Both opened my eyes to a very different culture that featured fearless warriors, swords, shields, armor, bloody colors, an deep and unfamiliar mythology (especially jarring due to my four-colored introduction to Norse mythology by Marvel Comics and the somewhat stat-filled counterpoint in Deities and Demigods), and a mix of dangerous, snow-covered, wild lands.
Here's my review:
Yggdrasill is a fantastic combination of sourcebook and RPG. While it does choose to portray a view of Scandia that is more inclined toward a setting fitting for fantasy heroics, it does so in such a way to remain true to the history, culture, and source material.
As a sourcebook, Yggdrasill is a treasure trove of material:
Along the way, it also torpedoes several myths and misconceptions about: the term 'viking', horned helmets, drinking from human skulls, and the term 'drakkar'.
- The chapter titled In the Shadow of Yggrdasill gives us a stunningly concise, yet evocative understanding of the Norse cosmology and its cults and rituals.
- The chapter titled Scandia gives us a rundown of the setting's kingdoms, rulers, geography & environment, settlements, organization, and major players.
- The chapter titled Daily Life gives a welcome idea about what the settlements and social hierarchy would be like in these kingdoms, driving home how the landscape, the environment, and the beliefs all play in shaping the people and its heroes and villains.
- The chapter titled Archetypes, while ostensibly part of the game system, further gives us an insight into the type of people that would go out and involve themselves in adventures and heroics, and shares with us a different view on magic that the people of Scandia have.
- The chapter of Magic is another eye-opener that builds on the Archetypes, explaining the three different types of magic (trance magic, incantation magic, and sacred writings) and how humans and the spirits and gods themselves use them.
As an RPG, Yggdrasill provides not only rules on character creation, task resolution, combat, magic, and dealing with the runes of your fate, it also provides a mini-campaign that establishes the kind of epic adventure stories that the game is geared toward telling: dangers of travel, dangers of the wild, the price of fulfilling (or trying to escape) one's fate, magic and the gods, politics, and infighting among the jarls of Scandia.
I highly recommend this RPG if you've a penchant for a different type of fantasy role-playing in mind, or have always wanted a stab at adventuring in heroic Norse waters.
It reminded me of a Norse version of Sengoku, and gave me insights into how an RPG for a Filipino RPG might be put together (particularly a pre-colonial setting with warring and allied kingdoms scattered across an archipelago whose islands have treacherous and unconquered interior lands).
I particularly enjoyed little bits of telling detail like the three different types of souls each person had, the differentiations between the types of berserkers, and the varying methods of magic that were available to the gifted (or cursed).