Hey Game Fans, today we’re going to be giving you a quick look at something new from Mad Martian Games. They’re releasing a campaign setting that’s system friendly called Ice Kingdoms. It’s a pulpy style Sword and Sorcery Vikings setting, with all the trimmings and things that make that a fun genre to play in. This is my first looks article (which means that there are more coming), and today i’m going to talk about what i look for in a campaign setting, and the things that i think this publication does very well.
The fine people at Mad Martian Games have put together an interesting setting focused on a specific region and a historical background that fits in that framework. So we’ve got a frozen tundra full of interesting peoples and potential things that will murder folks, and we’ve got Vikings as the dominant cultural perspective to work from. What other setting elements do we have to play with?
It’s a sword and sorcery style (so if you like the Conan the Barbarian style adventures of sword swinging heroes and evil jerk wizard folk, that’s exactly what to expect in tone) with a very pulpy vibe of brave heroes on quests to do a lot of different things. It’s not a faithful recreation of every aspect of Viking culture (which the authors are up front about) and really it wouldn’t be as much as fun if they didn’t take some creative license with things.
The authors have constructed a functional history of this particular region that ties in with the larger world that the Ice Kingdoms are a part of. Events outside have affected the Kingdoms, and they have also been affected by the Kingdoms. The history makes sense and feels right for the tone of the campaign setting. The fantasy aspects and components of the setting work very well.
The authors have also done an excellent job of parsing together cultural and societal ideas into a functioning whole. A lot of the elements draw from the Viking culture that they have taken their lead from but they’ve also added some elements of their own invention. I like that the culture features food, drink, clothing, and a host of other interesting elements that make the culture feel grounded.
It’s got new races to add to the mix, some new optional rules for equipment, and they add a rules expansion for ships. I like the idea that they’ve included rules for exploration and seafaring because it’s a culturally important topic to the people they’ve based their setting off of. It’s full of interesting ideas about magic, seeds for adventure, and a host of other options for using their setting.
The Ice Kingdoms book is built to be a system friendly setting for a variety of old school role-playing games and the authors do a pretty good job of spelling out what games they had in mind and give you options and ideas for how to tailor it to another setting. Remember in a Sword and Sorcery setting that magic can be incredibly dangerous and tricky to use, so if you’re planning on playing a spellcaster, i’d look at those rules real closely before taking a deep dive.
Thoughts and Ideas
I really like the way the book is written and the layout works for my expectations for the genre. It’s done one of the smartest things i see when it comes to world building. They’ve taken a historical culture that we’re vaguely familiar with and have used it as the foundation for a fantastic setting full of danger and mystery. By drawing on historical elements the authors have given themselves a starting place to add fantastic elements and create an interesting setting that draws players and gamemasters alike into it. It’s been a very long time since i played anything old school, but i think it might be up for a run through the land of ice and snow.
You can find them at http://icekingdoms.hawkwolf.net/index.php and on RPGnow http://www.rpgnow.com/browse/pub/11031/Mad-Martian-Games among others.
We’ll take some closer looks as we go forward, but i highly recommend this book as a wonderful alternative campaign setting for Old School fun. I would be interested in seeing the rest of this world.