Often, I find myself wandering around different Discords and Twitch channels wondering what other gamers are up too. Recently I’ve been watching something on the UnMadeGaming channel and found Mike in a game being run by Ethan Hudgens, and I watched in fascination as they tried to kill a bear. As usual Mike had a rough night, but I found myself more and more curious about campaign setting. After the game I was chatting with the folks in the Discord channel and found out Ethan has his work up on DriveThruRPG presented by Encounter Roleplay (another great channel I strongly recommend you check out). After buying The North Seat primer and book one titled Hostadd, Our Home, I am completely intrigued by the story and I think you should be too. Today, we’re going to take a look at the primer and do a review of the books. Hostadd is a 5E D&D alternate campaign setting and style. After reading book one and the primer, I think you’ll really enjoy it so let’s take a jump in and start looking at things.
The North Seat primer and campaign setting
Reading the primer, the campaign setting starts coming to life. You start seeing the old favored races fall away and new ones take their place. You start getting more of a Nordic or Celtic feel as you start seeing races of Normans, ratfolk, titans, safar, humans, Maratayans, and Dromant. Yes! For the first time since Spelljammer and Darksun we have bug people! Rejoice, the drones are here! Now don’t get too upset — dragonborn, halflings and tieflings are there as well.
Now, before there’s a riot I know, dwarves and gnomes were not on the list of races. Personally, I don’t think they need to be. From what I’ve read they are more a creature of lore (or at least that’s my interpretation) but there is nothing that says you can’t play one with Game Master approval. However, before you do that I strongly suggest reading Norman or ratfolk. I think you’ll find those more than suitable replacements and it’ll let you lend yourself to the setting much better. Also, as a note to the future GMs — read the deity section. Dwarves and gnomes have a different purpose now so by allowing them you could unintentionally set things off.
Prior to the race section, you’ll find some changes to a handful of classes. As you read more of the setting and book and start learning about the corruption and dead gods, the changes really fit smoothly with the setting and the changes regarding sensing dream corruption on paladins, or druids gaining dream speak make a lot of sense. It’s a very smooth reskinning to fit the setting.
After the races you’ll find a whole new section of backgrounds, some race specific and others more open. Reading through these and choosing options I found it really lent itself to the setting and starts putting you more into that small hunting or farming settlement feel. You know the one I mean, the village setting atop a hill with the trees backing it to break the northern wind as people fish the lake and toil in the fields. You start putting things together and start getting flashbacks to things like The 13th Warrior or Fellowship of the Ring.
Finally, you get to your starting gear and deities. The starting gear is done differently. There’s no kit you get like in regular 5E D&D. Instead you get a list and you pick select items from it. I love this. It’s a very traditional sort of thing that used to occur in days of yore. You would come of age and start your apprenticeship and receive a few things to get started.
The remainder of the book explains NPCs, the history of the area, places of note, the deities and their agents, and what the weave is. This section really gives you an insight into the life of the people and how they work here. By the time you finish The North Seat primer and start working into the Hostadd book, you’ll already find yourself talking in a bad Nordic or Celtic accent.
Hostadd, Our Home Book 1
This book starts you right into the adventure. As the GM you pick this up and you’re in. Make whatever intro you need but the game is already to rock and roll. Ethan’s notes about why he wrote the adventures in this manner are superb. The adventure itself I find is an excellent campaign setting to lend any group to roleplay and moves away from the dreaded murder-hoboism. The evolution of the story is modeled for milestone rewards. This flows so well with the story and you actually feel your character evolving. It’s absolutely amazing. I won’t go much into the story but overall the fights were balanced, the traps and events worked fluidly for the game style and it is a great environment to set new adventurers in.
Two books, very slim, maybe 70 pages between the two. The impact and excitement they’ve caused me and seeing them played are greater than books I’ve bought that were over 600 pages. There’s just something about the campaign setting that grips you and you want to be there. Maybe it’s because of older movies like The 13th Warrior, Sleepy Hollow, or Fellowship of the Ring, but it just comes off as fun. It doesn’t change anything for 5E D&D, no big mechanical changes, no huge remakes. Some new monsters, new spells, and more fun. The ease of storytelling with this book set is amazing. It walks you through everything very well and Ethan’s notes on things are clear as a bell.
The books are pay what you want, and I strongly suggest investing money into these. You won’t be sorry. At least enough to say thank you and buy the man a well-deserved coffee. I strongly recommend these books for new or experienced groups. They’re well done and bring a very strong feel of character development and integration into the culture, so you always feel like you’ve accomplished something. If you’re looking to see the campaign setting in action, you can tune into The North Seat, Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. EST on unMadeGaming on Twitch. Ethan is a phenomenal storyteller, the cast is great, it’s so worth tuning into.
Also Ethan has a second book out as well for the series, after you finish Holstadd, Our Home you can move onto, Book 2 The Rotting Foundations which is up right now for $10.00 USD.
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