The Northlands saga is a bit of a different beast than most published materials. It’s quite a bit looser than most published adventure modules, yet quite a bit more specific than most sandbox/setting related materials. Essentially, it’s a Vikings vs. Evil Eskimos adventure. The party is given the opportunity to join a viking treasure expedition to the far north. The Long Serpent, a viking ship, has just returned to port from an exploration/resource gathering trip with a large portion of it’s crew dead, but also with some pretty interesting treasure. another expedition is organized and the party joins. On the way to the north a couple of programmed encounters happens, one of which leaves the party in charge of the expedition. Reaching the shores of the frozen the party then …
What happens next? Well, things could go a few different ways. The party could tool about and hunt seals, whales, and other assorted wildlife. They could also hunt a cult of evil eskimos. What the DM is presented with is a the bare bones of a wilderness area. There’s one ‘good’ village and five evil villages. Each village except for the last is very briefly described; basically how many warriors, dogs, slaves, and women/children. The last village gets a little more, but no maps are provided for any of them. The party is led to believe that the evil villagers have vast amount of treasure, which along with the revenge motive, is the basis for the adventure. Only the last village/temple actually has any treasure though.
And that’s just about all there is to this product. It’s clearly VERY opened ended, just providing a framework for the kinds of action that could take place. How will the party, and the 20 sailors/vikings on their ship deal with the evil villagers? What do the villages look like and what will be the plan of attack, if any? How will the villagers react? What kind of framework will the party use to gather treasure/resources? All in all, it’s very much has the feel of 13th Warrior crossed with Vault of the Drow. “Here’s a bunch of primitive people in some tersely described area. Go get rich and seek revenge.”
We are provided one general map of the layout the villages; how they relate to each other geographically, and one map of the main evil village which shows a bit more information on the huts and so on. a small amount of data is provided on the history of the region and how the peoples came to be here and how the evil cult got started.
If you’re looking for that kind of the general overview of a small area, with an open-ended adventure seed then this will fit the bill. If you are looking for an extremely detailed setting in the far north, ala the MERP Lossoth supplement, then this is NOT for you. It’s certainly nothing like a traditional dungeon adventure and is clearly a wilderness adventure; something like Isle of Dread if that product contained A LOT less detail. That’s not in and of itself a bad thing as long as you know what you’re getting in to. It’s really a kind of adventure seed that’s quite a bit more fleshed out than most.
There is one encounter I take issue with. One of the programmed encounters causes he captain to die, putting the party in charge of the expedition. I understand WHY this was done, so the party can do what they want, but I’m still a bit uneasy about it. A certain part of me thinks that if the captain was left alive then it could have provided some interesting roleplay moments as the party seeks to EARN the trust of the crew and perhaps tangles with the captains motives, especially of the party were co-leaders of the expedition.
This is available at DriveThru.