Hello! For the last few months, Tales of the Old Margreve from Kobold Press has been burning a hole in my bookshelf. The kobolds blessed me with a hardcover copy of Tales of the Old Margreve and a copy of the Margreve Player’s Guide. It’s no secret I’m a huge KP fan, and the Margreve stuff is no exception. Part campaign setting guide, part adventure, and part new player options, like my favorite KP products, Tales of the Old Margreve adds new dimensions to fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons games whether you play in the Midgard setting, another established world or your own creation. Let’s get into it. At the end you’ll find an exclusive coupon code to expand your Old Margreve experience.
Deep, dark D&D forest campaign in the Old Margreve
The first thing I do when exploring a new Kobold Press book is check the credits page. There’s a few names I look for right off the bat and those are art director Marc Radle and artist Bryan Syme. I love their work and flipping through a book their contributions always stand out to me. In Tales of the Old Margreve they are joined by lead designer Matthew Corley, designers James Introcaso, Ben McFarland, editor Kim Mohan, and of course publisher and designer Wolfgang Baur. Editorial assistance from Meagan Maricle and Thomas Reid, cartography from Jon Pintar and Dean Spencer, and wonderful art from cover artist Eric Belisle with interiors from Michele Giorgi, Miguel Regodon Harkness, Julia Metzger, Dio Mahesa, William O’Brien, Beatrice Pelagatti, Roberto Pitturru, Addison Rankin, Florian Stitz, Egil Thompson, Quico Vicens, Michael Witmann and Alena Zhukova rounds out the team.
That’s a heck of a lineup!
It pays off through all the new spells, monsters, magic items, wondrous locations and 12 adventures (!) for characters level 1-10. Adding the Player’s Guide to the project brings another 3 playable races, and forest-themed class options for barbarians, clerics, druids, rangers, rogues, warlocks and wizards. There’s also new beast companions, feats, backgrounds, and more spells and magic items. In short there’s a ton of new content for Dungeon Masters and players alike. Everything is themed around this amazing Old Margreve location, but of course you can adapt the material as your imagination guides you for your own games and campaigns.
Like Courts of the Shadow Fey, Tales of the Old Margreve has a defining mechanic along the lines of the Status and Prestige of that product. The Old Margreve itself is presented as a sort of creature or entity, and characters build their Status with the forest itself. I absolutely love this idea. While characters may never meet or engage with the ancient place through an individual interaction, they will gain and lose standing with the nearly omniscient forest. Status is represented by a score, moving up or down depending on characters’ actions. I won’t spoil them here though — you’ll have to venture into the Old Margreve and find out for yourself.
I will say your Status is not without consequences, both good and bad. If you anger the alien presence, the forest may treat your with hostility. But do right by the Margreve and you might even earn the power to call on the forest to act on your behalf. Beyond the actions characters take within the forest, there are specific rewards for completing the adventures included in the book.
Tales of the Old Margreve, like the best Fifth Edition products, presents not just content to add to your game but a blueprint for how to create your own similar content. Imagine applying location-based Status to other areas in your own world. From seaside cities to the loftiest mountain peaks, any place can literally come alive to help or hinder characters depending on their behavior and actions. This really injects a deep but subtle magical quality to a setting, something I particularly enjoy. And if it manifests in not-so-subtle ways from time to time, all the better.
As an entity, the Margreve does more than just gauge inhabitants Status. While there isn’t a traditional stat block, it nevertheless has traits and features like senses, spellcasting, and really creative creature-like traits like auras of rust and wildness. These mechanical features translate into a very clear sense that the Margreve is powerful, and actively working to maintain the primal sanctity of its environs. The world around it may progress and develop civilizations and technology, but such things will not find purchase among the ancient trees.
Lastly, there’s a great section on Customizing the Margreve Experience. This is really helpful for DMs, discussing salient points about theme, atmosphere and storytelling. I really appreciate the time to include this, because it gives you a chance to step away from the mechanics of the game and consider how you can provide narrative guidance for the stories you and your players create together. Good on you, Kobold Press.
What are these Tales of the Old Margreve?
First up there’s Random Encounters. Oh, how I dig me some random encounter tables. Tales of the Old Margreve has 8 such tables, divided up by tier, location and time of day. Each entry on the tables is a succinct encounter that could turn out any number of ways in the hands of players. All of them really bring home the sense of activity taking place in and around this really unique ancient forest.
Next there’s more robust adventure hooks and general information about the Margreve. Points of interest and NPCs are explained, and this section is HUGE. Between the Random Encounters and Adventure Hooks, you could easily play a D&D campaign for many levels and create a completely customized experience based on collaborative back and forth between players and their DM.
Lastly there’s a section on how magic operates differently in the Margreve. Each school of magic has a side effect whenever spells are cast, and get this —
“Every intelligent creature born in the Margreve and raised in the Old Ways treasures an intimate magical connection with the forest. Even those who have no talent for the magical arts cradle a tiny spark of Margrevian magic in their soul. This spark allows them to cast a single cantrip once daily.” — Tales of the Old Margreve
Did you catch that? Everyone can cast a single cantrip once daily!
Now, the adventures. There are ten adventures in the KP style with background info, summaries, maps, many new creatures and treasures, and perhaps my favorite feature: adventure-specific mechanics. Whether parameters for completing a goal, win conditions or a behind-the-screen tally kept by the DM, a lot of KP adventures distinguish themselves this way. I feel like any time there is a new way for players and DMs to engage with the content that involves rolling dice or moving along a sliding scale is a big perk.
I haven’t had an opportunity to play in or run any of the adventures, but there is one I’m more familiar with than the others. The Honey Queen is a forest adventure suitable for four characters of 2nd level. In the adventure, characters journey into the Old Margreve and make their way to the Honey Queen in her home among hallucinatory flowers the colony uses to make magical honey. I recently introduced my partner to D&D, and she’s a food writer with professional interest in honey, so this adventure sounds perfect. Her character, a druid, is seeking a mysterious herb and investigating spooky situations, so the magical flowers in this adventure are a great hook.
Visit the Old Margreve
If Tales of the Old Margreve sounds enticing to you, plan a visit to the forest. The Crafting Muse is the DM for The Last Heir, a live play game over on the Kobold Press Twitch channel. It streams every Sunday night at 8 p.m. eastern and you can catch past episodes on their YouTube channel.
“In a nutshell, Margreve is a fantastic source of modules and ideas to help DMs create games of their own set in the Margreve Forest. Steeped in lore and magic, players will be kept on their toes as they learn how to interact with the forest and how it reacts to them. My campaign is pulling from ideas and bits throughout all the parts in the book to highlight what is in there for everyone.” — Vee Mus’e, The Crafting Muse