Kobold Press

Midgard: Declaration of Principles

Martin Luther Nailing 95 Theses to the DoorWe are getting very close to the goal line for funding the Midgard Campaign Setting, so it’s time to put a few markers down about the design. Now, we’re not exactly nailing those markers to the blog, but here’s what the designers see as the planks of the setting—what it is, and what it isn’t in 5 broad strokes.

1) Not a Kitchen Sink Setting. Some worlds try to be all things to all people all the time, but not this one. The Midgard Campaign Setting draws lines and accepts that not all elements of fantasy are equal, or even necessary, in every world. It includes all the major player races–elves, dwarves, humans–in some form, but often an unusual way. Heroes come in many guises, from stealthy kobolds to mighty minotaurs…

2) Change and Action. The Midgard Campaign Setting is a place of change, not stasis. It is a place where adventurers can change the world. Conflicts will be resolved, enemies will be defeated, and nations may thrive or fade away. Midgard does not reset to zero after each adventure, like a sitcom, but embraces a narrative arc determined by its players and GMs.
the 95 Theses
3) New Tales Grounded in Myth and Legend. Midgard depends on the myths and legends of Germanic, Slavic, and other cultures, and is familiar in that sense. While it offers echoes of Europe, it is a world of 1,000 new wonders, new oracles, cities, and kingdoms. Like Conan’s Hyborean age, you may catch glimpses of its inspiration, but it has grown into a mythos of its own.

4) For Grown-ups, Not School Kids. In keeping with previous Open Design projects, the Midgard setting will aim for an adult audience. Demons, devils, addiction, and various other horrors will not be bowdlerized or expurgated. Which is not to say there won’t also be heroics, great triumphs, charity, mercy, and real sacrifice.

5) Deliberate Choices. Midgard is a setting of consequences, where choosing sides matters. Gods demand obeisance. Kings ask for fealty. Heroes gain glory by navigating a treacherous world of swords and sorcery.

6) Useful Information, Please. The information presented will be directly useful to the player. The history of a great city or the genealogy of the royal family is nice, but it is more important what your character can DO in this world. The history of the abandoned elven fortress is nice, but more important is what is currently in that fortress to be looted (and what you have to fight to get it).

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14 Replies to "Midgard: Declaration of Principles"


January 20, 2011 at 6:46am

“The history of the abandoned elven fortress is nice, but more important is what is currently in that fortress to be looted (and what you have to fight to get it).”

I wanted to call attention and reassurance given this line.

While I’ve seen other companies use this line to overly promote fighting and hack and slash, I am proud to say that Open Design has historically (and I expect will continue going forward) provided mystique, story, drama and action (and appropriate rules for these).

In short, Open Design is great at focusing on what characters can DO, including ALL the things characters can do, beyond dungeon crawling.


January 20, 2011 at 7:04am

Yep, I’m not a fan of invisible backgrond material. And the phrases “Aeons ago” or “in the dawn of time” make my teeth hurt.

Emphasis will be on the current state and adventure options (hack and slash, stealth, mystery, exploration, and otherwise).

James Thomas

January 20, 2011 at 8:37am

I like what you’re doing here. Gives me confidence that Midgard will be a great campaign to work with in the future!

Jim Groves

January 20, 2011 at 8:38am

Yay! I love these design principals. Similarly, I dislike phrases like “no one knows” or “it is a mystery”. Just as the GM must at some point trust the player, the Designer must also at some point trust the GM.

Not that somethings shouldn’t be left for the individual GM to decide in their own home campaign. When done purposefully, that is helpful. When done just to be obscure for obscurity’s own sake, it’s annoying and is cringeworthy when I read it.

I also love assurances that there are consequences, and that the setting is organic and evolving.

I am very excited to be a part of this.

Jim Groves

January 20, 2011 at 8:43am

You know, I was ambivalent about the OD combat and mass combat book in development, but your statement about Midgard not being static has abruptly got me thinking about it.

I may be a bit down the road, like over a year.. But suddenly I imagine Midgard campaign arcs. Cool.


January 20, 2011 at 10:20am

What rules will you be using? Is it 4e?

Jim Groves

January 20, 2011 at 10:25am

@ UHF – That has not been decided yet. Pathfinder is in the lead. Dragon Age and 4E are in the running.

There has been strong discussion about doing a ‘Freeport’ style version where the Campaign book is systemless, but then there is a seperate books with specific mechanics for the system you like.

But ultimately, as of this writing, that is still be determined. Patrons are given many voting options.


January 20, 2011 at 2:08pm

I’m extremely excited to see what OD does in terms of developing a dynamic setting, where nations may fall, leadership will change hands, and landmarks will rise or fall. I really want to offer a world like that to my players, but it’s extremely daunting to undertake determining how a single event can ripple across a continent. I’m sure OD is up to the task though!!

Kobold Quarterly

January 20, 2011 at 3:15pm

UHF, as Jim said, patrons choose the system. Those who sign up make the call.

M8Adam, it’s going to be interesting indeed. I think the designers have an angle to make it happen in a good way. Much more on that topic in the patron forum.

David Nett

January 20, 2011 at 4:22pm

Man, what a great set of design boundaries. I want so badly to be a part of this one. Here’s hoping a few gold pieces free up before the patronage ranks close.

Jim Groves

January 20, 2011 at 4:47pm


I don’t think there is a finite number of patrons, so I think you can join later (the ranks don’t close). The price might go up later, Wolfgang would know better, but I’ve never seen the increase be severe.

Of course, early is best if you can. We decide priorities and such, and its fun to be in on the ground floor.


January 21, 2011 at 2:24pm

This is good to know as I’m actually in the same situation as David and won’t be able to join the fun before the beginning of the next month.

By the way, as a Protestant german I really appreciate the inclusion of the “95 Thesen” into the setting. :D

Kobold Quarterly

January 21, 2011 at 2:49pm

We aim to please. Also, the setting is Germano-friendly.

Seriously, the design work on this will not begin until February 1, so if you can join at the beginning of the month, you’re fine.

And given the size of the project, even joining a little late means you don’t miss too much. It’s a big world!

Wade Rockett

January 22, 2011 at 10:24am

If I had the necessary design software, I think I would have to create a “Germano-Friendly” badge for campaign settings.