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Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User


Hard to believe it’s been half a year since my last Let’s Read, but here I am back in the swing of things! Like my last two projects, I chose a book of which I am passionate about: the Southlands Campaign Setting.




The Southlands is a sort of “setting expansion” to Kobold Press’ Midgard: a thematic blend of Ancient Egypt, the Arabian Nights, and various fantasy counterpart sub-Saharan African kingdoms ranging from antiquity to the Early Modern period. There are also some pulpy tropes such as lost temples of prior civilizations, but is thankfully absent of “evil primitive natives to kill and loot” trope. The Southlands began as a KickStarter in late 2014 and soon grew to be one of the most-backed crowdfunded Pathfinder books with nearly $100k raised. At times it ranked as one of the most popular Pathfinder settings by Drive-Thru RPG sales figures for years, usually eclipsed only by the main Midgard Setting, Ponyfinder, and some other hot sourcebooks of the month. It is one of the few d20 products which goes for a Fantasy Africa vibe as a central setting, and its high production values combined with comprehensive research on the writers’ part make it a unique gem shining among 3rd party worlds.




Note:The Southlands Campaign Setting, unlike the Midgard Worldbook, is exclusively Pathfinder in its mechanics, but several supplements such as Southlands Heroes and a few adventure serials imported material from it to 5th Edition. For those familiar with my last review I should also note that its publication was 3 years before the Worldbook which updated the Midgard setting by 10 years. Thus, certain details such as the Nurian alliance with the Seven Cities against the Mharoti have not yet been undertaken.




Welcome to the Southlands




The Southlands’ prologue opens up with Seven Secrets of the Southlands in a similar vein to the Midgard Worldbook: important setting elements which emphasize what to expect from the land and what makes it different from other settings on the market.





  1. A Vast Continent: The Southlands is a huge landmass well over 2,000 miles long from north to south. The continent teems with all manner of forbidding lands, diverse nations and city-states, and lost legacies of prior civilizations. Long-term journeys matter even more than the destination.
  2. Land of Endless Actions: The Southlands hews more for a pulpy adventure and Fantasy Africa feel in contrast to Midgard’s traditional Ye Old Medieval fantasy. Emphasis is placed on lost wonders, secret conspiracies plotting against each other, and fast-paced action and plot twists.
  3. Ancient Powers: The Southlands is home to larger-than-life entities of godlike power who shaped the fate and reach of civilizations. Three of note are highly detailed: the former titan empire of Glorious Umboso which once ruled the majority of the continent; the still-living Wind Lords who hold dominion over most of the northern deserts; and the living gods of Nuria Natal who regularly physically manifest and meddle in the affairs of their mortal subjects.
  4. Divine Sparks for the Taking: Not even the divine lasts forever, but their legacies persist in the annals of history. Gods, titans, and other supreme beings have an internal force known as a “spark” which normally dissipates upon their death. But sometimes it lingers on, sealed in sacred vessels or tombs or even claimed by beings seeking great power.
  5. New Cultures and Altered Races: The Southlands is in the same realm as Midgard, and includes a few of said setting’s races such as minotaur and ravenfolk albeit with altered cultural mores. For example, ravenfolk are often associated with the Nurian gods Horus. But aside from humans and dwarves, the “traditional” fantasy races are done away with in favor of five playable new ones along with minor regional races.
  6. History Reborn: The Southlands is ancient, having gone through numerous empires and dynasties which rarely remain buried in the past. From mummified god-kings who raise from the dead to defend their nation to discovered relics, the past affects the present in ways both metaphorical and literal.
  7. Unfolding Plots and Expanding Conflicts: The cultures and nations of the Southlands are rarely stagnant, and even old kingdoms’ borders can shift from invasions, raids, and politicking. Bandits and cults are lower-scale yet just as dangerous, whose evil designs can spell doom to communities.





I feel that a few of these points aren’t exactly novel or unique, but I do particularly enjoy the concept of divine sparks (which actually have game mechanics by using the Mythic Adventures system) as well as the overall avoidance of simply replicating the dwarf/elf/etc fantasy races whole-cloth.




A Brief History




Even the canniest scribes and blessed scholars can only compile a fraction of the Southlands’ history which stretches back to time immemorial. The sands of past eras eroded the legacies of many rulers to the point that they’re mentioned only as footnotes in papyrus scrolls and oral folklore. Fact turns into legend and rumors, and conquering kingdoms rewrite history to glorify themselves. Even so, there are a few grand nations and events which are remembered thousands of years later.




This section of the introduction is peculiar. Instead of a linear progression of years, the text is organized by local cultures and the rise and fall of specific kingdoms. While I suppose it can be good for condensing relevant information for said realms, it is a bit jarring and even the longer-lived nations such as Nuria Natal jump around in places. There’s one entry of the rise of Morreg 1,500 years ago; after that we get the Moon Kingdom which rose 450 years ago; then we jump back to 1,100 years ago to cover how a pair of nomad nations rose from scattered tribes to repel Morreg’s incursions. I’m going to opt for a different approach, where I try to adhere to a more linear timeline.




What follows is a condensed history of the Southlands. Around the dawn of creation the giant Aurgelmir’s breath transformed into the four Wind Lords. Said spirits sought to avoid the war between gods and giants, retreating to the newly created plateaus and deserts of the mortal realm. After Wotan and the first gods triumphed over the giants, the defeated remnant titans retreated into far-off lands and founded an empire in the southern continent known as Glorious Umboso. Their civilization sparked many wonders and advances in art, lore, and magic and were worshiped as gods by less-powerful mortals. Alongside Glorious Umboso rose the kingdom of Nuria Natal, where a dynasty of mage-families discovered a powerful ley line within the river that would become the nation’s namesake. Although its borders shifted greatly, the river kingdom survived to the present day with the aid of mummified god-kings of prior generations, ready to wake during times of greatest need.




3,000 years ago the island kingdom of Ankeshel slipped beneath the waves, causing fleeing refugees to make their way to the Southlands’ northern deserts. They intermarried among the indigenous people and would later become known as the Tamasheq. The titans of Glorious Umboso were afflicted with a terrible magical plague which plunged entire cities into madness. No amount of magical or natural healing could halt its progress, so in a desperate bid to preserve their legacy they imparted bits of their divine sparks to trusted mortals. They charged said mortals to act as caretakers for their empire until they recovered. A few titans took shelter among the sea god Nethus, but most sadly destroyed their civilization in an orgy of chaos and violence. The titans’ former core territory became known as the Abandoned Lands, with uncontrolled magic from altered ley lines spilling out into the world and warping flora and fauna.




Although they did not intend to be such, the Wind Lords would soon earn their name as political leaders of the Ankeshelian refugees. The four Wind Lords debated how to handle this, and three of them agreed to accept them within their lands. The dissenting voice, Boreas the Northern Wind, viewed this as an invasion and assaulted the refugees with freezing storms and attacks by his elemental minions. The Southern, Eastern, and Western Winds were disgusted by this cruelty and made war against Boreas, driving their bloodthirsty brother out of the Southlands to Midgard’s far north.




Some disciples of the titans founded city-states among the Southlands’ western coast about 1,500 years ago. The mightiest two were Morreg and Lignas. Lignas was a metropolis of learning, with compiled lore making their scholars prized by far-off kings who sought the best advisers. Morreg was a more militaristic city whose warriors seized territory all along the coast, turning their humble beginnings into a self-designated Enlightened Empire. Lignas, with its mighty arcanists and theurges, was the only realm which could repel them for an extended period but even they were sacked in time. Alas Morreg’s reign would fall, not at the hands of an outside power by by its own mad Prince Agajay. Their leader's seduction by the teachings of an evil god plunged Morreg into ruinously expensive military campaigns and broke his empire into scattered warbands. Mutual defense pacts forged by far-flung tribes fearful of Morreg’s powers turned the Cattle Queens of Terrotu and the Zulu-like Narumbeki Legions into veritable forces. Lignas regained its independence, and after suing for peace Morreg entered a long period of decline.




In the following generations the Southlands saw the rise and fall of other civilizations. The maritime minotaurs founded a Carthage-like Moon Kingdom 450 years ago before the Mharoti Empire razed its cities. 400 years ago the druids of Kush accidentally summoned an eldritch abomination known as the Green Walker. In a fit of desperation the druids conducted a self-sacrificial ritual to freeze the monster's cancerous growth in a bubble of slowed time.




200 years ago the Mharoti Empire’s early expansions pushed into the Southlands, warring against Nuria Natal, razing the Moon Kingdom’s Cities, and even trying to annex the Dominion of the Wind Lords. The Moon Kingdom suffered heavy losses, but the Nurian God-Kings and Wind Lords push back hard. They unleashed the full brunt of their divine and elemental might against the draconic warbands, from undead armies to golem siege engines rising from the pyramids to spirit-infused breath weapons turning against their own dragons. The Empire’s forces retreated from the Southlands, but the dragons did not consider this a total defeat. In future generations they would test their capabilities, conducting smaller scale raids against key targets with decades-long gaps between them to keep the shorter-lived races complacent enough that they won “this time.”




Divine Sparks




Divine Sparks have their own side-bar in the first chapter. The usually manifest as glowing spheres of energy found within the most secured dungeons, ruins, and and palaces. Oftentimes they are pursued as part of a great undertaking, but more than a few unassuming souls rose to great deeds by accidentally stumbling across them in more unexpected places.




Mechanics-wise, a character must absorb the spark into their body in a four hour process of meditation and internal study. The character rolls an integration check, which is 1d20 + their character level + the highest of their Constitution, Intelligence, or Wisdom modifiers against a DC of 30. Success allows the character to become a mythic character as per the Pathfinder Mythic Adventures rules, or counts as a completed trial in the process of gaining new mythic tiers.




Failing the integration check afflicts the would-be powerseeker with a permanent curse as per the bestow curse spell. Alternatively for Game Masters who don’t care for Mythic Rules, divine sparks could instead grant powers usable a certain amount of times per day, usually a spell-like ability of up to 5th level, limited shape-changing, or immunity to a specific element or harmful effect.




The Mythic Rules are Pathfinder’s answer to 3rd Edition’s Epic Levels. Instead of extending numerical abilities past the 20th level cap, there are Mythic Tiers independent of level which are ascended via the completion of heroic trials. The tiers grant unique abilities as well as Mythic versions of existing feats and spells. I have never played with these rules, but from what I heard of Paizo’s Wrath of the Righteous is that they take Pathfinder’s tenuous balance and rocket launcher tags and amplify them to 11.




The later chapters outline examples of divine sparks and their locations, as well as some important NPCs who already have one. As such sparks are rare and implied to be part of the culmination of an adventure arc, the rolling for integration seems unnecessary and should instead be narratively played out. The fact that only one creature can absorb a spark at a time means that scaling will be uneven within PC groups unless discovered sparks are always equivalent in number to the party size when found. Given that the Mythic Rules for Pathfinder are already quite unbalanced, this will only further exacerbate PC power levels if played straight.




But I do like the concept of adventurers traveling around in a classic fantasy “find the legendary crystal MacGuffins” as part of an epic quest, with a literal divine power boost as a reward for each one collected.




Races of the Southlands




The majority of this section provides us a discussion of two existing “major races” of humans and dwarves along with five new races. There is also a list of “minor races” whose presence is smaller, localized to specific regions. The minor races, if they are new and not reprinted from the core rules or existing Midgard books, are detailed in their own respective chapters.




Humans dominate the Southlands much like they do in most campaign settings. The major cultural groups are divided into six group categories which are more akin to pan-ethnic groups: spread among many countries but with a shared linguistic and/or cultural origin.




The Annites are descendants of Ankeshel refugees and northern nomads, whose two major groupings are the Tamasheq nomads and the Qamari humans of the minotaur kingdoms. They are analogous to the real-world Amazigh and Carthagnian peoples respectively, and start with 4 (!!!) languages by default: Draconic, Nurian, Tamasheq, and the Southern Trade Tongue.




Kus hites’ name derives from their rainforest kingdom, although their numbers can be found all the way to the far south. They live in isolated tribes but they do have a large capital city called Nangui built on the stump of a fallen World Tree. Kushites produce a high number of albinos among their people, which their enemies ignorantly proclaim to be a sign of demonic blood. If I had to guess, they are analogous to the real-world Kingdom of Kush in antiquity, although the rainforest is a new touch.




The Morregi include the people of the western coasts, both of the nation-state and those whose ancestral lands were once claimed by them. Their culture is known for frequent joyous celebrations, and are quite proud of their self-proclaimed ability to produce great priests and prophets. Between Lignas’ centers of learning and Morreg’s powerful diviners, it is a claim that is often backed up with ample examples. As said nations’ regions were known as the Kingdoms of Gold and Salt in prior Midgard publications for the preponderance of said trade goods, I presume that they are analogous to West African Kingdoms such as Mali and Ghana.




The Nurians are common throughout not just Nuria Natal, but also portions of Kush, the Spice Coast, and the city-states of Siwal and Saph-Saph. They are a proud people, able to point to an unbroken heritage spanning back thousands of years. They are analogous to real-world Ancient Egyptians (Nuria Natal) and Arabs (Siwal and Saph-Saph).




The Tethyians live among the islands of the Southlands’ east coast and engage heavily in maritime trade. They sport heritage not just from the Southlands, but also travelers from Khandiria and Far Cathay (Midgard’s fantasy counterpart India and China).




The Zwana are tall people with sharp features who live around the settled edges of the Abandoned Lands and whose most well-known members include the citizens of Narumbeki, Terrotu, and Omphaya. Their customs and regional dialects vary wildly depending on where they live. I do not know what specific real-world counterpart cultures they adhere to beyond the Narumbeki being Zulus, but would probably guess various savanna cultures.




Dwarves of the Southlands are related kin to their northern counterparts, but culturally are very different. They are more known for scholarly pursuits such as scribes, alchemy, and magic (as well as engineering and artisanship) than warfare. They are respected in most lands for their high-quality goods.







Gnolls are one of the “new” races of the Southlands. Much like their typical D&D counterparts they are warlike and their societies operate on a Social Darwinist worldview where strength and martial prowess determines one’s station. The weak of their own race and others are often enslaved, but due to their respect of strength they can exist on non-violent terms with cities and nations who more than prove their worth. There’s a sizable number of “civilized” gnolls who integrated into Nurian cities and even adopted their gods.




Stat-wise gnolls get +2 Strength and Constitution with no other stat penalties, +2 natural armor, darvkision 60 feet, as well as spear/bow/mace proficiencies and Survival boosts for locating food and water. Their only negative trait is their cowardly nature which gives -2 on fear-based effects.




Gnolls make for pretty strong warriors, and their natural armor boost is pretty good.







Kijani are a plantlike pseudo-race whose ancestral homes are the jungles of Kush. The Green Walker’s depredations forced them into a diaspora to the far south. They are calm, contemplative people who seek to master their worser natures of anger and fear which are the result of a sort of cultural PTSD from their exodus of Kush.


Kijani appear like green-skinned members of other races in part due to their Great Change, where they implant symbiotic seedlings into willing hosts. This is part of a multi-generational evolutionary plan to turn their race from plants to mammals. The seedling grows over time before separating from its host to rapidly grow into a full-fledged kijani bearing aspects of their host “parent.” Knowledge of this process can be unnerving to outsiders, so they only share the Great Change with trusted non-kijani friends and lovers.




Stat-wise they have +2 Charisma, -2 Constitution, and +2 to one other ability score reflecting their humanoid host. They are also treated as the plant type rather than humanoid, gain bonuses to attacks and AC when reduced below half their Hit Points in a pseudo rage, a constant speak with plants effect, and may treat any two knowledge skills as class skills and gain +2 on checks with them. The plant type alone is a powerful defensive ability (immune to mind-affecting, paralysis, polymorph, sleep, and stunning) but otherwise the rest of their abilities are rather balanced and thematically useful.







Nkosi are feline humanoids whose creation lies at the hands of the titan Gamka’s divine spark. Gamka granted trust human servants with the powers of the mighty lion. These ur-nkosi could transform into said wondrous beasts for a limited time and even gained vestigial features long-term. They appear as humans with catlike teeth, eyes, and fur in their natural form and organize their societies into extended family units where children are raised as a group. They treat humans as long-lost kin, and possess binding oaths which are often assigned to family and/or country.




Stat-wise they have +2 to Strength and Dexterity but -2 Charisma, have the Monstrous Humanoid (Shapechanger) type, a base speed of 35 feet, treat Perception and Stealth as class skills, a natural bite attack, and can transform into a zwana lion (new monster in this book) a limited number of times per day as akin to the beast shape spell.




Nkosi are very much built to favor melee and mobile striker roles.







Tosculi are wasp-like insectoids who have a poor reputation among the rest of the Southlands for being on a constant war footing with their neighbors. They have a caste-based society much like ants (drones, builders, warriors, queens) who seek to conquer for their leader’s glory. Tosculi possess a hive-mind mentality where they are born hearing a song known as the Golden Swarm. A few tosculi are born every so often unable to hear this song and often seek a life of independence. Even then these outcasts rarely fit into other societies, becoming loners or banding together among other misunderstood outcasts.




Stat-wise they have +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, and -2 Charisma. They are Small Monstrous Humanoids with +1 natural armor, two 1d3 claw attacks, treat Perception and Stealth as class skills, can share a square with another member of their race at once and flank any foes they are engaged with at the same time, can use soften earth and stone once per day as a spell-like ability which they use to build their hive-cities, and have wings which allow them to glide and fall safely from any height even if unconscious, paralyzed, or similarly restrained.




Tosculi are begging to be put into roguish and scouting archetypes on account of their skills. Many of their racial traits are useful for all kinds of archetypes, from their auto-class skills to natural armor and gliding wings.







Trollkin are the descendants of all varieties of immortal and monstrous races cross-breeding with humans. “Trollkin” is a catchall term for these people. Trollkin are feared by many and viewed as violent brutes, pushing them to gather into tribes known as septs scattered throughout the Southlands. Their variant bloodlines means they have lots of physical diversity, but tall forms and strong bodies are a near-universal trait.




Stat-wise Trollkin have +2 Constitution, -2 Dexteirty, and +2 to one other ability score representing a dominant monstrous/supernatural heritage. They have a natural bite attack, +2 to Intimidate checks, +1 natural armor, and a racial bonus on saves against ingested poisons equal to their Hit Dice. Furthermore they can take alternative racial variants represneting various bloodlines. The default trollkin race has a zimwi ancestor (ravenous lion-like ogres cursed with eternal hunger), but there are three subraces who can swap out the trollkin’s default racial features of bite attack, AC bonus, and saving throws vs ingested poisons in favor of new abilities.




Fey-kin can grant a choice of an appropriate cantrip as a once-per-day spell-like ability and bestow curse as a once per month spell. Eloko-kin descend from a race of evil underground dwarves and gain a 1d4 claw attack along with cause fear as a once-per-day spell-like ability; and finally the adze-kin, descendant of a race of vampiric humanoids who gain vampiric touch as a once-per-day spell-like ability and a climb speed equal to half their normal land speed.




Overall the trollkin are the half-orcs of the Southlands in being outcasts geared to a brute striker roll. The subraces don’t really impress me besides the adze-kin, which gets a very good spell and a climb speed.





An aasimar of Ishadia. Not from the book proper, but from Kobold Press' Advanced Races: Aasimar.




The Minor Races of the Southlands include seven of the more notable peoples not covered above. The Aasimar are concentrated in the continent’s northeast, boasting proud angelic heritage; the Heru are ravenfolk who live in the temples of Horus as honored citizens, respected in Lignas, and in the valleys of the Abandoned lands. Many praise Horus as their patron deity. The Jinnborn are nomads descended from elemental entitites, living in the Dominion of the Wind Lords and possess a literal bond to the land itself. Lizardfolk are a young race of the Southlands, living in the isolated realm of Veles-Sa harboring a giant egg believed to contain the World Serpent’s child. They are currently isolationist, but believe it is their destiny to conquer the surrounding lands in said serpent-god’s name. The Minotaurs are limited mostly to the Southlands’ extremes, be it the crumbling Moon Kingdom remnants of the northern deserts or the kingdom of Sudvall at the continent’s southern tip. A few gave up their heritage and assimilated into the other populations, but even then seem to possess a knack for vessels of all sorts. Even the desert-bound sandships are known to carry minotaurs as crew and good luck charms. The Ramag were once humans allied with Glorious Umboso, manipulating ley lines to connect the titan empire in a magical web for transportation and defense. They still live in the Abandoned Lands, claiming the city of Ramagani as their homeland whose portals connect the city to far reaches of the Southlands. Tieflings appear anywhere demons and devils consort with humans, and face varying levels of acceptance: Nuria Natal and Lignas tolerate them, and in the devil-ruled city of Nangui they rise to positions of great power.




Thoughts So Far: Southlands’ introductory chapter starts us off with a strong impression of the setting and what it will be about. The history section contains an organization style different from other setting books, but is not enough to feel too confusing for me. I like the new races as well as the changing of existing ones to better fit into the setting.




Join us next time as we visit the River Kingdom of Nuria Natal, whose pyramids hold legacies of great kings and where gods walk the streets!
 
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Tambourine

Spirit Princess
Validated User
This looks really interesting so far, I absolutely love the aesthetic, and the new races sound interesting too (yay, cat people!).



That chainmail bikini on the cover, though... *cringes*
 
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Crinos

Next to me you're all number two!
Validated User
Neat.

I actually contributed to the kickstarter for the Southlands Bestiary. They sent me a copy of the campaign setting book by mistake so I ended up buying the Bestiary, as an apology they gave me credit to buy any book in their catalog, which I used to get the Midgar campaign setting.

In short, Kobold Press are good people. They do top notch work and I love everything they make.

Regarding the Trollkin, I always thought they might be a way to stealth in WoW style trolls into a Pathfinder game (Kind of the same way the Darakhul Ghouls are basically the Forsaken).
 

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User
Chapter Two:Nuria Natal

Our first stop in the Southlands is the River Kingdom of Nuria Natal and a few of its autonomous neighbors. The region is heavily Ancient Egyptian in flavor, with its geography centered around the River Nuria whose waters are infused with the magic of ley lines. The kingdom’s earliest founders built their civilizations around said river in order to exploit its supernatural properties as well as its use as a fertile agricultural basin. The pyramids and tombs dotting the cities and countryside are actually complex engines of resurrection designed to bring fallen god-kings back from the veil of death in times of greatest need.

Although united in language and culture, the grandest cities are closely keyed to specific deities of the Nurian pantheon. Horus is the gods’ kingly head, but the cults of Anu-Akma (Anubis), Bastet, and Thoth-Hermes are the three most popular and powerful religious organizations in the nation. Anu-Akma’s cult handle affairs of ensuring the transferral of souls into a proper afterlife. Additionally they fund the creation of the many traps, mystical guardians, and other defenses of pyramids and tombs.

The worshipers of Bastet are a diverse sort, ranging from alchemists and farmers to hunters and soldiers. She claims the city of Per-Bastet as her home, often walking its streets in disguise as a mortal or feline. Said realm is a vibrant trading hub ruled by a council of secular and religious authorities, resulting in a quite ordered religion for a Chaotic goddess.

The worshipers of Thoth-Hermes have heavy representation among the Heru ravenfolk as well as a heavy hand in promoting education and knowledge. The cult is quite active in a secret mission of finding the lost Emerald Tablets of Wisdom. It is believed that said tablets contain writings by their god for altering the face of Midgard or communing with the World-Serpent. Perhaps ironically more than a few militant sects resorted to theft and tomb-robbing in hopes of collecting the tablets; to them, it is but a lesser heresy than letting the knowledge slip into the lost annals of history.

The write-up for Nuria Natal’s capital (the same name as the kingdom as a whole) is surprisingly brief. It talks about the god-king’s massive palace which includes a ceiling portraying a perfect copy of the night sky at all hours, to a Well of Ascension whose lotus-infused waters must be drunk in order to undertake the Tests of Inheritance necessary for claiming the throne.

Eastern City-States

Before diving into Nuria Natal proper we cover three city-states east of the kingdom who maintain heavy trade and cultural exchange with the River Kingdom. Siwal, Saph-Saph, and Makuria were founded as strongholds in the eastern deserts to better connect Nuria Natal’s trade network to the eastern realms, but now exist as independent political entities in and of themselves. They’re more medieval Arabia in culture and feel, and manage large caravans which include magical ships capable of sailing over sand dunes like water in addition to mundane transports.

The largest of these cities, Siwal, is called the city of Gardens for its large natural oasis. Elemental magic is built into urban planning to make lush vegetation grow throughout most of the city, including the tops of its walls. It is also home to the Grand Necropolis, the largest of its kind in the northern portion of the continent. Housing great heroes as well as paupers, it has modest natural protections but is heavily guarded by Anu-Akma’s guardians and mages known as gravebinders whose task is to ensure that no undead rise to plague Siwal’s citizens. Interestingly enough, the Necropolis is home to an undead community of ghosts, ghouls, and vampires who hold court at nightfall. They have an arrangement of sorts with the gravebinders to not attack the living (save in self-defense and against tomb-robbers) and to rise only at night, but otherwise can have the necropolis to themselves until the sun rises. This arrangement works out for both parties, even if it does give Siwal a macabre reputation at night.

Saph-Saph occupies a deep natural depression filled with springs and groves. The fortress of Per-Saph is its largest community, home to a temple-school of Aten which trains new generations of the god’s priests and paladins. The settlement of Saph-Ket is home to the Oracle of the Sun whose occupation has foretold prophecies for Nurian leaders for a thousand years. The city’s fertile groves are capable of building one new sandship each year.

Makuria is not as grand or rich as the former two cities, but it makes up for this with expert guard and mercenary work. Their primary clients are the border cities of Nuria’s south and Kush’s north, accepting coin from and against both sides. The more moral Order of Horus employs a cavalry tasked with keeping vital trade routes open, fighting against banditry and annexation by hostile powers.

Per-Bastet, Everlasting City of the Cat

The most famous city of Nuria Natal is not its capital, but one further south along its banks. Named for its relationship with the feline goddess, Per-Bastet is the Southlands’ Waterdeep: a cosmopolitan crossroads of cultures from southern Kush to the Mharoti Empire and beyond, a vibrant city home to all manner of factions, a chaotic council of government which doesn’t see eye to eye, and more than a few villainous figures skulking in the dark.

Per-Bastet’s history stretches back millennia, but the oldest historical evidence is lost to time. Bastet’s faithful claim their goddess chose it as a space to revel and host parties with the other gods, and whose divine tears of joy sank into underground caverns which nine great pyramids were built over. Gnolls claim they founded the city, and Nuria Natal’s first god-king claimed it as the capital for a time. Its geographic position as a trade hub placed it at the brunt of clashes with various forces, its most recent enemies the Mharoti Empire of the past 400 years.

Legends say that the city has been defeated and razed nine times in its millennia-long history, only to be reborn and rise again to glory. Like a precious jewel everyone wants, Per-Bastet has lured many hands to claim it. This, along with receiving nominal support from the rest of the country in recent campaigns against the Mharoti, has caused its diverse population to be fiercely patriotic of their hometown. Human or gnoll, living or dead, it is a chaotic city unlike anywhere else in the world...and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Neighborhoods and Locations

Per-Bastet is a riverside port of 60,000 souls. The city’s fed by a series of canals and irrigation ditches home to orchards and grain fields along with cattle. A series of monolith colonnades line the western harbor as a magical defense grid, where nine or more clerics or oracles of Per-Bastet can perform a ritual in a specific temple. This summons up mists and silt-filled eddies to teleport hostile creatures and vessels past the colonnade’s outer ring. The level and magical skill of said priestesses matters not, meaning that Per-Bastet has a potent naval defense.

Tors line the roads south of the city, home to a gorge known as the Path of the Gods, where immense statues over 80 feet tall are carved in the gods’ likenesses. The last four are so weathered they are unrecognizable and known as the forgotten gods. Temples between the statues’ feet lead into unknown places, whose doors remain locked by long-lost magical keys.

The much drier second river of the city is the River of Sand, an always-mobile quarter-mile wide flood of sand winding from the eastern desert into Per-Bastet’s east before ending in a funnel-shaped crater. Many objects and people lost in the flow are sometimes found years, decades, or centuries later in seemingly random locations in the farther deserts. Such “sand-touched” objects are prized for their supposed good luck charms. The river’s magical reputation is further reinforced by the presence of earth elementals swimming within its flow much like fish.

The cats of Per-Bastet are numerous and have free roam of the city. They can access a unique form of transportation known as catslide alleys, out-of-the-way magical portals which can lead elsewhere in the city and even farther-flung places such as northern cities or a hellcat den in the Eleven Hells.

For neighborhoods proper, Per-Bastet is divided into nine districts. The Palace District occupies a plateau at the feet of Bastet’s statue, an invitation-only neighborhood home to the opulent mansions of the city’s rulers. The District of the Lioness is the city’s spiritual center, a mixture of rich and poor people along with a sizeable presence of feline races from nkosi to werecats, as well as cat-loving humanoids and endless hordes of normal cats. The Dome of the Divine Face of Bastet, the goddess’ greatest temple, calls the Lioness home, and most businesses here are dedicated to entertainment from theaters to brothels. The District of the Cat is a labyrinthine market district most active at dark, whose nkosi inhabitants have their own internal social laws but nonetheless more than happy to welcome visitors. The Wharf District sees to the city’s waterbound trade: it houses the largest slave market in Nuria Natal, mostly derived from the draconic races taken as prisoners of war. Werecrocodiles live in the district and are surprisingly well-mannered...save when gnolls hunt the crocodiles they raise as a rite of passage, which leads to tensions between the two races in the city.

The Monument District is the city’s administrative center. Its academies, granaries, and public works buildings sit beneath grand sphinxes and pedestal-clad statues testament to patriotic glory. Of particular shock to most visitors is that the Dead, or Per-Bastet’s name for undead citizens, outnumber the living as civil servants in this district. The God-Queen Meskhenit and an army of the Dead lair in the neighborhood’s local pyramid, capable of fielding the largest army in Nuria Natal. The Guard District is the other undead-majority neighborhood, housing the offices, courts, and jails along with a Sandship Harbor.

The Hunt is Per-Bastet’s bad section of town. Occupied by mostly-abandoned builds inhabited by various monsters and elementals, the city’s laws hold no sway here. Fugitives and criminal organizations use the district as a temporary refuge, and its westernmost tip holds an island containing the vampire-run Pallid Court. The district’s Great Sand Pyramid host an amazing phenomenon where a trail of sand falls to the structure’s top from an unknown location high in the sky.

The District of the Hyena is a gnoll-majority neighborhood which sits upon multiple layers of ancient buildings comprising a series of underground warrens. The gnolls are mostly self-governing and resolve disputes through blood debts. Its two notable locations are the Temple of Anu-Akma who grant blessings to the departed and decide who is worthy enough to be raised into the Dead. Finally, the Perfume District sits downstream at the city’s northern edge. It hosts the smelliest occupations in a series of bridge-connected islands, and there’s a thriving black market for poison, alchemic constructs, and ingredients for necromantic rites.

Government and Military

Its own leadership varies wildly on who you ask: King Thutmoses XXIII, the present god-king of Nuria Natal, claims that his brother Haty-a Haakim rules this great jewel of the city. But most citizens point to the Reborn Queen-Goddess Meskhenit as their ruler. The undead sorceress-priestess of Bastet commands a legion of undead and whose inhuman charisma holds the city together. But even she is subservient to her patron deity, who would replace both rulers in rank if she ever bothered to sit on the throne long-term. The Council of Sands acts as an advisory capacity to Haakim, which includes the prototypical traitorous vizier who plans to assassinate said monarch and usurp Meskhenit’s command over the Dead. The other council members are more mundane in their pursuits, such as a rigid lawyer who finds the city’s discordant way of doing things nightmarish for her job. Other notable power players in Per-Bastet include the Pallid Court, a society of rich vampires who are treated as ordinary citizens (if ones the average street-goer doesn’t want to mess with) due to a mixed relationship of deals and tit-for-tat power jockeying with Meskhenit; and the Gnoll Warlord Raykar-Takur, who can field 6,000 elite fighters from the Gnoll Corner in times of war but busies himself with desert hunts and fighting in the Great Arena.

Per-Bastet’s major military forces include the living Army of Summer, who comprise the infantry and charioteers along with Raykar-Takur’s gnoll legions. The Legion of Wadjet holds dominion over the river, made up of barges supplemented by aquatic monsters, nagas, and werecrocodiles. The Legion also contains a dire spinosaurus as a secret weapon submerged beneath the city. The Sky Guard of Horus are the city’s air force, made up of griffon-riders, air elementals, and sphinxes. Finally, Reborn Queen-Goddess Meskhenit leads the Dead to battle, who are called the Army of Night by the city’s living soldiers.

Tes-Luria, Seat of the Carnidine Kingdom

The ruins of Tes-Luria are the last legacy of a long-forgotten kingdom founded by Bastet. It was one of the most powerful nations in the Southlands before collapsing. The causes of this are unknown and debated by scholars, although the most popular explanations are known as the Three Dooms of Tes-Luria. The Dooms point to drought, being forsaken by their patron deity, or the loss of key ley lines from enemy countries’ magical manipulations. What is known now is that its walls are empty, home to none but brave expeditions of tomb-robbers, pilgrims, and undead and golem guardians. We get a write-up of several archeological mysteries to be found within, such as a fane to the demon god of gnolls whose frescoes strangely portray him as a much kinder figure than he is now. We also learn about five tombs holding famed figures and their treasures, such as a werelion warrior believed to be the son of the Hunter, a sinister deity, his corpse encased with his holy ax in a solid block of basalt.

Per-Anu, City of Crimson Pillars

Hidden among hills and open only to the faithful of Anu-Akma and his allies, the city of Per-Anu is a strange domain devoted to death in all its forms. Its macabre Red Market is home to trade in necromancy, blood, and spiritual manners, including many sacred tokens and binding agents useful against the undead. Some people swear that newly awakened god-kings and goddess-queens can be spotted in the streets in search of potent charms. Healers find their trade here as well: devotees of Isis operate out of the Temple of White Blossoms, and the famed Embalmer’s Guild know of the secret rites of preparing proper burials for nobles, god-kings, and other Nurian heroes. Their status is so high in the city that any attempts at harming a member of the guild is a great crime which will bring down the wrath of the god-kings themselves.

Irsu, Per-Anu’s god-king, is a darakhul, a special type of Midgard ghoul. He arrived at the city as a pilgrim and ruled for centuries since. Irsu prioritizes research into the Red Portals, local extraplanar gateways which grant a direct line of travel into the many Underworlds of the dearly departed. Said portals are watched closely and presided over by the city’s elite guards, which is a good thing as all manner of monsters and fiends seem drawn to them. There is even a grand school of magic, the Society of Portal Wizards, which funds travelling beyond the mortal realm into the myriad worlds beyond. Per-Anu’s other great academy, the Order of Tombkeepers, focuses on all things spiritual and undead along with the guardianship of cemeteries and other places of rest.

Perilous Sights of the River Kingdom

Rounding out our traveller’s almanac for this chapter is a list of miscellaneous adventure locales for Nuria Natal along with a sidebar containing 20 adventure hooks. I will not list them all, but some of the more interesting ones include the devil-operated Ghatazi Salt Pits whose slaves work the salt mines. Their iconic trade good is colored red, said to be wettened from the miner’s own blood. There is also the Lost Army’s Field, a mass grave of Mharoti soldiers and dragons consumed by the desert and whose spirits haunt this desolate stretch. For some good old-fashioned dungeon-crawling we have the Corrupted Pyramid of Khensu, a structure haunted by the ghosts of slaves perished from the mass sacrifice of a Nurian vizier seeking godhood.

We get a page or two of common wilderness terrain types, trade routes and goods along with the game statistics for sandships. Basically it’s a template applied to a mundane vessel which allows it to travel over desert and tundra. We also get a lengthy description of the Eyes of Aten, an organization dedicated to the Nurian sun god.

Aten is a rather unique case as far as gods go; in the base Midgard setting, the gods wear masks to obscure their number and allow themselves to appear as different identities in different cultures. Aten and his faithful insist that such deities are but very powerful pretenders and he is the true divinity of reality. His faith holds sway in the Nurian city of Per-Xor, which has an army of its own. But the Eyes of Aten are a secret cult whose members are chosen by the god himself via specific dreaming premonitions and prophecies. It is said that Aten used to unleash the powerful monster Sekhmet and his own burning gaze upon evil, but their powers were so great that they would leave the earth a lifeless, charred ruin if they continued. So he appointed the Eyes as servants to carry out his will in the mortal realm.

The Eyes of Aten are part spy agency, part terrorist cell. They are decentralized and clandestine although they do have a clear hierarchy of order. The Eyes prefer to act through unwitting third parties, mercenaries, and bribed civil servants to gain funds and strike at their enemies. They have their own sub-orders dedicated to specialized tasks, such as the Chosen of Sekhmet who are vicious werelion “clean up crews” unleashed when the chips are down, and the Shadowed Suns who are mummies created for long-term surveillance of areas of interest to their god.

New Rules

Instead of combining all the crunch into chapters on their own, the Southlands compiles the rulesy bits of character options, equipment, spells, and so on at the end of respective chapters. Said rules are themed for the region in question, and with Nuria Natal we’ll be getting lots of Egyptian-themed goodies.

The Necrology of the Mummy takes the iconic monster archetype and expands on it. Unlike most other D&D/Pathfinder settings, Nurian undead and mummies aren’t always evil spreaders of rotting plague; they are sacred sentinels watching over the sleeping heroes of times long past. We get new templates and abilities such as an Animated Shroud attack where a mummy can use its wrappings to entangle opponents; revenant mummies created to exact revenge; mummy death-curses capable of delivering debilitating afflictions to those who destroy them; scholarly tomes which can grant benefits to those studying them for all things mummy, and even alternative plays on the monster trope such as star-crossed lovers who undergo mummification and burial in the hopes of meeting each other in another era.

We have new archetypes for existing classes, such as the the Chosen of Aten for the theurge who specializes in evocation and necromancy spells; the Face of Bastet for Clerics, who receive less spells per day and give up a divine domain in exchange for the ability to gain physical properties and attacks of a big cat such as a lion or panther; a gravebinder for the white necromancer who gains a pseudo-favored enemy against undead as well as the ability to permanently sanctify corpses among other themed abilities; and the Sword-Dancer for the Fighter who specializes in lightly-armored stylish moves, such as using attacks of opportunity as counterattacks to melee strikes and adding their Charisma bonus to Armor Class. The only prestige class is the Ray of Aten (he seems to be getting lots of love) which focuses around marking targets as an enemy of the faith for extra damage, using fear-based effects, and an easier ability to cast certain divination spells a limited number of times per day (no material components and shorter casting times).



The last major section of this chapter is Hieroglyphic Magic. Known among the Nurians as the Words of Truth or Weret Hekau, they can inscribe pictographic runes on physical objects associated with concepts and deities in order to grant wards and boons upon the building or wearer. Mechanically, this is a sub-system of magic which actually plays off a system from one of Kobold Press’ other sourcebooks, Deep Magic, so I cannot comment on it holistically. But from what I surmise you take a Rune Mastery feat to gain a mastery bonus which is some mechanical benefit, and treat yourself as having knowledge of certain spells for the purposes of crafting magical items. Finally, knowledge of a rune grants you one of two special once-per-day powers (one or the other can be used, not both): one to use on yourself, or one to inscribe the rune on an object and grant powers to said object.

The hieroglyphs are split up by deities they are associated with and have flowery names: The God’s Company Is Like Light is associated with Thoth-Hermes and grants bonuses on knowledge checks, a 1/day increasing bonus to Intelligence-related rolls or cast magic weapon spell if inscribed on a weapon, and you’re treated as having knowledge of spells such as true seeing, tongues, and legend lore. Dress the Wind in the Cloying and Fair is associated with Bastet and grants bonuses on social roles, treats you as having knowledge of enchantment spells such as calm emotions and beguiling gift, a 1/day bonus to increase the DC or saving throw bonus related to enchantment effects for yourself, or can inscribe the rune on an amulet to gain a one-time +10 check to Diplomacy.

Our chapter ends with a pair of new spells; Dessicating Breath, a 4th/5th level spell which deals 1d6 strength damage to all living creatures in a 25 foot cone; and Speak with Inanimate Objects, a 1st-level spell which allows you to ask and receive answers from spirits embedded within an inanimate object. The former spell is a bit underwhelming for one of its level, while the latter is rather overpowered in that it more or less does what Speak with Plants does but is lower level and affects a larger criteria of beings.

Thoughts So Far: I really like this chapter. Nuria Natal has a healthy mixture of urban intrigue, classic dungeon crawls of pyramids and ruined sites, and wilderness terrain of sufficient danger. I like the incorporation of undead into society, from Per-Bastet’s civil servants to Siwal’s nightly courts. Per-Bastet comes off as an iconic city of adventure, and the touch of metropoli favored by specific gods is a cool touch and one based upon actual ancient Egyptian theology. The variant mummy templates are a good inclusion to keep the iconic Egyptian monster from getting stale in encounters, although the new class archetypes left me a bit cold. The Sword-Dancer was the most interesting conceptually, although I cannot help but feel that the concept is better represented by Paizo’s own Swashbuckler or high-quality martial alternatives from the Path of War or Spheres of Might. What can I say, those books spoiled me on martials. This chapter alone has enough material to generate an entire campaign within Fantasy Not-Egypt, so we’re off to a very strong start!

Join us next time as we traverse the Dominion of the Wind Lords, of vast deserts and nomadic tribes presided over by elemental rulers!
 

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User
Neat.

I actually contributed to the kickstarter for the Southlands Bestiary. They sent me a copy of the campaign setting book by mistake so I ended up buying the Bestiary, as an apology they gave me credit to buy any book in their catalog, which I used to get the Midgar campaign setting.

In short, Kobold Press are good people. They do top notch work and I love everything they make.

Regarding the Trollkin, I always thought they might be a way to stealth in WoW style trolls into a Pathfinder game (Kind of the same way the Darakhul Ghouls are basically the Forsaken).
I do not know enough about Warcraft lore to make comparisons on this. But yes, the Kobolds are the dragon's gold standard when it comes to 3rd party Pathfinder and 5th Edition. On their Facebook page they sprinkled hints at an upcoming 'eastern' setting expansion for Midgard. After seeing what they did with Southlands, I have high hopes for it.
 

Crinos

Next to me you're all number two!
Validated User
I do not know enough about Warcraft lore to make comparisons on this. But yes, the Kobolds are the dragon's gold standard when it comes to 3rd party Pathfinder and 5th Edition. On their Facebook page they sprinkled hints at an upcoming 'eastern' setting expansion for Midgard. After seeing what they did with Southlands, I have high hopes for it.
I hope it has an accompanying bestiary to go with it. Can never get enough Asian themed monsters.
 

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User
Chapter Three: Dominion of the Wind Lords

To the west of Nuria Natal, across the Crescent Desert, lies a stretch of arid land known as the Dominion of the Wind Lords. It is a harsh realm, its great Stone Desert made of sunbaked plains instead of sandy dunes. To the average observer, the Dominion is a no man’s land whose past glories of Roshgazi and Golden Ulthar are now lost to the elements. This may be true to some extent, but to the inhabitants who claim this harsh territory home, the Dominion is positively alive with unseen wonders. Precious oases are blessed sources of life, unseen nature spirits walk among mortals. The Tamasheq nomads know of these places and guard them from the unworthy, placating said spirits with offerings for protection if the mercurial spectres’ whims align with theirs. The jinnborn are the other major nomadic group, a race of their own claiming descent from powerful elementals. Then there are the gnolls of Dabu and the minotaurs of Cindass, seeking to build new glorious civilizations amidst the wasteland.

The Tamasheq and jinnborn recognize four great primordial spirits but only three of them are typically honored in mainstream society. Chergui the East Wind is the friendliest to mortals, bringing cool ocean breezes to quell the harsh heat; Shamal the West hates mortals and summons deadly weather in an attempt to drive them from the Dominion; Khamsin the South is a creature of emotional extremes embodying the hot gales blowing from southern wastelands. Then there is Boreas, the exiled North Wind who sometimes visits the Dominion to stir up trouble; he is placated by three Tamasheq tribes who are opposed by all of their other kin.

I find Shamal’s characterization interesting, on account that the history chapter had the Wind Lords disgusted at Boreas’ cruelty to mortals and was the main reason for driving him out. I suppose that millennia can change even a spirit, although the text does not discuss what caused Shamal’s about-face.

Beyond the Wind Lords are an endless amount of lesser spirits connected to phenomena and objects of the natural world: every rock formation, every body of water and gale of wind contains a conscious free-willed entity. Said spirits interact with mortals of the Dominion through the Spider Prophet and other oracles and leaders. Politically speaking they are divided between loyalty to the three Wind Lords, or act as agents of Boreas. This civil war operates on a scale imperceptible to mortals, waged with natural phenomena and shifting of ecosystems rather than armies and hordes.

The Tamasheq

The Tamasheq are the Dominion’s most well-known population to outsiders and are based off of the real-world Tuareg nomads of the Sahara Desert. Numbering half a million, almost all of them claim the region as their home but some make voyages as far as Nuria Natal for trade. They are recognizable by their indigo-colored clothes, and take great pains to convince and other civilizations that they are but simple nomads. In reality, they have a thriving secret city in the mountains by the name of Kel Azjer, home to magical, artistic, and technological marvels. They hide this from the world so as to prevent invasions and intervention by outsiders.

Kel Azjer itself is a sprawling metropolis full of spires, whose hungry mouths are fed by plateau farms managed by slaves captured in warfare. The beautiful Palace of the Spirits contains three empty thrones in the event the Wind Lords ever choose to physically manifest, but perhaps the city’s greatest marvel are the vril mines. Passed down from their Ankeshelian forebears, a rare ore known as vril is capable of nigh-magical wonders and acts as the Midgard setting’s “sufficiently enhanced technology;” naturally the mines are fiercely guarded, but there is a thriving black market of unscrupulous merchants.

Not located in Kel Azjer proper but of great importance to the Tamasheq is the Palace of the Spider Prophet, home to an immortal figure of unknown origin who possesses a seemingly boundless well of wisdom. In fact, this insight is due to a vast network of wind spirits carrying overheard conversations and secrets back to to his ears, as well as being the high priest of Kwansi, a god of chaos and luck.

Dabu, Twin Land of the Gnolls

This loosely organized collection of gnoll packs is not a kingdom in the true sense of the word. Bound in commonality by their race at most, each clan has their own customs and favored divine or demonic patron. The packs operate among themselves in a pseudo-feudal system: secular leaders known as Sas (singular sa) rule individual packs and pledge fealty to a Kasa who is the leader of the strongest pack in the region. The Kasa obey the Ama, who is an oracle. The current Ama is an elderly gnoll by the name of Ninshu who is trying to reign in the gnolls more warlike tendencies. This is not done out of genuine peacemaking, but due to the fact that the tensions with the Narumbeki to the southeast are on the rise and she knows that a true war against them will be one-sided in the humans’ favor. One of her daughters does not share her tempered response: Isha seeks to unite Dabu into a true gnoll empire once she takes the mantle of Ama.

An interesting site in Dabu is the Pool of the Sky, a lake filled with clear water capable of granting oracular visions and removal of harmful curses and charms, but with the risk of imposing insanity on the drinker. The gnolls treat the lake as sacred and guard it against unwanted drinkers.

Valley of Golden Ulthar

Within the Crescent Desert east of the Dominion proper is a most unusual site: a lush magical valley seemingly untouched by the surrounding desert. Once home to a grand civilization, its only major structure is the dust-ridden temple of Serbata which has fallen prey to generations of thieves and overgrowth. It is within this temple that Golden Ulthar’s last remaining citizen still lives: Sepenret the sphinx, a sorrowful woman who seeks to recover the artifacts of her homeland. She employs a company of adventurers and explorers known as the Claws of Sepenret for this task. The other group in the Valley is known as the Order of the Sphinx, a multi-generational group of guardians who serve lifetimes of vigilance in protecting Ulthar’s legacy.

In fact, intact stonework and magic items within this valley contain powerful transmutation magic related to the growing of plants and crops. Known as Pieces of Ulthar, their properties have not been reverse-engineered by other civilizations; they seem tied to the era at which Golden Ulthar fell, and the only way new Pieces are made is when Sepenret lays a stone egg. The sphinx treats such eggs as the most valuable things in the valley, and will instruct the Claws to retrieve them by any means necessary if they are stolen.

Although some steal pieces for the seemingly noble goal of establishing fertile land in the desert (something Sepenret would approve of if they ever bothered to ask permission), most thieves are more selfish and seek the pieces to gain power and status. In fact, Sepenret’s greatest threat is a wererat tribe led by a cruel chieftain building up territory in hopes of claiming the entire valley for himself.

The Ruins of Roshgazi and Emirate of Cindass

The Fantasy Counterpart Carthage of the Southlands, Roshgazi was once the capital of the minotaur’s Moon Kingdom. Several centuries ago the Mhraoti dragon-fleets descended upon the city for the dual purposes of creating a western front against Nuria Natal while also destroying an Orb of Dragonkind they believed the minotaurs possessed. Using illusion magic and destructive alchemy, the Mharoti besieged the city in a devastating ambush. They scorched and poisoned the fields and wells around it for miles to ensure nothing could grow from its soil. Roshgazi, and by extension the rest of the Moon Kingdom, never recovered from this devastation.

Most of the city still lies in ruins, inhabited mostly by monsters, ravenous insane minotaurs, and rare explorers from the Seven Cities of the northern continent. Due to the minotaur race’s ability to naturally intuit direction, significant portions of town are a confusing array of mazes meant to hinder invaders (and of limited use against airborne dragon raids).

Several ambient magical protections lie in place, especially the Heart of Roshgazi. This sapient sphere lies deep within the First Labyrinth, tasked with keeping the city safe. Unfortunately a deep crack from a saboteur’s magical hammer rent the Heart’s personalities in twain. The Poet is the more benevolent of the two personalities and seeks to bring in people to repair Roshgazi and ward them from its dangers. Broken, the other personality, is downright paranoid and believes the city to still be under attack and treats all newcomers as Mharoti invaders.

The minotaur city of Cindass has fared better. It too was razed by dragonfire, but in recent years patriotic minotaurs begun rebuilding and settling it with the aid of jinnborn tribes. Now the city-state is half functional settlement half ruins still inhabited by all the dangerous things in fantasy worlds which are drawn to such places. The rebuilding project is not without its problems: there are disputes with the Tamasheq over grazing grounds, gnoll raiders view Cindass as a risky yet profitable target, and there are people seeking to establish trade with the devil-slavers of the eastern Ghatazi Salt Pits.

Perilous Sites and Adventure Seeds

This miscellaneous collection of locales details minor sites of interest to adventurers. The more interesting ones include the Restless Prophet, a gargantuan camel bearing a gnoll fortress upon its back, and the goblin-inhabited ruined city of Mardas Vhula-Gai which is filled with magical glyphs and vril technology. We also get adventure seeds folding in the major factions of the Dominion: an insane noble who believes her bloodline is descended from Sepenret and seeks her stone eggs; a long-lost copper tablet in Roshgazi claiming to detail a land of peace and safety the city’s Moon Queen fled to long ago; and a Tamasheq tribe seeking to expand their holdings into the dangerous Granite Teeth, a series of broken stony lands inhabited by abominations.

Character Options

The crunchy options for this chapter contain a little bit of everything. We start out with a new race, the jinnborn. It details their culture as well as their game stats. Basically jinnborn are nomadic people who follow mystical paths known as siraati which determine their customs and cultural values based upon the teachings of their tribe’s Jinn founder, and they call each other sab siraat meaning “people of the path.” They wander along seasonal trade routes and take up occupations which can work for mobile living (traders, mercenaries, herders, etc). Their own cultural origins place their creations at the hands of the Jinn, elemental spirits claimed to be present at the dawn of the world. The world of the Jinn, also known as the Hidden World, plays the role of heaven or enlightenment in their culture.



Stat-wise, jinnborn are a very powerful race. They have their choice of +2 Strength or Constitution, +2 Charisma, and -2 Intelligence. They get +2 bonus on Diplomacy, Knowledge (Geography), Sense Motive, and Survival checks and said knowledge skill is always a class skill. Their defensive abilities include energy resistance based on their siraati and have a constant endure elements spell upon themselves. Furthermore, they have their choice of one of four supernatural abilities reflecting the diversity of their magical powers: 1: bonus energy damage on melee rolls a number of rounds per day based on level; 2: an energy-based ranged touch attack whose uses per day are keyed off Charisma; 3: the ability to increase their energy resistance further for 1 minute per level; or 4: once per day the ability to call upon one’s patron jinn to do an appropriately “unseen trickery” based ability such as imposing a miss chance on an incoming attack, cast the prestidigitation spell, or gain a bonus on feints or saving throws. Jinn who live for an extended period of time in cities and settlements begin to suffer mental disorders, which is accompanied by a table of sample negative mechanical effects.

There are feats for the jinnborn which can grant them improved uses of their supernatural powers and even new ones altogether. Overall the feats are quite useful in that they grant scaling abilities or broad uses. For example, Vessel of the Hidden World turns the defensive energy resistance to always-active and also grants damage reduction vs bludgeoning, piercing or slashing (based on your siraati) ranging from DR 5 to DR 10 based on your level.


Our new class archetypes include the Blessed Scamp (Rogue), a charmed trickster whose main feature is slightly less sneak attack progression in exchange for the ability to perform a mischief in conjunction with said sneak attacks. Mischiefs impose status conditions on an enemy such as dazed, being knocked back 5 feet away, falling prone, etc. The Gnoll Raider (Rogue) is interesting in being keyed specifically to the gnoll race: they grant others of their archetype as well as the Havoc Runner the Coordinated Maneuvers feat, adding their Intelligence modifier to splash damage, and the ability to create temporary magical Shock Bags which can mimic any alchemical item. Related to the archetype, we get a pair of new rogue talents: Improved Alchemical Formula which increases the damage die by 1 and save DC of alchemical equipment by 2, and Superior Alchemical Formula which doubles the damage value and increases the DC by half the rogue’s level (!!!). Overall pretty strong talents.


The Elemental Crusaders (Paladin) are known as the imajaghan* among the Tamasheq. They are warriors who draw their powers from elemental spirits instead of the typical angelic/celestial entities. They gain the ability to cast Summon Monster for elementals whose power is based on their paladin levels, as well as the ability to have a constant elemental whose size and type grows based on level. The Crusader has to give up disease immunity, mercies, channeling positive energy, and the divine bond/mount, but overall this is a worthy trade due to the versatility of elementals in combat and utility adventuring.

*Apparently this is a real word, although the only English google search result I could find was a performance of an Amazigh tribal dance and a Kobold Press article on said paladin archetype.

The Havoc Runner (Fighter) is the other gnoll-specific archetype, who has the Coordinated Maneuvers bonus feat as the Gnoll Raider, a level-dependent bonus on all Appraise checks and the ability to use said skill as swift or immediate action, bonus movement which can be made only before attacking a foe, and the ability to impose attack roll and movement speed penalties on enemies you attack provided you spend each round attacking a different foe.

Finally, the Janni Master (Summoner) gains a janni companion as an eidolon who is stored inside a lamp or similar object. The janni gains new abilities much like an eidolon, although their feats, spell-like abilities, and special powers are more or less already chosen ahead of time. This feels a bit underwhelming in comparison to the sheer versatility of the base summoner’s eidolons. The janni is a mobile fighter, gaining things such as a fly speed, feats such as dodge and weapon finesse, spell-like abilities such as invisibility, enlarge/reduce person, etc.

This chapter’s only Prestige Class is the Claw of Sepenret, which is synonymous with the order of the same name. Its prerequisites are easy: 5 ranks in Knowledge (Arcana), Knowledge (Nature), and Survival, must have a neutral aspect in your alignment, and be sponsored by another Claw. Their class features are rather specific to the organization, such as the ability to cast locate object but for Pieces of Ulthar, cast spells involving plants as one level higher, the ability to transform into a lion or dire lion, etc. Additionally, there is a grab-bag list of class features known as Boons the Claw can take in lieu of a caster level increase: most of them grant the ability to cast a pair of themed spell-like abilities such as longstrider or pass without trace (Boon of Striding), the ability to treat your melee attacks as certain types for Damage Reduction purposes, and the ability to teleport at will one-way to Sepenret’s temple if you have a Piece of Ulthar in your possession.


The Spells section is modest. They include Conjure Oasis and Storm Shelter which summon a lush body of water or energy field respectively to protect you from the elements, and four spells known as Air/Earth/Fire/Water Leap which allow you to teleport up to 30 feet within line of sight as a swift action provided you are in physical contact with said element before and after your teleportation. As you can imagine, Air Leap is going to be the most useful to the average party.

We end things with some new Magic Items. Most of them are carpets and tapestries woven by nomad artisans. In addition to the iconic flying carpet we also have interesting items such as a Bearhide Rug which can make claw and grab attacks, or a Mindweave Rug which plays out a scene from your memory and grants a +5 bonus on Knowledge or Perception checks to remember details of that scene. We have a few non-tapestry magic items such as an Awakening Rod which conjures a spirit from a natural feature as a summoning spell, a Harnessing Belt which merges your physical body with a summoned or willing outsider, and a Turban of the Desert Waste which allows you to meld into sand and create a livable pocket space within a dune or sandy location.

Thoughts So Far: Although not as long or full of detail as Nuria Natal, the Dominion of the Wind Lords is nonetheless a strong chapter. The minotaur rebuilding project of Cindass and a lost tablet of Roshgazi are good adventure fodder, particularly the use of an insane artifact presiding over a maze city. I like how Golden Ulthar is a reverse Indiana Jones: explorers and adventurers traversing the land to return ancestral heirlooms to their proper place makes for a strong plot, and they even have a bad guy faction seeking to take over the Valley for control of its powers.

I also liked the new new rules options, particularly the Blessed Scamp and Elemental Crusaders. They felt overall balanced and had plenty of appealing options. This stands in marked contrast to the diamond in the rough Pathfinder mini-game of searching through uninspiring options for an ideal feat/spell/etc.

Join us next time as we visit the High Jungles, home to the floating city of Aerdvall and the troubled Kingdom of Kush!
 

Crinos

Next to me you're all number two!
Validated User
Even if the class isn't great, that image of the guy riding on the back of a bear genie is pretty boss.
 
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