“Mardas Vhula-gai” is a ruined city overrun by tribes of Dabu gnolls, an outpost of the Kingdom of the Gnoll Queen, located in the arid desert wilds outside of Narumbeki. The name is Southern Goblin for “Devouring Darkness,” and the gnolls have many goblin allies amongst the ruins. The original name of the city is long lost: the city was cast into ruins by awesome powers millennia ago, perhaps during the ancient War of the Gods.
Mysterious glyphs on the oldest surviving pyramids and pillars of the city are well worn and faded, but still glow faintly at night, even after tens of thousands of years. What magic they contain or generate is unknown to current scholars. These runes are one of two reasons why this ruined city is of any interest to anyone but the humanoid raiders who lair here.
I first started playing around in the world of Midgard when it was just a crossroads city called Zobeck. At this point, Kickstarter wasn’t even a thing, and Wolfgang was crowdsourcing the nascent Midgard Campaign Setting using a form many here know as Open Design’s patronage model. Patronage wasn’t a new concept, but how it was being used for creating vibrant RPG material was certainly new to me.
The first Open Design project I joined was Blood of the Gorgon back in February of 2008—a mere month before my first-ever paid RPG freelance work was published by Highmoon Media Productions (a mini adventure called “The Havenmine Gauntlet” that was sent out to Kobold Quarterly subscribers somewhere around the magazine’s 4th volume). During that first project, I just lurked and learned the process, and then when the Tales of Zobeck project started up, I signed on again and got ready to pitch my ideas.
A conversion is more art than science. Please, don’t misinterpret my words. I’m not saying that maths aren’t important, because they are. In fact, I teach discrete maths as part of my day job! But getting a monster, a character race, a spell, and so on from one system to another is something that can’t be done properly just using a formula.
Like pretty much everyone who plays table top RPGs, I love dice. I mean, I really love dice! OK, I guess the truth is, I’m a full-blown, grade A, no apologies, Dice Geek!
When I was a kid, I had a big ol’ ratty yellow dice bag filled with my random collection of dice—they were all different colors, different finishes, some were transparent, some were solid, some were marbled—basically, if I thought the dice were cool, I added them to my dice bag.
Once I became an adult (well, at least in terms of age … other measures of adulthood are probably much more up for debate), I started to learn about different dice companies and different manufacturing methods. I also decided that I no longer wanted a big hodge-podge of dice—I wanted different sets of dice that each matched or coordinated in some way … all the same color, all from the same company, and so on.
In the Southlands, the Dwarves of Dwergvald differ from the traditional dwarven ideal. Less martial, these dwarves focus on craftsmanship and community. This isn’t to say they don’t have warriors or martial elements—far from it! But the God-Kings of Nuria-Natal strongly patronized their guilds, and in doing so, they created relationships between the greatest sculptors and stonecarving artisans of the dwarven culture and the River Kingdom that still exist. Additionally, the dwarves suffered greatly when a terrible cataclysm tore an immense hole in Midgard, obliterating much of their homeland. Their armies had heavy casualties fighting a rearguard action as the rest of the survivors retreated to the current warren-cities of Dwergvald. A result of this event also created a custom of developing tunnel-fighters and explorers who are dedicated to recovering anything salvageable from the ruins.
Three dwarven archetypes are slated for Southlands: Dwergvald Arcane Sculptor, Deep Explorer, and Tunnel-Fighter. While these aren’t just for dwarves, dwarves dominate their ranks.