||The People of Northern Crown
||Classes Big and Small
||Fancy Feats and Exotic Equipment
||Myths, Legends, and Loads of Loot
||Fangs, Freemasons, Fairies, and Fightin'
||Onward, to Adventure!
||Of Mapmaking, Monsters, and Mandibular Mammals
||Of Magic, Science, and Heroes
Original SA post
Introduction: The Settling of
In the world of Northern Crown, the eponymous continent has become a key part of the rush of colonialism, with all sorts of
Uropan nations such as
France all vying for territory in this new world. These colonies are rife with tension both from outside forces and each other, including rising paranoia in
The Holy Commonwealth over the witch-owned town of
Naumkeag, disputes with the native people of Northern Crown, the marauding exploits of the buccaneers of the
Bahamias, and nighttime assaults by monsters in the dark such as the feared headless riders and loathsome haints.
That's right, we're knee-deep in the territory of alternate history with funky naming schemes that are not universally applied one way or the other. It's a D&D title published by Atlas Games and written by Douglas Anderson, who as far as I know never wrote for any other settings and is definitely someone we can call...
Douglas Anderson posted:
Guns should be slow and cumbersome to use -- this is a game of derring-do and heroic action, not gun-fu.
...a man with a specific opinion and vision for his setting.
Northern Crown also happens to share something in common with the last alt-history RPG I did, Broncosaurus Rex, in that it was an ambitious project that never had many of its corners truly explored. The author had plans for a Boston sourcebook, the mysterious and mostly undiscovered western Northern Crown, a guide to Uropa, and an Aztec empire still standing thanks to the magic of its gods, but all that ever surfaced other than the two core campaign books were two minor supplementals and a three-page article on
Asaph Burr's evil kingdom of Vandalia.
So, to start out early on a celebration of the month of Thanksgiving, we'll be delving into both Northern Crown: New World Adventures and Northern Crown: the Gazetteer. Prepare for magic, mad science, weird names, and questionable timeframes.
The People of Northern Crown
Original SA post
Part 1: The People of Northern Crown
A fair warning before I start this part: while I will be technically doing these titles in order, the fact that the setting fluff is stuffed in the Gazetteer over the core campaign book means I will be drawing a bit from it to avoid things being too confusing. This will mean a bit of repetition once we actually get to that title. I'll also be skipping chapter 1 of this core book for the opposite reason, as the Gazetteer has a far more detailed version of the brief statements about the setting it has to offer.
While some fantasy species do technically exist in Northern Crown, they are relegated to the realm of the unplayable, the setting following the "all characters are human" rule. Instead, you get to be the member of one of seventeen specific cultures. Each culture has its own starting benefits and specific benefits related to certain classes.
The Albians are the denizens of Albion, fantasy-England ruled by the half-fey Queen Gloriana, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth and the lordly fey King Oberon (no word on how Titania took that whole issue). As long as you don't deal with demons, devils, or the undead, Albians tend to be pretty chill folks who love to chat and be courteous to a fault. Well, they're all that publicly, at least, as more than a few have cold-hearted ambition up the wazoo that they keep hidden under their prim and proper demeanor. Character-wise, Albians gain a +2 bonus to Bluff and Diplomacy due to their gift of gab and free 0-level spells thanks to being touched by the Faerie.
A "nation" of outlaws and castaways that have congealed together into a brotherhood of stereotypical Hollywood pirates that sail the Atlantic Ocean and Carib Sea. Buccaneers are technically the enemies of all empires, but most of them tend to turn a blind eye as long as the pirate bands go after rival nations. A Buccaneer character gets a +1 bonus to Calance, Climb, Jump, Profession (Sailor), Spot, Swim, and Use Rope, have a +1 bonus to Armor Class and Reflex saves as long as they are on a ship, get free proficiency with artillery, and can take 10 on Climb checks even when rushed or threatened.
A fusion of the Carolina and Virginia territories, Carolingia is a Northern Crown nation ruled by King Charles II and his group of fairy-hating loyalists. They feel that Albion and Queen Gloriana are false rulers and that they are the rightful Anglican nation. Carolingians like big meals, big actions, and generally being kind of overblown figures, but are also obsessed about class status, suspicious of foreign religions, and feel magic is the domain of cheats and lowly folk. Carolingian characters get a +1 bonus to Handle Animal checks and a +2 bonus to Ride and Knowledge (Nobility) checks. Not quite Buccaneer levels of excitement there.
The Cherokee nation rules the “Mountains of Smoke” – really, changing the name of the Smoky Mountains of all things? – and are pretty much the real Cherokee but with magic and diplomatic relations with the fey. They have special variant Sorcerer called the dadunesgi that can choose to be either part of the “white path” (focus on boosting spells with the Force descriptor) or “red path” (focus on boosting spells with the Fire descriptor). Cherokee characters get +2 to Knowledge (Fey), Perform (Dance), and Profession (Farmer), a +1 bonus to Reflex saves and Armor Class when in forested or mountainous terrain, and an ability called Fey Allies. That last one is quite noteworthy – thanks to those diplomatic relations with the magical fey, once per week a Cherokee can attempt to summon 2d4 pukwudgee with a 50% chance of success. Pukwudgee are Challenge Rating 1, so it’s not like it’s hugely overpowered, but free summoning from level 1 is definitely noteworthy.
The Cimmarons are slaves from
Nyambe that have revolted and begun a fierce war to oust the French from Hispaniola and Jamaica to make those islands an independent Cimarron nation. They get access to class variants from Nyambe: African Adventures, worship the orisha detailed in Nyambe: African Adventures, and are kind of unabashedly “did you buy Nyambe: African Adventures? Go buy Nyambe: African Adventures” on the part of the author. Cimarron characters get a +2 bonus to Knowledge (Local) checks and have a +1 bonus to attacks against Lawful Evil foes.
Imagine the most ardent Salem trials-style Puritan. Now tell that Puritan that they are justified and demons are really consorting with witches, and then multiply them into a whole nation. That describes the Commonwealthers of the Holy Commonwealth (Massachusetts) in a nutshell. They are quiet and polite with other Christians, but also publicly hang any spellcasters other than Christian Clerics, feverishly hunt witches, and generally make even the holiest members of the Anglican Church go “woah, man, cool your jets”. Commonwealther characters have a +2 bonus to Knowledge (Religion), gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls against foes with a Chaotic alignment, and are always proficient in polearms.
A mixture of French and First Nations cultures, the Coureurs are basically fur trappers that decided to settle down and live in the northeastern wilderness 24/7. They are superstitious survivalists that are sought after due to their ties to both Uropan and First Nations people and customs making them valuable diplomats and their wilderness know-how making them favored guides. Game-wise, Coureurs get a +2 bonus to Hide, Listen, and Move Silently checks in forested terrain and get Run as a bonus feat.
The Espaniards are from
Espania, whose Northern Crown holdings include most of the
Golfe Coast, La Florida, and Cuba. They are obsessed with having a gallant knight persona and put out a lot of shpiel about honor and adventure, but in the end they are pretty much the Catholic equivalent of the Commonwealthers. Espaniards are imperialistic, outlaw other religions and arcane magic, and see themselves as the last bastionof sanity in a world of madness while at the same time unironically finding Don Quixote to be an inspiring folk hero. Espaniard characters gain a +1 bonus to attacks against characters whose culture is Albian, Buccaneer, Nederlander, or Witchling and they can use the long rapier as a one-handed rather than two-handed weapon.
France is a powerful empire, and the native Francais are snobbish fops who love grandiose pageantry and see other nationalities as inferiors to be pitied. They are also slightly better about arcane spellcasters than most Uropan nations in that they are okay with Wizards as long as they study their magic at the government-sanctioned Royal Academy.
The Kelts are a group of people that come from the islands of
Bretayne. They still follow the old gods and are kiss-asses to the fey to the point of shunning those that won't sufficiently placate them, and don't really have many human friends in the world other than their fellow fey-frolicking Albians. They're especially suspicious of Espaniards and Francais, which makes sense given that the Roman Catholic Church has openly stated that the pagan Kelts should be curbstomped as soon as possible. Kelt characters only get +2 to one skill chosen between Bluff, Diplomacy, or Gather Information, but they also get free fey-touched magic in the same nanner that ALbians do.
As with the Cherokee, the Mohawk are mostly Wikipedia entry info mixed with magic. The Mohawk are in open warfare with the Holy Commonwealth and more subdued conflict with the Huron nation. Mohawk characters get a +1 bonus to Survival checks, a +1 bonus to Reflex saves and Armor Class while in forested terrain, and can petition a lesser manitou spirit once per day to either heal 1d4 damage, grant a +2 bonus to a single saing throw, or replicate the
The Nederlanders are quite the contradictory lot. They believe in having the finer things in life and are accomplished traders, yet they believe that material goods are vanity goods that have no wealth due to the fact that everyone eventually dies and leaves them behind. They love parties and merriment yet also believe that such excesses can stain the soul. They have a powerful oligarchy, yet believe in individual rule over political rule. These factors all lead into the Nederlanders having a “the truth is in the middle” approach to everything in life other than their vehement distaste for the empire they fled from. Their entry also notes that while they are in tense terms with Sweden, Swedes use the same game stats and act the same way. A Nederlaner/Swede character gets a +1 bonus to Profession (Sailor) and Sense Motive, a +2 bonus to Appraise, and a +1 bonus to attack rolls made against individuals that serve the Habsburg Empire.
The Ojibwa nation differs from most of the other playable First Nations cultures in that they are semi-nomadic and roam around the Great Lakes region, don’t tend to have arcane spellcasters, and are not really on good terms with the First Nations’ Five Nations League. Ojibwa characters get a +1 bonus to Survival, +2 bonus to Profession (Fisher) and Swim, the same wilderness Armor Class and Reflex bonus that the Cherokee have, and have a special craft item called the dream article that lets them cast either
shield of faith
once per day.
The Shawnee of the Ohio Vale are skilled traders that feel they are burdened with the responsibility of keeping the Northern Crown safe from evil due to their cosmology’s statements on them being literally the center of the universe. While the Ojibwa simply don’t tend to use arcane magic, the Shawnee actively loathe it, feeling it is a manifestation of the evils of the Great Serpents (nagas). Shawnee characters gain a +1 bonus to Survival checks, always have Heal as a class skill and get a +2 bonus to Heal checks for first aid or long-term surgical care, have the same wilderness AC and Reflex bonus that the Cherokee and Ojibwa have, and have a magical item called the pawaka that can be used once per day to cast
, or provide a +4 bonus to a saving throw against fear.
The Republic of Sophia (the Virginias) and its daughter state Vermont are basically Revolutionary America in a setting where there technically hasn’t been an American Revolution. Sophians believe in life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, etc., etc. and welcome pretty much everyone who isn’t hurting others or harming their freedom. Major influences in the life of the Sophian are their ruler
erson and his allies in the
Solomonic Order such as
Achilles Hamilton and
yn. Sophian characters gain a +2 bonus to Concentration and Diplomacy checks, as well as a +1 bonus to attack rolls made against the members of any nation that is currently at war with the Republic of Sophia.
While in real life the Norse colonies in Canada failed, in the Northern Crown setting they survived and the roudy raiding Vinlanders now
their way up and down the North Atlantic. They are ruled by a jarl, still worship the old gods such as Odin and Freya, and are generally known for being fierce allies if you gain their trust and equally fierce enemies if you are their target. Vinlander characters gain +2 to Intimidate, +3 to Swim, +1 to Fortitude saves, and +2 to saves against fear effects.
Witchlings are a very vague “culture” whose sole defining trait is that they are either witches or support witches. They live in enclaves such as
Naumkeag, are ruled by a coven, worship Earth and revere the moon, and are hated by pretty much everyone else. Witchling characters have a +1 bonus to Sense Motive, +2 to saves against fear, and low-light vision.
After chapter 2 introduces us to playable cultures and their unique traits, chapter 3 decides to give a stereotypical view of what Uropans as a whole tend to be like. Uropans are supposed to be restrained from public displays of ill emotions, honorable, and respect the class system. Paid servants, indentured servants, and slaves are an everyday fact of life for the rich and powerful, to the point that there are rules for player characters of a high enough social rank to have servants (but not slaves, since...yeah). Arcane magic in all but the most conservative of Uropan cultures tends to be viewed as “Bards and Wizards okay, sorcery questionable, witchcraft and necromancy the province of demons.” Similarly, religion is an unmoving point for most Uropans and their Northern Crown descendants – pagans tend to not be welcomed in Uropan cultures other than those tied to the fey such as the Kelts or those that cling to the old gods like the Vinlanders, Jews aren't particularly welcomed outside of the domains of the Nederlanders and Sophians, and Christianity itself is split between the tense factions of the Catholic Church, Albion Anglicans, Carolingian Anglicans, Dissenters (Lutherans), and Puritans. In the Republic of Sophia, deism is becoming pretty popular as the new religious fad.
The First Ones
The First Ones, also referred to as the First Nations in other parts of the book, are discussed in chapter 4 in a similar manner to the Uropans, with the statement of “here’s a generic view of them, go see specifics in chapter 2 if you want more details on a specific nation”. The chapter notes that the First Ones aren’t really all that different from Uropans – they have a social ladder (albeit one that has a bit less layers to it), traditional gender roles, commerce, war, and both political and religious leaders. Even the First Ones’ Spirit World has a direct analog to the Uropan world of the Faerie. There are, of course, differences, however, which are noted in blurbs on First Ones religion, traditional games such as hubbub and puim, the translation of wampum and animal hides to Uropan coin currency, and the differences in town layout. It’s rather clinical and there’s nothing really all that objectionable or racist on either the “noble savage” or “feral inferior” sides of that scale.
Next update: Getting deeper into character creation with classes and prestige classes.
Classes Big and Small
Original SA post
Hey so I
made a site
to put F&F reviews on both in case of thread archiving, to make them a bit easier to read (site formatting aside) and to allow them to be read despite the paywall. It is currently sparse, but I can copy-paste with the best of them. I am interested in getting permission from reviewers, though I can also abandon all my heroic work in the face of stern disapproval. Suggestions and pointers on how to make things look better or more readable are also a plus.
As pretty much everyone else has stated, I'm down with it.
Part 2: Classes Big and Small
In Northern Crown, most of hte core D&D classes exist, save for five – the Barbarian, Fighter, Monk, Ranger, and Rogue have been axed. In their stead, seven new base classes exist, be they a “superior” replacement of an existing class, one believed to be more fitting, or in at least one case something new entirely.
The Agent is a spy, saboteur, or some similarly sneaky sort. D6 hit die, poor Fortitude save progression, and average Base Attack Bonus progression is made up for by good Reflex and Will save progression, sneak attack and evasion-related abilities inherited from the axed Rogue, and class features related to deceit. Most of these are based on granting benefits to the use of the Hide skill in urban environments or indoors or synergizing Bluff and Hide, with the exception of the 6th level Agent class feature Undectable Alignment, which does exactly what it says.
Perhaps the most involved of the new classes, the Natural Philosopher can be summed up as being the prototype of the technomage archetype. They are heavily focused on their class features over combat, with d4 hit die, shitty Base Attack Bonus progression, average Fortitude and Reflex save progression, and good Will save progression. They use crazy levels of
to create inventions as well as produce phenomena, which are spells that count as extraordinary abilities. This means that the Natural Philosopher can do the same thing a Wizard can but totally ignore spell resistance, anti-magic fields, and anything else that targets spells and spell-like abilities specifically. This is tempered by the fact that they can only replicate a handful of spells based on what “degrees” they have, and even if they get all six degrees by 20th level - which would horribly nerf how much power they have in each degree, as ranks in each degree act like caster levels - the total number of phenomena still isn’t terribly high. There's also the fact that each degree requires a material focus that may be somewhat disadvantageous. The six degrees are as follows:
The degree of antimagic seeks to learn about how magic works in order to detect and combat it. Its phenomena replicate spells such as
undeath to death
. The focus for antimagic is a loudly whirring gear-filled astronomical clock.
Life and Death:
This degree deals with medicinal and poisonous phenomena including the various
finger of death
. The focus is a wooden apothecary kit with compartments dedicated to the centaurs Chiron (healing) and Nessus (harming).
The magnetism degree is sort of a hodge-podge of replicating spells that are electrical, force, pushing, or pulling in nature, including
. The focus is a magnet-studded leather belt.
More or less elementalism, with a tuning fork as the focus. Its phenomena include
wall of fire
The powers of the mind. The spells its phenomena replicate are just what you'd expect, with popular enchantments and divinations like
popping up. The focus for casting mentalist phenomena is a
silver weave hat.
In spite of its name making it seem like it would be the same as matter, the physics degree replicates spells with light and darkness, sound, and dimensional fabric such as
. The focus for physics is a quartz wand.
In addition to all this hooplah about phenomena, Natural Philosophers are capable of creating automatons, crafting weird inventions, and turning undead (undead are animated by magic, after all). We won't actually be seeing any inventions or automatons until the Gazetteer, though.
Anarchist guerrillas, Vinlander vikings, and First Nations ambush warriors are a few examples of what the Raider base class is meant to replicate. D12 hit die, good Reflex and Fortitude save progession, somewhat above average Will save progression, and full Base Attack Bonus progression means they can both give and take one hell of a beating, and this is further improved by Barbarian rage, damage reduction, and a dose of dodge and speed-enhancing class features. Basically, the Raider is the Barbarian with no bad saves and can tear shit up.
Rakes are flamboyant, grandiose fighters who love sword or pistol duels, witty repartee, and the sound of their own voices. The class gets d8 hit die, good Reflex and Fortitude save progression, and good Base Attack Bonus progression. Pretty much all of the Rake's class features focus on attacks of opportunity and combat tricks to give them the advantage in a fight, as well as one particularly odd class feature called Scarring Attack that lets them have an attack deal Charisma damage instead of normal HP damage.
The Scout is basically a Raider with d10 instead of d12 hit die and a mixture of sneak attack and animal companion features replacing rage. While the last game I reviewed that had a Scout base class had them be super-underpowered compared to the other classes, here we have a Scout going the opposite direction. Weird.
If you like standard D&D Fighters, you'll love the Soldier - after all, they both have the same "bonus feats are my only class feature" aspect. The only differences between the two, in fact, are that the Soldier has better Reflex save progression than the Fighter and that the Soldier's bonus feats are limited based on what military archetype they take (dragoon, grenadier, halberdier, hussar, musketeer, royal guard, or swordsman).
Witches are arcane spellcasters that get their power from demons, either by stealing it from them if they are good or neutral witches or by sealing soul-ownership pacts if they are evil witches. They have the standard spellcaster setup - d4 hit die, average Base Attack Bonus progression, meh Fortitude and Reflex save progression, and good WIll save progression - so it's all in the class features here. These include an imp familiar, the ability to share spell usage with other witches nearby, a telepathic link with other members of their coven, a fear aura, slowed aging, and a bonus to Armor Class when wearing black clothing. No, that last statement isn't a joke.
Rather than noting what prestige classes from the D&D core rules are removed as with core classes, the chapter on prestige classes starts by saying what D&D prestige classes
. The Arcane Trickster prestige class exists for magical spies, the Archmage reflects professors emeritus in arcane studies at Uropan universities, Blackguard is for damned warriors that have signed pacts with demon, Hierophants are particularly powerful Catholic bishops or pagan priests, Horizon Walkers are extreme wilderness experts, the Shadowdancer exists but is limited to female Witchlings only, Thaumaturgists are forbidden occultists due to planar summoning being a forbidden art, and then Assassin and Loremaster exist doing exactly what role they always do. There are also, of course, new prestige classes.
Definitely one of the weirder prestige classes I've seen, the Faltstaff is a prestige class dedicated to making your character a fat oaf. Not only do they automatically become 30% heavier upon the first level of the class, but also have class features that include a bonus to attack rolls when they are eating or drinking while they fight, a collection of first level Commoners as an entourage, and the ability to deal collateral damage with a melee or ranged attack a number of times per day that increases the
Dexterity the character has. Similarly, while most of the prestige class's numbers are pretty average, with d6 hit die, average progression for Base Attack Bonus and Reflex saves, and good Fortitude save progression,the class actually gives you a penalty to Will saves that increases the more levels you have in the class. It would certainly be an interesting character to play, to say the least.
A more typical prestige class, basically being an alternate path for Rakes to take that focuses on raw sword damage output instead of more trick moves. It pretty much shares most of the Rake's numbers crunched down to prestige class levels.
This is a bit of a difficult prestige class to get into, as it has alignment restrictions (must be Chaotic Good, Chaotic Evil, Lawful Good, or Lawful Evil - no neutrality), regular feat requirements like most prestige classes, and the character has to have at least 100 followers as judged by the DM. And what do you get for that? Well, not a lot, really. All three save progressions are poor, skill points are almost nonexistent, hit die are d10s, and its class features all focus on getting more NPCs or giving miniscule buffs to the ones you already have. About the only thing the Firebrand has going for it is a full Base Attack Bonus progression. Not exactly all that inspiring for a zealous hero archetype.
You are indeed a king or queen of the wild frontier with this prestige class, being able to form bonds with the animals, never get lost, need very little food and water to survive, and generally being a survivalist expert. The numbers aren't too bad either, with a piss poor Will save progression being made up for by a good Fortitude progression and full Base Attack Bonus progression, as well as those nice d10 hit die.
The Firebrand, only better: no alignment restriction, good Fortitude save progression, fortification against ranged attacks, and a one in four chance to negate critical hits or sneak attacks.
The Officer, but with ship boosting instead of ally boosting.
Johnny Appleseed the prestige class. You can transfer divine spells you know into magic apples for others to consume and plant a number of magical trees with various effects such as increased healing for those near it or an aura of emotion-calming. An average Base Attack Bonus progression and d6 hit die is made up for by good Fortitude and Will saves, not to mention the whole magic trees bit.
Tall Tale Hero:
A class for First Nations legendary heroes, Paul Bunyan types, and the like. With d12 hit die, full Base Attack Bonus progression, good Fortitude save progression, they are burly and strong individuals even without class features. The class features, though, just make it even better. Size category increase, large bonuses against foes made of either stone or wood, the ability to heal hit points more rapidly by having a huge meal followed immediately by sleep, and a giant version of a domestic animal such as an ox, mule, or dog as an animal companion.
You get d12 hit die, full Base Attack Bonus progression, and can punch stuff really hard. What more could you want?
Next update: Skills, feats, and new fighting rules.
Fancy Feats and Exotic Equipment
Original SA post
Part 4: Fancy Feats and Exotic Equipment
We're nearly done with the player's guide for Northern Crown, meaning we're so close to getting to the Gazetteer sourcebook, where the metaplot gets involved and you start having things like how the wendigos brought about the Ice Age, Paul Bunyan existing and being hated by everyone other than other woodsmen, and how we are simultaneously on a spherical planet and atop a giant world-turtle. Still, we aren't quite there yet, so I won't get ahead of myself here. Let’s soldier through these character options.
Nothing of consequence to see here. All of the noted skills are just new subsets of the Craft, Knowledge, Profession, and Read/Write Speak Language skills.
Ah, feats, always there to provide features you want to limit by capability rather than class. Most of them here aren’t really worthy of note, such as new weapon proficiencies, feats that make a Natural Philosopher’s inventions sturdier/faster/some other minor stat alteration, or crafting feats for new types of magical item. There are at least a few particularly interesting feats worthy of actually noting, though, so it’s not all in the “useful but bland” category.
Are your origin powers not enough for your character? Fear not, as there are several sets of feats that allow you to have even more than just your standard culture. The Two Worlds feat, for instance, lets you take all of the traits of a second culture other than its spell-like abilities or free feats – for instance, a Cimarron-born Sophian could take this feat to gain both the Sophian culture traits as well as the Cimarron bonuses. The other sort of ancestry feats are of a more esoteric sort, allowing First Ones characters to gain the powers of the ancient father-spirits Bear, Turtle, and Wolf. These come in trees that start with a standard feat that grants some minor skill and save bonuses, an “advanced” version that grants you some form of spell-like ability (animal summoning for Bear and Wolf, turning your skin into a shell for Turtle), and finally a “heroic” version that lets you shapeshift into an embodiment of your spirit-father (dire bear for Bear, dire wolf for Wolf, and giant snapping turtle for Turtle) once per day.
While normally not something to write home about, there are a few interesting combat feats added in Northern Crown. These include Close Order Drill (reach through an occupied space with your polearm to hit a foe in the 5 foot square beyond the obstruction, even though you normally shouldn’t be able to), Force Majeure (you’re so damn majestic that you can make enemies frightened or unable to move), and Surefire (your guns aren’t complete and utter shit in inclement weather).
What are knacks? Well, they technically don’t actually appear until the second to last chapter, but they are mentioned in the feats chapter so I’m going to briefly state what they are – namely, knacks are minor supernatural powers you innately have thanks to the feat. The fact that they have the same name as the innate supernatural powers in the similarly American frontier-themed Tales of Alvin Maker is
and not at all homage. Totally.
Take this in. It's one of the few images that isn't blurred and/or over-lightened to hell and back for reasons unknown.
New and Improved (?) Combat
Okay, enough about feats, let’s get to talking about punching stuff in the face...or fencing and shooting, as the case may be. The brunt of this is on guns, something that traditional D&D doesn't usually cover. And spoilers, guns are absolute donkey shit in Northern Crown. How shit? Let us count the ways.
Firing one, or even being near someone firing one, gets you a -4 penalty to Listen checks for an hour.
Reloading takes five rounds for a matchlock gun or four rounds for a wheellock or snaphance gun. Even the Rapid Reload feet only merely takes one round off of that time.
The misfire chance of a gun increases drastically based on weather, with heavy rain netting you a misfire chance of 1-6 with a matchlock or 1-4 with any other gun.
Damp powder is even worse, giving a matchlock gun a 1-8 misfire chance and any other weapon a 1-10 misfire chance. Remember what
taught you if you want to live, Northern Crown soldiers!
What kind of damage do you actually get for all that effort? 1d8 to 1d12 for any gun that is feasible for a person to be holding! Congratulations, you take four or five rounds to do as much damage as a bow-wielder could do in two.
Now you see why that quote from the author in the intro post was relevant. I can understand primitive firearms being more unwieldy than modern firearms. I get that, I'm not expecting d20 Modern levels of firearm expediency. But seriously, when even some certain Pathfinder designers' hatred of guns doesn't make them nerf early firearms as bad as you do, there's something wrong with the picture.
I guess I should probably talk about fencing before we get on too long a rant about firearms. Fencing is...erm...it exists? That much I can say truthfully. There are some specific moves granted by the Fencing feat that let you give yourself minor bonuses to other parts of combat at the expense of your attack roll, but otherwise it's standard D&D combat.
Commerce and Cannon
Chapter eight is our last chapter before we get into the openly paranormal end chapters of the core Northern Crown book. Aptly enough, it starts out discussing the most earthly of things possible - money! Have you ever wondered what a black or what wampump bead, pound, doubloon, or ducat was worth in fantasy-money? Fear no more, as there is a chart that shows you just how much gold/silver/copper pieces the currencies of the First Ones, English-derivatives, Espaniards, Francais, and Nederlands are. There are also prices listed for beaver and deer pelts for those enterprising traders in the wilderness.
As for actual gear itself, In addition to a lot of reprinted items from standard D&D, there are also nine new pieces of armor, two new shields, twenty-two new weapons (thirteen of these being firearms), and various new goods and services such as canoes and tattoos. While firearms have already been discussed and noted for their lacking qualities and many of the Uropan armors are "metal plate armor variant X", I'll give a brief note on some new armors and weapons worthy of note.
1d3 piercing damage isn't exactly something to write home about on its own, but the big draw of the blowgun is the fact that its darts are easily poisoned and are a bit less conspicuous than arrows.
Turtle Plate Armor:
A First Ones armor from the southeastern swamps, turtle plate armor is made by lashing the shells of giant snapping turtles together. It's not exactly the best heavy armor you can get, but what's cooler than wearing a bunch of dead turtles on you?
The signature weapon of the Espaniards, the 2d6 piercing damage-dieling long rapier is considered unsporting and worthy of being confiscated if openly displayed in most countries. That doesn't detract from the fact that having a rapier that can potential deal more damage than a greatsword is pretty spiffy.
A little sword that deals only as much damage as a knife but has a greater critical threat ratio, scoring a critical hit on a roll of 18-20 as opposed to the 19-20 of a knife.
This is technically just a shortspear, but it's a shortspear that can double as a musket rest! Convenient
if you ignore the uselessness of firearms
As useful as leather armor, but with the added bonus of making you look as stereotypically Uropan as possible
Next time, we finish up the main Northern Crown book with the supernatural trio of magic, psychic knacks, and mad science!
Original SA post
Part 5: Weirdness Abounds
Chapter nine starts off the ending supernatural trilogy of Northern Crown: New World Adventures with a discussion on how magic works in the setting. The setting’s notable differentiation from standard D&D magic is that Druids have the strength of their magic tied directly to the strength of the land. Any given area has a level of “natural power”, which comes in six ranks. Your average slightly human-worked wilderness is considered normal and grants no bonuses or penalties. On the upswing, there are two categories – strong (untouched wilderness that lets Druids cast as if they were one caster level higher) and very strong (wilderness juiced with magical standing stones, verdant magic, fairy presence, or whatever that lets Druids cast as if they were two caster levels higher). By contrast, the levels below normal has three rankings. These are weak (farms and frontier towns, which make Druids act as if they are one caster level lower), absent (cities, where Druids cast two caster levels lower than they actually are), and corrupt. Corrupt is worth discussing beyond a bit beyond a mere bracket blurb, as it is basically anathema to all things natural. This is the place where aberrations, the undead, and demons call home, so tainted that not only are Druids suffering three caster levels worth of spell power loss, the land itself is treated as if under an
spell from dusk to dawn every day of the year. Creatures with the Aberration, Outsider (evil only), or Vermin creature types also gain 2 extra points of Constitution in corrupted areas thanks to its foul energy.
There are also, of course, completely new spells for use. A total of twenty-six, in fact, with a school makeup of one Enchantment, two Divination, two Necromancy, four Conjuration, four Evocation, five Abjuration, and eight Transmutation. All of these new spells are accessible to only either Uropans or First Ones, with the exception of spells that boost or weaken areas of natural power. A few of the more noteworthy ones include...
Backfire (Abjuration; Uropan Witch 2 or Uropan Wizard/Sorcerer 2):
You make a gun explode, dealing damage to the wielder and permanently destroying it. Congratulations, you made an already useless item even more useless!
Eat Fire (Conjuration; First Ones Sorcerer 2):
You can inhale non-magical flames to put them out, or even damage creatures with the Fire subtype. There’s something quite
about using your magic to consume a fire elemental.
Hair to Snakes (Transmutation; First Ones Sorcerer 2 or First Ones Druid 3:
You go all Medusa on your own head, transforming your hair into a nest of coral snakes that attack and envenomate foes.
Internal Creature (Conjuration; First Ones Sorcerer 1, First Ones Druid 2):
You hold a size Tiny animal in a magic stomach-space, letting you eat, drink, and talk normally while you also hide a critter in your body. That may sound really weird...and it is. But it has a reason! It’s actually meant to be a defensive measure to either protect or hide your little familiar/animal companion.
Righteous Healing (Conjuration; Uropan Cleric 2):
A strangely specific spell, this spell allows someone to heal themselves by honorably killing (no spells, no sneak attacks, no debilitating status effects) a creature with an Evil alignment. You get the slain foe’s total Hit Dice worth of hit points healed, so it may or may not be more useful than just using a
cure [rank here] wounds
Swords into Plowshares (Transmutation; Uropan Cleric 3):
All piercing or slashing weapons in a 30 foot radius around you have their edges dulled, causing them to suffer a -1 penalty to attack rolls. While a -1 penalty isn’t exactly much for a third level spell, it’s an interesting idea.
Walking Tune (Transmutation; Uropan Bard 1):
You know those parts in The Hobbit where everyone breaks into song while they walk? Yeah, this is that in spell form. The spell grants increased move speed at the cost of being really easy to hear and not stealthy in the slightest.
As I had previously alluded to in the discussion of the feats chapter, knacks are a direct homage to powers of the same name from the Tales of Alvin Maker series of books by Orson Scott Card, wherein the titular character was one of multiple supernatural figures on the American frontier. Knacks in Northern Crown have a similar role as specific innate supernatural powers in a tight focus, but without any Mormon messiahs. A knack feat grants some specific psionic powers that grow (to a point) with the character – one can cast listed 0-level psionics at first character level, first level powers at second and third character levels, second level psionics at fourth through sixth character levels, and third level psionics from seventh character level onward. This means that those with knacks will never be as versatile or powerful as a true spellcaster, but at the same time frees them up to be able to take an class they want while gaining supernatural powers. The three knack feats that are given are Evil Eye (access to mind-affecting and debuffing psionics), Firebug (the entirety of the handful of fire-related first through third level psionics that exist), and Second Sight (the various divination-miming psionic powers).
Inventions are any sort of crazy pseudo-magical contraption created through heavy use of :science101: . Inventions come in a few varieties, their methods of creation listed in the chapter even though actual examples of any invention type are relegated to the Northern Crown Gazetteer.
Basically golems without any magic immunity and the addition of an Intelligence score equal to a human. Automatons can be tweaked by inventors to have specific qualities rather than being generic constructs, including alternate movement types, enhanced ability scores, a shield of electrical energy, or the ability to shoot steam jets as a breath weapon.
Magic items that don’t have to worry about anti-magic measures. They are also cosmetically different, with one example given in the text stating that a device version of a
wand of cure light wounds
might be a
syringe of cure light wounds
Potions that aren’t subject to anti-magic measures.
The way Northern Crown decides to handle vehicles is kind of odd. Rather than have them be more like a piece of equipment as I’ve usually seen, Northern Crown vehicles are Construct type creatures that happen to be given commands by a pilot. Your car was a golem all along, and you never knew it.
Weapons with energy damage added on top of standard damage. Unlike magic weapons, they have to be charged after every attack with a special inventor’s pack in order to do the added energy damage again. This is pretty much the only invention that is not superior to its magic item equivalent.
Next time: King Arthur’s tomb, Gulliver’s travels, golden Aztec cities, and vampire cults as we get into the meat of the setting with the first two chapters of the Northern Crown Gazetteer.
Myths, Legends, and Loads of Loot
Original SA post
Happy Thanksgiving to all you out there who celebrate it. Now are you ready for some
alt-history early America?!
Part 1: Myths, Legends, and Loads of Loot
While the player rules for Northern Crown are important to its groundwork as a roleplaying game, everyone knows that gamemaster guides are where it's at. And thus we are now at the Gazetteer, the only full sourcebook ever made for Northern Crown. This is going to be a fairly chunky first post in spite of only covering a chapter and a half, as chapter two of the Northern Crown Gazetteer is pretty damn big.
The first chapter of Northern Crown is entirely dedicated to a minor timeline focused entirely on the First Ones and the Uropans, with nothing in between. A long time ago, 10,000 BC to be exact, the ancestors of the First Ones headed across a land bridge that connected Rusland and Northern Crown, finding that the land was ruled by the vicious wendigo and their sorcerous hold over the great glaciers that marked the age of ice. The First Ones kicked the wendigos' asses with the aid of the animals that lived in Northern Crown before either of them and ended the age of ice...which also happened to result in a great flood across the continent. Whoops. Thankfully, a demigod-like water animal – his exact identity is unknown, as different First Ones nations ascribe to him the identity of Muskrat, Otter, Water Bug, or Turtle – just so happened to be able to find some pure soil beneath the flood and restore the continent of Northern Crown. This also happens to be how Northern Crown (the setting this time, not the continent) happens to deal with the difference between various First Ones creation stories and Uropan creation stories.
By 5,000 BC, the First Ones have become many nations across Northern Crown and the lower continent Southern Cross, and their former animal allies have said "you're getting too numerous, so fuck you we're not talking to you anymore" and go to dance with the fairies or whatever it is talking animals do in their off time. Not too long after, a particular First Ones nation known as the Makers began to flourish through a mixture of trade networks and powerful sorcery. They dove too greedily and too deep, however, and after a thousand years of dominance and a growing obsession with immortality they ended up unleashing a great evil that killed their civilization. A civilization called the Moundraisers created a society of demon-binding god-kings soon after the Makers fell and ended up dying off as well, this time to other First Ones nations going to war with them rather than any unleashed mysterious doom-thing.
This is the point where the Uropans come into the timeline picture. An Eirish monk named Brendyn heads across the Atlantic and finds Northern Crown in 800 AD and brings back stories of an amazing new land to the west. This interests others, including a Cymric prince by the name of Madoc who disappears mysteriously in 1250, Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real who similarly disappears in 1499, and his brother Miguel Corte-Real who finds Carolingia in 1501. it also turns out that the Vinlanders, who start having contact with the Uropan nations after easing off their raids for a few centuries, have had actual settlements in the northernmost parts of Northern Crown since 1000 but never gave a shit about telling the other Uropans as opposed to raiding them. From 1501 to the in-setting present day of 1666, everyone from Albians and Espaniards to Jews and Nyambans pour into Northern Crown for one reason or another. And that, as they say, is that.
Rumors and Legends
Heading into chapter two, which is just as expansive as its encompassing chapter name "Adventures" would imply, we start with a section called Rumors and Legends. These are interesting in that they actually allow the specific DM/GM to tailor the Northern Crown campaign setting in their own little way. To explain, each rumor or legend is given three levels of potential: it can either be a half-truth that has been exaggerated over time, true to its word, or in a rank of "beyond true" where things are even crazier than the storytellers say. While this wouldn't necessarily work for, say, Forgotten Realms, it is a really neat idea to have in a setting like Northern Crown where a big part of the campaign concept is that there is a lot of unknown stuff out there we have yet to explore. And what, exactly, are the kinds of rumors and legends that are around in Northern Crown? Let's take a look.
You know the story of King Arthur. What you probably didn't know is that he had a
+5 vorpal longsword
+5 light steel shield of heavy fortification
. If the legends are true, he's chilling somewhere in the Mountains of Smoke, waiting for the time when country needs him again and he can awaken and head back across the Atlantic. Of course, it could also be half-true and he was quite mortal and you can instead find and raid his tomb for that fat loot. It could also be beyond true and Arthur is not just awake already but actively plotting to off Charles II and take the Carolingian throne in preparation to forge it, the Holy Commonwealth, and Albion back into a united England.
That's right, the Holy Grail is around too. It is said that Brendyn, that Eirish monk who came over in 800 AD, may have used the trip to Northern Crown to hide this magical item capable of creating ten
potions the strength of those made by a fully leveled Cleric. It could just be that he brought only gold, though. If it is true that he had the Sangraal, however, there is the potential that it is even beyond true and that the Five Nations have recovered it and plan on using it to make immortal warriors.
Rumor has it that there is a huge mountain that is so loaded with diamonds that it shines like one huge crystal in the sunlight. While some say it's just a half-truth and the "diamonds" are actually quartz, if it's true there are definitely monstrous spirits known as the pomola and sanauk taking up residence there. It could also be beyond true and actually be part of an ancient curse, the diamonds actually being the transformed bodies of ancient Moundraiser god-kings who attempted to storm the heavens only to be struck down by the gods.
The Fountain of Youth:
Does the fabled Fountain of Youth actually exist in southeastern Northern Crown, just ready to grant immortality to those who drink from it? Maybe, but it could also just be a water that has natural healing powers rather than the secret to everlasting life. On the other hand, it could also not only be true, but also be ruled by crazy immortals who have formed good and evil factions that eternally battle, unable to ever kill each other and win their alignment-based war.
Some say the lost Cymric prince Madoc actually landed in Northern Crown and that his descendants still live with the First Ones, having knowledge of ancient fey lore and magical teachings. It could just be a half-truth and he died cold and alone. Or, less depressingly and even more fantastically than if it were truth, Madoc could have founded a Cymric empire in the big rocky mountain range said to lie west of the known Uropan-settled lands of Northern Crown.
The Mother Stone:
In First Ones legend, there was a time before even the wendigo when an ancient civilization of giants with mighty supernatural powers ruled the far north of Northern Crown. These giants were defended by the Mother Stone, a divine stone that could form the auroras of the sky into a shield that protected Northern Crown. The half-truth version of the story is that the Mother Stone is just a "regular" magic rock rather than one that can control the cosmos to create a super-shield, while if you go the route of beyond truth it is not only real, it has been found and is being put on auction by an Albian moneygrubber.
The Northwest Passage is an interesting one, in that even the half-truth is very much a full truth. It exists no matter what, it's just that if it is a half-truth it happens that the sheer number of polar bears, wendigos, frost giants, and dangerous shifting ice makes it unreliable for what the Northwest Passage was sought for in real life and Northern Crown. It could be that it is beyond true, however, and it just so happens to pass by various legendary civilizations on its way to Cathay.
Pirates happen to bury treasure. Are these troves as paltry as the half-truths say, valuable as the legends tell, or beyond truthful and actually huge money vaults guarded by zombie pirates and magical traps? Only the GM knows for sure.
The missing duke of Milan, Prospero, is said to have used his knowledge of the arcane arts to make a private island somewhere in the Carib Sea. Truth and half-truth are basically the same story – he did have an island hideaway in the Carib Sea at one point, just with some fancy magic items left behind in the truthful version. The beyond truthful version, however, is a wild one where Prospero’s magic island is an interplanar fortress of crazy constructs and elementals from which Prospero plans on launching an invasion of Jamaica.
Some rumors say that the Vinlanders weren't constrained to just the northeastern coastland of Northern Crown, and that they left ancient magical runes as they traveled into the unknown west. Just how far they got depends on the level of truthfulness: either to the Great Lakes if half-true, the Colorado River if true, or all the way across the continent and the Pacific to arrive at
Xipangu if beyond true.
Legends of the Unknown West
Espiritu Santo is pretty much as far as Uropan mapmakers have gone in Northern Crown. Beyond there is unknown territory to all but the as of yet uncontacted First Ones nations of the west and whatever mysterious civilizations dwell there. Just what is in this unknown region? Obviously it's a mystery to the Uropans, but the GM gets a few ideas on what players that do explore these unknown lands can find. The only natural one is the Gran
Chasm, which may or may not have a lost world of dinosaurs and shit inside it, while the other four are all civilizations that have only been briefly encountered or heard of. One of these is the legendary Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, which is said to be somewhere north of the treacherous land of
Quivera. Most assume that Cibola was made by the legendary Prester John or someone from Cathay if it is real at all. Definitely from Cathay are the people of Fou Sang, an empire made by a Cathayan emperor who settled in what we know as California after he escaped the Mongol invasions. The other two are both from Gulliver's Travels – Brobidnag is an island of truly gigantic giants (60 feet, far beyond even the largest statted giant in Northern Crown) somewhere off the coast of the Pacific, while the flying island of Laputa zips around as its tiny artificers kidnap scientists such as Isaac Newton. Not even joking.
Next time: Disease, war, the supernatural, and secret societies.
Fangs, Freemasons, Fairies, and Fightin'
Original SA post
is the Neutral Good god of animals, water, passion, and rebirth. He is commonly known as the Fisher King, and looks over all of nature as his charges. Phoenixes are associated with him, and he's heavily associated with the sea and popular among coastal and fishing communities. His priesthood is evenly split between clerics and druids, and neither have a formalized hierarchy. Once during their lifetime, clerics must wander the land with nothing but a walking stick and the clothes on their back to better understand the ways of nature. The god's favored weapon is the scimitar, and his domains are Animal, Good, and Water.
I like how the other gods have appropriately popular fantasy-style names like Lunitari and Solinari, then out of the blue there's a prophet from the Bible.
Part 2: Fangs, Freemasons, Fairies, and Fightin'
Continuing through chapter 2, we have our first bit of purely game rules-oriented material with the diseases and poisons/venoms of Northern Crown. Want some more real world diseases to inflict on your player? You get your pick of ague (malaria), flux (dysentery), influenza, and the Bubonic plague: you know, the really fun diseases. Not quite sure why smallpox isn't present, though. As for poisons and venoms (which are technically the same thing in d20, but still), there's a lot of plant life ready to cause you suffering. Crazyweeds, deathcap mushrooms, pleurisy roots, poison ivy resin, poison pie, rattlebox seedpods, staggerbush nectar, and white snakeroot are all there for your phytological poisoner. There are also poison entries for the venom of the copperhead, cottonmouth, coral snake, and rattlesnake for those ophidiophiles out there.
I know, a section on warfare in a D&D game, shocking and unexpected! Though to be serious, this section does have some worthwhile discussion on just what the people of the Northern Crown setting fight for. Frontier wars to take territory in the name of queen/king and country is the most common on the continent of Northern Crown, with wars between armies of different royals being a distant second. The least common are interdenominational wars: while still common in Uropa itself, to the point that Germania has been taken back and forth by the Catholics and the Dissenters so many times it's crazy, Northern Crown is far enough from most of the religious leaders that things are on a level of contempt rather than open warfare. We also get names of knightly orders in Northern Crown - the Order of the Stag and the ORder of the Queen's Own Amazons for Albion, the Order of the Bath and Order of the Garter for Carolingia, the Governor's Commended for the Holy Commonwealth, the Order of the Swedish Crown for New Sweden, the Order of St. Michel for Nouvelle France, the Order of Santiago and Order of the Golden Fleece for Nueva Espania, and the Heroes of the Republic for Sophia. We don't get any information beyond the names, sadly, which means I'll never truly know if the Order of the Queen's Own Amazons is as
as it sounds.
Most things are visible to the naked eye: people, animals, and most monsters. There is another realm that touches up against the worldly realm in Northern Crown, however, known as the spectral world. This is the land of the ghosts and fairies, where things like giant castles in the sky and spinning wheels that turn straw into gold are everyday "meh, it happens" life. Pretty much every fairy tale from Beauty and the Beast to Hansel and Gretel are said to have their basis on Uropans who encountered the spectral world firsthand, while the spectral world itself touches back with ghostly hauntings and all the various weird and sometimes cruel shit fairies do. There are also at least two other realms out there, one being the Abyss where fallen angels (devils) and beings of primordial evil (demons) dwell and the other being the Celestial Realm where the ranks of the angels hold court. The former are colossal dicks who love to convert humans to evil, while the latter don't really appear much as they have a God-given vow to not directly interfere in human matters and thus either help from the sidelines or are off punching demons and devils in the face.
Societies, Orders, and Cults
Last, but not least, in chapter 2 are the secret and sometimes not-so-secret societies of Northern Crown. I'll spare any sort of overarching statement about them and just get into the specifics.
The Hellfire Club:
Like the real world Hellfire Club, these guys are a bunch of bored men who want to have an excuse for orgies and revelry. Unlike the real Hellfire Club, there's an alignment prerequisite for joining (Chaotic Neutral and Chaotic Evil Only) and they have recently started being infiltrated by sorcerers who want to turn them to actual evil practices.
Le Dragon Rouge:
Speaking of sorcerers, here's a whole secret society of them. Le Dragon Rouge are a collective of evil only (80% Lawful Evil, 10% Chaotic Evil, and 10 % Neutral Evil membership) Francais sorcerers who have made a pact with Satan himself to infiltrate Good societies and corrupt them.
The Illuminati are invading
Northern Crown governments!
...And they're not really bad. In fact, there's an alignment prerequisite of Neutral Good or Chaotic Good for membership. The entire purpose of Los Illustrados is to bring about enlightened, secular governments, which they try by having cells placed in groups of power to influence them.
L'Ordre du Sang:
A society of rich and powerful vampires, which must be Chaotic Evil for some reason even though they are made up of old Uropan nobility and have the goal of creating a society where vampires rule and are the norm, which all sounds more Lawful than Chaotic to me. Since they are vampires and have the explicit goal of spreading their vampirism to others, the Catholic Church has been fighting to eradicate them for hundreds of years.
The Order of the Temple of Solomon:
Freemasons. Nothing else, just straight up Freemasons.
The Sons of Cincinnatus:
A secret cabal of high-ranking Sophian military whose entire goal is to stage a coup against Jeferson should the public become sick and tired of this whole "democracy" gig and want to go back to a monarchy. They aren't evil, though (or at least 70% of them aren't according to the alignment chart), just a bit too into the old guard.
The Spirit Mask Society:
First Ones Ghostbusters. In addition to being awesome in principle, the Spirit Mask Society all wear masks that are imbued with the ability to turn undead, allowing them to go around from town to town getting rid of evil ghosts. They also have the knowledge of warding rituals to help protect those settlements for longer periods of time after they leave.
The Tree of Liberty:
Another group of Sophian elites, amusingly directly at odds with the goals of their fellow officers that happen to be in the Sons of Cincinnatus. Members of the Tree of Liberty, known as "scions", act as spies that infiltrate other Northern Crown nations and incite the will to overthrow their monarchies and replace them with democratic republics.
The Unseen Hand:
While they have a rather sinister name, the goal of the Unseen Hand is to recruit those who are particularly devout in their fight against evil and continue their legacy of being a secret society specifically created to fight evil secret societies such as Le Dragon Rouge and L'Ordre du Sang.
The Weeping Eye Cult:
The Weeping Eye cult worships the Weeping Eye (shocking), an evil deity whose symbol is an eye that streams tears of blood and is associated with despair and eclipses. Members of the cult engage in mass human sacrifice somewhere in the swamps of southeastern Northern Crown, hoping to appease the Weeping Eye with the sacrifices' souls so that it both grants them power and doesn't consume their own souls instead.
Next time: Habitats, nations, and lands.
Onward, to Adventure!
Original SA post
Part 3: Onward, to Adventure!
Being fantasy North America, Northern Crown has a high variety of habitats in spite of only being the eastern half of a continent. From bogs and hardwood forests to barren mountains and icy tundras, each entry of chapter three provides both a brief “in case you never learned about habitats” description as well as a random encounter table. Farmlands and urban areas have, unsurprisingly, the least diverse random encounters outside o human NPCs as well as those that have the lowest Challenge Ratings. On the other end, the highest contrast would have to go to the Great Lakes – in addition to various fish and game, you have the chance for encounters with giant water elementals, lake monsters, and even immense CR 20 fuck-off giants.
Nations of Northern Crown
If you were more curious as to how the nations of Northern Crown are beyond the playable character cultures from way back when this review started, you’re finally going to get a look at them.
Nestled up in what we know as the Carolinas, the kingdom of Carolingia is known for its wealth and opulence. Fine quality guns (haha), rum, tobacco plantations, orderly towns with affluent citizens, and a king who loves going to the theater and dabbling in natural philosophy while his capable aides power the throne. Of course, not all that glitters is gold – Carolingia is built on the backs of Nyamban slaves and Keltic indentured servants who have begun to rebel and engage in guerrilla warfare if they can escape, its future kingship is in question since Charles II has no rightful heir and his brother James is seen by the Carolingians as a dirty Papist not worthy of the crown of an Anglican nation, the only First Ones the nation has not screwed up relations with have been the Cherokee, and attempts to take over Nueva Espania to the south have been fruitless in spite of the tons of privateers Charles has hired.
The Holy Commonwealth:
The Holy Commonwealth has grown around its capital of Boston and has made a name for itself as a naval power in the region. It also happens to have no actual allies due to its theocratic governance where Cotton Mather of all people is one of the biggest of bigwigs, since Albians, Francais, Kelts, Nederlanders, and various First Ones nations all get dropped into the "sinful and untrustworthy" bucket while the Witchlings are actively tracked and killed by special witch-hunting militias that are always at the ready. There's also a fear of were-beasts, as Commonwealther privateers who attacked Vinland in retribution for Vinlanders sacking Boston in 1650 happened to return from that northern land with a lot of lycanthropy victims.
The Five Nations are a confederacy of five First Ones nations. The Cayuga, Mohawk, Onandaga, Oneida, and Seneca, as well as the recently added sixth member in the Tuscarora, are a major power that has both diplomatic and military clout. Garacontie of the Onondaga, the most powerful member of the Five Nations, is a shrewd man who has been playing the big chess game with the Uropan colonists, gaining valuable trade and advisers while simultaneously stroking the egos of each colonial nation about their hatred of whatever other ones they may hate. There are two conflicting groups within the Five Nations, however, which has started to cause tensions. The separatists are a group that want the Five Nations to stop expansion and drive the Uropan nations from Northern Crown soil, while the expansionists wish to swallow up other First Ones nations against their will if they don't wish to join the Five Nations in order to create a wide-spanning continental empire. Expansionism has already caused the Huron and Suskehana nations to go to war with them, and the Woodland Confederacy to the south is becoming increasingly wary.
The city-state of Naumkeag, the Witches' City, is basically the shadowed reflection of the neighboring Holy Commonwealth. They came over in search of freedom for their own religion just like the Commonwealthers did, rely on the sea for much of their livelihood as the Commonwealth does, and hates the Commonwealth just as much as the Commonwealth hates them. They can’t really expand but aren’t going to contract either, given that Commonwealther attacks against the city itself are prevented by the fact that the governing coven can create huge walls from the very earth and control the weather on a whim. There are some Witchlings of Naumkeag that don’t feel defense is enough, though and plan to drive the Holy Commonwealth into the sea by gaining the aid of the Pawtucket First Ones nation’s sorcerer-king and wearing down the Commonwealthers’ spirit by engaging in terrorist attacks using summoned demons.
New Sweden is a colonial nation at the mouth of the Delaware River, ruled by Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus’s daughter Cristina. The colony is made up of a handful of Swedes who desired to move to a new land and adopted Francais and German refugees from the Uropan wars of religion. Sound like it’s not a big deal? It isn’t, except for in the eyes of the Nederlanders, who want the Delaware River for their trading empire.
Speaking of the Nederlanders, their colonial nation in the new world is Nieu Nederlands, stretching along the Hudson River. It is a colony entirely made for the purpose of profit rather than expansionism, specifically placed to cut off the southward spread of the Francais fur trade and put those pelts in the wallets of the Nederlanders. The weirdest facet of Nieu Nederlands is its leader, Pieter Stuyvesant – rather than being religiously intolerant as he was in real life (indeed, the capital of Nieu Amsterdam is said to be “filled with the languages of many lands and the prayers of many faiths, all enjoying relative freedom in a majority Dissenter population”), Northern Crown’s Stuyvesant’s flaw is instead being seen as a warmongering buffoon by his subjects due to his desires to expand Nieu Nederlands beyond its current borders. The only successful campaign he’s managed to muster up is an attempt to take New Sweden, but otherwise the only military actions on the Northern Crown continent are those that may happen in the future. Carolingia and the Holy Commonwealth both want to annex Nieu Nederlands, the Espaniards want to wipe it off the map entirely, and the Sophians are trying to convince Stuyvesant to cut ties with the Nederlands proper and join the Republic of Sophia.
The nation of Nouvelle France spans the length of the
St. Lawrence River
Riviere du Canada all the way to Great Lakes, its largest cities being the fortress of Quebec and trading hub of Mont Real. Its history is one written by founder Samuel de Champlain, who in the Northern Crown setting was a badass adventurer who singlehandedly fought off wendigo armies, lake monsters, and a legendary uber-giant, all in order to found the new colony for his homeland. Nouvelle France is now a powerhouse in Northern Crown, both economically and militarily, and the nations to the south are all rather nervous at the fact that its huge standing army is eying up the entire length of the Espiritu Santo River. Colonists have already settled at its mouth to create the city of Nouvelle Orleans, but in between it and Nouvelle France lies the Woodland Confederacy, who aren’t about to cede their land without a fight.
The Carib Sea islands, the colony of La Florida, and several small colonies in Southern Cross are the domain of the nation of Nueva Espania. Its armies have stomped smaller native nations into the dirt and its prisoners toil to bring forth silver and gold from the earth, while missionaries from the Catholic Church use its lands as a stepping stone to proselytize further west. While the empire backing the nation is strong, at this point things are getting a bit rough for the colonies, to say the least. Francais from Nouvelle Orleans sabotage attempts at westward expansion in La Florida, the mighty Aztec and Inca empires in Southern Cross still fight the Espaniard army to a standstill that costs the military more and more each year, pirates and privateers from all over the Atlantic and Carib target its precious shipping lanes, and attacks from the undersea kingdom of the sea devils have become more and more frequent.
Republic of Sophia:
The Republic of Sophia is an independent nation formed by Chiron Franklyn and Philathelias Jeferson in what was the Virginia colony in our colonial world. All of the wealth and opulence of Carolingia, but with a democratic republic government, no slaves, friendship with undisplaced local First Ones nations, some of the brightest natural philosophers and wizards in the world, and limitations on expansionism (any Sophian offshoots are stated to be “rogue nations”). Their only rivals are those who hate their freedom (Carolingia) or who mistake the actions of rogue Sophians for the Sophian majority (Nouvelle France and the Woodland Confederacy). You should be proud to be
This is technically cheating a bit, as Vandalia is only briefly mentioned in the Northern Crown Gazetteer in the above section on Sophia. The actual nation write-up for Vandalia appeared in an issue of Game Trade Magazine, but I’m not about to review a whole unrelated magazine just for a minor supplement to this, so I’ll just plop it down where it probably should have been in the first place. Vandalia is a rogue nation, established by Jeferson's former secretary
Asaph Burr somewhere on the western side of the Mountains of Smoke. Burr's kind of crazy and established an autocratic nation of evil natural philosophers, terrorist, and spies because he wants to have an inland empire really,
badly. His greatest tools are the Vandalian Confidential Service, spies who must have a psionic knack in order to join the service.
Snuggled closely to the eastern coast of Lac Champlain, Vermont is a nation founded by a Sophian defector by the name of Ira Cole, who thought that Sophia wasn’t Sophian enough because it still had even tenuous ties to Uropa. So Cole took his group of what the book calls “militant Deists” (hate all forms of organized religion other than their own, which posits that peaceful contemplation on the rational forces of the universe is the only pathway to finding the nature of God) headed north, plopped down on the shores of Lac Champlain, and told the local Coureurs “hey, you’re technically part of Vermont now and get protection from your foes, but you can stay and keep doing what you’re doing”. Cole has only one big plan for expansion, and that’s to take Mont Real in order to cut off one of Nouvelle France’s valuable fur trade assets and cause enough dissent for Francais freethinkers to start a laborers’ rebellion. If you couldn’t guess, Cole doesn’t like Nouvelle France at all.
There’s not really much to say about Vinland that wouldn’t be repeating statements about the Vinlanders. It’s ruled by a jarl, there are great halls with chieftains who lead thanes, lots of sea raids of other nations along the Atlantic coast of Northern Crown happen, and...that’s about it, really.
A gathering of First Ones interior nations such as the Choctaw, Kikapo, Miami, Ojibwa, and Shawnee, the Woodland Confederacy initially began as a united front against the Francais and Five Nations heading further south than they already had but grew into a general confederacy whose uniting cause was “Uropans,
”. Things are starting to get out of hand, however, as a small group of extremists has risen up that actively track down and kill Confederacy members who adopt Uropan ways of life in spite of the Confederacy’s leader Tecumpease trying to quell them. Many of the member nations are also starting to wonder if the Cherokee were had the right idea in not joining the Confederacy, given that it seems like the Shawnee are hoarding an inordinate amount of political power compared to everyone else.
The second portion of the chapter on nations deals with the actual nations of Uropa, rather than any of their colonies. These tend to be given more in the context of their leaders than their lands. Why is this? I'm not sure, maybe because they were assumedly close enough to the real world history of the nations in question to do so.
As stated in the entry on the Albian themselves, Albion is ruled by Gloriana, daughter of Queen Elizabeth and the fairy king Oberon. This is a two-edged sword for the nation – on the one hand, it allows for trade with the fey realm (which the Albians refer to as Elfland) and the mysterious mirage-coated Blessed Isles of the Atlantic. On the other, there are more than a few nations that see fey and demons as two sides of the same coin, and accuse Gloriana of having infernal pacts. Gloriana’s main goal is to get on the good side of the Kelts, who were spurned by her mother, and troll King Felipe II of Espania as much as possible by screwing with his fleets.
Denmark's heavily fortified coastal cities along the Baltic Straits allow them to extoll a fairly heavy charge for Uropan ships trying to pass through. Sweden would really like to own those straits, but so far no luck on cracking the cities' defenses.
One of the two lands of the Kelts, Eire is the one that is more receptive to (but still wary of) Albion at the time. It's most known for its fairy-touched people and its refusal to leave ancient pagan religions behind.
One of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, rivaled only by the Republic of Sophia, France’s freethinkers and natural philosophers have given it prosperity and power. King Louis XIV, like Queen Gloriana, has a pretty big disdain of King Felipe II and likes to drive plenty of rusty nails into his holdings. Some of Louis’s machinations against Felipe include prodding Cimarron revolts in the Carib Sea, giving discreet aid to the Ottoman Empire, and instructing his subjects in Nouvelle France and Nouvelle Orleans to join with each other along the Espiritu Santo River to create the nation of Louisiana, which would fully block the Espaniards from making any westward progress.
The Habsburg Empire is made up of Austria, Espania, and Germania and is currently under the rule of King Felipe II. Felipe is about as stubborn as they come, deciding that a century of rule isn’t enough, and spends vast amounts of money to hire expert alchemists to keep him alive so that he can continue to further his imperial causes. Felipe isn’t really broken up over how much his empire has crumbled in Northern Crown and Southern Cross, instead focusing his hatred on the Uropan “infidels” in the Ottoman Empire and Albion.
The island of Malta is run by the Knights of Malta, formerly known as the Knights Hospitaller. They basically spend their time harassing Turkish shipping lanes. They also deal with the corsairs of northern Nyambe, which is a topic we'll probably eventually cover given that it is referred to as the third in the Northern Crown "trilogy" in some advertising material.
Speaking of the Ottoman Empire, here they are. Sultan Mehmed IV wants to further expand his empire into the Habsburg Empire, Poland, and Venice, but hasn’t had an luck so far. Still, having a sprawling empire that’s doing pretty well for itself isn’t so bad, even if your only friend happens to be some Francais guy who only wants to do back door deals with you to screw over the Espaniards.
Poland is a strong nation in eastern Uropa that is best known for its hussars that wear distinctive wing ornaments. The winged hussars have helped push back the Ottoman Empire and the city-states to the northeast, and the nation is on at least good terms with the Habsburg Empire.
Portugal’s wide-spanning trade empire is one of the only ones that travels into the lands to the east, which has earned it the enmity of the Nederlanders and the Espaniards, the latter of which have only left Portugal alone due to centuries-old accords.
Unlike Eire, Scotia is still very much antagonistic toward Albion, and has the strength to remain independent. Its highlanders and spellcasters are lead by Kieran Scot, an immortal witch with plenty of power.
Gustavus Adolphus, a seemingly immortal warrior who miraculously recovered from almost certainly fatal injuries on the battlefield (which did, in fact, kill him in real life), is the leader of the Dissenter nation of Sweden. His primary obsession is with spreading the dissenter faith and taking Germania from the Habsburg Empire, and doesn't really care much about the colony of New Sweden. To Gustavus, that minor Northern Crown holding is basically a sandbox for his daughter to learn how to be a ruler, though I imagine the citizens of New Sweden living in fear of the Nieu Nederlands war force might think otherwise.
Apparently feeling the Knights Hospitaller had the right idea, the Teutonic Knights of Germania also founded their own small nation that straddles the sea near the borders of Poland and Lithuania. They hate pagans and wage war against Lithuania in the name of God, though more than a few Uropan powers think they're just hungry for power and using religion as a convenient excuse.
With bases dotting the Adriatic and
Middle Seas, the Republic of Venice is a a powerful trading nation in Uropa and the near east. The Habsburg Empire has encouraged piracy against the Venetians to weaken them and take their trade routes for Felipe, but so far the Venetians still cling to life, their war fleets fending off pirates in the west and Turks eying Crete in the east.
Powers of the Far East
The last section of the chapter on nations discusses mysterious Asia. Little is known about these lands for the people of Northern Crown or the readers, as Asia in the alt-history setting never got a book like Northern Crown and Nyambe did. Still, what we do know is given right here, so let's run it down.
The Portuguese currently have a trade monopoly on the silks and fineries of Cathay, a land in turmoil due to the emperors of the Ming dynasty breaking against each other in spite of the foreign threat of pirates from
The rulers of the subcontinent of Indi
, the Moghuls are wealthy and powerful. This, of course, has attracted attention from the various Uropan powers. The Portuguese have already made inroads as they tend to when it comes to Asia, and Albion is not far behind with its establishment of the Albian East Indi Company. Denmark, France, and the Nederlands are currently in hot pursuit of that same sweet treasure line.
Muscovy and Novgorod:
The extent of Russia at the current time in the setting, though settlers are starting to pour eastward into the seemingly endless steppe and forest. Albion holds the trading monopoly with Muscovy and face the treacherous waters of the icy north to gain rare furs and timber.
The mysterious and isolationist island nation of Xipangu is the toughest nut for the Uropans to crack. Even the Portuguese only have limited trading rights and the emperor of Xipangu refuses to give them a contract insuring exclusive monopoly. Xipangu also happens to have pirates that, as mentioned before, harass the eastern seaboard of Cathay.
Next time: the gazetteer chapter of the Northern Crown Gazetteer. I had planned to have it along with this post, but I had forgotten how long it actually was, so it’s going to be placed on its own.
Of Mapmaking, Monsters, and Mandibular Mammals
Original SA post
I’ve been down with a cold for nearly two weeks now, so I’ve had a lot of time to think instead of actually be able to write. Unlike with nations (which seemed to be something that needed to be covered in entirety), I ended up deciding I’d not actually overview every entry in chapter 5 of the Northern Crown Gazetteer, instead having highlights of some of the noteworthy ones rather than going over every single tribal land with a minor blurb listed.
Part 4: Of Mapmaking, Monsters, and Mandibular Mammals
It turns out that a book called the Northern Crown Gazetteer happens to actually have a gazetteer chapter. Shocking, I know.
To be serious, though, chapter 5 covers each general location within the known boundaries of Northern Crown and provides a bit of information on just what sort of things you can get up to there. It even links the area to a specific habitat so that you can quickly pull up the right random encounter chart and get going. As there are a whopping 180 entries in the gazetteer, ranging from minor paragraphs on lakes and small native lands to major cities and sprawling natural formations, I decided I’d just do some highlights, lest we be here forever.
Sitting just below Nouvelle France, the Allegashe is a constantly shifting expanse of many bogs and rivers that even the bravest First Ones and Coureurs almost never head into. I can’t blame them, either, as the Allegashe has a primal sapience and hatred of humans – it will actively change its layout and melt solid ground just to screw human travelers over. It’s also filled with giant moose that have held on in the Allegashe since the Age of Ice, swarms of giant black flies (played here by stirges), and a very old and cantankerous moos-soogit (a monster we'll be meeting shortly).
This swamp on the Carolingian coast is home to the Congress of Haints, a large and particularly powerful group of haints (which we'll also be meeting soon) that plot against the human settlements on the edge of the swamp. They and past atrocities have tainted the swamp with evil energy that attracts will-o’-wisps and other creatures that thrive on suffering.
The earth has begun to claim Jamestown, the empty shell of the early and infamously poorly planned Albian settlement effort. The only humans that still dwell there are the swamp Albians, enigmatic individuals with archaic speech that hide in the watery forests. A lot of rumors have cropped up about the swamp Albians – some say they ended up turning to witchcraft after the colony failed, for instance, while others claim that they are actually cursed to a painful immortal existence (of the "eternal youth not part of the package" type) due to the cannibalism, violence, and strife that rocked Jamestown during and after its fatal birth 60 years ago.
The Holy Commonwealth town is Jerusalem sticks out like a sore thumb as a huge mistake by the Puritan Church that won’t go away. After innocents were killed in 1652 during a particularly vicious witch hunt in the town, the residents of Jerusalem decided to give the Church the finger and start actively trading with the Witchlings of Naumkeag. Rather than make the rift on the home front even bigger by another inquisition, the Church decided that this might be a good opportunity to engage in spying and sabotage at the only really amicable crossroads between Commonwealther and Witchling culture, so one can expect to run into a fair bit of espionage if in the town. There are also some rumors that there are people in Jerusalem that have sea devil blood in them, Dunwich Horror style.
While it fulfills the important role of keeping Espaniard expansion in check, the Francais settlement of Nouvelle Orleans is perhaps best well known for its lax laws and sense of revelry. Francais and Cimarrons live in the city without much concern for their pasts or actions such as duels within the city limits (which are legal). As with many coastal locations in the southern half of Northern Crown, the Gulf de Mexique that Nouvelle Orleans is so close is the dominion of the sea devils, who will attempt to wreck smaller ships that reach the sea and take their treasure.
As Northern Crown is not your standard D&D setting, the monster chapter doesn’t just barrel directly into new critters. Instead, it first notes changes to the classic Monster Manual menagerie. Creatures like unicorns, chimeras, and centaurs exist in the setting but are extremely rare and only found in Uropa or the Near East, the Good Outsiders are renamed and reflavored to fit the Christian hierarchy (lantern archons are angels, avorals are archangels, ghaeles are powers, trumpet archons are principalities, astral devas are thrones, planetars are cherubim, and solars are seraphim), sahuagin use their more classic name of sea devil, gnolls are renamed dogmen and exist on the islands of the Carib Sea, and elves are actually a fairy-touched humanoid group rather than the true elves of the Faerie. There are also more than a few monsters that have been renamed and reflavored to fit with the First Ones mythology. Some examples include naga stats being used for creatures called serpent witches, hill giants and stone giants being primal beings from the Uncounted Time named the mishinawba and maushop respectively, and minotaurs being bison-headed beings called hornheads that follow the bison herds and beat the shit out of wolves and human hunters with their huge spears. As for new monsters? We’ll look at them now, of course.
Bone Dancer (CR 5 Medium-size Undead):
These Neutral Evil sorcerers attained immortality in the most insane way possible – not through deals with devils, but by literally eating themselves alive while enchanting their own skeletons. In addition to having access to Sorcerer spells, bone dancers are able to induce paralysis by performing an enchanted rattling of their bones (DC 15 Will save to beat). And what do they do after they successfully paralyze someone? Why, they eat them alive, of course! Doing so to a humanoid allows the bone dancer to get a free skeleton thrall, of which it can have up to 1d6 plus one more per extra HD it gains if it advances.
Catamount (CR 4 Large Magical Beast):
Think cougars are scary enough apex predators? Apparently Doug Anderson didn't, as he introduces us to the catamount. In addition to having an Intelligence score of 4, making it at least at the basal level of sapience, the catamount can cast the
spell at will, allowing it to spring all over the place to confuse and slam into prey. This big cat does indeed have a big punch, as any attack made after it uses its jumping power requires a Fortitude save (DC 14) or the target is stunned for a full round.
Dread Rattler (CR 5 Large Magical Beast):
Known to the First Ones as uktena (horned serpents), dread rattlers are giant horned rattlesnakes that dwell across the southeast and up the Espiritu Santo River, and are by far some of the most terrifying serpents one will ever encounter. First off, they don't follow the normal D&D rules for poison and venom – instead, it's one Fortitude save (DC 18) or you're paralyzed for 1d6
. On top of that, it can rattle its tail to produce spells as a free action, casting either
against potential threats or
against prey. Yikes.
Gougou (CR 20 Gargantuan Giant):
The peak of all the new monsters introduced in the Northern Crown Gazetteer. Nothing rivals the gougou, titanic amphibious giants that haunt the Great Lakes. There are only around a dozen or so in existence, but that doesn't really matter when they are giant terrifying murder-beasts that can wreck ships and step over palisades to steal people from shoreline forts. As when Samuel de Champlain slew the gougou that terrorized the lake that bears his name, these titanic creatures are meant to be the stuff of legends that your heroes aspire to eventually conquer when they are at their peak. The only thing gougou have up their sleeves besides amphibiousness and brute strength is the fact that a marsupial pouch hangs from their otherwise scaly body, allowing them to stuff up to three people in for easy carrying. Sound weird? It is, but it's in the actual real world mythology about the gougou too (except when it's instead depicted as a sack of some sort, but details).
Haint (CR 1 Medium-size Monstrous Humanoid):
Haints are murderous crooks who were twisted into pitiful creatures that resemble ghouls unfortunate enough to be alive rather than undead. They are also sometimes referred to as bogeymen or goons and only appear after dark, spending the daytime huddled in their dark forest, swamp, or cave lairs eating insects and rodents. When they are out at night, however, they suddenly take on a decidedly dangerous tone as they attempt to rob, murder, and induce fear in small frontier communities. Aiding them in their pursuits are the ability to cast the
spell three times a day to open those pesky barred doors and sneak attack that begins at 1d6 and gains an additional 1d6 every two HD the haint gains. Yeah, for some reason these guys advance to 2 through 8 HD rather than by class levels, which is beyond me.
Haunted Scarecrow (CR 3 Medium-size Undead):
The ghost of a vengeful person that was buried under a scarecrow's field and proceeds to haunt said scarecrow. A haunted scarecrow can be either a murderer or a revenant in nature, killing for the joy of killing or slaying people who did a great injustice to it in life. Either way, it achieves its goals through sharp stick-claws, having a fear aura, being able to boost its total HD by one for each slain body it buries near its own, and having and immunity to cold damage and only taking half damage from piercing or slashing weapons. It also happens to have two rather obvious weaknesses, however, in that it is extremely vulnerable to fire and can only move within a mile radius of its burial place.
Headless Rider (CR 9 Medium-size Undead):
Everybody's favorite murderous undead Hessian. Headless riders are armored juggernauts who descend upon the living with a vengeful fury and wickedly sharp cavalry sabre, slaying whoever they please. They can also throw a severed human head to produce the effects of a
spell. The latter seems a bit overkill given that they also have an innate aura of fear about them, but whatever, rock on you crazy zombie horseman.
Hy-Dry Tortoise (CR 8 Huge Magical Beast):
A giant two-headed predatory box turtle of the southeast pine forests. I'm at a loss as to what I could even say about this one. That left head in the image even looks puzzled at its own existence.
Kawkontwawk (CR 2 Small Magical Beast):
Intelligent magical owl-sized ravens that love to hoard treasure and can cast
once per day. Another sort of meh one.
Lanternjack (CR 6 Medium-size Undead):
Lanternjacks sold their souls for eternal life, but now have buyer's remorse since they have become horrible undead creatures that hunger for the souls of the living to replace their own. Their infernal lanterns are just for decoration (though there is an erronnous mention of a lantern attack in the text in spite of it not being in the stat block), but don’t be fooled into thinking they are powerless. Not only does damage reduction 5 and spell resistance 14 grant them some basic defense against physical and magical attacks alike, but on top of that the broadsword they carry induces energy drain that results in negative levels. Any human who happens to die from the energy drain will rise as another lantern jack to continue the same vicious cycle.
Misig’nwa (CR 8 Huge Magical Beast):
A giant bear who is a spirit of the hunt that punishes those who it finds hunting without the intention to eat the kill. How does it do that? With a breath weapon that polymorphs people into deer.
, it’s clearly so obvious!
Moos-soogit (CR 14 Huge Outsider):
Moos-soogit are a type of manitou, specifically one that takes on aspects of moose and act as the guardians of bogs and boreal forests. They are merciless towards those they feel have despoiled their wilderness – they command regular moose to fence humans in while the moos-soogit attacks. Overturning boats to force foes to fight in the water is a popular tactic, but the spirit has a variety of ways it can do its work given that it has 6th level Druid spellcasting and the ability to use all the class features of a 6th level Druid once per day.
Nunne’hi (CR 7 Medium-size Fey):
These beings resemble the First Ones and are the chroniclers of both human and fey history since the Uncounted Time. Theirs is the archive of the ages deep beneath the earth, holding even the forbidden knowledge of the Makers in their grasp, and to trespass without their blessing is one of the few ways to bring nunne’hi to anger. By contrast, music is a way to connect with these ancient spirits, and a Good aligned Bard with a Charisma score of 15 or higher has a chance to gain a nunne’hi as a mentor in magical fey music. Nunne’hi are capable of casting
at will, as well as a number of hindering or aiding Bard spells such as
once per day. Oh, and they can get class levels, the only monster we see in the title that can do so.
Nyah-gwaheh (CR 20 Gargantuan Magical Beast):
This titanic bear slumbers for ages before waking up and going on a rampaging feast. It can’t do anything besides what a normal bear would do, but does that really matter when you’re a bear bigger than an elephant?
Okanangan (CR 10 Huge Magical Beast):
The classic North American serpentine lake monster. These guys are found in deep lakes and rivers where they hunt for fish. The okanangan takes the cryptozoological mold of lake monster rather than folkloric one and is basically just a weird-looking apex predator. Its only unique ability is a wave thrash attack, which basically allows it to deal a slam attack up to 100 feet away to a foe at the water’s surface.
Pauguk (CR 2 Medium-size Undead):
The pauguk is a hovering skeleton that basically takes on the game role of being party’s first vampire. They travel in flocks to battlefields and locations beset by plague or famine and feasts on the recently dead or dying.
Pomola (CR 14 Huge Outsider):
Pomola are the manitou of the mountains, each peak 5,000 feet or higher having its own individual pomola. Being giant humanoid figures with the heads of moose and the feet and wings of eagles, pomola are pretty imposing and specifically don’t want humans up on top of their mountains. They have the same Druidic manitou abilities that the moos-soogit have, but on top of that are also able to control the weather within a mile around.
Pukwudgee (CR 1 Small Fey):
Tribes of gnome-like forest fey with poisoned arrows. They live much as members of the Woodland Confederacy do, even having their own sachems and miniature confederations. Pukwudgee like to steal human trinkets and a wise traveler will give a gift basket to placate them.
Razorback Hogge (CR 4 Large Magical Beast):
Basically wild boars with particularly nasty stats. They have no supernatural powers, so presumably the only reason they’re given the Magical Beast type is to get the d10 hit die over the Animal type’s d8.
Sanauk (CR 2 Medium-size Elemental):
Resembling humans made out of obsidian, these earth elementals are found up in the mountains and tend to be violently protective of their territory. They are masters of flintknapping and can actually knap pieces of
to use as ranged weapons. Sanauk flint can be used to create masterwork arrows, javelins, or shortspears.
Servers, Plague (CR 9 Large Outsider) and Strife (CR 8 Large Outsider):
The servers serve the evil god Hah-gweh-da-et-gah, acting as the transmitters of misfortune and woe across communities. The plague servers resemble humanoid rattlesnakes and spread the Bubonic plague, while strife servers look like werewolves and have both a confusion-inducing howl and an oral that causes a penalty to cooperative Charisma skills such as Diplomacy. Both of these demons are naturally invisible in order to do their dirty work discreetly.
Thunderbird (CR 7 Large Magical Beast):
Electrical paladin-birds. Thunderbirds are called down to break up disputes that have gotten too heated, defend First Ones settlements overwhelmed by foes, or to just fight evil creatures.
Trickster (CR 1 Small Fey):
Sneaky, mischievous raccoon spirits. Tricksters’ only real power of polymorphing, which they use to mess with humans.
U’tlun’ta (CR 6 Large Giant):
A horrific mixture of hag and giant, the u’tlun’ta live alone or in covens deep in the mountains. They don’t care about most forms of treasure, save for gems and magical items, and see Evil witches as siblings in the greater picture who can teach them of the arcane arts. An u’tlun’ta in combat has several stone-related spell-like abilities and the ability to deal profusely bleeding wounds with the gigantic spear-like index finger on her left hand.
Wendigo (CR 8 Huge Giant):
Tribal ice giants found in the north. Sadly, they are basically just frost giants with a cold breath weapon, which is a shame given that in real life lore wendigo are terrifying cannibal giants whose entire modus operandi is being fear incarnate.
The last portion of the bestiary chapter gives quick stats for giant beaver, lynx, moose, panther/cougar/mountain lion/whatever you call it, giant pike, giant porcupine, and giant snapping turtle. I won't go over these because they're animals and I think you know what animals are.
Next time: treasure, magic items, artifacts, and inventions as we close in on the final portions of the Northern Crown Gazetteer.
Of Magic, Science, and Heroes
Original SA post
Kaja Rainbow pretty much said the exact same thing I was thinking. That sex change spell is pretty damn horrible, conflating physical sex with both gender identity and (even more bafflingly) sexual orientation. I've never seen a sex change spell in any game ever that had a mental component before, so what possessed this author to do so is beyond me.
"Chauvinist" is the word you're looking for to describe Northern Crown. But then again it's basically "America Is The Best: The Roleplaying Game." You get what you pay for.
Yeah, the Sophians genuinely baffle me. Even with the First Ones, one of the topics you could very easily be one-sided on, Northern Crown treats them as conflicting nations that sometimes have less than noble goals, but that those goals don't magically erase how bad it is for the Uropans to encroach on their land either. The Sophians, though, are the shining city on a hill that break the tone of each nation, even the Holy Commonwealth, having its good and bad sides. I imagine it would have been better if Vandalia was the dark side of Sophia rather than removed as a rogue nation.
But enough talk about what could have been, let's talk about what was and is as we finish off Northern Crown.
Part 5: Of Magic, Science, and Heroes
As Northern Crown is still a high fantasy setting in spite of its more down to earth elements, it’s unsurprising that there is indeed a chapter on new magic items for characters to use. In addition to altering some SRD magic items due to the nature of the setting (for instance, the
trident of fish command
is changed to a shortspear called
) and removing others that don’t seem to fit, the First Ones have access to unique magic items known as earth effigies. These are basically the animal-shaped mounds seen in various Mississippian cultures in the real world, only with the added magical power to become an animated object or summon celestial guardian animals based on the effigy’s shape. The Uropans have a similar magic item called the standing stone, which gets the animated object ability but replaces the guardian summoning with the ability to connect to each other through ley lines to form a more magically powerful area. As for new magic items, there aren’t really all that many and most are artifacts, but I’ll note some of them nonetheless.
Black books are the only way to summon extraplanar creatures unless you have levels in the Witch class. While the most ancient of the black books, the Key of Solomon, was written by a Biblical figure, all of the Christian churches ban black books and execute their users.
Maushop’s War Club:
This +3 greatclub is named after the Wampanoag creator giant Maushop, who fed the Wampanoag with whales and made the pukwudgee. Those who wield the club are affected by
as long as they hold it.
Necklace of Lightning Stone:
A magically-enhanced piece of fulgurite that grants the wearer electricity resistance 10, the ability to cast
once per day, and the ability to cast
once per week.
The Liberty Bell, but magical. Its rin strikes fear into evil creatures and bolsters the attack and damage bonuses of good creatures.
While there weren’t a lot of magic items, inventions are the new hotness and get a lot of love. They range in nature from vehicles such as the aerostatic ship (dirigible airship) and piscatoform ship (proto-submarine) to automata that mimic horses and human soldiers. As with the magical items, below are some of the inventions that seem particularly worthy of note.
A rather terrifying device, the demanafix is basically an iron maiden that siphons spellcasting power instead of simply stabbing you. Spellcasters lose a caster level per minute spent in the device, while innately magical beings such as fey and outsiders sufer 1d10 damage per round inside. Any lost caster levels are restored if the demanafix is destroyed.
A special wire and charge system that removes the misfire chance from a gunpowder weapon, thus making them slightly less pointless.
While attempts to replicate this device in real life may have failed, the power of pseudoscience allows the infamous Archimedes death ray to be a viable weapon in Northern Crown. Its damage varies based on range and the amount of available sunlight, ranging from 3d6 fire damage with full sunlight at a range of 100 feet or less down to 1d4-1 fire damage with minimal sunlight at 125 feet or more.
Occam’s Blade Oil:
This amber oil grants a permanent +1 bonus to damage rolls with a piercing or slashing weapon it is rubbed on. That’s not hugely impressive, but I like the joke of the invention’s name and thus will mention it anyway.
The metamorphosis cabinet trick, only it actually works. The cabinet is expensive to make, however, and breaks after 50 uses.
As we near the end of the Northern Crown Gazetteer, there are statistics provided for a handful of legendary figures meant to be big deal allies or enemies:
“Northern Crown Gazetteer” posted:
Like the dragons of a high-fantasy campaign, they are invaluable allies or dreadful foes, and provide rare but memorable encounters.
That’s right, high level NPCs should be like
. None of this constant GMPC nonsense for Doug Anderson, no sir! But rather than simply noting what the author’s opinion on big name NPCs is, let’s actually note who we have present.
Johnny Appleseed (Albian Cleric 6/Sower 10):
I know, it’s shocking to see that the prestige class made to emulate Johnny Appleseed happens to be given to Johnny Appleseed. Not much is known about Johnny beyond that he is apparently in his 40s, is of Albian descent, and plants his magical trees all over the place.
Rebecca Blackwood (Witchling Witch 19):
The coven mother of Naumkeag and its sovereign protector. Being able to cast 9th level spells is pretty helpful on that front.
Paul Bunyan (Commonwealther Commoner 8/Tall Tale Hero 10):
Commonwealther by birth only, Paul Bunyan has more in common with the Coureurs he wanders the woods with than with anyone in the Holy Commonwealth. Uropans find him uncouth and First Ones think he’s a destructive menace, leaving Paul mostly beloved by lumberjacks and his mystical ox Babe.
Mike Fink (Kelt Raider 8/Wild Brawler 10):
You know you’re in for trouble when you encounter a man whose nicknames all include some mention of ferocious river animals or his ability to beat the shit out of you. Fink plies the lawless stretches of the Espiritu Santo River and uses all those damage-boosting class features of his to get into brawls with anyone and everyone he can.
Chiron Franklyn (Sophian Expert 2/Natural Philosopher 12/Wizard 4):
Diplomat, ladies’ man, fighter, scholar, wizard, and holder of the title Lord Magus, Chiron Franklyn is better than you will ever be. Then again, being based on Benjamin Franklin makes you kind of a hard act to follow in and of itself, even without the magic powers. Franklyn’s familiar is an owl and his chosen Natural Philosopher phenomena are Matter, Physics, and two degrees of Magnetism.
Cristina of Sweden (Swedish Aristocrat 3/Soldier 3/Rake 2/Fencing Master 4):
The daughter of Gustavus Adolphus and ruler of New Sweden is known to be boisterous and roguish, which annoy her father and causes her handlers more than a fair bit of grief. She tends to have an entourage of other rakish duelists with her when she goes on excursions.
Garacontie of Onondaga (Onondaga Aristocrat 11):
Garacontie is the golden-tongued leader of the Five Nations, master of many languages and the art of diplomacy. His mastery of diplomacy translates to a +20 to Diplomacy checks through ranks and ability modifiers, in fact.
Philathelias Jeferson (Sophian Aristocrat 3/Natural Philosopher 10):
The founder of the Republic of Sophia, grandmaster of the Sophian branch of the Solomonic Order, and the man who decided having a clockwork butler carry around his rapier was totally not ostentatious. Jeferson considers natural philosophy to be his true calling and politics to be merely an important obligation, having a lot of Knowledge and Profession skills compared to Diplomacy and Sense Motive being his only major Charisma skills. He makes up for this by having his Natural Philosopher phenomena be heavily specialized towards messing with people’s heads, with one degree in Antimagic and three degrees all stuffed into Mentalism.
Francis L'ollonais (Buccaneer Sorcerer 3/Soldier 8/Sea Captain 4):
In addition to being a twisted torture master and brutal pirate as he was in real life, Northern Crown’s Francis L’ollonais dabbled in the dark arts at a young age. He is one of the most infamous pirates of the Carib Sea thanks to his mixture of natural and supernatural talents and has a hefty Espaniard bounty on his head.
The Opener (Cimarron Commoner 8/Soldier 2/Firebrand 4):
The Opener is a master tactician and leader of the slave rebellion in the colony of St. Dominique. Having studied Francais literature, he knows how to thwart their typical strategies and plans on making a New Nyambe in the Carib Sea for the freed slaves.
Tecumpease (Shawnee Paladin 12):
Tecumpease is one of the two founders of the Woodland Confederacy, along with her brother Tenskwatawa. Why exactly Tecumseh is a woman named Tecumpease in Northern Crown is a mystery I cannot solve, but in any case she’s a brash and outspoken warrior and leader.
Tenskwatawa (Shawnee Druid 11)
Also known as the Prophet and the Open Door, Tenskwatawa preaches that the Uropans are the spawn of the Evil Spirit. He is one of the driving forces behind the Woodland Confederacy’s “back to tradition” movement and may or may not be turning a blind eye to the extremists in the confederacy that have begun to kill First Ones who adopt Uropan traditions and religion.
Finally, tucked at the back of the Northern Crown Gazetteer, a collection of generic NPCs send us off. Statistics are provided for a bandit (Soldier 1), Dragoon (Warrior 2), Nyamban Fighter (Gamba 1), Witchling flight mother (Witch 4), Witchling flying skirmisher (Witch 3), greatsword (Warrior 1), grenadier (Warrior 1), halberdier (take a wild guess), highwayman (Rake 3), hussar (Warrior 2), musketeer (Warrior 1), pirate (Warrior 1), rowdy (Commoner 1), royal guard (Warrior 2), settler (Commoner 1), First Ones skirmisher (Warrior 1), and voyageur (Raider 1).
That sure is a lot of variants on first and second level Warriors, alright. You may also notice that the Nyamban fighter NPC has a single level in Gamba, a class that has never been mentioned once in this review series. That’s because it’s not a Northern Crown class at all, it’s a Fighter variant from Nyambe: African Adventures. Northern Crown is mostly good about avoiding leaning too heavily on you needing Nyambe for Cimarron characters, so this bit is somewhat perplexing.
And that’s Northern Crown. While it isn’t necessarily something amazingly innovative, the setting does try to utilize the Dungeons and Dragons system for something novel, and in my opinion mostly succeeds. While its firearm rules are probably the most impotent I’ve seen in any d20 game ever, a lot of the new rules are quite nifty, especially those that deal with Druids and nature, and the book manages to avoid falling into the trap of making the Uropans or the First Ones entirely good or evil. Unless you are the Sophians, of course, which are the one blind spot the author has.
I’m also more of a fan of the timeline of Northern Crown than I thought I would be, as the “vague history” concept lets the author have a bit of leeway for colorful characters from both the early and late colonial eras. It’s a shame that the author’s plans for sourcebooks on the Spectral Realm, Uropa, and Southern Cross never panned out – I would have loved to have seen what he was going to do with the Inca and Aztec empires still alive and kicking.
There were, as I noted, two minor PDF supplementals to Northern Crown referred to as “Franklyn’s Almanacks”. These don’t need more than this footnote from me, to be honest. The three prestige classes given in Franklyn’s Almanack – the Sophian Winged Saber, Carolingian Hippogriff Lancer, and Francais Gendarme – are only three levels each and could very well have been Soldier variants, the two adventures are both nothing to write home about, and the other article is a collection of NPCs for Le Dragon Rouge which could be useful but aren’t really worth writing out a big chunk of text on.
Now, with all of that said, my question to you is this – should I head straight into Nyambe: African Adventures next, or take a break for some other series? Nyambe is technically part of the same universe as Northern Crown, but it’s rather...different. Namely, it has a far more traditional D&D theme that happens to have an African paint job – less natural philosophers and colonialism, more monkey-elves and baboon-headed orcs.