Heroic Mykenaea: Making Rolemaster Fit

The post below is written by UbiquitousRat, a guest blogger for The Iron Tavern.

Heroic Mykenaea was conceived just ever so slightly before we decided to sign up to the new Rolemaster public playtest. Our group had been going through a bad patch, having abandoned Dungeons & Dragons 4e and drifted through a short campaign using GURPS. What was missing was a sense of commitment to a setting, something that would allow me as a GM to commit to writing and the players to commit to turning up regularly. With this need in mind, it was a series of short steps that led us to Rolemaster.

What is Heroic Mykenaea?

Heroic Mykenaea is a swords & sorcery genre fantasy campaign loosely based on the myths and stories of Mycenaean Greece (Achaea). It is a world mixing Greek myth, magick, Olympians, Chthonic Cults, heroic action, and swords & sorcery fantasy themes.

Mykenaea was born from the suggestion of a player that we use real-world maps upon which to base our own setting. At the time we were talking about a post-Apocalyptic world and the idea was quite novel. Unable to agree on a game system, however, we began to discuss other setting ideas.

Just as I was considering using the excellent new Hackmaster rules, and actually began to plan some NPCs using those rules, the news broke about a new edition of Rolemaster. After a consultation with the group it was agreed to sign up for the playtest. The first campaign maps were drawn from a Google Maps image pulled from the web, and you can view some of the cartography that developed from the idea on the wiki.

Adapting to Rolemaster

How do you adapt a setting to fit a game before you’ve seen the rules? Truth is, you can’t.

Mykenaea was designed making decisions based loosely upon the earlier editions of Rolemaster. We knew that the core of the game, whilst being re-designed, was also seeking to remain faithful to the 35-year or so history of the system.

We decided that, while the setting would be Greek-inspired, we would not allow history to limit our vision. Consulting a summary of pre-Classical history it was apparent that what is known about the “Heroic Age”, prior to the 5th Century BCE, is relatively limited to the stories of Homer and some sketchy archaeology. This was fertile ground for an alternate universe in which magick was mixed with the heroic mythology of Homer and others.

As GM, I made a series of decisions and then began to draft the background (available on the wiki) that I felt would get the players started. These decisions were:

  1. To set the adventure in the period just prior to the classic Heroic Age heroes, with the first major campaign event to be the destruction of Thera.
  2. To allow as wide a selection of magick as possible in the setting… but making it secretive and hidden.
  3. To use as many of the Rolemaster character Professions as possible.
  4. To emphasise an old-school and sandbox style over our usual story-driven approach.
  5. To commit to using as few House Rules as possible.

How have we adapted so far?

We meet once a fortnight on a Friday night. We’ve had two sessions since the release of Character Law a month ago. Session One, which formed the basis for “An Evening with Rolemaster”, was all about character generation. Session Two began our campaign.

Rolemaster is a generic fantasy RPG system so it fits to any setting quite readily and is designed to be flexible. Each decision made as GM has been recorded on our Rolemaster Player’s Guide for Mykenaea. It has been really simple to adapt.

We’ve left out only one Profession from the core rules: the Monk. This is because the Eastern-inspired martial arts stereotype is too much even for my warped vision of ancient Greece to handle. That being said, it has been fun to adapt some other staples to the setting.

A good example of this adaptation has been the inclusion of the Paladin, chosen by one of the players. Here the heroic idea for the character has influenced the setting: our Paladin, being the outcast eldest son of a king, is a true Scion of Zeus; he is blessed and favoured by the King of the Olympian Gods and destined for… something cool. The Paladin is simply referred to as the Scion, conjuring images relevant to the period instead of the classic mediaeval vision.

Magick in Greece?

Erm, yes. Like I said earlier, this is a fantastical vision of Greece.

It’s loads more fun to include magick (the spelling is deliberate) than to leave it out. Partly we wanted to playtest all the Rolemaster rules… but mostly, we love magickal heroes. Looking at the party created, we only have one non-spellcasting Profession: the lone Fighter. The others are the Ranger, Scion (Paladin), Dabbler and Mentalist.

As GM, I decided to limit all the Closed Spell Lists (see the Spell Law article for details on what that means) and allow only Base and Open Lists to be chosen. This allows me to introduce Closed Lists (which tend to be the most powerful spells) later in the campaign, and on a need-to-access basis. The players like this limitation… and have to justify their inclusion of powerful spells. One player has already got me to allow a lone Closed List as part of his hero’s background.

Races and Cultures

It’s worth mentioning the Races and the Cultures too.

I’ve dropped Halflings from the setting but included something called Pel-Dimini, which are a kind of Half-Elf. Rolemaster provides Elves and Dwarves, so I absorbed those rules to fit the Dimini and the Sesklo races respectively. The system provides me with the tools to create the Pel-Dimini so I’ll be adding them to the setting at the moment I first need them.

As for Cultures, these allowed me to have different Human groups. The native rural and urban Pelasgian Men are different from the cosmopolitan Achaean Men; the Minoans are seafarers and cosmopolitan too. Even the non-Human races can fit into their homelands using the appropriate Cultures… and I’ll be making a Greek-style Slave culture as soon as I need it too, using the rules in Rolemaster to facilitate it.

Verdict?

So far, so good. It’s been really easy to adapt the new Rolemaster to my setting. In fact, the new system has inspired some decisions too… like how magick works.

During the most recent session we decided to use some of the simplified gaming options, such as the Simple Rounds optional rule (which makes combat run quicker). What is great is that Rolemaster provides such options as part of the system. This has meant that, so far, we’ve only generated one House Rule… and even that might be something that the playtest renders obsolete if the suggestion reaches the designers.

All in all, it’s been the easiest setting build I’ve ever worked on. The players seem to be getting into it too… and I’m itching to run the next session.

Ghouls, anyone?

Bio

UbiquitousRat is a long-time roleplayer and gamesmaster who has a history with gaming going back to 1979. In 1994 he joined Games Workshop, spending 12 years in the gaming industry at the coal-face of tabletop wargaming. In 1998 he founded the Friday Night Roleplay group at his home in suburban Nottinghamshire, UK, and ever since has been the primary GM. The group was involved in the playtest of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition and Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay, as well as giving air to the development of 6d6 RPG. The core five players are all looking forward to the new Rolemaster and everyone is excited to be sharing the story in The Iron Tavern. Oh, and he’s also a high school teacher during the daytime.

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House Rules

Early last week I posted a poll here at The Iron Tavern about reader’s usage of house rules. There were four options in the poll:

  • No house rules at all, rules are rules
  • Minimal house rules, more like table clarifications
  • Some house rules, change things that need changing
  • Lots of house rules, my house rule doc is more than 2 pages

Based on this poll, everyone house rules at least a little. No one chose the no house rules option. 31% chose the minimal house rules or the more like table clarifications. Table clarifications could be tweaks to starting gold, hit points gained during leveling and items like that. 54% went with some house rules stating that if something needs changing, then they would change it to work for their game. And the final 15% confessed to house rules breaking into multiple pages.

The poll question was sparked by my reading of the Castles and Crusades Castle Keepers Guide the weekend before. Right up front there is section that plainly states that if the rules are impeding your fun, amend it or change it, but do not let it impede your fun. This got me thinking about the amount of house rules I use and whether I bend to the rules or if I bend them to my game.

I have frequently run Pathfinder games in the recent years. Some of the games I have run are for my local group where I have lots of flexibility and other times I run Pathfinder Society games under the organized play umbrella. There really isn’t room for house rules under organized play, as one needs to provide the same experience from one GM to another. But my home game has no such restriction.

Even for my home game I fall into the minimal house rules category. The things I rule on are much more like table clarifications. Things like rolling hit points being if you don’t break half on the die roll, take half. Or possibly just a clarification of a frequently debated rule with how we interpret it for my campaigns. I really don’t dig inand house rule things very much. I could fit it on a half a page I bet.

I was the same way with D&D 3.x as well. I did not make a lot of changes to the rules. I pretty much played by the rules as written save for the minor table modifications.

After reading the Castles and Crusades rules I am feeling more of an urge to tinker, to really play with the rules and mold them for my group. That isn’t a slight towards the game, it is more like a feeling of liberation, like I’ve been given the blessing of modifying the rules.

Why is it I feel more able to modify with Castles and Crusades versus something like D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder?  Even the Pathfinder Core rulebook mentions some flexibility with the rules, though more in the vein of making quick rulings when the interpretation of the rule is unclear. Castles and Crusades comes straight out and says change the rule if you don’t like it.

I think it is more than that as to why I feel more willing to modify or house rule something like Castles and Crusades. I think systems with more rules, while trying to help the GM judge decisions actually end up restricting the player’s freedoms. Everything they want to do is regulated by a feat, skill or some other mechanic instead of common sense. In the end while it can make things more black and white, I think it can be restricting.

With a more rules-light system there is a lot more room to tinker while still staying within the system. This tinkering can include adding in some house rules to keep things consistent between game sessions.

I think as I spend more time with Castles and Crusades and other rules light systems I will move from the ‘table clarifications’ response to my poll to the ‘change things that need changing’ portion of the poll.

So what do you think? Does the system you play have an affect on how much you house rule?

Review: Kobold Quarterly #23

Kobold Quarterly

An issue of Kobold Quarterly #23 arrived at The Iron Tavern this week, the print and PDF magazine from the Open Design/Kobold Press group. I have been a steady reader of the magazine, but it has been several issues since I have done a review on an issue here. The last review I did was for issue #19.

With Wolfgang Baur at the helm as the Kobold-in-Chief and a complement of staff providing editing and graphic design services the magazine remains a premier periodical for the RPG market. Kobold Quarterly comes with the feel of the Dragon magazine of old with its production quality and articles covering many game systems, including Pathfinder, D&D, AGE, and recently 13th Age. This issue is no different.

Issue #23 is the Autumn 2012 issue and includes an impressive array of contributing authors. Monte Cooke, Ed Greenwood, Wes Schneider, and Wolfgang himself all contributed articles to this Autumn issue along with a host of additional authors. This issue of the magazine is appropriately themed Demons and Devils. A stunning cover by Emile Denis titled “Master of Demon Mountain” further reinforces the theme for this issue.

This issue contains 20 articles ranging from articles geared towards characters, design and DMing, Game Theory along with four feature articles. I will take a brief look at each of the feature articles and then highlight some of the other articles that stood out in my opinion.

Feature Articles

First up is Dispater by Wes Schneider. This article is a continued examination of the lords of Hell in the Golarion campaign setting from Paizo. Dispater is an archdevil who holds a reputation of Hell’s reasonable, rational and honorable overlord. The article goes into great depth about all things concerning this archdevil. Corruptions, Allies and Enemies, Souls and Servants, the Cult of Dispater and more are all covered. The article provides a wealth of information for the GM looking to bring Dispater to life in their campaign.

Next we have Slithering in Moonlight by Marc Radle. This brings the lamia to Pathfinder RPG as a player race. Details of physical description, society, relations, alignment and religion are all covered. Mechanics of playing a lamia including racial traits, a new oracle mystery, and new racial feats are also detailed. If you have players who prefer to play races out of the ordinary or as a GM you want more information for recurring NPCs, the lamia article will provide you with the information you need.

Of the four feature articles, Pages from Asmodeus by Ed Greenwood was my favorite. An article that covers the Vile Black Book we learn of an oversized spellbook with traps within its pages, spells that move about on the pages from one reader to the next and a wealth of new spells. Spellbooks is an area I consider an interesting area to play in. This article hits the mark quite well. Introducing this book into your campaign or using it for a model for other particularly notorious spellbooks in your game will cause players to use caution with new spellbooks they find.

The final feature article is Mechuiti by Adam Roy. Detailing the demon lord Mechuiti in the Midgard Campaign Setting. Lord of apes and cannibals this CR25 creature is not to be trifled with. History, allies and enemies, cults and followers are all described in this article. A full mechanical write-up of this massive beast is also detailed as well as some lowlier minions.  Whether you play in the recently released Midgard Campaign Setting or simply “borrow” this write-up for your own, there is something to keep your players on their toes.

Article Highlights

Continuing on into the magazine there are several other gems for GMs and players alike. The article Selling your Soul by Rodrigo Garcia Carmona was an interesting read. It outlines the process of striking a deal with the devil, covering research, summoning and negotiating for the deal. I found it an interesting look at this process that we often write off as “making a deal with the devil”. This article gives the GM some tools to add a little more to that transaction.

Sundering does not come up too often in my games, but the rules in Simplifying Sunder by R.C. Higgins brings an item condition scale that you move up as you attempt to sunder weapons. Also included are some additional modifiers for CMB and CMD stats for the weapons themselves. A good read and if I were to build a character with sundering in mind I would likely ask the GM if we could incorporate the ideas in this article.

Fruits of Friula by Christina Stiles provides more background of the city of Friula in the Midgard Campaign Setting and 14 inks and poisons. I sometimes think I am in the minority when it comes to enjoying reading about mundane or items just a touch above mundane items.  This article details poisons adding new descriptions and effects that Friula is infamous for. Rare inks and magical inks are also detailed. This is a strong article that can only add depth to your game as you incorporate these new poisons and inks.

Those are only a few of the articles in the magazine this quarter. Some will be interested in the Living Gods for 13th Age, or Ask the Kobold column or Monte Cook’s Different Kinds of World Building, and more.

The Art

Not to be overlooked is the art and graphic design of the magazine. A long list of artists’ work grace the pages of this magazine. All enhance the magazine really rounding it out and bringing things the articles talk about to life.

Wrap Up

The Autumn issue of Kobold Quarterly is again a stellar offering from the folks over at Open Design/Kobold Press. With articles to inspire, add depth to your game, and more it is well worth picking up. Even the system specific articles are easily ported over to your system of choice.

Kobold Quarterly is available from the Kobold Store in Print+PDF or PDF-only.

Tankard Rating
5 Tankards out of 5 Tankards

Note: The Iron Tavern was provided a review copy of this magazine, though that did not influence the review.

ICv2 Summer 2012 – DCC RPG

ICv2 released their summer 2012 numbers today for the top 5 RPGs. ICv2 has been releasing these charts quarterly and the information is based on interviews with retailers, distributors, and manufacturers.

The accuracy of these charts is often called into question, especially when particular companies are knocked out of the number 1 spot on the chart. I tend to consider it a reasonable source of RPG game popularity in the market as ICv2 does release this every quarter and has been doing so for many years. If nothing else it is at least a conversation point, there are likely many other factors at play as to true popularity.

With that out of the way – look who showed up in position five on the chart for summer 2012! Goodman Games with Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG!

  • Pathfinder                                                                       Paizo Publishing
  • Dungeons and Dragons                                                Wizards of the Coast
  • Dark Heresy/Rogue Trader/Deathwatch                       Fantasy Flight Games
  • Dragon Age                                                                    Green Ronin Publishing
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics                                               Goodman Games

It has seemed that Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG is having its share of popularity with the 1st printing having sold out and a near constant buzz about the game on social networks and message forums. But one has to wonder if that is just due to some of the circles I hang out in. It seems the popularity is more than just amongst my hangouts on the Internet.

Congrats Goodman Games!

Rolemaster: Introducing Arms Law

The post below is written by UbiquitousRat, a guest blogger for The Iron Tavern.

Arms Law was the third book released for the new Rolemaster public playtest, and it sits alongside Character Law and Spell Law at the core of the rules. Having had a little over 72 hours to have a look at it, here are some initial reactions.

What’s in Arms Law?

The top 10 cool features of Arms Law are:

  1. An integrated combat system designed to model round-by-round detailed action.
  2. Actual differences between different types of armour, and built in rules for mix-and-match pieces of armour.
  3. Flexibility in player choices, including the ability to mould your available actions into a 10-second round. You have up to 100% of activity, and can choose exactly how you use it.
  4. One roll to hit also delivers the damage; a second roll might be made for a “Crit”, to see what colourful additional effect your hero gains.
  5. 45 Attack Tables, each supporting a different weapon type to reflect its effectiveness.
  6. 7 additional Attack Tables for elemental attacks, such as Fire Bolt and Lightning Ball.
  7. 11 Critical Tables providing bone-crunching and exciting detail on what happens when you score a “Crit”.
  8. Ranged and Melee Fumble rules which give similar detail for the fails.
  9. Optional rules to streamline stuff you find too detailed for your group’s tastes.
  10. The trademark Rolemaster choice to split your skill with weapons between attacking and parrying.

Tables? Really?

Let’s deal with the issue of tables. Yes, Rolemaster uses tables.

In the oldest fantasy RPG, and most derivatives, to make an attack you do the following: roll to hit (using your skill), roll to wound (using various polyhedral dice), apply damage to the Hit Points of the target. At zero Hit Points your target falls unconscious and dies. Critical hits, those that get an exceptional result, simply do more damage.

In Rolemaster, using a simple table to make an attack you do the following: roll to hit, looking up your result in cross-reference to the armour type of the opponent. The result gives you the damage done, plus (sometimes) a Critical result. If you “Crit”, you make a second quick roll on the Critical Table to see what colourful and dangerous additional effect you achieve.

Here’s an example: Goriel swings his longsword at an Orc wearing chain armour. The player rolls d100 minus the Orc’s defensive bonus plus Goriel’s offensive bonus. The total is 139, which means that Goriel scores 12 Hits plus a B-type Slashing Critical. Rolling on the Crit table, a simple d100 roll, Goriel discovers that (on 85) he strikes the Orc’s head, cutting open its forehead and causing serious bleeding… which forces the Orc to shake his head to clear his eyes and lose 20% of his actions.

To my mind, this is way more interesting and engaging than, “I rolled a 17, I hit. I scored 7 points of damage”.

Weapons and Armour

In Rolemaster each weapon and your choice of armour actually makes a difference.

Lighter armour (or having no armour) makes you HARDER to hit, whilst heavier armour makes you EASIER to hit. However, no armour opens you up to massive damage, whilst heavy armour protects you. This is more logical than the traditional idea that your armour makes you harder to hit… and has no further effect.

Weapons affect armour and creatures in different ways too. A pointy spear is different from a slashy sword. Hammers crush whilst daggers stab or slash. Some weapons are more useful for penetrating different types of armour and killing certain kinds of creature. You find this out through trial and error.

The practical upshot? Rolemaster combat is more detailed but really about as fast as the traditional fantasy RPG, if not faster. It also delivers more exciting results and colourful descriptive details.

Player Choices

As with all of Rolemaster, the system encourages and rewards player choices. The Initiative system, which takes a 10-second round and asks you to decide how you will act in 10% chunks, gives players real flexibility in a fight. Don’t want to make an all-out 100% effort attack? No problem, make an 80% attack (with a -20 penalty on your hit roll) and use the remaining 20% to move, reload your bow, or whatever.

The only beef that I have, at least on a first reading of the rules, is that the default Initiative system presented is really very detailed. Of course, as with all things Rolemaster, there are two other optional systems available to make life simpler… so I’m probably going to use the simplest with my group.

Options, Options

That moves us to consider the Options. One of the biggest advantages of the Rolemaster system is that it comes ready-built with options for either more or less detail. Being someone who likes to play “old school”, I can easily strip out rules which seem too complex for my taste. The writers have provided me with optional alternatives too, which means that I don’t have to waste precious GM time working up a “house rule”. Frankly, that’s a big selling point for me.

And finally…

That’s Rolemaster ready to play. From here on out it’s time to get those heroes into some adventures and let you know how this system really works.

Over the next few articles we aim to talk you through how we’ve been adapting Rolemaster to our house-built setting, Heroic Mykenaea. We also want to share the ups and downs of the system playtest so that you can decide if it’s worth a look when the final product arrives next year.

Please feel free to comment on what you’ve read so far… and if you’ve got any questions, drop them in to the comments below.

Game on!

Bio

UbiquitousRat is a long-time roleplayer and gamesmaster who has a history with gaming going back to 1979. In 1994 he joined Games Workshop, spending 12 years in the gaming industry at the coal-face of tabletop wargaming. In 1998 he founded the Friday Night Roleplay group at his home in suburban Nottinghamshire, UK, and ever since has been the primary GM. The group was involved in the playtest of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition and Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay, as well as giving air to the development of 6d6 RPG. The core five players are all looking forward to the new Rolemaster and everyone is excited to be sharing the story in The Iron Tavern. Oh, and he’s also a high school teacher during the daytime.

House Rules Poll

I started reading some of the Castle Keepers Guide for Castles and Crusades this weekend. Right up front there is a one page section on not being bound by the rules. If the rules are impeding your fun, amend it, change it, but do not let a rule get in the way of your fun.

This got me thinking a bit and is the reason behind today’s poll. How many folks out there house rule their game? A little? A lot? Absolutely not? Does the type of system have an influence on whether you house rule your game or not?

Feel free to use the comment section to clarify your use of house rules. I am sure the poll won’t completely capture people’s use of house rules.

Here is the poll:

We’ll let the poll sit out there for a few days and then I will comment on the poll results and my thoughts on house rules.

Review: Midgard Campaign Setting

Kobold Press released the Midgard Campaign Setting earlier this week. For those unfamiliar with the Midgard setting , it started as the home campaign of Wolfgang Baur. The setting had been the home world for many of the books Kobold Press (formerly Open Design) has released over the past few years. Taking this a step further, Wolfgang Baur opened the campaign to supporting patrons resulting in the product available today.

Front cover design credits go to Wolfgang Baur, Jeff Grubb, Brandon Hodge, Christina Styles, and Dan Voyce. Cartography credits to Jonathan Roberts, Sean Macdonald, and Lucas Haley. There are many folks responsible for art in the book and included on the list are Storn Cook, Callie Winters, Hugo Solis, and more.

The book is available in hard cover format, soft cover format and PDF, ranging in price from $49.99 for the hardcover+PDF to $19.99 for the PDF only. The physical books are available from the Kobold Quarterly store and Paizo.com. The PDF is available at each of the above points of sale and at DriveThruRPG.

What is inside?

The book weighs in at 296 pages and uses the Pathfinder rule system for mechanic elements, though an appendix is included for the AGE system as well. The setting is described as a dark fantasy world with a European influence. Along with new “crunch” to support the more than 50 kingdoms detailed in the tome, there are new feats, traits, spells, cleric domains, and more. The book contains ten chapters, three appendices, and an index.

Chapter One is an introduction to Midgard providing the reader with information on the seven secrets of Midgard that make this campaign setting unique from others. A history of Midgard is included as well as information on time, planes, and dates. The Ley Lines of the campaign setting are defined and includes feats associated with Ley Lines and how to use a Ley Line. Read on for more information on Ley Lines below.

Chapter Two covers the people and classes of Midgard. The optional rule of status, a mechanic for tracking fame and notoriety within the world is also detailed in this chapter. In addition to the major traditional races such as humans, elves, dwarves, the setting adds other major races – dragonkin, gearforged, kobolds, and minotaurs. The chapter concludes with additional feats and traits for each of the major regions of the Midgard campaign world.

Chapters Three through Nine cover the regions of Midgard. These chapters provide a detailed look at each region, highlighting life there, regional differences, cities, and more. Each section also includes possible adventure hooks for a GM looking to run a game in that area. The regional chapters are quite detailed and do an excellent job getting a GM up to speed on characteristics for these regions.

Chapter Ten delves into the Pantheon of the world. The Great Serpent of the world is discussed, gods by various regional area, and new domains are introduced – including a beer domain (Oh, how many dwarven clerics I’ve played that could have used this)!

Moving on to the Appendices, we find the first dedicated to the AGE system. It introduces numerous backgrounds for AGE fans and specializations. This appendix comes in at 14 pages. Appendix two contains regional encounter tables and appendix three is a short section on what other Kobold Press materials have information that expand on topics in the campaign setting itself.

Is it any good?

Midgard Campaign Setting is an excellent release from Kobold Press. The book is very well organized and provides numerous regions, ideas, and even mechanics to borrow for your own campaign world.

My favorite item from the book is the ley lines. Ley lines are arcane and divine magic sources that can enhance the power of a spell if the caster is near it during casting. Ley lines are invisible sources of power to most, though some mages may have the ability to see them. Ley lines enhance spells by providing some meta-magic effect to the spell being cast. This could include heightening the spell, causing it to reach further, remove the need for verbal or somatic components and more. Very powerful mages can learn to control these sources of power more reliably. Ley lines can vary in power from.

Ley lines are handled mechanically through a variety of feats to learn to use them and in some cases control them. Several random tables are provided for the different powered ley lines for generating the random effects when tapping into a ley line’s power.

I found ley lines a very interesting portion of Midgard. Even if you have your own campaign world, ley lines are ripe for the plundering. I know I will be considering them for my campaign worlds even if I don’t run a game in Midgard.

There are many regions detailed in the book that will enable a GM to place a campaign start in a myriad of areas that best fit the feel they want. All of them were good in my opinion with enough information to give you a feel for the idea without them being so detailed that I would feel stifled running in this campaign world. That is a difficult balance to strike, but I think a good job was done here.

Elven regions, human regions, dwarven regions all have a place in Midgard. Beyond the traditional regions one would expect in a fantasy setting there several that bring new flavor as well. There are the Dragon Lands where the dragons rule supreme and humans are looked down upon. The minotaurs have their region to call their own. Even the ghouls have the Empire of Ghouls to call their own.

Even the predominant human regions have interesting twists to keep them interesting. I found the area of The Seven Cities quite fun. The regions here have made war a normal part of life. There is even a season for war with a strict set of protocols for declaring war, waging war, and more. This season even brings mercenaries down on a seasonal basis from other areas. The dwarven mercenaries of Ironcrag are notorious for raising free companies and heading south to participate in these wars.

Further to the west one finds the Wasted West. This land was obliterated in the Great Mage Wars scarring the lands forever. To this day monstrosities and rips in the fabrics of the planes themselves dot the land. Magic behaves differently, the storms are supernatural, and macabre landmarks are used by travelers to cross this land. There are so many adventure plot hooks here that a GM would likely never run out of ideas for their campaign just from this region.

The races that are added are also well-done and fit the world. Dragonkin, Gearforged, minotaurs and others have excellent backgrounds and a reason for being in the world. While I tend not to stray from traditional races in my games, the story behind the gearforged was interesting with the blending of ones soul with the clockwork mechanics. Well done.

The art and maps in the book are very good as well. With many full page art pieces at the beginning of each chapter and other inspiring works spread throughout the book. The maps are excellent and include many city maps. While not a part of this particular review, be sure to check out the Midgard iPad Atlas to really bring the world map to a unique medium. (Read The Iron Tavern’s post on the Midgard iPad Atlas).

This book is advertised as a Pathfinder compatible setting and an AGE appendix to bring that system to the mix. If those are not your systems of your choice, do not let that deter you. The mechanics in the core of the book are for the Pathfinder system, but there is a tremendous amount of material that is setting neutral that will serve GMs of other systems. I rarely run Pathfinder these days and will still find lots of useful ideas for my own campaigns.

My only complaint is more related to a technology factor. Paizo has spoiled me with their “lite” versions of PDFs for their more graphic intensive books. The Midgard Campaign Setting feels a little clunky on my tablet. Admittedly I am still using a generation 1 iPad for RPG PDFs, so I am on an older device. A “lite” version like Paizo releases would help with much smoother page turns while reading on the tablet. This is a minor nitpick, the PDF is usable on my iPad, I am just spoiled by the bar Paizo set with their “lite” PDFs.

The Wrap Up

I have only touched on some of the highlights from the book in my eyes. Even with this summary I am neglecting other gems in the book. There are surely to be things in this book that help inspire your game as well. I really cannot do the campaign setting justice in a single review.

The Midgard Campaign Setting is an excellent release from Kobold Press. If you are looking for a new campaign setting to start you next campaign in, look no further. If you have an established setting or you homebrew, you still owe it to yourself to pick this book up. There is a multitude of material to borrow to inspire your own campaign setting of choice. Great job Kobold Press!