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The Complete Domains of Ostland 1st Edby Jacob Skytte
Family and Clan
The Royal Household
Role of the Sexes
Economy and Treasure
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF VESTPONT
Berserkers of Thor
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF SUMARLAND
Gest the Hook
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF RINGMARK
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF HAMMERSHOLM
Snorri the Handsome
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF NOSLOSFORD
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF VITHESFORD
THE DOMAIN OF THORHOLM
Bjorn the Drunk
THE DOMAIN OF ALAND
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF VARMGARD
The Army of Ostland
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF HALTIMARK
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF HAVARDHOLM
Thjodhild the Vile
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF SUDDMORE
The Golden Pelt
THE DOMAIN OF STEINGARD
Spawn of Hel
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF ROMALAND
Hygelac the Doubter
Bera the Pale
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF FALLERSHOLM
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF ZEAMARK
King Hord Dark-Eye
Yrsa the Young
Asgrim the Bowed
THE DOMAIN OF HEDMARK
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF GOTLAND
Mord the Greedy
The Endless Ring
Ofeig of Bakkedyb
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF OSTERLO
Starkad the Hunter
The Storm Serpent
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF SOGNESHOLM
Rollo the Cruel
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF OSTMANLAND
Thorir the Wealthy
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF KALSLOVIKI
Rognvald the Raven
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF OLAND
Ottar the Swimmer
Eystein the White
THE CLAN DOMAIN OF KUNSLO
Hakon Halfdenson (Debara Serpent-Tongue)
THE DOMAIN OF NARVENDUL
Ala the Seawitch
This work has been a long time in coming. It's a road that started with me looking at GAZ7: The Northern Reaches and wondering why it was so short on details. The setting seemed rich and ripe with possibilities, but in the end the GAZ did not fulfil any of my expectations, seeming to come short of being a proper place for a campaign.
I believe it was back in February 2000 that I decided to do something about it, and the first of the Domains of Ostland became reality. Working from a short list of dominions, clan halls and rulers found in the GAZ, I started fleshing out each domain in turn, with particular attention given to the various NPCs. This was a very deliberate choice, as I have always believed that NPCs and the interaction between characters is one of the most important aspects of role playing.
There is certainly room for fantastic settings, grotesque monsters and the clash of armies in a role playing game, but it's the interesting and believable NPCs and their machinations that my players remember and talk about afterwards. An interesting and complex character is much easier to imagine and believe in than a multi-eyed, tentacled, acid-spewing monster that has no background or motivation beyond killing the foolish PCs crossing its path.
Looking for feedback and perhaps praise to keep me going, I posted the Domains, as they were completed, to the Mystaran Mailing List. There, they were generally well received, and the comments and occasional praise helped me overcome writer's block on a few occasions. Still, there were long pauses, where other things (such as my personal life, yes, I do have one!) took priority. I thank the members of the Mystaran Mailing List and credit you for inspiring me to pick up the work again, time after time.
Now, at long last, I stand at the end of that long road, with a complete overview of the Domains of Ostland. Complete? Well, maybe not. There are still many, many aspects of Ostland that I haven't touched upon and many ideas that I have sketched out, but never completed. Also, as it happens, Ostland is only one of three nations described in GAZ7, meaning that I still need to give two more nations this same level of detailing to fulfil my initial objective. Well, give me five more years and we'll see...
August 4th, 2002
One of three Viking nations for the D&D role playing game world of Mystara described in GAZ7: The Northern Reaches, Ostland is the most traditional of those nations, believing in the rule of the strong over the weak and in the right of might. Yet at the core of Ostland philosophy lies also benevolence and the belief that bullying others is wrong. This contradiction makes for a complex society, where people have differing views on what is "right" and how to behave. A strong warrior, losing himself in battle, whether winning or dying valiantly, is seen as an ideal by some, yet a wise man, who avoids battle and works hard to protect and nurture his family is an ideal from the point of view of others.
The general beliefs in right over might has led to a tiered system of social classes. At the top are the nobles, those who rule (justly or not so) over others. They are, for the most part, free to do whatever pleases them and, depending on their personality, may inflict cruelties on others with no real fear of retribution. Below them are the free karls, regular people carving out their lives with varying degrees of actual freedom, though in general they have complete freedom to live their lives as they will. A karl has whatever actual rights are granted by the nobles in the area, though. Among the karls, warriors are generally better respected than others. At the lowest rank come the thralls, slaves in fact as well as name. Thralls work the hardest labours. They may be collared and chained or given a fair amount of personal freedom, depending on their masters. Thralls are often taken as spoils of war in actual warfare or raids. A thrall may be made a free karl at his/her master's whim. While their masters are generally expected to treat thralls with fairness, it is exceedingly rare that doing otherwise will bring any sort of recriminations, besides perhaps a bad reputation.
Family and Clan
Family is a central focus in Ostland, both immediate family and the ties of blood and loyalty. Most people in Ostland belong to one clan or another and clansmen are generally expected to stand up for each other and always expected to stand shoulder to shoulder against outsiders. Each of these clans tends to gather in a specific location, hence the domains of Ostland.
The number of clans is fluctuating, at times a clan may break in two as a strong leader makes his own clan and brings members of his old clan with him. At other times a clan may be absorbed by another, out of similar ideals, marriage of clan heads or through conquest.
Each clan has a central figure, who is nominally in charge of the clan. The clan heads of the larger clans, those who rule the land, are known as jarls. The jarl is usually the strongest warrior of the clan, but this is a generalisation, not a rule. The title of jarl is hereditary, and this often gives rise to rivalry within the family. A jarl who has no children or doesn't believe that his/her own children are fit to rule may well name an heir, often an adopted son or daughter. The death of a jarl almost always means some sort of struggle to determine dominance between two or more potential heirs.
The Royal Household
The king of Ostland sits in the Court of Cnute, where loyal warriors surround him. Ostland traditionally has a king as the absolute ruler, however queens have often held the real power behind the throne. In the Royal Household are different factions, among them the Personal Guard, comprised of nobles and competent warriors, the Brothers of the King, the elite warriors who comprise the king's honour guard, and the Ravenguard, berserkers dedicated to the Immortal Thor. Much intrigue and fighting for rank goes on in the Court of Cnute, and the king often promotes it himself.
Traditionally the kings of Ostland have taken heirs of the jarls to serve in the Personal Guard, and they have often adopted the most promising heirs into their own clan, in time perhaps naming them successors to the throne of Ostland rather than the king's own children (if he has any). As can be imagined this leads to much manoeuvring for rank and, just as with the jarls, often to a struggle for dominance once the king dies. But often the king will have chosen the best successor, one who has either popular backing or the backing of the priesthood of Odin, and is able to cope with any rivals.
The current king in the year AC1000 is Hord Dark-Eye and his queen is Yrsa Svalasdottir.
Ostlanders are a very religious people. They have a large pantheon that they revere and know to be real. Mystarans generally refer to their deities as Immortals, but Ostlanders use the term Gods. The Gods of Ostland generally belong to two different groups, the Aesir and the Vanir. The two most important Gods to the Ostlanders are Odin and Thor, both Aesir.
Odin is the king of the Gods, and the king of Ostland is believed to be an extension of His will on Mystara. Odin rules the plane of Asgard, home of the Aesir; His great hall is called Valhalla. Ostlanders believe they will be taken to Valhalla if they die valiant deaths. Here, they will become part of the Einheriar, an army that will stand against the forces of evil on the day of Ragnarok, where the fate of the Gods will be decided.
Thor is supposedly one of Odin's many sons, though that may be more of an adopted son, in the tradition of Ostlanders. He is the embodiment of the warrior, always ready and willing to fight, never abandoning His comrades and fighting to right wrongs. Thor is not considered the most intelligent of Gods, and His misadventures are the occasion of many merry tales. Ostlanders believe that Thor riding His cart across the sky, pulled by two fierce goats, causes thunder and lightning.
Frey and Freyja are brother and sister and of the Vanir. They embody fertility, love and true friendship. Frey and Freyja are warriors, but not fierce like Thor. Rather, they are clever fighters, believing in using the enemy's weaknesses against him. They are no less loyal than Thor, but do not lose sight of their goals or lose themselves in battle. Many non-warriors revere Frey and Freyja. The Vanir have halls in Asgard, but their home plane is Vanaheim.
There are two Gods of evil who are active in Ostland. The first is Loki, the trickster. He is a God of deceit and trickery, and popular with outlaws and other outcasts. Loki has a glib tongue and has often infatuated the more benevolent Gods, tricking them into believing that He was repenting His past deeds, then embarrassing and humiliating them. Loki especially has often tricked Thor. Magic-users and the use of magic (including potions, scrolls, rods, and wands, but not weapons, armour and jewellery) is often associated with Loki and as such frowned upon by the vast majority of Ostlanders.
The most hated of Gods in Ostland is Hel, the Queen of the Underworld. Hel resides in the plane of Niflheim, where She is believed to receive the souls of those who die unworthy deaths, cowards and those slain without struggle. She is gathering the army that will oppose Odin's Einheriar come Ragnarok. Hel rules over the Restless Dead, the undead found in Ostland. She is more feared than any other God and most men refuse to believe that She has any actual followers.
Priests of the Gods are called godar (sing. godi) and are considered nobles or free karls depending on their standing within their respective cults. The leaders of each cult hold as much power as a jarl; some hold nearly as much power as the king of Ostland. The words of the godar of the benevolent Gods carry great weight among Ostlanders and they will always be given respect. Godar of the evil Gods live in hiding and may be hunted and killed if discovered.
Godar of Odin above 6th level are sometimes denoted Odin's Ravens. These godar are called upon as judges and counsellors, to pass judgements in any case brought before them and recommend proper punishment and repair. They often employ detect lie spells and judge the testimonies of eyewitnesses and character witnesses in any given case. While they do not enforce punishment, the local clan head or other official usually carries out the recommended punishment swiftly and see to it that reparations are dispensed.
A special brand of priest is the skald. The skald is a wandering poet and entertainer, who has specialised in carrying rumours and news between the clans and telling anecdotes of the Gods and their doings. The skalds are great moralists and their words are always given careful consideration. A skald is allowed to speak his/her mind at any time, it is forbidden to take up arms against them, and only a follower of Loki or Hel would dare do so. Skalds serve all Gods and none, but are occasionally associated with Odin.
Role of the Sexes
Ostland traditionally is a society dominated by men. The role of women as child bearers and housewives is well defined in tradition. Yet Ostland has always had its shares of shield maidens, female warriors who are every bit the equal of their male counterparts. These women are greatly admired, not just by other women, but by men as well. In a society where the strong are revered, a person's sex is not as important as his/her accomplishments.
Though women are typically expected to care for the home and hearth, this doesn't mean that they're without rights. In her own house a woman is typically regarded as the one in charge, and she has final say in matters concerning the household. The condition of a house and any land associated with it is the woman's responsibility, and it reflects badly on the whole family if the house or grounds is neglected.
Ostlanders are monogamous, marrying for life. An Ostlander is considered old enough to marry at the age of 15, though many are still unmarried in their late 20s. Should the spouse die (not an uncommon occurrence in a warrior society that is also ripe with lingering diseases), one can marry again. Cheating on your spouse is a serious crime, the offending spouse can be legally divorced, and in certain places women are banished or even stoned to death if discovered cheating on their husbands.
Women may also divorce their husbands if they are proven to be cowards, or if they are discovered wearing women's clothing (a very serious accusation against a man!). In general the offended party gets to keep the house and grounds, as well as any children, the offender can keep a few personal belongings, is often forced to move away from the area and is sometimes ostracised by the clan.
Economy and Treasure
Ostland mints its own coins. These come in three variations, copper (oren (Or) or ears), silver (eyrir (Ey) or eyes) and gold (krona (Kr) or crowns). Foreign coins obtained during raids are often smelted and minted to bear the image of Ostlander kings and heroes. Ancient Ostlander coins depicting legendary kings or heroes may be of great worth to collectors, some forgery of these ancient coins is known to go on.
Jewellery is appreciated by Ostlanders and is often crafted with gems and precious metals. Small gems are sometimes used in transactions.
While Ostlanders generally hold sorcerous magic in disdain, they have a love for certain magical items: Weapons, armour and jewellery is well liked by Ostlanders. An Ostlander will occasionally name these magical items and they will often have been passed down through generations. Naming an item has no game effect, but serves as flavour. Many skalds may know the name and general history of a given named item.
The majority of Ostlanders are human, but some 4-5% of the population consists of demi-humans, almost exclusively dwarves. Dwarves are generally well-liked in Ostland, having a reputation for being hard-working and honest, but actually a number of them are outcasts from Rockhome or young, aggressive would-be adventurers, who are resentful of authority and the rigid clan structure of Rockhome. Any gnomes are appreciated as much as dwarves (and probably considered to actually be dwarves) and typically fit better to the reputation accorded dwarves.
Other demi-humans are exceedingly rare. Elves are generally considered dangerous, and sometimes corrupt, due to their skill with magic. Stories of Svartalfen ("dark" elves) and their terrible magics can put fear into most men. Female elves are often considered beautiful and frivolous temptresses, both feared and desired by men and greatly disliked by their wives. A female elf should be wary of even making a married Ostlander man look at her, lest his wife finds it grounds for asking for a divorce. Such cases have sometimes been brought before Odin's Ravens, who generally condemns the elf as having ensorcelled the man in question, which can lead to banishment for the elf or worse.
Halflings are treated like children, much to their chagrin. They are not given any respect in Ostland. Confused Ostlanders will expect the halfling to be in the company of a "parent" of some sort and to defer to the will of "grown-ups." On the other hand, halflings are largely protected from thralldom and random violence; most Ostlanders would find it dishonourable to take up arms against children. "Naughty" halflings do run the risk of a good spanking, though.
In general Ostlanders have little respect for foreigners until they have proven themselves worthy. It is generally an acceptable practice to take foreigners as thralls if they can be defeated in combat. Thus foreigners can expect to be attacked if they set foot in Ostland. There are many places in the nation where this practice is not followed, but knowing where is essential to any foreigner doing business in Ostland. See the entries on individual domains for each domain's practice regarding foreigners.
People of the nearby nations of Vestland and Soderfjord are typically considered equal to Ostlanders, not foreigners, and may safely visit most domains of Ostland.
Politically Ostland is considered hostile to most other nations. Throughout its history Ostland has subsisted on piracy, raiding foreign nations for food and goods, and this practice is still carried out by most domains. Ostlanders also practice the mercenary trade, hiring themselves out to fight on behalf of other nations. The Empire of Thyatis has often hired Ostlander mercenaries and currently Ostland and Thyatis enjoy a loose alliance.
Each domain of Ostland is described in the same format, starting with briefly describing its location, its makeup, its disposition towards outsiders, and where in the world the clan typically raids. The leader of the domain, nominal as well as actual, is indicated and a population overview is presented, with approximations of the number of people in the social classes; thralls, non-warrior karls and actual warriors.
The clan hall is described in brief terms, as well as the community it lies in. Other important communities or locations in the domain may also be briefly touched upon. Following these descriptions there may be notes on possible adventure in that particular domain.
Finally, the important NPCs living in or connected to the domain in question are described in detail. All important NPCs are assigned levels and stats, using OD&D (or 0 Ed.) rules. Each of these NPCs are given alignment and class, followed by ability scores, typical armour class and hit points. Next, the NPC's mental disposition is described using personality traits, optional rules from GAZ7: The Northern Reaches. Age and appearance is also given. After these stats comes a rich and detailed description of the NPC, giving history, goals, motivation and more, ending with typical equipment carried by the NPC and a description of the NPC's family.
Other family members and important NPCs may be described in as much detail or may be given just a brief description, including alignment, class, level and important personality traits.
These optional rules are used to describe the disposition and likely behaviour of a character. A variety of traits are available, each of them consisting of two opposites that are assigned a score between 1 and 19 (note that the original rules allowed scores of 20, but, for convenience and to always have the possibility of failing a check, I have chosen to limit trait scores to 19). The sum of the two opposites is always 20. If in doubt about a character's reaction the DM may consult the score or roll a check on 1d20 for an appropriate trait, to gauge how the character reacts. For example, a character with the trait Peaceful/Violent 3/17 is much more likely to choose attacking if provoked rather than trying to negotiate, but in a few rare situations (as witnessed by rolling 3 or lower, while checking for the character's Peaceful trait) the character may choose to talk. Sometimes several traits must be examined at once. For example, if the violent character also has the traits Cautious/Rash 15/5, it might be taken to mean that the character tries to keep out of fights, but once caught in a fight, he loses his temper quickly. In this case checking for Cautious if provoked is preferable, and if that check fails, you can check for Peaceful to see if the character loses his temper (and perhaps goes berserk). Personality traits should also be used in place of morale checks, using traits such as Courageous/Fearful. Traits that aren't assigned a score for a particular character can reasonably be assumed to lie in the range of 9-11.