Land of Giants
Sourcebook for Pendragon
126pp - [sterling]???
Among the monthly outpouring of new RPG materials, Pendragon supplements
shine like gold. Always finely presented and faultlessly researched, each
contributes, piece by piece, to the Malorian panorama Chaosium are creating.
Enough brown nosing; suffice it to say I've been looking forward to the
Scandinavian sourcebook for years and now it's here at last.
The book presents pagan Scandinavia, or Thule, as a heroic setting, either for
Arthurian knights far from home or for an independent Northman campaign.
Coincidentally, the 5th century was a busy time in Thule, a "golden age" of
semi-legendary heroes like Beowulf and the kingdoms of Denmark and Sweden
struggling for supremacy alongside warlike Eruli heathens and arctic Finnish
shamans. The writers take their cue from the "Beowulf" saga, mix it with some
historical conflicts and embellish with later Norse legends.
Maps are provided on different scales (but not, I'm afraid, the colour fold-out
map promised on the back cover!) as well as a gazetteer of the Scandian
kingdoms in the now-familiar Pendragon format, including all the sites of
legendary or historical interest. Scandinavian society and culture gets a
brief going over - too brief, really - and crossover rules for "regular"
Pendragon are included. We also get background on the Odinic religion
of the Northmen - more detailed than the Saxon religion in the main rulebook,
including cults for each of the pagan gods and information on the shamanic
religion of the Cimbri and the Finns. All this concludes with a character
generation system for Northerners and Northern Magicians (although you really
need the Pictish rules from Beyond The Wall for playing Finnish
There's no complaining about what's been included, only what's been missed.
Thule is a vast place and the coverage in this book is condensed, to say the
least. The writers assume you've got a grounding in Viking legends and history
to fill in the blanks, but perhaps that's a fair assumption for
Pendragon fans. Player character options are limited to Warriors and
Magicians - disappointing if you fancied a Skald or Berserk - but then this
material did appear in Valkyrie#10 (shameless plug!). The magical runes
do get covered, though, along with the Odinic Battle-runes Talent.
But wait . . . there's more. "The Perilous North Sea" gives rules for
Pendragon sea voyages (watch out for that Kraken!) while "Hrothgar's Hall" and
"The Barrow-Dragon" are two stonking scenarios which take the pivotal episodes
in the "Beowulf" saga as their starting points and draw together fascinating
plots of revenge, betrayal, the fate of kingdoms and the machinations of gods.
In true heroic style, the PCs get to die valiantly at the end. Great stuff.
Overall: I could quibble about occasional typos and whinge about how it
should have been longer, but the truth is that Land of Giants is a
top-notch product, demonstrating again that few companies can touch Chaosium
for RPG supplements and few RPGs come close to Pendragon for
thoughtfulness and detail. Five stars.