Home / Delve into the Depths in the Kobold Blog / Midgard Monday: Getting the (war)band together in Illyria, part 1

Midgard Monday: Getting the (war)band together in Illyria, part 1

Midgard Monday: Getting the (war)band together in Illyria, part 1

It’s Midgard Monday! Each week, we visit a corner of the wide world of Midgard. Look for standalone content you can drop into your campaign—whether it’s in Midgard or your own homebrew. Find new inspiration each Midgard Monday!

In 2024, we are trying out some new things for Midgard Mondays! Over the next few months, we’re focusing on articles about running MIDGARD CAMPAIGNS. After that, we’ll change topics every few months. Let us know in the comments and on social media what you think of the new ideas!

The season of war is the tradition of the Septime Cities. They fight each other, and they fight whoever threatens. The Mharoti Empire is one of those ever-present threats, gathering like storm clouds on the horizon.

But the dragon-ruled empire has not yet swooped upon the peninsula, content for now to gorge on its most recent conquest, the fallen Duchy of Illyria.

A Spark at the Power Keg

The Midgard Worldbook offers a stage primed for a massive war between an alliance of human-led Seven Cities (with support from the mystical god-kings of Nuria Natal), and the vast legions of the Mharoti Empire. While hostilities have not yet resumed, they can erupt at any moment.

All that this powder keg requires is a spark, one easily provided by the GM looking to run a war-time campaign. If you enjoyed Glen Cook’s Black Company novels, you might want to run a mercenary company game based in the Seven Cities.

This series will help a GM run a campaign to explore the fight to free the Illyrian marches along the eastern border of the Seven Cities. It analyzes several phases of the campaign, from mustering and onward. But before they face off against the scaly host of the morzas, consider how to put your PCs into the action! Create an initial hook to pull the party in.

The easiest hooks are the ones players chose during character creation—their backgrounds. Using this list, provides a wide range of character origins in the region to give you easy methods to involve PCs. The opening gambit of war requires intelligence, gathered from the front lines by those accustomed to violence, but able to move in civilized places—effectively special forces, spies, and forward scouts, all rolled into one easily disavowed and disposable package.

Such a band would need to be assembled and given a mission that plunges them into enemy territory. But why were they chosen? Examine the most common backgrounds and direct links to the Seven Cities.

The header for each background includes both 5E and Tales of the Valiant roleplaying game backgrounds, before and after the slash mark. Compatibility is sometimes even in the same terminology!


Dedicated to the Septime Gods, the armies of the Seven Cities always march in cadence with the seasons and with the blessings of their divinities. (Allied Nurians are similarly devout, but for different reasons.) A PC acolyte pledged to Hecate, Horus, or Mavros could be the spiritual guide for a team of military operatives sent into enemy territory. They could offer daily blessings for colleagues or locals or make preparations for an imminent conflict by quietly exhorting the occupied. Their background feature might provide safehouses and potential allies willing to perform tasks or give shelter in otherwise dangerous lands.


Seeking to raise their station and capable of using the shadows and alleyways, refugees from conquered Illyria who know the land might have been forced into criminality. They bring the knowledge of people who’ve lived unseen lives, and who may be motivated as much by revenge as wealth. Their background features offer ways for PCs to secretly enter Mharoti-governed cities, find contraband, and establish allies willing to stockpile goods or betray the status quo—all for a price.

Charlatan, Entertainer, Guild Artisan/Artist, Maker

Profit comes on the winds of war, and PCs with these backgrounds have a mind focused on buying something—be that a lie, a performance, or a product. (Some say all three are the same.) Such PCs likely established relationships in the former communities of Illyria, or they may even have relatives, guildmates, or comrades in the occupied territory. Their background features give these PCs cover identities, knowledge of a network of potential safehouses, and possibly access to black or gray markets. There, they can buy items which would otherwise draw the wrong kind of attention from the Empire’s muhta enforcers.

Folk Hero, Noble/Courtier

Coming from Illyria with dreams of restoring their homeland and defeating the Mharoti, PCs with these backgrounds easily integrate into the conquered lands and provide clear motivation for involvement in a war of liberation. They might know NPCs, sites, or local traditions, as well as the occupied residents who might be looking for their return (albeit sometimes for less than altruistic reasons). These PCs can look for ways to foster and foment insurrection, unite internal allies, and ready the populace for a resistance that the Mharoti legions have been working hard to suppress.

Sailor, Soldier/Soldier

PCs with existing military or naval training are easily drawn into an oncoming conflict at the behest of former comrades, commanding officers, and the widows and widowers of dead fellows-in-arms. You can also hook PCs with these backgrounds with the efforts to repay old debts, rescue friends captured by the Mharoti, or strike down notable Mharoti officers who inflicted crushing defeats in the past. Revenge may drive PCs with these backgrounds. Their background features might mean a familiarity with enemy tactics, old fortresses, or common travel routes, as well as potential caches of gear lost during the Mharoti invasion years before.

Hermit, Outlander, Sage/Homesteader, Rustic, Outcast

PCs with these backgrounds might be sages may be members of the Cult of the Return, or wanderers exploring old tombs or ancient monuments inaccessible except under the fog and confusion of war. PCs who are hermits might know the location of a potent relic capable of rallying refugee factions or striking down the dragon morza governing Rumela. PCs who are outcasts might know secret mountain passes or the location of lost gateways into the shadow road running along the White Road ley line.

To the muster! We ready for war!

Get into Midgard with the Midgard Worldbook! This acclaimed campaign setting is rich and deep, with a decade of support from Kobold Press.

Want a more focused start? Try the Zobeck Clockwork City Collector’s Edition! This detailed sourcebook
gives players plenty of room to run, and includes adventures within the Clockwork City itself!

about Ben McFarland

Ben lived on a desert island for two years while serving as an officer in the US Air Force. He likes sushi, worldbuilding, and magic systems, and spends way too much time at a pool. He’s been freelancing, playtesting, and editing RPGs since 2005. While D&D’s a first love, Ars Magica is his greatest love and Cthulhutech his secret mistress.

8 thoughts on “Midgard Monday: Getting the (war)band together in Illyria, part 1”

  1. okay first of all, i LOVE your suggestions on how to incorporate backgrounds with midgard. top tier pro-move! secondly… omg i gotta run this campaign setting!!

  2. Love this campaign idea and have definitely had the same thoughts about the region. Looks like I’ll need to dig into the chapter on the Seven Cities in the Midgard Worldbook!

  3. The seven cities region has always been really interesting to me, very eager to see it and more Midgard Lore expanded upon for campaigns!

  4. I’m sorry I’m that guy, but my OCD tendencies have been nudged a bit.
    Was one of the headings of this post supposed to be “A Spark at the Power Keg” or “A Spark at the Powder Keg”?
    I’m guessing that spellcheck/autocorrect may not have been your friend there.

    That said, very cool content, and ideas have indeed been sparked here for me.

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