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Midgard Adventures: To the Edge of the World
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/01/2013 06:44:13
This module for the Midgard Campaign Setting is 23 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

All right! Still here? This module is all about epic high fantasy – at 2nd level! Simez Rothgazzi, leader of the high order of geomancers, has a proposal for the PCs – They are to visit the island of Karn’lothra, domain of the dreaded lich-queen and secure her permission to open a tomb and secure the Book of Vael Turog. The journey per se will turn out to be as laced with dangers as you want to and several different “random” encounters are provided to help the DM add minor complications: Whether they learn the way to the lich queen’s undead paradise by her undead mermaids or by bargaining with a dragon, they are set for their destination and on their journey may barter with the leshy of a seaweed Sargasso, they may also meet a spark trying to possess them during a storm and have a skirmish with a small goblin warship.

Karn’lothra (which comes with a great map and detailed further in "Journey to the West") should make for a creepy place to visit, with the ominous harbor of last hope, its giant gold/white marble-flecked statues lining the coast and the relative proximity to Nethus’ maw. When evening falls, the ghost of the ankeshelian Mad Prince Deland escorts the characters to the court of the queen, provided they don’t annoy him overtly. There, the audience should be creepy as well and full of tension, since a) an audience requires the adventurers to relinquish their weapons and wands and b) they are hopelessly outclassed anyway. On a particularly vicious botch in diplomacy, the queen may actually take a liking to one of the players – with final consequences for the poor sod.

After securing her permission (or doing it stealthily behind her back), the PCs are off to visit the tomb of the minotaur prince Qoraz, where not only traps, but also red-mist emitting braziers, vampiric mists and a couple of shadows await the PCs – hopefully, they’ve conserved the scroll of protection from undead they got from Simez – or they can try to gain control over and use the lesser sphere of annihilation to waste the undead… The thing is, that the queen, true to the evil of undeath, has sent minions to off the Pcs and claim the book for herself. The book, however, also might be their best chance, for the thing is intelligent and can provide not only a potent protection, but also a summoning ritual that should make the breackneck flight from the island interesting.

When the summoned leviathan island (again, more details in Journeys) makes its appearance, the PCs should be all about going for it, for the mobile island is moving. Braving reefclaws, the adventurers are now stranded again, lavishly with a map detailing Leviathan Island . Only said island is heading towards the end of the world and is inhabited by mongrelmen intent on subduing the PCs and feeding them godsflesh to add them to their ranks. Whether they sit out the time or manage to find godsflesh and commune with the leviathan, they should soon notice that the huge being is actually headed towards the end of the world – whether for spawning, death or rebirth, they probably won’t be able to tell.
A sense of foreboding and imminent doom should be now suffuse them – until the leviathan plunges into the starlit sea, from the very edge of the world. Starbearer-scouts will inform the players that the leviathan is on its way to the star citadel, compelled by the ancient eldritch magics that summoned it – though this by no standard means that the PCs are out of danger – an array of weird creatures ranging from oculus swarms to vargouilles wait in the wings to challenge the brave explorers. The star-shaped citadel awaits them and it is here, they may plead their case before the court of a million stars and its king and queen, for the rulers intend to kill the leviathan, stranding the Pcs in this strange realm beyond the world. In order to seize control of the ancient beasts, the PCs will have to negotiate with Abdiel (an NPC-cheat sheet is btw. provided), the current master of the bridle- unbeknownst to them, though, he wants to control the creature himself and with his ally, a traitorous starbearer, tries to poison and subdue the PCs. The finale, whether it will be trial by combat, varying degrees of success for the villain or the PCs triumphing, should be definitely memorable and result, in the case of victorious PCs, an interesting choice: Do they set the leviathan free or do they steer it back to the western sea? What about the strange egg in the alchemist’s tower?

And by the way, I haven’t even touched on the short sample NPC-list of inhabitants of the strange citadel, not have I yet touched upon the 10 sample events to spice up what is going on in this wondrous place.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the copious original interior artworks are of the same quality as the mind-boggling front cover – this is a premium product in every meaning of the word regarding presentation. The pdf comes fully bookmarked as well, but without a printer-friendly version. Then again – why rob this gorgeous piece of its colors? Also, it's printed version is BEAUTIFUL. Full-color, gorgeous, awesome.
There is a good reason Wolfgang Baur is the legend he is and this pdf shows VERY well how his formidable reputation came to be. Doing adventures that evoke a sense of grandness, of epicness and at the same time trailblaze ahead and provide iconic locales is hard. Doing so at low levels is even harder, especially if you want to keep the players from doing stupid things that could get them killed – like challenging a certain queen, trying to find ways to control a certain beast etc. This module takes an experienced DM with a good mojo to run properly, but OH BOY. If you manage to pull this off, then your players will be talking about it for years to come! The iconic scenes and locales in this module are enough to weave at the very least 3 whole modules from the content and the fact that this much AWESOMENESS fits in these scarce few pages is mind-blowing. And it manages to do it without feeling misplaced in the level-range. This is high-fantasy at its very best and if I had to nitpick one thing, then it would be that the module by design requires almost to be set in Midgard or a similar flat world, since it is so steeped in the world’s contexts. That being said, this still perhaps one of the best low-level modules out there and deserves to be added to your library – especially at the ridiculously low cost. My final verdict? Easy 5 stars + seal of approval. This would be a 6-star-candidate, if that was possible.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Adventures: To the Edge of the World
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Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/22/2013 05:28:33
Disclaimer: I'm a contributing author to Christina Stiles' current kickstarter "Bite Me! The Gaming Guide to Lycanthropes" and was a patron of this project, though not a contributing one. If you haven't checked out her kickstarter, I urge you to do so. My verdict of this book was not in any way influenced by me contributing to "Bite Me!".

This supplement/adventure anthology is 139 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/kickstarter-backer-list, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us 132 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This being a combined campaign supplement and adventure anthology, we delve first into a kind of hub for the explorations the PCs are sure to embark upon when utilizing the content from these pages: Barsella, the City at the end of the world in the Midgard setting is the last true fleck of civilization before the Western Ocean and as such an interesting place indeed - a combination of colonial outpost, trading town and frontier-city, Barsella's write-up includes potential for adventure galore - whether it's via the plethora of options available for explorations into the unknown or within the town - after all, Nethus, the chained god of the sea is still very much present in this place, as are the seafaring minotaurs and other thoroughly interesting components like gambling dens and brothels with interesting entertainers awaiting. And in the bedrock of the town, the tides have carved out the infamous wash, a set of smuggling tunnels and undercity that provides for an opportunity to crawl and explore other illicit affairs PCs may seek to undertake. An iconic interesting city-panorama, but not the focus of this product - for the true ambition of this supplement is to capture the spirit of frontiers, of trailblazing and wonder at strange locales in the spirit of mankind's epics like the Iliad or the Gilgamesh-myth.

As such, the following chapters detail new islands to be found and the very first one already blows me out of the water (pardon the pun): The Island of the Morphoi is weird in uncountable ways. Fully mapped in b/w (like all islands in here), this place is the base of Mnemosyne, wife of the lost god of the seas - She also happens to be the goddess of time, history and memory who suffers from an inscrutable memory-loss that drives to obsessive brinks of madness, her weird morphoi-servants and twisted lamia scouring the world for knowledge to finally fill the void ripped into her otherwise omniscient and perfect recollections. The island is also plagued by temporal rifts, unstable areas of temporal flux (including massive tables to determine weird effects on the fly) and provides 3 domains and 2 subdomains as well as potential for adventures galore.

Meshong-Lir and its atoll of savage islands also makes for a truly intriguing setting that transcends traditional backdrops - the prison/remains of a Great Old One from the Far Beyond, these islands are now haunted by Heralds of Darkness and the ghosts of Elysian Titans. Worse, the arcane bonds that hold the creature enslaved are tied to thresholds and doors and every foray into the depths of Meshong-Lir brings the dread entity closer to freedom - if the intrepid explorers manage to survive the maddening taint of the forbidden knowledge engraved in the reality-warped ruins of an empire long since passed, they may yet gain knowledge both twisted and powerful - at least if they manage to surpass the other alienists, mad cultists and things-that-should-not-be. Have I mentioned that in order to live to tell the tale, the PCs also have to brave the fact that the island rises from the waves (including tsunamis) and sinks back below the waves: And yes, rules for all of that are included in the write-up.

There are also write-ups of so-called lesser islands, which, while slightly less detailed, are also lengthy - starting at Aroa, which is the home-base of the Rimegaurd that seek to rediscover the lost technology of the crab-like K'karoan and atolls, some with spatial rifts, also feature in this section, also the crab-like humanoid K'kin. The Burning Shores with its magmins and azers and archmage's sanctum is also interesting in that it features hazards beyond regular fiery hazards - also including deadly gasses impacting local environment. The Leviathan, a living island inhabited by mongrelman, gliding through the waves (And featured in the module "To the Edge of the World") is littered with eldritch remnants ready for the picking and intriguing locales/rules to enable PCs the diving leviathan.

Terminus island is interesting especially in the context of Midgard, for the world is flat and this ancient place, with its gigantic guardians and legendary fruit is located indeed at the very edge of the flat world. Finally, there's Karn'lothra, where the last remnant of a proud race now lords as an undead empress over her realm. It is also here that a vampire philosopher has blended mind-boggling philosopher that essentially made reality reject him, rendering him quite literally beyond the grasp of even the gods.

The book also features a bestiary, where intelligent Coral Oozes (CR 6), Dragon Eels (CR 13), Lamia Mnemosynian Matriarchs (CR 12) as well as 3 Morphoi-variants, the disturbing Obanje (CR 5), Sons of Talos (CR 11 ancient siege-style golems) and CR 6 Totem-Pole Golems. The Prismwings, magical birds, are also nice, though their entry lacks the CR-value.
We also get 4 new magical items, from the modular boon-necklaces of the seas, to a cephalopod's staff, an enchanted mokomokai (a shrunken head) and one of the tears of Mnemosyne.

After that, we're off to the new modules featured herein and hence, from here on out, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

Still here? All right! Adventure number 1, "Awash in the Wash" is an uncommon module for low level characters, as it starts the adventuring career of the PCs with an unpleasant surprise for the PCs: They wake up after having been drugged/press-ganged/etc. - in the notorious Wash, Barsella's undercity. The PCs are the latest contestants in the infamous maze of the minotaurs of the city - and a famous geomancer is betting on their unlikely survival - why unlikely? Well, first of all, the maze is studded with traps and spectator-interference (also great for the DM to help/hinder PCs if required) is a constant addition to the place's challenge: The aim is to collect 8 special rings and place them upon a specific statue - while avoiding an insane fiendish minotaur stalking the corridors, hunting for the PCs as well as the complex traps/obstacles littering the maze's regular rooms. Thankfully, the minotaur (who is far beyond PC capabilities to beat) is slow and can be outrun - but not for ever...
Maze residents and multiple rooms with deadly traps make the challenge of the place more pronounced, though I do have some minor gripes with an otherwise great module: The fully detailed maps come without a player-friendly, key-less version and the text refers multiple times to letters and e.g. squares with traps that are not featured on the respective maps. This is one issue. The other one being how running the maze is handled: Essentially, the curving sections and make-up of the place make using traditional mapping hard for the PCs to do, suggesting instead handwaving all in favor of perception/survival-skill-checks - which is fine, though the insinuation that old-school handling of maze-running would bore most groups rubs me the wrong way - especially with a sub-maze of the maze that HAS to be mapped to properly run through is taken into account. A slightly more streamlined set of navigation-rules and help with keeping up dramatic tension with the minotaur-chaser as well as resolving aforementioned map-issues would have been imho nice and made a good module an excellent one.

The second adventure contained (by Dawson Kriska) in this anthology features an unpleasant assault on the docks of Barsella by a strike-force of Sahuagin - unfortunately being infected by a strange curse/disease named skinny-bones, one that defies curing. With the plague endangering Barsella (and quite possibly the PCs, since they've probably been infected in the combat), they have to cooperate with a famous captain and his druidic wife (see Pirates of the Western Ocean) and break through the naval blockade. Seeking the counsel of the archmage Allister Dorn, they arrive at his tower on the burning shores, where unfortunately the archmage is nowhere to be found. Having anticipated the PC's dire need, he has prepared a collection of documents and diagrams that allows for the research of the disease - handling Deus-Ex-Machina-style just about all pieces of information out to the PCs via rather simple arrays of skill-checks, revealing the originator of the plague as an unfettered eidolon incited by aforementioned vampire philosopher. Stepping from the arch-mage's study, the PCs find themselves stranded on the island of Malkay, where all the lost sooner or later wind up and where the eidolon masquerades as a type of savior/angel. The creature runs from the PCs, thinking them trapped on the desolate island, though they are promptly rescued by their NPC-allies - the journal harrow left behind leading them promptly towards Karn'lothra, the island of undead again where they get a chance to stop the mad eidolon's plans and gather the ingredients to end the plague. All in all, a solid adventure, though I really didn't like how the module treats the arch-mage-in-absentia and his notes as a kind of Captain Exposition - alternate means for the PCs to unravel the mystery of the disease would have been nice and feel more organic - as written, the dramaturgy is somewhat askew and suffers from the "Elminster-helps"-syndrome, i.e. the high-level-NPC helps, but can't be bothered to do the job her/himself. It's this that made me turn my back on the Forgotten Realms and I sincerely hope that future Kobold Press-adventures will refrain from creating too many of these plot-device NPCs - Midgard as a setting doesn't need them to work.

Brian W. Suskind provides with a murder mystery in the most traditional way - the PCs are hired by Lord Arvid Olhouser through his aide Delgrade Agador to guard the expedition of his household to the fabled Leviathan-island. Unfortunately, soon after the arrival, the beast dives and thus, the PCs will have to make a frantic sprint to the fabled bubble-tower that contains air and allows people to survive the dives of the living island. Squeezing through the shutting Iris-doors, a group of precious few survivors is stranded in an isolated, claustrophobic locale - the classic set-up for a murder mystery. And said murder doesn't happen too late - Lord Arvid Olhouser is murdered and the people locked in have motives galore: His wife, Lady Olhouser considers him a bumbling idiot and has an affair with his aide Delgrade. His spoilt son Hagen is a thoroughly unpleasant, cruel racist. Bertram Bodkin and his recently betrothed wife Alyce suffer from Bertram's gambling addiction and accumulated debt which the lord declined to help with. Professor Myra Dolynn once had an affair with the lord, local veteran Lucas Cabral has an attachment to the unpleasant local mongrelman populace and Fynn, the 12-year old son of one of the Olhouser's ship's fist mates just had to see his father perish in the dive of the Leviathan. The mongrelmen hiding in the fleshy tunnels of the leviathan are essentially set up as culprits and the PC's short excursion proves an exercise in the slaughter of innocent creatures - unless Lucas Cabral stops them in time. Worse for the PCs - after initial investigations, the deceased rises as a wight accusing them as killers, undermining their believability. Worse, Hakon, the scion of the house is the second victim and lady Margrat is next on the killer's list - who actually acts smart, utilizing dust of illusions to throw the PCs off their guard and sow discord. The cast of dramatis personae allows for a vast array of motivations and the situation is actually more complex than one would believe: Alyce is actually quite a powerful sorceress and bastard-daughter of the late Lord Olhouser, but not the culprit for his murder: Lady Margrat and Hagen killed the lord and Alyce, bereft of her revenge, seeks to end them for it. At the climax of the investigation, she sabotages the tower's mechanics and has the tower flood while the leviathan surfaces, making for a truly memorable climax. All in all a great murder mystery with multiple tables that makes running the complex motivations more easy for the DM. A minor gripe would be that one read-aloud-text mentions "The NPCs", a slip in narrative level DMs should be aware of.

The next module, by Ted Reed, is hands down imho the best in the whole anthology, ranking as a pinnacle of awesomeness that lives up to the best of Open Design/Kobold Press modules out there: The basic plot is the following: The PCs are in the savage islands and have their ship sunk by the rise of Meshong-Lir, after rescuing a dashing old salt rake. Surviving the tsunami wave will be hard - to be captured/separated and beset by the dread pygmies and totem pole golems, the PCs will have to steal rafts to reach Meschong-Lir, for a legendary treasure awaits - the fabled ship Last Vagabond was dragged down by a statue jutting from the dread island and now could be claimed - for it requires a living being to serve as captain, though it is manned by a crew of ghosts. Unbeknownst to the PCs, their new ally is actually a servant of the trapped Great Old One of Meshong-Lir who is partly responsible for the ship's current predicament. The PCs will have to scale the mile-high cliffs, negotiate with the ghost of a titan and impress the ghostly crew enough to become captains and owners of the legendary vessel as well as unmask the wolf in sheep's clothing (no, not the monster) in their midst. And, they of course will have to drive the ship out of the maelstrom of the sinking Meshong-Lir! (and yes, it uses the vehicle-rules from UC -AMEN!) This module is so great it had me salivate, its locales standing out and its execution, especially how the captain is portrayed ranking among the finest I've seen in this type of scenario, the climax being sufficiently epic as well. Two thumbs up for this extremely well-crafted module that works even better thanks to the trouble-shooting interjected here and there.

The final module of the anthology centers on a character that is somewhat of a local landmark in Barsella, the Brine Pauper. The PCs are hired by Barsellan nobility to investigate the fate of the village of Kammae's Landing, more commonly known as Hell's Hole. On their ship is the weird, semi-coherent oracle and if the PCs manage to deal with the difficult anchoring, exploring the haunted remains of the coastal town should prove interesting indeed - for the brine pauper deposited a tear of mnemosyne somewhere in the haunted island, one that might contain vital memories. Unfortunately for the PCs, the Brine Pauper was not here alone - the last survivor of his group, they battled a witch that also perished and now roams the island as a witchfire on the hunt for the madman. Worse, the undead has taken control of a coven of hags and their allies and a disgruntled sea hag may prove to be a vital warning or deadly detriment. Guarded by dread Kech summoners and deep inside the island lies an ancient Ankeshelian prison that contains a dreaded nightwave of Nethus and the seal if breaking - only in the pauper's memories lies the key to finding the hidden vril lock to reseal the dark terror, but only if the PCs can get it before the witchfire. Reaching the nightwave's prison, the PCs will have to face a fraction of its power and solve an easy, nevertheless interesting riddle to escape. On their way home, though, a powerful Mnemosynian Lamia Matriarch tries to take their memories, which might bode disaster for the future...

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect: I noticed e.g. flavor-texts with "NPCs" being mentioned and the first module's maps lacking some information from the text is also unpleasant. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard and is beautiful indeed - in the pdf in full-color, in the print in b/w. Artworks is a mix of full-color and b/w and ranges from good to serviceable. The cartography of the islands is completely in b/ and beautiful indeed - but I have one mayor gripe: Why don't we get player-friendly maps? Seriously, a project of this size/scope should have key-less maps of its locales. What good is the STELLAR map of the cliff-side of Meshong-Lir to me when I can't show it to my players since one of the ledges spells out what kind of creature is waiting there and how to get on the ship? Or another island, that features the name of the threats to be found as well as the location of a certain prison? I can live with Barsella's map being keyed (though I'd prefer a key-less version there as well to hand out to my players), but in adventures, it's a no-go for me by now. The maps of the modules are great, but I can't use them. The pdf is extensively bookmarked for your convenience.

"Journey to the West" is the latest in a series of sourcebooks/anthologies by Open Design/Kobold press and lead designer Christina Stiles has succeeded with accolades in her endeavor of bringing us a supplement that brings the weird, the thrill of exploring, back to the game, with islands both wondrous and terrifying. The campaign-setting information, the island-write-ups, they provide information galore to run whole campaigns, clocking in as some of the most legendary locales I've seen in a supplement in quite a while, breathing their owns myths. I also applaud the decision to not contribute overtly to the feat/trait/spell-bloat and, unlike the otherwise excellent "Streets of Zobeck", focusing on the topic at hand. Mind you, my criticism is at the highest level, but still: The adventures in this module left me partially disappointed at the very highest level of quality possible. They still stand out and are great experiences, but with the notable exception of Ted Reed's contribution, they all suffer here and there from minor issues that keep them from rising to the insane brilliance of e.g. the offerings in "Tales of the Old Margreve": The labyrinth-module suffers from its maps and slightly incongruent take on navigating the maze, the plague -adventure from the captain-exposition-flaw, the murder-mystery from e.g. mentioning a magical aura, but not the nature of it and the final one from feeling cut down - the desolate village would have made for a great place to build up tension via a continuing assault of haunts and instead makes the exploration a rather short stop in the module, with the same holding true for the prison. At first, this didn't stand out to me that much, but Ted Reed's module, with its perfect pacing and detail, its extremely iconic challenges and its vivid primary antagonist makes these minor flaws that wouldn't stand out in other publications much more than they should. Though this module's map suffers most in all the modules of this book from not coming with a player-friendly version.
I get that page-count is an issue, but honestly - I wish this book had been split (even further) - one book for all the setting-information and one for the expanded adventures, to allow them slightly more page-count to shine. As written, they are still great modules, but ones with minor blemishes.
But is that enough to rate this book down? I've been wrestling with myself for quite some time and have to conclude: Yes. Yes, it is. By now, player-friendly maps are a staple in most publications and at least for me, not getting any, especially if the cartography is this good, is kind of a big deal.
Don't get me wrong - I still maintain this is a great book that belongs into the library of any Pathfinder-DM, but I still can't give it my full 5 stars + seal of approval, instead opting for a final verdict of 4.5 stars plus seal of approval, rounded won to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard Adventures: The Raven's Call
by James T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/17/2013 17:42:38
The Raven’s Call is no ordinary adventure. Set in Midgard it has fantasy elements all its own, but fits into any Pathfinder world. The premise of rescuing an entire town from a band of kobolds and trollkin seems a bit steep for a 1st level adventure. But Wolfgang Bauer pulls it off with some great designing. What makes this sandbox adventure great is the unpredictable ways players will come up with to solve the crisis. There are several interesting encounters allowing for different character skills to shine (always great to see in a published adventure). Enough details are given to allow a GM to respond to unexpected player actions while not bogging things down in a lot of text. The layout is well organized for ease in running a Pathfinder game. Sometimes a stat block will run over onto another page (a personal peeve of mine), but generally finding information when you need it is not a problem. Useful side bars give great tips for running the adventure.

The art is first rate. Wolfgang Baur well chose cover artist Aaron Miller and interior artist Michael Perry to showcase this introductory piece. I like the maps and they would make great handouts to players. As a GM I appreciate this flexibility. Art should not be merely for the GM to enjoy.

While designed as an introduction to Midgard, it is also an engaging stand-alone for a band of new characters. New players as well as veteran RPGamers will appreciate The Raven’s Call.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Adventures: The Raven's Call
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Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/12/2013 20:39:56
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=31014.

From the best of the best in the industry, comes an eight-island, five-adventure anthology of exploration and swashbuckling encounters with the unknown. Journeys to the West expands the Midgard Campaign Setting across the sea, where new wonders and dangers lurk.

OVERALL

Journeys To The West, was a Kickstarter project that Kobold Quarterly usually hosts twice a year to allow fans to determine what they should work on. Boy did those who supported this project get their money’s worth! Journeys to The West, is something that all publishers, writers and designers of RPGs should read. But if you are just a general gamer, this is the product for you as well. If you are not a proud owner already, get a copy, it awaits you!

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: The layout is clean, simple and gorgeous! They layout items in the same fashion as Paizo Publishing when it comes to locations, archetypes, items, etc. It makes navigating rather simple.

Ease of Mobility: The bookmarks are off a bit, but not by much, add to the fact that it is done in a style in which players can easily reference a section, compensates for that. Transferring to mobile is nice and light, without losing the quality of the file. But this is a product that needs to be printed, and sat on a gaming table!

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Mechanically, it is a fairly sound product. After reading Dragons of the Empire the traits in this one, kind of aren’t as WOW as that supplement book, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
This product, is one of those turning point supplements for the Midgard Series. It not only expands the world to another place, but it allows for many more new adventures to come! What I love about this supplement, is that it creates new opportunities through the adventures to allow players the opportunity to expand the game to all these new locations!

Overall: 10 out of 10
It’s a great product and for those of you who kickstarted it to make it a reality, thank you. This is a product that Pathfinder fans will love forever.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard: Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/11/2013 09:50:29
The second of Midgard Player's Guides is 31 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's check this out!

The Mharoti-empire is one of the most interesting nations in the Midgard setting: An empire in service to the elemental dragon lords, this vast nation is governed by a sultan(a) elected by the conglomerate of dragons in order to avoid the power-struggles between draconic masters. Hungry to satiate the draconic lust for treasure and power, the young empire is on the constant verge of expansion and looking to use its vast, draconic military to fuel its conquests. That being said, another interesting fact is that humans are actually second-class citizens that rank below the dragonkin and kobolds - after are, the scaled races are closer to their scaled overlords. But in fact, the social structure of the empire is more complex, as the entry on the castes show:
The Jambuka (or jackals) occupy the bottom ladder of the empire and consists of the non-scaled folks - with one notable exception: The sultana of the empire is actually a dragon-blooded human. Also, the legendary Harem Assassins of the empire are recruited from this caste as a kind of elite cadre of enforcers. Above the jackals rank the kobaldi, who make up the bulk of engineers, sappers etc. and beyond the kobaldi, there are the Sekban, the lowest caste of dragonkin, which also include a few humans with draconic blood. The shocktroops of the empire, the Edjet are a warrior-caste raised from birth to serve as the backbone and elite of the empire's vast military forces. Minor lords and light cavalry, the Akinji-caste is the home of dragonkin and drakes, whereas the highest strata are the Timarli (dragon dukes), Urmanli (scaled lords, a caste for dragons) and finally, tehre are the Morza, the grand dragons that truly rule the empire.

After all this great fluff, we're off to the crunchy bits of the guide, with a total of 43 (unless I have miscounted) traits being offered to show that your PC hails from glorious Mharoti. Among the regular traits, the vast majority can be considered balanced an well-conceived, with one exception: "Dragon Fighter" doubles your threat range versus draconic foes, which is imho broken even if you don't take into account that dragonkin and kobolds may or may not count as draconic creatures. This trait needs a revision. Among the racial traits, we also get a solid selection of traits, with many exclusive to dragonkin and drakes, though rules to play the latter are not included in the book.
EDIT: Broken Components from the first iteration of the pdf have been revised: Deep Seer has been upgraded from a trait to a feat, for example and a broken trait that expanded all threat-ranges for a weapon-category was nerfed to where it works as intended..

We also get 24 new feats, unfortunately also several ones with problems. While I like the options for kobolds and dragonkin to gain gliding wings and flying via feats, there are also issues: Climbing Claws nets you a +4 feat bonus to climb as well as climb speed at full movement with a -5 penalty AND retain your dex-bonus. The thing is, there is no such bonus as a feat-bonus in standard PFRPG and the benefits feel rather a tad bit too much for me.
EDIT: In the last version of the Player's Guide, the Breath Weapon-feat was broken adn it has been redone so it actually works and feels balanced - kudos! The completely broken Dragon Slayer feat has also been salvaged: Now you auto-confirm threats versus large or larger draconic creatrues. While I personally don't like auto-confirms, as a reviewer I don't complain about this feat's revised and much streamlined iteration.
"Roar of the Dragon Lords" has also been nerfed: It allows you to emit a 30 ft.-roar 3/day. Foes with less than 1/2 HD of you get shaken if on a DC 20-save and you also get +4 to intimidate for a one minute afterwards. Oh, now it can't be taken at first level anymore, making it a nice feat-choice, though personally, I would have preferred a scaling DC.
After that, we get new archetypes: Cavaliers may now become members of the Order of the Firedrake, who may choose draconic/reptilian mounts at the DM's approval and gain some inspiration-based abilities. The remnants of 4th edition-style designs have been purged from teh archetype and it now works as intended. Great!
Also: Dragon and drake mounts are HARD to balance and the lack of guidance is a major bummer for any DM. Super Genius Games have their Dragon Rider class and it's balancing is HARD as it shows how much to consider. Minor size-based balancing guidelines for reptilian/draconic mounts have been included in the revision.

Druids may now become Elemental Exarchs may get an elemental companion with which they can fuse and gain some elemental-based abilities. The fusing is a neat idea, though I wished they had wildered a bit regarding the summoner-eidolon rules, as the rest of the archetype is mostly what you'd expect from elemental druids. Sorry, but in spite of the cool temporary fusion with the elemental, I can't really get behind it, though that's a matter of taste and not something I'll hold against the player's guide.

Edjet Warriors are exclusively dragonkin fighters are specialists with polearms that may cleave-trip multiple foes. At high levels, though, the archetype's balance crumbles to dust. At 15th level, the edjet warriors get essentially evasion for fort and will-saves versus spell-like abilities and spells. That's "Mettle" with another name, an ability that was broken in 3.X and still is. This ability needs replacement. Furthermore, worse, at 16th level, the Edjet also gains evasion when using a shield AND may grant that to ALL adjacent allies. At 20th level that becomes improved evasion. Ok at the highest level, though somehow, my DM-senses tingle at that ability as well. Still not comfortable with this one.

Dargon Magi may deliver elemental damage vi their spellstrikes a limited amount of times per day and later gain elemental rays and blasts as well as 11 different arcanas.The first broken "Arcane Strike"-arcana has been streamlined into PFRPG-rules and no longer is broken beyond repair. Two thumbs up! The Breath Weapon option I ripped to shreds in my first iteration of this review now also works as befitting the system..

Monks of the Fiery Fist are essentially a fire-themed monk archetype - ok, but not too exciting. The problem of the monks of the wind palm has been addressed: Their unarmed attacks get a reach of 15 ft. - now a limited amount of times per day. The terrain-ignoring entry has also been nerfed to make sense and NOT invalidate x feats. Oracles may opt to take the mystery of the void. The mystery per se is ok, though I don't like the fact that there's one that lets you replace cha or wis for int regarding knowledge-skills. The mystery now comes with its final revelation.

The Greyscale-archetype for the rogue is specialized on infiltrating draconic strongholds and come with 6 new rogue talents and 3 advanced rogue talents and actually constitute one I don't have anything to complain about. Wizards may now opt to choose the Void Elemental school, which has an insanely broken arcane discovery, available as soon as 13th level, that allows you to throw someone 1/week on a failed will save versus DC 35 (!!!) into the void, trapping the being there forever (unless wish'd or miracle'd out) and having a good chance of driving the subject insane even if he/she/it is rescued. That's a capstone, not an arcane discovery. I don't get why this one has not been nerfed.

We also get the new Dragon Emir PrC, which gets d12, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB, 1/2 fort and will-progression and can be considered a commander-style PrC that allows for some powerful, warmaster-like commands as well as some nice synergy with cavaliers. A cool mounted commander option, nothing to complain here and in fact a great PrC.

The penultimate chapter deals with new magic and generally, the ideas of the spells are great, iconic and even the one spell I considered broken before has been remedied and fixed. (Coin Swarm should btw. be on the list of ANY dragon out there...)
The final chapter is fluffy goodness again, providing us with a cool plethora of animals and beasts to buy in Mharoti bazaars as well as exotic types of food like aboleth brain and the like as well as gear from draconic beings, magic items and magic carpets, complete with price-lists.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to the drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard - Marc Radle did an awesome job there. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience and the line-drawings in b/w are neat indeed.

Kobold Press has gone up and beyond in this revision of the Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire, fixing almost all the issues of this pdf - while e.g. casting foes into the void still feels broken to me, the vast accumulation of problematic content has been purged and what remains could be considered a matter of taste/individual balancing of a campaign and nothing a DM can't do him/herself. The amount of fixing makes this pdf thankfully the book it should have been and while not perfect, I feel easily justified in rating this revised version of the book 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard: Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire
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Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
by Gregory W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/06/2013 12:20:37
If you are seeking a Ray Harryhausen island-hopping campaign reminiscent of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad or Jason and the Argonauts, then sail west with this supplement, or plop it down in the southern or eastern seas if you wish.
Very well packaged and diagramed.


Greg

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
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Pirates of the Western Ocean (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/29/2013 06:44:14
This companion-tome to the Kobold Press-project "Journeys to the West" is 48 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 43 pages of content, so let's check this out!

The pdf kicks off with memorable NPCs to add to your campaign, for example Ernst "Goldtooth" Galway (Rogue[Pirate] 13), who hides a grim secret, Evain "Sea-Bellows" Saol, a Sea Singer and his druidess gnome wife Ré Saol - pirates that actually can be considered a reliable good guy. Or take Keng Hakon, archivist/oracle from Kathay, whose massive flotilla still scours the seas. And Rushara the raven, the mysterious mistress of the "Seastrider" is looking for gold, yes, but also for memories...and not her own.

Beyond these mid-level famous rapscallions, we also get a selection of more low-level individuals, though that does not mean that they are less interesting - The Oracle called "The Brine Pauper" could definitely hail from the Iron Isles - his artwork alone made me think "What is dead may never die." And if they get hurt, well, just entreat your PCs to a visit at the friendly white necromancer...troll-lady! Or take a brilliant idea: A dragon who uses his own body to carry premium cargo, essentially working as a one-reptile air mail system! Of course, an evil siren, a pirate haunted by strange, cursed (or are they?) magic items, a sahuagin-scoundrel, a kobold druid and his pet snake and a rogue morphoi are also in this book, providing us all in all with a gamut of interesting characters, cool ideas and plenty of hooks for them to add them to your campaign.

Next up is a section that details the Island of Palau Kelaparan, where, as legends have it, the demon-lord Mechuiti entered the world and where his cannibal pygmies reign supreme with their demonic allies. Coming in the form of a sketchy description by areas, detailing crunchy environmental features and ideas by major locations as well as featuring sample traps, 3 fully statted sample NPCs as well as an encounter-table. The second Island included in the deal would be Umbrascara, which, as the name suggests, is close the realms of shadows and essentially has rather suffered from an influx of both shadow fey and intruders via the phenomenon called Darktide. Umbrascara feels more like a gazetteer than of a shortened adventure-location, making for an interesting contrast with the first island. What's also cool is that we get 3 different other ports of call in a gazetteer-style, almost player-friendly write-up. If you're like me and were a fan of the 3.5-setting, you may like that the upcoming SpirosBlaak-setting-update by Misfit Studios seems to be an official part of the Midgard world via this book - for there's a write-up here! Now that's cool! What I kind of missed was a similar nod to Freeport, but I still hope we'll get to see the Open Design-project some time and anchor the city of pirates in Midgard.

Speaking of good write-ups - we also get 3 distinct different pirate bands, tables of driftgood, CR 4 mandrill-headed evil humanoids, Cr 1 rum gremlins and more importantly: Ship-tremplates!
YES! Thank you so much! We get the amphibious, dragon turtle, fiendish, flying fish (short term fly over land!), nautilus and arthropod and keel-sung ships and, what can I say, they ROCK and cover iconic things that should have been covered before. This is simply stellar! Two thumbs up for these!

The new spells herein are also rather nice, though there are some fillers in here, like elemental surge, but we also get a spell to enhance a ship's hardness and generally, I don't have anything to complain about the new spells. Among the new magic items, we get one particular book that will never see use in my game and which I already didn't like in the design-process: The manual of island survival provides 10 different spells that help with survival, essentially taking away island survival problems and the investment of spells into it. However, we also get a sail of wonder and enchanted figureheads as well as an enchanted plumage. There also are 3 new traits.

And then, the sourcebook becomes all-out awesome: Using rules analogues to the runes of the Northlands-supplement, we are introduced to 6 Aboleth Glyphs and 11 feats dealing with them, marrying content from sunken empires and northlands and expanding it. I LOVE it! We also get concise advice on Glyph creation, a three-step, rather complex and cool Thalassic creature-template and even the thalassic bloodline. Damn, I wished we got a whole sourcebook on this delightfully twisted topic!

The pdf closes with a 2-page map of the Western Ocean.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout is beautiful, full color and adheres to a 2-column standard. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and the full color and b/w-artworks adhere to the highest standard you could ask for.
The characters and locations are awesome, the locations iconic, the Aboleth Glyph magic genius and the new islands rock. However, this pdf is not perfect, as much as I'd love to proclaim it to be. The islands get no maps (which is relevant if you don't intend to buy Journeys to the West), which is a minor bummer and the cool NPCs are all rather simple builds. Their fluff is great, but build-wise we don't get cool templated foes or complex adversaries. While the ship-templates are nice, I wished that there was perhaps a unique vehicle for the characters. The spells per se, while nice, didn't blow me out of the water. Well, at least the pdf didn't fall into the Spell/feat-glut-trap and instead focuses on useful, exciting content and good organization write-ups, which in my book help alleviate the minor issues I have with the pdf. I'll be honest with you: My first impulse was to rate this pdf at 4 stars. But the thing is - it does not deserve to be rated as only "good" - it is a stellar pdf, but one whose quality wavers slightly, like the waves on which it sails. Thus, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars, but sans the seal of the approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pirates of the Western Ocean (Pathfinder RPG)
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Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design
by Paolo P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/29/2013 06:38:18
Even if this book is aimed to professionals/freelance (or wannabe) GDs, I bought it to foster my skills as an amateur designer and game master.
It provided a ton of valuable resources, ideas, techniques and tools for my belt.

If you're an experienced game master which wants to step in game design as an amateur this book can be a little overkill, so take it if you can afford the price or turn to the interweb.
If you plan to make the jump as a professinal, you'll find this book is a great kickstarter, covering all expects of the GD art, from worldbuilding to rules design to pitch elevation and how to meet publishers' tastes and needs.

Four stars only since a couple of essays felt like fillers to me.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design
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Defenders of Midgard (4th Edition D&D)
by Adam P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2013 03:55:40
Knowing several of the authors involved in the content for this product, I was privileged to see early drafts of the material presented here, and I'm pleased to say that they continued to improve the submissions to ensure that each theme finds its own place in the multitude of available options for 4e and also brings across the feeling of the Midgard campaign setting. I was pleased to see the inclusion of regional backgrounds for Midgard and the Midgard equipment.

As I mainly play and DM 4e games in the heroic tier, the material presented in the book is great for me, but I can see the lack of paragon tier options for the clockwork and glyph magic could be a downside to other players, but maybe this is an area that Kobold Press can expand upon with their blog?

Ideally, to get the most from this book, you'll want to couple it with the Pathfinder compatible Midgard Campaign Setting, the 4e Midgard Bestiary and Kobold Quarterly Issue 16.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Defenders of Midgard (4th Edition D&D)
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Midgard Campaign Setting
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
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Midgard: Player's Guide to the Crossroads
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/08/2013 03:57:54
The first in the Player's Guide-series for Kobold Press' Midgard Campaign Setting is 36 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's check this out!

Tantalizingly hinted at in the Zobeck Gazetteer, I was looking forward quite a bit to this Player's Guide and let me say here that I'm a huge fan of good player's guides as I hate giving my players access to all the delicious plot hooks and pieces of information usually contained in a campaign setting or e.g. city setting book like the one on Zobeck. That out of the way, what's in here?

Well, first we get an overview of the Free City of Zobeck, the Electoral Kingdom of Krakova and the Ironcrag Cantons, Perunalia (The Duchy of Perun's Daughter), Magdar and of course the Ghoulish Empire under the surface and the dread Principalities of Morgau and Doresh, where the undead rule. Now if you're a DM, go get the Imperial Gazetteer and the Zobeck Gazetteer ASAP, for while these entries feature pieces of information on gods, populations and short briefs on public people and interesting places, it is there that the truly juicy bits are - and that's just like a player's guide should be. Now I have one very minor nitpick here - I do love the Germanic Nomenclature and calling an equinox festival in Morgau "Messern" (essentially German for "Knifing") is awesome, but the midwinter festival of "Verhangnisvoll" should a) read "Verhängnisvoll" and b) does not translate to "Gathering in the Darkness", but rather to "Ominous", "Fatal" or "Cataclysmic" - which is awesome per se, but if you're as picky with things like that, you may want to be aware of that. Now, don't get me wrong - I get that in setting, the word can translate to anything, really, but if you're like me, you'll probably rename the festival - especially when e.g. a festival like "Vielfraz", a bastardization/pseudo-anachronism of the German word "Vielfrass" evokes perfectly associations with unbound greed, as appropriate to a holy day devoted to Mammon! Now the fact that I complain over such paltry issues should give you pause to ponder on the quality of writing that is at such a high level as to making me resort to it. Yes. it's that good.

Now, there's also one page containing adventure hooks for the dark holidays and honestly, I'd love to see a mega-module dealing with these, but I'm not sure these belong in a player's guide - in my opinion, they should be reserved to a DM's book, for as soon as they are read, they lose some of the potential for the players.

Now, we get a new crunchy racial options for player characters, the first being the Darakhul, who get +2 to Cha, are small or medium, gain a burrow speed of 10 ft., darkvision 60 ft., channel resistance +2, a 1d8 bite attack and also thankfully weaknesses. Why? Because, if you're not in the know, Darakhul are undead, to be precise, High Ghouls. Thus, these beings get all the immunities of undead, no con-score etc., but also are have a reverse reaction to positive and negative energy. Furthermore, they suffer from a -4 penalty to skill and ability checks, saving throws and atk while in daylight, -2 when affected by the spell. They also need to eat raw meat every day to avoid suffering from lethal, unhealable damage. Now, if you're following my reviews, you'll know that I LOATHE undead player characters in most times. However, I have to admit that while the benefits are significant, the drawbacks should do their part in addition to the social stigma to make this race an option that could be considered balanced. The next new race is the Gearforged, who are clockwork constructs. While I really like the integration of clockwork constructs as deeply into the setting as Zobeck has managed, I also have to compare these to RiP's Ironborn, NNW's Replicants and Stormbunny Studios' Automata, and unfortunately are of these construct races are mechanically more interesting and in my home game, I fear I'll rather use these. Of course, we also get stats for Kobolds, who get -4 Str, +4 to Dex, -2 to Con, are small, get darkvision 60 ft., +1 natural AC, +2 to Craft (Trapmaking), light sensitivity and proficiency with picks. Nothing to complain here.

After that, we're off to new character options: Cavaliers may now also belong to the order of the famous Griffon Knights of former House Stross-fame, while paladins may now become members of the Order of the Undying Sun (light and warmth-related abilities) and the Order of the White Lion, who gets modified mercies and a celestial bond at 5th level. Rogues may now take the fixer-archetype and there is also a new base-class, the Shadowsworn. Shadowsworn get d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, hand crossbows, rapiers, saps, short bows and short swords, but not with armors or shields. Shadowsworn may also cast spells of up to 5th level and cast them spontaneously, but use the unusual attribute Int instead of Cha for spontaneous casting. They also get up to +7d6 sneak attacks, 3/4 BAB-progression, a good ref-save and may select from 14 different talents, which I'd expand by giving access to some of SGG's Shadow Assassin talents. All in all, the class could be summarized as "spellcasting thief with shadow-theme" - a solid class, though one that could use more supplemental material or a unique signature ability beyond some exclusive spells. As provided, it feels a bit lacking and I'd honestly consider the Shadow Assassin by SGG the more interesting class. The class also comes with a spell-list and write-ups of a couple of new spells for the shadowsworn.

Other arcane casters also get fodder - the sorceror being now able to elect to get the ghoul and vampire bloodlines - both actually surprising me with nice abilities like ghoul fever-laden spittle. Nice! Wizards may now get access to the Clockwork and Illumination schools and may add that they are neat indeed - both are balanced and come with multiple nice ones. We are also introduced to new skill uses for Knowledge (Architecture & Engineering) as well as Disable Device and the Craft (Clockworking)-skill and if I haven't miscounted, we also get 57 new feats - which range from awesome to problematic: Take a firm hand, which allows you to slap unconscious people awake to ricocheting shots to being able to use the Kariv's Crab-divinations and Trick-Riding as well as figuring whether one lies after tasting the person's blood. (Vampire red herrings, there we go! Very cool!) Unfortunately, there's also a rotten apple in here that threatens to spoil the bunch: The harmless-sounding feat "underhanded Strike" is INSANE. Requiring only one feat and a BAB of +6, this allows the character to treat ALL hits versus a foe who is denied his/her/its dex-mod as critical threats. That's so unbalanced it's not even funny. How this abomination of a feat could slip past the capable editors and designers of Kobold Press, I have no idea. We also get almost 50 new traits for the areas covered in the book that help immerse the character in the respective setting.

The final pages of the pdf are covered by some dwarven weapons, street weapons appropriate for gangs as well as stats for alchemical smoke bombs and clockwork caltrops and narcotics: Apart from the Akiri Blossom, we also for the first time get PFRPG-stats for the very cool Requiem-drugs introduced in KQ.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice a single glitch. Layout is in full-color, adheres toa 2-column standard and can be considered drop-dead gorgeous, as can the artworks rendered in gorgeous full color. The pdf comes with full nested bookmarks, but no printer-friendly version, which is a bit of a pity.

This Player's Guide is a good offering indeed - Open Design/Kobold Press has been known for the stellar quality and imaginativeness of their writing and this pdf is no different, providing mostly stellar content - only mostly, though. There's the broken feat. The comparatively boring Gearforged and the traits, which, while nice, don't do too exciting things. That being said, there's some material you'll recognize from other releases set in Midgard like e.g. "Streets of Zobeck", now compiled for player use, which is also why I won't complain about them. As much as I like this guide, it still feels like it could have been a tad bit more streamlined, with e.g. the page of hooks being replaced with other content like Gearforged modifications, something rather absent from this pdf and something I'd expect from a construct race. Now, all of this conspires to make this pdf a very good offering, but not a perfect one - hence, I'll settle on a final verdict of "only" 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform and still urge you to check this out: When playing in Midgard, this is all but required.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard: Player's Guide to the Crossroads
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Midgard Adventures: The Forgotten King's Tomb
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/04/2013 12:19:57
This module is 17 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement and 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 13 1/3 pages of content, so let's check this out!

This being an adventure-review, the following will contain SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

All right, still here? Set in the borderlands between the Dragon Empire and Nuria-Natal called Sands of Sorrow, the PCs are hired by a kobold herald to retrace the steps of a dragonkin - he hands a map that leads into the sands of sorrow to the PCs (provided as a beautiful handout, btw.!) to get him the magic he remembers from the tomb. After offering a selection of minor magic items to help in the endeavor, the PCs will set out into the sand of sorrows.

The overland trek will include an encounter with some dust trappers and the tomb itself is guarded by gnoll zombies. (Including a map of the tomb's surroundings.)What's a problem here is that the encounters/sands of sorrows are not covered environment-wise - they remain abstract. We get no sample temperature, wandering monsters, unique hazards - lost chances.

The tomb-exploration per se is interesting, including some creepy imagery, nice traps, a mud elemental etc. to make their way to the obsession-sparkling silvery script, which is the work of the module's boss, an allip-variant who is the final foe that stands between the PCs and interesting information on Nuria-Natal's secretive burial rites. It should be noted, that the map of the complex, while beautiful, does not come with a player-friendly version sans keys. Also, the Allip's statblock-header is in allcaps. However, it should be noted that the tomb, in contrast to the wilderness, gets some nice detrimental environmental conditions for your players to face.

The module also includes 5 pre-gens, an all-out selection of kobold-characters.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed a couple of minor glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful, two-column full-color standard and the b/w-cartography is beautiful as well, but the map of the dungeon lacks a player-friendly version. The pdf has full bookmarks, but no secondary printer-friendly version.

This module was an interesting read to say the least - Mike Franke has created a conventional, short dungeon steeped in Midgard-lore, which is really neat! However, honestly - there's not that much going on in the module. The dungeon's nice, the fluff is nice and the module per se is not bad in any way. But neither does it truly feature a single brilliant idea, something that made me yell "eureka" and the pdf also has minor glitches. The lack of player-friendly maps also hurts this pdf. A couple of additional pages would perhaps have helped the module. Essentially, what I'm trying to say is that the fluff is the memorable thing about this module - it's good. But the rest, structure, locale etc. feel a bit generic to my tastes. Something distinct apart from the excellent Midgard fluff is simply lacking and coupled with the minor glitches and lack of player friendly maps make me settle for a final verdict of 3 stars, in spite of the great production values.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Adventures: The Forgotten King's Tomb
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Defenders of Midgard (4th Edition D&D)
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/02/2013 21:26:35
Update: I wrote the review below yesterday. Today, the product description has been updated on the site, incorporating my feedback. That's great customer service! I'll leave the review, as much of it still applies, but my complaints about "themes" originally being listed as "classes" and the lack of a statement that Kobold #16 is required to create Gearforged PCs no longer apply. Hope you enjoy the book as much as I have!

First, I was happy to see additional support for D&D 4E in the Midgard setting. While I've been playtesting 13th Age and D&D Next, my gaming group continues to play 4E in its ongoing campaign.

The layout of this e-book is very professional. All color art, easy to find what you're looking for, quickly recognizable 4E formats for powers, backgrounds, etc. I enjoyed the new options this book provides. The "fluff" text is short but helpful. The "crunch" looks to be about right in terms of power level.

My only complaint is really a problem I have with the product write-up on this site. First, the description states that there are 7 new classes. In reality, there are 7 new themes. I enjoy the relatively late addition of themes to 4E, and while I haven't had time to see these themes in play, they appear to be appropriate in terms of usefulness and power-level (I'd say they're comparable to several of the themes found in Heroes of the Feywild). So if you're looking for entirely new classes, please be aware that you won't find them here (and at 24 pages, I should've known that before I made the purchase, too...a single class generally requires more than 24 pages in any of the 4E books). What you will find is what you'd expect from a theme:

• A starting feature, a level 5 feature, and a level 10 feature
• Optional utility powers for levels 2, 6, and 10

Second, when the description said that the book includes Gearforged Racial Powers, I was expecting something like optional starting racial powers to change Eberron's Warforged into Midgard's Gearforged. This would have been similar to Dragon Magazine articles that have replaced the Dragonborn's breath weapon with a Dragonfear power, for example. Instead, optional racial powers are presented, which would be selected as alternatives to class powers as PCs level. This approach is used in recent 4E splatbooks, such as Heroes of the Feywild and in the "Making Race Count" Dragon Magazine articles. It provides further options for an existing Gearforged character's development, which I appreciate, but wasn't what I expected. The e-book makes it clear that the Gearforged race is found in Kobold Quarterly #16, but this should be explicit in the product description, so that you don't purchase the book expecting to be able to create Gearforged characters.

Last, the Schools of Magic that are presented (compatible with the 4E Essentials Mage from Heroes of the Fallen Lands) present features up to level 10. The book states in its introduction that it's intended for the heroic tier, but this omission leaves a Clockwork or Glyph Mage in a bit of a quandary—the Essentials Mage doesn't select a Paragon Path the way the core Wizard (Arcanist) does. The school of magic selected at character creation guides the Mage's development through both the heroic and paragon tiers. Something as simple as a sentence stating that the Mage should, at level 11, choose a Paragon Path would help. Clearly, if your character is using any of these options, you're already going outside of the "official" rules, so an Essentials Mage selecting a Paragon Path will allow the character to advance, even if his/her powers aren't very clockwork/glyph focused—perhaps some re-skinning of the spell fluff would help here. Even better would have been to expand these entries to include the 3 powers and 1 feature needed to fully define each school.

To summarize: the quality of the book is very good. It is well written, easy to understand, and visually attractive. Just be aware of what you're buying, and make sure it's going to meet your expectations—the product description can be misleading.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Defenders of Midgard (4th Edition D&D)
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Midgard Campaign Setting
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
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Midgard Adventures: To the Edge of the World
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/10/2012 04:47:09
We've all been there, those little squishy tasty scooby snacks known as low level characters...just waiting to be fed to a group of rats, or maybe if you're really lucky a pack of goblins....Woopee!! Yeah, not so much, right? Low level notoriously blows, because so little is written for it with the idea that the group can handle a real challenge, let alone is worthy of a story that goes beyond the most absolute basic concepts...after all, the good stuff is reserved for those characters that can do something with it. Well, Wolfgang says NO MORE!!

To the Edge of the World by Wolfgang Baur is (like every book in the Midgard series) a visual treat to look at. To say that Marc Radle was a good choice for graphic design for the Kobolds has got to be one of the biggest understatements one could imagine. Everything Radle touches ends up with a higher degree of professionalism and just all around sexiness. Sexiness? Yeah, I went there. I can not stress enough how much I have fallen in love with the look of the Midgard series of books, and am thrilled to see that the look is going to carry into the adventures as well as the sourcebooks, as this truly ties them all together as a cohesive set.

Now, I know, I know...you didn't come here to listen to me go on and on about how pretty it is, you want to know about the meat of it all, The adventure itself. And how in the world any adventure written for a beginning playgroup could possibly incorporate a cover that freaking cool, right? Well, let me break it to you buttercup....Oh, wait, almost forgot...PLAYERS BEGONE (wiggles the fingers, tosses the dust) ...Alright, almost forgot to cast that handy little incantation SPOILER ALERT...lol. Now, where were we?? Ah yes, the cover, and just what the heck is going on in this adventure....read on my friends, read on.

The PCs are going to find themselves hired to travel to meet with an undead queen, there to do the diplomacy dance and ingratiate themselves through gifts and flattery to try and gain access to a tomb with the intentions of retrieving an item for their employer. Following me so far? Cool. Because what you have here is essentially the hook to get your PCs moving. The man of means hiring them is going to hook them up with some handy dandy toys to help, things well beyond their means as PCs, but in the end they are acting as emissaries for their employer, which is a great way to put means within the grasp of a group without breaking the mechanics of what they themselves could afford to have access to.

Offered the usage of a ship with an experienced captain (a dragonkin by the name of Gullnipper, who has an excellent piece of art on a sidenote), the PCs should have no problems in reaching the island of Karn'lothra. To keep the journey interesting several side encounters are presented to be used or not, as the GM chooses. Upon arrival to the island (which is described with absolutely cool little features - the corpse of a titan washed up on the beach, a ring of large sculpted heads surrounding the islands coastline, the immense amount of tombs forming a veritable wall of mazeworks.) the PCs will have to jump through the diplomatic hoops and deal with the Bloodless Queen (lich-queen) in attempting to get permission to search for a specific tomb, and then enter said tomb to retrieve an item for their employer.

It should be noted that at this point, yes, the PCs are dealing with things that could easily kill them all, without trying. And that's exactly the point. A group that remembers their place in the larger scale of things, and talks instead of unsheathing their weapons stands a much better chance of getting through several areas of this adventure alive. Assuming they get to the tomb, and survive its defenses, they will find themselves in possession of both that which they came for, and an unexpected treat that should amuse any GM out there...an intelligent, talking spellbook. Yeah, a built in NPC who may or may not co-operate at its own discretion, without being so intrusive that it gets in the way of the storyline.

The book, in the attempt to facilitate escape from the Queen's minions, summons a Leviathan Island for the PCs to "board" and "set sail" on. The leviathan island is freaking huge people, and the map showing it off is a piece of artwork on its own, an actual island of stone and vegetative growth, complete with a group of mongrelmen who worship the freaking thing.

So, pretty cool so far, no? I mean, let's face it, that's some pretty epic stuff for a low level group to experience...but we're so not done yet. The Midgard setting presents us with a flat world, and this leviathan is intending to leave, and get back to the celestial sea by sailing to the edge and making the leap...and yes, the PCs are going along for the ride unless they choose to bail, with no ship or hope of survival. Amongst the stars the leviathan heads towards the Citadel of a Million Stars, wherein the PCs will find themselves embroiled within the court politics of the celestials in residence, with no real allies to rely upon.

A fantastically envisioned adventure that allows for the reality that it is OK for a low level group of PCs to encounter things beyond their combat scope, to be put into danger that will require them to do more than hack and slash to survive, and truly pushes the envelope of what a low level adventure is.

Presented in a dual column format with embedded artwork from Mark Bulahao and Marc Radle, cartography from Todd Gamble, Alyssa Faden and Peter Bradley, and of course that insanely cool cover piece from Pat Loboyko. Editing is top notch, with nothing really jumping out and grabbing me.

Whereas the adventure could be ported to another setting, the true weight of the design and the subtle beauty really shines through when it is left right where it was designed to be played, within the Midgard setting. Several references are made throughout the PDF to other Kobold Press publications, ranging from other Midgard titles to KQ issues, all of which one should have within their library (lol), or can be referenced from the D20PFSRD easily enough.

Wolfgang reminds us all why he's a force to be reckoned with in the industry with this adventure, and easily earned a 6 star rating from me, rounded down to a 5 for the purposes of this forum. A true treat, and well worth the price of admission folks!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Adventures: To the Edge of the World
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