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Northlands Saga 1: Vengeance of the Long Serpent (PFRPG)

****( ) (based on 4 ratings)

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This series of adventures takes place in the frozen north, where men are men, beer is ale and monsters are, well, scary. Who has not loved the setting of the 13th Warrior or wished to relive the Frost Giant’s Daughter by R.E. Howard? Heroes will fight evil in the cold lands, sail the treacherous ice filled seas where sea monsters swallow ships and crews and feast in fire-lit halls with Vikings! Planned as a series of 10 modules, this series will begin in January (appropriately, due to the cold). More information will be added as it becomes available. Written by Ken Spencer, this series is sure to send shivers up even the bravest adventurer’s spine!

1: Vengeance of the Long Serpent
Pull on your hauberk, ready your shield, and take up your axe, the tide is moving out and it is time to set sail on a voyage of adventure. In Vengeance of the Long Serpent, the heroes sail north into a land of murder, savagery, and madness to face a reawakened dark god and his deadly cult.

Vengeance of the Long Serpent is an adventure for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, designed for a party of three to six characters of 5th to 7th level. It offers a chance at rich rewards for little risk, but appearances are deceiving. The land is rugged, cold, and largely unexplored. Fierce monsters lair in the inland expanses, but the greatest danger is the natives of the far north. These people, who call themselves the Children of Althunak, are followers of an evil god who plots to bring a reign of cold and darkness to the world. Finally, the season is well advanced, and winter comes early in the north. Will the PCs’ voyage of fortune and discovery turn into a journey into horror and darkness?

The adventure can be played as a stand-alone adventure, or it can be continued in Beyond the Wailing Mountains by Frog God Games. The Far North can be used as a locale for further adventures beyond this one or even the Northlands Saga.

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Product Reviews (4)

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****( ) (based on 4 ratings)

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Start of a Northland Saga

***( )( )

This is a review for 'Vengeance of the 'Long Serpent', part 1 of the Northland Saga which is currently 4 adventures long, and an adventure by Frog God Games. I'm not a native speaker (I'm German), so I may have fumbled my language skill checks from time to time. Give me a note if I wrote something wrong and I'll try to make myself more clear.

'Vengeance of the 'Long Serpent' has 17 pages of information with three black and white pics (and a cover, table of content and so). It is for levels 5-7 and gets the PCs to level 6-8. The whole 4 adventures published so far take the PCs to level 9-11.

The adventure plays in the far north, what would be the arctic circle in our world.

The following content includes spoilers, so players shouldn't continue to read!

Start (4 Pages): The product starts with a short description of the Northlands, the adventure background with a nice history of the region, and finally adventure summary and hooks. The adventurers are included with nice read aloud passages.
The Voyage North (3 pages): Here are 11 Random Encounters (one of them 'No encounter') and three events for the sea voyage north.
Exploring the Far North (7 pages): This is a gazeteer of a coastal arctic region with a few scetched villages, some generic inhabitants, one fleshed out encounter and a random encounter table for the tundra. A nice sandbox (or is it icebox?) that can be included in other adventure paths that touch the North, like the one of a Destined Empress or that one where a certain season reigns.
Against the Children of Althunak (3 pages): Here an evil cult is presented, with some cultist stats and their fleshed out High Priests, including some thoughts about strategies and tactics.

A good adventue has to fulfill the following four criteria in my eyes. Here are the details:


Easiness for the GM:
Is it easy to master, are for example no player maps included so the master has to redraw the map with the secret doors? Are there informations on how to play it when your group has more or less people or more or less players, or do I have to rewrite lots of things for my homegame? In case of a pdf, is there a big border that eats all my ink or is there a printer-friendly version included? Are there Handouts? Can I fit the adventure into my home world or are goblins suddenly the greatest magic users in the world, while all elves are evil?

Did I have room description? Read Aloud texts that provide some atmosphere? Pictures fitting the scenario? You almost always get a cover pic, but sometimes it doesn't fit the adventure at all. Is the map detailed?

Is the Big Bad Evil Guy (or girl) memorable? Do players remember his or her name during the adventure, or even years afterwards? How about the other NPCs? Queen Ileosa out of Curse of the Crimson Throne is a good example of a memorable NPC, the fey-villain of Kingmaker isn't, in her case due to a lack of foreshadowing and other things. Do the players remember the location, like fighting in a tower that rolls down a hill? Or is the final battle in an Adventure Path a room 30x30 feet, one door, no furniture?

Player and Character Friendly:
Has every type of player his moment of fun? In my eyes there are three types of players, those who want action (fights), those who want to have their brain challenged (puzzles, investigations, riddles) and those who want to role-play, which usually means peaceful interaction with interesting NPCs. This usually also reflects in the PCs themselves: Does every type of character has his or her moment to shine? Is the skill monkey needed? The range attacker, or is every monster just lurking directly behind a door? Is the speed-guy useful? Is there a third dimension, so the sorcerer can use his fly-spell? Does he need his other non-combat spells?

Easiness for the GM:
Here we lack some useful things, like environmental factors. A short hint toward the rules for moving in snow, snowstorms or something like this would have been nice. The random encounters are neat, they fit the group level and evoke a nice ice-age feeling (not that movie, the real ice age!).
The strategic part for the GM, in this case the defense of occupied villages and a temple, leave a lot of work to do for the GM. At least the suggested ambush could have been fleshed out.
The product is printer-friendly, has handouts and will fit into most gaming worlds since you only need an arctic coast.

The three interior black and white pics don't do much to help imagine what happens, but are nicely done. The read-alouds are good, and playing in the arctic will be a nice change for most parties.

There are no environmental hazards, memorable sights, interesting flora, cultural impressions or whatever that would be a change to an inuit village of our world, or at least the cliché of how one would be like. The ice-age elements that are represented in the random encounters have no connection to the villages themselves. Why not build the huts out of the teeth of the mammoths for example? The NPCs, friend or foe, also are a somewhat generic, as are their tactics in fending of the PCs.

Player and Character Friendly:
There are nice elements of roll- and role-playing provided, and the strategically and tactically minded players will have something to do with organizing an assault on a temple, raids at a coast and so on. Since it is an open sandbox with lots of options how to procede, all manners of characters will have their moment to shine. PCs should take care not to assault the problems head-on, a hit-and-run tactic will be more wise for this adventure – which is a good thing in my book.

This adventure has some solid parts, a nice setting and a good history, but it needs to be fleshed out much more and it needs some unique parts that steer the imagination. All in all I'll settle for three out of five stars.

Have fun!

Unconventional Northlands adventure that gets it right


This adventure is 24 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 3 pages of advertisements, leaving 17 pages of adventure, so let's check it out, shall we?

I've been quite involved in OD's "Northlands" and have, I confess, an infatuation with sagas, Scandinavian culture and customs and have studied Scandinavian Literature and Culture - I'm not the most unbiased reviewer for the subject matter, but my knowledge of said topics also means that I went into this adventure expecting to be continuously face-palming due to inconsistencies and "not getting" the mindset and mentality.

That being said, this is an adventure review and thus contains a lot of

Potential players might want to jump to the conclusion of my review.

Still here?

All right! After a short introduction to climate, culture and mentality of the North, the PCs are contacted by one Hallbjorn, a survivor of Jarl Olaf Henrikson's failed expedition to the far North -he has returned with the "Long Serpent" (loosely based on Olav Tryggvason's legendary Ormurin Langi) to recruit brave souls to a mission of both sealing and ivory gathering as well as vengeance against a strange and savage winter-cult devoted to an entity called Althunak that seems to have sprung up among the Inuit-like Ulnat. It is here, in the extensive boxed texts provided for the recruitment that my heart was pounding with glee - author Kenneth Spencer not only gets the mentality, but is also versed in Kennings, the skaldic metaphors. While he uses rather simple ones like "weather of weapons" and "spear-din", which are readily apparent in their meaning, it is his mirroring of staves (alliterative speech) in the boxed texts that really had me smile.

After recruiting ( and getting drunk with the PCs), the voyage North continues and provides 11 possible random encounters as well as 3 non-random events, among which whale hunting and the obligatory dread storm (Without covered decks, storms get scary and cold. And wet.) not only will provide fluff galore, but also provides opportunity for the PCs to not only make money and assemble (or lose) rations and become leaders of the expedition. It should be noted that anyone with Profession (Sailor) will have a blast here! Finally, the expedition will find Yilthi, an Ulnat adrift on the sea and possibly save him. If the PCs can overcome the language barrier, he makes for an interesting guide and a good reason for the PCs to visit Laquirv, the one Ulnat village in the coastal region that has not yet been subdued by the cultists of Althunak. Also, survival in the rough climate, rations and a preferable return prior to the deadly polar winter are detailed and play key parts in this adventure.

Once the PCs have finally arrived, the truly sandboxy part of the adventure begins: The PCs get a map of the Tundra of Ulanatland and are essentially free to do as they please - hunting, whaling, liberating villages. Apart fromLaquirv, we get short write-ups for the armed forces of 6 small villages the PCs probably should clear in order to gain support and weaken the cult of Althunak. If they play their cards right, the spirit of the murdered Jarl and his fellows might even bequeath their items to the PCs...or curse the grave-robbers! 2 statblocks for the warriors of the cult and 1 for the shamans and their ice-mephits are provided and once the PCs deem the opposing forces to be weakened enough (or if they just want to get back home and wrap things up- the timer for the polar winter is ticking), they'll want to tackle the adventure's climax, the battle at the second temple of Althunak. By the way: If you're a mean DM, you could always freeze the ship with "Althunak's wrath", thus forcing the PCs to tackle said attack.

The final battle features Althunak's high-priest, a dread werebear adept along a significant fore - hopefully the PCs have gathered some allies and thinned the enemy lines... It should be noted that the area around this temple also gets a map. Once the foes are defeated, the PCs can return to their port of origin, where they can sell their gains as well as gain access to the Long Serpent.

Editing and formatting are very good, I only noticed 2 minor punctuation errors. Layout adheres to the b/w-FGG-two-column standard and the pieces of original b/w-artwork not only rock, but belong to the finest I've seen in 3pp adventures. Mechanically, we get a nice wilderness journey by sea with some nifty encounters and a cool sandboxy war of attrition against the children of Althunak. As a DM, you should beware that this adventure really expects the PCs to do what they please - no handholding with regards to the approach and if PCs act stupid and rush headlong into the Tundra towards the climax, they'll receive quite a beating. This is an adventure for smart players who don't have to be railroaded into action - this adventure has no need to do so: It OOZES flavor, it's writing is stellar and there are only two minor blemishes in this adventure: One is that the death of a certain individual is, as written, predestined. While easily written out of the adventure, said death is a minor problem. The second point of criticism I have is that there's no map of the ship included. Due to these minor blemishes I'll have to rate this 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5. For me and everyone into saga literature, kennings etc., this adventure is also full of Easter-eggs and will be remembered for quite some time. Highly recommended, especially in snyergy with Northlands. I'm looking forward to part 2.

A nice start to a series but needs work

***( )( )

The Northlands Saga: Vengeance of the Long Serpent by Frog God Games

This product is 24 pages long. It starts with a cover, credits, and ToC. (3 pages)

Introduction (3 pages)
This has information about the default northlands, adventure summery, history, plot hooks and how to get the adventure started. The PC's will head out on a long ship to sail north for gold and adventure. It also has some basic information about the city they are in before they head north.

The Voyage North (3 pages)
This section has a random encounter table and three events. Eventually the events lead the PC's to shore where a NPC they meet lead them to his village.

Exploring the Far North (7 pages)
This has information about the far north a partial Gaz as well as a sandbox style exploration. There is chances for some combat and RPing in this section. With a random encounter table for when they travel.

Against the Children of Althunak (3 pages)
Eventually either by stumbling across it or finding out about the evil cult the PC's should head to the old temple and deal with the cultist. This section is about them.

It ends with a OGL and ads. (4 pages)

Closing thoughts. The art work is black and white and good. Editing and layout are good. The adventure is a interesting idea with a well done history. I liked the adventure as a whole, but I felt it had a few flaws. I would have liked to have seen some information about dealing with the climate the PC's are likely to face and the tundra conditions. Not a must but I think it would have been nice. My biggest issue though is with the final encounter. You get a overview map, some information and that the creatures/people that are there. I would have liked to have seen the final location fleshed out more. A more indepth map, information on guard patrols, daily routines in the camp incase the PC's watch it for awhile. It just really felt like the final location was incomplete to me. I liked the adventure as a whole but felt like it needed some work by the GM to really bring it to life like it deserves. So what's my rating? I was tempted to give this a 3.5 but ended up rounding down to a 3 star review. I have high hopes for the rest of the series though, as this had a lot of potential but just fell a little short.

Trust me, I'm a Succubus.

Wild adventure in the far north


Module length = 24 pages
Cover, Title, Table of Contents = 3 pages
Introduction “Vengeance of the Long Serpent” (4 pages): The setting, that being in the far north and for the later portions of this adventure being above the arctic circle, is an important part of the whole feel of the adventure, from the atmospheric and climactic hazards, including navigation of the seas, to the antagonists of the story and what hazards they represent as well as their reason for being.

First is an overview of the Northlands for those Game Masters who don’t already have a particular setting in mind. It does its job but has some confusing elements. The third paragraph of the Northlands introduction wasn’t edited thoroughly. It looks as if a place holder word was used for the name of the law maker group/entity instead of the name that was intended. Unless “The Thing” was really supposed to be its name, in which case it was a poor decision in my opinion. Obviously you can ignore this portion of you already have other material describing a similar setting.

Next is the Adventure Background. Within is an introduction of an ancient god, why he disappeared from history, how he was rediscovered and what his latest “worshipers” doing now. This is the part that is necessary for running this adventure. It also refers to other adventures that continue the story, but it is not necessary to have them to run this adventure. The adventure can easily be concluded here and not lead onwards, unless of course the GM wishes it.

What follows is the synopsis of the adventure, some possible adventure hook ideas and a table listing relevant information about the town where this adventure can begin. Then the main adventure hook event occurs. A ship known as the Long Serpent sails into port. Locals are excited the ship is returning, at least at first. Then it becomes clear that something bad happened to the sailors on their latest seal hunt. A sailor, by the name of Hallbjorn, has a tale to tell about the Long Serpent’s latest voyage at the Inn the PCs are relaxing. For my game I think I am going to have this occur in a Viking style mead hall rather than the ubiquitous dockside Inn as it fits better with the whole Viking theme.

There is quite a bit of “boxed text” which may be used as is or edited if the GM uses different gods or place names. For the purposes of this start it is assumed the PCs are relaxing at a sea side or dock side Inn in this northern town. If the GM wishes for an alternate beginning obviously more editing of the “boxed text” information must be done. Though I don’t often read “boxed text” aloud to my own players, I find it handy as a reference since it often details the exact information the party has available to them in a particular scene at the start. I don’t have to hunt through the paragraphs to find only that information. I would prefer that any skill checks the PCs must make be more clearly shown, perhaps with bold text if not a simple listing. This information is somewhat hidden and since I can’t edit the pdf, I can’t highlight it. I am sure I am not alone in using my notebook computer to run my games.

The last part of the Introduction is “Acquiring a Ship” where the party gets the job offer by Hallbjorn. Assuming the party says yes, he gives them some money to purchase provisions for the journey, telling them it should take the better part of two months. The main reason being that the ship must get back to friendlier waters before the dark cold months of winter set in. Obviously if the party says no then there is no adventure. For my own players, if they don’t bite on an adventure hook I don’t force them to go. But then I am a believer in always keeping some other hook and adventure around in the off chance they refuse. Now the really interesting thing about this adventure is the possibility that the PCs will end up with their very own Viking style ship. If the players have one or more characters with skill in Profession (sailor) this is a definite plus. While the ship isn’t offered up as a reward at the beginning of the adventure it is definitely a possibility if the PCs play their cards right.

“The Voyage North” (3 pages): This is a description of the journey with encounters and a random table. GMs can use the table as is or use the encounters listed in whatever order they choose, even removing some or adding more detail as they wish. No stat blocks are provided for the creatures to be encountered and the use of the PFRPG Bestiary is essential here. There are also several of the encounters require that one or more PCs have the skill Profession (sailor) so it is necessary for the GM to either handwave that portion or assign an NPC to the task if their players don’t have that skill available to them. Here is where the adventure starts to shine. The variety of encounters really emphasizes the dangers of sailing in northern waters. There is also a wide variety of difficulties which does a good job of keeping players on their toes. There is even potential for a whale hunt for those who wish to try something so dangerous. If the GM doesn’t wish to play out the hunt as an attack there are suggestions for the Profession (sailor) to be used. Though the random encounter of a pod of whales may simply be used for ambiance, this depends on the individual GM and what they do or do not want in their adventure.

Events at Sea: After the random encounter listings are a series of events. Whether these events are optional or necessary depends upon the GM and how he or she wishes to run this adventure. One important thing to note is that there is a scripted part that may cause players to balk. It isn’t too hard to work around this however and not really an issue as far as game design in my opinion. The storm event really demonstrates well the need for skilled sailors but also the enterprising GM should allow for ingenuity on the part of his/her players rather than simple skill check rolls. I really like how this also demonstrates how scary such a storm must have been for the Viking warriors who sailed in these sorts of ships, open to all elements and easily filled with water due to their lack of covered decks. I plan to milk this part for all its worth when I run this adventure for my own players. The final event is a necessary one, though the PCs may fail at this and thus make certain portions of the remainder of the adventure a bit harder. I would not remove the potential of PC failure in this instance.

“Exploring the Far North” (7 pages): This is the bulk of the adventure and is organized in such a way as to allow the PCs to explore any part if they do not choose to follow Hallbjorn’s instructions. If they do follow him, they will make shore at the Seal Coast where his crew will begin hunting seals and rendering them down for food and blubber. Whether or not this is crucial depends entirely upon the success of the PCs during the journey. It may be that they will be completely out of food by this time and need to spend this in resupplying. This is also the place where PCs with the survival skill can shine. Again this is up to the PCs and the GM. At this point it is more of a sandbox style adventure allowing the PCs to go where they will and discover in their own way and time. If the PCs succeeded in the third of the events at sea then there is some opportunity for role play outside of the sailors on their vessel.

Next follows a description of the different encounter areas beyond the Seal Coast. The majority of these are the villages, some of which include hostiles and some have potential allies. In short, there are plenty of role play opportunities here. These encounters may be explored in any order. Eventually the PCs should develop an understanding of what is going on here and what sort of danger it might represent immediately to themselves and others. Each encounter area has sufficient description to run. There is a listing of stat blocks of potential enemies at the end of this list.
What follows are specific details on crucial encounter areas.

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