Tales of the Old Margreve (PFRPG)

4.90/5 (based on 11 ratings)
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Put out the fire, shoulder your pack, and enter the deep woods...

Tales of the Old Margreve contains 8 eerie forest adventures for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game in a unique Old World setting inspired by the medieval folktales and superstitions of Eastern Europe. Its authors include Paizo regulars Tim Connors and Richard Pett, among others.

Here in the Old Margreve Forest, heroes trek past crumbled griffon towers, over stiles and shepherds' fields, to where the lonely road thins and branches under the dark canopy of the trees. Deep in the forest's misty hollows, you may hear the rusalka's song rising over the crackle of a midnight fire or glimpse the white flash of a deer centaur's tail as it vanishes between the trees

In this place, those who ignore the old ways are never seen again.

    Inside you'll find:
  • 8 adventures for player characters of 1st to 10th level
  • Dozens of Margreve sites, inhabitants and adventure hooks
  • 12 unsettling new monsters
  • New spells and incantations
  • Unexpected powers wielded by the living forest itself!

Whether you choose to take your players into the legendary forest between the realm of the vampire knights and the clockwork city of Zobeck, or cherry-pick its contents for your own campaign world, Tales of the Old Margreve will challenge your players to earn a place in fireside tales.

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4.90/5 (based on 11 ratings)

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Old witches and creepy forest

4/5

Travelers through the the Old Margreve forest stop at the midpoint of their journey at Eye of the Forest Coaching Inn. The curious always take a peek inside the cast iron oven in the center of the inn. What you see might set you to wondering if those Grimm fairy tales are true!

Each one of the adventures in this product are a treat to read. Riffing off old world stories of witches, enchanted maidens and wolves that devour little girls wearing red riding hoods, these stories are fresh looks at tales we all know and love. A GM presenting these adventures to their players will be able to delight, and yes, even frighten them a little. After all, the players might *think* they know the ending, but adventures in the Old Margreve rarely turn out the way anyone expects.

As a sourcebook to adventuring in dark woods, it's also a great resource. There are locations and NPCs and a host of story hooks, in addition to the prepared adventures. Best of all, though, is the bestiary. Creatures of slavic lore are fully explained and statted out for your use.

The adventures can form the spine of a campaign or serve as the backdrop to adventures of your own creation using the tools within. Either way, this book makes the dark forests dangerous again ... what else could a GM ask for?


It Really is that Good

5/5

I'm not going to launch into a long detailed review, as other reviewers have written ample descriptions of what's in the book. I will however testify that is really is that good. This is a must-buy.

While the adventures don't use the Margreve itself as an entity, they are all solid, interesting and playable. I would run every last one as written, which is unusual for me.

My only upset is that almost the entire book is in b&w, including the maps. I would like the option to have the art in color, especially the maps. If I want to print in b&w and lose detail, that should be my choice, not the publisher's.

Since it is in black and white, get the PDF and save some dough at the printer's. 4.5 stars.


A stellar compilation of adventures

5/5

This adventure anthology/sourcebook is 113 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 107 pages of content, so let's take a look at it!

The anthology sets the mood immediately via a two-page short fable about fey and beer and offers thus a great lead-in to the gazetteer-section on the Margreve, the ancient forest of Midgard, where both the wonder, strangeness, creepiness and awe of the forest come back to live and intermingle with the cruel Germanic and Slavic folktales. Both attitudes of the folk, their old ways and rites and customs and the global powers of the forest are detailed in a prime example of concise and flavorful writing. The culmination of this section is both the advice on how to play the "character" Margreve, different takes on it and a plethora of adventure hooks of the highest caliber for your perusal. The detailed subsections of the forest, ranging from creepy shadowfeyish to creepy dream-like and creepy primeval offer a vast plethora of potential ideas for DMs especially and even players on a minor scale. I guarantee that you'll find inspiration in these pages if your creativity hasn't completely dried up. Have I mentioned that e.g. Baba Yaga is a firm and unique part of Margrevian mythology?

On a rules-perspective, we also get a whole section on how magic works in the Margreve (subtly different, including visual clues) and mechanically different for those not versed in the Old Ways. We also get the obligatory part on new magic and, while this section more often than not, elicits yawns from me, let me assure you that each and every one of the 6 spells herein is pure killer and rocks - hard. Even better, for people like me who enjoy the primeval and dangerous flair of incantations, we get three new ones - Awesome!

Next up is the bestiary and in the fine tradition of Open Design, all of them, I repeat, all of them, are killer, no filler. From the Ala storm-witches, the supremely creepy children of the briar, the noble deer-centaurs, green hussars, undead mylings and rusalka brides, the extremely disturbing sap demons up to the majestic and lustful zmey, each and every critter herein has several unique abilities. Almost all of them feature their own unique artworks and concluding the oomphteenth time I read this section, I'm still all up in arms about the quality. If all bestiaries were of this quality, I could put my virtual reviewer's pen down.

All right, that's as far as I can go without spoilers, as now begins the adventure section of the book. Potential players, please stop reading NOW, SPOILERS abound!
...

Still here?
...

All right, the first adventure, "Hollow" by one of the masters of horror, Richard Pett, pits the 1st-level PCs and a tiny hamlet under their command against both mad animals and the dread harvester of the singing tree, the hollow man. The Scythe-wielding CR 5 Hollow Man makes for a very disturbing enemy, as PCs of their level don't truly stand a chance against it: While it is harvesting the heads of townsfolk and not interested in the PCs per se, they have a strict timeline in which they can try to stop the deadly enemy and finally confront and destroy the tree adorned with decapitated heads, which coincidentally sings unperceivable through the skulls and thus drives the animals of the forest insane. An awesome, smart and creepy introductory adventure!

Next up is "The Honey Queen", a completely different fare: Dreamlike and somewhat reminiscent of the Alice-novels, Jonathan McAnulty weaves a yarn of excellent narrative quality: The PCs are hired to acquire a special kind of honey that supposedly prolongs your life. Problem is, though, that the awakened queen bee lairs around hallucinogenic flowers (necessary for the honey) and that she does trade exclusively with the scáthsidhe, the shadow fey. As spokesperson and foe to the PCs on their way through the awesome, creepy hive is the adopted stepdaughter of the queen, a girl in temporal stasis who has developed the power to use bee-swarms as surrogate bodies. The PCs have to act smart to bring the girl back to life, get the honey and brave the bee-hive-dungeon. This adventure also rewards non-lethal problem-solving and can end on a plethora of notes, depending on the PC's actions.

"Challenge of the Fang" by Dan Voyce has two excellent adventures to follow up on and succeeds - Challenge of the Fang can have severe repercussions for the PCs if they fail: Every 3 generations, the battle between wolf and man is fought again, in a dread ritual that will determine whether wolf or man reigns supreme and earns the favor of the Margreve. How is the outcome determined? Well, think "Little Red Ridin' Hood" with the PCs and the wolves trying to get to the red-cape-wearing girl first, including a very fairy-tale like, cool series of tests, portents that come true etc. It's hard to capture the mood of a fairy-tale in an adventure and Dan Voyce succeeded with grace - One of the best takes on the material I've seen - sufficiently close for the players to get it and far enough and creatively different to make it challenging and surprising.

"The Griffon Hatchling Heist" by Michael Furlanetto is a nice change of pace, from the grim and fantastic to an adventure that could very well have your players smile: When they are being approached by a housecat, they may very well have one of the most unlikely quest-givers ever - the housecat turns out to be the polymorphed griffon-leader Lesharrkk, who wants the PCs to infiltrate a tower where she and her brethren once nested and which is now the base of a huge amount of bugbears led by ogres and a cyclops. The PCs should get in, take the eggs and get them out before they hatch - of course, just as the PCs reclaim the griffon's offspring they begin to hatch and getting them out without any one of them being perceived by the critters - after all, PCs probably don't want to raise griffons...or do they? Depending on the amount of griffons saved, whether they consider the PCs their mother, Lesharrkk might make for a cool ally in future adventures. All in all, a great change of pace and one that made me smile!
After the rather light-hearted heist, we get a disturbing race against time in Tim Connor's "Gall of the Spider Crone". When the PCs enter a tavern featuring a lot of Kariv, they quickly realize that the gypsies have something to hide: Just prior to the PCs arrival, one of the legendary spider-crones has stumbled into the inn and, while morally dubious, suffers from a huge gall that, in a disturbing perversion of pregnancy, is eating up the crone from within - operation seems to be not an option and the desperate crone offers the PCs the same rewards as the Kariv to embark on a race against time to procure the means to save her from one of her sisters. What she does not mention is, that temporary possession is a part of the cure... As the PCs embark on a stormy hunt through the trails of the forest, they are hounded by various complications before finally arriving at a spider-legged home clinging to a huge vine across a canyon. In order to return in time, the PCs will have to use the spider-legged house to navigate the Margreve back to the inn, save the crone and kill the ala that will burst from the gall. The iconic usage of the spider-house to travel back to the inn alone is worth playing the adventure - another winner!

Part II in the product discussion.


Great add on to my campaign

5/5

There are several very good reviews already. I'll just say I have gotten great use out of this. Players have found the added adventures making the woods even scarier and strange then the Kingmaker Adventure path had them. A great addition!!!


Perfect for me

5/5

I'm in the process of making a campaign centered around a border town on the edge of a vast wilderness. This wilderness will contain - ultimately - a doorway between this realm and the Fey(wild) that must be closed. Sort of like a PFRPG Buffy series. Anyway, these adventures fit in perfectly. I find myself wanting to use most if not all of them at some point.


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The Exchange Kobold Press

Really looking forward to your comments and review!


I should be getting this sometime next week. Sunken Empires impressed me, I am a patron for Frozen Empires and I just made the boat for Freeport this week so I am looking forward to that too. Personally I hope that the Children of the Wood article is included in it for ease of reference when I GM this. If not, well, what else are copiers for?

Dark Archive

Wolfgang Baur wrote:
Really looking forward to your comments and review!

Last review captures a lot of how I feel as well. Of course I want part two of this book. I have always loved Grimm Tales and would love to see that revisited.


Well, it's shipped, we'll see how quickly it gets here so I can look it over.

Dark Archive

Reviewed now, here at Enworld and at KQ. Hopefully people find it helpful. It was so big and I didn't want to spoil stuff i felt it hard to give a useful review on this one and give it, it's due.


I just learned of another review for those considering this product. Check out this great review at Fame & Fortune


And here's the review at Enworld.

-Ben.

Dark Archive

terraleon wrote:

And here's the review at Enworld.

-Ben.

That's mine, it is the same review I posted up here on Paizo on the review tab. But thanks for thinking enough of it to link it.


To Dark Mistress:

I was tempted to produce a similar list, but I have considered act of of withholding details to be an essential aspect of book's charm. All in all, nice review.

Regards,
Ruemere

Dark Archive

ruemere wrote:

To Dark Mistress:

I was tempted to produce a similar list, but I have considered act of of withholding details to be an essential aspect of book's charm. All in all, nice review.

Regards,
Ruemere

Thanks

It is a balancing act. You want to give enough information for people to make a informed decision about buying it. Yet you don't want to give away to much, so they can be surprised too. It is a hard target to hit with some products on a review.

DM

The Exchange Kobold Press

Dark Mistress, I think readers don't want spoilers so much as a sense of the quality of the work, how they might use it, etc. And with a 113-page book, there's always a few secrets that there's just no time to discuss in a review.

Tangentially, because I can't resist quoting it, here's the key summation from that Fame and Fortune review Tim linked above: "In my view a contender for Best RPG product of the year and on par with the first Forgotten Realms or Ravenloft box set."

Dark Archive

Yeah but whats quality work? I mean that's subjective, just like art. I mean it doesn't matter how well written something is, if it doesn't interested the buyer or they incorrectly assume it is something it is not. Then they will be disappointed. So for myself in my reviews I try to lean more towards telling people what is in it, then posting what I thought of it personally and why.

It is something I honestly worry about a lot, if I give away to much to spoil things, or not enough to give a buyer enough information to make a informed decision on buying it. I am sure at times i end up going to far both ways.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

Great review DM, I bought it based on your review so I will have to agree with your assessment of what people might be looking for in a review.


My print copy arrived last night. So far, very cool -- although I keep expecting Lemminkäinen to pop up and tell me he's searching for the Sampo. The Leshy and Rusalka take me back to the days of Quest For Glory V, and that's a very good thing. :)

-The Gneech

The Exchange Kobold Press

Thanks, John, glad you like it!

In addition to the expansion and paper minis for it, there's one more bit of support that we're working on. Not sure whether it will happen or not, but ... Could be fun.

The Exchange Kobold Press

Megan, thanks for your review! This makes five reviews here on Paizo, all listing it as a 5-star book. Which leads me to...

I regret that the print edition has sold out on Paizo and only a handful of copies remain at the Kobold Store. Thank you to everyone who made the first printing such a success!

Liberty's Edge

Wolfgang Baur wrote:

Megan, thanks for your review! This makes five reviews here on Paizo, all listing it as a 5-star book. Which leads me to...

I regret that the print edition has sold out on Paizo and only a handful of copies remain at the Kobold Store. Thank you to everyone who made the first printing such a success!

Wow - congrats!

Looks like I waited to long to order one!


Wolfgang Baur wrote:

Thanks, John, glad you like it!

In addition to the expansion and paper minis for it, there's one more bit of support that we're working on. Not sure whether it will happen or not, but ... Could be fun.

I'd like to see a More Tales From the Old Margreve that goes from 11 - 20 at some point...

-The Gneech

Dark Archive

Wolfgang Baur wrote:

Megan, thanks for your review! This makes five reviews here on Paizo, all listing it as a 5-star book. Which leads me to...

I regret that the print edition has sold out on Paizo and only a handful of copies remain at the Kobold Store. Thank you to everyone who made the first printing such a success!

Congratulations.

Dark Archive

John Robey wrote:
Wolfgang Baur wrote:

Thanks, John, glad you like it!

In addition to the expansion and paper minis for it, there's one more bit of support that we're working on. Not sure whether it will happen or not, but ... Could be fun.

I'd like to see a More Tales From the Old Margreve that goes from 11 - 20 at some point...

-The Gneech

Oh god yes! I would sign up for that as a patron in a heart beat. Well as soon as RL allowed.


Since the first printing is sold old (and so quickly I might add), when is the second?

PDFs are nice but it's hard to beat the tree killer version.

Dark Archive

Well there are 18 copies on EBAY from 2 different suppliers ranging from 19.97 to 23.65.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

I finally got this book (I guess it was one of the last in stock). It is the best sourcebook I purchased in 2010. Handsdown great stuff. I'll probably write up a review sometime this week.

If there's going to be a reprint, can I ask that the production values go up a little bit? The only thing that disappointed me about my purchase was the physical product. It just didn't feel that good. (In particular, making the background pure white would have made it a nicer read.) This is a strong enough product to warrent paying more for nicer paper, etc.

And yes, I would like to pay for a sequel. Not something higher-level (I personally don't play highlevel and thought maxing out at 10 was perfect), but just more of the same.

---

Also, while I'm here, a question: what are Incantations? I haven't seen those before, and I'm at a loss for how the rules work for them. Where can I find more information on these?

Thanks!

Dark Archive

Glad you liked it!

Erik Freund wrote:

Also, while I'm here, a question: what are Incantations? I haven't seen those before, and I'm at a loss for how the rules work for them. Where can I find more information on these?

Thanks!

They came out in Unearthed Arcana - you can find the open game content here. Essentially they're spells for non-spellcasters, using rituals, skill checks, and possible backlash damage to achieve some game balance.

The Exchange Kobold Press

Erik, I really appreciate the comments both "best sourcebook I purchased in 2010" and the comment on production values. The pure white background is definitely something I'll implement in future for easier reading in print.

I'm happy to hear you'd be willing to pay a little more for better paper. This book is one where I had to fight to keep the print costs down and still print in the US, so knowing some readers care about things like paper is great feedback.

The odds of a second visit to the Margreve are currently modest, but you're not the first person to request it, so.... I will never say never, and I know Tim and Eileen might consider it for the future.

Dark Archive

RPGNOW now has a print/PDF bundle as well, they just started print on demand for limited items it seems.

Dark Archive RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

As a patron of the project and a reader of the final product I am glad it was printed in the USA. I think the quality is better. I have a copy of the PFRPG Core Rulebook that's about 18 months old and the cover is coming off the binding. Lame.
As for next product names, I've already started!
How's this:
Back to the Woods
Forest Dreams (focusing on the Eastern Heart)
Paths of the Margreve
Seasons of the Margreve
Motley Fool's Guide to the Margreve

The Exchange Kobold Press

Hm, Seasons of the Margreve has a nice ring to it. Though I might also propose Heart of the Margreve.

The book is now back in stock at Paizo.

Dark Archive

Wolfgang Baur wrote:
Hm, Seasons of the Margreve has a nice ring to it. Though I might also propose Heart of the Margreve.

So when can we sign up for this patron project? :)

The Exchange Kobold Press

As soon as I confirm an author. Which, given that I haven't even asked Tim and Eileen Connors about it, might be a while.

Seriously, if it does happen, it would launch in the Spring. Maybe as late as PaizoCon.


Here's another vote for bring me more!!! Running this soon for my players converted to FATE and am enthralled by the place.

Sovereign Court

Where would people stick it in Golarion? Ustalav, somewhere?

The Exchange Kobold Press

Any large forest will work, though I think Ustalav is especially apt.


Perhaps Iobaria would be a good fit, as well...


Iobaria is definately Slavic Russia :)

Dark Archive

I am looking forward to the book that expands the area in and around Iobaria.

The Exchange Kobold Press

Sorry about the thread necromancy, but another review for Tales was just posted here on the site. This one calls it "awesomely disturbing and original", and I'm happy to say the reviewer is a new player who found the book and adventures very approachable and usable.

I'm especially amused by his player's reaction to the place.


I always considered mobile plants and fungi to be supremely creepy and a morbid fascination has forever tinged my approach to botanic foes in roleplaying games - Dan Voyce delivers another prime example why plants should be feared in "Blood and Thorns" - The children of the briar are on the prowl and thorns and briars encroach throughout the Margreve, powered by dread forces. On the way to investigate the reason for the thorny aggression, the PCs will have to visit the Spider Crone whose house they high-jacked in the last adventure and brave a supremely cool, honorable LG Spider-duellant construct called Snicker-snack while avoiding the numerous webs. Hopefully succeeding in their diplomatic mission with the Crone, the PCs will then have to follow a ghost-thread to the thorny base of the thorn-king, where they'll hopefully settle for an infiltration (e.g. pretending to be possessed by sap demons) and end the alchemical, vampire-blood powered rituals and dispose of the king of briars before he not only becomes a major threat throughout the Margreve, but also for Morgau and Doresh...

Ben McFarland introduces us to one of the true major players of the Margreve in the touching adventure "Grandmother's Fire" - no fire burns in the Margreve and the reason is that legendary Baba Yaga is angered - her hearth's fire has been stolen and until it is reclaimed, the Margreve will feel the chill of the witches hearth. In order to restore the fire to the forest and to prevent a deadly winter indeed, the PCs will have to find the man (who turns out to be a werewolf), who stole the fire to set his love free. Said girl tried to procure a cure for lycanthropy from a vodyanoi and ended up one of his rusalka brides. To add insult to injury, the poor werewolf is actually a natural lycanthrope - there is no cure for him. After hopefully defeating the vodyanoi, the two lovers can finally be rejoined in either death or transcendence, we cannot be sure. Returning the fire to dread Baba Yaga, the PCs may have made a deadly, yet insanely powerful connection.

In the final adventure, Steven Robert's "The Lustful Dragon", the PCs might want to cash in favors earned during their exploits in the Margreve as it opens with a bang: A Zmey, one of the dread multi-headed dragons attacks the village and the PCs will have to venture off on a quest to save a dragonmarked maid - a poor girl born with a birthmark that makes the zmey lust for her and doom her to be its mate and die giving birth to a terrible abomination. Via a hermaphrodite seer, the PCs can find the girl in the "tender" care of a spider crone. In order to stand a chance against the dread dragon, the PCs will have to procure the ingredients for a powerful incantation: A dragonmarked girl, a creeping vine of tremendous age, 1 lb of salt and the heart of a woman scorned (literally or figuratively) - once they have assembled the ingredients, they will have to work the incantation by piercing into the power of one of the Margreve's hearts, battle the dread zmey and escape the wrath of the roused Margreve if they are to live - a stunning, cool conclusion to the anthology and one that has left me wanting for more.

Conclusion:
Formatting is top-notch and while I noticed some editing glitches, there were less than 5 on 113 pages - not enough to detract a star. The pdf is extensively bookmarked. The two-column layout and the pieces of artwork are beautiful (though the pdf has a grey background, making it a bit harder on the printer than it should be), as is the cartography. If you couldn't tell from my recap of the adventures or the gazetteer-section, the writing of this book is just excellent, ranking among the very best of anthologies and adventures I've read for any incarnation of any fantasy roleplaying game. Each and every one of the adventures has its very own distinct flair, while still tying the overarching pieces and flair together, resulting in a supremely cool series of adventures that each has its unique wonder, its components of wonder and awe you won't see in most other publications. The authors have created a tapestry of surpassing quality, a blast between grim and light-hearted fairy-tale and a kind of fantasy you won't find anywhere else - if you by some strange coincidence haven't checked this out, do so now - I guarantee you won't regret it. My final verdict is 5 stars and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


Reviewed here, on RPGaggression and sent to GMS magazine.

Dark Archive

Nice review End.


Thanks again, though I'm very late on this one. I'm currently trying to get as much done as possible and close some of my gaps. ;)

Dark Archive

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Any chance that this fine product will be available again (currently on backorder)? I was a minor patron on the project back in the day and I regret not getting a dead wood version of the book.

Contributor

I've sent a gninja off to the kobold mines to see if they've got some in their vault.

Dark Archive

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thanks, I appreciate it. :)

Contributor

Alas, the vaults are empty of this book. You might try ordering it directly from the Kobold Quarterly store if you want a print copy.

Contributor

Ravenmantle wrote:
Any chance that this fine product will be available again (currently on backorder)? I was a minor patron on the project back in the day and I regret not getting a dead wood version of the book.

Check with the Kobold store for sure. Wolfgang mentioned in last Sunday's Courier that he found a stash of 8 at the house. Might still have a copy for sale!

EDIT: Nope, Wolfgang said they went quickly after announcing. Sorry.

The Exchange Kobold Press

One other option in this glorious techno-future we live in: print on demand gets you a copy from DriveThru or RPGNow. Worth a shot.


I am reviving this thread. I have a group that starts a new campaign on this coming Friday. Mostly new to Pathfinder players. I am starting them in the module Into the Haunted Forest set in Darkmoon Vale, but I want to take them into the Old Margreve. So my question to the lot of you is this:

Where would you put the Old Margreve in or around Andoran or Taldor or Kyonin?


If it were me, I would say add the Margreve materials to Darkmoon Vale.

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