Today we continue our look at the Setting chapters of Yggdrasill with a look at Scandia, the region where the game takes place.
I’m pretty sure that the attention to detail exhibited by the authors of Yggdrasill was already somewhat indicated by my previous article, but I have to repeat myself. Their approach to the setting is near-encyclopedic as far as I can tell. Considering that only three paragraphs into the setting chapter, there’s already something that reads:
“In the lower hills, along the coasts and plateus, grow mainly deciduous trees, such as larch, beech, oak, cedar, elm and birch, providing timber for construction and heating.”
It’s this kind of attention to detail that always has me impressed with their work. I’m an admittedly lazy sort of GM at times, and even when I try my best at descriptive scenes, a tree, is often just that. The lengths at which the authors go to be exact in their descriptions will not go unnoticed, or unappreciated.
That said the chapter isn’t dry and uninteresting. The chapter’s description of Scandia’s geography is vivid, and the authors play a delicate game of dropping just enough fantasy elements, such as mention of Frost Giants and the Kraken to spruce things up.
This chapter goes on to discuss each of the Three Kingdoms of Scandia: Denmark, Norway and Svithjod (which occupied part of modern-day Sweden.) These kingdoms are subject to a thorough treatment, with sections dedicated to their geography, the nature of their human settlements, the organization of their governments, recent events and important figures.
Each of these is full of interesting detail with regards to the nature of each of the kingdoms, and the sections on current events is a particular favorite of mine, given that they present strong plot hooks that could fuel a campaign set in each kingdom.
The next chapter is perhaps my favorite in the book. It’s ridiculously mundane, being titled “Daily Life” but I’ve always found the study of societies more interesting through the lens of how they lived rather than where and who ruled them at what year.
There’s a whole bunch of information in this chapter, which tackles almost everything I can think of, such as the organization of society in terms of family and clan, to social norms such as the law and how insults are taken pretty seriously.
Culture and civilization is given a lot of attention, with descriptions of important rites such as weddings, and descriptions of other mundane (but no less fascinating) facets of civilization such as hygiene and beauty, food, the Arts, and what leisure activities the Norsemen partake in. There’s also a thorough treatment of the housing of the various Norsemen, what they look like and what rooms they might have. It’s not all peacetime talk, of course, as there’s also a discussion on how they wage war, conduct raids, and what weapons they favor.
Fans of books like L5R’s Emerald Empire supplement will be pleased with this, as it really helps to communicate the unique and fascinating nature of the Norsemen’s culture.
Yggdrasill clearly knows what it wants to do as far as the setting goes. By taking away all the misconception and showing the readers just how awesome fact can be when compared to fiction, while keeping enough fantasy around to still be mysterious.
There’s certainly more than enough detail here to add the kind of cultural texture that will bring a campaign to life, and hopefully convince most of those still stuck in the shallow stereotypes to better appreciate the nature of the Norse civilization.