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Why I Love the Southlands

Why I Love the Southlands

Southlands Scarab

Allow me to confess my deep and abiding love for all things wild and free, dangerous and ancient, roguish, magical, and lost in a distant time. This can be Russian myths or Norse sagas, but it can also be something closer to the heart of the ancient world.

Now, I blame King Tut for this. I was still in grade school when his treasures and mask toured the U.S. in 1976, but I fell hard for the power of antiquity—the sheer rich stretch of time separating me and this young pharaoh. It’s been more than 4,000 years since the last pyramid was built. It’s tough to wrap your brain around how different things were, and it completely obsesses me at the same time. I remember learning that baboons took a role similar to police dogs in ancient Egypt, and the hieroglyphics looked like pure magic to me. History is more fantastical and bizarre than we give it credit for, sometimes.

Since then I’ve discovered the Arabian Nights, the folklore of the Levant and Ethiopia, the tragic story of the assassins, the movies of Ray Harryhausen, the marvels of Timbuktu, and the many journeys of heroes in tropical lands—the places where great kingdoms have risen, and every ancient figure from Solomon to Scheherazade made their mark. Not surprisingly, the Southlands contain humanity at its finest and most flavorful, and so I’ve spun quite a few adventures of the deserts, savannah, and the dry mountains.

And I can say this: the Southlands are a place where fantasy thrives. Just like the fantasy melting pot, it’s ripe for adventure. It can be so much more than just a Disney Aladdin or a bowdlerized film. It can be the stage for anyone’s best adventures.

Mind you, I don’t claim that the Southlands are wildly new inventions, any more than I claim Baba Yaga or King Arthur’s knights are. But the stories of mummies thrill me, especially if we add a twist. Say, maybe, that the mummies of the Southlands are often the remains of animal-headed god-kings, rather than humans of the usual type. And the stories of brave camel masters fighting their way through a horde of gnoll raiders are as exciting as any Marco Polo yarn. Tales of great wisdom, science, and magic from a golden age of Baghdad or Istanbul or Alexandria make me want to share big, bold fantasy adventures that echo with both history and pure invention. I want wide horizons for fantasy.

Which brings us to the big tent, the big canvas, the wide arena. The legends of Sumeria, Egypt, Arabia, and elsewhere are at least somewhat familiar, even if America has less immigrants from that part of the world than from Germany or Ireland. Certainly D&D and Pathfinder borrow heavily from this tradition: the genies, the City of Brass, war elephants, the chariot of Sustarre, and the whole of Al-Qadim is an argument that Southlands fantasy isn’t some distant fantasy for other people. It’s woven into the fantasy heritage I grew up on, and it’s something that deserves more and better treatment than it has received to date.

The last time I polished up a genie’s lamp was for Al-Qadim, but I’m more than ready to build a bigger, better, brighter set of fantasy tales in that vein, and I have a team of creative Kobold freelancers that have astonished me with their ability to meld real historical bits with high-fantasy of the highest caliber.

Join me, please, as Kobold Press expands and re-imagines a wild mix of pulp adventure tropes with fantastical history and wondrous new lands and new creatures. Join me, please, as we set forth for adventure under the pitiless sun of the Southlands!

15 thoughts on “Why I Love the Southlands”

  1. Oh, I would dearly love to do a full 5e version of this, but there is no license for the system yet, which complicates things quite a bit.

    However, a ton of the material is useful for 5e (NPCs, adventure hooks, maps, and lore). And I might have a way to do monster conversions to 5th edition. Ask again Friday?

  2. During my childhood, after having some bad experiences in my first D&D group, I probably would have given up on Dungeons & Dragons if it hadn’t been for Al-Qadim. It’s a setting that has remained near and dear to my heart, and I’m overjoyed to see the spirit of Al-Qadim brought to the Midgard setting.

  3. The wonderful Al Qadim setting came right to my mind as well – even though I never had the opportunity to play in it, I still love it very much, from the gorgeous artwork to the imaginative descriptions of cities and wilderness to flavorful characters and creatures and adventures fitting to the theme and mood. Rumour has it that the Kobold-in-Chief had some part in that :-) I still remember the favorable review in Dragon magazine, which led me to this wonderful setting. Was that really 20 years ago?

    I´m very much looking forward to this, and so I funded this project eagerly.

    As-salamu alaykum
    (Which, sadly, remains wishful thinking for the real-world region…)

  4. I agree with Tim B. and stebehil. I fell in love with Al-Qadim in college. The strength of your work there is what led me to support Open Design in the first place. Shoot, it’s the only DnD I’m still playing.

    Now, I’ve stayed with OD and KQ for the strength of the design since then. And the customer service. Can’t forget the custom service.

    I loved Six Arabian Nights. And I’m thrilled to see a bigger focus on Arabian adventures.

  5. I hope we can look forward to a ‘Baboon Packmaster’ archetype for the new Investigator hybrid class. I’m psyched for the city of cats and the Gods expansion.

  6. Now that the expanded pantheon stretch goal has been reached, and Wolfgang himself will be doing the writeup, I’d like to make a request. Can we set aside those namby-pamby Norse gods and get some liver- and eyeball-eating, worshiped by black-hearted, nightstalking assassins, Black Company-styled living-nightmare gods? The Southlands demands no less. :)

  7. Well, I am all for that Investigator archetype, but it might be a *wee* bit specialized. :)

    The expanded pantheon will include both some Examplars of Justice and some vile Dark Gods. I’m leaning toward a bigger tent than usual. Currently the manuscript includes Yemaja, and Eshu, and Aten and Horus and Ikenga, god of seers and oracles. And various masks of Loki and Mavros.

    But I think it’s worth maybe adding Set to the list, and Selket should get some time, and so should Sekhmet (so easy to confuse!). The demon-god of thieves and wizards, Nakresh, is going to appear in the Cults series (I hope). Not sure he needs more attention here.

    Ben McFarland suggested the star gods of the Sabaeans, and I’m definitely going that direction.

    So many choices! We’ll see what I can do in the space available.

  8. Greetings, Wolfgang!

    Here is George, the Brazilian fan that spoke to you at Gen Con, checking for opportunities for you guys here at home!

    I must say that I am very impressed with this kickstarter project, and to Southlands as a whole. I am a great fan of traditional fantasy, I learned English by playing D&D and other roleplaying games that described fantastic settings, mostly based upon European myths.

    However, I also know that there are a huge number of cultures and myths that we can get inspiration to built fantastic worlds and rich sagas, and not all of them need to be related to a Eurocentric origin (here in Latin America, the myths and legends of Mayan, Aztecs and Incas are so exciting that they would fill a soucebook of their own!).

    With this in mind, I was one of the creators of a Brazilian oriental setting for d20 called Mítica: Os Caminhos do Oriente (Mythica: The Ways of the East) during the late 2000’s. This setting was inspired by oriental cultures, including legends from Indian, Tibetan and Mongolian cultures, in addition to the more “Asian-traditional” Japanese and Chinese ones.

    So, when I just saw your project and the concept behind the Southlands, I was amazed by the idea and the concept behind it. There are a lot of cultures and concepts that you can use to create a really unique setting!

    Since we have in Brazil a huge influence of African myths and legends that came to us due to the (unfortunate) slave trade during our Colonial and Imperial Ages, we have a great syncretism of religion, myths and legends that I really would like to see in a fantasy setting with a different cultural background. I really would like to give you some ideas and concepts that could enrich more your setting and this great project that you are working with.

    Once again, great job! Please consider to make a D&D 5e version of the setting as well!

    Kind regards,

    George Bonfim

  9. I would love to see a copy of Mítica: Os Caminhos do Oriente someday. Sadly, I understand not a word of Portugese beyond capirinha and feijoada.

    I agree that there’s a wide range of myths of interest: the Pathfinder Bestiary series has picked up on many. Southlands will feature some of the gods and monsters of the Yoruba and Dahomey, as well as Egyptian and Persian influences and pure fantasy items. If you have particular legends or sources you would like to share, I’d love to hear about them.

    And for 5E: We’re going to do a few conversions of Southlands (PC races, monsters), but we can’t publish a whole separate book unless there’s a license for that from Wizards. They have hinted at some kind of license, but there are no details, so for now we’re just doing enough so that people can run Southlands with 5th Edition.

  10. George, it is official. The Southlands project will get conversions of its monsters to 5th edition (likely ass. Web or PDF-only rather than print).

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