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Demon Cults 2: Doomspeakers
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/06/2015 08:11:38

This, the second of the Demon Cults series, presents a cult that deserves its billing as evil, nasty and not the sort of thing that any right-thinking person ought to even consider joining... but they do make brilliant adversaries, vile folk you can get a righteous buzz from wiping off the face of the earth (or whatever planet is your campaign world). Members of the Doomspeakers cult are demon-worshippers who study a tome called The Book of the Nine Dooms, anti-paladins who learn and practise vile magic that consumes their very being as they wreak misery and destruction on their foes.

We start with an overview of their leaders, organisation and goals. Like most demon-worshippers, they are not big on organisation, it's more a case of the meanest and most powerful clinging on to power for as long as they can. Any group will likely have an anti-paladin at their head, with a following of various classes (clerics, wizards, oracles and barbarians seem most likely) and a horde of gnoll minions to do the heavy lifting. They share the common demonic goals of bringing destruction on all mortal life, preferably as nastily as possible. Several example senior cultists are presented with complete stat blocks and background information: I wouldn't care to meet any of them in a dark alley (or anywhere else for that matter).

These are followed by a collection of senario ideas and notes on cult activities, arranged by APL for easy selection. Each presents a situation that has at the root of it members of the Doomspeakers, it is up to the party to sort things out. Many seem quite innocuous at the beginning... All are described in suitably generic terms to make it easy to fit them into an ongoing plotline on your campaign world. Many have the potential to be developed into a plot arc of their own, especially if you weave several of them into your campaign allowing the party to discover the growing threat posed by the Doomspeakers and giving them an opportunity to do something about it. If you use the Midgard campaign setting from Kobold Press, there's a sidebar about running these adventures to effect, particularly in the Sarkland Desert in the Southlands and also on the Rothenian Plain.

Finally, there's a couple of nasty magic items and a new spell, the Doom of Ancient Decrepitude which causes rapid ageing for both the caster and anyone nearby when the spell is cast.

The Doomspeakers are definitely villains and antagonists. It would have been interesting to read some more about The Book of the Nine Dooms and the powers it confers on those who study it (some of which can be deduced from reading the descriptions of the leading cultists provided), but the adventure ideas are varied and interesting. If you want to put up a nasty bunch of demon-worshippers as opposition to your party, this could be a good place to start.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults 2: Doomspeakers
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Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
by Jim L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/05/2015 14:37:51

This is a good 5th Edition release from Designer Dan Dillon and Editor Steve Winter.

Drawing on previously published Midgard setting material and flavor, mixed with new 5E mechanics, this book does what it sets out to do. It provides a gateway to Midgard world through Racial Archetypes mixed with potential setting Backgrounds to immerse your players into a great setting. Is this a Midgard for 5th Edition? No it is not. If Kobold Press designs a full Midgard for 5E, I will be sure to check it out.

A major strength of this book is the ease to extract pieces for your own homebrew or published setting such as Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Ebberon, or even Ravenloft. I run a hybrid Forgotten Realms (WotC) + Al-Qadim (TSR) & Southlands (Kobold Press) world, and have extracted the Backgrounds and many of the races for my world.

The 11 Races presented are diverse enough to really get you thinking about your world, but you may not find a place for each and every one. I am a huge fan of the Shadowfey (my Feywild/Shadowfell mash-up), Trollkin (my Forgotten Realms North & Sword Coast), Dragonkin & Gearforged (my Ebberon/Underdark mash-up), Ravenfolk (my borderlands between Al-Quadim & Southlands).

I would have liked more detailed Age/Aging, Height, and Weight by females/males similar to what was presented in some of Kobold's Advance Races (Werelions comes to mind). I also would have liked a "Playing this Race" blurb in each race, as presented in the Darakhul section to help guide player expectations of potentially playing very rare races, and how "normal" civilizations might view them. Finally, I wish there was a Printer Friendly optional PDF, so I could print the book without wasting ink & toner.

Overall, this book will not only get you into rolling in Midgard, but also really add a lot of interest to your own world. Buy this book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
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Demon Cults 1: The Emerald Order
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/05/2015 07:41:47

There's a lot packed into this book, which provides a comprehensive introduction to a cult called the Emerald Order. Devotees believe that vast eternal arcane truths are inscribed on an artefact called the Emerald Tablet, secrets of Thoth-Hermes himself! It is a mystery cult, with members of the inner circle learning these truths and some tapping into the power of the actual stone itself.

Whilst many followers of Thoth-Hermes - both in and out of this cult - know about the Emerald Tablet, the Emerald Order guard its secrets jealously. Believing themselves custodians of higher, indeed ultimate, wisdom, the cult seeks to influence and guide society... and they are none too particular about how they go about it: assassination and terrorism is preferred over persuasion and convincing argument. To this end, cultists insinuate their way into every walk of life.

There's a brief note about the structure of the cult and we get to meet the leader, one Dromdal-Re - complete with a full stat-block, should the party ever meet him. And meet him they might, as there is a large collection of plot ideas (neatly arranged by APL to aid selection) that will get the party embroiled with the Emerald Order if they bite at the bait you dangle before them. They include quite a few investigations as one of the Cult's practices is to exert their influence over pivotal individuals and so cause them to act out of character. Concerned friends, citizens, subordinates or others may want to find out what's going on. Most of the adventure ideas sound on the surface like usual adventurer fare, and it's possible to use several with the aim of building up an overall picture of what the Emerald Order is up to. Of course, if the party is investigating the Emerald Order, the Order might be investigating them...

For those who join and progress in the Order there's a new prestige class, the Disciple of the Emerald Esoterica, which reflects growing knowledge of the secrets written on the Emerald Tablet through the understanding of a series of 'Keys'. It's noted that good-aligned Disciples are extremely rare, most joining the Order for personal gain and generally being on the evil side already. However, there's nothing to say that a player-character should not tread this path, depending on the nature of your campaign.

The book rounds out with a couple of new magic items - a new ioun stone and the Emerald Tablet itself - and a new monster, a bright green crystalline golem.

It's a nice sneaky little cult to infiltrate into your campaign, the sort that hands out flyers on street corners promising access to wonderous secrets if only you'll join them, take expensive courses and... well, we've all been badgered by the real-world equivalents peddling their sure-fire route to enlightenment. The plot hooks are well-designed, any being capable of development into a full-blown adventure or woven into a campaign arc involving the Order. There's a note for those who use the Midgard campaign setting about using them there, but this is versatile enough to be dropped into any campaign world to good effect.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults 1: The Emerald Order
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Courts of the Shadow Fey
by Darren P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/04/2015 08:19:42

Rather box product. Nice presentation as usual. Huge potential for adventure. On the down side, the authors vivid imagination makes the plot very complicated and a bit intimidating for the DM (or maybe I am just a bit thick!)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey
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Midgard Bestiary for AGE System Vol. 1
by Arthur R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/24/2015 08:08:23

The Midgard Bestiary has a nice layout that reminds me of Black Industries WFRP Bestiary, which was one of the better bestiaries to come out around the time I stopped buying monster manuals for my games. Each creature entry gets a full page two-column layout, containing a descriptive title-blurb followed by a full description with illustration and its stat block. Illustrations are in color or B&W and consume approximately 25% of each page. I picked this up because I already own the Midgard setting and Fantasy-AGE. The stat-block is written for Dragon-AGE and I do hope the author takes the time to offer conversion notes for those of us using the newer AGE Stat Block. This is still a great purchase and now all of my rivers will be populated with packs of Eel Hounds. Players beware!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Bestiary for AGE System Vol. 1
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Courts of the Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/22/2015 08:31:25

Beautifully illustrated and presented, this is a massive adventure that takes the party into the realm of shadows and embroils them in the chaos and intrigue that accompany the transistion between the Summer Court of the Queen of Night and Magic and the altogether darker machinations of the Winter Court of the Moonlit King. You cannot trust the Fey, never more so than here...

It all begins as the Moonlit King discovers that House Stross no longer holds sway in Zobeck (he's a bit behind the times, poor dear) and so all the arrangements and treaties that he had with House Stross are now null and void. Unsurprisingly, he's rather cross about it all!

The adventure itself is constructed as five segments that would take a party from 7th to 11th level in the course of some 30 encounters (although they need not have them all to complete the adventure successfully). The key to it all is a neat mechanic for determining Status - because the Fey are nothing if not snobbish and elitist, and if you are of insufficient Status they do not care how reasoned your argument is, how strong your sword arm is or even how big your bribe might be! A party that successfully rises in Status will get their audience and be able to put their case to the Moonlit King.

All starts abruptly as the party is called away from whatever they might be doing in Zobeck to aid a senior cleric who is being attacked - in his very temple, no less. A tough fight is followed by a quest to find out why the poor priest was being attacked and this will lead the characters into the adventure proper. A series of strange events beleaguer the people of Kobeck, and so it all begins.

To succeed, the party needs to be smart and diplomatic as well as adept with spell and sword... and that's before they venture onto the Shadow Road and attempt to navigate their way through the Courts of the shadow fey! Then they will really need their wits about them! Strange things happen in the shadow realms. The encounters reflect this well, with some truly memorable and outright wierd events to throw at the party. This is where the Status mechanic comes into play: everything they do (or omit to do) affects the party's standing: to the level that some encounters only become available as they rise in Status to a sufficient level.

The Court is massive and the party will be able to roam around, and perhaps interact with those denizens who deign to actually notice them. Eventually (we hope!) they will gain sufficient Status to be treated as guests rather than intruders, and the place comes alive about them. There is a great feast, the menu of which is part of the adventure in itself... and then it's time for the Duelling Season. The fey, it seems, love their duels. Mechanically, a Quick Duelling system is provided - and of course it also links back to Status.

The climax of the adventure comes when the party gains an audience with the Moonlit King. And the outcome? There are several possibilities, including supplanting him and taking over the shadow realm! The most likely conclusion sees the party returning to Zobeck, with many tales that mere mortals may find hard to believe!

Much is twisted, distorted, wierd... and as GM there is a lot to keep track of, so prepare well. Everything's well-presented (apart from a tendency for the text and the fancy borders to encroach on one another at times, so the odd word is hard to read), and most of the information is just where you need it. The PDF version is well-bookmarked, if running from a book you may want to put in some markers of your own.

Bringing out the sheer otherness of the fey, this adventure is like none other and should provide a memorable element of your campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Courts of the Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard Legends
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/21/2015 08:16:44

At first glance, this is an odd book. It's a collection of various snippets about Midgard... yet it makes more sense as you leaf through, for here are some of the legends, the stories Midgardians tell around the fire... the stories that one day your characters might feature in as they in turn create their own legends. For legends inspire heroes - whilst if you are the GM, maybe they'll spawn ideas for adventures of your own which you can use to help the party write its own tales that are worth the telling.

First of all we are introduced to Abderus, the first mage-lord of House Stross. If you have already got deep into the fabric of Midgard, you'll know what House Stross is (they're the former ruling family of what is now the Free City of Zobeck if you are wondering), but there's some more history here than hitherto published and a few spells that Abderus is said to have developed. This sets the pattern, a weaving-together of stories about people, places and events and relevant game mechanics which you can make use of in your own games. Items, spells, monsters, feats... all sorts of stuff, even some full character write-ups of those who still might be around. It's quite hard to keep track of it all!

Many entries have a 'using this legend' section with ideas for making use of that particular legend in your own plotlines. These may only be a sentence or two, but there are a lot of them and most could spawn an entire adventure (or more) depending on how you choose to use them. To use these to best effect, you'll need to seed the legends - how else will the characters know to act upon them else?

There are all manner of hidden delights. Perhaps a paranoid wizard might cast Incantation of the Uttered Cognomen Overheard, a delightful little spell that not only notifies you if someone's mentioned your name, you also get to see his location and surroundings. Or perhaps you fancy chasing Glatisant, the Questing Beast? This bizarre chimera seems to exist solely for the purpose of being pursued by young adventurers! Or maybe you would like your journey shortened by Hune the Doorlord? He can open a mystical door between anywhere and someplace else - if you can pay his price.

There are legends here indeed. Use them wisely and more shall be written... but an index of all the goodies tucked away in these pages would have helped! That aside, it brings Midgard to life, for only a place that is rich and deep has such legends to be told.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Legends
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Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/15/2015 08:01:28

This is a collection of information and adventures that really brings home the 'otherness' of the Midgard campaign setting... and the brief introduction highlights this, speaking of the epic adventures to be had when exploring remote and exotic islands at the far ends of the ocean. In Midgard, oceans do have ends, or at least edges, because the world is actually flat!

In this supplement, the geography of the Western Ocean is laid out ready for exploration, with sections on the Greater and Lesser Islands. Adventure seeds and notes to aid you in making it exciting to explore and scattered throughout and there are several complete adventures at the end, as well as new monsters and items to be used as you see fit.

The first section looks at the Greater Islands, beginning with Barsella, a free city billed as 'the city at the end of the world'. It's a major trading port and a haven for explorers - and it's governed by a council of seafaring families who understand that burning need to take ship and see what's over the horizon. Of course, there are wildly-differing reports of what is to be found over the horizon and many of the ships which venture out into the blue fail to return. Those that do, however, are filled with massive wealth and their crews have many a fantastic tale to tell, so there is never any shortage of vessels seeking to brave the trip or crews to sail them. There is a map of the city and details of notable locations and the people to be found there. One interesting feature is Saints' Lot, where many people who have survived shipwreck are to be found: they are termed 'Saints' by the townsfolk. Or perhaps you'd rather explore the caves underneath the city? A few regional traits and some adventure seeds finish off the city description.

Next comes the Isle of Morphoi. Despite tall cliffs and no ports, it is home to some very interesting inhabitants... a rich and strange lot they are, and is that a goddess I see lurking amongst them? Be wary, there are strange magics about as well... again, there are notes on locations and notable residents, as well as ideas for adventures here.

The next section covers myriad Lesser Islands, each with maps and notes and other useful information about them. They all have a tropical feel - think Pacific islands or perhaps somewhere like the Maldives - with beaches and coral atolls abounding. Some islands are volcanic and others display temporal instability! There is even one 'island' that is a great sea-beast which swims the ocean, making mapping its location rather difficult... and upon occasion it dives. Whenever there are strange occurrences or effects, the relevant game mechanics are supplied. And then there is the edge of the world itself, complete with Terminus Island and what lies beyond and below...

The Monsters section presents a selection of strange beasties that are to be found on the islands or in the waters around them. Perhaps you'd like to catch a prismwing, a beautiful yet dangerous bird, lightweight but with a wide wingspan and a long needle-like beak. Tall tales have been told about ferocious totem poles that lumber across clearings chasing the unwary... or are they true? Or have you heard the one about the giant made of bronze filled with a fiery ichor that serves as its lifeblood? The items that follow are equally strange and linked in to the setting.

Finally, there are five full-blown adventures which focus on the themes of exploration and discovery. They could be used as the framework around which to build a campaign set in the Western Ocean, beginning with a 1st-level adventure set in Barsella then taking the party to visit many of the islands described here in successive adventures, ending with a 9th-level one that could end with the characters as major players in the region or founders of a colony of their own. Hints are provided for what could go on between the set adventures with options for exploration, trade or even a spot of piracy. The adventures are exciting, with plenty going on and opportunities to exercise the brain as well as the sword-arm (one is a muder mystery and anoter a search for a ghost ship, yet another involves a daring rescue). Many a song could be written or tale told about those who navigate them successfully.

Overall, if you like nautical adventures and exploration, this is an ideal resource mixing setting and adventure. My one complaint is that there is no overall map of the Western Ocean, although individual islands and locations are well-provided with maps and plans. Beautifully-presented and jam-packed with ideas for adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
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Further North: A PDF Companion to Northlands (PFRPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/14/2015 07:35:32

Designed as a supplement to the Northlands sourcebook, this short PDF has a lot packed into its pages.

The section headings can be a bit confusing until you realise that they refer to the chapters in Northlands. First up, to go with material in Chapter 1 of that tome are some delightful short thumbnail sketches of 'guests at the feast' - ten characters who will add colour to any gathering. Designed for role-playing, if you decide that you want stat blocks for any of them you will have to attend to that for yourself, although in most cases you are at least told what class they are. Next, should you run a Thing there are several adventure ideas: people who have come to place a particular issue before the Thing or who otherwise might attract attention.

Next comes a section on magic, which references Chapter 4 of Northlands. There's the concept of 'reskinning' magic, tweaking existing spells to fit in with the style and atmosphere of the North, with several examples to show you what is meant. There's a new artefact and several wondrous items which all fit the legends of the North too... or just the environment. How about a pair of snowshoes that leaves no tracks?

Finally, there is further material aimed at Chapter 6: Bestiary of the Northlands book. Again it looks at reskinning monsters, with a lengthy list of ideas, and presents some new beasties as well. Strange deadly creatures called frostveils and the sea wolf, a vicious and aquatic creature with the body of a shark, the neck of a snake, the face like a wolf and mouth of dragon's fangs... or so it is said. Barbarians may take their rage powers from the Way of the Sea Wolf if they wish.

Some nice material to add to your game if you are using Northlands and some may be of use if you have your own 'lands of the frozen north' setting, but it is closely bound up with the Northlands of Midgard.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Further North: A PDF Companion to Northlands (PFRPG)
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Midgard Campaign Setting
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/12/2015 11:36:12

The foreword explains the origins of Midgard as Wolfgang Baur's own home game setting that he's been building since he was 14, and how it is amazing even to him to see the piles of scribbled notes and sketched maps that he ran games from turned into a full-colour proper book! Like many gamers I've long enjoyed creating my own worlds to adventure in, but few of us have the talent, perseverence and opportunity to share them with anyone other than their gaming group. This one is replete with a depth that comes of some 25 years of dreaming, writing and playing, jam-packed with lots going on never mind what adventurers might be doing yet plenty of opportunities for them to get involved or carve their own path. Just what you want in a campaign setting!

Chapter 1: Welcome to Midgard gives a high-level overview of the world. It's a place with a rich history of heroes that has fallen on dark times, a place waiting for new heroes to arise. For anyone who might think that this sounds like many other campaign worlds, seven differences between Midgard and 'standard' fantasy settings are laid out. For a start it is flat. In a quasi-mediaeval world, you might expect plenty of people to think that their world is flat, but this one really is flat. With edges. There are ley lines, utilised by the elves. Dragons are linked to the elements, and enjoy ruling whatever they can get their claws on, as well as the traditional dragon pursuit of amassing a good hoard. There are novel races, each with their own history and place in the world, as well as the standard fantasy human, elf, dwarf and so on. Personal prestige is important. The deities meddle with what goes on in mortal life. And it's not a static place. Boundaries between kingdoms change. Dynasties rise and fall. The party may have a chance to influence - even instigate - such change, but happen it will whatever they do.

The epic sweep of Midgard's creation (or at least, what is known and surmised about it) is then explained. Naturally all deities claim to have made it, but it's likely that they are lying. The creation myth told by the Northlanders is probably closer to the truth, but who knows? Races came and went, kingdoms rose and fell, a succession through giants and then elves until now when, although the other races are still around, humans take a more prominent role. Naturally the succession has rarely be peaceful with rebellions and wars... and if battlefield strife was not bad enough, the wizards cut loose too and waged war with arcane powers, leading to great swathes of devastation. And then the dragons and the vampires emerged to stake their claims... Ending with events of the last hundred years, the chapter finishes with a discussion of time, planets and dates. Flat or not, Midgard has a sun that rises in the east and sets in the west, not that anyone knows just what happens to it when it is not in view. There are moons and planets around as well. Naturally there are quite a few festivals and holidays to celebrate.

Next is Chapter 2: Heroes of Midgard. This provides details about the major races and assorted minor ones to be found in Midgard. It includes fascinating snippets and a wide range of variation within races, depending on where they hail from - things that create a diverse society and plenty of options for those seeking to create characters truly embedded in the lands from which they come. Humans, dragonkin, dwarves, elves, the gearforged, kobolds, and minotaurs make up the major races, and whilst some are well known, those that are not are described in sufficient detail to empower players who wish to experiment with a novel race for their character. There are seven minor races as well, ones who - as well as being less familiar as player-character races - are only found in specific parts of the world. There's a note on languages, and then it's on to a collection of Midgard-specific feats and traits. No matter where your character comes from, there is a range of traits that he can choose between, all providing distinctive regional and racial flavour.

The book goes on to describe the seven major regions of Midgard, geographically and culturally distinctive, with each getting its own chapter. In the middle of the world is Crossroads, then there are the Rothenian Plain, the Dragon Empire, the Seven Cities, the Wasted West, the Domains of the Princes, and the Northlands. Each has a wealth of description and some detailed maps to help you get a feel for the lay of the land. Crossroads can be a bit of a melting-pot of cultures, and at its heart is the Free City of Zobeck, which already has a sourcebook and an adventure collection of its own. Here there are brief notes and its coat of arms (the blazon is not quite right, the shield is not quartered but divided per pale - the full blazon is per pale gules and or, a gearwheel counterchanged if you really want to know!), plenty for a brief visit although if your game is going to spend much time there, get a copy of the Zobeck Gazetteer. Of particular note are references to magic unique to Zobeck, the Clockwork School and the School of Illumination Magic. The discussion moves on to trade, with loads of detail about trading companies, trade routes and so on, then to mercenary companies and many other locations that are to be found in the Crossroads area. The sheer wealth of detailed information packed in here is quite amazing... it spawns adventure ideas, never mind being useful if you already have reason to tread these lands. Numerous kingdoms, organisations, individuals and locations are all here...

And so it continues through chapter after chapter until all seven regions are described. As you read, the roots of Midgard begin to show: Middle European folk tales and legends, often the darker nightmare-inspiring end of things. But there is much more. A cluster of halflings around the great World Tree of Domovogrod, nomads roaming vast plains with a 'city on wheels' that travels around, as nomadic as the people it serves. There are spreading forests and towering mountains, strange customs and stranger titles... never mind the beings bearing them. Every region has distinctive spells, equipment and more. Throughout, there are suggestions for adventure, rooted in the people and places you are reading about at the time. The richness of this setting is matched by how integrated it is: sometimes you read of a campaign world where it seems a human world with other races tacked on because a fantasy world ought to have them: here they belong, as integral a part of the setting as any other creature.

After the regional chapters, there is a chapter detailing the pantheon of Midgard. It takes things much further than the usual list of deities and the domains over which they have influence, though. These gods are properly mysterious, they and their ways cannot be understood and categorised by mere mortals. Sometimes aloof, they can be jealous - it's said that the best way to attract one god's attention is to worship another one! - and are said to interfere in mortal affairs. Through a system of 'masks' deities are able to walk the land and meddle in whatever takes their interest. Mechanically, there are new domains and spells and the concept of the pantheistic priest. This novel cleric worships the five gods designated as the major powers wherever he lives, each week chosing one of them to venerate and receiving access to the appropriate domains. The underlying reasons for why the gods of Midgard are as they appear are explained, but this is a matter properly for the GM: even their clerics and most fervent devotees do not know! There's a lot of material here, enough to keep the keenest student of theology busy. Finally, an Appendix provides resources for those who'd like to use the Midgard setting with the AGE system rather than Pathfinder.

It's the sort of world that you feel that you could take a lifetime exploring it and still feel that you have only scratched at the surface. This is a book to dip into, to browse through, to read again and again. Whether you like to prowl in the woods, roam vast plains, travese deserts or trudge through deep snow, there is adventure and excitement and things to see and do at every turn. Primarily a book for GMs, there's a series of Player's Guides to the different regions available, if you want your players to learn more about where their characters are without giving away too many secrets. In sheer depth and richness, this setting is hard to beat - and one wonders just how so much is packed into 'only' just under 300 pages!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Campaign Setting
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Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
by Javier G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/10/2015 09:25:25

I bought the pdf yesterday. Now, I'm fairly new to DnD in general, and I'm no rules expert, but I've enjoyed reading this book. The crunch matches the fluff nicely, which is more important to me than any concern for balance, and the little changes made to former monsters when converting them to PC material are really clever and well thought. The Darakhul and the Gearforged are not exactly treated like undead and construct types, respectively, but more like a hybrid subtype of Humanoid. The trollkin has some regenerative capabilities that are flavorful without looking too powerful.

The only thing I didn't like was the inclusion of the Alseid instead of a more iconic creature, like the Dust Goblin. The race has weak hooks for going out adventuring, and the traits really didn't strike me as particularly attractive to play.

Also, I've found particularly annoying that many races don't have a known life expectancy. I mean, if you are supposed to play one of these races, you would think they would know how much they can expect to live, right? It's not an account from a foreigner, this is supposedly information commonly known by individuals of said race. It just doesn't make any sense to me.

All in all, this is a solid product for the line. I'm hoping here WotC will finally release an OGL or some other clear guideline that would allow KP to publish more books for 5th edition. The line deserves more books like this one.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Heroes for 5th Edition
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Shadow Planes & Pocket Worlds (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/04/2015 07:41:56

Designed as a supplement to Dark Worlds and Golden Hells, the planar sourcebook for the Midgard campaign setting, the Introduction notes that most of the material herein just didn't fit into it or, in one case, was thought maybe a bit too dark for the main book. So if you fancy sending your party to explore the wonders and wierdnesses of the planes and want even more to put before them, jump right in.

It opens with that problematic item (apparently one individual disliked it so much that they dropped out of the project altogether!), which is a new 'other location', a plane of sheer horror which it is likely the party will end up in by accident as you cannot really imagine anyone wanting to go there. Called Mora, it is evil-aligned and takes the form of a rocky island in a dark sea. It is filled with female spirits, porportedly neglectful mothers, and riven with fear. Brooding lonliness and sheer panic await those who venture here, a madness that traps wanderers and is hard to escape. Here too, stolen children are auctioned off by bogeymen. It's a vivid reminder that there's a lot of nasty stuff out there... whether you want it in your game is up to you, but it should only be used with care and full knowledge of your players. Someone with childhood trauma in their past might find this too challenging for something that is, after all, supposed to be fun.

There's a brief piece of fiction associated with the Rusty Gears locale described in Dark Worlds and Golden Hells, then it's on to a collection of planar traps, hazards and afflictions that you can place as appropriate when your party is wandering the planes. Perhaps you want to confuse with some non-Euclidean angles, strange shapes your eye slithers off as your brain fails to understand what's going on; or maybe pass around some dead stone, rock from which the very essence of being a stone has leached away. Its very touch is said to make a dwarf cry. There are strange diseases and poisons here, and if you don't find the planes wierd enough, mind-bending drugs.

Then there are magical and wondrous items - some cursed, of course. One catches my eye (because I'm going to be marking some exam papers after my lunch break): a bottled memory. I wonder if any of the students have remembered what they needed to know? They can be useful, entertaining or informative... and then there's faerie food. Many will know it's not a good idea to eat it, but here are the relevant game mechanics to deal with those who do.

Finally there's a Bestiary (which includes a template for creating an Imaginary Friend) and some NPCs.

If you already have Dark Worlds and Golden Hells this could prove a useful adjunct but if you don't it makes far less sense. I don't think I want to actually visit Mora, but it could spawn a few good legends and tales to scare any would-be planar travellers: something that lurks in the shadows rather than occupies centre-stage. The items and traps and other perils are particularly good, they are the real reason to add this book to your library.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow Planes & Pocket Worlds (Pathfinder RPG)
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The Lost City
by Darren P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/03/2015 16:27:29

This excellent. I did not run the full adventure. It I stole huge swathes for interesting encounters for 15 to 16th level characters. Well done. Quality document too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost City
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Dark Roads & Golden Hells (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/03/2015 09:01:44

So you have grown weary of trampling around your campaign world (be it a published one or one of your own invention) and would like to take the party somewhere really different? Then perhaps a jaunt into another plane of existence might be in order...

Chapter 1: Lore of the Planes gets straight down to business, starting with philosophical musings about what the planes actually are (as much as you can imagine then a whole lot more, apparently!). To make it a bit more comprehensible, think of them as tangible representations of concepts and ideas. The main ones are based on the alignments - things like Good and Evil, Law and Chaos - but you might find ones for Art or Music, Beauty or Trade... only they come and go as people find different ideas of importance. You also find the souls of those who have finished their mortal existence here, perhaps making their way to the Underworld or onwards to some final destination with a few devout ones being gathered in by the deity they venerated. And then there are the denizens of the planes themselves. Independent living beings who find their homes in these strange places. Perhaps this is where the Gods are to be found, complete with the minions and companions that their faith holds that they should have. Living vessels for the power of an idea. I don't profess to understand, there again if I did maybe I'd be a deity too!

Next, Chapter 2: Cosmology tries to explain what is contained in a sample cosmology, the Midgard one. Use it as is (even if you don't run your games in Midgard), adapt it or use it as a template and guide as you devise your own. The whole book is designed as a 'plug and play' manual, take the bits you want, add in your own ideas and come up with a set of planes like no other - it's probably as close to being a god as any of us will get! Like any religion, it starts "In the beginning..." How did the universe in which your campaign is run come into existence in the first place? And who found out and started to create legends about it (which may or may not be accurate, of course)? Maybe different groups have different explanations for how everything came to be - these lead to contention, be it academic debate or all-out war. Examples from Migard are given. Was order given to chaos, or the other way around? It's never static, that's for sure, and there is always contention between various aspects of the planes themselves, never mind mortal squabbling below. The Material Plane, the place where your campaign world exists, is at the middle. Denizens of myriad planes squabble over it because they all draw their power from the very souls of those who live there... and often meddle through dreams and visions or outright intervention in what is going on there, too.

And then you - or at least the party - think of going there. Most use magical means (a spell or portal) but some slip through the cracks into some kind of 'sea of possibilities' - maybe it presents itself as a corridor with lots of doors, or it might be something far more exotic. Through those doors (or via whatever metaphor you pick) are all these planes... and each plane has its own characteristics and nature. A selection of the Midgard planes are described here, for inspiration or use as you please. There are loads of ideas here, and many useful sidebars which show you how to use these traits and characteristics to affect game mechanics. In a Good-aligned plane, perhaps 'evil' magic doesn't work, at least, nothing more than a nasty smell or a bit of smoke results from your casting, for example. Or perhaps any spell-casting results in a bright flash of light in addition to the intended effects.

If that wasn't enough, Chapter 3: Other Locations looks at what else is out there besides the planes. The cracks between them, if you will. The places you might end up if you botch that planar travel spell or open the wrong door. Called Between, this unspace has a whole geography and inhabitants of its own and, trust me, you don't want to go there. Neither will your characters, if they know about it. They might be more comfortable in another unspace called The Casino, but beware: it's generally more than mere money that rides on the games played here. You can play - or bet on - just about anything conceivable here, and there's even a 'game development' complex where games from all over the known universes and beyond are tested and honed to a high level. There are other locations as well, if these two do not take your fancy: the Evermaw, the Marketplace, the Plane of Spears, and more. The Marketplace is an intersection of all the markets that ever there were, a place when literally anything is available - for a price. A multitude of adventures await in all these places, and if reading about them doesn't give you enough ideas, plenty of suggestions for how to use them in your game are sprinkled throughout.

Next is Chapter 4: Heroes of the Planes. So far, we have heard about assorted denizens of every plane discussed, but here you get the low-down on new races native to the planes along with new feats, traits, incantations and spells that may be learned here, may be useful here... or may be used against unwary visitors. Then on to the real heart of the matter with Chapter 5: Gamemastering Infinity. After reading thus far, you may be thinking that you have bitten off more than you can chew. Don't worry, there's plenty of helpful advice here. Start small. Add the odd twist to an otherwise-normal adventure. Remember that the planes never stay the same. Then there's an introduction to planar roads, the routes seasoned planes-wanderers use to get from one place to another. Even seasoned travellers find them tricky to navigate and often end up someplace other than they intended. Here also are the strange economics of the planes, the commodities valued here are different from the gold pieces that are useful back home on the mortal plane. This chapter ends with some magical items unique to the planes, and it is followed by the last chapter, Chapter 6: Bestiary. As you can imagine, some mighty strange beasties are to be found here.

This is a book of ideas, of inspiration and of concepts. Even if you stick to the exemplars pulled from the multiverse around Midgard, there is still much to be done before you can actually run much in the way of planar adventures... but this is a starting point to help you think about what you want and how to make it happen. It digs at the fundamental underpinnings of what makes a fantasy campaign world work, and what may lie beyond... but may be a bit philosophical for some tastes. An interesting read, nevertheless.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Roads & Golden Hells (Pathfinder RPG)
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Midgard Bestiary for Pathfinder RPG
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/31/2015 06:57:41

The Midgard Bestiary is a monster compilation with a difference. Born of Open Design's organic development process, it draws upon monsters featured in Kobold Quarterly, the website and already-published materials as well as the traditional folklore that powers much of their output. Keynotes are that monsters ought to be scary and have the potential to be used in unorthodox ways to keep players guessing and on the edge of their seats. There's an overtone of deep-rooted horror that permiates much of the Open Design (now Kobold Press) output, the sort of horror that stems from tales told and retold.

Each of the 89 monsters gets the same treatment: brief 'this is what you see' description, a full stat-block, illustration and full descriptive and ecological notes that supply the GM with all the information he needs to locate and run that monster as an integral part of the campaign world, not just something to fight (although most of them will put up a good fight when it's a brawl you are after!). Who could not delight in the bagiennik, an often peaceful creature with a talent for healing which goes absolutely mad with fury if you interrupt it when it's taking one of its frequent and languorous baths... well, I don't like being disturbed when bathing either!

Even reading some of the entries can send shudders down your spine... like the broodkin, really nasty constructs that are a sort of malignant baby or the beautiful but deadly cavelight moss that delights in devouring passing adventurers. Twisted birds, a host of clockwork creatures, and the carrion-eating death butterfly swarm lie in wait, and the twisted evil of a derro fetal savant is just sick. I think I prefer the ink devil, these prefer chatting, whining, and pleading to any form of combat, being known cowards - and fun to role-play as well.

Twisted, strange, unpredictable, the stuff of the sort of legends you tell around a camp fire late at night... just don't get bitten by a doppelrat! Whether your game is set in Midgard or in your own campaign world, when you want to scare the party as well as provide them with opposition, this is an excellent collection to browse through. To aid in selection, appendices list them by type, CR, terrain and role, while there are also notes on re-skinned monsters (ways to create quick variant critters) and a set of location-based encounter tables if you need a quick random monster. Definitely worth adding to your monster collection - you can never have too many!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Bestiary for Pathfinder RPG
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