Review of Midgard Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empire by Kobold Press

Review of Midgard Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empires by Kobold Press

Every branch of the Dungeons & Dragons family-tree, from the “core” Editions made by TSR and WotC, Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG, and the myriad OSR games, all have one thing in common: a need for a user-friendly campaign setting. Whether the campaign setting is bought from the original game publisher, or a variant from a 3PP, or even a home-brewed world, campaign settings are more than the necessary locale where heroes explore and battle terrible monsters. They are an essential inspiration for both the game master and the players, providing a spark of creativity for adventure design, and for bringing to life heroes which not only capture the players’ concepts but are a real part of the campaign setting itself.

Just a few weeks ago, I reviewed a Pathfinder campaign setting that had, quite literally, been decades in the making: The Midgard Campaign Setting by Wolfgang Baur. Those familiar with Mr. Baur’s writings in Kobold Quarterly and other products from Open Design know that the setting blends many different elements of high fantasy with inspirations from our own mundane folklore and legends.


Published by Kobold Press, a series of supplemental products have been released to support the Midgard Campaign Setting, and provide players with additional character-building material to more fully bind their heroes into the very heart of the campaign setting. One of these supplements offers players to create characters who originate in the Dragon Empire, a realm where ancient dragons rule, and its most powerful nobles bear the blood of dragonkind.

Midgard Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empires

  • Designer: Adam Roy
  • Illustrations: Aaron Miller (cover); Guido Kuip, Lucas Haley, Marc Radle, and Russ Nicholson
  • Layout: Erik Nowak
  • Publisher: Wolfgang Baur (Kobold Press)
  • Year: 2012
  • Media: PDF (31 pages)
  • Price: $4.99 (PDF available from the RPGNow)
The Midgard Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empires is a supplement for the Midgard Campaign Setting designed for the Pathfinder RPG system. The supplement provides detailed information about the Dragon Empire as well as character-building content to create heroes and NPCs which come from these lands. In addition to background history, there are more than 40 new Traits and 24 new Feats uniquely designed for making characters hailing from the Dragon Empire. The author also provides seven new Archetypes, a new spellcasting School, and a new Mystery for oracles. There are more than a dozen new spells which originate in the Dragon Empire, and exotic mundane and magic items from this strange new realm.

Production Quality

The overall production quality of Midgard Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empires is very good, with excellent writing and a well-designed layout, making the content easy to read and comprehend. Important information is highlighted in boxed text, and rules content, such as feats and spells, are formatted in ways instantly familiar to Pathfinder and d20 gamers. There is both a table of contents and PDF bookmarks for easy referencing of the material in the supplement.However, the quality of the art is a mixed bag, but in general I would label it as at least “good”. The cover art is vibrant and beautifully rendered, and very evocative of the lands described in the Dragon Empire. But it is the interior illustrations that are the mixed lot, and I found myself captivated by the detailed clack and white sketches, but less than thrilled with the couple of full color pieces in the Midgard Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empires. There are also a number of coats of arms scattered in the supplement, and they were well rendered and quite striking additions to work.

An Empire where Dragons rule…

The Midgard Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empires is loosely divided into three sections, and although there is no chapter break to note their ending, it does not mar the reading experience over much. However, some material covered in the first section seems more appropriate for the second section, but the supplement does seem to flow quite nicely from one topic to the next.

In the first section of the book, the author covers the history of the Dragon Empire, from the land’s earliest pre-history and myth, to the rise of the empire as a conquering nation designed to bring wealth to its ancient dragon overlords. From there, the author turns to current history and governmental structure, giving the players information on the nobility and politics in the realm:
The newest ruler of the Mharoti Empire is the cruel and cunning Sultana Casmara Azrabahir. The charismatic and youthful sultana stands a mere five feet tall, but her blue-streaked ebon tresses betray her blue dragon heritage. Her rule is new and fragile, but clearly she has the confidence and the ruthlessness to command the Dragon Empire.

The overall “feel” of the culture combines aspects of ancient Persian and medieval Turkish societies, with a fantastical twist. The Dragon Empire is indeed a land filled with dragons and dragon-kind, and its ruling classes all bear some heritage of a draconic bloodline.Additionally, the Dragon Empire has a caste system, with the lowest caste being made up of any creatures of non-draconic blood, which includes humans and demi-humans, as well as monster species like gnolls ogres and giants. Not surprisingly, kobolds are a rung up from the lowest caste, having enough dragon blood in them to make them better than humans. (What else would be expected from a publisher named Kobold Press?) At the very top of the caste system is the ruling elite – ancient dragons who care only about the expansion of the empire and the accumulation of their mounds of treasure gained through war and conquest.

The first section ends with character-building content, that I would have expected to see in the second section, along with the class material. The supplement contains new traits that can be chosen for characters whom were born and raised in the Dragon Empire. There are seven combat, five religious, five magical, six social, and twenty racial traits which can be used to build PCs and NPCs, although a large share of these are designed for dragonkin and kobold characters, or those characters with draconic bloodlines. In addition, there are also 24 new feats usable by many classes, but again are mostly designed for draconic characters. Not surprisingly, there are also tips for playing dragonkin hailing from the Dragon Empire, who would get considerable use from the traits and feats mentioned above. Please note, dragonkin here are not the same as the Pathfinder Campaign Setting monster, but a humanoid race somewhat similar to the D&D 4E dragonborn, and found in the Midgard Campaign Setting and other related releases. And there are even suggestions on how to play monstrous characters in the Dragon Empire, taking the form of low CR drakes such as pseudodragons and candle drakes.

The second section of the book contains options for characters including seven new archetypes for characters from the Dragon Empire, including ones like the Order of the Firedrake (Cavalier Archetype), Monk of the Fiery Fist (Monk Archetype), Greyscales (Rogue Archetype). There is also a new Oracle Mystery (Mystery of the Void), a new Elemental Arcane School (Void Elementalist), and a new Prestige Class called a Dragon Emir. The Dragon Emir is a very potent new PC, the warrior elite of the Dragon Empire’s armies, and given a broad range of powers to “inspire and rally” allies – and potential ride dragons and dragonkind into combat.This section rounds of with more than a dozen new spells for arcane casters of the Dragon Empire. New spells from this region include Dragonskin, Coin Swarm, Wyvern’s Sting, and a more powerful version of floating disk called Treasure Disk.

The final section of the Midgard Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empires takes a look at the unusual, rare, and exotic trade goods and magic items found in the Dragon Empire. The author discusses everything from unusual animal pets and servant-beasts such as winged apes and oliphaunts, food and drink favored by draconic species like basilisk hearts, and even gear specifically used by dragons and draconic species such as fang razors to increase bite damage, levitation bands to make dragons fly faster, and tail razors to make a swipe more deadly. Magic items include minor types, like a dragonclaw blade forged from the nail shavings of a dragon’s claws, and more powerful items such as a magical carpet that teleports its user to another place.

Overall Score
: 3.9 out of 5.0

Conclusions

In a final conclusion, I find that I really like the Midgard Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empires, and I think it really adds a lot of cool content to develop Pathfinder RPG characters in the setting. There is some great inspirational material for both GMs and players, and a ton of really awesome new feats, traits, spells, and archetypes to make heroes from the Dragon Empire really stand out among adventurers. I also think that Kobold Press is making a really smart move here in offering this player-based content in an a la carte fashion. This allows GMs and players using the Midgard Campaign Setting for their Pathfinder game to pick and choose which realms they want to create characters from, and where the focus of a campaign might take place.

Overall, the price is very reasonable for all the content contained in the Midgard Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empires, and might be inspirational to Pathfinder GMs building their own worlds and want to add a very unique realm ruled by dragons and dragonkind!So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming! Editor’s Note: This Reviewer received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.

Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)

  • Presentation: 3.5
  • - Design: 3.5 (Great writing; cool layout but material seemed out of place in at least one section)
  • - Illustrations: 3.5 (Very beautiful cover; great line art interior illustrations, but full color renderings disappointing.)
  • Content: 4.25
  • - Crunch: 4.5 (Very imaginative new classes and archetypes; cool spells and magic items too!)
  • - Fluff: 4.0 (Intriguing content here; plenty of inspirational material for character development and role-playing)
  • Value: 4.0 (Whether a fan of Midgard or not, tons of cool stuff in here for only a few bucks!)
Afterthought: Once again, I wanted to make sure and throw a shout out for the event coming up later this month called International TableTop Day! It’s sponsored by Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry channel, and it’s promoting to make March 30th as a day to spend with family, friends, and other gamers everywhere playing table-top games! Check it out!
 

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