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Posted December 21, 2011
The ¿Northern Thing¿ has been around for a long, long time in fantasy and fantasy fiction, and Lands of the Linnorm Kings is Paizo¿s stab at it. Like the rest of the Pathfinder Campaign Setting books, it is 64 full color pages long, with magnificent cover and inside back cover art, as well as a well done map inside the front cover that shows the location of every place mentioned in the book as well as a few more.
The first and biggest chapter, the Linnorm Kingdoms, is a brief yet information-packed guide to the nation proper. After a three page timeline, you get the various kingdoms. There are five of them, each with its own individual character like Hagreach¿s border war with Irrisen and its witchery, trolls, and monsters, or the Ironbound Isles and their desire to reach out to the larger world. The kingdoms all get four pages of coverage, going into their rulers, local culture, and settlements. You also get sections covering the fey and monster-haunted Grungir Forest, complete with a city of talking beasts, and Icemark, home to reindeer-herding nomads.
Next is the Proving Grounds chapter, covering several adventurous locales and adventure ideas for the setting, ranging from the classic ¿Slay a Linnorm (Norse dragon) and become king¿ to exploring local dungeons and haunted areas like the rusalka-haunted Black Tarn and Kalva and its savage cannibals. Be warned, a few of the monsters are found in Pathfinder Bestiary 3, so you may want to get that to use this, though it¿s not completely necessary.
Third is a chapter on how adventuring in the Linnorm Lands differs from other locales in the larger setting, and it is easily far and away the most unique part of the book. There are well-done rules covering the gaining and losing of reputation, something more valuable than gold among these people. There is a section covering effigies, basically a kind of ritual involving somewhat brutal sacrifices and preparation in exchange for putting very potent curses upon enemies. This is everything from the nithing-pole to the blood eagle to the wicker man. Next comes a section on weregild and ransom, and lastly are some well-chosen unique treasures for your players. The whole book is wonderful, a great source of ideas, but this is the best section from the ¿make it different but keep it simple to use¿ viewpoint. I¿ve used and read several Viking-based RPG sourcebooks over the years but few have used such basic yet utterly Norse-feeling ideas as this.
Lastly we get an extensive bestiary that includes both monstrous and human foes. You get the classic raider, cannibal berserkers, and monsters such as fey animals, the Scandinavian huldra, the truly horrid mindslaver mold, and Fafnheir. The latter especially is one of THE nastiest monsters ever to show up in a Pathfinder book.
In conclusion, this is far and away one of the best ¿Viking¿ books ever done in RPG form. The setting and feel of it is very Norse and it¿s done in a way that¿s easy to use. If you want something different in feel from the typical European fantasy setting that¿s still somewhat familiar, or just want to see how to handle things like PCs developing reputations, get this book. It¿s more than worth the money.