Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Northlands Saga, Part Two: Wyrd of the Winter King

Six months since the PCs rescued the jarl's daughters from the witch Sibbe, a new threat emerged from unknown shores. A messenger came to Silvermeade Hall, speaking of a series of attacks. Each time, a mysterious "Winter King" came to the coasts of towns and villages, making unreasonable demands and slaughtering when the fighting broke out. A few times his iceberg retreated, only to leave an unnatural winter in its wake, bringing famine and subjecting survivors to a slow death. His next route is the domain of Halfstead. In discussion with the war council, the jarl and the PCs and his advisors figure out the iceberg's likely route (thanks to Armund) and seek to attack him first in the middle of the ocean before he gets too close. Several longships are outfitted for war, and the jarl and the PCs set out for battle. Syrasi, a Nuklander elf recently hired to be the jarl's magical expert, tagged along as did the troll-kin warrior Vigbjorn.

Eventually after several days of sailing they come to a thick mist and strong storm, with a massive iceberg 3 miles in diameter adrift at sea. Misfortune occurs as soon as the ships set shore, for the Winter King's fell magic sends out giant icicles as siege weapons, forcing the ships to pull back as the PCs and One-Eyed Sven's team leaps to dry land. Weathering storms, undead warriors, and ice mephits, the party later finds Sven unconscious, as well as a giant bridge leading to a mysterious palace. Deciding not to leave him to die, the party does their best to tend to Sven's wounds and keep him warm as they continued exploring.

The western gates were heavily guarded by some surprisingly tenacious skeleton warriors, forcing the party to get their bearings and rest for a few hours. Around that time the jarl's main force circled around to the north side of the iceberg, ascended the cliffs, and assaulted the north side of the palace. After resting up and looting a nearby accounting house, the PCs saw some vikings engaged in combat around the plaza. The PCs helped them out, and got an update of the jarl's progress. The northeast section of the palace is being cleared out, but the undead warriors were very tough and so not much progress was made. The PCs decided to clear out the rest of the south side, finding a treasury with a magical shrunken boat, a lot of loot, and an old shrine to Althunak, an obscure demon god of frost who absorbed the souls of vanquished foes via cannibalism.

The PCs ascended the eastern spire to get a better vantage point. From below, peering down into the courtyard, the jarl's forces were matched up against equally fearsome zombie soldiers. Spotting a giant block of ice hanging by fragile chains, Askeladden relayed a message spell to the jarl of their plan while Syrasi got ready to loose a crossbow bolt at the chains.

The plan worked, the undead forces were tricked under the block as the jarl's party gave a false retreat. The party's efforts did not go unnoticed, as a series of long, slow claps emanated from across the bridge to the north. An armored man astride a skeletal steed was there, and his voice carried over clearly as though he were right next to them. Unusually talkative, the Winter King introduced himself as Prince Uth'ilopiq, of a long-dead civilization, and how he went by many names for his terrible deeds in service to his abyssal lord. He challenged the party to battle, but not before the tower on the far end blocked off the stairwell entrances with giant icicles, preventing any reinforcements in helping the PCs.

A pitched battle was held on the bridge. Two of the vikings with the party went down, Syrasi's glitterdust blinded his steed, and the Winter King's summoned winds nearly knocked Vigbjorn and Askeladden off the bridge. Heavily exhausted and wounded, with allies and summoned monsters falling alike, it was unclear who the victor would be. The tower was about to launch another icicle, this time at the docked northern ships, but not before the rest of Sven's team disabled it by killing the mages and jumping to the bridge to join the battle below (albeit a bit late).

But Askeladden struck the killing blow, and the Winter King, laughing, pulled himself deeper onto the blade, speaking in a whisper of how they struck the killing blow, but not before he tore open a "wound that will never heal." The iceberg was tied to his essence, and mere seconds later cracks in the earth and tremors threatened to rend the castle apart. Chaos descended around the party as the Winter King laughed moments before he was beheaded.

The party rushed as fast as they could, using the magical shrunken boat when it seemed that all was lost. The palace and its unholy legacy sank beneath the waves, as the party rejoined the jarl's ship, the Long Serpent, and set off back to Silvermeade Hall.

It was a joyous yet somber occasion. As people were thankful that the Winter King's reign of terror was brought to an end, so too did they mourn the many warriors who died that day to spare them his wrath. Bodies which were recovered were placed in ships set out to sea, lit by burning arrows as is custom. And a long, dark winter set in.

DM's Notes

I will admit that I made some minor alterations to the adventure, although the crux of it is more or less the same. Originally the Winter King's iceberg was but an unknown factor, and the party got there by going a-viking in exploring unknown waters. I decided to make Prince Uth'ilopiq a more immediate threat and played up the angle of Jarl Henrikson leading a raiding party to make war. I felt that this gave more of a "push" for the characters, both to act first before the iceberg got to Halfstead. The icicle siege weapons were originally just strong winds which blown the ships back, but this more obvious threat would better connect things as an obstacle to disable to help the longships safely approach and dock.

The Winter King was also originally intended to be fought in his throne room, but since it seemed that the party was wandering elsewhere and happened to be exploring next to a grand bridge I had their fateful encounter there instead.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Slumbering Tsar Saga, Session 1

Welcome to the Edge of Oblivion

The party arrived at the Camp, just in time to notice a maddened hill giant rampaging through town, with the PCs right in the way. After dispatching him, Thorgrim used his knowledge of the environment to track down his last movements, along with Arliden's brief mental connection to get a sense of the giant's fate. It turns out that the giant was the leader of a mercenary band of ogres, offering to escort representatives from Bard's Gate to a fissure in the Chaos Rift, only to be ambushed by gargoyles. The giant said some things in his native tongue, a language none of the party knew but could remember a few choice words for later reference.

Following the trail, the party set sight on the Chaos Rift, a deep series of trenches seemingly slashed into the land itself. Although their attempt at sneaking into the gargoyle aerie failed, the party's fast reflexes got the drop on several of the winged monsters. After wiping out 8 of their number without suffering any casualties, the gargoyles offered a truce. They not only will stop fighting and give their only prisoner (an elf from Bard's Gate named Holcolm), they would give one piece of hidden treasure to the party if they can find their lost leader. The party accepted, venturing deeper into the cave, only to find the gargoyle leader's fate at the hands of a fungal slime colony. After readily dispatching it and a close call with an infestation of said fungus, the party returned. Alexis conjured up a wild tale of heroism to the assembled gargoyles, explaining how after valiantly dying in battle, the gargoyle passed on leadership of the tribe was granted to him. Amazingly the gargoyles fell for it, and from then on became loyal minions. The party decided to use their knowledge of the Rift first, deciding to call upon them for battle only when the time is right.

Arliden offered to take Holcolm back to the relative safety of the Camp, while the rest of the party followed up on rumors of a monster named Old Death who managed to do in a few of the gargoyles. They also heard word of two stony pillars where green lightning pulses from on a plateau in the middle of the canyon, but first came the monster.

The party hardly entered Old Death's canyon before coming into view of legions of petrified adventures, and was promptly attacked by an abyssal basilisk. Using spell-conjured mud and fog to blind it they kept the fiend's foul gaze at bay while they slowly worn down its defenses. Afterwards the group came into contact with a giant spider corpse made to look like a living being in the middle of a giant web and killed its two ettercap architects. But at this point the day was growing late, and so the party decided to retreat and make camp.

The Slumbering Tsar Saga, Cast of Characters

Aside from Northlands, my other weekly game is Slumbering Tsar with an entirely different group. It started about a month earlier than Northlands, and the adventure has a very different feel to it which keeps things interesting. A dark fantasy vibe in a desolate region scarred by the lingering taint of evil, where the only major center of civilization is a tent-city of outcasts and refugees. The central feature is the city of Tsar, once a grand and evil temple-city of the demon god Orcus now dusty ruins from a long-ago battle.

This post focuses on the PCs, our possibly-doomed, possibly-victorious heroes who dare to set foot in Orcus' once-greatest domain!

Meet the Cast

Nobu Itoma: An ascetic exile who trained in a Stoneheart Mountains monastery, his wanderings brought him to Tsar, driven by both personal motivation to master his elemental talents and to rid the world of the Desolation's spreading vileness.

Mechanical Information: Kineticist from Occult Adventures.  Calls upon the powers of stone and fire to barrage enemies in a hail of elemental fury.

Alexis Karamazov: An exile from the Wizarding Academy of Endholme no longer welcome due to his participation in conspiring to overthrow a noble dynasty (thus violating Endholme's policy of political neutrality). Aside from his fellow PCs, his other steadfast companion is his faerie dragon familiar who oddly seems to be as magically powerful as its master.

Mechanical Information: Sorcerer specializing in area of effect and debuffing spells. Fond of creating pits, summoning monkey swarms, and using telekinetic water-filled barrels as cover and the occasional siege weapon.

Arliden (Arl) Penthe: an Orange-ranked cleric of Solanus (god of healing), Arliden was dissatisfied with his higher-ranking peers' reactive measures against plague, maladies, and other causes of suffering. Hearing of the Desolation's reputation, he sought to travel to this region to stem the tide of foul magics and cleanse the hapless souls trapped there. But unlike many healers of the cloth, is more than willing to turn an enemy's own life force against them in a near-vampiric fashion.

Mechanical Information: a psychic Vitalist, Arliden is the primary provider of the silent telepathic network the group uses to communicate with each other. He is fond of delving into the minds of enemies and aiding the party with healing and morale boosts. Can fire off a bolt of energy in a cinch.

Thorgrim Stoneborn: a duergar veteran of the deep realms of the earth, Thorgrim's original reason for coming to the Camp was rumors of a Silverhelm Clan war party searching for the bones of their former king who fell during the Battle of Tsar. His frosty demeanor makes him a peculiar ally, but such a mindset has served the party well in this dreadful land.

Mechanical Information: Hunter with a penchant for physical combat and a mighty giant lizard animal companion. Is the most physically-inclined member of the party, Nobu coming in second. Use of teamwork feats and Eternal Guardian maneuvers (Path of War Expanded) allows him to exploit enemy movements and attacks by turning threatened squares into difficult terrain and provoking attacks of opportunity for those who try to fight him or his trusty lizard.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Dragons of Renewal, DL6: Dragons of Ice

Dragons of Ice Cover by Larry Elmore

Note: The original DL5 was a setting overview of the world of Krynn before there was a full campaign setting. Since future up-to-date books adequately cover this ground, I "skipped" that sourcebook.

Dragons of Ice is the first appropriately-named chapter in the Winter arc, and also marks the splitting of the party as well as the inclusion of a DMPC for an appreciable segment of the campaign.


The PCs makes their way to the City of Tarsis, once a thriving port now a land-locked shanty due to the ravages of the Cataclysm. Looking for safe passages for the Abanasinian refugees, it becomes clear that Tarsis' port is of no use. Thus the must stay in Thorbadin and only an end to the wars will things return to normalcy. The party meets up with a detachment of the Knights of Solamnia seeking to research of ways to defeat the Dragonarmies. During this time the PCs learn of the Dragon Orbs in the hidden Library of Khrystann, and Tarsis falls under siege by the Blue Dragonarmies. Escaping with Derek Crownguard and the Solamnic Knights, the PCs flee the city and get word to head south to Icewall Glacier from an old couple advising them to follow "the path of the white bear."

While traveling south to Icewall Glacier, the PCs find and save a polar bear being tortured by minotaurs and camp out in a shipwreck during a storm. They are later found by a tribe of Ice Folk, who offers them hospitality and explain their recent troubles with thanoi (walrus-men) and minotaurs. If the PCs accompany them back to their village, Derek Crownguard shows the PCs a map of Ansalon. He explains that the free peoples of Krynn are gathering at the isle of Sancrist to discuss an organized resistance against the Dragon Empire. The White Dragonarmy attacks the Camp, and the PCs take part in mass combat. After the battle the Ice Folk seek vengeance at Icewall Castle, the headquarters of the White Dragonarmy.

After entering, the PCs have opportunities to discover a Dragonlance-bearing knight (now dead) encased in ice; fight the White Dragon Highlord Feal-Thas and recover his personal journals; and possibly discover the Dragon Orb guarded by his draconic mount Sleet in the lower reaches. Having dealt a great blow to the Dragonarmies, the PCs head to the nearby Ice Mountain Bay with grateful Ice Folk to find and unearth a sea-worthy vessel. Their trials over in southern Ansalon for the time being, the PCs take off for Sancrist only to encounter stormy conditions and possibly a dragon attack which leaves them shipwrecked.

Things to Change/Look Out For

Siege of Tarsis

Dragon Attack from Pathfinder: Burnt Offerings

Originally, the PCs' main headquarters in Tarsis is the Red Dragon Inn. Splitting up to investigate, the Winter team headed for the Library while the Spring team stayed behind. When the Blue Dragonarmy invades, the Spring team escapes thanks to the timely arrival of Alhana Starbreeze shortly after an aerial assault levels the Inn. In both teams' cases, the adventure encourages the PCs to flee the city.

This will be covered in Spring, but given that Alhana Starbreeze is literally a character they never met before and the PCs might be heroic types who don't want to abandon innocents, I propose a few changes.

First, have both Alhana Starbreeze and Derek Crownguard meet the Autumn PCs (along with any new PCs) before the adventure proper, using the Inn as a sort of informal "war room." That way nobody will be taken aback at an elf appearing out of nowhere demanding the PCs flee without their comrades.

Secondly, provide for a way for the Winter and Spring teams to let each other know that the other side is safe, or prepared drills beforehand in case of an invasion (which the adventure points to as likely given the mayor's appeasement to the Dragonarmies). In my campaign I had Khrystann's local chronicler, a gnome journalist of my own creation by the name of Widge Pathwarder deliver a message to the Spring team. Depending on the system you're using, and if using a smaller 4 person party, it's likely that the PCs have access to scrying magic at this point, too.

Thirdly, place an emphasis on evacuating civilians. Tarsis is unready for a full-on siege, but the PCs are likely to want to help in whatever way they can. The base adventure includes an encounter where the party can rescue an old couple from opportunistic looters, but otherwise most of the events do not provide opportunities for the PCs to feel like Big Damn Heroes. In my own campaign I included an encounter where the PCs had to break apart a Dragonarmy barrier in the middle of the street to free captured citizens. They also had the opportunity to help guide civilians into nearby sewer entrances while blue dragons rained lightning from the skies. I modified the kapak assassin encounter to occur in the tunnels with civilians below so that the PCs needed to play things smart (kapaks release a cloud of poison gas upon death).

Splitting the Party

Back in the Character Creation post I discussed this upcoming eventuality, but as of now there are some more things to add.

The original Chronicles party was a whopping 8 person band, and the addition of DMPCs over the adventures swells this number even further. Thus a party split in these circumstances is manageable. However, if your gaming group is a more reasonable 3 to 5 group, making new PCs is likely in order. For my own campaign the new PCs more or less comprised the Spring team, fellow folk who suffered losses at the Dragonarmy's hands. The Winter team was the original Autumn PCs. Granted, you may prefer a mixture of old and new PCs in each team, but for maximum role-play potential consider assigning PCs to one of two teams based on their backstories and character concepts:

Winter Team:

Solamnic Knight: This chivalrous order plays a huge part in the later adventures of this arc, and can make for some nice contrast with Derek Crownguard.

Kagonesti/Qualinesti Elf: The Qualinesti made a colony on the Isle of Sancrist, as did the Silvanesti. The two groups are on poor terms with the native Kagonesti.

Politician/Commander Types: From the Battle of the High Clerist Tower to the Whitestone Council, Dragons of Winter is full of opportunities for leaders of men to decide the fate of Krynn.

Dragonarmy Deserters/Turncoats: The final chapter in Winter involves infiltrating the heart of the Dragon Empire in its largest city. Naturally heroes with a connection to this fell bastion of evil will be invaluable.

Craftsmen/Artisans/Tinkers: Although the base adventure assumes that Theros Ironfeld will craft the Dragonlances once their secret is discovered in Foghaven Vale, this role can just as easily be filled by a PC, especially if they lost an arm at some point in the adventure. The proximity of Mount Nevermind in Sancrist can be a good place for a gnomish tinker to meet up with colleagues.

Spring Team:

Silvanesti Elf: The first chapter involves venturing into the nightmare landscape of Silvanesti with its princess to restore it to its former glory. Enough said.

Clerics and Religious Types: Ideal for both, but this adventure particularly explores the legacy of the Cataclysm in Dragons of Faith where the PCs explore the undersea ruins of Istar. In Dragons of Truth the PCs venture to the Glitterpalace where they may speak with the Gods of Light

Kender/Guerrilla Types: Virtually all of eastern Ansalon lies under the Dragon Empire's dominion, the kender of the Goodlund Peninsula and the Nightmare Lands of Silvanesti the only places more or less unclaimed but still suffering. Dragons of Shadow (3.5) or Faith (AD&D) extensively detail these environs, and may give the PCs opportunity to ally with the Silver Fox and make inroads against the Dragonarmies on their home turf.

Derek Crownguard

The follies and potential troubles of DMPCs have been discussed in many forums. But the other major thing to address is Derek Crownguard's personality. Although I haven't read this far into the novels, his personality is rather well-known for being perpetually hostile and unlikable. In the books he was constantly at odds with Sturm Brightblade and mostly on the quest for hopes of personal promotion by bringing the Dragon Orbs to the Whitestone Council. He's representative of an old and fallen knightly order more concerned with the letter than the spirit of the code; Sturm is the more moderate contrast who will eventually bring the Knights back to glory.

Naturally, one might ask why the PCs should bother at all with him. And that is indeed a good question. The simplest explanation is to dispense with him, having any existing knightly PCs assigned to Tarsis to research the Dragon Orbs. But in my own 13th Age campaign, I not only kept him, but altered his personality a bit. In combat he was more of a supplementary role, less a full NPC and more a "stunt tactic" or element the PCs can use to trigger combined assaults with and distractions. Personality-wise, I played him more as a slightly cantankerous yet well-meaning knight. the weight of the war and its stakes darkening his mood at times. He was still obsessed with the Dragon Orbs, viewing them as an ultimate trump card. The examples of the PC Paladin (who was also the role of Prophet) encouraged him to righteousness at the Battle of the High Clerist Tower, effectively becoming the leader of the Solamnic Knights during the war.

For those reasons, my own group did not mind him as much, but I can't say for sure if this will work for your own.

Incentive to Go South

Feal-Thas, White Dragon Highlord by JL Meyer

Both versions of Dragons of Ice use the old "wise elder with vague knowledge" trope to guide the PCs to Icewall Glacier. This, combined with Crownguard's revelation of Sancrist later at the Ice Folk Camp, makes the adventure feel extremely railroady due to the fact that the PCs are finding out the next location right after the other instead of a gradual organic planning. Even more so, the PCs might decide that heading to Sancrist is more important than the assault at Icewall Castle, which can be problematic.

For my own campaign, I baked the plot hook right into the adventure's first chapter: the texts within the Library of Khrystann not only revealed the history of the Dragon Orbs, but the revelation that long ago the Wizards of High Sorcery "went far south, to a land of snow and ice to hide them from the world due to their power." And contacts within the Knights of Solamnia revealed that the Dragonarmies were conducting an excavation in the Glacier itself, apparently searching for something.

I also made it so that Icewall Castle was actually close to the ocean, near the western section of the Glacier. The Castle had a harbor with sea-worthy boats, giving the PCs even more reason to go there for a proper boat to take to Sancrist.

In Conclusion

Dragons of Ice is an overall fair beginning to the Winter arc. It starts off with a bang as the city's besieged, includes a battle against the White Dragonarmy forces on the tundra, and climaxes with the discovery of a real Dragonlance to use against the dragon Sleet. Its weakest areas involve plot hooks and incentives, but hopefully this advice should shape this up into an even greater adventure!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Northlands Saga, Part One: Spring Rites

Note: At this point in the campaign Syrasi and Vigbjorn have yet to join until the next adventure. The current party is Askeladden, Amund, and Grackleback.

Our tale begins in the region of Halfstead, a relatively prosperous realm home to Silvermeade Hall and Jarl Olaf Henrikson. A single father with three daughters, the oldest one Runa is set to marry calling for celebrations. The PCs, trusted huscarls and confidants of the jarl's social circle, are entrusted with looking over them as they set off to pick flowers in a nearby field.

The daughters are quite a handful. Inga, the eldest, is very arrogant and treats the PCs like servants. Fastvi hopes to one day be a warrior and is enamored of Askeladden's status as skald. Runa, on the other hand, is reserved and carries on a conversation with an imaginary friend (or is it???).

While going to the field, and preventing Fastvi from overruning a farmer's crops in an ill-thought out horse dash, the party comes across a rather friendly hound who Runa desires to keep. Unfortunately, a witch by the name of Sibbe the Unkempt, indeed the very woman who helped deliver Runa's birth 9 years ago, seeks the girls to perform a blood sacrifice and enacts a powerful sleep spell on the field's occupants. The PCs fight for a bit as two of her henchmen, a berserker by the name of Njarni the Traitor and a scoundrel known as Clever Gufti attack. The dog bites Njarni in the genitals before it succumbs to sleep, earning the mutt a throat-slitting both for revenge and to make sure their scent can't be tracked down.

When the party comes to, the group sends Cecile (a paladin DMPC played by me for just this adventure) to inform the jarl of what happened, while the rest of the group rides off to save the girls. Along the way they meet a swamp-dwelling troll who's won over by Grackleback's offering of meat, sneak by some drunken cattle raiders and steal a cow for the aforementioned troll-blooded to eat, trek across the undead-haunted Barrow Lands, and come face to face with the dead dog whose spirit motivates him from beyond the grave and joins the party!

The PCs also meet Styr the Ugly, an outlaw who noticed Sibbe's group and tried to attack them, thinking them easy marks and to use the jarl's daughters as ransom. They did not count on a mind-controlled Runa or Sibbe to take out half his bandit crew with magical flames, and thus they had to huddle up and lick their losses. Askeladden convinces them to ambush Sibbe for revenge if nothing else. He accepts, and the PCs (plus a dog and 3 bandits) head up to tor. The sky is dark and stormy as Sibbe gets ready for her ritual. The PCs climb up the back, avoiding the easy to spot main pathways, and attack!

Sibbe is felled in one strike by Grackleback, interrupting her ritual. Coughing up blood she orders Runa to avenge her, and an already enlarged (11 feet tall) and berserking Njarni attacks Amund. Styr's bandits use the tor's standing stones as cover, taking shots at the villains, while Askeladden rushes to unbind Fastvi and Inga. Meanwhile Amund finishes off Njarni with one punch knocking him to his knees, then another square in the jaw.

Just in time the Jarl's war party ascends as Styr makes a speedy getaway. Olaf Henrikson is overjoyed to see his daughters safe and sound, and awards the party gold arm-rings as a sign of favor and trust. But unexpectedly, a legion of undead warriors meet the group as they head back. One of their leaders steps up, gesturing to the party for a necklace which Sibbe apparently stole from him. Askeladden gives it back, and in returns is granted an artifact blade as a gift.

Back at the hall the PCs are the talk of the town, with people asking them to retell their deeds, something the skald is all too happy to do. Alas, the undead hound refuses to go any farther and watches from the town's edges before heading off into the woods. Grackleback decides to follow him, and is looking to this day (and possibly to live among the swamp trolls, one of the few who shown her kindness).

The Northlands Saga, Cast of Characters

So around mid to late 2016 I snagged a PDF copy of the Northlands Saga Complete for Pathfinder. During this time I noticed an increasing crop of Nordic-themed RPG supplements as of late, and the idea of a full adventure path in a cold land of viking warriors was quite appealing. Yet gaming priorities prevented me from running this until early this year. As of now we're very far into the 2nd of 10 adventures within this book, and are having quite a bit of fun. I decided to chronicle our exploits in a campaign journal here.

This first covers the heroes of the North, both past and present. In other words, the PCs. As of this posting, all of the PCs save Grackleback are part of the current party.

Meet the Cast

Amund: An ingarsuk (giant from Inuit folklore), as a young boy Amund was captured in a Northlander raid and taken south to the domain of Halfstead. He spent his childhood in the town of Silvermeade Hall, earning a living as a hunter's apprentice and earned a place at the jarl's table in spite of his oft-distrusted heritage. A man of few words, he is still technically a boy in giant years, but for the time being he is assumed to be merely giant-blooded (humans with a distant touch of giantish heritage) by other villagers.

Mechanical Information: Jotunn Racial Paragon Class from Rite Publishing. Amund serves as a mix of melee and ranged support, alternating between spears, fists, and boulders. He's an accomplished hunter, and helped the party track down quarries and weathered the worst of the Northlands' climate.

Askeladden of the North: Raised alone by a mother who never spoke of his father, Askeladden heard many heroic sagas from her later forming his aptitude for skaldship. But a tragic storm at sea changed his fate, taking away the one person he respected more than anyone else in the world. He lived an itinerant life as a bandit, before meeting his match against a man he calls only "the Shieldstorm." A short yet fast friendship was formed out of this unlikely circumstance, but one day Askeladden's friend, disappeared, leaving but a handwritten recommendation to Jarl Olaf Henrikson to train Askeladden as a huscarl. Jarl Henrikson accepted, albeit grudgingly, and the skald isn't exactly happy about the situation either.

Mechanical Information: Skald hybrid class from Paizo Publishing. Although capable in melee combat, Askeladden is very heavy on using heroic ballads and minor magics to enhance the rest of the party's combat prowess. He's an experienced metalsmith and crafted more than a few magical arms for the party.

Grackleback: A troll-blooded woman of Silvermeade Hall, Grackleback is a rather friendly if gluttonous associate of Jarl Henrikson. She is not well-liked by the other inhabitants due to her heritage, although she and Amund got along well enough.

Grackleback's player bowed out of the campaign, and so the troll-blooded left the quaint village of Silvermeade Hall to search for an old friend...

Mechanical Information: a Rogue through and through, Grackleback fights with her claws, taking advantage on ambushes and openings in enemy defenses to bring down foes before they can strike back.

Syrasi the Curious: An elf whose people ventured north fleeing religious persecution, Syrasi is an accomplished worker of the magical arts. Jarl Henrikson was the one who requested she travel to his town to help consult him in supernatural affairs, although her other reason was that his departed wife contacted her from beyond the grave to help their daughter Runa control her magical heritage. Currently a free agent, Syrasi accompanies the party on their travels, motivated out of altruism to fight the many evils arrayed against them and the people she loves.

Mechanical Information: An elf Witch with variant racial traits suitable for cold travel, Syrasi focuses heavily on hexes and curses to debilitate enemies. She knows a variety of magical spells useful in and out of combat, and can craft magical scrolls.

Vigbjorn: A troll-blooded warrior of Silvermeade Hall, Vigbjorn displays great intelligence and mind's worth the envy of any warrior, which causes more than a few opponents to underestimate what they view as a "monster." Originally meant to serve as expendable cannon fodder in battle who managed to survive, he's now a steadfast companion of the other party members.

Mechanical Information: Multi-class Barbarian/Rogue with the Scout archetype, allowing for Sneak Attack damage to be applied during a charge attack. Hit fast and hit hard is the name of the game for Vigbjorn.

Aluki: An Ulnat woman from the village of Laquirv in the Far North. Aluki first met the party when her kayak was set adrift by a storm and crossed paths with their ship. She helped them fight against the Children of Althunak, a demonic cult terrorizing her people, and later on became smitten with Syrasi and volunteered to travel with them for a time.

Mechanical Information: Is an outdoors survival expert, capable of drawing upon magic to help the party better brave the harshness of nature. Specialized in ranged archery, able to shower foes with arrows from across the battlefield.