Midwood: Overview and Intro
‘Midwood’ has been written as an introductory setting and series of scenarios for players interested in, but new to tabletop RPGs. We use the 5e system, but players won’t be expected to buy source material or initially understand how the system works.
Midwood itself occupies a clearing along a trade route through a vast, primeval wood (called the Heartwood) on a continent slightly smaller than Europe. It is a town of thousands, loosely organized, and largely welcoming and conflict-free. It provides an idyllic home where players’ characters can rest among friends and family, relaxing in and under ancient trees.
The world Midwood inhabits doesn’t have a name, it is simply The World. It primarily presents as a sylvan fantasy setting–primeval forests, fey creatures, and human interlopers in a wild land. Gods of nature and the elements are real and live alongside the domains and beings they protect. While magic exists, it is largely wielded by these gods and their followers and charges, with human traditions of magic still in their infancy.
Humans have been present in this world for only a short while, invading from a dying world some three centuries past. Some humans have attempted to carve out a human-centric space out of the wilds with mixed success, while most choose to embrace the rich, rustic, yet risky life of apologetic explorers and settlers.
The inspiration for the continent on which Midwood rests draws from Celtic, Norse, and Greek mythology in that order. This leaves quite a bit of legend on the table, and should feel familiar to the players.
By the humans’ reckoning, the current year is 313 Since. Different groups of humans follow Since with various things: Since the Arrival, Since the Flight, Since Settlement, and sometimes After Conquest. Most people just say Since, as it avoids nasty conversations about factions and allegiances in a place where survival occupies more of the mind than politics.
Once upon a time, a gateway opened like a wound from a dying place and vomited humanity onto the hot savannah of the World. They brought with them the technologies of that place, and conquered as far as their imaginations could reach. Thankfully, this was not very far. ‘Conquest’ lasted a short decade, then the humans fell to squabbling amongst themselves, using their lethal technology on each other, and finally on the device that could’ve returned them home.
The humans who chose to venture out from the ‘green zone’ (which in truth was a very brown zone) near Gate City found that the usual style of slash-and-burn exploration/exploitation that had worked so well in their former home met with stiff, magical, and therefore baffling resistance from all manner of creatures and the forest itself. Many returned to the xenophobic green zone (which its leadership has since named Murika), but more made peace with the creatures and the woods, trying to find a balance between their survival and that of the world they inhabit.
The town of Midwood was founded around 166 Since, by a large group of travelers seeking a settled home in the forest. They befriended and traded with local inhabitants, and together they built a small settlement within the trees. Dozens became hundreds, which became thousands, scattered through the forest in small clearings, in treehouses, near streams, or other nooks and crannies of the surrounding woods.
Several themes are baked into the story; players can embrace or ignore them entirely.
Wylde, Wonder, and Myth
Many mysteries exist in the World, and since Midwood exists in a lightly settled area within a Primeval Forest, these mysteries are just out of the back door. Some are wonderful, some are dangerous, and some just plain weird.
Gods and monsters are commonplace, but all are different and potentially fascinating.
Xenophobia as Heritage
The violent and authoritarian kingdom of Murika has lost all of its guns and gasoline, but still makes war against the natural world, trying to recreate their dying land. Constant conflict exists to the southeast, along the far fringe of the Heartwood. Murika also sends scouts, spies, and swindlers throughout the rest of the world, to gain information and spread its xenophobic views.
Character vs Nature
Even for those who embrace the Wylde, it can be a dangerous place. All flora and fauna need to survive, and for some this means preying on whatever moves around them. While the natives largely know what to avoid, humanity (including demihumanity) is still young enough to get into trouble with the wild lands on the regular.
There are three major groups of faiths present in the World; two native, one imported from the dying world of the humans.
Gods and Archfey
Before the World there existed the endless green of the Wylde. Two powerful beings dwelling there decided to bring the World into being; they are now revered as Obrin (Arch of Fading) and his partner Halla (Arch of Growing). They pulled the World from the Wylde and began to play, creating the flora, fauna, creatures, and eventually denizens of the World.
Along the way, they had many children, and created many more. So many that the gods collectively are called the Ten Thousand Gods, of varying power. At the highest tiers are the Archfey–Obrin and Halla their ruling partners, and Archfey offspring Mavet (Winter), Piersep (Summer), Thera (Weather), Duerra (Stone and Mountain) and the twins Eidon (Salt Water) and Saffryn (Sweet Water).
Beneath them are divinities for forests, for trees, streams, stone mounds, and all scopes of worship, as well as regional deities both broad (e.g. Haart of the Heartwood, Sedan of the Eastern Deserts) and narrow (e.g., Wylleis whose domain is a league of deer trail in the foothills of Skenfel, and Myrm, goddess of the pile of rocks in a clearing on the edge of the Heartwood near Skaap).
Reverence tends to be directed at whomever you’re asking a blessing from, and more generally to the Ten Thousands Gods (also called the Wyldelings, among many other names) or an Archfey in particular.
The One God
The humans brought with them their own deity, which they call the One God, or just God, and deny the existence of any other gods. The One God is a god of Justice and Law, but for many reasons, his power does not extend beyond the borders of Murika.
Another factor in the divinity of the World are the Others, who existed in the place where the World now sits, and have been pushed aside by the world of Obrin and Halla. They remain discontent with the pollution of their home, and sometimes make this displeasure known through mortal agents who share their feelings of discontent, rage, and other less pleasant emotions.
The fey have not spoken much to humanity of The Others, and they are believed to be myth or a cautionary tale.
System: 5e Core
This setting uses the Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition (5e) rules set generally, but the list of races, classes, and faiths has changed to fit this setting and simplify choices for new players.
Character and NPC Heritage
[NPC] Human (Pureblood)
Pureblood humans are residents (and sometimes citizens) of Murika, whose culture believes in human exceptionalism, and that human blood should be pure of any impurities. The cultural education in that kingdom ensures that the residents that reach adulthood have been trained to be warriors against ‘impurity’ and ‘disorder’.
- increase all ability scores by 1
- alignment must be lawful
Classes available: Bard, Cleric (The One), Fighter, Paladin (Oath of Vengeance), Rogue, Warlock (Fiend), Wizard
Mudblood was historically a perjorative term used to describe a human with mixed racial ancestry. This term has been embraced however by all mudbloods outside of Murika. Being a Mudblood doesn’t require a mixed ancestry to adopt the term, just a rejection of the notion that pure blood matters.
- gain proficiency in one skill of your choice; and
- gain one feat of your choice; and
- choose one ability increase pattern below
- increase three (3) different ability scores by one (1)
- increase one (1) ability score by two (2)
Classes available: Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Paladin (Oath of the Ancients), Ranger, Rogue, Warlock (Archfey)
Demihumans have evenly mixed fey and human ancestry. Enough fey ancestry expresses itself that some of the natural magic flows through your veins.
- increase one ability score by 2; and
- gain one of the following magical abilities; and
- gain damage resistance to acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison
- learn one cantrip from the Demihuman Cantrips list, below
- gain advantage on all intelligence, wisdom, and charisma saving throws vs. magic
- gain darkvision
- gain one of the following non-magical abilities
- increase two ability scores by 1
- gain proficiency with two skills from the Demihuman Skills list, below
- increase your move speed by 10
- gain proficiency with the longbow and shortbow
Classes available: Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, Sorceror (Fey Bloodline, Wild Magic), Warlock (Archfey)
- dancing lights
- minor illusion
The many beings that call themselves the Fey range in size and shape from a meter to well over two meters, tend to be lean and lanky, and move among the trees of the Heartwood as though they are one with the land. In a sense, they are. To human eyes, they seem otherworldly in some way, and reminded early humans of stories of Elves from their dying homeworld.
They are a fragile, cautious people, and all shapes and sizes of Fey stop aging when reaching maturity. Nature, and the magic and beauty of nature is in their blood, so much so that ‘unnatural magic’ (that is, the magic of wizards, bards, and artifice) seems to go out of its way to avoid touching them.
- increase your Dexterity score by two (2); and
- increase your Wisdom score by one (1); and
- decrease your Constitution scores by two (2); and
- gain darkvision; and
- gain the cantrip druidcraft; and
- gain proficiency in the perception skill; and
- gain advantage on all saving throws against ‘unnatural magic’; and
- gain proficiency with shortbow and longbow
At 3rd level, gain the spell misty step. You regain use of this spell after a long rest. At 5th level, you (and only you) may act as though you are under the effects of pass without trace so long as you are in a forested area.
Classes available: Bard, Druid, Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, Sorceror (Fey Bloodline)
The Duerro and Duerrokin remain close to the mountains, the domain of their patron, Duerra Stoneheart. They are a strong, broad people who value created beauty and the work of their hands. They live both on and in the mountains, and some Fey have visited their vast, beautiful underground cities illuminated with magics from deep within the World.
Classes available: Artificer, Bard, Cleric (Duerra), Fighter, Ranger, Rogue, Wizard
To the northwest beyond the Heartwood, where the World broke into the sea, one finds the Alfar. Alfar are hearty but cold folk, watched over by Thera and the Twins, though numerous small gods and larger monsters inhabit the rocky scarp on which the Alfar make their homes. They are the only true seafaring people in the World, and can navigate the seas by the Signs they see in the heavens. They tell stories of a rich land across the sea, though who can say whether these stories are true?
Classes available: Barbarian, Bard, Fighter, Rogue, Sorceror (Wild Magic), Witch
Character classes are limited by your heritage. The only place to learn to be a wizard, for instance, is Murika, and no mentor will teach you if you’re not a pureblood human. One who constantly wars against the wilds will not be supported by divinities aligned with those same wilds.