DriveThruRPG.com
Close
New Account
 
  
 
 
You will lose your chance to get the free product of the week.
One-click unsubscribe later if you don't enjoy the newsletter.
Close
Log In
 
 Forgot password?
 

     or     Log In with your Facebook Account
Browse
 Publisher Info









Back
Other comments left for this publisher:
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)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
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
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
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
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
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
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
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)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
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
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
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
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Monsters of Sin 7: Wrath (Pathfinder RPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/08/2012 05:51:51
This pdf is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let's check out the final installment of the monsters of sin-series!

As is the tradition with the series by now, we kick off with an introduction to the sin at hand as well as the wrathful creature simple template (CR+3),which allows the creature to rage 1/day for 1d6+1 round as the spell and gain the diehard feat as well as reflexively rage when reduced to negative HP.

The new monsters are:

-Hulking Whelp (CR 5): A cute small fey somewhat resembling a small canine, cute humanoid, these neurotic fey grow to a dread huge size when their personal space is violated - per se a nice idea that may grant satisfaction to all those annoyed by yelling small dogs...or crush them! the creature comes with stats for both forms.

-Savager (CR 9): Supremely creepy artwork for a porcupine-like quilled grizzly with saberteeth and scimitar-like claws and a cool armor of scabs.

-Spiteful Spirit: CR-2 template that makes for a temporary undead after a foe has been vanquished. Nice simple template to give an NPC killed by a lucky shot another chance to shine. Per se a nice idea, but honestly, nothing any DM can't make him/herself.

-Embodiment of Wrath (CR 23): The final embodiment of sin-creature is a hulking, 4-armed apelike beast with an aura of anger, the power to detect those seeking to hide from them and a superbly cool ability: When damaged, it gains anger-points that it can use to deal bleed damage, grow an extra arm, haste, bonus feats etc., making the fight progressively harder and making the fight feel like it has phases. Very cool to make the boss fight work very well!

The pdf closes with a page on wrath-related fluff in the Midgard Setting.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the series' beautiful two-column standard and this issue's b/w-artworks are all rather well-made and iconic. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a pity - apart from BP-length pdfs, all should have them by now.
The monsters of sin-series triumphs and falls with its brevity and unfortunately, this brevity also means that any creature that is not all killer, detracts from the issue's appeal. And said thing unfortunately holds true for the Spiteful Spirit template, which at best is boring and something that most DMs probably pulled off without having the template. Furthermore, the template's lack of any signature ability apart from its short-livedness is a wasted chance. The other creatures herein are stellar, though, with especially the embodiment's increasing lethality something I'd wish more designers used for their boss beasties. Kudos for the neat design - though I wished the other embodiments had similar options. All in all, this issue is a fitting, albeit not perfect final installment of author Ryan Costello Jr.'s series and will clock in at a final verdict of 4 stars from me.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of Sin 7: Wrath (Pathfinder RPG)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design
by JONATHAN N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/04/2012 14:16:36
The best product on the market for aspiring role-playing game authors. Five stars!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Midgard: Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/02/2012 04:06:11
A 30 page book, the Midgard Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire is a very attractive PDF, with an accent framed parchment style background to the pages, heraldry shield page decorations, both color and B&W artwork, a predominately two column layout and truly astounding editing work. Where as the TOC is not linked, the PDF comes with nested bookmarks that handle the issue just fine.

So, the Dragon Empire...Imagine for a second what would happen if the biggest and baddest dragons out there got tired of defending themselves constantly. If they got tired of having to put out their own efforts to keep their lands and hordes growing. What would happen if egos and personal ambition could be put aside long enough to realize an alliance, a council if you will, would be beneficial for far more reasons than not. From this the Mharoti Empire came into being, named for the dragon who brought the proposal to his fellow dragons within the lands that came to be ruled by the empire.

The really cool thing here in this concept is that we have a very familiar thing here, in that a ruling council governing a large body of people living in various social castes, but we are presented something very new and fresh at the same time. The idea of a society that is in fact designed to favor the scaled races, while allowing for the usage and growth of the various “hairy” species is really cool. We are given not only the social caste and who falls where, but the terminology in Draconic for each level. Coolest thing there in regards to the draconic language being incorporated? We get a common phrase straight from the lips of the Jambuka (Jackals – or to be less polite, us humans and our fellow hair growers). Now, the oddball thing here is that the office of power within the empire is given to a human, as the dragon lords recognized that they could never trust each other to rule the collective lands and amassed armies. Where as the position carries a great deal of power with it, in the end it is a puppet string away from the teeth of the Great Dragon Lords, and the Sultanate lives a life of constantly trying to balance the desires of her draconic masters.

A collection of new traits provided give plenty of options for characters who choose to be from the Dragon Empires as opposed to merely traveling there. Several of the traits however seem to be missing their prerequisites. By the wording, and the sheer names of some of the traits it is not hard to see what the prerequisites should be, but a GM will need to impose them to avoid those players looking for loopholes, as gaining traits benefiting from draconic heritage when one need not be of draconic descent could make it very easy for someone to gain an unfair advantage. As an example of what it is I am referring to I offer up the trait Quick and Cunning Kobold Child - Your quick wits and quicker reflexes are reflective of your kobold ancestry. Now, I'm not going to list the benefit here, but I will say that there is no requirement for you to be either kobold, or at least have an associated bloodline, even though the wording makes it pretty clear you're supposed to. Now, there are section heads detailing for some of the groupings of traits (Combat, Magical, etc.) to whom they are supposed to belong, but there are several points where no distinction has been made, and I find only one trait that specifically has a prerequisite. We are also given a full set of traits that are specifically linked to certain races, as explained in the section lead-in, and the names of each trait. To be clear my complaint in regards to missing prerequisites is for various traits before the racial traits section.

So, that out of the way, what are we getting out of this traits section? A lot. 43 traits in total, with my favorite out of them all being Draconic Trait. This trait allows ANYONE to take a trait meant only for dragons, drakes and dragonkin. It still has its limitations to keep one from going insane, but it does allow you to replace a racial trait with one from the kobold or dragonkin options. A very cool way to allow for the idea that those who live amongst and serve the reptilian races will, in time, pick things up.

24 new Feats make up the next section of the book, with a small sidebar recommending how to handle playing a Drake as a PC race. A great deal of the feats here help take a dragonkin or kobold a step further towards their ancestral big cousins, with feats covering flying, gliding, thicker hide, breath weapons and the such. But there are plenty of feats here for any and all races as well, and even feats to recognize the four elemental gods of the dragons of this region as well. A decent collection of feats, with prerequisites in place and a couple of small feat chains for those who love to link their feats for bigger and better effects.

The next section brings us the archetypes and prestige classes for the Dragon Empire, and the first offering impressed me to no end. Order of the Firedrake (Cavalier Archetype) is in fact a rider, be it dragon or drake, aimed at being that character on the battlefield inspiring and leading her allies into combat with a roar on her lips, and the blood of her enemies painting the ground beneath her. An impressive set of class abilities, my favorite being Dragon Strike (15th level she brings her allies with her on a charge attack, granting them an attack on their move as long as they reach a target...imagine the damage of such an attack folks). The Elemental Exarch (Druid Archetype) gives us a druid who doesn't worship nature, but rather the elements themselves, the underlying keys to nature. Gaining an elemental companion in much the same sense as an animal companion, although with several much cooler perks in regards to what one's companion can do for you, these druids can literally be fused with their elemental, gaining instant bonuses to ability scores depending upon the nature and size of the elemental.

There are 7 more archetypes covering the Magus, Dragonkin, Monk, Oracle, Rogue and Elementalist classes...and no, I didn't miscount, there are two for the Monk – Monk of the Fiery Mist and Monk of the Wind Palm. I could easily write another full page discussing these archetypes, but having nothing negative to say in regards to them, I am going to move on instead to the prestige class. Dragon Emir is a full 10 level prestige class that takes what the Order of the Firedrake started in whetting my appetite with a mounted concept and kicks it into high gear. The Dragon Emir are the elite, those few chosen to ride draconic mounts in to combat, leading the charge, rallying the troops and devastating the enemy. A very cool prestige class, even if it is limited to only the scaly races, lol.

Now what good would a book introducing us to a new lands and society be without a section on new magics, right? Thankfully the Kobolds agree, and they have graced us with 17 new spells to make you twirl your mustache while laughing evilly...mwahahaha...oh..ahem..sorry. So, spells, let's discuss my new favoritest spell for the week...Coin Swarm. Turn any pile of 1,000 coins into a freaking swarm of flying cutting whirling disks of metal, with all the bonuses of potential exotic metals (cold iron, silver, etc.)...I warn my players here and now, as I know a few of them read my reviews...every dragon from this day forward will know this spell....lol. Wyvern's Sting does one of two things, either it transforms the end of a character's tail into the whiplike stinger of a wyvern dealing Con damage, or for those PCs without tails it grows a full wyvern tail for the duration of the spell dealing the same damage as above.
Fiery Sandstorm brings into being a bludgeoning sandstorm enhanced with burning damage as well thanks to the flames licking through the sand. Extra perk? Natural flight impossible, and spell chuckers have to make concentration checks or fall back to manual labor while in the midst of the sandstorm.

A sampling of the exotic goods of these lands closes us out, and is truly the only place in the PDF where I feel let down. We open with a collection of monsters and animals that serve different purposes within these lands, and the list for the most part makes perfect sense and really helps sell the fact that a great deal of the Dragon Empires is in fact a desert nation ruled by draconic races. However, in the intro to these animals and their usages it is mentioned that zombies and yeti are amongst the creatures imported for usage, but they do not appear in the actual write ups, so we are not given a reason for them to be there. From the imported critters we move along to some of the more exotic wares one would find amongst the bazaars of these lands you might not find back home, like Aboleth Brain, or Basilisk Heart (both a delicacy amongst dragons), various weaponry for those with a draconic body frame, poisons that will overcome a dragon's natural resistance to sleep and paralysis...just over all cool exotic stuff...with no prices. And that is where we hit my disappointment with this book. This insanely cool chapter filled with really cool new gear, with no simple chart showing us weights, prices, etc...the basic information we need for gear to incorporate it properly. I can overlook the zombie and yeti being left out of the first part of this chapter, but teasing me with all of this cool gear, and then not giving me prices and basic info...ouch.

Four new magical rugs/carpets tie it all up as the last offerings in this PDF, with a magical trap in the form of a Carpet of Confusion, another in the Rug of Suffocation and Flying Carpet of Suffocation offering the more mobile version of the rug of the same name. The Teleportation Carpet allows for instant transport between two rugs sharing the same plane as long as one knows the correct activation word, unless of course these are set up as traps as well, causing any and all who step upon them to be whisked away...ah traps, wrapped up in cool magical items...gotta love it.

Which brings me to the final thoughts and rating. Overall, I loved this book. I did. My only real complaint is that the chapter handling gear feels like it is missing a very vital chart, detailing not only the gear, but the weaponry introduced there as well. The problem is I don't feel that is a small thing, as it leaves us without prices for any of it, let alone weights. Luckily, this is the type of thing that would take up enough of a page all on it's own it could easily be drawn up and released in the form of an enhancement to avoid having to update the PDF. Hopefully we'll see such a chart at some point.

Now, on to the positive stuff...everything else. No really, this PDF is solid, and introduces a really cool new locale for your Midgard campaign. Not playing in Midgard? Not an issue, a scaly race empire could easily make any campaign world it is dropped in a cooler place to play within. The art is very thematic and will have you thinking along the lines of Persia, Arabia and the vast deserts...well, except for the tribute piece to the classic arcade game Joust....lol, that piece alone needs to be put on T-shirts...just saying Wolfgang, put me down for one, lol.

OK, so, rating. I'm settling at a 4.5, with a rounded rating of 5 for the purposes of this forum, but I am going to clarify that the only reason I am not giving a true 5 is the lack of important information in regards to the new items and gear. And I do hope that something formal is made available to address this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard: Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Kobold Quarterly Magazine 23
by Tim W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/02/2012 12:55:15
Midgard Campaign setting unveiled! Pathfinder options galore! Demons and Devils abound (Dispater, Pages from Asmodeus, Mechuiti - demon lord, Selling Your Soul, Devil's Food, The Devil Smiter)! World-building advice from Monte Cook! PFSOP adventure by Adam Daigle! Living Gods for 13th Age by Ash Law! A great article on how to scare your players by Steve Winter! And so much more! This issue so kicks butt, I'm not sure how I sleep at night! If you play table top RPGs, you MUST have this issue! 8')

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kobold Quarterly Magazine 23
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Kobold Quarterly Magazine 23
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/01/2012 12:33:19
This issue of Kobold Quarterly has a distinct slant toward demons and devils, which is quite fitting for a Halloween issue. However, if fiends from the lower planes aren’t your thing, don’t despair – this issue also has over a dozen articles covering a wide variety of non-infernal topics. Let’s look at a few of them first.

What does your older brother plus a water balloon have in common with spreading dread amongst your players? More than you might think. The connection is explained, very eloquently and entertainingly, by Steve Winter in his Howling Tower article, “Real Scares, 11 Techniques for Creating a Strong Horror Atmosphere at the Table.” And no, absolutely none of the techniques involve hiring your older brother to ambush your players with water balloons.

James Thomas brings us “A Few Suggestions, 8 Ways to Influence Weak Minds.” With humor, concise examples, and even a Star Wars reference, Mr. Thomas shows that the humble suggestion spell is unfairly neglected by GM and players alike. And of course, he also shows how to easily remedy that neglect.

“Slithering in Moonlight” by Marc Radle is a guide to using Lamia Commoners as player characters. In addition, he also explores lamias in a way that recalls the excellent “Ecology Of…” articles from back in the print-edition days of Dragon Magazine. Whether as prospective PC’s or just as better-developed foes, this article improves the usefulness of lamias. Also, I thought the story fragment used to introduce this article was particularly effective.

“The Gauntlet Witch” by Morgan Boehringer and Jim Wettstein is an archetype that lets characters mix martial and magical arts. This is the most well-developed archetype description I’ve ever seen. Most archetypes are described in a couple of short paragraphs which say “swap this power for that power.” That’s not the case here. Brace yourself for a detailed, in-depth discussion.

This issue includes two adventures: The first adventure, “Devil’s Food” by Michael Lane, is suitable for a 6th level group. It involves autumn festivals, chocolate, and some wonderfully nasty gnomes. This adventure is set in the world of Midgard, but as with all good adventure modules, some careful name changes will let you securely place it in your own world.

The second adventure, “The Urge to Evolve” by Adam Daigle is a Pathfinder Society Quest. It is nicely compact, should be playable in the course of a single game session, and even includes a sidebar suggesting how to scale it for your group.

I do have one nit to pick with both these adventures. Both use the “I have a job for you” setup, which is one of my least-favorite ways to start an adventure. However, this complaint reflects my personal prejudice rather than any flaw in the adventures themselves, both of which looks like they will be properly entertaining.

Now let’s look at a sampling of the Fiendish Articles:

“Dispater” by Wes Schneider provides everything you need to bring this Arch-Fiend to life in your campaign. Giving major foes a real personality and complex, understandable motives can be quite a challenge … for me, anyway, but apparently not for Mr. Schneider. He shows exactly how to do it for this iconic arch-devil. He has even included a sidebar on the real-world history of Dispater.

Ed Greenwood gives us “Pages from Asmodeus”, a book unlike any I have ever heard of before. This evil object is more imaginative and intriguing than any of the Artifacts from back in 1st Edition days, yet it is suitable for use with a group of almost any level.

“Selling Your Soul” by Rodrigo García Carmona presents a detailed and excellent set of rules to guide both GM’s and players in striking a Fiendish Bargain. I am not familiar with the Age system for which this article was written, but that doesn’t matter. The information in this article is so clearly and logically presented that I know I’ll have no trouble at all adjusting it for use in my 3E/PF game.

Please be assured, I enjoyed all the articles in this issue, even the ones I didn’t choose to mention here. Every article had something interesting, useful, or entertaining to say.

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

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

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

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

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Shadow Planes & Pocket Worlds (Pathfinder RPG)
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/23/2012 20:13:24
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=28065.

This supplement to the wildly popular Dark Roads and Golden Hells takes the sometimes confusing and completely amorphous concept of the planes in RPGs and provides more interesting and exciting planes and monsters to encounter while taking a wild planar journey.

Kobold Press has hit a real home run with their view of the planes and how they operate. Shadow Planes Pocket Worlds feels like a solid supplement rather than something that was just tacked on because there was extra material just lying around. Even without the benefit of Dark Roads and Golden Hells, this book still works well as a standalone, product for extra-planar information.

OVERALL

If you are planning on running a game that involves planar travel then this series is for you. This supplement does not go as far as its predecessor to explain how the planes work, but that isn’t the purpose. The two new locations alone make this a product worth buying; add in the rest of the crunchy information makes Shadow Planes Pocket Worlds even more appetizing.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
The cover is branded correctly, complementing its older sibling very well. The layout of this book is spot on, rather than trying to fix what wasn’t broken, the folks at Kobold Press stuck with a winner. The page borders still look great and they are just what the Dr. ordered for a product dealing with the planes. The interior art is well done in black and white; there were a few “white spaces” that would have been great for art, but that is minor. The fonts are the right size and easy to read, this book looks great!

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The diseases and poisons were handled well. Rather than just a charted entry for each poison, there is a brief description, not just a collection of numbers. The templates are reasonable and don’t feel overpowered. Putting a template to an imaginary friend was innovative, but I should realize that Kobold Press has shown a willingness to go there and make it work when they get there. The magic items were interesting, without adding additional burdens to the GM or the player.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
If you are not running a game that involves the planes, then this product loses some value. Even a product as well thought out and as well presented as this one diminishes if not used in the context for which it was intended. If you are even hinting at any type of extra planar activity in your game, then there is something here you can use. The poisons and diseases lose a bit of their flavor in the same way the entire product does if not handled correctly.

Overall: 9 out of 10
This is a tight, tight product! The layout and editing are spot on; the content is top notch. There was a little too much white space on a few pages that could have been filled with art or even designer notes or suggestions on how to run a better planar game. For many of you, this might seem like I’m asking for and expecting way too much, but when you do things as well as Kobold Press does, expecting more is the only way they will maintain their high standards or strive to top themselves. This is a product that should spend no time in the shadows or be kept in anyone’s back pocket.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow Planes & Pocket Worlds (Pathfinder RPG)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

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

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Click here to issue a publisher reply
Displaying 91 to 105 (of 253 reviews) Result Pages: [<< Prev]   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
0 items
 Hottest Titles
 Gift Certificates