The Midderlands Expanded Preview

 

Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design has very kindly given me a copy of the work in progress The Midderlands Expanded, which is currently on Kickstarter. So in return here’s a quick preview.

What is the Midderlands?

Put concisely its the slightly grimdark, slightly tongue in cheek version of medieval Britain that goes through collectively our imaginations as we visit the many historical sites peppered around this Green and Plesant Land of ours. The first book,  a full-colour hardcover, weighing in at 200+ pages A5, The Midderlands zooms in on the fantasy version of the area that Glynn lives in the West Midlands (Midlands to Midderlands get it?). Its one half setting guide and one-half bestiary of various goblin folk and spiky and foul creatures. It oozes playability and flavour and is copiously illustrated and has attendant maps throughout. While it uses the freely available Swords and Wizardry ruleset, which in turn is based on original D&D, it’s easily usable with the fantasy system of your choice.

If you didn’t get the original book you can pick it up as one of the pledge levels in this Kickstarter.

This New book: Midderlands Expanded

I could be lazy and say, come on its more of the same! But I’ll break it down a bit.

  • Guide to the Havenlands. One thing the original book immediately left me thinking about was what the rest of Havenlands (the wider Fantasy Britain) was like. Well, this section answers that, detailing both the land and its rulers (the Dukes and Duchess). It also looks at the islands overseas neighbours, such as the fearsome Serpent Lands.
  • NPCs. Several fully statted NPCs to drop in your Midderlands game, and some quick notable personages for the rest of the Havenlands.
  • More Creatures. Tentacled Middergloom horrors, Trolls, and more things of general spikeyness abound in this section.
  • The Witchfinder. Want to hunt witches, elves and creatures of the night, generally bringing an atmosphere of fear and anxiety to any village or town you visit? Now you can with this Swords and Wizardry character class.
  • Oddities. A collection of more magic items, and just downright odd special items.
  • Adventures and Adventure Hooks. The Midderlands has its own style, which is not exclusively dungeon crawling, and there is a large section showing this. This book adds a creepy horror adventure location in the form of the Rat Dog Inn, expands upon the rocky outcrop of land known as Brig Tor, and gives seven adventure outlines.

As well as the book itself the Kickstarter also includes a full A2 map of the Havenlands, a GM screen and a Dice Drop Card (or Gloomioom Randomiser Card as Glynn colourfully calls it).

Overall. The Midderlands is a living breathing imaginary version of Fantasy Medieval Britain, with a good dollop of uplifting humour that makes it a fun and easy read. The production values of the first book where high, not only because of the layout, illustrations and cartography but because Glynn choose to use a printing house rather than print on demand. I know he plans to do the same again here. I fully recommend the new book from what I’ve seen in the preview, not only based upon the high standards of the first book but as a wider zoom out on the setting overall and the all the extra meat that it adds to the original.

#midderlandsartbook

Behold the Muckus!

It is a little-known fact that the bloodshot eyes on the cover of the Muckus version of The Midderlands, are googly-eyed Glenn’s (creator of the book) own. You see every time he goes out and in Midderlands parlance “Gets Bladdered” on a special gloomium ale (known as Green Monster) at the local tavern, he wakes up the next morning with bulging bloodshot eyes. Quickly he pops them out and puts them in a jar kept by his bedside for this purpose. New eyes have fully grown by around lunchtime, while the red eyes have been inserted into the leather cover. See how the red eyes (which includes Glynn’s rather swollen third eye – which pre-Green Monster bingeing is hidden behind his heavy set brow) glowers accusingly at his current set of eyes for all the proof you need in the world.

While the Muckus edition was a high-end Kickstarter reward, you can pre-order the regular version of Monkey Blood Design.

Green is the new Black!

Rejoice fellow OSRians, Glynn Seal’s (aka Monkey Blood Design) The Midderlands, as previously Kickstarted and supported by this here blog, has been released;

As a stretch goal for the Kickstarter I promised a Crypts & Things Conversion Guide, so you could use the Midderlands (which uses Swords and Wizardry as its base) without much fuss with C&T.

I’ve just finished the conversion guide, which is on its way for proofing/checking before a quick layout and release as a freebie via DriveThruRpg.com and the D101 Webstore, which I anticipate will be sometime next week.

In the meantime, he’s a quick excerpt from the C&T Conversion Guide.

Gloomium

Gloomium is everywhere in the Midderlands. It seeps up from the Middergloom, an ambiguous underworld below the Midderlands. It is toxic and corrupting. It is green in colour and is the source of much strangeness, corruption and twisted magic. This section explains how gloomium works in the context of Crypts & Things magic system.

As a Source of Khaos

Crypt Keepers should assume that the seepage of gloomium is the source of Khaos monsters and mutations, for games set in The Midderlands.

Corruption

Whilst in the Midderlands, use the Gloom-touched rules (Midderlands page 10 and 11), instead of the standard Crypts and Things Corruption table on page 64 of Crypts & Things.

Green is the Brightest Colour of Magic!

While in the Midderlands there is only two colours of magic; Green and Colourless.

Green is the magic of gloomium; it’s harmful, toxic and glows a malignant shade of luminous green when cast. It causes corruption when cast, using the rules on page 84 of Crypts & Things. All the spells on the Black Magic spell lists (see page 50 of Crypts & Things) are Green.

In addition, the following new spells from the Midderlands are Green Magic spells:

Curse of Old Hobb, Gloomium Shield, Middergloom Missiles, Morgontula’s Vomit.

Colourless magic is everything else (i.e. Spells from the Grey and White Lists). It does not have a colour when cast and its effects are usually boringly beneficial or utilitarian in nature.

What Did That Do? (see Midderlands page 74) is a colourless spell.

While in the Midderlands ignore The Summons of Evil rules for casting beneficial (white) magic.

Also, ignore the rules for Blood Magic (unless you are using The Others from Crypts and Things or a similar body of Demonic beings who provide magic for blood sacrifice).

Sorcerer’s Magic Sensitivity to Gloomium

Gloomium is green-hot, radioactive stuff as far as a Sorcerer’s magic sensitivity ability (see page 23 of Crypts & Things) is concerned. It drives many Sorcerers ‘up to the wall’, with the constant throbbing of the temples when their magic sense is triggered by a pool of the green stuff in some swamp, or from a creeping feeling of unease because the house they are lodging in is built over a large gloomium deposit. This does have the benefit of sorcerors being great at finding gloomium.

Using Gloomium to Regain Magic

Since gloomium is nasty raw magical stuff, sorcerer’s may regain magic by ingesting it. This is a particularly dangerous and insane practice which is not recommended by the Royal College.

The procedure is thus:

For each ‘gulp’ of gloomium, a sorcerer regains one level of cast spell and loses 1d6 hit points, from the toxic and corrosive nature of the substance, and upon a failed Sanity Roll loses 1d6 sanity points.  It takes one combat round to take a gulp. They also glow bright glowing green for the number of gulps you took in days. All these effects add to each other, so for example, if you take four gulps you take 4d6 hit points of damage and potentially lose 4d6 Sanity if you fail your Sanity Test and you can remember up to a fourth Level spell or any combination of spells whose levels.

For example, Ned the Anxious, a rather foolish apprentice of the Royal College, finds himself in a spot of bother in Cairn Chase Forest. About to be skinned alive by some rather Unmerry Men, and out of spells, he decides to take two gulps of gloomium, from a readily-prepared flask of the substance. This takes him two rounds, during which time the Unmerry Men close on him and fire off bows. In round three, the gloomium kicks off. He takes 2d6 Hit Points damage, rolling a four and a five for nine points of damage, and successfully makes his sanity roll – so keeps hold of his mind. With his innards burning from the liquid, he rememorizes the 2nd Level Spell Web and wastes no time in firing off a sticky web of green stuff at the Unmerry Men. If he had not been so worried, he could have taken his time firing off one Magic Missile this round, and another the round after (two first level spells equalling 2 levels of spells remembered as allowed by two glups). If he survives, he will glow bright luminous green for the next 1d10 days, making sneaking about and hiding very difficult and becoming a magnet for any nearby witch hunter.

Into the Midderlands

A quick recommendation/preview here from me.

OSR Map maker supremo and all round nice guy Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design is Kickstarting his Midderlands Book.  This is a setting/creature book with a short adventure, which comes bundled with a gorgeous large map of the setting. The Midderlands is a fictional medieval fantasy version of the lands around were Glynn lives in English Midlands region.

Here’s the preview vid in all its green glory.

This book is going to be a 300+ hardcover, comparable in content and form to such OSR classics like Lamentations of the Flame Princess’s Carcosa and Red and Pleasant Land. But that a lazy comparison once you start delving into the content itself.

And what content it is. First, of its all clearly and logically presented, despite the spiky green theme that runs through the book. It would have been very tempting to present this as a ‘messy’ thing, especially with the huge dollops of Monty Python/Black Adder (tending towards the black humour of the later) that pepper the text. No Glynn has resisted that urge and has kept everything tidy and neat. It’s both highly enjoyable read, from what little I’ve have had the pleasure to read of the ‘nearly done’ draft he was so kind to provide me with for this preview. It’s also, and this matters at my gaming/scenario creation table, an easy to use reference book.

I’ll refer you to the Kickstart itself for a breakdown of the book itself. Since Glynn does a much better job than I could myself (with full page spreads), but my highlights from my skim so far are the numerous race as character classes, that cover the various species of goblins and other slimy/spiky things covered in the creatures chapter.  I can easily see myself running a short campaign or convention game based upon an adventuring group of these monsters.

As a Kickstarter project, I can firmly recommend this. It’s logically consistent, the price is right for what you are getting, and the stretch goals are focused on the book itself rather than endless additional supplements, which delay delivery. This book is ready to go, and the funds go straight funding production of a print run.