Title: Greenland Saga Author: Dr. Mike Bennighof, Ph.D. Publisher: Avalanche Press Ltd Year: 2001 48 pages Product Rating: 2 (**) Game Play Rating: 2 (**)
Review by John H. Kim (Copyright 2002 John H. Kim)
cf. other reviews by John
Greenland Saga is a historical adventure for the D&D system, 3rd edition (aka "d20"). It is set in 1454 in the north Atlantic, where the PC's are sent on a mission for the Catholic Church to Greenland. It is intended for four to six characters of 2nd through 4th level. The adventure book is full-size (8.5x11) and 48 pages. It has a color cover of an improbably-busty in a chainmail swimsuit and high heels. The interior is black and white with two minor illustrations and a few roughly-drawn maps.
Overall, the module starts with a 7-page, well-written historical background on Greenland. However, the rest of the adventure is a whimsical mish-mash which reflects very little of the background.
The pure background section is fairly well-done, thought it is rather short compared to its task. In seven pages, it attempts not only to cover Greenlander and Norwegian culture, but also makes a half-hearted attempt at adapting D&D3 to historical games. Its three rules additions to charcter creation are:
A key feature of the adventure is that it has three basic options for why the Greenlanders are disappearing, which radically change the plot. One makes it into a hack-and-slash fest, one makes it into a slightly more strategic conflict, and one makes it non-violent mystery and diplomacy. Add to this four "mixed" options they describe towards the end. The result is that all of the plots are thin and poorly-developed.
Furthermore, the NPC's all fail to match the background description. For example, the background correctly describes the cleanliness of the Greenlanders, but nearly all of the local NPC's are described as smelly and filthy. The background describes the social structure of heads of families, but there are no clans or extended families among the NPC's. In fact, the only group is an all-male, non-christian, non-pagan religious enclave (again conflicting with the text), plus a man-woman pair who are described as "long-time companions" (cf. notes on the woman below). The background says that some Greenlanders have learned the Eskimo language -- more than those that know any European language. The adventure flatly contradicts this in the "Attack of the Eskimos" section, saying that the Eskimo tongue is so alien that not even magical means will allow one side to understand the other.
As a final note, I was rather disgusted at the sexism evident in the module. Of the 31 NPC's in the adventure, 3 are female. The first two have charisma 19 and 20 -- they are both beautiful, high-level, unmarried noblewomen (7th-level Aristocrat and 7th-level Aristocrat / 2nd-level Sorceror). The third has the following notes accompanying her stat block:
Special: Barbarian Rage. For a period of three days, every 28 days, Katrina is able to invoke barbarian-like rage. During this period, her strength increases to 13 and she is also able to use the Improved Bull Rush feat. Changing Charisma. Katrina actually cleans up quite nicely - her charisma rises considerably [from 6 to 14] if she is bathed and out of the presence of Snorri [her "long-time companion"]. Illiteracy. Katrina cannot read or write, though she could learn to do so with intensive training. Lust: Katrina is consumed with lust for any male of reasonable age and appearance who is not Snorri. This obsession rules her actions.Her description further notes that: "If Snorri is not watching, she 'accidentally' allows her blouse to fall open as she leans over near male members of the party, exposing her small and very dirty breasts."
All in all, I find that this to be a fairly pitiful work. The 7 pages of background, while decent, can be matched by a trip to the library or a decent web search for some non-gaming sources. The efforts to adapt the d20 system are minimal. The adventure itself is ridiculous, although it could perhaps be played for laughs in a self-mocking sort of way.
There are plenty of gaming sources which produce good historical gaming material. Ars Magica sourcebooks and adventures are generally good, for example. GURPS has many excellent sourcebooks. Even AD&D (2nd ed) had a fine series of historical campaign books. If you want to use d20, buy these and adapt them.