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.