Reasons You’re Gonna’ Want The Northlands Saga Complete


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Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

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The Northlands Saga Complete is the new campaign guide and adventure path being released by Frog God Games through Kickstarter (here). It’s being releases in versions for both Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (with the adventure path for levels 1-20) and Swords & Wizardry Complete (with the adventure path for levels 1-13), with the possibility, depending on the Kickstarter’s success and fan demand for a future version in 5e.

With guys like Ed Greenwood involved in this project and over 800 pages of pure game content (layout is still underway, so we don’t have the final page count yet), there’s no reason not to want it (well, yeah, it’s expensive, but see the above 800+ pages, campaign guide and complete adventure path, Ed Greenwood, stitch-bound by a printer of college textbooks for extreme durability and shelf-life, potential for use as an improvised bludgeoning weapon, etc., etc.). But we still thought maybe we could give you a few more reasons to punish your wallet and abuse your game bookshelf for ~10 lb. of pure viking gaming awesome.

So here goes….

Reason #1. The Hall of the Hearth Stone

Where the Storm River splits into two branches stands a great stone of pitted black rock that is as hard as iron yet seems to float and bob upon the waters like a giant cork. This rock is known as the Hearth Stone, for legend holds that it was the home of the first Northlanders following Swein Sigurdson, the mold and forge from which the gods made them, and the center of the Northlands. If this is true, it happened so far back in the distant past that none can truly call it naught but legend, save those who come there to call upon the gods, and the godi who have built a mighty godshouse that spans the river.

From one side of the mighty Storm River to another, a massive construction of wood, the only bridge that crosses that great river, straddles both forks of the waterway and brings pilgrims to stand directly above the Hearth Stone. A clan of godi whose ancestors spent 40 years constructing it manages this godshouse/bridge. Pilgrims are allowed entrance, provided they give an acceptable donation. Once inside, they see one of the wonders of the Northlands, for every inch of the structure is carved with depictions of the gods, as well as monsters, villains, and heroes. The entire history of the Northlands can be seen here, and as new events of import occur, they are added, even if a new room needs to be constructed. Young members of the Hearthsons clan spend the early years of their adulthood traveling the Northlands to learn of — and often participate in — important events.

The Hall of the Hearth Stone is a magnificent structure and one of the true wonders of the Northlands. It is a massive wooden bridge that rises high above and spans the waters of the Storm River where they split into two runs at the Hearth Stone itself. The huge construction allows pilgrims from either side of the river to walk across and stand directly above the sacred Hearth Stone below. Over time, additional spans have been added until the whole actually consists of four bridges that meet over the river: one from the north bank, two from the south bank, and one from the central island. The base of each bridge rises from large halls appropriately named the North Hall, the Central Hall, the South Hall, and the Auxiliary Hall. The bridge climbs steeply from the halls to a peak height of 120 feet over the center of the river. In addition to these large structures, the massive frame of the bridge itself supports eight additional halls. These are the central Hall of the Æsir directly above the Hearth Stone, the largest Hall of Memory with its radiating wings, the next-largest Hall of War, and then the smaller Hall of the Vanir, Hall of Tears, Hall of Glory, Hall of Shades, and the largely shunned Hall of the Ginnvættir.

It wouldn’t be a proper adventure path without at least part of it taking place at this sort of location…so, of course, it does. Look for your PCs to become very familiar with the ins and outs of the Hall of the Hearth Stone and the Hearth Stone itself in NS9: Daughter of Thunder and Storm, which is included in The Northlands Saga Complete.

And just for kicks, here’s the early concept art for the Hall. (scroll to bottom)


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Reason #2a. It's a friggin', full-blown VIKING AP by folks who *GET* what the subject matter is about. The original modules were smashing successes at my table.


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Yeah, you had me at "viking." :)


They do seem to be in vogue
My own Kickstarter ends in 3 days and it too has some viking flavour (with much more in future releases)....and there are a few others

As it's for 5e, with a only a hope of a future PF/OSR release, I thought I had better not promote it in this forum.
John R Davis

PS good luck with this project!


The same to you Sir!

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

Reason #2. The Bearsarker

'Cause there's nothing quite as uncomfortable as a naked viking growing fangs and biting your face off...

Bearsarker (Barbarian Archetype)

While the gods do not normally interfere in the lives of mortals, save for the most heroic, there are those who have been touched by the gods and granted power through them. Most commonly, these are the godi, represented in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game by the cleric, druid, and oracle classes. However, some are not merely granted powers, but are transformed by the contact with the gods. Some of these mortals so altered are the Bearsarkers, a cult dedicated to the worship of Wotan and the glory of the spear-din.
The Bearsarker Cult is a sacred order of men and women who have dedicated their lives to Wotan. There are many reasons they choose to do so, but the most common is that they feel an intense desire to enter a savage fury and commit rampant acts of slaughter. This urge to rage is even greater during battle, and so in order to control this drive and have a place in society, the Bearsarker Cult of Wotan has formed.

Through esoteric arts, ritual drunkenness, and great personal sacrifice, the Bearsarker not only tames his inner fire, but learns to become a whirling spirit of death and destruction, when the time for such action is called for. Most do not live long, especially when one considers that their rituals are fairly violent and often result in severe injury and maiming. It is not unusual to find a Bearsarker who has plucked out one of his own eyes to gain wisdom, or who has spent time meditating while hung on a tree of woe.

Members of the cult undergo extensive training in order to learn to control their rage, as well as training in religion and the esoteric arts. Although inwardly highly meditative and thoughtful people, the outward appearance of the Bearsarkers gives others pause, considering the reputation of the cult for great savagery barely contained, as well as incredible feats of stamina and strength. As per their religious dictates, Bearsarkers do not bathe except for rare ritual purification purposes, clad themselves only in a loincloth and bear robe, and never cut their hair or beards. This shaggy, unkempt and wild appearance is the means by which the cult is known, and seeing a Bearsarker on the other side of a battlefield has been known to turn the morale of even the most hardy of warriors. Also despite, or because of, their sacred status, Bearsarkers are afforded a great deal of leeway in their actions and behavior.

Note: Bearsarkers must be good- or neutral-aligned, must maintain the unkempt appearance of their faith, worship Wotan above all other gods, remain honorable, forsake marriage, children and wealth, and live to serve the Northlander people as a whole. Breaking any of these tenets results in a loss of class abilities until the character can undergo purification through an atonement spell. Members of this archetype automatically suffer a –4 penalty to their Charisma score.

Fury of the Gods (Ex): This works the same as a barbarian’s normal rage class feature; however, the number of rounds per day a Bearsarker can rage is equal to 4 + his Wisdom modifier rather than Constitution. He gains additional rounds at the normal rate. Also, Bearsarkers gain Knowledge (religion) as a class skill. This replaces rage.

Berserk Fury (Ex): At 2nd level, a Bearsarker that enters his fury of the gods inspires fear in enemies who witness it. Any enemy who sees this display of savagery must make a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the Bearsarker’s level + the Bearsarker’s Wisdom modifier) or become shaken for the duration of the Bearsarker’s fury. Each additional Bearsarker in a fury at the same time adds +1 to the Will save DC to a maximum of +5, but one Bearsarker must be chosen who leads the fury to determine its duration and whose Wisdom modifier is used to determine the save DC. This ability replaces uncanny dodge.

Naked Fury (Ex): At 3rd level a Bearsarker who is not wearing armor and is lightly encumbered gains a +2 dodge bonus to AC. This bonus increases by +2 every three barbarian levels thereafter. This replaces trap sense.

Unarmed Fury (Su): At 5th level, a Bearsarker’s hands actually transform into bear claws while in a fury. The Bearsarker cannot wield any weapons but gains 2 claw attacks that deal 1d6 points of damage + both the Bearsarker’s Strength and Wisdom modifiers. The Bearsarker can suppress this transformation if he chooses to do so, but each round he does so reduces the number of rounds he can use his fury of the gods that day by 1 round. This replaces improved uncanny dodge.

Fanged Fury (Su): At 7th level, whenever a Bearsarker uses his unarmed fury ability, he gains the benefits of a greater magic fang spell (cannot be dispelled) granting him a +1 enhancement bonus to his claw attacks and any other natural attacks he may have (through the animal fury rage power, for example). This bonus increases by +1 every three barbarian levels thereafter. This replaces damage reduction.

Rage Powers: The following rage powers complement the Bearsarker archetype: come and get me*, flesh wound*, good for what ails you*, inspire ferocity*, knockback, liquid courage*, roaring drunk*, smasher*, and terrifying howl.

*See Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Player’s Guide


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How do you see Naked Fury interacting with shields/shield bonuses? Does the bearsarker need to chew on the rim of his/her shield first?


Greg are you aware of the Superstitious Barbarian archetype? Naked Courage seems a bit more powerful than your Naked Fury.

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

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Oceanshieldwolf wrote:
How do you see Naked Fury interacting with shields/shield bonuses? Does the bearsarker need to chew on the rim of his/her shield first?

The bearsarker can have a shield since it is not considered wearing armor, as long as its weight didn't encumber him. Chewing is optional.


I have a minor quibble about the -4 CHA penalty, primarily around the idea of CHA =/= prettyness, and disliking a berserker type character taking a penalty to the stat that controls Intimidate and represents the power of personal presence and self-confidence, which these guys and gals should have in spades.

I could very strongly see them taking that penalty to skills such as Bluff and Diplomacy, but penalizing the entire CHA stat seems inappropriate.

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

Thanael wrote:

Greg are you aware of the Superstitious Barbarian archetype? Naked Courage seems a bit more powerful than your Naked Fury.

Naked Fury seems more powerful to me. At 9th level the unarmored Bearsarker will have a +6 dodge bonus to AC. The savage barbarian will only have a +2 dodge bonus. The Bearsarker only loses out on a +2 bonus to fear saves. Seems like a more than adequate trade off to me considering a bless spell from a supporting cleric will provide 50% of that bonus with only a 1st level spell expenditure. I'm not sure how you're seeing Naked Courage as more advantageous.


Wow that archetype is hot garbage. Massive rage drawback by factoring off wisdom, and minimal bonuses to make up for it.

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

Orthos wrote:

I have a minor quibble about the -4 CHA penalty, primarily around the idea of CHA =/= prettyness, and disliking a berserker type character taking a penalty to the stat that controls Intimidate and represents the power of personal presence and self-confidence, which these guys and gals should have in spades.

I could very strongly see them taking that penalty to skills such as Bluff and Diplomacy, but penalizing the entire CHA stat seems inappropriate.

It's more about the fact that despite their presence and self confidence, they make most people pretty uncomfortable around them, which I think does capture the essence of Charisma far beyond "prettyness" as you have correctly noted. They're highly respected, but most folk wouldn't really want to invite them to dinner.

The idea that Intimidate is tied solely to Charisma is more of an issue in my mind. It is certainly one way to go about it (see Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds as an awesome example of this) but not the only one or even the most common I wouldn't think. Bane in Dark Knight Rises was pretty intimidating yet had a Charisma of about 3 (which is sad 'cause Tom Hardy's is definitely mid-to-high teens).

So it does lose out on the Intimidate factor (perhaps a built-in bonus to Intimidate would have been a better way to go about it), but I think it's right on with Diplomacy and Bluff like you said.

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

CWheezy wrote:
Wow that archetype is hot garbage. Massive rage drawback by factoring off wisdom, and minimal bonuses to make up for it.

Unless you, you know, have a decent Wisdom.

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

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Orthos and CWheezy have both made an excellent point about Northlands, though (albeit in extremely different ways). Northlands is absolutely not your typical PF setting. In fact, this might be the kind of info that OSW was looking for earlier now that I think about it. The Northlands Saga Complete is very much geared towards the RP and local culture aspect of the Northlands themselves. Incorporating the concepts of things like wyrd and death speeches into the setting certainly does go outside the typical PF norm. And CWheezy is pretty much spot on in regards to a strictly premium mechanical build aspect. I don't think some Northlands campaign characters would work very well in PFS, for instance, where optimizing character options can be an extremely important part of the game. However, Northlands Saga isn't trying to be just like every other PF setting but with a viking aftertaste; it's trying to be an authentic-feeling viking setting that's set in PF. This, I think, is an important distinction for the buyer to be aware of ahead of time in order to know what they are or aren't getting. And I think Bearsarker as an archetype is very illustrative of this.

Anyway, I hope that provides some clarification. Thanks for the comments and questions. Keep 'em coming! :-)

Greg


Archetypes can be good and flavorful. I think bearsarker is poor flavor and power. Wisdom rage is only used for one thing( a fear effect????) And it doesn't really make a lot of sense.

Dodge bonus is weird, for a class known for scarification and accepting pain. No god related power, no power for their strict oath.

Its very strange tbh, their mechanics seem to be totally unrelated to the flavor text behind the class.


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I find the mechanics very related to flavor.
WIS makes sense because it's a Divine tied Class that loses powers exactly like a Cleric.
Obviously using WIS makes multiclass builds with Cleric/Inquisitor as well as Monk work well... Fitting the Religious context.
Building for decent WIS has the side effect of boosting probably the most important Save in the game.
You are overlooking that WIS applies to Claw damage, stacking with STR bonus (so if STR is 2 lower from WIS investment, OK)
likewise that all these abilities ARE "God related power" that depend on their adherence to God just like a Cleric.
Dodge bonus to AC when un-armored is already explored in Paizo Barbarian Archetypes (an Rage Powers) as well as Monks,
so it's usage here seems totally forseeable and standard design IMHO. (+ matching flavor: "whirling spirit of death and destruction")

Sure, I could see having a "caveat" clause to the CHA penalty, so that it doesn't apply to checks vs. other Bearsarkers/Wotan worshippers, or to abilities linked to worship of Wotan (i.e. if multiclassed Cleric of Wotan with Channel). But on the other hand, it's not the end of the world, and it's setting implications may very well be valid and interesting:

It semi enforces narrower build options, i.e. you aren't going to be doing any CHA ability stuff for extraneous sources (Eldritch Heritage) and even Bearsarker/Wotan Clerics' abilities will not lean towards strong Channeling... So there is less options for Bearsarkers to have substiantially different builds, thus they tend to form a more cohesive group.

The flavor tends strongly towards ascetic denial of self and strong promotion of WIS perspective, which CHA can be seen as antagonistic to. Their societal image/role de-emphasizes personal CHA/personality in lieu of "crazy holy one" fear/reverence which over-writes normal social interaction: "...Because of, their sacred status, Bearsarkers are afforded a great deal of leeway in their actions and behavior." i.e. they no longer negotiate social situations thru force of personality, but thru special status of their "holiness" ultimately tied to WIS. (and STR)

Their WIS based Berserker Fury imposes Shaken, superseding the need for CHA based Intimidate. Even within their own Bearsarker/Wotan community, Diplomacy will not be a strong feature, thus more direct communication/relations prevail. Also even within their own community, they are all worse at lying to each other (Bluff) while also being good at Sense Motive (WIS) so tend to be truthful along with that.


Greg A. Vaughan wrote:
Thanael wrote:

Greg are you aware of the Superstitious Barbarian archetype? Naked Courage seems a bit more powerful than your Naked Fury.

Naked Fury seems more powerful to me. At 9th level the unarmored Bearsarker will have a +6 dodge bonus to AC. The savage barbarian will only have a +2 dodge bonus. The Bearsarker only loses out on a +2 bonus to fear saves. Seems like a more than adequate trade off to me considering a bless spell from a supporting cleric will provide 50% of that bonus with only a 1st level spell expenditure. I'm not sure how you're seeing Naked Courage as more advantageous.

D'oh! Missed the +2 per 3 levels...

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Naked Fury is much more analogous to a scaling Monk's AC bonus.+12 Dodge AC at 18+ is an impressive amount of Dodge, to be sure, but would be just equal to a Monk with a 26 Wisdom.

==Aelryinth


Yeah, personally I'm fine with Naked Fury as is. It's not all at once and scales with level, plus non-magical full plate grants a +9 AC right off the bat.

Right now I'm playing a Path of War stalker, and she's filling the role as the party tank: not due to AC, but due to things such as a stance which grants blur, spending ki points to activate an ability where enemies roll twice and take the worse attack roll, etc.

At middle-high levels, many monsters (especially huge ones such as dragons) have massive bonuses to attack rolls.

What I'm trying to say is that AC becomes less important as the game progresses in comparison to other defensive options and saves.

The main problem is when the berserker is flat-footed, in which he loses that sweet, sweet dodge bonus.

On a semi-related note, this brings me to another question. Will berserkers in the Swords & Wizardry version have their own class, or will they be reflavored clerics/fighters? I understand that some old-school D&D retroclones had a barbarian class to represent the raging warrior archetype, but the three versions of S&W have no such class in their core books.


Sounds cool. I definitely could see some great multi-class options too, especially since it'd be one of the few options to multi-class with Monk (assuming the G or N overwrites the C for barbarians?) - and monk would synergise with it well.

Although dwarven bearsarker with Cha 4 (or 1 if you decided to buy it down, since 4 is rubbish anyway) is not-so pretty :P

EDIT: On second thoughts, the chaotic pre-requisite would probably still hold, so no monk/barb :(

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

Reason #3: New Monsters!!

Among the many things to be found in The Northlands Saga Complete is a chapter devoted entirely to new monsters, including a new monster subtype specific to the Northlands as well as new types of arms and armor associated with some of these monsters.

Below is the Table of Contents entry for the new monsters chapter in The Northlands Saga Campaign Guide:

Chapter 5: Þurisaz, New Monsters

Sceadugengan: Optional Subtype

Ajatar
Aurochs, Northlands (Dire Kine)
Beaver
Beaver, Dire
Beaver, Giant
Blood Eagle
Bog Hag
Bog Horse
Bog Hound
Erdhenne
Giant, Common
Common Giant Arms and Armor
Grendel
Grimmswine
Jomsbeast, The
Nachtjäger
Swarm, Degenerate Mephit
Thrydreg
Skraeling
Trow
Vlkodlak
Woldgeist

And just to give a little bit more info on the flavor of the Northlands, here's the write-up for the sceadugengan subtype introduced in The Northands Saga to highlight the fact that though the Northlanders are hard-bitten, blooded vikings, they remain a highly superstitious folk with a well-founded fear of the dark...

Sceadugengan: Optional Subtype

If you wish to truly capture the Northlanders’ fear of the unknown, you can make use of the sceadugengan subtype.

Sceadugengan Subtype: Creatures with this subtype are considered to be supernatural creatures of the night known as “shadow walkers” to Northlanders, Nûk, Seagestrelanders, Ulnat, and dwarves from the Northlands. When a member of one of those cultures (and other cultures at the GM’s discretion) encounters a creature with the sceadugengan subtype, that individual must make a Will save of DC 10 + the CR of the creature encountered or be shaken until the encounter is over. The GM should not reveal the DC of the Will save, so that the character does not know the CR of the creature being faced. If a sceadugengan is defeated and there are other sceadugenga present, the shaken condition is removed for the rest of that encounter and any other encounters with the shadow walkers of an equal or lower CR for 24 hours. After that, the flush of victory has worn off, and the character must make a new Will save if sceadugenga of that CR or lower are encountered. Likewise, if a Will save is successful, no new Will save is necessary to avoid being shaken against a sceadugenga of that CR or lower for 24 hours.

In addition to those monsters included in this chapter that have the sceadugengan subtype, to a Northlander, Nûk, Seagestrelander, Ulnat, or dwarf native to the Northlands, the following types and subtypes of monsters would likewise be considered to have the sceadugengan subtype:

Aberration, (Acid), (Asura),(Catfolk), (Cold), (Daemon), (Dark Folk), (Demodand) ,(Demon), (Devil), (Div), (Earth), (Electricity), (Elemental), (Extraplanar), Fey, (Fire), (Fungus), (Gnoll), (Goblinoid), (Grippli), (Incorporeal), (Kami), (Kyton), (Leshy), Magical Beast, Monstrous Humanoid, (Nightshade), (Oni), (Orc), (Protean), (Qlippoth), (Rakshasa), (Ratfolk), (Reptilian), (Sasquatch), (Shapechanger) — If known to the observer, (Skulk), (Stormwarden), (Tabaxi), Undead, (Vanara), (Vapor) ,(Vishkanya), (Water).

For new subtypes not included in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiaries 1–4 or The Tome of Horrors Complete, the GM must use his judgment to determine if it would qualify as sceadugenga to a Northlander.

Liberty's Edge

Some really interesting stuff in that list!!!


I know how Bill and Skeeter feel about it, but you really need to have Hero Lab files for this one, full blown.

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

Reason 4: The Gates of Hell!!!

Really I think that's probably 'nuff said right there, but some of you are probably thinking to yourselves: "Gates of Hell? Shouldn't it be Gates of Hel?" And to you I say, "NO!!...Well, actually, yes but then followed with a resounding NO!!"

The Gates of Hell (pictured above) are a planar aperture at the heart of one of the Northlands' mightiest volcanos, and yes it does indeed lead to the realm of Hel in Nilheim, but that's not all. It also leads to Muspelheim, Jotenheim, the Abyss, the Hells, Hades, and a bunch of places. Because it is actually a portal that leads to the Ginnungagap, the Void Between, where all of these lovely places and many more can be accessed.

But's going on with that skull, and those dudes in robes, and that dwarf...wait, has he been nailed to that guy behind him with a spear?!?

All legitimate questions, and all will be answered in good time...in The Northlands Saga Adventure Path.

So if you're still looking for excuses to jump into this project, just consider an open pit leading to Hell to be one more reason to make the leap. Wait, that didn't come out right...

Pathfinder Creative Director, Frog God Games

Reason 5: The Jomsburg!!

Probably not the best place to peddle your Girl Scout cookies (okay, who am I kidding, even Jomsvikings love Girl Scout cookies)...but unfortunately when your PCs visit this lovely locale in the adventure path it'll be without the benefit of delicious Thin Mints, succulent Samoas, decadent Tagalongs, or boring ol' Trefoils (Jomvikings hate Trefoils) in tow. Enjoy!

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