Hyperborean Race in Golarion

Northern Avistan has seen a lot of activity over the last couple of years. The Jade Regent Adventure Path took us through the Lands of the Linorm Kings and over the Crown of the World. And, the current Reign of Winter Adventure Path features Irrisen and the White Witches that rule there. Additionally, Paizo has published a variety of supplements supporting those APs.

Before all of these Kobold Press published a supplement with a different take on many of the same icy themes. Set in Midgard, Northlands covers Vikings, ice magic, monsters of Northern mythologies and the perils of adventuring in the cold. The book uses the Pathfinder rules, so its crunch is readily adoptable to Golarion. Additionally, I found the fluff inspirational as well. This is first of a series of blog posts detailing how I ported and extended the material in Northlands for my own campaign. The Wyrm Rhyme Saga, is a Viking dragon hunt set in the kingless Icemark region of Golarion.


Even with our modern understanding the Aurora Borealis is magical. If you are lucky enough to see the twisting, dancing colors of the northern lights in person, you cannot help but contemplate the mystical. The Aurora plays a role as the Bifrost bridge in Northlands, but we need a explanation rooted in Golarion cosmology. The explanation below ties in to the fey themes prevalent in Irrissen and the Lands of the Linnorm Kings. It also taps into the darker mysteries of the mythos, and sets up a possible conflict between the two.

Most, who understand such things, know that the Aurora occurs when the boundaries between our world and the first world are particularly thin. This is true enough, but it doesn’t explain why the lights are not seen in other parts of Golarion where our world touches the First World.

The few who have truly studied this question, came to realize there is a connection to the Dark Tapestry. They believe energies from the Dark Tapestry are being attracted to the Northern and Southern ends of the world by the same force that attracts wayfinder needles. These energies are being channeled into the First World. However, a few of the White Witches in Whitethrone think even these sages are wrong. They believe energy from the First World that is being channeled into the Dark Tapestry. They can only guess what purpose the gods of the Dark Tapestry might have for this energy.


The Hyperborean race is described on page 37 of Northlands. They are humans who are born under the influence of the Aurora Borealis. Those born in daylight are very different from those born at night. The dayborn are described as being more direct (fighters or other marshall classes), while the nightborn are more subtle (preferring rogues or bards). Both do well as sorcerers, particularly with the Hyperborean bloodline described on page 43. Because of the Aurora’s connection to other planes, I added racial traits and preferred class options to make Hyperboreans in Golarion excel as summoners.


There are several ethnicities where exposure to the Aurora makes birth as a Hyperborean possible. The two most likely are the Varki of the Icemark (Land of the Linnorm Kings, p. 18) and the Erutaki (People of the North, p. 12). These nomadic people lead a harsh existence and welcome those chosen by the ancestors as Hyperborean.

Hyperborean births are less common among the Kellid and Ulfen (People of the North p. 6 & p.10) peoples. Furthermore, those people distrust of magic in general and witches in particular can lead to a hard life of persecution. I decided any Jadwiga (People of the North, p. 13) born as Hyperborean is slain by the White Witches of Irrisen as an impure, outside influence. However, you could argue that the rarity of the magic they posses would lead them to be nurtured. A Hyperborean Winter Witch could be terrible indeed.


When making a Hyperborean character a player should select a base Human ethnicity for the character. Racial traits available to that ethnicity are available to the Hyperborean character. In addition, the following Hyperborean racial traits are available for selection.

Shunned by Fools: While your tribe may have come to accept you, many peoples of the North fear magic. Because of your strange appearance and connection to the Aurora, they fear you as well. You have learned to mask your heritage as you interact with other peoples. Disguise is always a class skill for you and you get a +1 trait bonus to disguise to hide your heritage.

Planar Empathy: Because of your connection to the Arura, you relate well to beings from other planes. You gain a +1 bonus to diplomacy and bluff checks against these beings. This bonus increases to +2 if the being’s alignment is within one step of yours.


The following new alternate racial traits and favored class options can be applied to dayborn characters as described in the Advanced Players Guide.


Snow Walker (Ex): For the purpose of overland movement, dayborn treat all tundra, and snow covered mountains and hills as “highway.” This ability replaces the +2 racial bonus to Knowledge (Planes).

Earth Resistance: Some dayborn feel a strong affinity to the rocky, wind-shaped landscape that surrounds them. They receive a +1 racial bonus to saves earth based magic and effects, including acid attacks. This bonus increases by +1 for every 4 class levels they have. This ability replaces fire resistance.

Planar Halation(Ex): Dayborn summoners treat their Charisma score as 2 points higher for all summoner class abilities. This racial trait replaces Prismatic Affinity.


Druid: The druid’s animal companion gains +1/2 damage resistance to fire.

Fighter: The fighter gets +1 to their CMD when resisting a disarm or trip maneuver.

Ranger: The ranger’s animal companion gains +1/2 damage resistance to fire.

Sorcerer: +1/2 point of damage to light or prismatic spells.

Summoner: Add 10% to the ranges in the summoner’s Life Link ability. If this option is taken multiple times, add another 10% of the original value. In other words, the ranges if this ability is taken 3 times the range bands are 130 feet, 1,300 feet, and 13,000 feet.



Aurora Bringer (Sp): Nightborn can use Faerie Fire and Color Spray once per day with a caster level equal to their class level. This trait replaces the Dark Demeanor trait.

Cold Resistance (Ex): The nightborn character gain a +1 to saves against cold-based magic and effects. The bonus increases by +1 for every 4 character levels they have. This trait replaces Air Resistance.

Planar Halation(Ex): Nightborn summoners treat their Charisma score as 2 points higher for all summoner class abilities. This racial trait replaces Prismatic Affinity.


Druid: The Druid’s animal companion gains +1/2 damage resistance to cold.

Rogue: +1/2 bonus on stealth and perception checks made in dim light or darkness.

Sorcerer: +1/3 to the Saving Throw DC for light or prismatic spells.

Summoner: Add 10% to the ranges in the Summoner’s Life Link ability. If this option is taken multiple times, add another 10% of the original value. In other words, the ranges if this ability is taken 3 times the range bands are 130 feet, 1,300 feet, and 13,000 feet.

Arkham Horror Toolkit

I remember that first game of Arkham Horror. It was at Origins, probably 2010. The game master scheduled it for the first slot of the day. I ‘m an early riser and I was surprised to find that this game had a full table.

The game was a blast. I remember being baffled at the way, in a shuffled deck, each card could be worse than the one before it. The guy sitting next to me didn’t understand what he was getting into and got a little upset about the game conspiring against us. I remember at one point, openly praying to the “powers that be” for a kitten card. I couldn’t imagine what could be worse than we had already seen, and I knew that was a bad sign.

I remember at one point, openly praying to the “powers that be” for a kitten card.


That demo game worked. I spent a lot of money on Arkham Horror at the con and then struggled to find a way to pack it for the flight home. Now, I only get a chance to play a couple of times every year, but it is always a good time.

This past weekend, as I was setting up all the little pieces and cards around the board, I thought, “there must be an app for this.” And sure enough, I found Arkham Horror Toolkit


If you have played Arkham Horror, you know that it is a complex game with lots of pieces. There are sheets for the good guys, sheets for the bad guys, different tokens and more piles of cards than there are Ancient Ones to battle. The Arkham Horror Toolkit doesn’t attempt to tackle everything, instead it picks four things to tackle:

  • Dice Roller
  • Investigators
  • Location Deck
  • Maps

Limiting what you are going to tackle to a few things is a wise choice in a mobile app. However, I am not sure those are the four things I would have chosen.

User Interface

The user interface looks gorgeous and is straightforward; things behave pretty much like you expect. When you start the app, you see a splash screen, accompanied by some creepy music. This quickly, and smoothly, transitions into menu for the four sections of the application.

Die Roller

The die roller looks sharp and works well for a digital die roller. You can tap the die icon in the lower left corner to add dice. You can tap the upper left corner, where it says “Normal” to select blessed and cursed if you are in one of those states. Once you have the right number of dice on the screen, you can shake the phone to roll the dice. When the phone is still for a second, the number of successes is displayed in the upper right corner, and lock symbol appears preventing an accidental shake from changing the results. Clicking the red x clears the screen, making you ready for the next roll.

This UI leads to lots of clicks to execute a die roll. From an investigator sheet, we needed two clicks to get to the die roller, one click per dies (7 or more isn’t uncommon in a combat roll), shake, click x to reset, then two clicks back to the investigator sheet. That is 12 clicks and a shake for a fairly normal combat roll. A better design might put a grid of numbers on the die screen so the user can select how many dice to roll. A single click back to your investigator sheet would also be helpful.


The investigator’s sheet captures a lot of information on a single screen. You can see and edit your current sanity and stamina, as well as your skills, money, and clue tokens. Clicking on any of these will allow you to edit the values. Clicking on your character’s picture in the top left corner will take you a second screen with the textual information on your character: special abilities, possessions, background, etc. This works really well. It is intuitive and easy to manage.

Location Deck

As I mentioned earlier in this review, there are lots of decks of cards involved in the game. Arkham Horror Toolkit provides all the location decks in a single screen. The screen lists of the locations on the boards. Arrows at the top of the screen let you navigate to “Other Worlds” locations, or focus on particular boards, which can be helpful if you are using expansions. I wish the swipe gesture worked to change boards/other world location lists, but that is a minor quibble.

Clicking on location shows you a card for that location which you can read and act on. In the game, location cards have encounters for several neighboring locations on the board. The digital cards are better, they only have the encounter information for the location you selected. Another click on the icon at the bottom of the screen returns you to the list of locations. This works really smoothly and is a nice way to get to the cards.

Some of the reviews in the app store indicate that the cards are not random enough. Others indicate that they are too random, because the same cards keep coming up. In the app does not shuffled and draw the cards sequentially like a deck of cards. Instead, each card has the same chance of appearing each time. This is fine though, because the rules actually say that you are supposed to shuffle the locations decks before each draw (page 8, second sentence under “No Gate”), giving each card an equal chance on each draw. So, the app is doing the right thing, while I suspect many of us are not in our normal play.


The map screen is the final major element of the toolkit. This section lets you view an image of the main board and any expansion boards you have purchased. You can use pinch gestures to zoom in and out of the maps, and arrows at the top of the screen let you switch between maps. As with locations, you can’t swipe between maps. You can use the map to draw location cards by double tapping on a location.

Other Features

In App Purchasing: The Arkham Horror Toolkit allows for in app purchasing of the expansions. The expansions range from $0.99 to $2.99. This gets you any maps, location cards and investigators that come with that expansion. You can turn expansions that you have on and off in the settings panel. When you select an expansion, the location cards seem to be mixed into the regular location cards. This forces you to mix the other cards from the expansion (mythos, item, etc) into those decks in the physical game. I would have preferred an option to play with the special rules that focus on the additional elements of the expansion.

Settings: The setting panel is straight forward. It allows you to turn sound and shadows on and off, and select which expansions you want to play with.

IPad: Of course, the app works on the iPad, but it looks and functions exactly like it does on the iPhone. It doesn’t lay out the UI any differently to take advantage of the increased screen real estate.

Usefulness & Value

We tried the Arkham Horror Toolkit during a four-hour game. Two players used it to manage their investigator sheets. We quickly gave up on the die roller. I suspect that many people will question its randomness, but that wasn’t an issue for us. (As an aside, some day I am going to write a blog post about why digital rollers are more random than you think and physical dice are less.) It was simply too many clicks to navigate roller to make a roll. It was easier and more satisfying to just roll physical dice.

We also got tired of switching back and forth between location cards and the investigator sheet, so we brought out an iPad for the location cards. The iPad was tied to the same Apple ID as one of the iPhones, so we didn’t have to purchase the app again. This worked really well. Managing the location cards in the app was simpler than continually shuffling and managing the location cards, and removed some of the clutter from the board.

One player commented that it was harder to coordinate actions when they couldn’t see how many clue tokens the players using their phones had. However, everybody seemed to agree that the players using their phones were having an easier time managing their investigators, and it was probably worth the trade off.

We found two of the four pieces valuable, the investigator sheets and the location cards. It is even better if you have an extra device for managing the cards. The maps and die roller both looked outstanding, but didn’t really contribute to our game. We couldn’t really figure out what to do with the map. Instead, what we really wanted in the app was mythos cards. Especially if the app helped step the user through the steps of the mythos phase. I find that we always forget something.

For $2.99, that’s a pretty good value. I’d be willing to pay more to have the mythos cards. That would be helpful and remove even more clutter from around the board.


The Arkham Horror Toolkit simplifies parts of this complex board game and is a good value for $2.99. However, it falls a little short because half of the app doesn’t really help during play and it missed some opportunities to simplify the mythos turn portion of the game.

iCrit: Make Critical Hits Even More Fun

Platform: iPhone/iPad
Price: $1.00 
Rating: 4-Stars Systems: Pathfinder, OGL 3.5

I have been a fan of Paizo’s Game Mastery cards for a while now. Their treasure cards are great, especially when playing with new and younger players. For new players a sheet of cards in a binder makes it easy for them to keep track of what they have and what it does. For the video game set, the tactile reward of getting a card is engaging in the same way that achievements are.

The fun my group had with the treasure cards opened my mind to the possibilities offered by Paizo’s Critical Hit Deck. This a deck of 52 cards. Each card contains 4 critical hit results, one for each of slashing, piercing, bludgeoning and magic damage. When you confirm a critical hit, you simple draw a card and apply the appropriate bonus. This is a fun way to make every critical hit different and more exciting.

Given the simple fun provided by the physical Critical Hit Deck, I expected iCrit to be pretty good. I wasn’t disappointed.


You don’t expect much from an app that simulates drawing from a deck of cards, but still I was pleasantly surprised by simple UI for iCrit. When you start the app, you see a screen that is very easy to understand. There are 4 blank areas labeled: bludgeoning, piercing, slashing, and magic. When you confirm a critical hit, just touch the appropriate symbol on the left and the special result of your critical hit is displayed next to it. You then apply the result and move on with your combat. Couldn’t be easier.


I had expected that I would touch the screen or swipe and get a whole new card, but the apps interface is even better. When I draw a card, I see results for 4 damage types, 3 of which I don’t need. Part of the fun on these effects is the surprise of getting something new. So, I like that this UI only shows me one result at a time. I also like that it will keep old results up for review, at least until I use that damage type again.

There are sounds effects that play when you touch the damage type symbols. Each is different, and fun. Critical hits don’t happen often enough that they get annoying.

The help screen is straightforward, containing the same basic information as the instruction cards in the deck.

Sample Critical Hit Card
Screen After 2 Critical Hits
Starting Screen


Critical hits are one of the most fun parts of Pathfinder. Nothing gets people out of their chairs in excitement like a critical hit at the right time. Two bucks to make that even more fun and interesting? Yes, please!

If you are using other apps, on the same device, I could see it getting tedious switching to iCrit to get the special effect. I think the best usage would be for 1 or 2 players to keep it up on their phones, ready for use. However, I suspect with a little practice, the 4 clicks to get a critical result can be done efficiently so as not to interfere with the moment.


iCrit is an excellent app. It does a simple thing, really well. It is probably even better than the deck of cards that inspired it, if for no other reason than it is cheaper and just as easy to use. I’m having fun with it, and I think you will too.

New Archetypes for Hollow Earth Expedition

We’ll kick things off with a “blast from the past” as I try to get some old content back online. Hollow Earth Expedition, by Exile Game Studio, is one of my favorite games of all time. Here are some new archetypes to inspire character creation in HEX.


Servants accomplish much of what gets done in the world. They carry supplies, remove obstacles and handle many other details. In the 1930s, wealthy people will have personal servants and any expedition will have several laborers to move the expedition along. Servants may also blend in and mingle with working class society, becoming a source of local information. Servants are not mindless automatons. They have their own goals and motivations and can be key contributors to any expedition.

Examples: Loyal Butler, Experienced Sherpa, Rugged Porter


The youthful combination of curiosity and naïveté leads kids to turn up in all kinds of surprising places, including the Hollow Earth. Kids seem to find trouble, but their small stature and harmless appearance can get them out of many situations. While they may not have much in the way of useful skills, they may have exceptional local knowledge and a fresh perspective. Frequently underestimated, exceptional children can be worth the inevitable pain.

Examples: Street Urchin, Spoiled Brat, Teenaged Runaway


Mules, camels, sled dogs and elephants; these pack animals carry supplies over difficult terrain with a reliability that vehicles of the 30s can’t match. People with the skills to handle and care for these animals are essential to any successful trek into the wilderness. These individuals may also have valuable skills for dealing with the local fauna the expedition might encounter. Animal handlers don’t like to risk their animals, but an expedition can provide a way to pay the bills.

Examples: Cavalry Officer, Teamster, Dog Handler


Everyday Joes are the right people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe she was on vacation when her ship gets caught in the Bermuda Triangle, or maybe the bank financing the expedition sent him along to audit the expenses. Once over their head, the Everyday Joe will persevere and survive; and maybe find enough gold to pay off that mortgage.

Examples: Cook, Bureaucrat, Bartender


Physical Flaws are an important part of character creation in Hollow Earth Expedition. Here is a new one that may be relevant to a Kid (above) or a Scion of Atlantis. Of course, any archetype could use it if it makes for a great character.

Youth: Your character is young, impatient and inexperienced. He does not have the same rights as the other party members and others will often treat him like the child he is. If you are a teenager you are size 0, if you are younger than that you are size -1. You also suffer a -2 penalty to any roll that depends upon age or experience, like a roll to recognize somebody famous or remember some historical event. You earn a Style Point whenever your character’s standing (physical, emotional, or social) causes him severe difficulties.