EZG reviews The Citadel Beyond the Northwind


Hej everybody!

As you know, I'm a sucker for good, gritty Sword & Sorcery and today, I'd like to introduce yo to a module you may have missed by Xoth Publishing:

The Citadel Beyond the North Wind

This module is 40 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page of advertisement, leaving us with a  total of 35 pages of content, so let's check this out!

This adventure for the Sword & Sorcery genre and character lvl 8-10, while utilizing the PFRPG-rules, uses some default assumptions that are different from you standard fantasy fare, as befitting of the genre. First of all, 6 cultural archetypes for humans are presented in the first appendix. Due to a lack of humanoids like elves and dwarves in Sword & Sorcery literature, the versatility that is the spice of roleplaying comes from choosing cultural archetypes with their own distinctive attribute modifiers, special abilities etc. Decadent characters, for example, get bonuses on social skills, Cha as well as a penalty to their will saves to represent their unwholesome lifestyle. Personally, I LOVE this approach, as it makes the different cultures and humans feel more versatile.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion. All right!

Still here? Let's go! Essentially, the module presented in these pages is almost as much gazetteer as sandboxy module and details the frozen north of the world of Xoth, just short of the polar circle and much like in the classic renditions of the north we know from pulp literature, the glaciers beyond the black hills and the frozen swamps of Thule hide old things indeed. There, in the realms of the men of Yg, where petty warlords and princelings clashed for dominance over their frozen lands, a love triangle both sinister and repulsive has will draw the PCs into the power struggle between the two most powerful beings currently active in the icy north: The dread Witch-King of Galuga, Arkanth Mal, is scouring the lands, enslaving and kidnapping beautiful women in a quest to restore his fallen witch queen Eliyh. Seduced by the White King Boras, the beautiful sorceress once left her king behind to bear the children of the White King - only to one day realize that the White King is a terrible creature from beyond the stars. Driven mad, she was annihilated in direct confrontation with the beast, but had her life-force transferred to the fabled Ark of Zamar. Now, Arkanth Mal, still in love with the insane spirit of his once beloved, scours the lands for a suitable body to serve as the reincarnated Eliyh.

Whether the PCs stumble upon slavers, find Eliyh's former familiar in the process of being killed or are captured, they will be drawn into the machinations of the powerful beings that rules the icy lands (which are btw. presented as a one-page, hand-drawn, nice map). As a gateway to adventure, the border-town of Tartuum is provided in rather excessive detail, though a settlement statblock per se is not provided, the details and fully stated NPCs with flaws and mannerisms make the town immediately come to life. Better yet, the areas like the Moors of Sul or the Frozen Tombs of Yg, though only depicted in short paragraphs, evoke enough iconicity to make them not only valid targets for side-quests, but interesting locales, though I noticed a distinct lack of a ride skill on a supposedly mounted bog mummy riding a bog mummy horse. Have I mentioned the disturbing Yg-tree, which not only is baptized by blood, but has tendril-like roots animate special spore-spewing undead or the cannibalistic Ma-Gu?

We are also introduced to the fully mapped Citadel of Galuga, the stronghold of Arkanth Mal, where sorcerors from the south experiment with the dead and flesh-consuming plants and the Ark of Zamar and Eliyh's spirit wait for retribution against the vile thing that is Boras. 3 levels (fully mapped) and a player-friendly side-view of the palace are provided as well as several infiltration suggestions on hwo the player might tackle the challenge of the citadel. The final section of the pdf then details Naath, the land of Boras, his dread Ziggurat and stats for his true form Yon-Ylath-Ul. (And yes, as nasty as it sounds!). The Ziggurat-section is rather short though, providing only 9 locations, though many might spawn adventures of their own.

As mentioned before, the module also features the rather cool and excellent cultural archetypes for humans in the first appendix. The final appendix, then, deals with sample statblocks for the men of the north, providing a total of 10 additional statblocks as well as more information on organizations and ethnicities.



Editing is top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches in that department. Formatting has some peculiarities, though: The statblocks do not adhere to the PFRPG-revision with clear distinctions between offense and defense sections, providing instead the cluttered statblocks we know from earlier editions of d20. While usable and adhering to the rules, the presentation should be updated as well. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly b/2-2-column standard with a typical Sword and Sorcery of a nude female in peril and some fighters on the respective borders - this is a classic Sword & Sorcery-module and thus also tackles mature topics, just to let you know. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and the cartography and artworks are nice and serve to further enhance the sense of foreboding antediluvian antiquity. However, no player-friendly maps are provided, which is a major bummer in my book - just a version sans the map-key would be nice.

Xoth Publishing is sure to be either beloved or hated by people and I count myself among the former. Ever since I read Necromancer Games' Ancient Kingdoms:Mesopotamia, I fell in love with author Morten Braten's vision of an age through which a Cimmerian barbarian might stroll. When his anthology "The Spider God's Bride" hit virtual shelves in the 3.X days of old, I loved it and still wholeheartedly recommend you checking it out - even if you're by now playing Pathfinder, the information on the World of Xoth and its assumptions will serve to greatly enhance your enjoyment and immersion into the spirit of this module - or should I say gazetteer? 

Honestly, to me it feels more like that. The adventure-section of this module is so sandboxy, a DM should not expect to be able to run this sans preparation. Dauntingly old-school, the module instead gives us a variety of different NPCs, potential plots and unique adversaries waiting in areas that, via clever use of omissions, hinting at things and linguistic skill manage to spark the creativity of all but the most burnt-out of DMs. The material herein could be seen as a rough skeleton of not a module, but rather a whole mini-campaign - enough information is provided and the cultural peculiarities that so vastly enhance immersion are second to none and alongside Adventureaweek.com's modules at the apex of this particular component of adventure-craft.

That being said, while I'm a vast fan of the overall content portrayed herein, I also consider the module to be far from perfect - the rather lackluster final ziggurat feels like it has been a massive dungeon once that was cut down. Another pet-peeve of mine is that not sample DCs etc. for infiltrations are given, though in scenarios like Xoth's they usually are the more prudent way to go.

Quality-wise, were I only to judge the writing, I'd immediately go for a full 5 stars, but unfortunately aforementioned minor blemishes, the lack of player-friendly maps and the fact that a tad bit more guidance would have been prudent, conspire to make me drop my final verdict down to 3.5 stars - UNLESS you're an enthusiast for the Sword and Sorcery genre like yours truly: We have far too few modules that cater to this genre and for me, as one who has all the Xoth Publishing releases so far, this is just awesome and 4.5 stars. After careful deliberation, I decided to round down in both cases, for final verdicts of 3.5, rounded down to 3 and 4.5, rounded down to 4 stars respectively.

By the way: The 3.5-anthology (which is awesome) "The Spider God's Bride and other Tales of Sword & Sorcery" has been converted to the Legends-system. It can be purchased here. The original 3.5-version can be found here.

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews Adventure Quarterly #3

Hej everybody,

today I'll take a look at

Adventure Quarterly #3

The latest installment of Rite Publishing’s Adventure-based magazine is 69 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 62 pages of content, so let’s take a look inside, shall we?

The editorial of Robert N. Emerson sets the tone for this issue, for the modules herein ask interesting questions, but more on that later.

The first module herein would be Alex Putnam’s “Red Leaves Enigma” set in the small town of Morford. 

But before I divulge any further information, be aware that from here on out reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should skip to the conclusion, especially since this is a mystery module.

All right, still here? The PCs are invited to the fully (via dundjinni) cartographed Morford Academy to share adventuring stories and dine with the headmaster of the place – it is here that the module starts being interesting: Kicking off with a variety of individuals, there are quite a few dramatis personae who could work as red herrings allies etc. – best of all, we get a short run-down of their personal relations, what they know etc., somewhat similar and akin to RSP’S short fluffy NPc-summaries. As almost always when adventurers dine, something goes awry, though – as the feast runs its course, a conjuration accident seems to have happened in the basement and the school is, in spite of the vehement protest of the dignitary (per default, a Questor of Questhaven), put on lockdown: Wards up, clockwork soldiers ready. It’s up to the PCs and arcanists to find out what truly happened. When the first woman is found sedated with poison and drained of a part of her blood, the trail of clues thickens. In the basement, the vial containing the poison as well as a broken phial of blood can be found, suggesting that the culprit did not directly consume the drained blood. Via spontaneous traps and close calls, the PCs will slowly but surely be led towards the labs and there, hopefully, manage to walk a gauntlet of animated dolls and soulbound dolls to find the unwilling culprit of the crimes – a construct called a lutakophasm. 

Born from Professor Asantte’s desire for a prolonged live, this construct is a terrible crime indeed, for in order to transfer life rather than create a semblance of it, the professor has resorted to the sacrifice of innocents. During the last rite that should have transferred his spirit into the construct, though, something went awry: A spasm has the result of only imparting fragments of Assante’s mind into the construct and instead binding the spirit of the sacrificial victim to the created being. Confused and knowing about the imminent fate, the construct slew Asantte and has been trying to exist since: As the ritual was flawed, it needs blood as an alchemical catalyst to properly work and while it did resort to animals as long as possible, did not kill her drain-victim(s), even though it clearly could have. Now what to do with the strange soul-amalgam? Can and should the being be destroyed, even though it acted as it did to keep mobile, to avoid the fate of being eternally imprisoned, aware but immobile and unable to communicate in a lifeless body? All the clues are there and at the end of the module, if run properly, the PCs as well as the players should ask themselves some questions about morality and what makes us human, what makes us sentient. All in all, a great module that not only provides a nice backdrop and interesting characters, but also offers some food for thought. However, I honestly would have liked a more complex set of sample clues – while sandboxy and with all the NPCs extremely open for DM-development, this module might take a bit more preparation and experience to pull off than many others, but the result should be satisfying indeed.

The second module, by Matt Banach, would then be “Dream Harvest” and oh boy, let me AGAIN call SPOILERS at the top of my lungs. Players, SKIP this one. You want to. The adventure kicks off when a distraught woman comes running in the PC’s way and pleads them to save her son, Jake, who is in the process of being killed by a nightmare, tossing, turning and convulsing in his sleep. When they reach the boy, the virulent nightmare seems to swallow the PCs ina  weird vortex, drawing them inside the dreams of the young boy. They awake trapped in webs in a cavern, full of spider swarms scuttling over their bodies and hungry large spiders – from there, the weirdness has just begun: Being set in dream, dying usually would wake the PCs up, but not so here: If PCs perish, they are resurrected at somewhat zombified-looking dream-ghosts, adding yet another disturbing element to the dream. Once the spiders and their cobwebs have been defeated, clumps of web will form a humanoid shape, beseeching them to find the bones – and thus, the PCs set off through a tunnel reminiscent of veins punctured by weird growths, where they will have to contend with an entourage of an infinite horde of passing ghouls on the exodus to another place – the morphic gravity of dream could make for a great tool here and essentially, this encounter can pan out in varying ways, with PCs hopefully being smart and not picking a fight… 

The next scene of the surreal journey brings the PCs to a dinner-scene, again providing details and symbols as clues to what is truly happening. On the more immediate side, the orcs seem to have completed their dinner and the skeleton of the mega-raptor they consumed joins them in their attack on the PCs. In order to progress, the PCs (thankfully with a direct hint), will need to dig a certain picture of graves. Hopefully, by now they also realize that there’s a sense of urgency: A blood-filled hourglass, slowly dripping away their lives should provide a good hint – either 2 minutes or half an hour: Not much time to survive. Being sucked into the picture they dug, the PCs emerge, rising from their very own graves, having to deal with a scarecrow in the aftermath that has a very peculiar weakness. There, the PCs may finally dig up Jack’s bones and talk to him: Here, the full horror and symbols should come crashing down on the PCs – there never was a boy called Jack, he was a fellow adventurer trapped in dream by an insidious plant called xtabay vines. The insidious flora lulls you into sleep and then proceeds to consume your body. The whole adventure so far was Jack interrupting the pleasant stupor the vines had spun for the PCs. Those who died here, have been consumed by the vines and their whole journey downwards was actually upwards towards consciousness. In order to wake up, they will have to defeat the dream-avatar of the vines, a hangman-tree. Now this would be no mean feat, but things are worse: Time has caught up with the dream and the PCs are devoured by the vines – fast. Starting the encounter with 2d4 Con damage and getting 1d2 more per round should prove to make this encounter DEADLY. It is also extremely cool that PCs can wake up via will-saves by now (with bonuses depending on actions, fight the vines in the real world and be sent back to dream with their pollen. A climactic battle in two worlds – awesome! Once the vines have met their end, the dream-ghost of Jack might lead the perished PCs to further quests in dream or have them remain to be resurrected, if needed. Matt Banach knows dream, being one of the brilliant minds behind the “Faces ofthe Tarnished Souk”-series and if this level of quality is what we can expect from his upcoming novel kickstarter, I’m looking forward to it. Why? Because this module is one of the best I’ve read in quite a while: Iconic, challenging and smart, full of awesome ideas and tips for the DM to convey the unique atmosphere of the module, this alone is worth this issue of AQ’s asking price. It’s that good. Can we have an adventure-anthology in set in the realm of dreams? Please?

The third module, “Sealing the Vault” by Michael Welham is more straightforward than the first two: When a farmer, enhanced by the power of an artifact-level evil axe tries to murder a local noble things look dire – worse, even, that the evil weapon tries to teleport away and take over the next peasant until stopped. The arrival of an iron golem, who only repeats “The vault has been breached” further complicates things. Via the golem and some research, the Pcs should stumble upon an obscure piece of lore regarding the past of one of their ancestors: Said ancestor was part of an order that managed to seal away evil outsiders, curses and deadly, possessed weaponry in a vault. In order to stop the leaking of these items and the resulting dire consequences, the PCs will have to travel to the vault and reseal it. No mean feat, especially since the traps in the vault are deadly and the place is crawling with deadly aware arcanas, outsiders and possessed weaponry. A deadly dungeon crawl with a cool theme, since the PCs ideally prevent further damage to the vault’s engine and manage to reseal the place by repairing the legendary machinery that protected this place for centuries. Or is destruction of the items and beings, potentially setting evil spirits free, the more prudent option?

Creighton Broadhurst’s company Raging Swan Press is known for the various extremely useful (and critically acclaimed) DM-aids that provide details, details, details to your game and his contribution this issue actually provides us with 3 mini-dungeon-dressings. We get the physical stats for barrels, keys and sconces as well as a table per item-catgeory containing 20 different sample appearances. Very cool, though honestly, I wished each of the 3 useful entries was a full-blown supplement. Still, an extremely useful contribution!

Now Rite Publishing’s mastermind Steven D. Russell also provides us with a short article and one I consider actually useful: Motivations for adventuring parties to stick together. Having once had the pleasure of being too successful at corrupting my PCs and subsequently running essentially 4 parallel campaigns where everyone plotted against everyone else, I can get behind the usefulness of such an article. Maybe in the future, we’ll get some kind of “group-traits” that actually grant bonuses? Would be nice to counteract alignment-disputes etc.


Editing and formatting this time around are top-notch: I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to RiP’s 2-column standard and it is here that I’d like to comment on the maps: I never cease to be amazed at the level of detail Eric Blische managed to squeeze from dundjinni as well as from the sheer amount of maps we get. Speaking of maps: We also get them as separate .png-files, though I wished the respective maps would be slightly bigger or collated on one page – as provided, you waste a lot of paper when printing them out, since there’s only one map per .png. This remains my only gripe with the maps, though. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks, making navigation easy.

The third module in this collection is very good, the first is excellent even – but let me say that Matt Banach has taken the awesome cake with his adventure. This one alone would justify the asking price. It’s smart, clever and simply brilliant. I don’t find myself really itching to run many adventures any more, but this one did the trick. Innovative, full of details, creepy, tragic even, this module should be considered a must-have purchase and almost makes me feel bad for praising it so much, since the other two are excellent as well. At first, I admit to being a bit disappointed that Ruins Perilous Level 2 was not part of this compilation, but as soon as I started reading these modules, I started to grin. Ladies and gentlemen, this issue of AQ mops the floor with its two predecessors, providing us 3 high-class, superb modules that can be considered top-notch. With the notable exception of the afore-mentioned issue with all maps coming in separate pages, I have nothing to complain here. A top-notch offering and in spite of this gripe, still worth full 5 stars + seal of approval, especially due to Matt Banach’s superb module. We need more of these!

Endzeitgeist out.


RC-update/ (End)ZEITGEIST reviews: The Dying Skyseer


Hej everyone!

As I'm writing these lines, I am VERY glad, for the magnum opus of Nick Logue, thanks in much parts to Lou Agresta, will finally see the light of day, including a companion book of modules by industry-veterans and all-out awesome authors, ship-combat rules by Lou and so much more. As I'm typing these lines, the module still has 30 hours to go for some awesome deals, so if you haven't check the project out here.

That out of the way, here's a review that took me forever, the second part of the steampunk AP,

Zeitgeist II - The Dying Skyseer

The second module in EN Publishing's steampunk AP ZEITGEIST is 95 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 90 pages of module, so let's check this out!

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

All right, still here?  

In the last adventure of the AP, the new constables of the RHC have not only foiled a dastardly assassination/sabotage-plot and even prevent a war - but in the process of doing so, have helped the hereditary enemy of their nation. Now if one of the PCs is aligned with the mysterious Vekeshi, they will have a gift for a specific individual they'll meet during the module, setting up a component of the AP's massively complex meta-plot: Speaking of complex: The complexity of this module's investigation is rather refreshing and has some neat guidelines for DMs - the RHC Protocol. In the absence of phones and similar means of communication, the office and fellow constables can deliver clues, hints etc., people can be questioned and gleaned information consolidated. To help the DM, a roster of NPC-table is provided. When field work comes around, it does so in the form of a woman jumping from the fourth floor window of the Danoran consulate, crashing on the fence. When they arrive at the scene, Julian LeBrix, security chief of the Danorans gives them the run-down: The woman is question was known by the name of Nilasa Hume, supposedly stealing some valuables and making off to escape and subsequently shot by Julian - he makes clear that he wants this resolved ASAP. But do the PCs resolve this mystery - it turns out the lady in question has actually managed to smuggle fey peppers in and in the resorting lull that still affects the staff. Moreso, the woman, with her dying breath, entrusted a couple of things to a man who subsequently vanished - and there are A LOT of other clues that slowly start to tie together - via the clues gathered and the criminal record of the deceased, the PCs will hopefully have a lead towards the Thinking Man's Tavern.

And even if the PCs both/mess up, you still have the newspaper, the fellow constables and even the PC's very own background and associates - a masterful entwinement of storythreads. While researching contacts at the tavern, a minor quake foreshadows the things to come  and may even partake in a philosophical discussion about the validity of the very authority they represent. If the RHC's agents do their job well, they may learn about the smugglers Nilasa was in league with - they are currently incarcerated in the Goodson Esturial Reformatory - a glorified prison barge. There, they can negotiate a deal with one or both incarcerated burglars. Both know about Nilasa's association with newcomers to town, a shadowy organization dubbing itself "The Family". They also know about her having a whole cache of magic wands and that the delivery would happen on the 4th of Summer by someone called "The House Elf". So who is this strange "House Elf"? Via the fey pepper or clues gained from the smugglers, the constables can track the conspiracy to a weird couple of gnomes - who actually have a valid escape plan and some precautions that make sense and should make arresting them or getting meaningful information from them rather difficult. Now if they manage to interrogate one of the gnomes and find out more details about the planned smuggling.

There are multiple ways the PCs can plan to take up the accomplices of the late Nilasa and find more clues about this mysterious "Family" - the trail leads them to the Family's wharf and an exchange of goods between strange ships which will culminate a nice chase of ships that will be resolved via a skill challenge. Or, if the PCs miscalculate the boldness of their foes, they may actually get a fight on their hands - anyways, they can get the wands. Or be captured. Whether they are defeated and captured or not, on the next day, they will get the infamous offer:

Morgan Cippiano, head of the local Family, invites them to coffee and cakes to talk about a business proposal of common interests, allowing the RHC constables to get prestige and an understanding with the family - and offering yet another help for stumped investigators. With the family's involvement cleared for now, the PCs might wish to check out Heward Alkahest's Factory, where Nilasa once worked - here, they can also stock up on acids and alchemical compounds, should they so desire. He also drops the name of the famous Skyseer Nevard. On their way to seeing him, they can foil a kidnapping attempt, save a life and generally do their job while on the way to seeing the ancient titular skyseer - who is dying and knows about Gale, the mysterious individual that put Nilasa on the tangent that led to her doom. His dying wish to the PCs is to be escorted to the top of the restricted area on Cauldron Hill - which the PCs can arrange with mayor Mcbannin. If they oblige, they may even perform a rather strange ritual that, while stemming from a dark magical tradition, may grant the old man the strength temporarily to not be as much a burden for the PCs. The meeting with Macbannin is also rather cool in that it foreshadows not only the things to come, but also sets up some interesting complications as well as driving home one point: The Hill is dangerous - goat's blood circles to ward off evil spirits and amulets to stave off the cursing effects of Cauldron Hill's peculiar brand of magical saturation due to a thin veil between the real world and the shadowy realm to which it's tied. After all this investigation, let's start the trek up this inhospitable place while hopefully keeping the dying prophet alive - by any means necessary!

RPGNow.com A whole encounter is devoted to getting up the hill and making camp - and should be used to drive home the tension and dread of the place - at the top, though, something goes wrong - horribly. Even with the strange visions and foreshadowing, the PCs should be rather on their heels when their defenses are sabotaged and the spectral creatures of Cauldron Hill start assaulting the PCs. It's a hold-the-line-scenario of the finest caliber. And the scenario does not end here - Alkahest factory is ablaze in the vision they receive and the PCs will have to hurry down the hill - only to meet Macbannin, who is trying to cover his tracks, which could come off as suspicious, but should not lead to more - at least for now. The PCs are also contacted by the mysterious Gale via a bird whispering to them. And she has important tidings: In the Bleak Gate, the strange mirror image of the city of Flint is bustling with a strange activity - there is something being built on the other side. And the PC's trials and tribulations on Cauldron Hill make them attuned to the strange energies of the Bleak Gate, enabling them to potentially trek the conspiracy, which seems to be linked with the Danorans. If there's the aforementioned Vekesh, s/he can also hand over the package and sway Gale in either a violent or non-violent direction. Unearthing the clue of the Danorans means that the story seems to be starting to come full circle - perhaps, with some of the clues unearthed over the course of the module, they'll now have a good chance of tracking down the mysterious fugitive person - after all, he seems to not have been in league with Gale. 

The man in question is one Dr. Wolfgang von Recklinghausen, who, via his contacts, has managed to go underground and seeks to escape - unfortunately, the thugs are on the payroll of Cillian Creed, who turns out to be the shadowy hunter that has been the source of their troubles on Cauldron Hill. He and an elite-squad of operatives try to take the Dr into custody/silence him. That is, the PCs could sneak out, deal with yet another hostage situation etc. - the stakes are set against them in this encounter and they better be smart or they'll also have to deal with the telekietic master of steelshaping Leon Qital. Whether they can or cannot save the Dr. or make off with his documents (which provide incriminating evidence linking the Danorans with a SMART, SUBTLE smuggling operation) - the ties come together slowly and the factory, as foreshadowed by the prophecy, will burn.

Whether the constables have done their job and stopped the arsonists, Nevard is now gathering favors, while Gale is expecting an attack on the skyseer - to prevent that/following up on the arsony-attempt, they may find a creepy warehouse, containing a witchoil-infused golem (witchoil is made from souls, btw.!) and may question further technicians, though they fade back to the Bleak Gate. The speech of the skyseer will be attacked anyways, though the PCs can hopefully prevent the assassination attempt on Nevard, who imparts his visions to the crowd, warning them with a vision that is rather clear and providing a tantalizingly cryptic prophecy as well. Whether by a final warning/appeal sent by Creed or not - by now the PCs should have pieced together that mayor Macbannin is partial to what is going on and in fact the pupetteer. Taking down the mayor, though, is not as easy as it seems - he has allies, after all. Plus: A geyser of witchoil erupting from the ground turns out to be the result of the latest quake hitting his underground lab - thus a flood of witchoil is heading towards the nettles: Unless the PCs (with or without Macbannini) can stem the flow of the substance in his underground laboratory, resulting in a highly complex and imaginative climax. When he's off to court, though, he dies under mysterious circumstances - the conspiracy will not be thwarted that easily!

The pdf also provides a quick reference list of NPCs and investigation-running for DMs to help them in juggling this complex scenario, a page of dramatis personae, 3 pages of ship rules, 2 pages handouts,3 new feats and new magic items and 11 pages of player-friendly maps sans keys - all in gorgeous full color.


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful, paizo-level quality full-color 2-column standard and the artworks range from awesome to mediocre comic-style to unnecessary public domain art. The pdf comes fully bookmarked (with nested bookmarks) and with layers that let you strip it down to become printer-friendly. The second installment of the Zeitgeist AP is highly complex, intelligent and HARD to run. Even with all the help provided for the Dm, the amount of ways in which the players can solve this complex mystery, the module still remains delightfully complex. A DM has to be up to his a-game and some experience under his/her belt to pull this off, but OH BOY! This investigation is actually better than most CoC-adventures I've recently read - it's complex, daunting and assumes thankfully that the players are intelligent and not some bumbling idiots. The NPCs react logically to PCs, have plans and believable motivations that don't make them look like lobotomized jerks and the writing is top-notch. this is one of the best investigation modules out there for PFRPG and actually imho a step up from the already excellent first offering of the AP. Congratulations and kudos to EN Publishing for a final verdict of 5 stars + endzeitgeist seal of approval!

By the way: EnWorld has been hacked and they have currently a kickstarter running, so if you have some spare bucks and want to get these modules, check them out here.

Endzeitgeist out.


RC-update + 1000th review on Paizo: Midgard Campaign Setting


Hej everybody!

First of all, to everyone who has pledged: My heartfelt gratitude - you guys are amazing! That out of the way, we are almost there with the kickstarter that will see Nicholas Logue's (And Lou Agresta's) Magnum Opus released - The Razor Coast kickstarter is an insanely good deal at this point and if you haven't checked it out, please do so!

Oh, and if you want to take a sneak peak at the demented minds that create this monster of a book, here's a link to an extensive interview/hang-out. It's hilarious, check it out!

That out of the way, you know my stake and what Razor Coast means to me - I wouldn't be reviewing at all without this book. And here I am, doing the grand one, the huge one, my review number 1000 (though I've probably passed that number, since several pdfs are not sold on paizo) - Hope you'll enjoy it, for without you fine ladies and gentlemen reading them, none of my efforts would matter! Thank you so much for your trust and confidence!

Midgard Campaign Setting

This massive pdf is 298 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page patron list, 3 pages ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 289 pages of content.

This review is based on both the pdf for formal page-count etc. as well as the GORGEOUS full-color hardcover patron edition of the book – number 26 of 206, if you want to know. Mainly, I’ll base everything on my hard-cover, though – I always print out pdfs prior to reading anyways. Oh, and to avoid any implications of not being neutral: I did not contribute any significant pieces to this particular patronage project due to time-constraints, but I have contributed to the Northlands book and have been a patron of just about every Open Design-project since I found all too late out about them. The only pieces of lore missing from my collection would be Castle Shadowcrag and Steam & Brass – so if any of you gentlemen ever wishes to part from either a print or pdf-copy, drop me a PM. ;P 

This, admittedly selfish disclaimer out of the way, you’ll probably wonder why it took me so long to get to this review. Well, the answer is surprisingly complex and will be answered over the course of this review, so bear with me. Without further ado:

What makes Midgard distinct? Well, it is a campaign-setting that includes the most famous clockwork city in fantasy, where two ennie-award-winning anthologies are set. But Midgard is more: It is a world unlike the ones you’d expect: In contrast to most campaign worlds, Midgard draws HEAVY influence from Germanic and Slavic traditions and legends and it shows even in the shape of the world – unlike most places, Midgard is actually flat and most people believe it resides in the coils of the grand world-serpent Jörmungandr – it is a world not of straight, contextless popular culture fantasy, but of the mythic, of the archetypical not in the PFRPG-rules-context, but in the Jungian sense of the word, a resonance of myths and legends through a lense and a world where the magic that makes them possible is a very real force.

RPGNow.com 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 dwarvenIroncrag cantons, which back in the 3.5 days also got a gazetteer that accompanied the now alas no longer available, stellar mega-module I already mentioned.

A classic good kingdom to stem the tide and serve as a backdrop for both glorious tourneys and disheartening war-campaigns versus the other forces of Midgard can be found in the Magda Kingdom, with the kingdom’s order of the undying sun and military getting special mentioning.  Not as democratic as Andoran, though also deemed rather revolutionary would be the electoral kingdom of Krakova, whose fluff also hearkens to some of the more romanticized aspects of Nibelungen-lore.

Beyond the crossroads, one may find the Rothenian Plain, vast steppe that also serves as a roaming ground of Baba Yaga and her daughters. Guarding the Northlands, we can find the silver mountain kingdom of Domovgorod, where a world-tree can be found who branches into other realism – whether a sapling or semblance of legendary Yggdrasil, it offers paths to many a strange place and the local Halfling populace actually makes for fierce winter warriors. The endless tundra and steppes that spread throughout Midgard is also the home of the Khanate of Khazzaki, a place inspired by the Mongolian warlords as well as probably the Dothraki and sports no permanent towns, though that does not mean that the Khanate is peaceful or a force to be trifled with – after all, they managed to repel even the forces of the Mharoti, but more on them later. The Rothenian plane is also the home of the Demon Mountain and its mystic, legendary master: A mysterious entity with distinct appetites that has spawned various tieflings and who actually receives visitors ranging from troll kings, shadow fey dignitaries, barons to even archdevils. In the northwest, nestled at the Nieder Straits, lie the nine cities of Neimheim, home to the crafty and disturbing devil-worshiping race of gnomes under the command of their supreme ruler Redbeard, still as a race haunted by Grandmother’s vengeance and the need to escape the doom of an eternity in hell to which all gnomes are born.

Of course, the Khanate is not alone in claiming their own swath of territory in the plains: The Rothenian Plains are also the home of numerous tribes of centaurs roaming the vast sea of grass, raiding and counting their wealth in goats and sheep as well as to the wanderlust-inflicted Kariv, Midgard’s very distinct ethnicity of gypsies that is really set apart to the point where they are as interesting to me as the Vistana of Ravenloft and if you know that this setting is still my first true love setting-wise, the amplitude of this complement should become apparent.  A variety of Great Kariv families are covered and recalling the cool and very distinct social customs pioneered by various KQ-articles and other books, I can’t wait to one day see a full-blown sourcebook on them. The final nomadic people laying claim to the plains would be the totemic, dark-skinned windrunner elves with their own windrunner kites and complete rules for flying these contraptions – rather cool and fortunately relatively bereft of the clichés I expected to read in their entry. The final nation of note here would be Vidim, the kingdom of ravens, where the tsar and the huginn maintain an alliance: The raven-headed folk make up the supreme spies and best soldiers of this interesting nation, another region I can’t wait to read more about.

Now I mentioned the Mharoti Empire and it is an interesting place: Governed by a Sultana, the empire serves the ambitions and hungers of a conglomerate of dragon lords that demand tribute. Superbly powerful, the empire has a huge military machinery that constantly reaches out to expand and serve the will of its draconic masters. The empire is also a place where, true to the service of dragons, humans are second-class citizens: Koboldi (the local term for the race) and dragonkin are valued much more and actually constitute not the majority of the almost 50-million-peple nation, which actually gets its own, very detailed map as does the imperial capital of Harkesh. Marrying Al-Qadimesque oriental flair with labyrinthine politics, the feeling of an empire of culture and wealth still expanding and draconic ambition and egos and we have a truly intriguing hodge-podge that is even enticing to people like yours truly who avoid using dragons very much and when they do, player characters tend to die. Short paragraphs and provinces are also covered. If you think the aggressive attempts of expansion of the Mharoti might make them villains, you would be right as well as wrong, for the other nations around are not necessarily better: 

Take the Despotate of the Ruby Sea, where slavers rule and continuously scourge the Rothenian Plain or the seas to feed their flesh markets. Or Nuria Natal, a nation that has repelled the Mharoti time and again, but paid a dire price: The Egyptian-influenced nation has resorted to resurrecting its god-kings and their armies to repel the Mharoti time and again and the resulting influx of extremely powerful god-kings and queens refusing to get back to eternal sleep puts a strain on politics, essentially hamstrings the current King Thutmoses and may well result in an unpleasant segregation. There is light and hope here, though: While the nation has been crushed by the Mharoti, Ishadia still exists – while a shadow of its former glory, the nation touched by the heavens with its array of aasimar might one day reclaim its former glory. Finally, there is Siwal, home-base of the famous traders and their sand-ships and original setting of the “6 Arabian Nights” close patronage project. Siwal is perhaps the best-suited for traditional 1001 Nights-style playing in the region.
There also are rules for purchasing exotic Mharoti animals, dry goods, several magic carpets and other curios but mundane and magical as well as a total of 12 spells that can be found in the dragon empire and its surrounding regions.

Now if you’d rather tell a story of war, political intrigue or any combination thereof, I’d suggest you take a look at chapter 6, which details the seven cities – 7 cities (two of which are mapped in the lavish quality of the book) that have sprung up in the aftermath of the eleven retreat and ever since been at war with each other. Now if you’re familiar with the codes of conduct of warfare and conquest in the medieval ages, it should come as refreshing that the warfare between these nations also follows a kind of seasonal etiquette as well the rules of economy: While plundering, rapes and the less savory aspects of warfare cannot be wholly prevented, the war-god-Mavros-worshiping cities mainly wage relatively civil campaigns versus each other not to destroy, but to humiliate, to extract ransoms, to gain territory etc. War is a means to an end, a motor of a war machinery and a whole intricate web of war economies dependant on not campaigns of annihilation, but of almost ritualized conflict. As such, there also are 5 classic pretenses accepted for war that are displayed in the chapter and political as well as economic reasons galore for them to go to war. Beyond these, we also get detailed pieces of information regarding e.g. the special breeds of horses cultivated in the republic of Trombei, the armies that the respective cities can muster and hooks galore beyond the obvious warfare and political backstabbing. If you want to play a “Song of Fire and Ice”-style intrigue-laden campaign, this region’s instabilities and feuds should provide you with fodder for years to come. Before I forget it, the region is also home of the seafaring nation of Kyprion, homeland of the minotaurs and for now owing fealty to the republic of Triolo: Here, the Minotaur queen reigns supreme and both friends and enemies are invited to her palace. As the screams at night attest, only her friends tend to leave… I’m not going to get into more details here, but rest assured that the chapter is indeed intricate in the variety of options to develop and play.

Chapter 7 holds an especially dear place in my heart, for this region, called “The Wasted West” utilizes and imagery I am all too familiar with and enjoy: It is here that the setting takes a short bow to Lovecraft and the Dark Tapestry. Serving as a grisly reminder of the other side of warfare, these wasted plains were once the home of grand magocracies. Emphasis on “were”.  It is here that magic was used to wage total war, escalating further and further and culminating in a terrible series of rituals that called down the Great Old Ones. Now we’re not talking about Cthulhu, Nyarly and co, but rather a series of immortal, mountainous abominations that destroyed one another and crushed city upon city. When the escalation got worse and worse, the ley lines torn, magic unstable and vast titans waging unholy war, the Great Slumber was conceived – a titanic invocation that did not slay these beings, rather slowing them to a very crawl or halting time almost completely for them. Thus, these alien entities now shamble across blasted plains, trudging eldritch symbols into the scarred earth, fighting in erosion speed amongst one another or staring at the sun until their eyes had been scorched out. These grand abominations are actually large enough to serve as their very own ecologies, serving as both gods and locales to house whole tribes of goblins, cities on heads or have wizard’s towers strapped to their bellies – and woe to Midgard should they ever awaken from their slowed somnambulist trance, for just the Magocracy of Allain remains of the cities of old. Beyond the dust goblins worshiping the weird creatures and roaming the plains, we are also introduced to the Duchy of Bourgund, resting in the shadow of the only Great Old One felled by mortal magic and steel, the city actually constitutes a very lawful, strictly regulate society, including a flourishing black market and famed armor-bonded mages who can’t all stand up to their illustrious legacy as abomination-slayers – complacency and magic-reliance might one day prove to be the undoing of the duchy, for beneath the surface, it simmers.. They are also known for their perfumeries, while Bemmea, capital of the Magocracy is known for its magic and the glyph-shaped streets shown on the beautiful map made me come up with some interesting ideas – think Perdido Street Station meets Fall of Utopia. *muahaha* Speaking of evil laughter: A massive table of potion side-effects and mishaps should also prove to be an interesting surprise for the PCs, should they deem to visit the bottle market. Beyond these, there also is the haunted land where giants rule, the small human barony of Trenorra and the Gardens of Carnessa, where intelligent plants now rule – whether commanded by a Mu Spore, an old one or some other inscrutable force, these once wondrous verdant places now should test the mettle of even the most hardened of adventurers.

Since Midgard is flat, there is Barsella, the city at the end of the world, but I’ll go more into detail about this place and the isle of morphoi in my upcoming review of “Journeys to the West”. The chapter concludes with a grimoire called the Black Spire Codex that contains 8 new spells, a new incantation (yeah!) and a simple template to represent the warping effects of the magical fall-out land that is the Wasted West.   After these rather bleak expanses, let’s turn to the Northeast of the crossroads and take a look at the nations found there:  In stark contrast to most regions in Midgard, the elven retreat has not plunged these reaches into chaos, though their absence and the resulting chaos has touched the region as well. The main source of the relative stability of the region can be found in a certain continuity – led by a legendary elven queen for over 500 years, the region is guided by perhaps the last living being to remember the retreat and her wise counsel has led the areas and countless baronies into a relative stable era. The thing is, the imperatrix is old, even for elven standards and shows first signs of losing her wits – a tragedy not only on a personal level, but also since her rulership has been such a guiding factor, her bloodline a uniting tie between the countless baronies and duchies, which have with their entangled territories and numerous sub-territories driven allegedly more than one cartographer insane.

Another interesting component about Dornig and its surrounding areas would be the fact that the land contains two vast forests, which, while not the Margreve, remain deadly, dense woodlands that conceal ancient secrets and dread foes. I mentioned the 7 cities-region as a prime example for “Song of Fire and Ice”-style gameplay regarding the warfare and shifting political boundaries. If you want to go a step further and play a campaign of courtly intrigue, I may instead suggest this region: Not only are the numerous ancient families looking for new blood, there’s unexplored territory in the forests aplenty and we also get a new incantation-ceremony to take the mantle of rulership and concise rules for getting one’s own barony! Plus, you can always combine this area with ventures towards the frozen reaches as there actually is a former northlander Viking fiefdom serving as both an economic gateway and as a place to start immersion into the final cultural region detailed herein: The Northlands.

The Northlands-book was my number 1 roleplaying book of 2011 – that should tell you everything right in a nutshell. A book that BELONGS into any PFRPG-library and perhaps one of the coolest sourcebooks (pardon the pun) ever devised. This chapter sums up some of the components in the book and serves as a gazetteer-like introduction to these gloriously detailed, wild, untamed and oh so brilliant and beautiful wilds, where Vikings set sail, were-bears have a honey-producing kingdom, people are hard and honest and Hyperborea’s fabled lands loom somewhere hidden in the eternal ice. Have I mentioned that you may actually set sail to “Holmgard and beyond”? If putting in the Turisas-song while manning your longboat to these reaches doesn’t get you pumped, I don’t know what will.  A great chapter, but I highly recommend you get the full sourcebook with its rune-magic and grudge magic, with its variant rules, equipment and much more details than this chapter can ever hope to cover.

The final chapter then details the gods and how Midgard handles them is much more in line with my own DM-approach: First of all, gods are not shoe-horned into an alignment, but rather given a tendency like chaotic or lawful – after all gods are inscrutable and beyond the moralities of petty mortals, their words and holy texts open to interpretation and thus also conflicting visions of doing one’s god’s bidding. Furthermore, the gods of Midgard wear masks – this means that one god may go by multiple names and aspects, perhaps with conflicting ideologies or seemingly contradictory agendas. This makes them stand out more and also changes the way, clerics should be played – after all, they are no arcanists with different spell-lists, but agents of inscrutable higher beings. Hence, we don’t get write-ups of gods per se, but rather of religions: Whether Perun of the Crossroads and Thor are the same god is up for debate and some even claim that there is but one god. Over all, this concept makes the religious landscape much more fluid and the gods come off as something completely different from the set of abilities and domains one chooses to best complement one’s abilities. A great approach and even pantheist priests are covered. The gods per se are hence also covered entries by region, organizing them in a logical and concise fashion. Better yet, the vast majority of them are actually interesting and put new twists on classic myths of earth, with Æsir and Baal finding a place as well as Bastet and others, but sans making it feel like a hodge-podge rip-off of real-world mythologies. Familiar and foreign,  all entwined in compelling write-ups.

Now if you’re playing the AGE-sytsem, you’ll have 25 new backgrounds to look forward to, allowing you to play zobeck kobolds, gearforged etc. We also get a total of 7 new specializations (including the harem assassin!) as well as a whopping 40 new spells and 3 new talents. The pdf concludes with an appendix of regional encounter tables as well as a list of recommended further reading and something that is NOT optional in my opinion, at least not in books of this size: The detailed, 4-page index makes finding information and actually using the city much easier.



The Midgard Campaign Setting, if the length of my review was not ample clue, is a massive TOME of rpg-goodness and it shows – but it is not perfect. Editing and formatting indeed have suffered from some neglect that I hope will be rectified in future printings:  While I noticed some minor letter-mixup-typos and glitches like “veven[sic!]” there is one particular glitch that bugged me to no end while reading my hardcover: The “See Page XX”-brackets are UNIVERSALLY broken. They ALL show $$ instead of the correct page numbers, which actually makes handling the book less comfortable than it should be, so that is a major thing for me. On the more positive side of major things for me would be the GORGEOUS full-color layout by Calle Winters ranks among the finest I’ve seen in any Rpg-product out there. The full-color artworks are also on par with this top-notch production-values and aesthetic appeal, though you might know several of them from e.g. Kobold Press-product covers or from older Open Designs, they nevertheless manage to maintain a unified look of premium quality.

Now I really suggest you get this getting in print, preferably in hardcover, for the book is stitch-bound, beautiful and solid and full-color – printing out the pdf would extol a brutal drain on your printer and the lack of a printer-friendly version means you won’t have the option of printing out a bare bones b/w-version. 
Now, perhaps my hope is in vain, but there are certain reviews of mine into which I pour my heart’s blood, usually for books that show the same level of commitment and passion. And once in a while, I get my hands on a book that keeps me afloat. Reviewing bad books tends to frustrate me as it’s a thankless, dreary task. Mediocre books are even worse, but that’s another story. What’s relevant and what’ve tried to convey to you, dear readers, over the last pages, was that this book is 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.

Thanks to everyone who reads my reviews, everyone who clicks the banners and everyone who puts his trust in my verdict and drops me a nice word - it's for you guys I do this. To you, ladies and gentlemen!

Endzeitgeist out.