Midgard: Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire
By Thilo Graf
The second of Midgard Player’s Guides is 31 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
The Mharoti-empire is one of the most interesting nations in the Midgard setting: An empire in service to the elemental dragon lords, this vast nation is governed by a sultan(a) elected by the conglomerate of dragons in order to avoid the power-struggles between draconic masters. Hungry to satiate the draconic lust for treasure and power, the young empire is on the constant verge of expansion and looking to use its vast, draconic military to fuel its conquests. That being said, another interesting fact is that humans are actually second-class citizens that rank below the dragonkin and kobolds – after are, the scaled races are closer to their scaled overlords. But in fact, the social structure of the empire is more complex, as the entry on the castes show:
The Jambuka (or jackals) occupy the bottom ladder of the empire and consists of the non-scaled folks – with one notable exception: The sultana of the empire is actually a dragon-blooded human. Also, the legendary Harem Assassins of the empire are recruited from this caste as a kind of elite cadre of enforcers. Above the jackals rank the kobaldi, who make up the bulk of engineers, sappers etc. and beyond the kobaldi, there are the Sekban, the lowest caste of dragonkin, which also include a few humans with draconic blood. The shocktroops of the empire, the Edjet are a warrior-caste raised from birth to serve as the backbone and elite of the empire’s vast military forces. Minor lords and light cavalry, the Akinji-caste is the home of dragonkin and drakes, whereas the highest strata are the Timarli (dragon dukes), Urmanli (scaled lords, a caste for dragons) and finally, there are the Morza, the grand dragons that truly rule the empire.
After all this great fluff, we’re off to the crunchy bits of the guide, with a total of 43 (unless I have miscounted) traits being offered to show that your PC hails from glorious Mharoti. Among the regular traits, the vast majority can be considered balanced an well-conceived, with one exception: “Dragon Fighter” doubles your threat range versus draconic foes, which is imho broken even if you don’t take into account that dragonkin and kobolds may or may not count as draconic creatures. This trait needs a revision. Among the racial traits, we also get a solid selection of traits, with many exclusive to dragonkin and drakes, though rules to play the latter are not included in the book.
EDIT: Broken Components from the first iteration of the pdf have been revised: Deep Seer has been upgraded from a trait to a feat, for example and a broken trait that expanded all threat-ranges for a weapon-category was nerfed to where it works as intended..
We also get 24 new feats, unfortunately also several ones with problems. While I like the options for kobolds and dragonkin to gain gliding wings and flying via feats, there are also issues: Climbing Claws nets you a +4 feat bonus to climb as well as climb speed at full movement with a -5 penalty AND retain your dex-bonus. The thing is, there is no such bonus as a feat-bonus in standard PFRPG and the benefits feel rather a tad bit too much for me.
EDIT: In the last version of the Player’s Guide, the Breath Weapon-feat was broken and it has been redone so it actually works and feels balanced – kudos! The completely broken Dragon Slayer feat has also been salvaged: Now you auto-confirm threats versus large or larger draconic creatures. While I personally don’t like auto-confirms, as a reviewer I don’t complain about this feat’s revised and much streamlined iteration.
“Roar of the Dragon Lords” has also been nerfed: It allows you to emit a 30 ft.-roar 3/day. Foes with less than 1/2 HD of you get shaken if on a DC 20-save and you also get +4 to intimidate for a one minute afterwards. Oh, now it can’t be taken at first level anymore, making it a nice feat-choice, though personally, I would have preferred a scaling DC.
After that, we get new archetypes: Cavaliers may now become members of the Order of the Firedrake, who may choose draconic/reptilian mounts at the DM’s approval and gain some inspiration-based abilities. The remnants of 4th edition-style designs have been purged from the archetype and it now works as intended. Great!
Also: Dragon and drake mounts are HARD to balance and the lack of guidance is a major bummer for any DM. Super Genius Games have their Dragon Rider class and it’s balancing is HARD as it shows how much to consider. Minor size-based balancing guidelines for reptilian/draconic mounts have been included in the revision.
Druids may now become Elemental Exarchs may get an elemental companion with which they can fuse and gain some elemental-based abilities. The fusing is a neat idea, though I wished they had wildered a bit regarding the summoner-eidolon rules, as the rest of the archetype is mostly what you’d expect from elemental druids. Sorry, but in spite of the cool temporary fusion with the elemental, I can’t really get behind it, though that’s a matter of taste and not something I’ll hold against the player’s guide.
Edjet Warriors are exclusively dragonkin fighters are specialists with polearms that may cleave-trip multiple foes. At high levels, though, the archetype’s balance crumbles to dust. At 15th level, the edjet warriors get essentially evasion for fort and will-saves versus spell-like abilities and spells. That’s “Mettle” with another name, an ability that was broken in 3.X and still is. This ability needs replacement. Furthermore, worse, at 16th level, the Edjet also gains evasion when using a shield AND may grant that to ALL adjacent allies. At 20th level that becomes improved evasion. Ok at the highest level, though somehow, my DM-senses tingle at that ability as well. Still not comfortable with this one.
Dargon Magi may deliver elemental damage vi their spellstrikes a limited amount of times per day and later gain elemental rays and blasts as well as 11 different arcanas.The first broken “Arcane Strike”-arcana has been streamlined into PFRPG-rules and no longer is broken beyond repair. Two thumbs up! The Breath Weapon option I ripped to shreds in my first iteration of this review now also works as befitting the system..
Monks of the Fiery Fist are essentially a fire-themed monk archetype – ok, but not too exciting. The problem of the monks of the wind palm has been addressed: Their unarmed attacks get a reach of 15 ft. – now a limited amount of times per day. The terrain-ignoring entry has also been nerfed to make sense and NOT invalidate x feats. Oracles may opt to take the mystery of the void. The mystery per se is ok, though I don’t like the fact that there’s one that lets you replace cha or wis for int regarding knowledge-skills. The mystery now comes with its final revelation.
The Greyscale-archetype for the rogue is specialized on infiltrating draconic strongholds and come with 6 new rogue talents and 3 advanced rogue talents and actually constitute one I don’t have anything to complain about. Wizards may now opt to choose the Void Elemental school, which has an insanely broken arcane discovery, available as soon as 13th level, that allows you to throw someone 1/week on a failed will save versus DC 35 (!!!) into the void, trapping the being there forever (unless wish’d or miracle’d out) and having a good chance of driving the subject insane even if he/she/it is rescued. That’s a capstone, not an arcane discovery. I don’t get why this one has not been nerfed.
We also get the new Dragon Emir PrC, which gets d12, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB, 1/2 fort and will-progression and can be considered a commander-style PrC that allows for some powerful, warmaster-like commands as well as some nice synergy with cavaliers. A cool mounted commander option, nothing to complain here and in fact a great PrC.
The penultimate chapter deals with new magic and generally, the ideas of the spells are great, iconic and even the one spell I considered broken before has been remedied and fixed. (Coin Swarm should btw. be on the list of ANY dragon out there…)
The final chapter is fluffy goodness again, providing us with a cool plethora of animals and beasts to buy in Mharoti bazaars as well as exotic types of food like aboleth brain and the like as well as gear from draconic beings, magic items and magic carpets, complete with price-lists.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to the drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard – Marc Radle did an awesome job there. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience and the line-drawings in b/w are neat indeed.
Kobold Press has gone up and beyond in this revision of the Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empire, fixing almost all the issues of this pdf – while e.g. casting foes into the void still feels broken to me, the vast accumulation of problematic content has been purged and what remains could be considered a matter of taste/individual balancing of a campaign and nothing a DM can’t do him/herself. The amount of fixing makes this pdf thankfully the book it should have been and while not perfect, I feel easily justified in rating this revised version of the book 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
Midgard: Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empire is available from: