IRON ATLAS: A Digital Forge for Your Roleplaying Games
Lifeform Entertainment has launched a Kickstarter for new a mobile app called IRON ATLAS. It’s a “Digital Miniatures System” designed for the iPad to serve as an alternative to physical maps and miniatures for roleplaying games.
IRON ATLAS takes many of the elements seen in traditional, PC-based Virtual Tabletop systems (VTTs) and optimizes them for use on mobile devices. The app’s streamlined UI keeps it simple, elegant, and focused on the basics for combat, plus providing tons of content for you to pick and choose for YOUR game.
PUBLISHERS YOU LOVE
IRON ATLAS lets you browse and download the maps and fantastic character and monster art, from the publishers you love, to use as virtual miniatures. The in-app store comes with content from tons of well-known publishers, cartographers, and illustrators within the RPG industry, letting you cherry-pick the monsters, maps, and other elements you want for your particular game.
IRON ATLAS is GAME AGNOSTIC. This means that it works for any RPG, and genre, that uses maps and miniatures. It focuses on traditional fantasy for starters, but will soon include maps and tokens for sci-fi, superhero, horror, modern, post-apocalyptic, and even historical.
IRON ATLAS is more than a mere app: it’s an entire “Digital Miniatures System.” It lets you create adventures and encounters, play them on the app’s Mobile Tabletop, and provide the content you want through the robust in-app store.
The Mobile Tabletop: is where the action takes place, combining an encounter map with tokens for combat. Move tokens around just like you would physical miniatures on a battle mat. Zoom in and out or pan around the map using intuitive touch gestures. Touch a token to bring up its info—name, class, and vital combat statistics—without having to leave the screen. Encounter Tokens let you group individual creatures and place them on the map. Easily populate a huge dungeon map with these Encounter Tokens to reduce clutter. Things going too easy for the players? Drag out duplicate monster tokens right from the Token Pane onto the map. The GM can hide or reveal tokens and easily switch between GM View (see everything, including menus) to Player View (only what the GM wants the players to see). We have additional features planned for the Mobile Tabletop, which will get unlocked as stretch goals!
HDTV Output and Fog of War: You can easily output IRON ATLAS to an HDTV, meaning your TV becomes “the battle mat” for everyone to see! Fog of War and the GM/Player View switching allows the GM to show only what players need to see, while keeping unrevealed monsters, traps, and the UI Panes hidden from view. Connect with an HDMI cable or wirelessly via AppleTV, Chromecast, Reflector or other third-party app.
Encounter Builder: Use simple, intuitive touch-based gestures to easily drag-and-drop monsters and characters into the Encounter Builder. Browse the Token Codex, find the characters or monsters you like, and drag them out to rapidly build individual encounters. Your system doesn’t use “Hit Points?” No problem! Edit individual tokens with stats and notes for your specific game or system, so you can turn that stat into something else. Pre-plan an entire adventure full of encounters and group multiple adventures into campaigns. IRON ATLASauto-saves as you build to prevent loss of work.
MAPS: Get maps for your encounters, adventures, and campaigns through the IRON ATLAS in-app store, pulled directly from your favorite publishers’ adventures or source books. Created your own map? You can upload your maps into the app and use them when building encounters. This includes huge world maps, regional maps, or “tactical” level maps that mimic drawing out a battlemat for your adventurers to go beat the crap out of Orcus. The app comes with several pre-loaded maps for you to use, for FREE. Plus, the base app will include ALL the maps from a NEW adventure from the Ennie-Award WinningFreeport: City of Adventure setting (using the Pathfinder rules) by Green Ronin Publishing that is part of our Backer Levels!
TOKENS: A “token” is our term for a digital miniature, consisting of an amazing piece of artwork, name, description, and info that you’ll need when that creature is in combat, such as Initiative, Armor Class/Defense Score, and Hit Points. IRON ATLAS comes ready-to-go with tokens for typical d20 system primary character classes, creature type, and a variety of environmental effects, traps, and obstacles. Customize token info to suit your particular RPG system. Browse the in-app store and purchase IRON ATLAS-ready Token Packs pulled directly from publishers’ products and illustrators.
COMPANION MODULES: In addition to being able to purchase individual tokens and maps, the in-app store features publisher-specific, IRON ATLAS-ready ADVENTURE COMPANION MODULES. A Companion Module works in concert with a PDF or print version of an adventure, taking the maps, tokens, and encounters of a specific adventure and assembling them for instant use. Each encounter has its monsters and traps already in place on maps, with pre-built names and stats. Plus, all the maps and tokens get added to your Token Codex for you to use in creating your own encounters! Companion Modules are a great way to bulk up your collection, make running specific adventures super easy, and helps support your favorite publishers.
ABOUT LIFEFORM ENTERTAINMENT
Lifeform Entertainment has an amazing team of programmers, designers, and artists, with an incredible amount of hand-on experience and attention to detail. All of us are veteran game developers (some for over 20 years), with heavy-hitting backgrounds at companies like BioWare, EA, Activision, and Wizards of the Coast. The team’s ultra-high creative standards, design expertise, and “on-time, on-budget” approach to development have gained us the respect of clients and colleagues alike. Lifeform Entertainment was founded in 2009 and located in sunny Seattle, WA.
Today is a day to celebrate, at least for me: This review commemorates my review no. 1000 on Paizo, so thank you so much for reading my reviews, commenting on them and offering constructive criticism as well as placing trust in my verdicts: I bow to you ladies and gentlemen!
Midgard Campaign Setting
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. ;P
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-worshiping 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: Governed 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-worshiping 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.
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 bare bones 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 neiher 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.
As always, thank you for reading my ramblings, clicking on banners and trusting my verdict as well as for any feedback – I do this for you ladies and gentlemen out there!
Wolfgang Baur, Jeff Grubb and Brandon Hodge bring to life a Central European-flavored world of darkness and deep magic for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and AGE System
The first major new worldbook for fantasy roleplaying games since Monte Cook’s Ptolus is out today from Kobold Press. Midgard Campaign Setting is compatible with Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and includes an extensive section of rules for Dragon Age RPG. The book is already heavily supported by published adventures and sourcebooks for Pathfinder, AGE and 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, including Midgard bestiaries for all three systems.
The world of Midgard has its roots in lead designer and publisher Wolfgang Baur’s own home campaign that began when he was a teenager playing D&D Basic Edition. It has since expanded into a sprawling, serpent- encircled world of heroic adventure through a collaboration with fellow designers Jeff Grubb and Brandon Hodge, and a vibrant, creative community of project patrons.
“The kobold team worked really, really hard to make sure that the Midgard Campaign Setting went out into the world with plenty of useful, entertaining support material behind it,” says Baur. “The Midgard Atlas for the iPad is already out, and additional releases will roll out through the rest of this year. Items already underway include the Midgard Adventures series of modules, the Player’s Guides to the various regions, and the Journeys to the West expansion of the Wastes and the Western Ocean.”
• Pathfinder and AGE System rules for gearforged, kobold and minotaur PCs
• 26 new backgrounds, 3 new schools of magic and new specialties for AGE System
• New clerical domains including clockwork, moon, hunger and beer
• More than 50 kingdom write-ups, with new feats and traits for each region of Midgard
• New spells, magical items, and incantations
• New gear and weapons unique to the setting
“I feel as though the dawn is just now breaking on something great, and I am grateful for all the excellent company that has gotten Midgard Campaign Setting to this release,” says Baur. “In particular, I’d like to thank my wife Shelly, my cowriters Jeff, Brandon, Christina, Dan, and Adam, all the artists and cartographers, and every single patron who backed this mad venture, which has turned out far beyond my expectations.”
About Wolfgang Baur
Wolfgang Baur is the Kobold-in-Chief at Kobold Press and the founder of Open Design, a collaborative game design company that has served as a doorway for many new game designers breaking into the industry as well as featuring work by industry veterans such as Ed Greenwood, David “Zeb” Cook, Jeff Grubb, Nicolas Logue, Richard Pett and Ari Marmell. Open Design’s innovative patronage model was the precursor to crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.
Wolfgang has edited Dragon, Dungeon, and Kobold Quarterly magazines and is the publisher of the ENnie and Origins award winning Kobold Guide to Game Design series. In addition to keeping the field open for newcomers, he has a long record as the designer of dozens of award-winning adventures for Pathfinder and four editions of D&D. His worldbuilding includes foundational work on Dark-Matter and Planescape. Wolfgang is a winner of the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming and lives in Kirkland, WA
About Jeff Grubb
An award-winning game designer and author, Jeff Grubb has over a hundred listed credits, including more than
15 published novels and over 30 short stories. He is one of the founding fathers of both the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms campaign settings for Dungeons & Dragons, as well as Spelljammer and Al-Qadim. Jeff is also very comfortable in other people’s worlds, having worked in the Marvel Universe, Thieves’ World, the Worlds of Warcraft and Starcraft, and the Magic: the Gathering multiverse. His most recent novel isStar Wars: Scourge. He is currently a world-builder and author at ArenaNet, which has just released the computer game Guild Wars 2. He lives in Seattle with his wife, mother-in-law, and two cats.
About Brandon Hodge
Brandon’s design credits include numerous Open Design projects, including Halls of the Mountain King and Sunken Empires, the Paizo adventures From Shore to Sea and Feast of Ravenmoor, and contributions to Paizo’s Adventure Path line, as well as freelance work with Kobold Quarterly, 0one Games and Green Ronin. By day
he owns and operates Monkey See, Monkey Do! toy store and the steampunk-and-circus-sideshow-themed Big Top Candy Shop in Austin, Texas. The demented twists he brings to Midgard’s Wasted West can perhaps best be explained with his extracurricular hobbies collecting ouija boards, haunted antiques, planchettes, and other Spiritualist-related items, and displaying his world-class planchette collection on his website www.mysteriousplanchette.com. He lives in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood in Austin, Texas with his lovely wife Adrienne and their black cat, Miette.
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