Billed as a Bestiary and mini-campaign setting, The Midderlands is far more than it says on the tin. It is built around a small region of a twisted late medieval England that never was, appropriately called the Midderlands. Seal and Co. manage to be both concise and amazingly evocative with the prose of this tiny (but powerful) tome to create a setting that is truly unique, yet doesn't require the referee or players to learn a ton of backstory to enjoy the material as its presented.
The Midderlands is a truly strange place, but because its rooted in a well-researched and well-known period of real world history, its quite approachable. The authors manage to convey in just a few pages what exactly makes the Midderlands unique without going into an inappropriate level of detail so as to bog down or bore the reader. As previously mentioned, the Midderlands is firmly rooted in real world history -- but not specific events. Instead, it uses the feel and commonalities of a real historic place and era and then pours on a heaping helping of strange and twisted folk lore that is both familiar and entirely unique all at the same time.
The Midderlands is a strange and twisted place full of unexplained events, twisted monsters that feel rooted in folklore but have an almost Froudian twist to them. The people of the Midderlands are real people, not adventurers or heroes. They want to tend their crops, feed their families, and not be bothered by the terrible things that lurk just beyond the green gloomfog that lingers in a nearby bog. That being said, most average residents recognize that these monsters are quite real and there's almost a sense that they're nonplussed about the whole affair. 'Well, of course there's a bulging-eyed horde of slime dripping goblins who live in those woods. Any fool knows that."
The magic items are no less strange, each designed to have a tonality that strengthens the themes of the setting. A handful of spells do the same as well. Oh, speaking of magic -- magic is something not to be trifled with in the Midderlands. Because frogs fall from the sky, trees sometimes explode in a shower of green flame, and a dangerous beryl fog floats in from beneath the earth, the people of the Midderlands have a general stance of "Burn the witch, ask questions later" when it comes to magic and magic-users. Again, fitting with the historic context -- but also with it's own twist.
The feelings evoked by the material ooze across every page, but the minimalist word count leaves referees free to build and expand as they see fit to suit their campaign. It's billed as a mini-campaign setting, but to be honest I feel like there are years worth of adventures to be told in these pages.
The monsters are lavishly and beautifully illustrated in a perfect expression of appopriate strangeness. In addition to ecology and stat blocks, most monsters are provided with a full level-progression which both allows the referee to scale them to the power level of an individual party of PCS or, if they're feeling brave, allowing them as player characters. That was a real surprise, and a welcome one.
In short, Midderlands is probably my favorite OSR campaign setting currently on the market because it combines the familiar and the strange so perfectly. This allows the referee to create a fresh experience for players without going into territorty that feels different for the sake of being different. Ostensively written for Swords & Wizardry Complete, it can easily be adapted to many OSR games and B/X-based RPGs currently on the market. Personally, I think it would be an excellent fit for Lamentations of the Flame Princess, given that games strangeness -- plus, LotFP and Midderlands physical copies are of the absolute highest quality when it comes to production values and they're both A5 in dimension. I find they look very snazzy next to one another on a shelf.
Midderlands is absolutely 100% worth a purchase. Even if you don't play OSR games and lean towards more modern game systems, there is enough material here to be begged, borrowed, or stolen that its well worth the price of admission.
[5 of 5 Stars!]