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Southlands Campaign Setting (PFRPG)

***** (based on 5 ratings)
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The Southlands: Realm of Mystery and Adventure!

Southlands Campaign Setting offers everything you need to have legendary adventures in a sprawling continent of wealthy desert empires, demon-haunted jungles, and vast savannahs where gnolls and werelions hunt.

Featuring the talents of Wolfgang Baur (Midgard Campaign Setting, Al-Qadim), Ben McFarland (Streets of Zobeck) and Brian Suskind, this 300-page setting book includes:

  • New character options for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, with five new PC races—Gnolls, Kijani, Nkosi, Tosculi and Trollkin—plus seven minor races
  • New magic items and spells, from flying carpets to lotus magic and hieroglyph magic
  • New foes, perilous locations and deadly hazards, including the Orcs of the Green Abyss, the Corrupted Pyramid of Khensu, the Sorcerers of Nangui, and mummified monkey swarms
  • The many gods and demons of the Southlands: Anu-Akma , Ogun, Thoth-Hermes, Eshu, Set and more
Here are enough kingdoms, treasures, monsters and adventure hooks to provide years of gaming in the deserts, jungles and tropical mountains. Use Southlands with the Midgard Campaign Setting, or bring its cities, lore, creatures, and characters to any campaign.

Chosen as one of the Top 10 of 2016 by Endzeitgeist!
"One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, Southlands is a thoroughly inspired, brilliant and creative campaign setting that breathes the glorious spirit of Midgard, that takes a bow to real world mythology and that feels concise, almost novel-like in its superbly evocative prose. Southlands is absolutely superb in every way."

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Product Reviews (5)

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***** (based on 5 ratings)

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An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This massive campaign setting-style book clocks in at 302 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 4 pages of ToC, 2 pages of KS-backer thanks, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 290 pages of raw content, so let's take a look!

I was a (hesitant) backer for this book's KS, but otherwise unaffiliated with the production of this massive tome. My book is mainly based on the print version, though the electronic version was consulted for the purpose of determining electronic functionality of e.g. bookmarks and the like.

What do I mean by "hesitant"? Okay, before we dive into this book's subject matter, a brief history lesson: I consider myself a pretty faithful fan of Kobold Press, ever since it was Open Design -I own literally every supplement and even have, back when I actually wasn't dirt poor, acted as a high-level-patron to get my very own special, unique module. I *really* like Midgard and the evocative potential Kobold press brings to the table. Alas, Deep Magic, the previous big book, was a heartbreaking exercise for me (see my review of that book) and it took, frankly, quite some prodding to dive in. I had a minor windfall and invested that, back in the day, in this book, as a kind of "make it or break it"-test. Did it pay off? Let's see!

The Midgard campaign setting's allure, so far, did lie primarily in its dark fantasy Germanic/Slavic flair, somewhat expanded upon by the Argonaut-style adventuring in the Journeys-books, but yeah - the focus was arguably euro-centric and thus, I was very much interested to see how the respective mythologies and power-dynamics would interact with the massive Southlands. The first thing you'll notice, though, is that the structure and organization of this book eclipses that of Deep Magic by leaps and bounds: We begin this book with a deatiled history of the Southlands - and it is a glorious read.

No, really - I mean that - the history as presented already takes you right into this book's world; it's prose is evocative and makes you remember immediately what you wanted, what you craved in fantastical settings. Still, this is the general history, the time-line. The book also is suffused by small sideboxes, where an in-character narrator provides quotes as a guide and adventure hooks/bucket-lists for adventurers for the respective regions can be found. The book also provides 5 general, new races that can be found throughout the Southlands: Gnolls, Trollkin, Tosculi (see the advanced races-installment for more on the wasp-people), Nkosi (feline shape-changer humanoids) and Kijani (plant humanoids that seek to become mammalian). The races themselves are pretty powerful (plant-immunities, for example), but not excessively so - they should work within the context of most fantasy games, though, if your gunning for gritty gameplay, you may want to take a close look at them. An innovation used here for the first time (for the tosculi exclusively) and later expanded in the Advanced Races Compendium is advice on racial scaling - so yes, you can scale down the tosculi by a bit, though imho the race does not require this in all but the grittiest of games. On a nitpicky side, some races are "lopsided" with attribute bonuses allocated to physical attributes, so if you're like me and prefer your races with a strong suit in both physical and mental attributes, that may be something to be aware of.

It should be noted that ethnicities of regular races as well as age, height and weight tables are part of the deal here. Now the interesting component here, ultimately, does not lie in the crunch (though it is significantly more solid - kudos to the authors! The intriguing component, however, would be the seamless and smart integration of literally thousands of years of history within the mythology of Midgard as a whole - whether it's the origin of Boreas, the frigid northern wind and the tie to the survivors of sunken Ankheshel or Umbuso, the ancient empire of titans, fleeing from the domains of Wotan - the most intriguing aspect here is that this massive continent of pure historicity manages to weave its meta-narrative seamlessly into the overall context of Midgardian mythology, extending the diversity and organic feeling of the world by leaps and bounds. An interesting component is also how mythic rules are handled - as a basic tenet, they are considered to be the effects of remnants of divinity sparks, left behind by fallen pantheons and titans, which provides a nice in-game rationale for the existence of powers like that.

Now, it is after this that we focus on the first overall region, which would be Nuria Natal, the eternal realm - Nuria Natal, at first glance, seems very much like the pseudo-Egyptian realm, but it is distinct from e.g. Osirion and Khemit or similar realms in several key aspects, the first of which is the focus on the river that defines it - springing from a planar rift of the world-tree Yggdrasil, it blends the mythologies of the Nile and Midgardian theology in a truly distinct and unique vision. Similarly, the trope of undying godkings has a twist that goes far beyond what you'd expect - the legendary rulers of the land, semi-divinities and halfgods, have achieved a sense of immortality and may return from the grave to vanquish the foes of Nuria Natal, thus also explaining why the powerful, draconic sultanate Mharoti has failed to conquer this powerful nation. Similarly, the gods, while utilizing the themes of real world mythologies, never feel like simple carbon adaptations of real-world mythology, instead acting as a properly woven-in essential component of the vista portrayed.

Nowhere does this become more apparent than in Per-Bastet, the city of the everlasting cat, home of the deity...and basically a modern metropolis seen through the lens of the fantastic: A distinct patriotism unifies the quarters and their diverse residents, which contains gnolls and catfolk in abundance alongside werelions; from planar alleyways to a churning river of elemental-inhabited sand making its way through the chaotic jumble of the metropolis, the influence of Bastet, her church, the god-queen and her agents or the vampiric masterminds in the shadows, the vision of a true melting pot of fantastic ethnicities resonates with a character one usually only ascribes to real world cities. The writing here is impeccable and, much like the entries on a certain city and its necropolis, the staggering panorama extends in its quality throughout the whole chapter - from sandships as a vehicle-modification to a well-written ecology of the mummy (with ample variants and death curses), this chapter is abask in inspired writing and makes the places jump forth from the pages - whether they be the aforementioned places or the Ghatazi salt pits or the dreaded city of Per-Anu, devoted to ending lives in all manner of ways. The church of Aten and its diverse teachings, variant mummies, a city of undead and 4 archetypes (including archetypes for Theurge and White Necromancer) as well as a 10-level-PrC complement this chapter. While not universally awesome and sporting some minor deviations in rules-language, the content herein still is rather solid and well-ingrained within the context of the world. The book also sports multiple nice traits for further customization. The book also sports a HUGE number of hieroglyphs - these work akin to how rune magic or ankeshellian glyph magic work - and, while powerful, their limitations per associated cult do offer a rather easy way for the GM to control their availability - want that trick only followers of Anu-Akma have? Well, you better buckle up and join that organization!

The second, massive chapter details the nation under the auspice of the remaining wind lords, the same entities that sent Boreas packing with his aspirations of genocide - but that does not mean these eternal lords of the lands are kind - far from it. Their description very much makes clear that these elemental spirits do not adhere to the same morality as mortals. It is also in this domain that the twin lands of the gnolls (with a delightfully nasty gnoll-tactics sidebar) can be found. What do I mean by these? Well, here's an entry: "Three words: leucrotta sorceror chieftain." If you're like me, this made you grin from ear to ear. The pages chronicling these harsh regions also tell of a depressed sphinx and her honor guard watching over the verdant ruins of a fallen empire and of the fate of Roshgazi, minotaur-nation and Catharge-equivalent - the nation has been razed to the ground by Mharot's might, but in the ruins of this place, the sentient maze still draws visitors inside, hoping for salvation...before its other personality comes to the surface - and the "Broken" does not take kindly to intruders...

Goblin-occupied Mardas Vula with its black pyramid still exerts a lure on others and, wandering the sands, a colossal dire camel prophet sports howdah-like gnoll-encampments. The jinnborn race hearkens back to the genasi or planetouched and can be pictured as the elemental-themed mortals and the race sports quite a diverse and well-crafted array of options, including limited protection versus one's element, endure elements and elemental blasts that can be upgraded via feats. That being said, this is very much a strong race, stronger than the "core"-races of the book, so take care when using them. At the same time, I thoroughly enjoyed their unique psychology and culture...but still. At their pretty high power-level, I wished more abilities were alternate racial traits instead of jamming all those abilities into the base frame of the race. The archetypes here are interesting - an elemental-themed paladin, gnoll caravan raiders and janni-calling summoners can be found and a PrC depicting the elite guard of aforementioned sphinx priestess is part of the deal. The chapter, like those before and after, also sports several unique spells and magic items - the latter of which deserve special mention, after all, we get an enchanted bed of nails and several unique carpets. One belt should be eyed very carefully, as it lets you pilot willing outsiders, fusing your body with them, which is exceedingly powerful when not handled with care.

Beyond the dominion of the wind lords, the book finds its full-blown stride with the high jungles, where access to the fabled well of urd can be found, as powerful aeromancers guard the Black Lotus Mesa as intelligent white apes afflicted with arcane wasting prowl the jungles. More unique and perhaps one of the most awesome and disturbing components of the whole book would be the fact that an Old One, verdant and all-consuming, ever-growing, extends its tendril'd reach beyond the confines, ever seeking to mutate and grow - it should then come as no surprise that the nation of Kush has, in efforts to stem the tide, turned to all manners of magicks most dark - but it may not be enough, as the corrupted Kijani that couldn't escape its influence spread spore pods far and wide, creating horrid tendril slaves. The chapter also is a JOY to read due to an actually neat aeromancer archetype and, more than that, due to the vast array of hazards and the 8 lotus-types, which act as addictive, yes...but they also serve as powerful power components. This chapter is twisted, inspired and absolutely glorious.

The kingdoms of salt and steel, bustling and defined by commerce - here, the land of serpent-scholars beckons, while in the land of ancients, the living reliquaries roam. This section is not only brilliant for its take on themes usually not represented - a royal mythic naga lich rules over Ankhrimari, while the Narumbeki legions with their battle tactics and unique combat options represent a powerful militaristic force - the themes evoked here are seldom seen, borrowing heavily from Africa's mythologies, with magical masks and awesome incantations sweetening the deal, while powerful combat divinations make for a unique and compelling magical tradition.

On the Corsair Coast, the holy city Shuruppak beckons, while the city of Sar-Shaba contains horrific demonic legions, warded and sealed await intrepid adventurers. The fabulously wealthy island nation of Shibai and wicked corsairs can be found...but there is also the happiest land, Kesara, realm of the saffron rajah, where everyone smiles - a smile of desperation and fear, for the tyrannic rajah of the land is capricious and nasty indeed - a realm devoted to the decadence of the horrible rakshasa master that sits bloated on its throne. Fiercely meritocratic lion kingdoms of Omphaya, led by a returned titan and his rakshasa vizier may not be a nice place to visit either. - but it sure should prove interesting.

The heartlands of the Southlands, the abandoned lands contain vast stretches of desert - it is here that the massive, black towers of the disturbing hive-cities of the tosculi can be found. Why disturbing? Well, there is one that consists of the resin-hardened corpses of the fallen. Yes. Awesome and so perfectly evocative. Someone has also probably read China Miéville's excellent "The Scar", for there is a floating city in the style of Armada to be found. Mechanically, these lands are brutal, as the web of ley lines is damaged, which makes primal magic rather powerful...and excessively dangerous. The long-limbed Ramad are a balanced race sported here and significant ley line magic expansions and delightfully disturbing living tosculi items complement this evocative, harsh land as we turn our gaze southwards, to the fringe of the southlands, where dinosaurs roam and the minotaur nation of Sudvall stands guard. The xorn sultanate of Zanskar can also be found here...and should you hesitate to set a whole campaign in the southlands...did you know that one particular bottle contains a whole city of assassins? Yeah...if you don't come to the Southlands, they may well come to you.

The pdf's last chapter is devoted to the pantheons and gods of the Southlands - and their depictions are inspired, utilizing concepts and names from real-world mythology, but putting a thoroughly unique spin on them. The book concludes with an equipment table as well as a feat-index. My copy also sports a truly superb, glossy poster-map of the gorgeous cartography.

Part II of my review is in the product discussion. (Post #75) See you there!


An RPG Resource Review

*****

New places to explore and have adventures in are always welcome, and those that push the boundaries out from the commonplace temperate quasi-mediaeval settings even more so. This one offers deserts and 'jungles' (somewhere in the back of my head a voice reminds me 'tropical rain forest' is the correct designation) and swathes of savannah grassland to roam over... and doesn't just provide places but all manner of new goodies such as new races, new types of magic and other enhancements to help you remind yourself that your character is indeed wandering around a new and different place. The diverse places are linked by a common theme: it's hot! This brings particular challenges as an environment but also an attraction... at least to me, I like my weather warm!

Intended to describe a large continent to the south of the lands depicted in the Midgard Campaign Setting, it can equally well be transplanted to your own campaign world to fill an appropriate geographical/ecological niche. The Introduction covers the scope of the work and speaks of some of the real-world influences - relics of ancient Egypt, classic Arabic tales and so on. Much is in a grand scale, and much is ancient lore waiting to be discovered. At times there's even a hint of a Conanesque flavour, throughout there are hints of things rich and strange, of an epic sweep of adventure to be had.

The first chapter, Welcome to the Southlands, provides an overview and presents 'Seven Secrets' - some quick facts to whet the appetite and maybe spawn ideas for adventures or an entire campaign. (There are, however, plenty of suggestions and adventure seeds scattered throughout the book, so don't worry if ideas are slow to come at first!) For those who want to promote the feeling of exploration, it can be fun to bring a party from elsewhere to visit the Southlands, and to facilitate that there's a wonderful NPC, Samad el-Fasiel, a local guide and factotum who always seems to know about interesting places to go and things to do... no matter where you happen to be at the time. There's a bit of history, going back to the dawn of time itself and running up to the present, with whole civilisations rising and falling (naturally leaving behind plenty of artefacts and lore...) and leading to current tensions. You'll find familiar races - humans and dwarves and more - and others, fully playable, such as the proud werelions (or nkosi), gnolls and trollkin, and stranger yet the plant-based kijani and the insectoid tosculi. The gods themselves take an interest, there is magic, there are dragons, mighty empires and ancient libraries... It all leaves one slightly breathless but wanting to find out more!

We then begin a tour of the various parts of the Southlands, starting with the River Kingdom of Nuria Natal, strongly influenced by ancient Egypt. After all, if you visit here there are tombs to rob and hieroglyphic magic to learn. Local deities - of whom there are rather a lot - take an active role in everyday life and are believed to walk the streets and even engage in theological debates with the assorted priesthoods! A large river runs through the centre of the kingdom enabling fertile lands to be carved out of the surrounding desert. There are several towns to visit, described in considerable detail like Per-Bastet, swarming with cats and where law enforcement is different depending on which part of the town you happen to be in. You'll find notes on monsters and other perils and a selection of adventure ideas.

Each succeeding region is given similar treatment - descriptions of the region and places worth visiting, creatures found there, local deities, notable items of equipment, the environment and its dangers, and so on. There are maps and city plans, new spells and even classes... all manner of material to help you bring each place alive, vivid reminders that this isn't a mediaeval version of your hometown where magic works but something far richer and stranger. The text itself spawns many ideas for adventure, never mind the specific lists of ideas scattered throughout. If deserts are not your thing, you might prefer the jungles or the dwarf-inhabited western areas, the Corsair Coast or the vast central expanse of the Abandoned Lands, a vast area with a small and scattered population. Or maybe the Southern Fringes with vast riches and greater dangers will attract you?

For those who enjoy exploring new places this is a real treat. There are discoveries to be made and adventures to be had... once your party has visited the Southlands they'll never be quite the same! A delightful addition to Midgard, or indeed to any campaign world that could do with a warm, unexplored continent.


Arabian Wonders, and a Bunch of Other Cool Stuff

*****

Originally posted at Somnambulant-gamer.com.

So, I hadn't heard of "Southlands: Adventures Beneath the Pitiless Sun" until I stumbled across it at PAX. I'd somehow completely missed the Kickstarter, hadn't heard it mentioned or seen any reviews, and yet it leapt right off the shelf at me.

The art, obviously, was the first thing to catch my eye. The cover features this kind of fantasy Arabian woman with a huge lion behind her, set against the backdrop of a desert vista with the hint of a magnificent city in the background. The thing that really struck me as I was leafing through the pages, was that every piece of art seems like it could have been drawn by the same hand, or at least by a team of artists who were all working in the same room. It's all high quality, beautiful, on theme, and there is a lot of it. One of my favorite pieces is on page 259, where a trio of priestesses of Bastet, the cat goddess, are routing a group of duergar.

The fluff and story hooks are excellent as well. You've got a couple rakshasa who are all angling their way towards stealing divinity through one nefarious scheme or another, titanic demigods walking amongst their people and serving as both religious and secular ruler, and tons of other interesting hooks and settings for adventure. One of the new playable races, the kijani, have an interesting backstory where they're fostering the seedlings of their children with human and minotaur hosts in an attempt to become more mammalian, which has lots of interesting story potential all on its own. There's also an expansive description of the various deities that make up the Southlands pantheon, with fairly detailed descriptions of all the interactions and relationships between the various deities.

The crunch, not surprisingly given the quality of the rest of the work, is also excellent. The book is rife with archetypes custom designed for the setting, including a summoner archetype that gets a genie in a magic lamp, gnoll caravan raiders, zebra-mounted cavalry sorcerers, and lots more. The pantheons come with a selection of cool new domains, like Bastet's Cat domain and the new Speed domain, as well as interesting choices for the various deities' favored weapons. The crunch isn't just for the players either; there are variant mummies (including the mummified monkey swarm, which is either horrifying or hilarious, I can't quite decide), tables of Primal Magic Events that can be triggered by casting spells in certain magically unstable areas of the Southlands, and lots more. Did I mention the array of divination spells, new familiars, and the alternate heiroglyphics casting system? Because those seem important to mention too.

This is just an awesome book, both in quality of production and quality of content. I seriously can't recommend this enough to anyone who may want to add a splash of the exotic to their campaign with story elements and mechanics drawn from India, the Middle East, and north Africa.


I really like this book a lot.

*****

great stuff in here from the expected Egyptian stuff to things I didn't expect. I won't spoil any surprises but there is a wealth of great stuff. I was a kickstart backer and have been waiting semi patiently for this to hit my mailbox and when it did I camped out in a comfy chair and enjoyed. Another win and well done little kobolds!


Great Campaign Setting, For Both Midgard and Golarion Players!

*****

I got to read this book after a friend picked it up at Gen Con, and oh wow! If this is half as good as any of the other Kobold Press products, I know I'm going to be a devoted customer in the future.

This book has a great balance of both new character options, such as spells and feats, as well as a fleshed-out and real feeling campaign setting. Each country include significant information about at least one major city in it, and gives GMs and players more than enough information to go off of during their adventure. I'm personally a huge fan of the Bottled City, and can't wait to see that come up into play. It's a vibrant enough book that I know I'm going to be doing a campaign in this setting in the future - it's not even a question.

I know very little about Midgard already, but I already want to know more. This book is sutiable for those playing in Golarion, and I know I'm going to use it to flesh out some portions of Garund and other areas that my players may want to explore.


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