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Midderwood on the Barrowlands
MY DREAM OSR SETTING
When I have a few spare moments I sometimes idly think about what I would want in my ideal, long-term campaign setting; I’ve always somewhat idollised those Grognards who have been playing in the same campaign setting for 30+ years (or however long it is) and would love to have a campaign setting that holds my attention for that sort of span. Unfortunately—once I finish a campaign—I’m normally captivated by something else and what to head off in a different direction.
That doesn’t mean I don’t muse about what my long-term campaign setting would look lie.
With the Dolmenwood setting from Necrotic Gnome to hit Kickstarter in the not too distant future me thoughts have once again turned to how I could run a campaign using this whimsical and deadly fantasy forest. I’m lucky enough to have the earlier iteration of Dolmenwood (which was released in a series of zines called Wormskin, sadly no longer available) and am also a backer of the Necrotic Gnome Patreon so I’ve had access to some of the preview material for the forthcoming Kickstarter and I really love the grim fairytale vibe that the setting espouses. I’ve actually used it as an alternate demi-plane in my previous Smoke & Snow Campaign, but would dearly love to bring it to the tabletop as a campaign setting in it’s own right.
However, there’s another campaign setting which holds a deep place in my deep-green heart, and that is the Midderlands by Monkey Blood Design & Publishing, a green-tinged, warped version of the British Isles with a grotty, Blackadder-esque humour to it and twisted versions of historical people and places populating it (alongside the many strains of goblin).
I’ve run a couple of campaigns in the Midderlands and have absolutely loved it, coming from the UK myself, the sense of humour espoused in the books comes pretty naturally to me and the setting has a wonderful “through a mirror darkly” feel to it that very much appeals to me.
On top of that there are a few classic modules that I’d love to incorporate into a “forever campaign setting”, because, well, they’re classic; the main one that comes to mind is the Keep on the Borderlands. I’ve got both a PDF and hard-copy of this venerable and well-loved module but have never yet got round to bringing it to the table and I’d dearly love to sample this slice of gaming history by folding it into a larger campaign setting.
There are also some newer modules and dungeons that I’d love to wrap up in the campaign, the most obvious of which is Barrowmaze, a huge megadungeon/hex-crawl that I have been fortunate enough to play in when Cody of the Dungeon Discord ran some sessions of it using Delving Deeper. It’s essentially a hex-crawl where you explore an area covered in ancient burial mounds and barrows teeming with the undead, some of which connect up to form a megadungeon where the PCs can delve into the sinister reason behind the restless spirits that roam the land.
The main issue for me with melding all these things together (and I’ve sort of tried with one or two of them in the past) is that—if you lean too heavily into one of them—then you inevitably end up short-changing one of the other aspects/components of the campaign. It doesn’t stop me wanting to join them all together though.
At the moment I’m toying with the idea that the PCs are outsiders from the Midderlands sent into Dolmenwood in search of something to prevent the spilling of undead from the nearby Barrow-downs. This means that some of the Midderlands stuff could be drawn upon for inspiration/background and possibly a couple of adventures at the start of the campaign, the middle part would be exploring Dolmenwood looking for some sort of macguffin and the final part would involve braving the Barrow-downs to halt/stem the tide of undead flowing out of them.
Now all this would involve some re-jigging of maps, and tweaking the setting material to get it to blend together (and I’ve not even thought about how to get the Keep on the Borderlands into it, unless I have that as the final resting place of the doohicky they need) but I really like the idea of having a targeted and focused initial campaign to cement the vibe of the amalgamated campaign setting and—once that is down—there is ample room to run future campaigns focussed on one or another areas of the world. I might post some stuff in future about this as I muse on it in spare moments, if you’re interested let me know :)
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