chapter concludes with a grimoire called the Black Spire Codex that contains 8 new spells, a new incantation (yeah!) and a simple template to represent the warping effects of the magical fall-out land that is the Wasted West. After these rather bleak expanses, let’s turn to the Northeast of the crossroads and take a look at the nations found there: In stark contrast to most regions in Midgard, the elven retreat has not plunged these reaches into chaos, though their absence and the resulting chaos has touched the region as well. The main source of the relative stability of the region can be found in a certain continuity – led by a legendary elven queen for over 500 years, the region is guided by perhaps the last living being to remember the retreat and her wise counsel has led the areas and countless baronies into a relative stable era. The thing is, the imperatrix is old, even for elven standards and shows first signs of losing her wits – a tragedy not only on a personal level, but also since her rulership has been such a guiding factor, her bloodline a uniting tie between the countless baronies and duchies, which have with their entangled territories and numerous sub-territories driven allegedly more than one cartographer insane.

Another interesting component about Dornig and its surrounding areas would be the fact that the land contains two vast forests, which, while not the Margreve, remain deadly, dense woodlands that conceal ancient secrets and dread foes. I mentioned the 7 cities-region as a prime example for “Song of Fire and Ice”-style gameplay regarding the warfare and shifting political boundaries. If you want to go a step further and play a campaign of courtly intrigue, I may instead suggest this region: Not only are the numerous ancient families looking for new blood, there’s unexplored territory in the forests aplenty and we also get a new incantation-ceremony to take the mantle of rulership and concise rules for getting one’s own barony! Plus, you can always combine this area with ventures towards the frozen reaches as there actually is a former northlander Viking fiefdom serving as both an economic gateway and as a place to start immersion into the final cultural region detailed herein: The Northlands.

The Northlands-book was my number 1 roleplaying book of 2011 – that should tell you everything right in a nutshell. A book that BELONGS into any PFRPG-library and perhaps one of the coolest sourcebooks (pardon the pun) ever devised. This chapter sums up some of the components in the book and serves as a gazetteer-like introduction to these gloriously detailed, wild, untamed and oh so brilliant and beautiful wilds, where Vikings set sail, were-bears have a honey-producing kingdom, people are hard and honest and Hyperborea’s fabled lands loom somewhere hidden in the eternal ice. Have I mentioned that you may actually set sail to “Holmgard and beyond”? If putting in the Turisas-song while manning your longboat to these reaches doesn’t get you pumped, I don’t know what will. A great chapter, but I highly recommend you get the full sourcebook with its rune-magic and grudge magic, with its variant rules, equipment and much more details than this chapter can ever hope to cover.

The final chapter then details the gods and how Midgard handles them is much more in line with my own DM-approach: First of all, gods are not shoe-horned into an alignment, but rather given a tendency like chaotic or lawful – after all gods are inscrutable and beyond the moralities of petty mortals, their words and holy texts open to interpretation and thus also conflicting visions of doing one’s god’s bidding. Furthermore, the gods of Midgard wear masks – this means that one god may go by multiple names and aspects, perhaps with conflicting ideologies or seemingly contradictory agendas. This makes them stand out more and also changes the way, clerics should be played – after all, they are no arcanists with different spell-lists, but agents of inscrutable higher beings. Hence, we don’t get write-ups of gods per se, but rather of religions: Whether Perun of the Crossroads and Thor are the same god is up for debate and some even claim that there is but one god. Over all, this concept makes the religious landscape much more fluid and the gods come off as something completely different from the set of abilities and domains one chooses to best complement one’s abilities. A great approach and even pantheist priests are covered. The gods per se are hence also covered entries by region, organizing them in a logical and concise fashion. Better yet, the vast majority of them are actually interesting and put new twists on classic myths of earth, with Æsir and Baal finding a place as well as Bastet and others, but sans making it feel like a hodge-podge rip-off of real-world mythologies. Familiar and foreign, all entwined in compelling write-ups.

Now if you’re playing the AGE-sytsem, you’ll have 25 new backgrounds to look forward to, allowing you to play zobeck kobolds, gearforged etc. We also get a total of 7 new specializations (including the harem assassin!) as well as a whopping 40 new spells and 3 new talents. The pdf concludes with an appendix of regional encounter tables as well as a list of recommended further reading and something that is NOT optional in my opinion, at least not in books of this size: The detailed, 4-page index makes finding information and actually using the city much easier.

Conclusion:
The Midgard Campaign Setting, if the length of my review was not ample clue, is a massive TOME of rpg-goodness and it shows – but it is not perfect. Editing and formatting indeed have suffered from some neglect that I hope will be rectified in future printings: While I noticed some minor letter-mixup-typos and glitches like “veven[sic!]” there is one particular glitch that bugged me to no end while reading my hardcover: The “See Page XX”-brackets are UNIVERSALLY broken. They ALL show $$ instead of the correct page numbers, which actually makes handling the book less comfortable than it should be, so that is a major thing for me. On the more positive side of major things for me would be the GORGEOUS full-color layout by Calle Winters ranks among the finest I’ve seen in any Rpg-product out there. The full-color artworks are also on par with this top-notch production-values and aesthetic appeal, though you might know several of them from e.g. Kobold Press-product covers or from older Open Designs, they nevertheless manage to maintain a unified look of premium quality.

Now I really suggest you get this getting in print, preferably in hardcover, for the book is stitch-bound, beautiful and solid and full-color – printing out the pdf would extol a brutal drain on your printer and the lack of a printer-friendly version means you won’t have the option of printing out a barebones b/w-version.
Now, perhaps my hope is in vain, but there are certain reviews of mine into which I pour my heart’s blood, usually for books that show the same level of commitment and passion. And once in a while, I get my hands on a book that keeps me afloat. Reviewing bad books tends to frustrate me as it’s a thankless, dreary task. Mediocre books are even worse, but that’s another story. What’s relevant and what’ve tried to convey to you, dear readers, over the last pages, was that this book is neither bad, nor mediocre – it is quite the opposite. It took me forever to write this review because it took me forever to digest all the possibilities in this book, all those glorious ideas, all those awesome references and concepts. This book was my go-to book when reviewer’s frustration set in for about half a year. It’s that good. The wealth of information, the sense of ancient wonder, of a setting that is truly wondrous brought me back to the days when I as a wide-eyed child read the “flora & fauna”-AD&D-bestiary. It brought back the sense of wonder I felt when I first read about the Forgotten Realms, before that setting was drowned in factoids and epic level blacksmiths. It even managed to recall the sense of true excitement I had when I first read Planescape, when I parted the mists to Ravenloft. Midgard has the spark of genius that made me like these settings, the spark that makes it stand out.

Well, Golarion also has this spark, but there’s a huge difference: While both worlds are glorious and fun to play in, they both cater to a vast array of different playstyles and Golarion’s patchwork nature has always, not on a conscious, but on a subconscious level, bugged me – Ravenloft could pull the patchwork concept due to the limiting factor of mists, whereas Golarion has no true reason why e.g. psionics, gunpowder etc. have not found a more wide-spread resonance and revolutionized the world more apart from the metagame-reason that some people don’t like them. Also, regarding local politics, fiefdoms, liege lords and allegiances, Golarion is as per the writing of this review not sufficiently detailed to imho properly cater to court-intrigue/all-out warfare gaming. Midgard, in direct comparison, feels less like a patchwork and more like a unified world – one with vastly different regions, yes, but it feels more concise to me. Ironically, while the setting's detailed history is much more sketchy and less detailed, it also feels like the older setting, like a setting that lives and breathes our myths and history. Midgard is the more conservative world and at the same time, the one that lends itself extremely well to uncommon playstyles like court-intrigue just as well as to traditional adventuring. I won’t say that Midgard is the better setting, since you can’t really compare the two, in spite of what I just tried, but let it be known that even if you opt to not play in the setting, this book is so rife with ideas, with innovation, with passion and genius, that you won’t be able to help yourself being swept away, being inspired. For that word is what describes this setting best: Inspiring. This is not only a glorious setting, it is an excellent read and should be considered a must-purchase for any DM out there. Do yourself a favor and bring some wonder back to the fantasy genre and blow those dusty cobwebs away. This book brings back the wonder, and thus, in spite of the annoying glitches, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Jason C. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/15/2012 18:28:23
In a word: brilliant.

This is without doubt or hyperbole the very best fantasy RPG campaign setting that I have ever read (and I've read many!).

Wolfgang Bauer and his team have delivered a dark reflection of old world myth and legend and given them a richly-detailed home in Midgard. The usage of real-world elements is just familiar enough to give the place a strong sense of the believable--there are gnomes and Baba Yaga, for instance--but they've been re-imagined in ways that seem fresh and new. The elves are nearly extinct. Familiar gods wear masks to conceal their machinations. The gnomes have sold their souls to the infernal in hopes of escaping Baba Yaga's vengeance. And the cannibal hag herself isn't what you expect! The result is that Midgard feels like it could be a genuine place for your heroes (and villains) to call home.

This gorgeously-illustrated volume contains rules for both Pathfinder and the AGE systems, but isn't dependent on them: the designers have wisely kept the rules information to the minimum required to guide the GM and players. It could be adapted with ease to any system. I can't wait to use this setting as the foundation for a new campaign!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Brett G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/24/2012 21:20:17
This is a fantastic alternate setting and especially for AGE games (although the Pathfinder roots remain quite evident and are sometimes jarring). It is well organized and beautifully illustrated. Even if one only intends to mine the sourcebook for piecing into a homebrew campaign the backgrounds will be extremely useful both as written and for inspiration.

This is not Earth restyled. Midgard is flat and has a rich cosmology. Included are not just sections on the divine but descriptions of festivals, holidays, and languages. A rather nicely developed urban area named The Free City of Zobek is provided but there are also non-standard areas such as kingdoms of vampires and ghouls. Nor are all the races stock fantasy in origins as Midgard features some distinct takes on such matters including the nomadic Windrunner Elves of the steppes. Adventure seeds are provided and culturally specific weapons and equipment detailed.

In fact, I have only one real complaint but in my mind it is a major problem. The PDF has no print-friendly settings. The illustrations and decoration is quite nice but printing the document (even inpart) will be prohibitively expensive. I gues some could order a bound edition rather than the PDF but the electronic version makes it easier to design adventures and customize the game experience.

Open Design is to be commended for a very strong offering but the lack of a print friendly layer or discrete download knocks it down a star. Buy this PDF only if you never intend to print most of it OR you are independently wealthy so that printing costs won't bankrupt you,

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Jan R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/13/2012 10:10:12
The Midgard Campaign Setting is a wonderful book. The different regions are very diverse and colorful. From a Warring Renaissance Italy over a Cthulhuesque Wasteland to Arabian Nights with Dragons! - there's just so much to dive into and get inspired by. Every place and every NPC is ripe with adventure hooks, everything is designed to create something for your game. With other settings you sometimes get the feeling the authors wanted to write a fantasy novel - not so with Midgard. Here it is clear from page 1 that you have a setting that really wants to help you to create a setting you can and want to play with. It's just great!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Gerald R. J. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/11/2012 14:49:00
A wonderful take on fantasy. Introduces fresh ideas using familiar faces, with a setting full of possibility! I am currently using Midgard in my game, and the adventure ideas keep growing the more I read. The art is beautiful as well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Edward P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/11/2012 10:56:31
I love this book. The art is superb, the writing is crisp, and the world is deeply rich. This belongs in every gamers collection and will provide a lifetime of adventure for your characters.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Keil H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/10/2012 21:20:37
Bottom line up front: the Midgard Campaign Setting is an excellent piece of work. As a DM, I strongly endorse it.

Disclaimer: I love campaign settings. In addition to doing the classics like Ravenloft and Forgotten Realms, I've tried out a lot of alternative settings for my players. Back when it was new, I sent an established FRCS party from Toril to Eberron. I've also bridged Eberron with Dark Sun (decent), and set a game in the pre-history of Eberron (better). In recent years, I've climbed all over Golarion (Pathfinder RPG) over the course of four Adventure Paths. I've even dabbled in the new edition of Midnight. Lately, though, I've found that I'm quite taken with the Old Margrave, the Free City of Zobeck and the rest of Midgard.

Bluntly, even though I've been DMing games for a really long time, the Midgard Campaign Setting helps me to tell a better story. The Central European influence is rich in role-playing flavor and helps even my novice players create PCs with solid hooks on which to craft character arcs, fears, plot complications and distinctive, memorable features. The adventures that I've run in Midgard have very well received by my players. Races like the Gearforged and regional traits like those from the Margrave forest supplement export very well to other settings, but are richest in their native land.

If you're a 3.5 or 3.75 player, this PDF is definitely worth your time. If you're a DM, I submit that it's a must-have. And if you're a hardcore gamer, you'll probably buy the printed edition, too. I did.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Chris K. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/10/2012 16:07:25
I was lucky enough to be a patron of the Midgard project from the start. What a pleasure it has been seeing this , well to be frank, work of art. Makes a perfect addition to any Pathfinder/AGE world, or use the rich background that it contains.

I mean how many other games have Loki, Baba Yaga and Other Nastys in one setting and makes it all work?

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Publisher: Kobold Press
by [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/08/2012 14:31:09
The first thing to notice about this book is its beautiful cover art. The next thing to notice is it size - it is just shy of three hundred pages. Even though I received a reviewer’s copy a few days ago, it is so massive that I’m still just scratching the surface. It is also staggeringly imaginative - not surprising, as there were a hundred or more people contributing ideas for Midgard’s editors to pick through and use.

This book has all the things you expect and need from a campaign setting: Regions, races, geography, culture, gods and pantheons, customs, trade, technology, maps, new feats and regional traits, new magic items, new spells, political intrigue, wars… The list of things that need to be discussed to do justice to Midgard seems endless. However, the time and space to discuss them aren’t. So, to keep this review manageable, here are my three favorite discoveries so far:

Ley Lines: Mythology and literature often describe certain “places of power”, where magic is stronger or stranger then elsewhere. While there has never been anything stopping DM’s from creating such locations, early FRPG’s offered little to no support for this idea. Current editions do noticeably better, but still leave most of the details up to individual GM’s, offering encouragement but scant guidance. The Midgard Campaign Setting has richly developed the idea of ley lines. Descriptions, tables, and imagination positively drip from the pages. Want to surprise your players with some locations where magic takes on a life of its own? Here it is, all laid out and ready for you to use.

Divine Masks: Sometimes, the gods are not who they seem to be. I’m particularly happy with this idea for three reasons: First, it’s historically accurate. The Romans used a concept very similar to this when they wanted to reconcile their ideas of how the gods worked with their neighbors’ ideas of how the gods worked. (“Minerva? Sure the Egyptians worship her just like we do, but they call her Isis.”) Second, I’ve never seen it used, mentioned, or even hinted at in any FRPG until now. In other words, from a gaming perspective, this idea is 100% novel and new! Third, masks help restore a sense of mystery, power, and grandeur to the gods; something they’ve struggled to maintain ever since the first printing of “Deities Demigods and Heroes” rolled off the presses almost forty years ago. I think this idea is going to help GM’s make the religions of their world more vibrant, interesting, and meaningful.

Portability: Since Midgard is an integrated, self-contained campaign setting, I wasn’t really sure at first how much of it could be harvested for use in my own world. To my great delight I have found that most, maybe all, of the basic ideas in this book are portable. As I already mentioned, Ley Lines and Divine Masks can easily be used in anyone’s current game world. Even entire regions can be transplanted if you so desire. Portability is important to me because that’s how I use almost all gaming supplements: I extract the ideas and fit them into my already-existing campaign. Portability means the Midgard Campaign Setting is valuable to me even though I’m not planning to give up my own homebrew world. I can use the vast amount of information and ideas in this book to make my own world better.

I leave you with three conclusions I’ve come to regarding Midgard.

Conclusion #1: Everything I’ve read adheres to the exceptional quality I’ve come to expect from Kobold Quarterly’s Open Design process.

Conclusion #2: This book will provide many weeks of enjoyment simply from reading it to discover all its secrets.

Conclusion #3: Once you begin actually using its secrets in your game, it will provide many years of additional enjoyment.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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