Supplement Review: Midgard Campaign Setting by Wolfgang Baur and the Open Design team, Part 1

Welcome to the first part of the review for the Midgard Campaign Setting book from Wolfgang Baur, Jeff Grub, Brandon Hodge, Christina Stiles, and Dan Voyce from Open Design. That’s right… This will be another multi-part review. There are simply too many parts to this book to handle it in one go without glossing over some little corner that deserves some attention. So be prepared for several entries in this particular series!

Weighing in at 298 pages with nearly 290 of that count containing content, amazing images, or index entries (four pages of three-column entries) describing Midgard with a slant towards Pathfinder (though the concepts therein could be easily moved to other systems I suspect as well as AGE, which has an entire appendix). Without a doubt this is one of the biggest world supplements that I’ve seen in a while. And it’s not like it’s fluff, either. Whether you choose to use the world as-is or take bits and pieces for use in your own settings is up to you. There’s certainly enough here to mine for world crunch and adventure ideas for quite a while.

But let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is Midgard? It’s the world Wolfgang Baur has been working on in one way or another since he was 14 years old. It’s a combination of myths, campaigns, and many sessions of shared storytelling. And now through Open Design we get a glimpse into the brilliant, beautiful, horrific, and sometimes insane place that it has become. To say the least, it’s an amazing feat to pull this much material together in some kind of a coherent way. And yet it ended up being so much more…

In Chapter 1, we are introduced to this world that good and evil struggle over on multiple fronts. Gods? Dragons? Multiple planes of existence? Ley lines? Classic D&D races? Quite honestly I think it’s like the slogan in the old (1980s) commercials for Ragu spaghetti sauce. “It’s in there.” I bet if you can think of it from a classic myth, legend, movie, book, or television show (with a fantasy bent), it probably exists in Midgard somewhere. It may not be in *this* book, but no single book will ever be able to illuminate all the dark corners. There must still be a few mysteries to explore in other books, stories, and adventures.

One of my favorite parts of the Midgard experience is that it *is* flat. The Flat Earth Society would feel right at home here. And even though it’s flat (don’t fall off the edge, you don’t know what’s waiting for you!), no one group has cornered the market on describing how the world was created. Each race, tribe and religion has its own story or creation myth. Who’s right? It doesn’t matter – all are equally right and wrong. The world itself is dynamic and alive, with high frozen mountains, deserts, plains, forests, and oceans to explore. Something tells me a human character could start walking in the Southlands and not make it all the way through the Northlands in a single mortal lifetime (perhaps an elf or a dwarf, but that’s a story for them to tell).

There’s a sense of time in Midgard as well, with the sun, moon, planets, and stars spinning through the heavens on their cosmic paths. The calendar is similar to ours on earth with 12 months of 30 days and there are many rites and celebrations to mark the days as each year spins on. That doesn’t mean that everybody shares an opinion about WHAT year it is, but hey… we have that problem here as well (look at the Gregorian, Julian, Hebrew, Islamic, Chinese, and other calendars for examples…).

And then there’s the ley lines. I’ve always been fascinated by this concept. Invisible lines of magical energy criss-crossing the globe (or in this case criss-crossing the plane of Midgard). If you stand in or near one, you would be affected by those energies in one way or another. In this case, there are rules for ley lines (feats and effects) for your game. Depending on the strength of the ley line, a spell cast nearby may inadvertently affect somewhere else among the planes, affect the strength or duration of a spell, etc. Beware the backlash of using the lines too often, for sometimes a backlash will remind you of the power you’re dealing with…

That gets us to the end of the first chapter and I didn’t cover all the great history, the seven regions of Midgard (to be covered in more detail later on), the cursed gnomes who broke a deal with Baba Yaga and may never stop their fall into infamy…

Let’s talk a bit about the layout and art for this book. As with all Open Design books, this is a very well put-together tome. Callie Winters has done an amazing job with the layout, pulling together some terrific elements without going overboard. Each chapter begins with a full-color, full-page piece of art. For chapter 1, the art is the same as the cover from artist Aaron Miller of a knight on horseback traveling through a creepy, foggy forest with his dog and a skeletal figure on a skeletal horse. Oh, and did I mention they’re being shadowed by a demon or devil in the background? Creepy and yet very evocative of story… Who is the knight? Who is or was the skeletal figure? Why is the demon or devil there? What’s the dog’s name? I could go on…

The layout consists of a standard two column approach, with decorative borders and a slight design in the background that doesn’t impede reading at all. The text is in a good font and everywhere is a solid use of white space for headings and tables. Interior art is inserted as though each piece was put into a photo album with the little sticky corners. Some art is injected in the center of a page with text flowing around it. And boxed text is handled much the same as artwork (with the corners) but with a slightly different colored background to set it apart.

I don’t expect to find much to complain about in this book, if anything. The content is awesome. The layout and art are awesome. The front cover is awesome. The Midgard Campaign Setting is just a whole bunch of awesome. Pick up a copy if nothing else for inspiration or to admire how a leader in the RPG industry continues to show others how to put together an A+ book.

Stay tuned as we move on to the other chapters soon…

In the meantime, check out the following sources for details about Midgard or the Midgard Campaign Setting

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