Saturday, October 4, 2014

Kobold Press' Southlands Kickstarter

"If you're riding a camel, you are headed somewhere perilous.  And, you know, going somewhere perilous reminds me how I got into the business...Assassin Mountain, early days of the Arabian Nights..." - Wolfgang Baur

According to, "After a few years of working as a magazine editor for TSR, [Wolfgang] Baur was eager to write a standalone book for the company. He was eventually handed the job of creating "Assassin Mountain" for the Al-Qadim line. With just the title and topic, he was told to write a sourcebook and connected adventures.  Baur read up on assassins, including Rashid ad-Din Sinan, the Old Man of the Mountain, then gave it all a fantasy spin. When writing Assassin Mountain, Baur also did his best to put in "poetry and sentiment" — because the rich Arabian lore of Al-Qadim could be more magical and musical than the typical D&D setting...Baur has more than once said that Assassin Mountain is one of his favorite designs. However, he's also admitted that it has flaws (probably because it was his first major design)."  Baur also went on to pen another al-Qadim title, Secrets of the Lamp, focusing on the ecology of the elemental genies derived from traditional Arab and Persian folklore.

Flash forward 20 years.  Baur now runs one of the most successful third-party publishers in the fantasy RPG business: Kobold Press.  His Midgard Campaign setting was funded through a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign.  Kobold Press describes it as, "a dark world of deep magic, with seven regions flavored by the folklore of Central and Eastern Europe plus a heady dose of weird fantasy."  He's billing the scorching Southlands as the last mysterious place left in the Midgard setting.  Isn't this the perfect time to revisit his roots and to perfect the product that started everything for him?

I certainly hope so.

Why Deserts and Nomads and Genies?

I've had an obsession with Middle Eastern history since college.  After an into class that covered the region's history through 1500, I was hooked and took the class finishing its history to the present, a religion class on Islam, and two semesters of Arabic language.  I was all excited to go into Middle Eastern Studies, but then 9/11 happened and what seemed like a joyful scholarly inquiry got increasingly politicized...but I digress.  Middle Eastern history and folklore, both pre- and post-Islamic, brings so many fascinating tales to us.  There are treasures from the Abbasid caliphate like the 1,001 (or just 8) Arabian Nights with stories like Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves and Sinbad's Seven Journeys.  Persian folklore gives us less well known stories through the Shahnameh epic poem.  

When playing fantasy RPGs, we all get boring of medieval fantasy pretty quickly.  Everyone has their favorite genre and mine is inspired by the Middle East.  After I first got turned on to Pathfinder, my first full adventure purchase was Legacy of Fire, where "the heroes stop a wish-maddened warlord from raising one of the infamous Spawn of Rovagug, a living holocaust cast down millennia before? In order to do so, they'll need to brave sand, flame, and the terrors of the Outer Planes—yet the forces at work against them are limited only by the reach of their imagination. And the enemy has had thousands of years to prepare..."  I don't care that it was written for 3.5 and that I'd have to convert everything to Pathfinder to play it today.  It's a beautiful adventure path if you love the Middle East like I do.

And Golarion's Katapesh is the same way.  Unlike Osirion, which is a little more pulp Egypt or Qadira, which always seems to be forgotten as the stub of their version of the Persian Empire, Katapesh is pure, mercantile, Silk Road ancient Arabia.  And it's awesome.  In fact, Dark Markets--A Guide to Katapesh is without a doubt my favorite campaign setting sourcebook to date.  So, the Southlands Kickstarter has a lot of competition to live up to already.

Midgard Campaign Setting: Southlands Kickstarter

Let's take a look at what the folks at Kobold Press are offering us with their Southlands Kickstarter.  It's running through October 18th.  Full disclosure: I'm already all in and getting copies of the core book, the adventures, and the bestiary (when it makes.  I know it will!).  Therefore, I have a very strong vested interest in you getting in on the action too!

Fortunately, even before you look at what's included in the Kickstarter, take a look at the vast amount of material that Kobold Press is leaking as teaser articles.  Most importantly, they've released a major preview document on  They also have a piece about the sentient jungle of Kush and the cities of the Southlands, They've also thrown up a few Southlands-focused of their collections of curiosities articles for things found at the oasis and things under a pile of bones.  Finally, they've given us some idea-piquing trinkets on a couple different pages.

The Loot

First, they are promising a full-color sourcebook that features both campaign setting gazetteer materials like information on the titan-ruled land of Omphaya and the sorceress who rules Ligna.  There are also player options like new classes & archetypes such as the blind archer, the lotus magician, and the weret hekau.  There's also info about deities/masks of deities.  There will also be traits related to various locations and various races native to the Southlands.  They aren't mentioned, but I'm sure the usual cadre of feats, spells, and magic items will appear as well.

The core book will also include a Bestiary, which will contain all the newest desert and Middle Eastern monsters to be had!  It will be made into a standalone book if they attract 600 or more backers.  (Bonus: They are at 568 at the time I'm writing this with 14 days to go, so I think it's a safe bet they'll make it).  They are also taking submissions from backers at a certain level (though paying to submit your design work for publication feels a little bit backwards).

They are also updating a collection of old adventures, Eight Arabian Nights.  They are also adding new adventure content as certain stretch goals, including an adventure by one of my favorite authors, Amber Scott as their next stretch goal  (Amber is one of my favorites first because I think her adventures read like her also fun to read fiction and also because she uses Excel tables when designing adventures to ensure that there is just the right amount of XP in her adventure to level up the party at proper points.  She talks about this in an episode of Know Direction).  

There will also be leatherbound editions of the books for those who are interested and they are going to strike some commemorative coins.  

More interesting (though prohibitively costly at $2,000) is Through the Red Portal, "a lorebook that addresses the history and lost magic of the first wizards and god-kings, describe some of their peculiar talents, and offers a glimpse behind the masks of the gods of Midgard. It makes great reading for anyone looking for an undead necromancer-king, a mummy struck by divine madness, or the curse of the eldest theurge."  Alas, they will not be making a PDF either.  GMs will have to dream up our own miraculous acts performed by the powerful first wizards and god-kings that ruled the Southlands millenia ago.

Strech Goals?  Boy do they have 'em!

The project funded at $16,000 within five hours or so.  So now it's on to extra content!  Not source material, but there are forums unlocked where fans will be able to comment on content as its being developed.  Right now they are only for high-level donors, but the more that sign on, the more widely the forums will be opened.  What else do we have so far?  

  • Campaign setting material
    • Bastet, the Goddess-Huntress and her cult
    • The Emerald Order, some apparently naughty people that have made off with some fantastically powerful emerald tablets
    • A Floating Village, delivered by Paizo's Adam Daigle
    • Full descriptions of gods and goddesses in the Southlands' pantheon
    • The Hand of Nakresh, dedicated to fulfilling the commands of "the simian god of wizards and thieves."
    • The Lost City of the Serpent Crown
    • Lotus Magic: A new magic system native to the Southlands
    • Mardas Vhula-Gai, a lost city infested with gnolls and goblins
    • Per-Bestet, the City of Cats
    • Ramag, a kingdom full of dangerous portals
  • Adventures
    • Tomb of the Elephant God, by Mike Shel, added to the Eight Arabian Nights
  • Setting-neutral material
    • Advanced Races: Aasimar
    • Advanced Races: Gnolls (we all knew this was coming eventually, Kickstarter or no, because they are, as Wolfgang says, "Badass.")
    • Advanced Races: Jinnborn (though it appears with much Midgard-specific info as well)
    • Hero Lab files (Yay!)
I'm sure there will be more added over the next two weeks and I'll try to update this page if work and law school demands make that possible.  But, either way, I'll be keeping track of the Southlands Kickstarter page and hoping to see it hit as many stretch goals as it can.

Did I miss any of the articles anywhere about the Kickstarter?  Have some been added since this post went up?  Did you like or hate this teaser?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Take a Survey, win a free GenCon Badge!

Not from me!  I can barely afford to go to Gen Con on my own, much less be offering other people badges.  But, the Gen Con organizers can and they are!  They are looking to get feedback on the 2014 show so that they can plan for an even better 2015 show.  The survey went live on September 30th and it's available for a limited (but, alas, undisclosed) time.  They've also promised at least one more survey by the end of 2014.  So, go tell them what you think!

While your at it, tell me what you think.  Leave a comment below!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

DC Gameday XV

If you're local to the metro DC area, I highly encourage you to check out DC Gameday XV.  DC Gameday happens twice a year in March and October and represents one of my favorite things to do in gaming: play random games that you can't really play without a huge gamer crew.  Oh sure, there will be Pathfinder and D&D games, but you can find one of those anywhere.  I want to use my Gameday to play random ass games.

Games are posted as GMs offer to run them and are listed on the site.  Best of all, because almost all of the games are obscure, GMs tend to offer them as 'come as you are without any system knowledge' games.  So, if you want to try something new, this is totally the place to do it!

It takes place over the weekend of October 25-26.  There are morning and afternoon gaming slots.  Each lasts for four hours.  They also have a big social event on Saturday evening, if you're not being consumed by law school shenanigans like I normally am.  Anyway, registration opens on Friday, October 10 at 8:00 p.m.  And do register at 8:00 p.m.--slots in good games fill up fast.  I was considering offering to GM a 13th Age game, but it looks like someone's already going to do that.  So, I can PLAY 13th Age!!

When I went last spring, I only got to go on Saturday, but got a chance to check out Monsterhearts for the first time and to play a Numenera game in the afternoon.  I'd never played Monsterhearts before--it has easy mechanics and can easily be exported to just about any system.  The system is based on Apocalypse World, but was designed to better explore issues related to sex and different sexuality.  In the classic Monsterhearts setting, you have a turn on mechanic that means that another character may be able to sexually excite your character--even if you don't want them to!  The game we played was loosely based upon the movie Casablanca.  I even got to play a fantastic piano player--who has supernatural powers derived from a deal he made with the devil.

Apocalypse World is a tremendously flexible system.  In fact, there's a Kickstarter closing TODAY called the Spirit of '77 that's also based on it.  What's the Spirit of '77 you ask?  "Spirit of 77 is a role-playing game based on 70’s pop culture – glam music, grindhouse action films, kung-fu, weird science and revved up race-cars on lone highways, outracing Smokey and the Man!"  So, basically it's awesome.  And, the website has a preview adventure posted: The Cruise Ship of the Damned.  They've also taken the time to create a soundtrack of rockin' 70s tunes on Spotify that are supposed to go well with the game.  Perhaps I will offer to GM that one!

500 Pageviews!

At only 6 weeks old, the blog's hit 500 page views!  Now, some of those are definitely me clicking through things (anti-cookie tools also stop Blogger from ignoring my page views), but I'm definitely nowhere near 500 of them!  And, I'm happy that my most popular post isn't just a review of someone else's product--it's my actual thoughts about armor (even if simplified).

Time to aim for 1,000 page views!  Oh, and my first comment would be nice! (hint, hint)  Tell me what you like so I can post about it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Courts gettin' all up in your nerdery! (And a secret campaign setting)

Mark Strauss has a great article over at io9 about 10 geekly debates that had to be settled in federal court.  It also includes one of my favorite (if wrongly decided) RPG-related cases, Singer v. Raemisch, which establishes that prisoners lack First Amendment rights to play Dungeons & Dragons because D&D players represent a security risk.  You D&D players out there are apparently a security risk.  You see, "if left unchecked, D & D could lead to gang behavior among inmates and undermine prison security in the future." (593 F.3d 529 (7th 2010))

"[T]he prison officials provided the court with a plausible explanation for the D & D policy, that the game's structure (especially its control by the Dungeon Master) mimicked that of gangs,...a rigid hierarchical leadership structure." (Id. at 536-37)  This statement clearly demonstrates that the 7th Circuit fundamentally does not understand the dynamics between players and GMs.  Most players I know would be far more likely to join a gang directed against the GM than they would to join one against the prison as a whole.  Admittedly, I'm not on frequent speaking terms with a lot of federal prisoners though.

Perhaps the most important part of the case from my point of view occurs in the first paragraph of the Background section.  The court tells us, "His enthusiasm for D & D is such that he has handwritten a ninety-six page manuscript outlining the specific details of a "campaign setting" he developed for use in D & D gameplay."  (Id. at 532)  That's right.  There is a campaign setting out there designed by a federal prison inmate.

Best of all, that 96-page campaign setting was also entered into the docket for the District Court level trial that was being appealed to the 7th Circuit.  That case was Singer v. Frank, 2007 WL 2220209 (E.D. Wis. 2007).  So, not only was this setting created, but it's also in the docket for the case.  I haven't been able to pull the electronic filing yet, but you can bet I will!