As I said in the first part of this review, this setting book is big! 300 pages of fairly small font text, 7 major regions, 2 RPG rulesets! My first time through was really just a quick flick, which was almost overwhelming Now I’m going through each chapter in a detailed and very enjoyable slower read – there is just so much information to take in! This post covers the first two ‘regional’ chapters of the book: The Crossroads, and the Rothenian Plains.
Chapter 3: The Crossroads
The chapter opens with a full page image that will be familiar to many readers of Kobold Quarterly and other Kobold Press publications – a city watchman walks down the middle of a street in the Free City of Zobeck, his lantern casting light only a few feet around him; whilst in the shadows, the denizens of the night are work …
In fact, this is one potential issue with this chapter – as the region centred around Zobeck, the initial starting place of the Midgard Campaign in print, much of the material here has already been detailed in other Midgard books: The Zobeck Gazetteer, the Imperial Gazetteer, the Iron Gazetteer and Tales of the Old Margreve all describe this area in some detail, and of course there have been many articles in Kobold Quarterly magazine. I even found a passage or two that were lifted straight out of previous articles. Some might find this less than ideal, but I don’t have any problem with it. Given the importance of this region in the lore and geography of the setting, it would be impossible to have skipped it.
In any case, there is still plenty of new material in the chapter, such as the Magdar Kingdom, Perunalia, and Krakova, all detailed for the first time (to my knowledge). Each of these lands has a distinct culture and style of rule, and the writing brings this out strongly. There are strong eastern european overtones, and lots of detail about trade and warfare in the region. Each nation has a distinctive military tradition, and a lot of emphasis is given to the details of their troops, and their strategic castles and strongholds. There is also a complete section on the mercenary companies in the region. As a gamer with a strong interest in military history, this hits the spot, and reminds me of the original Greyhawk setting.
The artwork is fantastic throughout, with a detailed regional map, a city map of Zobeck, and a number of full colour illustrations, some half page. Each region or nation starts with a side-bar and heraldic arms.
Chapter 4: The Rothenian Plain
The previous chapter was definitely a very strong start to the sevens regions of the setting; in contrast, Chapter 4 seems a bit disjointed. This may partly be the geography, which is basically the wide plains of the east, roamed by nomadic tribes, with a few kingdoms or realms scattered around the extremities.
There is some very interesting material here: Baba Yaga wanders the region, the demonic gnomes of Neimheim, Vidim with its tengu population, the silver dragon ruler of Domovogrod, and the intirgues of Demon Mountain. They just seem to be a bit ‘plonked on the map’.
However, a significant portion of the chapter is given over to descriptions of the nomadic races: the Rothenian centaurs, the Windrunner elves, and the human Kariv. This is good stuff – the cultures are clearly drawn, and are interesting twists on the standard D&D tropes. Even the Kariv are not your standard eastern steppe nomads, but have a little of the gypsy in them.
The chapter rounds out with a couple of pages of ‘equipment’, based of course on the races and cultures described earlier. I’ll be honest, in a setting product, I’m a flavour guy, so don’t take a lot of notice of the ‘crunch’, especially in this case as it’s Pathfinder RPG based and my campaign is 4E. However, I like how its distributed in the book – each chapter has a section given over to more meaty content, but it varies in topic; for example in Chapter 3 it was information on travel and trade in the region; here it is weapons and poisons found on the Plains. Useful and focussed, without being overwhelming.
South and West …
is where we head next, into the lands of the Dragon Empire, and then westwards to the intrigues and petty warfare of the Seven Cities. I’m certainly enjoying the ride so far, and hope you stick along!
PS I’ve already posted about this, but I have to say it again, as I’ve been writing this part of the review with the physical book alongside me. This product is stunning! The previous post was based solely on the PDF, and that’s lovely too, but you don’t quite get the full impact as with the beautiful hard-cover book.