Tag Archives: Reviews

Review of The Midderlands – A Kickstarter

I backed The Midderlands – An OSR Mini-Setting and Bestiary Kickstarter by Glynn Seal of MonkeyBlood Design. It surpassed its 12,000 pound goal by 1,953 pounds. I selected the 30 pound pledge level, AKA Mawling, the rewards is a PDF of the Book, a PDF of the map, and a hardcopy of the book, one map, and two character sheet bookmarks.

It funded July 31, 2017. The PDFs were released on October 9, 2017, and I received my physical rewards on November 27, 2017.

Here are pictures of my book, map, and bookmarks.

Midderlands: Book, Map, and Bookmarks
Midderlands: Book, Map, and Bookmarks
Midderlands - A Peek Inside
Midderlands – A Peek Inside

The PDF:

The download with the PDF included a jpg character sheet in color, a jpeg of the monster quick reference for the monsters in the bestiary, and the map in color and parchment both jpgs.  After the PDF was released, we received a 33 page PDF of things cut because of layout and other issues, The Midderlands Additions. This gives more information on one creature, some NPCs, and a map and description of an inn, which is also an adventure. These are things cut from the final print version to keep shipping costs manageable.

Inside the 228 page PDF is art by Glynn and several other artists. The table of contents lays out what is in this gazeteer of an RPG setting based on the Midlands of England. There are the standard geographical features, points of interests, towns, villages, and cities.  There are also adventures and adventure hooks. Glynn has taken interesting sites from his location in England and filtered them through a combination of RPGs and his imagination to come up with something new. I should mention that there is a language warning on this project from the author. If you can’t handle “adult language” this may not be for you.

It uses Swords & Wizardry as a base, but will work with any OSR ruleset. The ideas can be used in any setting, and many in any genre.

The color scheme for this setting is green. Take any word to describe green and any shade of green, and things that are green, and they end up here. Slime, vapors, demons, etc. are all green and there is a cthonic and dreary atmosphere, and the locals mistrust outsiders. There is enough here for a stand alone campaign, or ideas and adventures to sprinkle in your own campaign or campaign world.

Gloomium is the metallic substance that generates the green hue to everything, and causes all the weirdness in the world. Gloom-touched is the phrase that describes those affected by gloomium. There are random tables to describe what these effects are., and their location on the body. There is a dd0 table called Weird Shit used to add weirdness to The Midderlands. A list of words for green is provided, as everything in the setting should have something green about it. Surprisingly, Lincoln Green, the color associate with Robin Hood and his men is not listed. That color was based on a dyeing process. I am not sure if that shade has another name.

The setting is based on the 15th and 16th century. Artillery exists along with primitive handheld firearms. Magic and witches are not trusted. Religion is left to the GM to handle, but describes a loose system of belief that will suffice without adding to the GM’s workload. A list of superior beings that fit the setting, from angels and demons to deities is also provided.

Among the list of locations that are described, some settlements have a map, and some of those have numbered locations for major locations within the city or town. Points of interest are also given. These are things like a windmill, or a large rock with a history, etc. Some are “normal,” while others have lore or legend associated with them.

There are four new spells, that fit the region/setting. They require but a single page.

Pages 75 – 186 contain all the new plants and creatures. There is a table to randomize the types and effects of fungus/mushrooms that might be found. Some monsters have their own classes and levels. This allows scaling the threat of some creatures in unique ways. (I really need to dig in and read through all these new creatures.)

Pages 188-206 detail the adventures and adventure ideas in the setting.

Pages 207-215 cover hex map locations. Most are fixed locations in a specific numbered hex. However, the last five items actually have random locations, such as a travelling circus. The GM is advised to lay out the map and drop a d20 on it from about 18″ to generate each item’s current location.

Next, there is an Appendix with six tables: a d20 insult table with 20 common Midderlands insults, a d10 festival/gathering table, a d20 weather table, a name and trades table with no numbers/die rolls indicated, an additional Hamlet/Small Town names table, and a d100 Crap You Find On A Midfolk Table. As with any resource, these tables have something you can use in whole or in part in games independent of this setting.

Finally, there is an index, it is not hyperlinked, nor is the Table of Contents.

What I liked about the PDF:

  • The artwork, design, and layout are gorgeous and help evoke the setting.
  • Random tables that can be used in other games and settings.
  • New creatures, spells, and items that are portable to other games and settings.

What I’d like to see in the PDF:

  • A hyperlinked Table of Contents
  • A hyperlinked Index.
  • The character sheet
    • I’d also like a no color option for more economical printing.
  • The map – just a basic version on a single page.

NOTE: There are bookmarks in the PDF, so one can navigate to various sections, but the bookmark pane must remain open.

The Book:

The hardback book is 6″ x 8.5″. It is solid and has heft to it. It includes two ribbon bookmarks in different shades of green to match the motif of the green cover and green tint and hue to the artwork and pages. It is gorgeous! It also has colored markings for groups of pages in the same section, like settlements, creatures, adventures, etc. For larger numbers of pages, these are easily visible when looking at the edge of the pages when the book is closed. Some are more easily identified when the pages are fanned. This is a cool way to allow the user to jump to a section.

The front end pages are a character sheet, that is the same as the one backers received as a jpg with the PDF.

The pages are slick and thicker than one normally expects. This makes for a durable little tome, with heft beyond its size. While the pages are slightly slick, they only shine at a specific angle to the light in the room, and are easy to read. I have not tried reading it in all light levels. The text does not bleed through, but some of the darker art does. CORRECTION: I realized that what I thought was bleed through is actually the region map sort of like a watermark. It is only the shields for heraldry of certain nobles, and lakes and rivers that are dark enough to easily show. The rest is quite faint and easily missed. I did not find it distracting while reading the text.

What I liked about the book:

  • It is gorgeous!
  • The art and layout.
  • The double bookmarks.
  • All of the same things I liked about the PDF.

What I’d Like to see in the book:

  • The region map on one page, so I don’t need to open up the map or resort to the computer.

The Map:

Full color 16.5″ x 23.25″. One side has the green color motif, and the other has a parchment like color. Both sides have light gray numbered hexes. On the green side the numbers are white with a dark outline.

I find that the parchment colored background is easier to read the names of all the locations. Both sides are gorgeous, but the green side has just enough of a shine to it that makes it harder to read than the color combinations. I do like the green side as it fits the motif of the PDF and book. The black and white lettering on the green side is easily legible, but any writing of other colors, I find hard to read. I have not tried it in multiple lighting levels, as I have limited space to spread out at the moment.

Instead of using different colored text for different political units, a different size of font in black would work better on the green side for my eyes. I find that this is an issue in the last 6 or 7 years, that certain things I used to read easily, I can’t. I have new glasses, so it isn’t my prescription. Aging eyes begin to lose some of their finer utility. The option of the parchment map on the other side does remedy this.

Where to find The Midderlands:

You can find the PDF of The Midderlands – OSR Bestiary and Setting at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow. Currently, it is only available in PDF. on these sites.  You can order the book, map, and shipping from England for 35 pounds on the Monkeyblood Design site here.

The Midderlands Additions is available as PDF and softcover at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.

There is also a bundle with both the main book and additions at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.

There is a lot here. I find it interesting and I want a few days of uninterrupted time so I can just read it cover to cover.

Mini Reviews vs. Reviews

When I do a review, I indicate on my post if it is a mini-review, meaning I skimmed the material and highlighted what jumped out at me. When it just says review, it means I read the whole thing and took lots of notes.

I have a long list of things I have on my personal review list – all the Kickstarters I have backed. I also have a few things in the pipeline that include D&D 5e modules and resources.

A few month ago, I added a page on my review policy since I am being approached by more and more people to do reviews. Please see that link if you are interested in having me review your RPG product.