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!