Friday, 13 August 2021

Midderlands Making Me Green With Envy

Of all the game settings things I have come across that I would run these ranks of most interesting settings I would run. 

Greg Gillespie Megadungeons, Anomalous Subsurface Environment, Fighting Fantasy world of Titan, Stormbringer, Gazetteers, Original Adventures Reincarnated, Yoon-Suin the Purple Land, Dolemwood, Hotsprings, Glorantha, Veins of the Earth & Operational Unfathomable. I have run ASE.

But my deep-dive into Midderlands has been very enjoyable.
I got the KS 5th ed version I liked and has more colour but I went and got the original hardback digest version and two other volumes. One advantage of the older book is the extra character classes for an older retroclone that needs less space than a dnd5 class. Also, there are more adventures in the older book. The new one has larger prints in the colour of the maps. The cutaway of the world showing gloomium is improved in the new bigger colour book - its drawn bigger with more detail and the tone of green which feels like it illustrates the gloomium glow influence.

Swords & Wizardry Complete roleplaying game is the native ruleset for the older digest books but I'm sure fine with most retro clones.

Also the Maps. I can see why they are award-winning and are the nicest I've seen. The London maps include street maps allowing you to run rooftop chases and rules in the book to support it. In my first review, I did not get the map and now I have and they are fantastic.

I would use this as given. I would have more gloomium, the strange glowing mineral responsible for mutations and the green mists and lights that pervade the islands. Id have gloomium with match workers having rotting glowing green flesh (like historic workers with phosphorous and other materials looked like). Gloomium in gunpowder? Gloomium paint? If Glynn reads this Id happily make stuff for it. I also wonder as the serpent folk have blue light if the ancient Gormans had a red glow. Is there a new world to explore? Having Dolemwood marked on maps for Ireland analogue interior is nice. You could use the Dark Albion supplements - one a bridge and the chaos cult book would fit fine (but given the writer you might not). 

As others pointed out you could use this for a Warhammer or fighting fantasy setting with no change really. The way I would most immediate use it is for a book full of villages and towns I could insert in any medieval euro fantasy game. Many descriptions imply mystery and adventure but it's quite open to the user what adventure stuff should be there. As there are patches of my setting like ye olde rural England and I could place lots of this there easily but also the mood of melancholia, mist and green fog could be placed in a backwoods haunted region. Ravenloft could fit in here too you could even use the queen as given. LOTFP would slot in fine also but I'm long over it. 2nd ed D&D A Mighty Fortress might work also.

The Midderlands (Digest Hardback Oldschool Clone ed)
So I have reviewed the new dnd5 version of this recently. Im glad I got this older version and mostly prefer it. It has monsters developed as character classes which is a good approach for monsters that have own development or you could play a 1m tall killer bird. Having colour and b&w maps from having both versions has advantages. Inside covers have a character sheet and monster summaries. The digest has colour guides on page edges to help rapidly find them. Nothing is overwritten and in most cases begs the question to make you add your own detail. The first section is an intro talking about the mood and the green gloomium taint. I like the goblinkind species and how they are more accepted than foreigners. It has a very Elizabethan vibe which works fine for dnd just add guns. The gazetteer features dozens of nice village and town maps and other locations. Oddities section is weird items and plants and animals leading into a large monster section.  Full of many playable character classes lost in the 5th ed (classes in dnd5 require more space and effort). The variety of goblins is great. The horrible slimy monsters are fantastic and grizzly. The mud cow didn't fit in the digest but is in the dnd5 and the next book. If I had to chooses a version Id get this one as it has more usable old-school clone content with the classes.

The Midderlands Expanded (Digest Hardback Oldschool Clone ed)
So this describes the whole island kingdoms analogous to Wales and Scotland and Briton. There is a lot of humour hidden that some people may not get. Inside covers include a great Inn map used with an adventure within and the back has a weird gloomium table and monster stat summaries. The first biggest section covers many locations in the three kingdoms and mentions adjacent ones. The snake folk land sounds awesome and the idea they might invade is a great campaign hook. The shipwreck generator table is so freaking cool I'm very jealous. Some cool new items and spells and odd flora and fauna is nice. The factions and the personalities would expand any campaign here. There is a witchfinder class, A Highland shaman and a Dragonsinger class. Plus a bestiary with more slimy gloomium tainted horrors some of which are shipping hazards and eat seaside villages. The mere people are especially hideous. There is a horror scenario that is good and uses the inn map. Another deals with a semi inhabited Tor hill that has some shifty happenings in the old off-limits areas. Lots of good hooks for a DM to explore which I find refreshing vs overdeveloped worlds that make me feel paralysed with lore check requirements and fear of some fanboy who knows it more.  In many cases, you could use most of the text given as if from in-world documents or guidebooks. There is some good power of kingdom diagrams, notes on aristocrats, hidden signs, personalised equipment to ad detail to found things, signs, a burglary table and a how to use the gloomium randomiser. This chart is a weblike page inside the back cover that I don't grok yet but intriguing. New gods in this book are great and setting religion is quite fascinating.   

The City of Great Lundon 
This details a single city. It has amazing detail and is one of the best top 10 fantasy rpg cities ever. The maps have fantastic detail from including countryside and crops down to rooftop and street views for rooftop chases. It has rules for this as well as an architectural diagram to help you describe happenings and let players get creative. The inside covers feature nome characters (cards available as 3rd lv starting characters) and a ward district map of the city. History, government, ward shield emblems, law, waterways and then detail on the wards. Each ward has % for cops or crime, ten local happenings to show the character of the area, sounds smells and special locations. Peaker police a riffing on Peelers the early police. The outer wards have their own section.  A  section on building basics and special locations, each illustrated and mapped. Sewers are detailed (wider than mine) but have several variations. Rooftop chase rules to use with maps, some oddities then bestiary. Once again we get slimy tentacled things, many handy for sewers. Characters, factions and scenario ideas round off the book with some tables for alley names, vendors, inn patrons, trades and that's it.

Overall a fantastic product and I am interested in the zines and the other book on drive-through RPG. I bought the three core books straight from the site with all the maps here

Some extra stuff here I will get plus PDFs of core books
Im nabbing some of this will review in future and I'm sure answers some questions, one issue of zine details world.

Nice Interactive Map


  1. I think the name for Ireland is Dolmenwood, if I remember correctly. Also there is a small book with more magic classes (folk magic of the isles or so), which I thought was quite nice. And I agree that the OSR versions just feel nicer than the 5e ones.

    1. Emeraude is Ireland but basically is Dolmenwood

      got magic book

  2. The Midderlands stuff is genuinely fantastic. I have the OSR version and it's all good to me.
    I've been seriously fighting the urge to use it as the basis to setup a campaign flip for my current game with my sons and go "surprise it was a post apocalyptic campaign the whole time" which the middlerlands would feed into nicely.

    1. the classes are fun and you miss out on them a bit in 5th ed


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