Register a SA Forums Account here!

You can: log in, read the tech support FAQ, or request your lost password. This dumb message (and those ads) will appear on every screen until you register! Get rid of this crap by registering your own SA Forums Account and joining roughly 150,000 Goons, for the one-time price of $9.95! We charge money because it costs us money per month for bills, and since we don't believe in showing ads to our users, we try to make the money back through forum registrations.
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Traveller posted:

The one without :derp: ATLANTIS :derp:

oMage grogs never got out of that.

As someone who got into the NWoD first, I always found this quite bizarre. I read a bit of Mage: the Ascension here and there, but found it hard to get into. Especially regards to the fact that the Technocracy sounded like the good guys because the consensus reality they shaped was on the whole good for the majority of non-mages, and that going back to the way things were would turn the world into a highly morphic hellscape without modern medicine, monstrous beasts roaming about, and all that jazz.

A secret society of supernatural dudes claiming origins from a higher world didn't seem that bad for me, especially when the werewolves have their own creation mythology of primordial nature spirits and wolf-gods.


Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Alien Rope Burn posted:

As much as it sucks that Nazis co-opted skinhead culture, they totally pulled it off and explaining the history of that is probably beyond the purview of a game about non-denominational angels and demons.

Even weirder is that I heard that the skinhead look originated among black Caribbean immigrants to the UK, so you'd think of all the cultural looks white supremacists would appropriate it would not be that one.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

theironjef posted:

This week System Mastery is covering Dinosaur Planet, a book that took us by surprise. With a name that cool, we figured we'd just be generally researching how yet another small print house mucked up the OGL, but what we got instead was some good old down-home whitewashing of the big fence of the Confederate States of America. If you ever wanted to read a book where the Union are rapacious space-conquerors and President Robert E. Lee magnanimously freed the slaves in 1881 because it was the right thing to do, here it is.

Heh, I did a text review for this back in the day. The Neo-Confederacy was annoying, although even minus that its D20 aesthetics means it didn't age very well given that it lacks a lot of the stuff that makes that system so great (namely, options and customization).

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Robindaybird posted:

And something I wish more westerns use - the fact a good chunk of Cowboys were black, many freed and escaped slaves went West to avoid getting hassled or taken advantage of by white landowners.

Then you also got the fact there's still a lot of simmering tension between former soldiers on both sides, allowing for feuds to occur, keeping the Sheriff and Marshals busy, while adding another dimension to other kinds of conflict (Settlers vs Ranchers, Cowboys vs Lawmen).

Though really - the Confederacy cannot survive without the major interventions you often see in the Weird West Milieu because while the South had better generals and familiarity with the battlefields, they did not have the infrastructure or manpower to match the Union, especially after their major ports got blockaded, keeping them from getting vital materials needed.

Oh, that reminds me of something similar. The concept of the cowboy began among Vaquero ranchers in Mexico who set up an efficient system of grazing that they then taught to the newcomer white settlers in Texas and the Southwest. There's estimations that a massive percentage of cowboys were black and Hispanic in the Old West, like 33%. But when Hollywood came along audiences didn't want to see said groups as heroes in their Western tales, which led to the impression that cowboys were all or mostly white.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Kurieg posted:

The way it works is basically AO is a true neutral rear end in a top hat who understands that Mortals need to exist, but can't fathom a reason to actually care about them. So he can't fathom why the lesser gods would care either, so he created a system where they have to care. The gods are powered by belief, and without belief they wither and die. And to ensure that the mortals would believe, he created the wall of he faithless. Where those who refused to believe would be punished for all eternity. The time of Troubles was AO enforcing the status quo.

Basically in any other setting AO would be Neutral Evil at best, and the entire checks and balances system of divinity that the Forgotten Realms has is one of the reasons I loathe the setting.

Dragonlance gets criticized pretty heavily for the role the Gods played in the Cataclysm. Basically a Lawful Good empire of Bahamut/Paladine started doing horrible poo poo to the point of no return, so the entire pantheon agreed something must be done. They dropped a meteor on the empire's capital, sending a fair portion of the eastern continent under the sea, destroying its infrastructure in the outlying provinces, as well as retreating from the world and taking all divine magic with them.

What followed was three and a half centuries of chaos, famine, and war before the book series started up and the gods returned to the world as part of the plot.

Kurieg posted:

Uhhh, I have bad news.

It's flagged with a giant [citation needed] tag but the 5e people have come home to roost.

Seriously Ao just invents a magic reset button and presses it and everything from 4e goes away except for Dragonborn and Tieflings because they're okay I guess sufficiently 80's for Ed Greenwood.

Serious question. Since 5th Edition is a return to earlier times both mechanics and setting wise, why didn't the writers just rewind the clock for the setting back to the Time of Troubles/Year of Wild Magic for 5th Edition?

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

unseenlibrarian posted:

To be fair, in Dragonlance, the high priest/emperor of said 'lawful good empire' was literally praying for the power to smite all remaining evil in the land at the time the meteor hit, so it was like 70 percent poetic justice.

Quote, although the effects of the Cataclysm were felt all over Ansalon and beyond the empire's boundaries, so it's the divine equivalent of using a hammer where a scalpel might be more appropriate.

Actually, now that I think about it, the Dragonlance gods seemed more like folks put into a bad situation, given that the loss of life of an ascendant Kingpriest would've been far greater. Compared to Ao seeing the Wall of the Faithless (which was a recent invention by an evil god, or so I read somewhere) and saying "you know what, let's keep it!" and explicitly making the system the way it is for no good reason.

The Dragonlance setting and the role the gods took can make for an interesting moral conundrum in comparison, although that doesn't tie so well into D&D alignment system.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 23:28 on Feb 7, 2016

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

gradenko_2000 posted:

Bill Webb's Book of Dirty Tricks

Hit Points and Rolls to Hit

To his credit, he does acknowledge that it's a controversial houserule, and maybe he's right about double-dipping, that you shouldn't also get a better chance-to-hit when you're already getting more HP, especially when to-hit and AC are going to have an escalating arms race anyway.

What doesn't sit well with me is that he has this heartbreaker's idea of how combat should work, complete with a reference to a historical event as how it should have worked realistically, and then he's projecting it onto this game instead of a new/different one.

Lamentations of a Flame Princess had the idea that only the Fighter should get a better to-hit, and that a Magic-User's to-hit never improves across the entire level range, but that was LOTFP as its own game. Swords and Wizardry already is its own game outside of OD&D, and then he's piling on this other system on top of it too.

Even worse is when he even recommends it for Pathfinder, because of course he does.

Up Next: Manipulating the gargoyle's buttocks

Since AC scales differently in Swords & Wizardry than it does in PF, what does he say about using it in PF? Use it as-is, or try a different method?

A 0 AC is really good in S&W, but under the ascending variant it's a value of 19 AC. Since everything scales faster in Pathfinder, a 19 AC in that game's not very impressive at middle to higher levels. A 0 AC in that game would probably be the thematic equivalent of a 25 to 28 AC in that this is a good value for people to have at most levels.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Doresh posted:

Plus they have darkvision (depending on the edition of course, but definitely in his own Swords & Wizardry game), and adversarial GMs hate it if you deny them such fun tricks as "Everyone in the entire area knows you're coming because of your torches" or "Nobody said anything about lighting torches, so I assume you've all been stumbling around in the dark for hours and are now ambushed by monsters".

In my current Pathfinder campaign we have a tiefling, a goblin, and three drow forming our party. Being able to see in the dark all the time without worrying about torches is a real game-changer. Of course, that mostly matters if the GM's a stickler for that kind of thing, which I can see in OSR games due to the whole resource management of dungeon-delving.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

gradenko_2000 posted:

Part of the reason why I really sat down and started a game of AD&D was when I randomly generated a treasure hoard and ended up getting a Staff of Wizardry. I would have loved to see the kinds of shenanigans that would have caused for a player party getting that at level 1.

Hmmmm, might this be a certain hexcrawl-based game that I may or may not have been involved in by any chance? :cool:

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

gradenko_2000 posted:

Bill Webb's Book of Dirty Tricks

A goblin might quaff a Potion of Giant's Strength and tear a breastplate right in front of the players to make its point (I'm pretty sure the Pathfinder rules don't allow this)

Pathfinder has the spell Bull's Strength which is the main STR boosting ability, and it only grants a +4 bonus. In Pathfinder ability scores scale at a slower rate of magnitude than in old-school D&D. A 20 Strength might be phenomenal in OSR retroclones, but in Pathfinder it's very good for a 1st level fighter and rather low for a mid-level one.

So if we're to assume that this is a normal goblin quaffing this potion, his Strength would be 12, merely "above average" +1 modifier to attack and damage instead of tough enough to tear a breastplate. There's also the fact that sample objects have hit point values and hardness ratings, so the goblin would need a means of dealing a poo poo-ton of unarmed damage to rip through metal. Iron materials grant a Hardness rating of 10 (which deducts 10 points of damage from physical and most energy sources), and armor has a total hit point value equal to its bonus (+6 for breastplate) x 5.

So a goblin would need to deal at least 40 hit points of damage with his bare hands (which deal 1d2 + STR modifier for Small creatures) to tear a breastplate in half going strictly by the rules.

Oh yeah, you need at least levels in Brawler, Monk, or have the Improved Unarmed Strike feat to deal lethal damage with your bare fists, and objects ignore all nonlethal damage.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!


This one is also an entertaining trick that can test the players and make them work for the treasure you give them. A clear example of this is a magic item or gem secreted away inside a Rubik’s Cube. You simply pass the cube across the table, inform them that it rattles around a bit, and make them solve it (in real life) to get the goodies. Another thing I have done is used a ring puzzle — you know, one of those wire things with a ring that slides back and forth, but is almost impossible to get off. The only time I have ever given a player a ring of spell turning I used this. The player had to get the ring off the wire puzzle before I would let his character wear it. Of course, the ring is quite fragile, so attempts to cut it off would destroy it. Examples of these types of puzzles can be found at . It took the player four gaming sessions before he finally got the thing loose!

This reminds me of how in video game RPGs characters have "Intelligence" and "Spirit" stats yet never seem to actually change the behavior of the characters as they increase or make them any more likely to solve the dungeon puzzles. Of course there are exceptions like Fallout which give bonus conversation choices for high stats, but this is a thing I see in various D&D tables where a PC is only as smart/well-spoken as his real-life player is.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Count Chocula posted:

Why not both?

Bill Webb should design videogames. That 'gently caress you, game!! RESTART!' loop is pretty addictive.

There was a Fallout: New Vegas DLC that pulled something like this, but there was a way to game the system that kinda ruined the thematics of it. I do think a dungeon ending with a Metroid style run while everything explodes could be fun.

I've been playing quite a bit of Dark Souls II recently on account of my friends getting back into the series, and like Bill Webb's campaign it's full of traps and "gently caress you!" moments which can make mincemeat of your character.

However, the core idea is that you're an undead, so whenever you die you get reincarnated minus the experience you collected. However, death is not very bad punishment-wise, for you lose a small bit of max health (which can be restored with a semi-common item) and you can regain the lost EXP if you get back to your original place of death without dying again.

There's also the fact that most monsters have a predictable attack pattern, so as you try again you get better and less likely to die except through impatience from that same enemy.

I feel that a lot of these Killer DMs can take a page or two from Dark Souls. I understand that PC gen is really fast in Original and OSR D&D, but there's no expectation that a new PC will start at the group's level or whatever to minimize the sting. That, and there's the expectation that a TPK in D&D spells the end of the campaign, because you can't run the same adventure again without the players preemptively knowing what's going to happen ahead of time.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Still using that d12+7, I see. Cuz poor probability iz kewl!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

The Deviantart page for the Hobby Lobby pic had a bonus speech balloon.

"Looks like the two of you could use a little birth control right about now!"

Forcibly impregnating your ideological opponents is not cool, even if done in the context of magic.

Also, what's up with randomized bolding in comics? I even see this in professional publications and not just amateur art.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Who did the art for the Valor RPG? I looked on Drive-Thru RPG and it only lists 2 authors? Did one or both of them also do the artwork?

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Evil Mastermind posted:

I'm not posting that goddamn thing again.

You mean this?

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Mors Rattus posted:

Besides, everyone knows that men become sterile if they ride horses astride the saddle. I mean, that's just science.

I've seen a poster on RPGnet a bunch of years ago claim that he'll never buy or touch Reign due to this.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Kai Tave posted:

It wasn't just a poster, there was an enormous thread that blew up as a result of this setting detail. Stolze himself put in an appearance largely to scratch his head over it.

"Just why do all these people think that I hate men?"

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Luminous Obscurity posted:

OPP dev David Hill made a post about pitch season and gave an example of a pitch that got passed over in favor of Beast and it played off similar themes of social justice and oppression but was way more tasteful and interesting.

I'm not familiar with this, given that at the time I wasn't involved with KickStarters at all. What was it about, and does it have any intention of being made soon?

Edit: Nevermind, found the pitch earlier in the thread, but I'd still like to see this became an actual thing in WoD.

Kai Tave posted:

Maybe a better way to say it would be that the central decision to make Beast "Matt McFarland clumsily attempts to exorcise his anger at Gamergate and MRAs: the Game" is what inevitably sent it to shitville. Matt could be the most well meaning guy in the world (though I'm certainly not going to extend him the benefit of the doubt at this point after how he behaved in response to his critics) but I'm going to suggest that it's extremely unlikely if not outright impossible to create a game with something like that as your foundation and maintain the necessary objectivity to actually make it a good game. When you're at the point of literally dressing your villains in fedoras just to make sure people get the message that HEY THESE GUYS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE BAD OKAY then you've probably hosed up.

Aren't you and he moderators at RPGnet? Doesn't that ever make things awkward for the two of you?

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 22:55 on May 2, 2016

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Mr.Misfit posted:

I think it was because DitV was one of the early Forge-theory produced games. Though RPGnet hasn´t really changed since then. They still whine about things incessantly and for the most part still seem to adore CthulhuTech.

I don't see where you're getting this, because there was heavy, heavy criticism of the game back in the day.

There's a planned 2nd Edition which promises to "get rid of the icky stuff," but any positivity from that is more a skeptical "wait and see" thing than going full-on over to "I love this game now!"

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Count Chocula posted:

I've seen all the versions of The Wicker Man. I know this won't turn out well.
You could flavor the game to any dogma, from needing to engage in Communist auto-critique to Fox News...whatever.
One of the unexplored aspects of oMage was that if belief really shapes reality, there should be a bunch of creepy Bible Belt towns where religious dogma is real.

And I like that the demons are coded as real in DITV since they give all the dilemmas teeth, instead of being things you handwave away with your personal mortality. How would a human really react if they believe that? Besides, it's only a few steps away from Pendragon or Lawful Stupid Paladins.

I recall hearing this about oMage a bit; that this model would make a lot of unpleasant things that are/were commonly accepted as the default reality.

Like an international conspiracy of psychic Jews responsible for the creation of communism, capitalism, atheism, feminism, homosexual and interracial sex. Simultaneously.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 03:42 on May 17, 2016

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Alien Rope Burn posted:

This is amazing to look back at with after reading a game like Progenitor, which takes people like J. Edgar Hoover and Martin Luther King and uses them as superhumans in interesting ways you might not necessarily expect. Brave New World, on the other hand, has Kaczynski gain exploding powers and go and explode. Because of course he does. :effort:

Care to illuminate on these two examples if you don't mind?

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Alien Rope Burn posted:

I think Beast is a more important review than people give it credit for. It's probably getting more attention than it deserves overall (in this and other threads), of course. I'd rather see bad RPGs like it just die a quiet death, but with it hanging onto the top RPG sales charts right now, raising awareness is pretty important. And there's going to be the eternal train of people asking "so what's so bad about Beast?" in the World of Darkness thread and elsewhere, and having something to just point people to instead of having to explain it endlessly should help out future generations.

Honestly, yeah, such reviews are important. Barring some exceptions, there's an unwillingness to give negative reviews. Nobody wants to feel like the bad guy if it comes time to tear apart a cruddy product which one guy poured his heart and soul into making. I've gotten negative reviews and criticisms of my own work, and while it doesn't feel good worthwhile criticism can help a writer improve.

Things like Beast are on another level. Take for instance Sisters of Rapture which I did for Fatal & Friends. Honestly I kind of wonder if I was too hard and personal at times, but at the time I was writing it no other reviewer was pointing out the genuinely squicky parts of the game. One of OneBookShelf's top reviewers was enamored of the product and helped promote it in places, in spite of including a disturbingly transphobic spell and 'slut-shaming' text about whore-boots which attract rapists, among other things.

Granted, becoming a self-publisher has genuinely changed my outlook on things. Not only for the fact that I don't have the time to do such reviews of this magnitude, but it becomes a "stick in one's eye" situation if you yourself end up coming up short.

But yes, Kurieg's write-up of Beast is good. Good enough that I will seriously consider using it as a resource to show people its problems if it ever comes down to that.

We need such reviews, especially for products which perpetuate disturbing implications.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Halloween Jack posted:

Well, that's the first few sentences of Ron Edwards' essay on "fantasy heartbreakers." "On the one hand, I'm telling people to publish their dream. On the other hand, I'm sick of seeing yet another set of house rules for AD&D published as a unique game."

Some people have unimaginative dreams.

I recall seeing an OSR retroclone setting for sale whose name escapes me. The major sale was that it was the compilation of 30 years' worth of campaigns and world-building, a detailed realm with epic history shaped by player characters.

This makes me think back of all the campaigns and adventure paths, both published and homebrew, I made, ran, and participated in. A lot of crazy poo poo happened, from a variety of genres. Murder mysteries in Sharn, teenaged wizard's apprentices donning magical masks to do fantasy superhero stuff, adventurers thwarting the plots of a demonic cult in a city built around the ring of a dormant volcano, preventing a goblin nation from activating a magic weapon of mass destruction upon the human realms...

And I've only been playing D&D games for about 12 years, and a 2 year hiatus when I wasn't doing any tabletop gaming at all but reading a lot and fantasizing about potential games. Naturally a 30+ year long world should have all sorts of unorthodox options and setting elements?

Nope, standard whitebread pseudo-medieval Western Europe realms. And whose new classes were things like Friar and Knight. :effort:

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 19:22 on Jun 4, 2016

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Maxwell Lord posted:

I find I'm liking 13th Age more and more for story heavy high fantasy- it's simple enough while still working and not having the kind of "we gave this monster a Save or Die because tradition" red flags that made it into 5e. 4e I definitely favor for dungeon crawling and action heavy stuff.

Bedlamdan posted:

I genuinely think that 13th Age is a much better 'intro' to the hobby than D&D.

I've noticed that while magic items and gold for one-use items are still a thing in 13th Age, it hasn't been as important. Given the main precedence of balancing things around pre-set encounters, the traditional dungeon crawl format of "explore rooms, maybe you'll encounter a few monsters, perhaps many" doesn't map as cleanly as more resource-driven management retroclones.

Still, 13th Age is a fantastic game because you can still feel like a badass at level 1 and its gridless combat actually works as opposed to saying its optional but then measuring everything in 5 foot increments.

Personally speaking, 13th Age would be a better intro than D&D were it not for the fact that Pathfinder and 5E are the Pepsi and Coke of tabletop RPGs. I can imagine explaining to total newcomers how 13th Age is a mashup of 3rd and 4th Edition and being asked "why don't we play D&D first?" A lot of 13th Age's selling points were pointed towards people experienced with said Editions than total newbies, so trying to get its appeal to unfamiliar folks would need different explanations.

Like the fact that a solo boss encounter is actually doable in 13A, unlike Pathfinder and 5th Edition.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Lynx Winters posted:

I don't think a total newcomer is going to ask the one person with experience why they're playing the game the experienced person knows. I also don't know why your answer as the experienced player would include edition comparisons or why it would be anything other than "trust me, this is easier."

I suppose I spoke poorly. I will definitely harp on its positives, but when folks go looking around I feel that the major impression they'll get of the RPG is it drawing from two already existing ones. That and Pathfinder/5E are more popular, so I feel one way or another newcomers will be inevitably roped away from more obscure games due to the sizeable number of gaming tables who do nothing but D&D/Pathfinder and have folks who adamantly refuse to play other games.

But that's not a fault of 13A itself; more the hardliners in the hobby have a tendency to direct the flow of things.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Covok posted:

It is when you have the maturity of a nerd, never had kids, and only know about children and raising a kid while managing your own life through bad dramas.

Don't forget disdain and fear for modern technology while you're at it, too!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

wiegieman posted:

Isn't that the point of Anarky though? To be the representative of whatever crazy political spectrum the author likes or dislikes this week?

Anarky's an anarchist, although more the pop-culture "destroy everything!" kind than the legitimate far-left variety. I don't really consider AnCaps like Von Mises to be part of traditional anarchism, in that they're overall fine with hierarchy in the workforce and really only follow the "anti-government" part of anarchism while discarding the rest.

On the one hand, what we see as anarchy in pop culture and media is a highly misconstrued notion of how it really works, but there is an element of truth. A lot of Reddit anarchists (the real kind, not the "drat government destroying masculism/Western civilization!" kind) have an unfortunate tendency to romanticize violence and don't fully understand the implications of wide-scale dismantling of huge government-funded projects will have.

So yeah, Anarky isn't really supposed to represent any consistent politicial ideology, but having him be an Ayn Rand supporter will still be ridiculous.* It would be equivalent to having a cartoon Communist talk about how Sweden is Karl Marx's dream come true.

*Ayn Rand was still in favor of having a military and laws supplemented by courts, as well as technologically advanced civilizations imposing their values through force on less developed civilizations. She's far from a genuine anarchist, or even libertarian. Also, major figureheads at the Ayn Rand institute believed that the US military should not care about civilian casualties in the War in Iraq, and that such a thing is even desirable.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

unseenlibrarian posted:

This was actually a Greek -thing-. Big tonkers were seen as innately humorous, (and, well, vulgar and rustic) and artistic depictions, unless they were supposed to be comedic, were meant to be austere and sober. So you get tiny dicks everywhere.

(The god of having a great big penis was Priapus, who was taken super-seriously in the countryside as a god of protection and fertility, while the urban Greeks, who naturally made most of the statues, thought he was a joke.)

The Greeks know that it's not the size of the tool that matters, but how you use it.

Also, kind of weird how a potentially lethal medical condition got named after an ancient deity.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Selachian posted:

Note that the pottery also shows both men and women without pubic hair, for much the same reason -- body hair was considered gross and animalistic, and a well-groomed ancient Greek would remove as much of it as possible.

Which just goes to prove: a penis shaved is a penis urned.

Shaving also makes it look bigger, so it's a trade-off. To have a tiny dick that's also unshaved... that's a terrible, almost-impossible standard for the self-image of young Greek men!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Quote is not Edit.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Cythereal posted:

In this respect, I think the admiration some people have for katanas is in certain respects justified: the katana might well be the best sword Japan could have created with their very limited, very poor quality iron ore and knowledge of metallurgy. For that, the katana does deserve respect - and it did as well as anyone asked of it given the combat and general warfare environments it existed in. Biggest fish in a small pond, essentially.

Europe, Africa, and the Middle East had far more access to iron, and access to much higher-quality ore than Japan did. This alone makes swords from this region very different, as it does the whole combat environment they existed in - metal armor as I understand it was virtually unknown in Japan for those same geological and metallurgical reasons, but common in the West.

I think you could write an interesting book looking at how military forces and technology evolved differently in geographically isolated parts of the world simply due to what materials were and were not available. The macuahuitl was basically a sword and a very dangerous weapon, but it's a whole different thing from the typical mental image of a sword.

Speaking of which, I'm writing a Mediterranean setting which helped me discover the existence of the flyssa. It was a North African Berber sword specifically designed to break open metal armor, most commonly chainmail. :black101:

The katana's a pretty neat weapon, I won't deny, but it would be nice to see admiration for other types of weapon ingenuity throughout the world. Lord knows D&D and fantasy RPGs are more than willing to borrow monsters from all sorts of cultures, we should do the same with kickass swords.

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Desiden posted:

Back when True Blood was on the air, I remember you'd get a subset of people making the exact same argument. That because the show said that vampires were a metaphor for gay civil rights, then anyone who thought the metaphor was bad was homophobic and/or pro-gaybashing.

For those who haven't seen it, nearly every vampire who was pro-"mainstreaming" (i.e. equal rights) was shown to only pay lip service to it in public, was totally willing to murder people and drink real blood, and many of them were just using it as a smokescreen to try to take over human society. As a metaphor, it was pretty much the wet dream of the people who use the phrase "the gay agenda" non-ironically. Shallow reading knows no bounds, it seems.

Halloween Jack posted:

I acknowledge that Nancy is a dumb gimmick poster, but sometimes dumb people provide useful illustrations.

Kurieg's analysis is correct if we follow the idea of Beasts as Queer metaphor to its logical conclusion. But it's not worth the bother, because equating Beastness with Queerness is a rhetorical trick: put a label reading "Queer" on an evil character, then say "Maybe you're the real bigot, ever think about that?"

It's the same trick Milo Yiannopoulos uses every time he plays up his homosexuality and his fetish for black men, thinking that this confronts his imaginary SJW enemies with an impossible conundrum. Reactionaries fail to empathize with their opponents, and far from rejecting "identity politics," they see everyone in terms of crude labels. Of course, no progressive demands admiration for Ernst Rohm because he was gay.

This is one of the reasons why I began to dislike immensely the use of goblins/orcs/etc as stand-ins for real-world cultures, even if the author is trying to make them non-evil or "humans/elves/etc are the real assholes!" Cuz even in games like Shadowrun, it's an objective fact of the world that orcs are dumber than humans, which would make the racists right and the liberals in denial of reality.

It also carries the implication that given how orcs are in the popular imagination that you're saying that "ethnic group X" reminds you of this:

Might be an odd thing to bring up out of the blue, but very recently I saw yet another dude on some Savage Worlds forums trying to do a "monstrous races are Native Americans and humans are Western European colonists," completely unrelated to when I first called out a completely unrelated incident on Facebook.

This is the reason why real-world allegories are such a minefield to maneuver. No matter the form it takes, people never learn...:sigh:

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 18:41 on Oct 3, 2016

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

The Northlands Saga Complete

The Northlands Saga Complete is a Norse-themed sword-and-sorcery campaign setting and adventure path. Made for both Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry (OD&D retroclone), it is a far-ranging epic inspired by the culture and folklore of the Viking era, and for the past year I have been running it for a weekly Sunday group. Although like any level 1 to 20 Pathfinder campaign it has its system-related warts, it helped create a campaign that has been lots of fun like no other, and with all the notes and work I’ve done on it I decided to make an in-depth review.

First, a brief history of the publication. Back in 2011 when Skyrim was the next big thing and the hills were alive with the sounds of thu’um, Frog God Games began working on a playtest for a Viking-themed adventure. One of the chief writers, Ken Spencer, was an archaeologist and history teacher with a deep passion for medieval Scandinavia and its legends. He sought to create a setting which borrowed heavily from that region’s cultural aspects, and four adventures were made in total for this new setting. But the line was put on hold for five years until a successful KickStarter produced a massive book, including not just the original adventures but eight new ones and an expanded setting to boot.

The Northlands Saga Complete is split into two major sections: the Northlands Saga Campaign Guide and the Northlands Saga Adventure Path. After that are several appendices of player handouts and maps (both player-friendly and GM eyes’ only versions), pregenerated player characters, and a bonus stand-alone adventure. We are going to cover the Campaign Guide here first.

Hagalaz, Hail!

This is the introductory chapter covering the overall feel of the world, the regions’ history, and a discussion on Kennings (compound expressions with metaphorical meanings often used in poetry). Basically the Northlands is part of the wider Lost Lands campaign setting published by Frog God Games, but the influence of the rest of the world is minimal enough that the Northlands may as well be on its own for most games. The Northlands is a low magic sword-and-sorcery style realm where most of civilization are villages at best and the largest city is about 4,000 people strong. While some magic is socially acceptable in the form of cunning women and folkloric charms it is rarely understood and almost never a regular occurance. The setting has fantasy races, but is humanocentric in a Ravenloftian vein where dwarves and elves are isolated, halflings and gnomes don’t exist at all in the region, and cannon fodder baddies tend to rival Vikings, cultists, and various kinds of giant-kin instead of kobolds, goblins, and orcs.

The Northlands proper is sits on the northern reach of Akados, the major continent of the Lost lands, and the southern reach of the arctic continent of Boros. It has a Meditteranean-style geography where a central North Sea dominates the center and the various lands circle around it. Due to this, sea travel is a vital aspect of life for most people if only due to trade.


The region has been home to thousands of years’ worth of immigration, with the ethnic Northlander humans the most recent arrival (about 800 years ago). The first settlers were the Andøvans, who mastered bronze-working and whose cultural legacy is only known via the large amount of haunted mountain ruins and barrow mounds left behind. They went to war against invading trolls and lost, causing their culture to cease to be. A thousand years later the next group of settlers were a tribe of elves known as the Nûk who were on a religious pilgrimage. With the forest the only place unclaimed by the numerous trollish tribes they and settled there in secret.

1,500 years later, a tribe of humans known as the Uln arrived and unsuccessfully warred against the trolls. They went further north and settled into newly-discovered city ruins. For a while they lived well, but then some people stumbled upon buried texts dedicated to the demon lord Althunak, Lord of Ice and Stone. In a short time his growing cult plunged the cities into bloody war. The Uln driven from the cities soon became the Ulnat, the fantasy counterpart-Inuit people of the Northlands. Althunak's cult held sway for a time until a hero, Hvran the Half-born, earned the trust of several tribes and led a band of mighty warriors. They fought a great battle against the demon-god himself, and Hvran sacrificed himself to trap Althunak beneath a frozen lake.

150 years later a group of Hel worshipers were contained in a walled-off peninsula after years of continuous war with a greater empire. There was a dude named Swein Sigurdson who thought that Hel had it all wrong, so he fought and escaped with like-minded people into the not-Underdark. In these dire depths Swein received a vision from Wotan, head of the Æsir, who told him of a new place to settle and to follow the tunnels north. Traveling through the Under Realms for months they finally found light in what is now the Northlands, and fought a war against the trolls there. The humans won, the giants were driven off, Swein Sigurdson was declared the High Køenig, and the society of modern Northlanders came into being.

TL;DR Barrow-building humans fight and lose against trolls, elves migrate to the forests, the not-Inuit defeat not-Sauron, not-Nordics are led by Odin through the Underdark to the Northlands and drive off the trolls. And if you’re wondering what the deal with the seeming disconnected events is, they tie into the later campaign to various extents. Especially Althunak who is more or less the BBEG of the Northlands Saga.


Along with a pronunciation guide on Nordic spellings not present in English, the last section of the introduction discusses the concept of kennings, or word pictures expressed by skalds and reciters of oral traditions. Quite a bit of in-game text and NPC conversation makes use of such kennings, although not overly so (mostly important and well-spoken NPCs). Basically they are ways to paint a picture of common concepts via metaphors, references to godly traits, and the like. It gives a sample list of common kennings as a means of using them in your own campaign. Although I admit that I did not use this often, I did enjoy this personal touch in spite of the "blood-worm" jokes spawned.

Word on Pronunciation posted:

Pronunciation of words from a Nordic base is no easy task to a non-Nordic tongue, and many of the place names, and names of gods and heroes are just that. They are not, for the most part, intended to be a true rendering of Norwegian or even ancient Norse words and names, but they are meant to convey that flavor. As a result, there are some spelling habits that are perhaps strange to the eyes of many gamers. As a result, we’ve included a little bit of a pronunciation guide, though it is no way meant to be a didactic or exhaustive discussion of the subject in any real-life context. It merely explains the conventions we have used in the Northlands Saga. As with anything game related, they are there for you to use or ignore as you see fit.

Of immediate note is undoubtedly the fact that many names end in an ‘r’ that do not normally do so. This final ‘r’ of Nordic origin is often left off in Western renderings, but to lend the air of legitimacy to our Northlands setting, we have opted to go for the older, more obscure spelling. However, in general the final ‘r’ is silent unless it follows a vowel, so that ‘Thor’ is still ‘Thor’, but ‘Grimr’ would be pronounced ‘Grim’. In the case of ‘Baldr’, however, conventional use would still pronounce it ‘Balder’, so this rule is far from absolute.

For vowels, ‘Æ, æ’ is usually pronounced like ‘eye’ or ‘ay’; ‘Á, á’ is pronounced like ‘ow’; ‘Ö, ö’ and ‘Ø, ø’ are pronounced like ‘oeh’, and the other accented vowels are held longer. Unaccented vowels usually have their long sound. The letter ‘Ð, ð’ is called ‘eth’. It is pronounced as a ‘th’ sound and is sometimes used interchangeably with the letter ‘Þ, þ’ (called ‘thorn’ and also pronounced with a ‘th’ sound).

While these hints by no means create a fully authentic pronunciation in terms of real ancient Nordic and Germanic languages, they will help you to catch the intended flavor and feel. However, if it is easier, just use the spellings for the look of them and make your pronunciations whatever is simplest for you. Use them as best fits your tastes.

Kennings posted:

Common Kennings of the Northlands

Alfar dwimmer: magic
Baldr’s bane: mistletoe
battle-dew: blood
blood-ember: axe
blood-worm: sword
breaker of rings: Køenig or jarl
Corpse-ripper: the dragon Nídhöggr, chews
upon the corpses of murderers, adulterers, and
easer of raven’s hunger: generous leader
feeder of ravens: warrior
Freyja’s tears: amber
Hanged God: Wotan
Frigg’s thread: gold
icicle of blood: Sword or spear
Loptr’s favor: fire
Loptr’s mead: lies/deception
mind’s worth: courage/honor
moon distaff’s thread: silver
Rán’s hammer: waves
raven harvest: corpse
ring-giver: Køenig or jarl
sea-steed: ship
shame of swords: shield
Sif’s hair: gold
sky-candle: the sun
slaughter-dew: blood
Slayer of Giants: Donar
spear-din: battle
swan of blood: raven
sword-sleep: death
wave-cutter: ship
wave-swine: ship
wave thread: sea serpent
Wotan’s children: raven
weather of weapons: war
whale road: sea
wolf-hearted: coward, oath-breaker, one
without mind’s worth
wound-hoe: sword
wound-sea: blood

Chapter 1: Mannaz, The Peoples

The chapter starts off by mentioning that in terms of D&D races the Northlands is not as varied as the typical setting or other places in the Lost Lands. Only humans and Nûklander elves have any significant population size (with a few half-elves around), and the few dwarves around are relegated in small communities in the two largest towns. Halflings, gnomes, and elves of other tribes are individual foreigners if they come into the region. Orcs, half-orcs, goblins, bugbears, and gnolls are virtually absent, but replacing their niche are all varieties of giant. Just about every type of Monster Manual giant can be found in the Northlands along with some new ones in this book, and there are many varieties of trolls. The setting mentions that giants in the Northlands are always of Evil alignment, and giant and troll-blooded people merely have it as a strong tendency rather than an inherent trait. Funny enough, although the pre-generated PCs include a dwarf and are kind of a big deal in Norse mythology, they don’t get a write-up in this chapter at all and are more or less “invisible” in the adventure path. :(

There is a brief entry on languages, with some interesting notes: one, there is a “Common” tongue but it’s spoken far south in lands once dominated by an expansive empire and so isn’t a language you start play with automatically. The lingua franca of ethnic Northlanders is Nørsk, with the written version known as Runic and treated as a separate language because literacy is rare and effectively an art all its own. Andøvan is now a dead language, and Nûklander, Seagestrelander, and Ulnat are spoken by their respective cultures. Two demonic cults, the Beast Cult and the Children of Althunak, use Beast Cult Sign Language and Old Uln as secret code tongues respectively.

The Northlanders are the most populous human cultural group in the setting and you guessed it, fantasy counterpart Scandinavians. Although no strangers to battle, most Northlanders live an agricultural lifestyle of growing crops and animal husbandry. Still, their economy is supplemented by warfare, trade, and raiding and almost every family owns several weapons for self-defense and chainmail if they’re well-to-do. They have a hierarchy of social classes ranging from thralls (slaves, usually foreigners or those in debt), freemen (majority of Northlanders), and jarls (leaders who have enough wealth and goodwill to get the other social classes to pledge their lives to them). Northlander social structure is not ironclad; thralls can buy their freedom, and in some lands a jarl’s influence is tempered by democratic assemblies known as Things and can fall out of influence if their competence falters.

The rest of the section is rather wordy, but I can point out a few interesting things: Northlanders don’t use horses for warfare, as they are meant for travel. Many Northlander realms have a social gathering known as a Thing where every person can cast a vote for matters of laws, crimes, and public works projects. There is a cultural tradition known as laws of housing where a guest and host have mutually-beneficial social contracts. Religion is a low-key affair where local priests known as godi are a part-time local position. Actual spellcasting clerics and druids are very rare specialized godi who forged a bond with a specific deity. And kinship is broken up into small extended familes, with are part of a clan akin to a widely extended family which can be far-flung. The heads of families and clans have the same rights and duties as a jarl, and two of the realms (Gatland and Hrolfland) use the family/clan social system as the basis for their society.

Next up are the Nûk or Nûklanders, elves who are more or less fantasy counterpart-Sami. They are the descendants of a persecuted cult whose god said that he would lead his people north to a bountiful land. After several civil wars encouraged them to move thousands of miles to the promised realm, they found that their dream destination was far from hospitable. Betrayed, the people turned against the more devout followers and leaders in a night of slaughter and forsook worship of the gods in favor of calling out to the spirits of nature.

Nûklanders primarily live in the forests and tundras of the Northlands’ northernmost reaches and beyond as nomadic reindeer herders. They have some limited trade with the Northlanders of Estenfird and are on generally positive terms with them. Nûk societies are governed entirely by direct democracy councils (the concept of one person commanding many is a strange concept to them). Their society also greatly distrusts arcane magic, and practitioners face exile or death if they cannot conceal their talents. Druids, oracles, and rangers are the most common classes, with fighters rarer but when they do show up make for amazing cavalry with war-trained reindeer.

In game terms Nûklanders share the racial traits of Pathfinder elves, save that instead of gaining typical enchantment/sleep resistance and spell resistance/spellcraft bonuses they get cold resistance 5 and the silent hunter trait (reduce stealth penalties for higher speed by 5 and can use Stealth while running at -20). This is not exactly a bad trade-off, and overall I found cold damage more common than enchantment and sleep.

The other human ethnic group detailed in this chapter are the Seagestrelanders, and I am unsure what real-world culture they are meant to replicate; my closest guess are Celtic peoples. The term “Seagestrelander” is a catch-all for the hundreds of warring tribes that live between the southwest shores of the North Sea and the southern plains of the Sea of Grass. Most of them live within the forests of their namesake and the coastal shores, with expansion blocked off by natural geography. They are mostly farmers, herders, and fishermen and their lands are poor in mineral wealth. As Northlanders have metal goods, they are willing to trade their iron weapons and armor in exchange for amber, gold, and slaves. This last commodity exacerbated the violence among the Seagestrelanders themselves and with Northlanders as well. Rival tribes sell off prisoners of war, and Northlander vessels come to raid as well as trade.

Seagestrelanders build their villages around god-trees, the stumps of massive hollowed-out trunks where idol representations of their deities are placed. Funerary and worship rites take place here, and Seagestrelander spellcasters gain automatic Maximize Spell on all spells cast within 30 feet of a god-tree. Magic is even less common among them than the Northlanders, but when it does show up they are almost always honored regardless of their type of magic. All spells, arcane or divine, are viewed as gifts from the gods.

Seagestrelander characters are usually of the martial variety. The section mentions that Seagestrelander PCs will face difficulty in the Northlands, as the vast majority of them are thralls and generally assumed to be such by the populace. It mentions the idea of a slave PC, but doesn’t go in much on actual advice beyond being a “role-playing challenge for experienced and mature groups.” Interesting thing is, slavery and thralldom isn’t really touched upon in the adventure path, and demographics-wise thralls make up a very small portion of the population (one to five percent in places and almost never past ten percent). It's more or less a vague backdrop of the setting.

Although not detailed here, one human ethnic group I wanted to touch on are the Ulnat or fantasy counterpart Inuit. They live in the Far North, an arctic region beyond the Northlands dominated by tundra and mountains. Like the Northlanders they are a heavily maritime people, relying upon the sea for their livelihood. They are a society of hunters and trappers because their native environs are unsustainable for agriculture, and their main method of transportation on land are sled dogs. The sourcebook does not make much mention of their religious and cultural traditions beyond the fact that the heroes who overthrew the Cult of Althunak are buried in small tombs with their prized possessions.

The Giant-blooded are one of the 2 entirely new races of the setting. They are like half-elves or half-orcs in that they are a hybrid people living among a more dominant culture. Giant-blooded are either the product of a human-giant union or more rarely two human parents (a recessive trait). Giant-blooded infants are usually killed at birth, and those who are spared are relegated to the fringes of society. A few jarls keep giant-blooded around for their great physical strength for both farming and warfare purposes, but others treat them as freak shows to show off to entertain guests. Giant-blooded rarely if ever appear among the Seagestrelanders, and given the Ulnat’s geographic position are unknown among them. They are quite likely to be adventurers on account of societal prejudices and innate wanderlust pushing them to move.

Stat-wise giant-blooded are almost entirely built to be melee warriors. They have +4 Strength, +2 Constitution, -2 Dexterity, and -2 Charisma. They are Large, have a Reach of 10 feet and speed of 40 feet on account of their large frames, and to offset the size and Dexterity penalties to AC they have +1 natural armor. Low-light Vision is their only ability not explicitly “muscle-based,” so if you’re going to be giant-blooded your role is more or less determined for you unless you’re going for a self-imposed challenge.

The other new race are the Troll-blooded who are much like the giant-blooded save they are even rarer, more physically monstrous, even more vilified, and have a strong persistent hunger that is a drain on larders during wintertime. Those not slain at birth are either hidden away from the rest of society or treated as expendable thralls to be thrown in battle against one’s enemies. Troll-blooded adventurers become so mostly to find a means to satiate violent drives and their hunger (the book notes that heroes eat well no matter their ancestry).

Stat-wise troll-blooded are melee-friendly, but not as much as the giant-blooded. They have +2 Strength, +4 Constitution, and -4 Charisma. They are Medium size and have darkvision to a range of 60 feet, along with a pair of claws that deal 1d4 damage and the Ferocity trait which is similar to the half-orc’s save that you are staggered when you fall below 0 hit points. In line with their heritage, their last two traits are the ability to safely eat any organic substance and immunity to ingested poisons from this. Their weakness is fire, and take 1 more point of damage per damage die from fire-based attacks.

Troll-blooded are a bit more versatile than giant-blooded on account that their racial traits are a bit all over the place. Their claws and ability to eat anything are very situational, but ferocity is effectively a free Diehard feat. The Strength and Constitution bonuses are nice, although the giant-blooded’s natural reach is a more attractive option for melee types.


Picture from bobkehl of deviantart and not in the book but did not want this to be too wall of texty

Although technically covered in the Northlander section, there an in-depth discussion on classes. Unlike many other settings Northlands has classes which are “banned” or at least heavily discouraged or changed around. The realm is more or less Early Middle Ages/Viking Era in technology and aesthetics: alchemists, cavaliers, gunslingers, inquisitors, monks, ninja, and samurai are almost invariably foreigners from the Southlands (catch-all term for everyone south of the Northlands). The book notes that the PCs are meant to be heroes of an epic saga, and should be able to break the mold via a good backstory of how they came upon these strange traditions.

Classes which are reflavored for the setting include Barbarians, who are holy men and women of Wotan (Odin) who struggled with violent impulses but learned to tame their inner fires via divine guidance. They are either Bearsarkars or Ulfhanders, new archetypes described later in new rules in Chapter 4. Bards are known as skalds and well-respected for their inspiring abilities and knowledge of history and culture in spite of their arcane powers (which they try to disguise as “natural ability”). Clerics and Druids are a rare sort of godi who made a pact with a specific deity to carry out their will. Nûklander druids are an exception, who don’t worship the gods but instead call upon the spirits of nature to grant them power. Fighters are perhaps the most common PC class among the Northlands in general, but Monks are typically seen as having a near-supernatural control over their bodies and distrusted. Paladins are all-female spear maidens who pledged their services either to Baldr, Donar (Thor), or Wotan (Odin) but are seen less as holy warriors but rather defenders of home and clan whose abilities are derived from the blessings of wyrd (fate). Rangers are the next most common class after Fighters, usually of the non-magic-using archetypes (I don’t know if any such exist in Pathfinder beyond 3rd party). Rogues are surprisingly rare, the justification that theft is a major crime, there are not many locks and mechanical traps save in the ruins of the Andøvans, and what “organized crime” exists in the Northlands are less thieves’ guilds and more bandits, raiders, and the Jomsvikings who are decidedly more martial in nature. Arcane spellcasters of all stripes are exceedingly rare to the point of only being known in myth and legend these days. When encountered most people assume them to be dangerous, and summoners are particularly hated for belief that their minions come from the Ginnungagap (primordial cosmic void) or the creations of demons and giants. The only two exceptions to this mistrust are the aforementioned bards and cunning women, an all-female sorcerous bloodline supplemented with healing powers. Both of these disciplines are well-respected professions. Seagestrelanders are more open and view magic of all kinds as blessings of the gods, whereas Nûklanders outlaw all types of magic save non-deific druidism.

And so ends our first chapter!

Next up is Odal, the Lands!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

BinaryDoubts posted:

This is very cool. I love seeing APs and settings get dissected.

Thank you for the vote of confidence. In spite of its KickStarter and high praise from Endzeitgeist, talk about it has been rather rare in the tabletopsphere.

Chapter 2: Odal, the Lands

This is a big-picture view of the Northlands' eight major regions, along with known lands beyond. With the exception of Hrolfland, they are more akin to geographic regions than unified kingdoms, with most lands a political patchwork of ever-shifting alliances between jarldoms and tribes. Or in some areas like Estenfird there are entire territories unclaimed or lost to the wilderness. As you can tell by the mountainous divisions in the map above, most regional trade and travel is done via ship and the peaks make for good natural defenses against invasions by land.

A constant throughout this chapter are Technology Levels. Frog God Games books rate regions by a general progression of societal inventions and organization, from Stone Age all the way to Industrial Revolution, but the only Technology Levels in the Northlands are Stone Age (Nûkland, Seagestreland, mountain tribes in Hrolfland), High Middle Ages (Hrolfland and Hordaland), and Dark Ages (everywhere else). This is not a cosmetic choice; a region's technology level determines what items you have access to including at character creation. As it would be easier to cover what you cannot buy and what's most useful for PCs, Dark Ages settlements cannot fashion adamantine or mithral equipment, half-plate and full plate, tower shields, composite longbows, greatsword, lances, bastard swords, crossbows, and rapiers. High Middle ages grants access to all the aforementioned save full plate, tower shields, bastard swords, crossbows, and rapiers. And you are not going to find gunpowder or firearms anywhere. Stone Age characters get the rawest deal, only able to get hide armor (not even leather), and their only weapons of choice are daggers, javelins, shortbows, and spears. And forget about any kind of special weapons materials!

Finally, there are no "magic item marts" in the Northlands. No settlement has listed numbers of magical items for purchase. Owners of such things treat them more akin to heirlooms and are given to trusted people for favors and services. Godi and cunning women capable of magic use their spells to tend to their local villages first and tend to have a barter economy (a cunning woman may give you a potion if you hunt down some pesky wolves or restock her larder of rare herbs). Although in line with the setting's relative rarity of the supernatural, it does not work for the Pathfinder system of progression. The Adventure Path tries to compensate for this by loading the PCs down with oodles of treasure, magic items, and various artifacts, but all it really does is encourage party spellcasters to get magic item feats and make the weapons they'd want to get anyway (spell prerequisites can be ignored for crafting by adding +5 to the crafting DC). If you run the Northlands and don't want magic-marts, I suggest you use Pathfinder's Automatic Bonus Progression so the boring yet necessary attack/saves/etc boosts are inherent parts of a character to leave room for the more novel items. Or instead of a "mart" let PCs use their loot to "buy" magic items via a network of alliances and gifts from grateful families and villages saved.

First stop is Estenfird, the farthest and newest Northlander colony. It is a frontier even by the region's standards, and they are peculiar for their odd form of government. There are no warlords or jarls, with the only semblance of governance direct democracies at the local Things, with the Althing at Three Rivers for the regional level. Most travel in this territory is via one of the many rivers, and the vast amounts of untamed land encourage many settlers and homesteaders to make a new life here. Estenfird is still a dangerous region. The mountains are home to all kinds of monsters, the region is famed for its giant animals, and the growing influence of the Beast Cult of Shibauroth is growing to the point that Estenfird's only hope to counter is a united force (a hard sell to the people's anarchistic bent).

One of the western mountainous regions is Gatland, settled by the Gat clan who chose to settle here 300 years ago in protest of the Things which were rising up as a popular form of government. Here the Gat clan is ruled by autocratic jarls part of the extended family. The Gats get along like a heard of cats and even their eldest patriarch leads them informally. Gatland's spoil and terrain makes for poor farming, which caused the people here to become the best fishermen and sailors in the Northlands. In fact, there are many Gats who gave up farming completely to make a living as full-time merchants and vikings! The Gats are the sworn enemies of the Hrolfs, and their centuries-long feuds became such a fact of life that nobody recalls the real reason for its origin.

Hordaland is the relative center of the Northlanders and its most cosmopolitan. The town of Halfstead is the largest settlement in the Northlands, and the nominal Køenig is a 10-year-old boy whose father passed to illness last year. This has made for divisive politics, as there are some who feel that the former ruler's adult bastard son is a better choice while others insist the seat should be held by the boy and wait for him to come of age as the legitimate ruler. And the Gats and the Hrolfs both prize Hordaland's strategic center and seek to to bribe, manipulate, and threaten jarls into favorable deals. Most of the peninsula is heavily forested, but in the deep center is the Forest of Woe with an evil reputation of ruins, giants, and strange fey. There is also the Barrow Lands, a place home to the restless dead.

Home to the other powerful clan of the Northlands, Hrolfland is a different beast than the rest of the Northlands. For one, its ruler Jarl Magnus Hrolfsblood exerts a far tighter reign over the lands. There are no Things or Althing to contest his rules, and the local jarls are more or less subservient to his will. To more effectively fight the Gats, Jarl Magnus employed and built upon technological innovations from Southlander realms, including the building of the first castle in the region, siege engines, and even crossbows and even mounted cavalry. In a way, Hrolfland is approaching a more feudal form of government; too bad its ruler is Lawful Evil.

Nûkland is a region where Northlanders and humans in general are the minority. The evergreen forests and tundra stretch for an unknown length, and huge hardy animals such as mammoths, bears, and woolly rhinoceroses. Although not quick to go to war, the Nûk firmly stated to the Northlanders of Estenfird that encroachments into their domain will not be tolerated. The elves' strange home features a sole river somehow unfrozen which flows from unknown lands and Mount Helgastervän, which is said to be home to a dragon of enormous size known as the Great Serpent. Legend holds that further north, are World's Edge Mountains where beyond them is nothing but the void. Those who cross are said to be able to sail the stars to the domains of the gods.

Seagestreland is the other not-technically-Northlands-but-is place. It is a heavily forested region where even vikings tread lightly, and its only permanent settlement is the tiny trading post of Dnipirstead which acts as more or less a "gate town" to the rest of the region. In some cases Seagestrelanders come here as part of a trade moot, and sometimes merchants from even farther lands.

Storstrøm Vale is home to the oldest continuously-settled domains of the ethnic Northlanders. It may not be as technologically advanced as Hrolfland, nor have the trade advantages of Hordaland or the legendary sailors of Gatland, but what earns it universal respect is being the heart of Northlands history and culture. It is home to the Hall of the Hearth Stone, the most sacred godshouse of the Northlands, and it is here some of the greatest heroes have been buried. Politically the Vale is divided into various jarldoms governed by a Køenig whose position is determined by a vote at the Althing. The Althing meets once every 10 years, and is host to some of the most vicious politicking in the Northlands. Storstrøm Vale is also home to Trotheim, the only other town of significant size in the Northlands.

Last but not least is Vastavikland, a realm which breeds extra-tough people. It is home to the tallest mountains in the Northlands with just enough gold to make people desperate. Mount Reik is an active volcano which sees many mages come to it for sorcerous experiments, and just about every inch of land in the whole of Vastavikland is vulnerable to earthquakes. The people are warlike even by Northlander standards, with every Køenig and jarl's ascension the product of ritual combat, and just about everyone is encouraged to be a warrior. The Althing does not have much authority, given that most disputes are settled between individuals and families via duels and revenge-killings.

Topping off this chapter is a collection of places and things which make for good adventure material. Jomsburg Island is home to the Jomsvikings, an amoral band of mercenaries feared across the Northlands. The three lairs of the Daughters of Skuld are located across the Northlands, and heroes who earn their favor can receive great boons. The Tomb of High Køenig Kraki Haraldson, home to the man who united the entire Northlands under his banner, is said to hold the legendary sword which will make its wielder the next High Køenig of all the Northlands. We have miscellaneous hooks for Black Dragonships crewed by undead vikings, the Hearth Stone which is rumored to be the home of the first Northlanders who followed Swein Sigurdson into this new land, and lands beyond such as the Duchy of Monrovia whose mounted knights are a match for even the mightiest vikings.

And thus we end our bird's eye view of the Northlands.

Next up is Ansuz, the Gods!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 07:04 on Mar 29, 2018

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Chapter 3: Ansuz, the Gods

When it comes to day-to-day living, the Northlanders have a hands-off approach to worship. Religious issues come to the fore generally during feasts and festivals, or when beseeching blessings for a certain activity like invoking Donar's name before riding into battle. In a way worship is akin to a business transaction: make the proper sacrifices and the gods will do right by you. Many Northlanders make comparisons to their own social structures as a way of understanding: a spellcasting cleric serving their patron deity is like a huscarl serving a jarl.

Amusingly, a bit of in-universe bias slips out during discussion:


This is different from the situation in the Caliphate or Monrovia and the Southlands where one serves one’s gods as a thrall, bowing and scraping, and spending endless hours in worship and veneration. The Northlanders do not so much worship their deities as they carry out customs that have been occurring for centuries and that the mortal and divine find pleasing and beneficial.

There are times in the book where things read like the narrator is a very jingoistic Northlander, but this is far from the norm and it can feel confusing when objective narration suddenly becomes subjective. What’s even funnier is that in the rest of Frog God Games’ books, their setting is quite varied in gods and styles of worship.

The gods of the Northlands are separated into divisions of tribes. There are the Æsir, inhabitants of Asgard who are the principal deities of ethnic Northlanders; the Vanir, a more "worldly" pantheon who have strong connections to the natural world; the Ginnvaettir, inhabitants of the Ginnungagap and generic "evil gods;" and then there are foreign pantheons of deities worshiped by other cultures, which include demon cults and the Tibaz of the Seagestrelanders. Another thing to note is that the Northlands provides both the Germanic and Nordic names for deities but defaults to the Germanic version in regular conversation. One of the writers explained somewhere alone (I can’t recall the specific place) that this made the religions of the setting feel a bit more novel, but not so much to feel completely foreign.

The Æsir are the highest of the gods to the Northlanders, and with the exception of Loptr/Loki they are all of good alignment.

Baldr/Balder is the God of Bravery and Beauty, and his domain of influence includes impressive feats of strength. Only men may worship him, although an exception is made for spear-maiden paladins.

Bragr/Bragi is the bard of the gods, a patron of music, poetry, and the arts.


Not a weakling milksop minstrel of the Southlands, Bragr and his devotees are warriors who stand in the shieldwall and urge their fellows on to victory, and after the battle lead the laments to the dead and songs of the glory of the day.

Hey I know that bards suck in 3rd Edition, but you don't have to rub it in their faces!

Donar/Thor is the most popular of the Æsir both in the setting and in real life. Due to being a patron of storms, many farmers worship him to ensure favorable weather, and as the patron of heroes he and his worshipers are renowned giant-slayers.

Frigg/Frigga is patron of women, home, and hearth. Although many cunning women make offerings to her for healing and renewal, she also covers battle when the home must be defended. Interestingly common clerical garb includes that of a spear-maiden, although she is not one of the patrons of that paladin archetype.

Loptr/Loki is the bad apple of the Æsir. Giant blood runs through his veins, and he hopes to one day unseat his father Wotan/Odin as the new All-Father. Although known for deception and malice, he's given prayer and offerings due to his dominion over fire (a necessity year-round in the cold lands).

Tiwaz/Tyr is the god of law and justice, and interestingly is widely worshiped in the Southlands due to being of the three principle deities of the Empire of Foedewaith (Lawful Good golden age civilization which fell). Tiwaz played a role in ending the Æsir-Vanir War, and he is often given sacrifice when one is about to participate in holmgang or deliver a case before a Thing.

Wotan/Odin is the head of the Æsir, a man of dual nature. He is known for wisdom, magic, and runes and thus wizards and scholars worship him. But with knowledge often comes madness, and thus he is the patron of berserkers, too. He learned the power of magic and the threads of fate by plucking out one of his own eyes and hung himself on Yggdrasil for eight days. His pet ravens Hugin and Mugin scour the world for secrets, and those who die honorably in battle are taken to his hall in Asgard. There they party hard and fight hard, both as reward for being on the right path in life and to prepare themselves for the age of Ragnarök.

The Vanir were not always gods but were still powerful in those days. They warred against the Æsir long ago, but were uplifted by the latter at war’s end to share their divinity with them. Although it seems that they are less in number, there are many minor Vanir who hold dominion over things like a specific river, a tree, etc. Freyja and Freyr are the only good-aligned Vanir, with the rest of them neutral on the moral axis.

Freyja/Freya is is the patron of hunters, famers, and the wilderness, along with fertility and sexuality. Like Tiwaz/Tyr she is also well-known and worshiped in the Southlands. All valkyries serve her, tasked with combing the fields of battle for the souls of warriors.

Freyr/Frey is a male fertility god of the sun and the hunt. Tales claim he is also the patron of the elves (which the Nûk deny of course). He is not as popular an object of veneration as his sister Freyja, but there is a religious movement in Estenfird which claims him as the leader of the gods.

Njördr/Njor is is the father of Freyr and Freyja by his unnamed sister (!!!). Njördr oversees the oceans and seas of the world, and due to that he is closely associated with trade and wealth. Pretty much any Viking, sailor. or fishermen with common sense makes sacrifices to him for safe voyage by spilling a bit of wine overboard.

The Norns Uror, Verdandi, and Skuld (not pictured here) are the weavers of fate. They are not true Vanir and almost nobody worships them. They're still given great respect for controlling wyrd, the threads of fate which connect all mortals and gods. This results in a rather deterministic outlook on life: any event, good or bad, that falls on a person is believed fated by the Norns and thus unavoidable. Northlanders hope that the Norns favored them for future events, and have bitter resignation when their wyrd proves otherwise. Even the Æsir tread carefully around them.

Fun fact: one of the Norns' domains is Fate, which was published in a setting book also called the Northlands by Kobold Press. The Northlands of Kobold Press is much like this one in Nordic themes, although it and their their wider Midgard setting is a lot more high fantasy in style.

The last of the Vanir listed is Rán, also a deity of the sea. She is the more capricious counterpart to Njördr, and she has a more sinister reputation. Sailors lost at sea and in storms are known to throw treasure overboard as a sort of last-ditch "protection fee" to stay her wrath, and she is married to the Jötnar (giant) Ægir.

The Ginnvaettir are the third family of gods recognized by the Northlanders. They inhabit the Ginnungagap, a primordial void of endless darkness and howling which existed since before the creation of the world. Many foul beings haunt this realm, and as such the Ginnvaettir have a sinister reputation.

Hel is the daughter of Loptr/Loki, and holds dominion over pestilence and death; technically she is of the Æsir but is associated with the Ginnvaettir due to making her lair in the Ginnungagap. She was worshiped by the Northlanders' ancestors, the Heldring tribe. Precious few Northlanders today bother to seek her attention save to ward off blights and plagues. Interestingly she is a punisher of lawbreakers, and those who cast away their honor or worship demons have their souls taken to her hall in Niflheim to toil in punishment.

Surtr/Surter is the god of the fire giants. He rules a fiery kingdom of Muspelheim and is fond of organized warfare. He is destined to kill Freyr on the day of Ragnarök, but is scared of his inevitable battle against Donar.

Thrymr/Thrym is the god of the frost giants, a wily king of all Jötun. His realm is called Jötunheim and lives in a hall built from the bones of slain deities and mortal heroes. Like Surtr he and his followers are destined to die in battle with Donar on Ragnarök.

They don't have any pictures, but odd pantheon out are the Demon Cults. As far as I can tell via Google search the four demon lords listed below are not part of actual Norse mythology and more a creation of the game designers. Technically speaking demon cults are foreign to the world-view of Northlanders on account of their usual secrecy. But they are making forays into the more isolated regions of the world, with the four here the ones most prominent in the Northlands. Demon lords have a common desire to regress mortal civilizations to a primitive ruinous existence where murderous bands make bloody offerings to abyssal idols. Cities, bureaucracy, and morals are hindrances to this ideal.

Althunak is known as the Lord of Ice and Cold, Master of Cannibals, the Winter King, and many other titles. He once held a vast empire in the South Pole but that fell to ruin and so he found new worshipers in the far north. His teachings brought ruin to the cities of the Uln and even manifested physically among them, but a band of brave Ulnat heroes imprisoned him beneath a lake.

Althunak and his cult play a major role in four of the twelve adventures of the Northlands Saga Adventure Path, with 3 of those clustered around the beginning and one near the end. Besides the Jomsvikings his cult is the only other reoccurring villain in the Saga, so he's more or less the BBEG even if most adventures have stand-alone villains. The closest analogy I can think of is Batman vs. the Joker; his greatest foe, but the hero has an entire rogues' gallery to keep him occupied for a while.

Shibauroth are the dark counterpart to the Bearsarkers and Ulfhanders. Whereas the warriors of Wotan temper their rage with divine guidance and connections to mankind, the Beast Cult of Shibauroth advocates for humans to become as cruel as the natural world in a Social Darwinist survival-of-the-fittest. Cult members use magical brands and tattoos with fell powers at the expense of deteriorating rational thought. The god and his cult have greatest influence in Estenfird, and play a major role in the fourth adventure (sixth if we count the 'prequels') Blood on the Snow.

Yiv prefers a more subtle approach. Instead of overtly smashing the confines of law, honor, and the social bonds that connect society, he prefers treachery by encouraging others to lie, deceive, and take advantage of poor wordings, legal loopholes, and laymen ignorance and misinterpretation of the law. This way he exposes the hypocrisy of civilization and in time bring forth its ruin. He's had trouble making inroads into the Northlands, on account that many of its legal structures are localized and oaths are often a personal affair between individuals rather than a systemic law.

Zelton is the demon lord of sloth. In much of the world subsistence-based agriculture is the norm, which is labor-intensive for survival. Zelton's stock in trade is egoism and entitlement, telling his followers that each deserve to be a king with the world to serve them by right of birth regardless of their actual social station. His faith is sold as being an easy path to spells and slaves, with faith in the demon lord along with "doing a few small, insignificant tasks here and there" the only price. Zelton's presence in the North has been via the use of foreign traders using promises of an easier life free of toil. He also encourages his followers to propagate an infectious, addictive disease transferred via sweat known as Zelton's Favor which brings out feelings of euphoria along with the sapping of physical energy.

More Generalizing Jingoism posted:

In lands of the South, perfumed potentates are free to laze about all day while their minions do the work for them; but a Northlander jarl cannot. Should
he show himself to be lazy, his householders are free to leave, and his huscarls and hersirs can choose to swear allegiance to another jarl. Wealth is generally tied up in cattle and land, which require great effort to manage, and there are few luxuries to enjoy beyond good food and good company.

Note: A thing to keep in mind is that one of the major themes of the Lost Lands world is the rise of Chaos and the gradual downfall of civilization. The Lawful Good Empire of Foedewaith faced a devastating battle against the minions of Orcus, and in time their former lands turned into squabbling petty kingdoms. Many of Frog God Games' adventures involve cults setting up in the dark corners of the world and gradually taking over the smaller realms while working their way up to larger lands. This is a feature in the Northlands as well, and Althunak is more or less one of the major recurring villains for this reason.

The Gods of Seagestreland are as numerous as the tribes which worship them. Their deities are a mix of adopted Northlander gods (who rarely give any spells to them) and their own set of gods. Seagestrelanders carve likenesses of their patrons called tibaz and place them in hallowed-out tree trunks. These are the greatest assets of a tribe; to destroy or steal a set of tibaz is akin to destroying their gods and considered the omen of a tribe's eventual death. There are a few common deities worshiped by many tribes: Torriuz is considered the father of the gods and he considers all Seagestrelanders his charges. His first wife Eldraz blesses home and hearth, while his second wife Kelipia is a mad huntress who holds dominion over the natural world. Mettol is Torriuz's eldest son who oversees war and death, and Zithal the Stranger is a mysterious god of treachery and deceit. The Dnipir River is worshiped as a Great Mother, while Halatra the Horse and Fatalik the eagle are animal deities and lord of their respective species. Ghaztriuz is a sea god and in some coastal tribes replaces Torriuz as the pantheon's head.

As a final entry we get more discussion of the Godi, repeating information from previous chapters while adding new things: first, we learn that the title is often passed from parent to child. Godi also recognize the existence of but do not pay homage to foreign deities. In game terms all godi have levels in a divine spellcasting class but most of them do not gain access to supernatural class features and spells. PC and spellcasting godi are remarkable individuals chosen for great deeds; in a few rare cases a god may grant a non-spellcasting godi the full features of a divine spellcasting class in times of dire need.

And so our chapter ends. There's a good amount of diversity in options for spellcasting clerics, although the individual pantheons are highly themed: Æsir are mostly good and warrior-like, the Vanir govern natural forces, and the Ginvaettir and Demon Cults are the bad guy groups. I found it interesting how the Northlands reflavored the "one deity, one cleric" thing into an individual pact with a god that matches the pseudo-business transaction nature of worship quite well. This chapter was a bit more jingoistic than I liked, but otherwise is fine. I get that the point is to make the Northlands HARD AND TOUGH but the writer needs to stick to a single narration style for consistency's sake.

Next up is Chapter 4: Fehu, A Wealth of Cattle (Optional Rules)!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 07:03 on Mar 29, 2018

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Tendales posted:

Kind of a petty thing, but it always bugs me when Loki is presented as Odin's son.

As somebody who isn't exactly caught up on Norse mythology, what's the real sitch? I looked on Wikipedia where the Prose Edda mentions his father to be the giant Fárbauti and his mother Laufey. Is this an accepted standard, or are there multiple views of his parentage?

Also I seem to be having trouble with making large posts on SA so I am splitting up the next section in two

Chapter 4: Fehu, a Wealth of Cattle (Optional Rules) Part 1

This chapter is an assortment of optional rules, new equipment and class archetypes, setting-appropriate traits, and similar options to make a more authentic-feeling Fantasy Nordic game.

The first section discusses Rewards, discouraging the use of planting treasure in random monster hoards and instead place in the hands of significant enemies or given away as great prizes by jarls and people of note. Additionally, not all goods will be in coin but also ships, cattle, jewelry, and other such things. Funny enough, this alternate advice is abandoned during the Northlands Saga Adventure Path, where it's not uncommon to find treasure in abundance from giants to raiders.

The Northlands does not have a universal monetary system of coinage. Instead most trade is conducted with the use of hacksilver, ranging from precious metals and jewelry to coinage, arm-rings and bars made of precious metals. 1 hacksilver as an abstract wealth unit equals 1 gold piece, with silver and copper pieces assumed to be smaller bits.

The tradition of Ring Giving emulates the heroes of Nordic sagas, who were eager to share the bounty of their adventures with their allies and inferiors. The term comes from the tradition of jarls who bore silver and gold rings upon their arms which were given away as gifts. Basically for every 10 gold pieces/hacksilver worth of wealth they give to their followers, PCs receive 1 experience point. The gift-giving is recommended to be limited to once per lunar month, and given the lack of magic item marts it gives PCs another means of spending wealth and dispensing of old +1 weapons and armor. But given the scaling of experience even a 20,000 GP item is worth 2,000 experience; if divided among a party of 4 that does not amount to much. I presume the experience points are meant to be individually applied, in which case it would be marginally more useful.

Death and Dying provides alternate means of making one's games more heroic than just keeling over. The first is the Death Speech, where if a PC or important NPC would ordinarily die they spend a free action to regain consciousness and either 1.) gain a standard action to complete one last task before death, 2.) make a poetic speech summing up their lives and deeds which grants an XP bonus or free magic item to that player's next PC on the quality of the speech, or 3.) lay a curse upon a foe as bestow curse or a lesser geas on a willing ally.

Alternatively once per campaign a player may declare their PC to become a Victim of Fate, a decision marking an heroic end for them. The effect is much like a death speech above (minus curse-giving abilities), but grants a +20 bonus on attack rolls, skill checks, and double damage on every attack they make for the remainder of combat. But the PC suffers a -10 penalty to Armor Class, saving throws, and cannot benefit from healing of any kind. After the battle's end the PC may utter one short sentence before dying. No form of magic or intervention of a deity may bring the PC back to life, as their thread of fate has been cut by the Norns.

We next get an in-depth description of the proceeds of a Thing, which for many Northlanders represents a great battle but one not always fought with axe and spell. Things are part democratic assembly, part court of law, and part trade moot. It can serve a variety of roles in a campaign from a "state fair" style avenue for fun and games, a legal drama, or means of gaining power by directing the course of a community. For votes, the GM determines the likely "factions" and how they'd vote on an issue, and PCs and NPCs can attempt to give speeches during half-day increments to sway votes. The result of a speech's effectiveness is usually done via an appropriate social skill check. Social standing plays a role, where a jarl or wealthy hirdman's vote counts as multiple votes whereas thralls cannot vote at all. Additionally, a speech-giver who has done a multitude of heroic deeds can provide proof at the Thing to gain bonus votes in addition to that gained via the result of a skill check's result.

Finally, a person can gain votes via participating in a duel known as holmgang. Holmgang is a one-on-one duel between a pair of hazel posts in front of a public crowd. The rules are strict and highly formalized: first no magic of any kind is allowed to be used save that present in chosen weapons and armor. Both duelists fight with their choice of a melee weapon and three shields, and both weapon and shield must be used in the duel. The conditions for winning are to either kill the opponent, break all 3 of an opponent's shields, or drives the opponent out of the arena. Killing the leader of a faction gives half their votes over to the winner, while the other half will not vote and likely seek vengeance against the winner after the Thing's conclusion.

Although the concept of a holmgang is very cool (and will be present in the climax of one of the AP's adventures), it is a bit limiting for involving PCs. For one, the nature of the duel means that one player will be involved while the rest of the group sits and watches which may not be to everyone's tastes. Secondly, only a few character classes and styles are truly effective, and sword-and-board fighting is not exactly a mechanically strong option in Pathfinder.

New Character Options

By bakarov of deviantart

Chapter 4 includes six class archetypes, 19 traits, and 7 new feats. We'll start with archetypes.

The Bearsarker (and later the Ulfhander) is more or less intended to be a replacement of the typical Pathfinder Barbarian class. It was one of the things Frog God Games (reason #2) used for advertising its Kickstarter to show off the setting. Basically the Bearsarker is part of a warrior cult who pledged themselves to Wotan and engage in ritual drunkenness and various secret rituals. They do not bathe, can only wear a bear robe and loincloth, and never cut their hair. They can be of any non-evil alignment, but are saddled with a code of conduct to keep their class features.

Bearsarkers use their Wisdom to determine the duration of their rage and can grow claws during the rage which add both their Strength and Wisdom modifiers to damage. To make up for lack of armor they gain a dodge bonus to AC which increases with level. And they have a no-action line of sight shaken condition to those who see them raging. Overall bearsarkers are a bit specialized and initially more fragile than typical Barbarians, but at later levels the dodge bonus works out. It can be an effective archetype if you plan the right builds (natural weapons, shaken/fear builds, etc).

The other Barbarian archetype is the Ulfhander, berserkers who venerate Wotan's aspect as the master of beasts. Via the wearing of a wolfskin cloak (taken from the body of a wolf they killed barehanded) they can take the shape of these hounds. They are also part of their own religious order. They use Wisdom for rage much like the Bearsarker, and start play with a wolfskin cloak that cannot be worn with armor but grants increasing Damage Reduction (1/- at 1st level and +1 at 3rd and every 3 levels). They can also gain multiple wolf animal companions (every 4 levels, max amount equal to Charisma modifier) and transform into a wolf via a limited wildshape ability.

Besides potential action economy abuse with animal companions, the Ulfhander isn't very powerful. Their inability to wear armor (and no dodge bonus to make up for it) makes their wolf-skin cloak an inferior choice. The multiple wolf companions are limited by Charisma, which makes the Barbarian MAD and reliant upon a dump stat. The wolf wildshape can be good for tripping, but can't they at least get a dire wolf option at later levels? Personally I'd make the wolfskin cloak grant the benefits of hide armor in addition to Damage Reduction and make the animal companion limit by solely level-based and not Charisma.

The Skald (not the same as the Pathfinder Advanced Class Guide Skald) are respected warrior-poets who prefer to rely on strength at arms over arcane powers. They swap their typical weapon proficiences for more Viking-style gear (battleaxe, longsword, handaxe, short sword plus simple weapons), and in lieu of Inspire Competence they gain a bardic performance to grant allied listeners Shield Wall, Great Fortitude, and Swap Places as bonus feats. Instead of spells they gain bonus combat feats at 1st level, 4th, and every 3 levels up to 16th level.

This archetype is underpowered. One, losing magic is a huge downgrade, and the bonus feats given via bardic music are useful only for sword and board fighters whereas Inspire Competence is useful for just about any role.

The Huscarl is a fighter pledged to the service of a jarl and their family. Not just bodyguards, they are trusted people the jarl can turn to for problems of all kinds. Huscarls must be of lawful alignment and cannot wed while serving a household. They gain armor training and weapon training class features at later levels than usual, but they gain a multitude of bonus feats which trigger based on situations. Center of the Wall grants them the use of several teamwork-related shield feats (Shield Wall, Shielded Caster, Swap Places, and Shieldwall Breaker and Swine's Head found in this book) even if none of their allies have the feats; but the huscarl has to pay feat slots for them and do not get them for free. Loyal Unto Death grants the Bodyguard and In Harm's Way feats for the duration of combat whenever their jarl, the jarl's family, or other sworn companions are placed in danger.

Overall the Huscarl is an archetype for a rather underpowered class, and taking it won't significantly alter the class' power one way or another on its own. The bodyguard/in harm's way feats can be useful for tanking purposes, but would require a kind of family-centric campaign to work regularly. The Adventure Path has the PCs start out as huscarls for a jarl, but they don't adventure with him and the usefulness of his family in the plot more or less vanishes after the third adventure.

Spear-Maidens are the Northlands' only order of home-grown paladins. They follow a code to never wed, never lie with a man, and never surrender in battle as long as they remain a spear-maiden. They must take Baldr, Donar, or Wotan as a patron deity, but they do not gain their supernatural abilities from the gods but from the blessings of their wyrd. Spear-maidens trade out lay on hands, mercies, spells, and divine bond for increased mastery of the spear (Weapon Focus, treat as trip weapon, and bonus on Combat Maneuver checks with it), bonus combat feats, the Shield Wall feat for free, bonuses on attack and damage rolls when using a shield, and the Swine's Head as a bonus feat along with doubling critical threat range and ignoring AC penalties when using this feat while charging.

Personally, the loss of lay on hands and spells is a downgrade in utility. I suppose that bonuses on damage when wielding shields and charging can be nice, but I don't think that can make up for the use of a warhorse or ability to apply magical weapon enhancements on the fly.

Finally we have the Cunning Woman Sorcerer Bloodline, which is not an archetype so much as an additional bloodline a standard sorcerer can choose. They are the only arcane tradition in the Northlands that's really respected on account that they gain use of powerful healing magic. Cunning women are always female, but require a sexual relationship with a man to propagate their bloodline. However, they cannot marry so bonds they form with said men often have all the markings of marriage save official recognition and ceremony. Cunning Women gain Heal as a class skill and a slew of curative magic as bonus spells (cure x wounds, remove disease/poison, restoration, etc). Their bloodline arcana allows them to apply the Maximize Spell metamagic feat without increasing the spell's level a limited number of times per day. Their bloodline powers include an evil eye ranged touch attack, the ability to take 10 on Heal checks and don't need a healer's kit, the woodland stride and trackless step abilities of druids, the ability to reroll a failed d20 roll once per day, and their 20th level capstone changes them into a fey immune to poison and disease and can reincarnate as a fey creature or newborn child upon their death.

The Cunning Women makes for an effective hybrid caster. They are sorcerers and gain access to all the versatility of those spells, but free Maximize on healing spells (which they can learn many for free) make them good healers.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 07:03 on Mar 29, 2018

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Chapter 4: Fehu, a Wealth of Cattle (Optional Rules) Part 2

There's not much to say for the new Traits. Many of them reflect setting-specific backgrounds of varying power. Some of which stand out include Hnefatafl Player (Nordic board game) that grants a +1 on initiative due to a tactical mind, and most of the social traits reflect social classes of the setting and often give bonus equipment for free. In the case of Bondi and Hirdmen (farmers) they get land which generates an annual income. The Social traits vary widely in power; the meager Thrall gains +1 to Craft (any) and Profession (Servant) and can elect one of the 2 to be a class that these are class skills for just about every Pathfinder class! Heir (child of a jarl) grants you +10 votes at the Thing, an extra 300 hacksilver, a chain shirt, a heavy wooden shield, a personal hand weapon of choice, and clothing befitting your station...all for free! The Regional Traits borrow from 7 out of the 8 main regions in the setting (Nûkland not being an option) and generally give +1 to relevant skill bonuses based on common occupations. Hroflander grants you bonus proficiency in one martial or exotic weapon not normally found in the Northlands, but you can't start play with one.

There are seven new Feats, and 5 of them are combat-focused. Axe Bouncer allows you to take a penalty with a throwing axe to negate an enemy's shield bonus to AC (yawn). Northlander Spear Fighting allows you to wield a longspear one-handed and +1 additional shield bonus to armor class when wielding a shield in the other hand (good for potential builds and Piercing Thunder in Path of War Expanded). Shieldwall Breaker allows you to negate the shield bonus to AC of adjacent targets when you perform a successful bull rush or charge attack against someone part of a shieldwall. Skilled Kenninger is overpowered and lets you add half your ranks in Perform (Oratory) to the DC of your bardic music effects. Swine's Head allows you to enjoy the benefits of the Shield Wall feat even when you run or charge. Throwing Charge allows you to make a ranged attack with a thrown weapon at any point during a charge at a -4 penalty. Whale Road Rider lets you ignore your level in armor check penalties when swimming.

Personally, the shield AC negaters are of limited use in most campaigns. Most enemies in the Pathfinder Bestiaries do not make use of shields, and sadly the Northlands Saga Adventure Path does not have shieldwalls as a regular enough enemy feature to make their investment worth it.

New Equipment

Here we cover new equipment both mundane and magical. We start out with giant-made weapons and armor, which are often crude and inferior craftsmanship but more than made up for their wielder's inherent strength. They have hefty prerequisites (18 Strength to avoid -4 attack penalty or automatic heavy encumbrance) and generally aren't worth using. The ring shirt and mail are medium armor and only give +3/+4 AC bonus which studded leather and chain shirts can match as light armor. The heavy sword is a bit better, a one-handed melee weapon that deals 1d10 damage and x3 on a critical, and can do bludgeoning as well as slashing damage. For non-giant weapons we have a new exotic one, the Greathammer which is basically an even bigger warhammer (two-handed, 1d10 damage and x3 critical).

For non-warfare equipment we have sunstones used by sailors (compasses don't exist in the Northlands) to pinpoint the direction of the sun even in the foggiest of weather, while the special breed of Trondheim Ponies are rugged mares suited to mountain travel. Mechanics-wise they are the Pony monster with the Advanced template.

For new magic items we have no generic item properties: each entry here is a specific relic of legend even if not mechanically an Artifact. We have the Regalia of Gunnlaugr, a set of chainmail, helmet, and maul which have cold-themed abilities; the sword Fellfrost* (once wielded by Hvram Half-Born) that deals cold damage normally but fire vs enemies weak to that element; the Andøvan greatsword Hægtesse which fills its wielder with a rage-like fury; the mithral greathammer Thundersurge which is basically a lesser Mjölnir (hammer of Thor); the undead scourge Warspear of Kein wielded by a famed Bearsarker of the weapon's namesake; and an Andøvan Barrow Charm which grants safe passage among the undead that live among that forgotten civilization's burial sites.

For true Artifacts, we have Kroenarck (aka Icemelter), the sword wielded by the Northlands' last High Køenig which is a +6 cold iron keen called giant bane longsword capable of granting enthrall and mass suggestion when in the hands of a native Northlander. The Mead of Poetry is brewed by the dwarves from the spittle of gods, and those who drink it gain 6 points of Intelligence and Charisma along with 3 levels in the bard (skald) class or the Skald from Pathfinder's Advanced Class Guide. Finally, there is the sailing ship Skíðblaðnir built by dwarves as a gift to Freyr. It has hidden joints so it can fold up into a much smaller size capable of fitting in one's pocket, whose rowing oars can row themselves, and grants the ship's master a shipwide endure elements spell along with control water, control weather, or control winds spells at will all as standard actions.

*our party's trollkin barbarian/rogue has been using this sword as his main weapon of choice since we laid hands on it in the Adventure Path.

Overall this chapter is mixed. The death speech rules are awesome and hacksilver is an thematic alternate wealth unit. But the new archetypes and feats left me less than impressed. The magic items are a definite highlight and have unique abilities to make them stand out from more generic treasures.

Next up is Chapter 5: Þurisaz, New Monsters!

Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

gradenko_2000 posted:

1.) In your experience, does death happen often, or even at all, during the Adventure Path?

I've always thought that these flavorful death effects in 3.PF are a bit of a waste because A. people actually dying doesn't come up much, and B. if it does, it's very obnoxious to deal with because of the amount of player investment in characters, the amount of effort required in creating a new character, and the myriad of ways that introducing a new character mid-campaign can go wrong as far as how the table deals with it.

2.) This isn't really a knock on Northlands specifically, but I've always found these "you gain the effects of x feat" abilities to be annoying to deal with because you then have to flip all the way to another section of the book to figure out just what that means. Doubly-so if it's something you have to activate, since you then have to keep the feat definition in a separate "mental index card". I feel like in these cases it would be more intuitive to write down the effects of the thing as part of the ability description, then simply say that it does not stack with, or effectively takes the place of, x feat.

1.) In my experience we had 1 actual death and a few very close-death encounters. This is partly due to our party set-up and optimization, and partly due to how the AP is constructed in places. We had a Skald (non-sucky Advanced Class Guide one) who could give Fast Healing to party members and a Witch to provide for magical healing. For our Barbarian/Rogue it wasn't very hard to jack up his AC with the rings/armor/cloak magic items.

Overall the Northlands is quite fond of the low-fantasy aspect especially at earlier levels. You're going to fight lots of warriors, huge beasts, and giants who gear more towards big HP damage than save-or-dies, and high-level spellcasters in general tend to be rare. The AP is also quite fond of using mobs of mooks, which depending on your party set-up can end up very easy or very hard for your players. Personally there were quite a lot of these that artificially extended the length of the AP, so I had a habit of combining multiple encounters into a few grand battle set-pieces. That may have played a role in the low death rate as well, but I'd much prefer a shorter flashier gaming session than an endurance run.

There are several adventures in Northlands Saga that involve overland travel, and random encounters are done every day. This means that every combat during those times will have the spellcasters and per-day-use class features at full restoration. But there are quite a few adventures with time-sensitive missions where if the PCs dilly-dally you get a sort of nonstandard Game Over where everything gets hosed as a sort of counter-balance.

2.) That's likely the best way, although on the publishing side of things it frees up word count and space. :P


Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Chapter 5: Þurisaz, New Monsters

The chapter states that the Northlands is full of all sorts of monsters, and that many from the Pathfinder Bestiaries and Tome of Horrors Complete make sense with some caveats. First off, they should fit the environment: a monster that needs to lair in intense flames isn't going to be hanging out in the forests of Estenfird, but may be more suitable when the PCs explore Mount Reik. Monsters imported should not be too magic-centric or overtly reliant on supernatural powers, given that Northlands is intended to be overall low-magic in tone. Finally, monsters which are keyed too close to mythologies outside the Nordic source material may not gel with the themes.

The Adventure Path proper more or less sticks by this, with one exception. They're totally willing to borrow from non-Norse mythology in a few places. One encounter in Beyond the Wailing Mountains involves a Yuki-Onna albeit reflavored as a vengeful Ulnat spirit, we see a wendigo and a manitou in the later adventures (both from Native American folklore). The Broken Shieldwall has an Egyptian-style necropolis guardian and karkadanns (rhino-like being with a magical horn). In some cases it seems rather arbitrary, although the final example makes a bit of sense given the adventure's location.

Before new monsters are introduced, we get discussion for an optional subtype, the Sceadugengan (or "shadow walkers"). Less a true variety of monster than a superstitious cultural association with unknown creatures, they are "horrors without a face that haunt the cold and darkness of the North." More known monsters such as giants, dragons, and merely larger versions of mundane animals do not count; they can be frightening sure, but they don't have that otherworldly unknowable horror. Generally speaking, Aberrations, Fey, Magical Beasts, Monstrous Humanoids, and Undead are all universally Sceadugengan plus a much larger list of subtypes. In mechanics terms, sceadugengan monsters force a Will save that imposes the Shaken condition on somebody from a culture in the campaign setting (includes dwarves and Ulnat as well as the people of the 8 regions). Although the save is only done on "first meetings" and not every encounter, it is in practice rather cumbersome and may feel odd if your valiant fantasy Vikings are getting scared all the time. Although the early parts of the Adventure Path have mostly human and "low fantasy" enemies to make such a subtype rare, it is not something I bothered with when running the campaign.

New Monsters

We have 18 new monsters, 21 if we count the subtypes of beavers and trolls and they tend to be on the lower scale of power. Every monster here has an accompanying picture, but I'm only going to share a few of them. The chapter notes that every entry here is drawn from Germanic and Nordic legends.

First up is the Ajatar (CR 9), a giant evil furred serpent which can change into the form of a beautiful woman to lure men into traps and eat them. They have a hypnotism power along with typical giant snake stuff (cosntrict, poison, climb speed).

The Northlands Aurochs (CR 7) or Dire Kine are elephant-sized prehistoric cattle on the verge of extinction. Their horns are prized trophies and more than a few foreigners prized them to use in bullfighting arenas albeit with a heavy cost to the participating matadors.

Beavers (CR 1/3rd, 1, & 7) are exactly what you think. They come in larger varieties such as the Dire Beaver (size of a person) and the Giant Beaver (size of a horse). Their bite attacks can ignore a certain amount of Hardness of wooden objects.

Blood Eagles (CR 10) are powerful undead named after a now-banned form of execution. A "blood eagle" is where a person's ribs are cracked and pulled out the back to simulate a pair of bony wings, and then the internal organs are pulled out through the back and sometimes salted to cause additional pain. Those executed in this manner consigned the victim to the realm of Hel rather than Valhalla, as it was considered a coward's death. The desperate fear this generates results in a 10% chance of the executed arising as a Blood Eagle, even more if an undead creation spell is used as part of the slaying. As a result the practice became banned in the modern era of the setting. Blood Eagles tend to be single-minded, seeking death and destruction against those whose souls who still have their honor intact as well as the people responsible for its execution.

Oddly enough, there is not much comprehensive discussion on the real-world Nordic practice as to whether it actually happened, was a literary invention, and the specifics of its practice: was it used liberally or for only certain types of criminals? Some sources claim that if a person does not scream out in pain during the execution it is taken as a sign of valiance and the deceased is guaranteed an honorable spot in the afterlife.

Bog Hags (CR 8) are the undead remnants of Andøvan human sacrifices drowned in bogs. They hate all life and are particularly feared for their ability to drive people insane or shift one's wyrd for the worse with but a touch. They also have a respectable array of spell-like abilities. On the anniversary of their murder they can leave their swampy prison, accompanied by Bog Horses and Bog Hounds to ride through the countryside on a campaign of terror.

Bog Horses (CR 3) look like mold and fungus-covered horses which are servants of Bog Hags. These animals were also sacrifices of the Andøvans. They have sharp fangs for biting and can swim as fast as they can run.

Bog Hounds (CR 4) are the other animal servants of bog hags. They are loyal servants of the hags and their howls can strike magical fear into others.

An Erdhenne (CR 5) is a rare sapient monster which can take the form of a pool of moonlight or a rotting hen. Their peck carries with it a wasting curse, and those killed have their souls devoured and turned into eggs of pure gold and silver which the monster lays. They typically haunt houses, their only telltale sign clucking sounds at midnight.

I get the intent of the horror of a seemingly harmless domesticated animal hiding among farmers, but after Terry Goodkind's infamously cheesy evil chicken incident I don't think most gaming groups will be able to take such a monster seriously.

Common Giants (CR 5) are the most frequently encountered Jötnar in the Northlands. Stronger than ogres but weaker than hill giants, they are believed to the the race least blessed by the foul magics of their kind. Some claim that stronger giants evolved from their kind and the remnants are a stunted throwback. Common giants live in groups and practice a polygamous lifestyle, where having a large amount of "brood-wives" is a sign of status. Male common giants of lower status often band together with their peers or find ogres to bully and take as servants.

Grendel (CR 12) is one of the more powerful new monsters in this chapter. There are more than one but thankfully are rare. They were former humans whose souls were consigned to the Ginnungagap but managed to claw their way back to Midgard via the aid of spirits possessing their host bodies. A grendel is large and incredibly strong, along with the ability to perfectly mimic the voice of any person it kills (but no shapeshifting ability). They often come into a community and slaughter all who resist, establishing a local tyranny to extort ridiculous sums of tribute and the occasional human sacrifice from the subjected populace. They become more powerful the more people they eat (this is not a game mechanic, more a bit of fluff text).

Grimmswine (CR 5) are the progeny of Sæhrimnir, a divine boar in Valhalla whose flesh regrows after each feast. The grimmswine are the children one of the many mortal boars it mated with throughout the Northlands. Gwimmswine are particularly-prized catches for their reputation, but are quite intelligent (INT 12) and their fur is full of razor-sharp bristles for defense. Although a magical beast, it is not a sceadugengan on account of its place in myth and folklore.

The Jomsbeast (CR 13) is the most powerful of the new monsters and a unique species in its own right. It lives on the island of Jomsburg, with an uneasy peace existing between it and the Jomsvikings. It has the physical features of a man, bear, and dragon. It is virtually immortal, coming back to life, even if disintegrated, as long as the enchanted spring in its lair remains tainted. There are mechanics included for how to dilute this (raising/changing the water level, using holy magic, etc) which gets past its fast healing ability and deals automatic damage.

Nachtjägers CR 2) or "night hunters" are flying monstrous humanoids who are fond of burning villages and swooping off with captives to kill and eat. They can cast produce flame as a spell-like ability and come equipped with shortbows, but besides their flight speed do not have any other significant abilities.

A Swarm of Degenerate Mephits (CR 3) are created when small populations of these elemental beings are cut off from the rest of their kind and devolve into barbarity. They are little better than beasts, swarming over and attacking all others for sustenance.

Thrydreg (CR 3) are the generations-long result of the unions of trolls and captive humans. They are less powerful than normal trolls but are smarter. They used to control almost all the known Northlands until the newly-arrived Northlander/Heldring humans fought them off.

There is another species of thrydreg known as...sigh Skraelings. They are the result of humans and trow (detailed later) who live far off to the east in the mythical Oestryn Isles. They are amphibious and Chaotic Neutral rather than evil alignment, and in one of the later adventures in the AP have explicit Native American cultural trappings.

I'm just going to note that the term "Skraeling" was a word Scandinavian vikings used to describe indigenous Americans encountered in Greenland and what is today eastern Canada. Although not of evil alignment, there is a host of problematic tropes when real-world ethnic groups, especially ones viewed as primitive/savage/etc, are cast into the role of orcs, goblins, and the like. I'll just leave a link to my blog post on why this is not a good idea than getting into it any further.

Trow (CR 6) are a race of Jötnar who emerged from the primordial seas. They cling to shallow coasts and deep lakes, using natural camouflage to kill and drown people for sport and sometimes to eat. Mechanics-wise they are very similar to standard trolls, save with a swim speed, are stronger (STR and CON 25) but dumber (INT and CHA 4).

Vlkodlak (CR 4) are Bearsarkers and Ulfhanders who cared only for the animalistic power of their cults without the mediating influence of moral codes. In their pursuit of power they became permanently trapped in a man-animal hybrid form powered by an endless rage. They are strong monstrous humanoids who have an innate barbarian rage along with the ability to access rage powers based on how much hit dice they have. They have Damage Reduction which can only be penetrated by holy weapons, lending credence to the belief that weapons made by the gods are the only hope of killing one. Some, but not all, have cast their lot in with the Beast Cult of Shibauroth.

Our final monster is the Woldgeist (CR 9), a good-aligned fey (but still a sceadugengan) which is a rare creature that inhabits the Forest of Woe in Hordaland. It may be the only one of its kind in existence, and it is a friendly creature which subtly aids the innocent and those of heroic reputations. It is capable of disguising itself as an overgrown boulder, and sometimes places itself in the path of travelers to secretly deliver a beneficial touch spell to them. They are only really violent against those who are evil and needlessly destroy the natural world. It has a host of druidic spell-like abilities and summoning to aid its cause, and it has ties with allied fey and humans indebted to it.

Random Encounter Tables in the Northlands

So far we covered 80 pages of this 807 page doorstopper. The random encounter tables cover an additional 90. The reason for its length is that the specifics of special encounters are repeated for every region, artificially expanding the length. The tables cover just about every region of significance in the Northlands, along with an in-depth description of more special encounters. I do not feel that it's warranted to cover them all save perhaps for a few of the more interesting ones. The regions vary widely in the possible challenges, in some have separate tables based on the season (usually summer/winter), and use a 1d100 percentage die roll to determine the results. Some regions, like the Bloody Pass in Estenfird's winter, can range in encounters from a herd of CR 1/2 to 2 mundane animals to a game-ending CR 17 wendigo or CR 20 tor linnorm, but enerally speaking the majority of encounters hew to the lower end of the spectrum (CR 1/3 to 9). Generally speaking only the 90s and above on the 1d100 approach high levels. The Adventure Path proper uses the actual tables sparingly, often going with its own localized tables in line with the average party level.

Some of the more interesting encounters include a drunken hunting party who ask the PCs if they'd like to engage in a friendly competition to hunt an animal, along with rough pranks by the other hunters which can cause non-lethal damage; landholders who may invite the party to dinner if there is a skald among their group or the PCs are famous heroes; destitute travelers who if the PCs help may show up later to pledge themselves as loyal householders if one or more PCs become jarls (which can happen in the AP); a freak ice storm which is supernaturally dangerous and cold if the PCs angered Althunak during the Adventure Path; a scientific expedition of Southlanders searching for the magnetic pole of the world of Lloegyr, the planet of the campaign setting; a Nûk hunter on a spiritual quest who is aided by an earth elemental; a Southlander warship on the hunt for Jomsvikings and pirates; and a strangely welcoming village in Vastavikland whose inhabitants plan to rob the PCs while they sleep at night.

In conclusion the new monsters are quite thematic and can be easily inserted into other styles of campaigns. The Sceadugengan subtype is cool as an idea but rough in its execution, and the random encounter tables aren't generally my style for campaigns in general.

Next time we'll cover the Northlands Saga Adventure Path and its first "prequel" module, Spring Rites!

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 00:48 on Mar 30, 2018

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5