Hello, everyone! Things certainly got a little hectic over the last few months between Primordial Power, my day job, and the beginning of the school year. I can’t believe I fell off this review for 2 months, especially when there are plenty of other subjects to talk about, so without further ado, let’s get back into Midgard Heroes Handbook!
One of the biggest oddities to note in this chapter is the position of the roster of Midgard gods – the table is situated directly in the middle of one of the cleric domains in order to keep it as a single spread when the book is open. While useful if talking about the gods of Midgard, I’d argue that keeping the cleric domains on single spreads is much more important than the roster of gods.
I’m gonna level with you, dear reader. I started writing this review with about a paragraph per cleric Domain, but as I went down the list, I went through too many that simply didn’t feel ready for publication in a physical book to justify giving each of them a paragraph.
That’s not to say that there weren’t some great Domains in here – There are unique domains, both mechanically and thematically, which deserve a look. The Beer Domain grants access to a Channel Divinity which produces a consumable brew which can grant minor but useful effects to the imbiber. Labyrinth Domain clerics gain a mix of mind-affecting spells and the ability to go toe-to-toe with a foe in a personal minotaur’s labyrinth. Moon Domain clerics get an eerie Channel Divinity which can deal cold damage and extinguish magical light sources. Dragon Domain clerics would be very interesting to see in a Tomb of Annihilation campaign – they can charm unintelligent reptiles, and gain a Channel Divinity which works like Legendary Resistance to automatically succeed on a limited number of saving throws, so they might be well-suited for adventuring in Chult.
On the other hand, for every great cleric Domain, there more than one poorly-fluffed, mechanically boring, or simply lazy Domain as well. None of the numbers look outlandish on paper, but they don’t spark the imagination, either. The Apocalypse domain throws a fistful of resistances and a necrotic divine strike into clerics’ toolkits, and the Mountain Domain gains some bland features to help their party survive in the mountains and a lackluster Avalanche ability. Some of these domains have glaringly vague issues that I’d hope review before going to print would have caught – The Justice Domain gives you the limited ability to track people who have broken the law and a vague Channel Divinity which grants advantage on Wisdom and Charisma checks “involving justice […] up to and including execution for crimes.” The Hunger Domain neglects to mention what sort of action their 17th-level effect takes, or whether the effect has limited usage, which makes all the difference in its AOE “now everyone’s a cannibal” effect. The Hunting domain has literally two vague truisms about hunting for fluff accompanied by a bland hunting quarry feature so late that players will ignore it.
Multiple Domains require external sources for information:
- Cat Domain requires a copy of the Monster Manual and Southlands Heroes(Which, while we’re here, probably should have been included in Heroes Handbook)
- Clockwork Domain requires you to refer to the Beastmaster Ranger’s Beast Companion feature(which is an SRD-compliant feature, so I would’ve appreciated having a copy of it in this book where it’s necessary and demonstrating that the Clockwork Domain’s designers consciously reviewed the feature before using it wholesale)
- Darkness Domain requires you to have not only a copy of Tome of Beasts but a copy of Deep Magic 10: Shadow Magic(Alright, so Clockwork Domain iterates on its Deep Magic counterpart, so that means that neither this book nor the Deep Magic supplements encompass all the necessary information.)
- Hunting Domain refers to the ranger’s favored enemy mechanics, taken wholesale with some level adjustment to match the standard cleric progression.
Additionally, a lot of the high-level features of these domains suffer from consistent sources of mitigation (the Moon Domain needing the moon to be present, the Ocean Domain punishing you with exhaustion levels for using your fish scales while out of water, the Void Domain requiring you to remain stationary while using its Black Star feature). Personally, I feel that it’s poor design to add a feature and “walk it back” to being “balanced.” If I had to venture a guess, my assumption would be that Kobold Press erred on the side of caution because of the connotation that being a third-party publisher produces “overpowered” players’ options.
With over a dozen archetypes for clerics, Kobold Press has certainly placed an emphasis on divinity in Midgard. Unfortunately, several of these class archetypes require a well-padded library. In order to get the most out of Midgard Heroes Handbook’s divine character segment, you’ll need to own the core rulebooks(no big surprise there but the cross-references are poorly handled), Southlands Heroes, Tome of Beasts, and certain installments of Deep Magic. Considering that the Heroes Handbook kind of functions as the anthology of Deep Magic content, this is more than a little disappointing.
A lot of these domains are incredibly niche, and I was disappointed at how many of them felt like filler for players who aren’t comfortable with the notion of refluffing a character to suit their narratives. A lot of archetypes shoot themselves in the foot feature-wise, even when their features are niche or ultimately not all that powerful to begin with.
If you are looking for new cleric Domains, I would instead recommend Book of the Righteous. If you’re looking for a comprehensive anthology of the cleric options from Deep Magic, I’m afraid that the Deep Magic PDFs remain your best option.