Midgard Chronicles: A New Branch on the Old World Tree

Midgard Chronicles: A New Branch on the Old World Tree

Something new has appeared on the Kobold Press store. It went up without a lot of fanfare, and I didn’t realize it was there until a few days ago. What is it, you ask? Why, it’s the Midgard Chronicles, that’s what. But what is that? Well…

Midgard Chronicles is a “living campaign” designed for game store and convention play, set in the world of Midgard. It’s from Warduke Press (the same folks that are behind Greyhawk Reborn) under license from Kobold Press. The first four offerings in the Chronicles are up now: a Midgard Chronicles Primer, Midgard Chronicles Campaign Guide, Season 1, Interpolation: Prologue 1, and Fylgyja: Prologue 2.

Now, I only ever play in home games, but I’m thrilled for this avenue for more people to discover the wonders of Midgard, so no complaints here. But I’ll be looking at Warduke’s first adventures as relates to my own in-home play. And with that, I’d recommend everyone at least download the FREE Primer and Campaign Guide. The Primer is a nice two-page summation of the world of Midgard in general and the Northlands in specific. It lifts and summarizes heavily from the Midgard Worldbook but does it well enough and succinctly enough that I’d probably hand it out before beginning a Northlands campaign. (And if you are like me, getting your players to read anything is difficult, so two pages sounds wonderful.) The Campaign Guide is, obviously, by its nature most relevant to those looking at organized play in stores and conventions, but it was instructive to me as someone who has never played in those venues to get a handle on how they work. (Interestingly, it informs us that Midgard Chronicles will be referencing the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything in addition the Player’s Handbook, Midgard Worldbook, Midgard Hero’s Handbook, and Margreve Player’s Guide.) Even while the focus is not for me, I found some useful ideas in the Campaign Guide. Players are allotted 366 adventuring days (or ADs) on the real-world January first, and they can spend these on Downtime Activities their character undertakes between sessions. As someone who runs, oh, currently five different campaigns in two different worlds and who finds the “one day of real time equals two days on the Midgard calendar” suggestion therefore somewhat hampering, I’m wondering if I could use the AD system in my home games. I also really appreciate the handy little chart “Gold Expenditure Maximum”—essentially the maximum amount of gold you can spend on a single item as limited by the size of the settlement that you are in. That’s super useful.

But of course, the real question worth asking is what are the adventures and are they any good. There are two up on the store now: “Interpolation”by Benjamin L. Eastman and Brennan Greene and “Fylgyja” by Matthew Dunn and Anthony Keller. “Interpolation” is an introductory adventure for characters level 1–4. With SPOILER WARNINGS in full effect, let’s take a look:

“Interpolation” is set in the Northlands, and it takes players from Bjeornheim to Krakova to Skogarholm to Stannasgard, essentially a journey east to west across the whole of the Nieder Straits. Straight off, no pun intended, I love that. More travel-based adventuring is something I’m always on the lookout for. This one starts when the players are hired as crew aboard a ship called Yaro’s Testament, delivering mead to Krakova and Skogarholm, ultimately bound for Stannasgard. After several adventure hooks (tailored for organized play), the adventure is underway. There’s a neat mechanic that involves the players in the daily operation of the vessel, such that their combined ability checks’ successes and failures determine how the first encounter starts or even if it occurs at all. That encounter is, naturally, an attack by trollkin. Here I was pleased to see that one of my own creations, the trollkin raider, essentially a low-powered trollkin reaver, makes an appearance. (The trollkin raider is from my Warlock Lair 52: The White Worg Accord and now appears in Tome of Beasts 2.)

Having dealt with the trollkin, Yaro’s Testament docks at the port of Krakova where Captain Skiba enlists the PCs into delivering a package to a rebel safehouse in this vampire-occupied city. The resulting escapade does a good job of conjuring the feeling of sneaking contraband through a Cold War–era Eastern Bloc territory. The PCs have to find a way to actually get into the city proper from the docks and to do so without drawing too much attention from city officials and red priestesses. While this is mostly roleplay, combat comes to the table in the form of a bandit attack on their return trip.

Next up is Skogarholm, settled by reaver dwarves from Wolfheim, in an episode that involves reavers attempting to steal the ship’s mead. This culminates in a þing (a type of trial), a situation that presents a good way to both introduce players to Northlands’ customs and to work in some NPCs that might be useful in further adventures.

Finally, the ship is pursued by and must escape a living iceberg, “a chunk of the Living Glaciers of Boreas that fell into the ocean and now moves for the inscrutable purposes of its master.” Then we arrive at Stannasgard, and our adventure is complete.

“Fylgyja” is also a stand-alone adventure for character levels 1–4 that begins in Wolfheim and involves a trip into the wilderness. (A fylgyja is a spirit in Norse mythology that accompanies a person and is often tied to their fate.) In the adventure, the “one-eyed priests of Wotan” ask the adventurers to seek out the prophet Gala and bring her back to help with recent troubles. Trained wolves have been turning on their trainers and wild wolves have been killing sheep (something that is normally curtailed by the worgs’ pact with the Wolfheim dwarves). A mysterious dwarf woman has been sighted, and it is believed that she is a seer who can help explain and alleviate the attacks. The adventure kicks off at the site of the most recent wolf attack, but the PCs swiftly head into the snowy woods. Again, a series of ability checks determines how the next scene will go and, in this case, whether the PCs suffer a level of exhaustion or not. I like travel that means something and isn’t just skipped over, so again I appreciated how this mechanic plays out.

But exhausted or not, our adventurers are quickly beset upon by wolves (and possibly worgs and/or dire wolves too, depending on the average party level). Both of these adventures have charts for scaling the encounters that I really dug and would like to see included in other products.

When the PCs meet Gala, she’s willing to accompany them but not before putting them to work around her house first. This part isn’t as clearly articulated as it could be, but essentially the seer is teaching the PCs about certain natural options that will be useful later when combat occurs (wood that flares up when first ignited, briar bushes that can restrain the unwary, pits of powdery snow).

After this, the group has the option to rest or travel immediately, but if they choose the latter option, there are consequences—namely that the weather has worsened with the result that they incur a penalty on their ability checks. (Neat!)

Finally, cultists of Chernobog, seeking Gala for their own ends, attack. This is where the lessons gleaned from Gala’s household chores are supposed to play out. There’s also a very strange consequence if the PCs lose this fight that I won’t spoil here. I can’t decide if I like it or not, though it does seem to open up future story potential. But other than that, things wrap up when Gala is escorted back to Wolfheim.

So there you have it. In short, these are both good stories. And while it should be stressed that these aren’t official Kobold Press “canonical” adventures—Warduke is making them under license and they aren’t written by Kobold personnel—there was nothing that would prevent them from slotting easily into your own larger Northlands campaign. The best thing I can say about them is that, having read the two adventures over the weekend, I now want to run them for myself. In fact, “Interpolation” in particular would make a very good first adventure, leading into Warlock Lair 13: Bastion of Rime and Salt (by Jon Sawatsky and set in Stannasgard) and then into my own Warlock Lair 52: The White Worg Accord—which takes you from Stannasgard to Wolfheim!—so then you could run “Fylgyja.” Those four adventures together would take you across the Nieder Straits and back and give a heck of an introduction to the Northlands. I’m mad I didn’t have the option to run them together like this at the time I was kicking off my own northern campaign, and I guess I can’t give higher praise than that.

___

Lou Anders is the author of the novel Once Upon a Unicorn, as well as the Thrones & Bones trilogy of fantasy adventure novels (Frostborn, Nightborn, and Skyborn), and the novel Star Wars: Pirate’s Price. He has also done role playing game design for Kobold Press, River Horse, and 3D Printed Tabletop. In 2016, he was named a Thurber House Writer-in-Residence and spent a month in Columbus, Ohio teaching, writing, and living in a haunted house. When not writing, he enjoys playing role playing games, 3D printing, and watching movies. He lives with his wife, children, and two golden doodles in Birmingham, Alabama. You can visit Anders online at louanders.com, on Facebook, Instagram, and on Twitter at @Louanders.

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