Sunday, September 11, 2011


Behold, for to the Seven Shining Cities of the South there came a band of reavers, warriors, thieves, and sorcerers. They wandered the Eastern Lands of the Sea of Gold, from the Gates of Mordt to the Iscini Hills in the tree-covered north. These brave foolhardy adventurers thrust themselves into the haunted ruins of Old Iosia, coming forth with gold, jewels, wondrous magics, and forgotten tomes. Grave were the dangers they faced, and great were their foes, for in the course of their delvings they awoke the wrath of the cults of the Old Ones, challenged necromancers and sorcerers, and brought the villainous low.

From Lystraka the Beautiful in the north to Makeen the Debauched above the Gates of Mordt they tread the Seven Cities, carrying their sharp swords and eager hands into danger and death. Their many deeds are tales of mighty heroics, but it all began one dark and storm wracked night along the Old Imperial Road north of Lystraka but still far south of Fort Recall in the Iscini Hills. The night was cool for early autumn, and the rains had come in harsh sheets as lightning broke the sky. Lo! In the distance some shelter, a ruin of a watchtower of long dead Iosia, respite from the wind and rain, and protection from the raging Keltos, God of Storms. Let us join our heroes there as they meet for the first time and forge their long remembered brotherhood…

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Northlands Saga Preview

The Northlands
The Northlands are divided into petty kingdoms and city-states ruled more by the hereditary nobility than by the various monarchies. The people are largely human, though a fair number of dwarves have found their way into Northlander society. The land itself is mostly wild and untamed swamps and forests, broken by mountains in the north and east. The summers are cool and wet, and the winters are long, cold, and see heavy snowfalls.
Northlanders themselves as an independent people who often see need to rebel against their lords and kings. Part of this independence is the Thing, a combination of legislative and judicial body that passes laws and rules in criminal cases affecting a specific locality. The Thing has no power to enforce these laws, and leaves that up to the individuals affected, especially the nobility. However, the law binds all, from the lowliest thrall (serf) to the mightiest jarl (baron). This has resulted in a constant state of near lawlessness, as much of the duty of keeping society together falls to society as a whole. The upside is that the Northlanders take contracts and oaths very seriously, as well as loyalty and friendship.
The Northlanders themselves are tall, big-boned, and fair-skinned people, with hair ranging from platinum blond to dark brown, and eye color tending towards blue or hazel. In many ways they are like the people of the southern lands, though the harsh winters and short summers of the Northlands have bred a hardy and independent people. Warfare and raiding is endemic in the nearly lawless north, as are generational blood feuds between clans. Hard work and honesty are held in high regard, as are courage and honor.
Trade and raiding are the most famous of activities that the Northlanders engage in, and these two are sure routes to fame and fortune. It is these two activities that often bring the Northlanders to foreign lands, and the difference between a trading and raiding expedition is usually one of opportunity. A jarl or other wealthy personage owns the ships, and the crews are often his most loyal followers. It is considered proper for a ship's captain to be generous with his crew, and the appellation of 'ring-giver' — a giver of valuable gifts — is one sought by all honorable men of means. However, the majority of Northlanders are farmers, craftsmen, and townsfolk who live prosaic lives of toil and common joys.
The inspirations for the Northlands Saga come from a variety of sources. Naturally, the sagas are a flowing fount of information and ideas. Other historical sources include primary and secondary sources on the Viking Age, as well as the myths and legends of the Celtic and Germanic peoples. The works of Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber have also inspired parts of the adventure series and the setting. Drawing from historical fiction, the Saxons series by Bernard Cornwell has provided the imagery for many a battle scene. In the end, the Northlands are not a traditional fantasy setting, but instead a blend of history and sword and sorcery fiction, with a little bit of the standard fantasy RPG tropes.
There are five lands in the Northlands proper, and three that lay just beyond but whose stories are tightly bound to that of the Northlands Saga. The heart of the Northlands is the Stormstøm Vale, a rich and prosperous land along the mighty Stormstøm River. The Vale lacks a king, and is divided into many smaller jarldoms that constantly feud and bicker. The largest city in the Northlands, Trotheim, sits at the mouth of the river. To the west of the Vale lies the land of Hordaland, a place of peat bogs and forest that is heavily settled along its coasts. The Køenig of Hordaland has recently died, and his six year old son sits the throne. The jarls are gaining independence here, and civil war looms. The second city of the Northlands, Halfstead, sits at the end of the Hord Peninsula, and is the most metropolitan of Northlands cities. To the east of the Vale is Hrolfland, ruled by the powerful Hrolf clan, one of the two great clans of the Northlands. Hrolfland sits closest to the decadent and advanced Southlands, and has adopted many of their ways. In the far west are the lands of Gatland and Vastavikland. Gatland is home of the very traditional Gat clan, famed for its warriors and longships. Vastavikland is a rugged land of mountains and volcanoes and breeds tough, fearless, and crazed warriors. The Bear-Sarker and Ulfhander cults are very popular here, and the Vastaviklanders have a reputation for savagery. Estenfird is the youngest and most northerly of the Northlands, and is an untamed land of deep forests and unexplored mountains. The Estenfirders have no kings or jarls, and are fanatically independent.
North of Estenfird is Nukland, the home of the Mysterious elf-like Nuklanders, a reindeer herding people who live isolated on the vast tundra. Further north is the Far North, an unexplored region of primitive peoples and strange beasts. Between Hordaland and Vastavikland lay Seagestreland and the Dnipir River. The Seagestrelanders are not Northlanders, but a different breed of human, and for centuries the Northlanders have traded for amber or gold, and raided the area for thralls and pillaging. The Dnipir River runs south through the Sea of Grass, and only a few brave Northlanders have journeyed far down it, some even portaging their longships across to another watershed and sailing as far as the Southern Sea and the distant Caliphate. Southeast of Hrolfland is the Duchy of Monrovia, north most of the Southlands. The Southlanders are advanced in technology and magic, cladding their warriors in suits of solid steel and calling fire from the sky. They are also a decadent and soft people, and a common target of Northlander Vikings.

Northlands Saga PCs: Osvid

Osvid, Male Human (Northlander)
Description: Osvid is a tall man, even for a Northlander, broad shouldered and muscular, with long red hair worn in thick braids that reach past his shoulders. His beard is likewise braided, and is a magnificent sight to behold. As a godi, a priest of the Northlanders, he keeps himself clean and well dressed, though since like most godi his religious duties are only part time, he is often covered in sawdust from working on the jarl's ships.
Quote: "There is a time for peace and goodwill, now is not that time, for it is the time of the storm and fury."
Personality: Always open with a story, an opinion, or with a hand to help, Osvid is well liked and well thought of. He is friendly, gregarious, and more than a bit intrusive into other's lives, something he sees as part of his duty to tend to his people.
Background: Like his father before him, Osvif is a shipwright and a first class sailor. However, at an early age he discovered a talent for story telling, singing, music, and drinking. As he grew older, Osvid perfected these skills, becoming one of Jarl Skaps Rangarsson most trusted advisors and favorite skald. Over the years He has picked up a range of useful skills, from fighting to magic, as well as bits of legend and lore from throughout the Northlands and the lands beyond. Although Osvid still spends time building ships with his brothers, he prefers to spend his nights swapping tall tales, feasting, drinking, and chasing milkmaids.
Relationships with the other PCs:
Asvid Skapsdottir: A good woman, and like her father, an honor to serve.
Fast Tallin: Steel clad in silk, a fine musician, and a good friend to drink with.
Gest Arison: Too quiet, too much like the deep woods he haunts.
Knut Shield Bitter: A roaring good companion, but a bit on the wild side. His story will end in glorious battle, I am sure of it.
Mad Kadlin: What wounds does she suffer, and how do I tell her story if I can’t see what she sees? Pretty one, though, such a waste.

Northlands PCs: Mad Kadlin

Mad Kadlin, Female Human (Northlander)
Description: Kadlin in tall, pretty, and always well dressed. Her long blond hair is kept well combed, and her blue eyes sparkle with mirth and warmth. At home she is well cared for by her maid servants, but on adventure she gradually loses her so well put together appearance, becoming bedraggled. Her hair gets stringy, her eyes sink into her face and become drawn and haggard, and her clothes need mending and cleaning.
Quote: "I see, I see them, don’t you?"
Personality: Kadlin has a distinct duality in her personality, At home amongst familiar surroundings she is bright, extroverted, and the ever dutiful daughter and sister, a credit to her family. When out of the care of her maids or away from familiar lands, she slowly draws in to herself, spending more time speaking with the spirits of the land and other things best left undescribed. She turns dark, morose, and cranky, eventually turning her kind words to cruel jests and sharp retorts.
Background: As the youngest daughter of Jarl Skaps Ragnarson, Kadlin has enjoyed the finest in life, but sadly that enjoyment is darkly tarnished. While still a young girl, she wandered away from her father's hall and into the woods. For five days and nights her father and his household searched for her, eventually finding her nailed by one hand to an oak tree, naked and raving. Only the firm and gentle care of her family and her friends brought her back to sanity, but ever since she has exhibited strange and fell powers and an ability to see and communicate with things unknown to other mortals.
Although it is a great hardship for her and all who accompany her when she leaves home, nonetheless her strange knowledge and powers are often needed. Frequently Kadlin has accompanied her sister and her sister's companions on adventures, always returning half mad into the arms of her old friends now her maid servants. Every time, her father orders that she not go out again, but when Asvid sails, Kadlin will be with her either invited or as a stowaway.

Relationships with the other PCs:
Asvid Skapsdottir: She could be normal if she just wore a dress, hehehehe normal like me, like me, like us.
Fast Tallin: He is a stranger, no, don’t say he is handsome, you take the handsome ones, you always do, and then they are not handsome anymore, are they?
Gest Arison: Just say something nice, yes, nice, you found me, you know, you know, don’t say, never say, be quiet, be still.
Knut Shield Bitter: He is why some traditions should not be, no, I am sorry, that is blasphemy, must think of something else to say, hmmmm, toad.
Mad Kadlin: She is such a poor, boor, we should teach her, wait, her she comes, quiet, quiet.
Osivd : He is so kind to me, more's the pity, for I have seen his fate. I threw up a little.

Northlands Saga PCs: Knut Shield Bitter

Knut Shield Bitter, Male Human (Northlander) Barbarian 9
Description: Knut is an ugly man, with watery eyes of two different colors (one black, the other blue), a splayed nose, and a crude coarse face. His body is covered in coarse dark hair, and he generally doesn’t bathe unless tossed in the sea by an errant wave. His clothes are equally wretched, but his weapons and arms, they are clean and sharp.
Quote: "Arrrhg rarrrgh, now you die!"
Personality: To say that Knut has been overtaken by the furor of battle is an understatement. He spends his time alternately between drinking, feasting, and fighting. If he cannot find any of these, he is even more grumpy and morose. Knut is never happier than in the middle of battle, locked in the throes of rage.
Background: No one knows where Knut hails from, but his accent hints at Vastavikland, the strange eastern province of the Northlands also known as the Mountains of Wyrms. He simply washed up on the banks of the Storstrøm River one day, covered in wounds and. That he was a bearsarker, a member of the feared and respected Bear Cult of Odin, brought him instant respect and fear. Needing a brave fellow to break enemy shieldwalls, Jarl Skaps Ragnarson brought Knut into his hall and made him a permanent gestir, part of the jarl's household.

Relationships with the other PCs:
Asvid Skapsdottir: Knut will follow pretty warrior to Hel and back.
Fast Tallin: A toy?
Gest Arison: Hunter has sharp eyes and no words. Knut like.
Mad Kadlin: She Knows, she sees!
Osiv the Strange: Knut like talky man, he drink lots and share with Knut, tell funny sad exciting story. Knut like.

Northlands Saga PCs: Gest Arison

Gest Arison, Male Human (Northlander)
Description: Gest is a large framed, robust man in his mid thirties, his head a tangle of wild dark blond hair framing deep blue eyes. He dresses for the hunt nearly every day, but since he spends nearly every day alone in the wilds this is not surprising. Everything about him speaks of care and hard use, from his worn but serviceable boots to his leathery skin.
Quote: "I can smell the dear on you, cur"
Personality: Gest is a man of few words, and those few are gruff and unyielding. He spends so much time by himself tending the jarl's woods and hunting for deer, boar, or dangerous beasts that he has almost nearly lost the finer points of social graces.
Background: Gest Arison's father served Jarl Skaps Ragnarson's father as a huntsman, and so Gest does as well. It’s a relationship between the two families that has stretched back for generations, and one that both are very comfortable with. The personalities of the huntsman has also been a constant, and it is often wondered how such irascible and stoic men ever manage to find wives.
Gest has one wife and two sons, twins born five years ago who he hopes will grow up as he did to become the huntsman for the jarl's successor. It cannot be said that Gest knows his sons well, as they are still too young to accompany him on many of his longer forays into the woods, but he does take some solace in the knowledge that he did not get to know his father until his own apprenticeship in the ways of the woodlands began.
Although he has accompanied the jarl's daughter and her companions on several adventures, Gest always sees this as a distraction from his more pressing duties. Taken from his home range, the normally quiet man becomes even more withdrawn. However, he has heard tales of the strange and mighty beasts of Estenfird, so this latest distraction has him somewhat excited, not that anyone would tell that by looking at him.
Relationships with the other PCs:
Asvid Skapsdottir: A woman in man's armor, but what a warrior, what a leader, what a woman!
Fast Tallin: A useless fop.
Knut Shield Bitter: He is worse than a wild animal, I fear he may be a Beast Cultist in disguise.
Mad Kadlin: She's seen the things I have, but it broke her woman's mind.
Osiv: Every tale needs a hero, but must every tale be told, and told, and told.

Northlands Saga PCs: Fast Talin

Fast Tallin the Southlander, Male Human (Southlander)
Description: Tallin is a handsome man whose exotic (at least for the Northlands) appearance lends him a rakish and sensual air. His hair is dark and curly, his eyes are a deep brown, and his skin is slightly olive hued. He wears expensive foreign clothing, and is usually clothed in silks and samite in outlandish and garish Southlander fashion. His eyes are a twinkle, and a constant expression of slight mirth makes him seem to not take anything in this world seriously.
Quote: "A song, a horn, and oh, hello, and what is your name, my lady?"
Personality: Tallin is polite, confidant, and oh so suave. He never insults a lady, is quick to (verbally) avenge a wrong, and seems to have no idea that the world is not his playground. While not what most would consider a criminal, Tallin has been known to stretch and even break the bounds of the law, but always in a good and noble cause.
Background: Although he would never admit to it, this cultured and sophisticated man was born to rather humble parents. He grew up in a small village in Monrovia, one of the Southlands, where he had the good fortune to be the son of the village hedman, thus making him one of the higher status serfs. Not wanting to toil all his life on someone else's farm, he fled to the nearest city, Cymilard, and sought his fortune there.
It was singing on the streets of Cymilard (Tallin is too proud to beg) that he drew the attention of one of the greatest entertainers of his day, William Kingswood. The veteran actor, playwright, musician, poet, and singer took the young boy under his wing, teaching him all the finer points of not just a vast repertoire of skills, but of living.
After finishing his training, Tallin toured the Southlands, playing and loving at the courts of nobles and kings. After a confusion involving a duke's daughter and some jewels, he headed to the Northlands to seek better fortune and avoid needless entanglements with the law. Being an exotic Southlander with strange ways proved to be great boon, and Tallin found that he and his artistry was more than welcome in the courts of the jarls. He has been a guest at Jarl Skaps Ragnarson's hall for two years now, during which time he has accompanied the jarl's daughter and other heroes on many adventures, this one to Estenfird is just the latest, but is also the most mysterious.
Relationships with the other PCs:
Asvid Skapsdottir: Clad in armor of ice, I will break through to win this, what do they call them, valkyrie.
Gest Arison: How terribly boring of a man, or is he a hunting dog?
Knut Shield Bitter: Scary!
Mad Kadlin So pretty, so high born, so barking mad, such a shame.
Osiv: He enjoys poetry, drink, and dancing, if only he would stay out of fights he would be a true boon companion.

Northlands Sage PCs: Asvid Skapsdottir

Asvid Skapsdottir, Female Human (Northlander)
Description: Asvid is a tall woman, broad of shoulder and hip, with a warrior's build and mien. Her blond hair is worn in two leather wrapped braids that fall from beneath her helmet and across her shoulders. Although some describe her as pretty, Asvid's stern demeanor and pale blue eyes give her a frosty look. Her armor and weapons are kept to a high sheen and she shows care in all she does.
Quote: "By Odin's beard I swear I will make an end of you!"
Personality: Asvid is a stern and straightforward person, a true follower of the Northlander warrior virtues, and a staunch defender of her people. She is aggressive in speech and tone, and prefers action to talk. Asvid is proud that she has never backed down from a fight and never lost a battle to inferior foes. As the daughter of a powerful Jarl, she is prone to more than a bit of haughtiness when dealing with lower ranked peoples.
Background: Jarl Skaps Ragnarson is one of the more powerful jarls of the Storstrøm Vale, the heartland of the Northlands. He has three wives and eight children, but by far his favorite is his eldest daughter, Asvid. As the daughter of a jarl, Asvid has had the best of life in the Northlands, the finest clothes, the most famed weapons, and the best teachers. She grew up playing rough and tumble games with her six brothers, and her father was one who indulged his daughter in whatever she desired. The one thing Asvid desired most was to be a warrior and win renown as a great hero.
This she has done, having adventured the length and breadth of the Northlands and beyond, faced fearsome foes, slew strange and deadly beasts, and even once slew a troll bare handed. She has been placed in charge of this quest by her father, and will not rest until it is done.
Relationships with the other PCs:
Fast Tallin: This slick Southlander is a constant annoyance, but at least he is decent in a fight, and handsome, in a foreign way.
Gest Arison: A good, dependable, if stubborn man.
Knut Shield Bitter: A deadly weapon to be used wisely, and broke if necessary.
Mad Kadlin: Oh, my poor sweet sister, what do you see, what has happened to you?
Osiv: A good man, but fat too talkative for my tastes.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Village of Sea-tac and the Surrounding Area

The Village
1. Blackscale Breeding Pool: This fetid pool is where poisoncales hatch and grow large enough to come out onto dry land.
2. Brew House: This building is kept far from the village due to the danger of fire and explosion. In it the tribe boils wild sugar cane and ferments it into rum.
3. Greenscale Breeding Pool: This spring fed pool is where greenscales hatch and grow large enough to come out onto dry land.
4. Hooch: The lizardfolk of the Sea-tac tribe live in wood and reed huts raised above the swamp on thirty foot tall stilts. A broad porch wraps around the perimeter of the hut, providing plenty of space to bask in the sun or work on projects in the daylight. The hooches are connected to each other with raised walkways, and ladders descend to the ground (or the water in the rainy season) below. Each hut has at least one pirogue, if not more, tied to it.
5. Midden: The accumulated trash of generations has formed a five foot tall mound.
6. Poisonscale Breeding Pool: This large pool is where poisonscales hatch and grow large enough to come out onto dry land.
7. Smoke House: Kept away from the village to prevent fires, the smoke house is also a drying shed for various foodstuffs.
8. Temple of the Sun and Earth: This oddly shaped building is richly carved and decorated with statues, reliefs, and totems dedicated to the gods and spirits, first amongst these Atamag and Tortal. Inside, the most holy relics and artifacts of the tribe are kept. The shamans perform their secret rites and teach the next generation inside.
9. The King's Palace: The lizard king's palace is little more than a larger hooch, with plenty of room for his clutch and their goods.
10. Village Commons: This large platform is where the tribe gathers for revels, rituals, to hear the pronouncements of their king, or just to hang out in the evenings around a communal fire.

The Surrounding Area
1. Behemoth Run: This wide trail through the swamps is the migratory route of several herds of behemoths that winter in the swamps and summer on the plains to the north.
2. Blackfish Lagoon: This deep depression in the swamps is refilled by the annual floods of the rainy season. During the dry season it a prime fishing spot. Really, like fish in a barrel here.
3. Cane Fields: The tribe doesn’t actually farm these wild sugar canes, but they do occasionally clear out some land around them so that they may expand. The cane is harvested and made into rum, one of the tribe's major trade goods.
4. Crocodile Lagoon: Once this lagoon was part of the Mataq, but the river shifted and now it is an isolated body of fresh water, annually refilled during the rainy season. Several large alligators, including Old Tom, live here.
5. Everwinter Springs: These small springs reach into someplace in the Beyond, and are ever covered in frost and snow, even in the middle of the dry season.
6. Four Armed Tower: The remains of a stone tower with four metal arms stand here. Legend says the place is haunted.
7. North Trail: This narrow trail leads north to the Kal-tac.
8. Rocky Head: Some ancient people carved this giant stone head of a hideous horned creature. Then they left it here in the swamps, idiots.
9. South Trail: This trail leads south to the Ocean.
10. Stone Village: The remains of some ancient powerful tribe who built their hooches out of stone stand here. No one goes there, though legend says the place is filled with wonders and treasures. Legend also says there is a powerful guardian.
11. The Hollows: This area is inundated by dark magics from the Beyond, and should be avoided.
12. The Oak: Standing over a hundred feet above the largest tree in the swamp, The Oak is an ancient tree spirit. It has been asleep for at least a hundred years, if not longer. Strange creatures from the Beyond sometimes come through the large opening in The Oak's trunk.
13. Treaty Stone: This stone on the North Trail provides a place for neutral of hostile tribes to come meet with the Sea-tac.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Delta Lands

Alligator River: This silt filled river is more or less an arm of the Sea.

Araltaq River: This shallow river is almost entirely chocked off by vegetation.

Bad Water: Ancient ruins protrude from these putrid springs like broken teeth. For a mile around the springs, no plants will grow and no wild animal will enter. Rumors abound that the ruins are haunted.

Big Canoe Cove: This small water filled cave attracts the tall hairy pink-scaled ones and their giant winged war canoes. They come here often to feast and revel, as well as repair the bottoms of their canoes. The tall hairy pink-scaled ones do not wish to be disturbed and attack any who come near.

Black Grass Plains: This vast wet grassland stretches far beyond the delta, and is home to a variety of large grazers. The hunting is good, but dangerous as other predators are drawn to the bounty.

Br-tac: A frilled lizardfolk village, Br-tac is part of the Frilled Confederation and frequently makes war on the villages of Sea-tac, Milid-tac, Sisl-tac, La-tac, and Kal-tac. They also pay tribute to the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad.

Bullywug Village: The hideous frog men, bullywugs, live here and are a blight on Tortal's shell. That no one has destroyed them is no doubt due to the chaotic lands caused by the Endless Springs. They pay tribute to and willingly serve the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad.

Crescent Lake: Once part of the Kalam River, this ox-bow lake is good fishing grounds and is shared by the Kal-tac and Sea-tac villages.

Dalma River: Carrying freshwater out of Lake Lasqim to the sea, the Dalam River is wide and deep.

Duck Island: Every year just before the rains, waterfowl congregate at Duck Island to breed and roost. Many tribes send hunters to gather eggs and duck meat, and it is considered a Scared Truce Land.

Endless Springs: These four freshwater springs reach down beyond Tortal's shell into the places beyond. All manner of alien life comes out of the springs, some of water, others of air, and a few of earth. The surrounding area is warped, Her shell transformed by the powerful energies of the Beyond.

Fallen Stones: Deep in the Yellow Water Forest lies the remains of a great stone village. It is said to be haunted by serpent people, but no one goes there and lives to tell of it.

Fang Island: This large island in the Mataq River is the burial ground of a strange people to the north, much like us but of different colored scales and strange ways. Avoid it, less you anger their spirits.

Fey King Tower: A great spirit of the woods, the Arlking, rules from this tower. The tower is said to exist here and in the Beyond, coming and going at will. The Arlking is moody and prone to fits of violence, but legends tell of him rewarding or assisting great hunters and warriors.

Frog Island: This island is a favored place for the bullywugs to visit, for reasons no sane lizardfolk would know.

Goblin Village: The short evil things called goblins, a cruel and ugly race, live here. They are not terribly intelligent and often despoil the lands around their homes, forcing them to move their village. They are numerous, however, and this is why no one has wiped them out. They pay tribute to the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad and are said to be his servants.

Goose Island: Like Duck Island, waterfowl come here before the rainy season to nest and breed. During this time the island is a Sacred Truce Land, and many hunters come to gather eggs and goose feathers.

Gull Island: There is a rock on this island that looks like a sea gull's head. It is very pretty, but far away from our village.

Halfling Village: The small hairy pink-scaled people called halflings live here, friends to us and to our allies the Kal-tac. The halflings trade metal tools and weapons, as well as various trinkets and ornaments, to us for shells and hides. They dig in the dirt to grow their food on 'farms' and live in huts made of heavy wood. The halflings say a great king to the north, a mighty halfling taller than they who commands thousands of warriors, rules them. If we learn to farm and pledge obedience to this king, they say he will protect us. It is silly, and we humor them by pretending to consider this folly. Their revels are fun, but the food is rather bland and they do not honor their dead by returning them to the tribe, but plant them in the earth instead. Perhaps this is where more halflings come from, for they do not have spawning pools.

Jilmarahaq River: The Araltaq and Jilmas rivers flow together, mate, and become one large and wide river.

Jilmas River: This river is deep but narrow.

Kal-tac: Our friends and allies, the Kal-tac are a mixed breed village to the north and across the river. They are good warriors, but they too must pay tribute to the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad.

Kalam River: This river is slow and muddy, but is full of fish.

Lair of Tsatholquimad: The Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad lives here in a dark and fetid area of the swamp. He rules a village of small lizardfolk like beings called kobolds who worship him as a god. Tsatholquimad has lived here for hundreds of years, and is so powerful he dominates all the villages of the Delta, save the halflings who seem to live beyond his grasp. All must pay tribute to him each year in pickled fish, colorful shells, and other goods. Sometimes he claims people for sacrifice, taking them away to his lair. We hate him, but are powerless to oppose him.

Lake Lasqim: This broad and deep freshwater lake would be good fishing were it not for the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad.

Lal-tac: This mixed breed tribe would be our allies if they were smart, but instead they prefer to stay neutral. We do not war with them, but occasionally fights have broken out between our hunters. They also pay tribute to the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad.

Lasaq River: This short but fast river feeds Lake Lasqim.

Mal-tac: The center of the Frilled Confederation, they are our foes. They pay tribute to the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad.

Mataq River: This mighty river flows from the distant north and splits into many rivers before flowing into the sea.

Milid-tac: This poisonscale village has nearly been wiped out by the Frilled Confederation, and has suffered many losses. Although they pay tribute to the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad, they will likely be unable to do so this year, and thus will all perish.

Misty Forest: This wet forest is the home to many strange beasts from beyond, as well as bands of shadowy hunters who call themselves 'elves'.

Mud Flats: This is a large area of mud, often covered by tides. It is good clam and oyster gathering territory, but not a Sacred Truce land and very close to the Frilled Confederation.

Mud Island: This long mud bar is avoided by all the inhabitants of the region for fear of what might dwell in the gleaming pyramid of white stone that sits on it.

Nal-tac: The greenscales of this village have recently turned from their people and claim to worship a strange snake god. They have also refused to pay tribute to the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad thus year, and so will likely die.

Palr-tac: Little is known about this distant village of grenscales.

Pilsarac River: This short river is narrow and heavily influenced by the tides from the Sea.

Qir-tac: This mixed breed village is at war with the poisonscales of Sisl-tac. It pays tribute to the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad.

Razor Grass Plains: These grasslands are drier than the rest of the Delta Lands, and the home to various grazers. It is good hunting and we often go there with our allies the Kal-tac. The halflings have no interest in hunting, only that we do not hunt across their farms or kill their tame animals.

Sea-tac: This is your home village on the banks of the West Fork of the Mataq River. We are a mixed breed village, comprised mostly of greenscales with a sizable poisonscale minority, and a few blackscales also live in the village. We are ruled by King Kalnaqas, a greenscale lizard king, and are one of the more traditional of the lizardfolk villages in the Delta. We are allied with Kal-tac and frequently at war with Br-tac and the Frilled Confederation. Like most of the villages in the Delta, we pay tribute to the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad.

Shark Island: This long, low island is a vegetation covered coral reef that rises only three feet above the waves.

Shasla Island: The great hero Shasala died here fighting a sea serpent. Her body was never recovered, and her soul does not rest, but haunts the island.

Shell Island: This rocky coral island is shaped like a snail shell, its point upriver. Legend says that a giant snail lives in the shell, but that is just silly.

Sisl-tac: Of all the lizardfolk villages, this is the only one that openly serves the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad. They are at war with the Qir-tac.

Sissil River: This river is unremarkable, though the halflings say ii flows to the west towards a great village of stone where lives a mighty sage.

Snake River: This river has many hollows in its banks where snakes live. Yummy, tasty snakes.

Stench Caverns: At the edge of the Mataq River are several caverns from which a foul odor flows out. It is said that a breed of lizardfolk who are very smelly and live underground dwell here, but none have seen them.

Tal-tac: A village of blackscales, Tal-tac is renown for its might in war, but not its crafts or music. Despite the power of its people, Tal-tac pays tribute to the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad.

Taltoc River: This river does not flow from the Mataq, but from places to the East. It splits and then rejoins, flowing fast and free to the great river itself.

Tasaq Island: The jeweledscale sage Tasaq lives here, and will answer questions put to him by brave warriors.

Three Siblings Islands: These three islands fell from the sky in times past and floated to the surface. It is said they are fregmantes of powerful spirits that fought and died in the heavens.

Thunder Island: This rocky island is constantly pounded by the waves, giving it its name.

Tower of Swords: A tall stone tower stands here, and legends say a thousand metal swords hang from the roof. Powerful wizards of many alien shapes live here and want no intrusions.

Turtle Island: Every year after the rainy season turtles from across the Sea come here to lay their eggs. Warriors and hunters from all the tribes come here to gather eggs and hunt turtles, making it a Sacred Truce Land during that time.

Witch Fens: Three evil witches lair here and worship the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad.

Wizard Bone Island: This island is bare and bone-white. Nothing lives here and the only feature is the Tower of Swords.

Yellow Water Forest: This forest is very wet and the water is slightly sulfurous, giving it a yellow tint and a foul taste. The mythical serpent folk are said to live here.

Zi-tac: The smallest of the Frilled Confederation villages, Zi-tac defends the Mud Flats from all intruders. It pays tribute to the Great Wyrm Tsatholquimad.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Delta, in Color

Here is the campaign map for the Lizardfolk playtest, the Delta Lands.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I Love Fantasy

It is by far my favorite genre for role-playing, one that I only rarely get tired of, and even then it's not long before I want to get back in the saddle. This is not to say that I don't love other genres, I do. Horror can be awesome, and I can even get into some super-hero stuff every now and then. Sci-fi is also great, and of course historical is my go to. But even then, my historical games tend to be history plus elements of fantasy. I just simply adore games with magic and monsters. I really don’t care if they are set on Athas or Middle-Earth, modern Chicago or Ancient Rome, give me some spell casters and some nasties, plus as many of the other trappings as you can fit in, and I am a happy gamer.
Its not just the trappings of the fantasy genre I love, it’s the themes, the supernatural, multiple intelligent species, a strong inspiration from mythology and folklore, and heroes defeating villains. There is a lot of overlap with other genres, and that is one of the things I love the most. Star Wars is fantasy, just set long, long ago with robots, spaceships, and aliens. It is the journey of the hero, complete with magic, evil that is outright evil, and not the run of the mill realistic evil either, and even swords! Fantasy is a very flexible genre, and includes hundreds if not thousands of sub-genres. Dresden Files is as much fantasy as Forgotten Realms, after all.
I really don’t care that much about what system gets used, I have tried so many fantasy systems that do the job nicely, especially with regards to a specific subgenre. Pendragon is a fine fantasy system for historical games set in the Arthurian mythos. I wouldn't want to use it for dungeon crawling classic fantasy, however. Not that it couldn't be adapted, it can and I have, but there are other systems that do it better. World of Darkness both new and old are not expressly fantasy games, though they certainly have many of the trappings and themes. Both of these systems can be readily adapted to a range of fantasy subgenres, some more than others (I am looking at you Werewolf and Mage). True, all the World of Darkness material can be used for other genres, most notably horror, but they also contain many fantasy elements, and its how you run the game that defines the genre, at least in this case, and not so much how the game is written.
My favorite systems for fantasy are the classics, Dungeons and Dragons and its successors. They all do the traditional fantasy well, though they vary in their performance regarding subgenres (D&D 4e more so than the earlier editions is the most laser focused on one subgenre). However, I also enjoy the freedom of generic systems to write by own subgenre, especially with GURPS and BRP. This is not to discount some of the rogue systems out there that do fantasy, and do it well. Barbarians of Lemuria is my go to for swords and sorcery style fantasy. Ars magica isn’t so much a system as a historical fantasy setting, and a good one at that. I wouldn't mind giving Legends of Anglerre a shot again, only do it differently this time and stick to a more structured setting and plot.
I recently picked up Savage Worlds Fantasy Companion and would love to run a fantasy campaign using that, but alas my gaming groups have solid campaigns going that my players and I enjoy, so there is no new campaign in sight. Well, honestly, its just a matter of time before I kill them all or one PC makes a glaring mistake that takes them all down.

Friday, March 18, 2011

NS-1 Vengeance of the Long Serpent Design Notes

When I set out to write this adventure I wanted something that dealt with themes from the Nordic Sagas and other works of the medieval Germanic peoples. However, I did not want to just do Pathfinder Beowulf or some such, but instead take these themes, mix them with history and the great tradition of fantasy role-playing, and see what happened. What developed was a blend of the Greenland sagas, the history of Norse exploration of the North America (which we will see more of in later parts of the Northlands Saga), and a heavy dose of inspiration from Lovecraft and Howard.
What we see in Vengeance is the PCs becoming involved in what should be a voyage of exploration aimed at garnering some wealth. In some ways they are caught up in this, as their new friend and patron, Halbjorn, may likely be more enthusiastic about the whole endeavor than they are. Once they reach the Far North, they discover that things are not as they thought they would be, and (hopefully) take part in the uprising against the Children of Althunak.
Two items in the adventure of which I am inordinately proud of are the Far North itself and Halbjorn's long monologue. In designing the Far North I wanted to provide not just a setting for the adventure, but a place that the characters can return to again and again in search of wealth, fame and glory. There are mammoths to hunt, areas to explore, and wealth to be garnered in that frigid land. Hallbjorn's monologue includes a large number of kennings; turns of phrase that are used to poetically describe an event, person, or place. I simply love kennings and writing so many of them into the dialogue was a great joy.
There is more that I can say about Vengeance, but that would probably give away too much of the adventure. I encourage anyone who plays fantasy or historical RPGs, and especially those who play Pathfinder or Swords and Wizardry to pick up a copy, in print or pdf (why not both) from Frog God Games. Next up in the series is NS-2 Beyond the Wailing Mountains, which continues the story started in Vengeance. I am currently working on NS-3 The Death Curse of Sven Oakenfist that promises to be a humdinger of an adventure involving the laws of hospitality, two dungeon crawls, and plenty of curses. Finally, if you enjoy the Northlands Saga, a short system-less campaign document, the Northlands Saga Campaign Setting is in production and will be available as a pdf in the near future.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Session Notes 2

This game was ran over two sessions using Savage Worlds wiht a group of six players. Mostly it was run as written, though a few flourishes were added here and there. The Hound of Shub-Niggurath was intended to be bullet proof, which worked nicely. Unfortunately for it, the Hound was not half-ton stone block proof. The actual mission was scrubbed a the last minute, sending our CASS team off to North Africa on an emergency. The session ended with the team in a crippled B-17 plunging towards southern France, a Me-109 chasing after them.

The Barbarossa

1. Downtime, 4 weeks
2. Mission Briefing
a. Secretary, case officer
b. This is an overt mission
i. This is the Barbarossa, Hitler's latest toy
1. It is a flying aircraft carrier
2. Capable of carrying 15 fighters and 8 bombers
3. Heavily armed and armored
4. Carries its own bomb payload
ii. You will be part of the operation that is going to destroy it before it is completed
iii. It is being constructed in Rostock on the Baltic Sea
iv. You are being sent to England for jump training
v. On March 1 you will embark from England on Carrier Task Force 19
vi. You and a company of US Rangers will be parachuted in at 3am on the night of March 10 on to the airfields near the shipyards
vii. Your primary objective is to secure the airfields and hold them against enemy counterattack
1. Once the airfields are secure you will send a coded message via radio "Excelsior"
2. This will signal bombers to unload on the shipyards
3. You and the Rangers will then board any aircraft that is usable and fly north to rendezvous with Carrier Task Force 19.
viii. Disposition of enemy forces
1. Rostock is not heavily garrisoned
2. Expect the Nazis to be largely third rate troops, old men and boys
3. Five companies of Wermacht regulars
4. 1 company of Panzers
5. The biggest threat is the possible presence of Dr. von Blud and his Ubermensch
6. Dossiers
7. The airfield is garrisoned by a company of the 134. Grenadiers, a reserve regiment.
ix. The Airfield
1. Your primary objective will be to destroy the planes located in the hangars out British friends have amusingly labeled the mount farm
2. After that, destroy the control tower, the fuels dump, and cause as many casualties amongst the pilots as you can. Taking them prisoner is also an option, but we will not be transporting prisoners out.
3. The technical site should be destroyed as well, and any research materials there should be recovered.
3. Interlude: Jump Training at Camp Barnam outside of London
a. Combat training with the rangers (5 xp bonus, must be spent on combat skills or edges, not powers)
i. Obstacle course, running, field craft training, etc…
b. Agility rolls for three training jumps, failure equals 2d12 damage and see below
4. Interlude: A traitor
a. Svetlana receives a mysterious message "meet me in Hyde Park on the 21st at 10pm by the rose garden."
b. Mysterious stranger standing under a lamp post, smoking a cigarette (Galushes)
i. Tan trench coat, black felt hat, hands and face wrapped in bandages
ii. Hands Svetlana an envelope
iii. Fades into the fog
5. Interlude: Hospital Number 9
a. Several of the Rangers injured when two planes collide during landing (after a training jump)
b. Those sent to hospital Number 9 fare well at first, but then go down hill
c. Mystery (PCs there may also be swept up) why do so many soldiers die at Hospital Number 9?
i. The Doctors and nurses are members of a secret vile cult that sacrifices blood and organs to Shub-Niggurath, the Goat with a Thousand Young
1. Altar in the woods near the hospital, pre-Celtic ruins
2. 15 cultists in total
3. Ritual sacrifices, scarification and orgies
4. Cult originated in France, came to England after the Fall of France
ii. Doctors:
1. Dr. Timothy Ville, British surgeon, young and affable
2. Dr. Henry Vouchard, French Surgeon, bitter and cantankerous
3. Dr. Llwylln Jones, Welsh surgeon, leader of the cult, distant and cruel
iii. Important Nurses:
1. Betty Greeves, Brisith head nurse, bitter and sarcastic
2. Suzzy Greenwood, American nurse young, pretty, and not entirely under the cult's influence
3. Emma Walthers, British nurse, young, pretty, and vindictive
iv. The Ritual
1. Timing, begin clock at 6:30 pm, ritual occurs at 8pm
2. A circle of nine celebrants are nude save for ornate goat's heads headdresses.
3. They surround the body of a young girl from the village, Maggie, who they have kidnapped.
4. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young!
5. As the ritual completes, the chanting reaches a crescendo and Maggie unzips from neck to pubis, black light spills forth, strange vapors, and a tentacle emrges, the Dark Hound of Shub-Niggurath is born to rampage across the area.
6. Dark Hound of Shub-Niggurath
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d8 (A), Spirit d10, Strength d12, Vigor d12
Skills: Fighting d10, Howl d8, Notice d8, Stealth d10,
Pace: 9 Parry: 7 Toughness: 12
Special Abilities:
• Cause Madness: The sight of the Hound causes all to make a Spirit roll or suffer temporary insanity.
• Size +2
• Discordant Howl: The howl is a flame template area of effect that causes those hit to roll Spirit vs. the Hound's Howl or be shaken, wounded on a raise
• Low Light Vision
• Fast Regeneration
• Fearless
• Armor (Hide)
6. The Mission
a. Agility to pick landing place, Success= off 1d6 random, Raise= dead on, Failure= off 2d6 random, Crit= drift into trees
b. Agility to land, Success= shaken, Raise= fine, Failure= wound, Crit= 2 wounds
c. Initial resistance is minimal
d. Counter attack before dawn by 2 panzers, 1 company of grenadiers, and the Ubermensch
e. Bombers late, but arrive
f. Safe flight back

Friday, March 4, 2011

Session Notes 1

I have been asked to share my RPG session notes and outlines, this is the first of many. The campaign this one was written for is a low-powerd super heroes game set during WWII. Savage Worlds, a great system, is the one used.

The Beast Men of the Boundary Waters

1. Assemble the PCs in Washington
a. CASS: the Combined Allied Strategic Services
i. Exists to pool and share gifted personnel resources
ii. Used for overt and covert actions
iii. Deployed to counter Axis gifted resources
b. The American branch (Office of Strategic Services)
i. Offices in the Munitions Building on the Mall in Washington
1. Main Offices in the third floor, overlooking the reflecting pool rooms 314-329
2. R&D is in the basement, room 005
ii. Room 326
1. Mrs. Harriett Hall, secretary
a. Attractive lady in her late twenties, very formal and standoffish
2. PCs case manager: Captain Everett Block
a. One eyed ex-marine officer, served in the Great War and in Panama
b. Gritty, down to earth
c. Happy New Year to all, I pray this one will be better than the last.
iii. Housed in a Brownstone
1. Rooms for all
2. Detached garage
3. Basement
4. Staff
a. Housekeeper: Mrs. Burton
i. Older widow, mother hen
b. Maid: Missy
i. Black woman, young and pretty
c. Cook: Sally
i. Middle aged black woman, Missy's mother and married to Henry
d. Driver, gardener, handyman: Henry
i. Middle aged black man
iv. Have access to regular and special resources
c. Meet with Everett Block
2. The Mission
a. Primary Objective: secure Dr. Gruber and his research
i. Dr. Gruber is a noted biologist and chemist
1. Hand out dossier.
ii. His current research has been funded by the defense department and is meant to create a serum that will enhance the combat abilities of the average soldier.
iii. Dr. Gruber is a native born American, but has strong ties to the American Bund.
iv. His research assistant, Eliza Drew, has expressed her concerns about the doctor's political activities to the FBI.
1. Hand out dossier.
v. Dr. Gruber works at his private laboratory in the Boundary Waters region of Minnesota.
vi. You will travel to Chicago, Illinois and contact Deputy Director Melvin Purvis of the FBI.
b. Secondary Objective: prevent the Nazis from obtaining Dr. Gruber's research
i. Miss Drew has obtained information that suggests that Dr. Gruber is scheduled to meet with German Major Heinrich Strasser in St. Paul, Minnesota on the 5th of this month.
1. Hand Out Dossier
ii. Major Strasser was spotted in Montreal on December 23rd by Canadian operatives. They pursued, and three were killed.
iii. It is believed that Major Strasser has at least four SS agents with him, if not more.
c. Tertiary Objective: Maintain covert operation
i. The nature of Dr. Gruber's research must be kept top secret.
ii. Do not display your abilities or identities to civilians.
iii. Limit exposure of your abilities and identities to military personnel.
iv. The FBI is well briefed on your identities, abilities, and operations, consider them full partners and entirely read in to the OSS and CASS.
d. Resources
i. Due to the time critical nature of this operation, you are being provided with first class air tickets to Chicago, and from Chicago to St. Paul.
ii. The FBI can make additional resources, such as cars and other forms of transportation, available to you as needed.
iii. Hotel reservations have been made in the names of your cover identities.
iv. Each of you will be issued a sidearm, as needed.
v. Additionally, we have available for this mission the following weapons:
1. 2x Thompson Submachine guns
2. A BAR
3. 3x 12-guage pump action shotguns
4. 4x MK1 Hand Grenades
5. 6x bullet proof vests
6. An experimental restraint system (tangler shotgun shells)
vi. Good hunting!
3. The Journey
a. Interlude Table
b. Draw a card; hold onto it until the segment of the adventure called for is reached. If you play it, you get a bennie.
Card Result
2 (Boundary Waters or St. Paul) Trouble: Ambush by Nazi Agents
3-4 (Before Chicago) Obstacle: The plane loses a propeller, forcing it to make an emergency landing. At least a day, if not more, is lost.
5-6 (In Chicago) Injury: Caught in a bank robbery.
7-8 Trial: The cold and wet of the Boundary Waters gets to you, suffer a fatigue level on the day before getting to Dr. Gruber's laboratory.
9-10 (Boundary Waters) Wonder: Along the way you see the beautiful Bear Lake.
Jack (Anytime) Anecdote: Something amusing happens to your character.
Queen (Anytime) Memento: Something reminds you of a short story about your character's past.
King (Chicago) Clue: A mysterious lady in a blue dress gives you a clue to solving the mystery.
Ace (Boundary Waters) Treasure: While making camp, you come across a buried suitcase wrapped in oiled canvas. The suitcase contains $3000 and has the letters JD monogrammed on it.
Joker (Anytime) Luck of the Heroes: You get an extra bennie, describe why you are lucky this mission.

4. In Chicago
a. The PCs met with Deputy Director Purvis
i. The FBI does not have a clue as to where Strasser is.
ii. They know where Dr. Gruber's lab is in the Boundary Waters, and have Miss Drew in protective custody; the PCs can go talk to her.
iii. Arrangements have been made with the St. Paul office to supply canoes and other equipment.
b. At the safe house (a run down tenement on the south side)
i. The agents in stationed in a car out front are dead, a close range bullet wound in their head.
ii. In the single room apartment, there are three dead agents, a dead man of unknown origin, bullet holes, casings (.45 and 9mm), and no Miss Drew. The smell of cordite hangs in the air. From the alley below a car door slams and tires squeal.
iii. Three cars
iv. The lead has Strasser, two Nazi thugs, and Miss Drew.
v. #2 has four Nazi thugs
vi. #3 has three Nazi thugs and a Wolfen SS trooper.
c. The chase will lead from the Southside through the slums and out into the country. Police help is possible, but inadequate.
5. The Meeting in St. Paul
a. Gruber and Strasser are scheduled to meet at noon in the Blue Moon Café, downtown.
b. If Strasser gets away with the Miss Drew, then no one shows up.
c. If Strasser is stopped, only Gruber shows up.
i. Strasser is hoping to snatch Grubber at the meet, and dispose of the heroes
ii. He will have whatever troops he had before, plus eight Bund thugs armed with improvised melee weapons and pistols
iii. Gruber brings along two disguised beastmen goons
6. The Boundary Waters
a. Gruber's lab is thirty miles into the Boundary Waters on a small island in the middle of Seagull Lake
b. It is winter, the water is frozen solid and the travel will be difficult (Vigor check or 1 level of fatigue)
c. Bear attack
7. Dr. Gruber's Laboratory
a. The island is small, only three hundred by two hundred yards and heavily wooded with conifers and scattered deciduous trees.
b. The island is guarded by four beastmen armed with double barreled shotguns
c. If Strasser is available, he will be here with any troops he has left.
d. Strasser and Gruber are in the lab, Strasser's men are packing to leave.
e. The lab is a small wooden cabin (see map)
f. Strasser will send his men to fight, hoping to escape with Gruber, or at least Gruber's notes, on his armored aerosan.