One nation, two names. Two completely different outlooks. Will you honour the traditions of Vestenmannavjnar or favour the new ideas of Vendel? Vestenmannavjnar is a primitive, barbaric land of sagas and communal life, Vendel a burgeoning economic powerhouse. Yet they share common bonds: strength and pride... and therein lies the tragedy of potential missed as the two outlooks war instead of working together.
Chapter 1: Vendel-Vesten reviews the sweep of history, or tries to - the rich oral tradition of Vestenmannavjnar isn't too strong on things like dates! Not to mention the mixing of legend and fact, and each skald putting his own spin on things... The first 'hard' date is the year 818, when Gunnaf the Ravenhaired managed to unite the islands in common cause, with one jarl per island and all working together under a single High King, all under the watchful eye of their deity, Grumfather. That's when the raiding began. By 1510, however, some elements of society tired of a life filled solely with raiding and hunting - and even more of a leadership interested in nothing else. Thus, the carls (middle class freemen, merchants, traders, farmers and craftsmen) came together and began the first steps of what is now 'Vendel'. They began to travel, not to raid but to trade, and soon they prospered and the Vendel League was formed. Recently they came up with the concept of paper money, backed by faith in the government issuing it, and their trading reaches ever new heights.
This chapter also contains details of the different tribes who make up the people of Vestenmannavjnar, and discusses culture, laws, naming customs, religion, and everyday life. Here we find the sharpest divides between Vestenmannavjnar and Vendel, so much so that the two are covered in separate sections that address these aspects for each group. Vendel revolves around a guild structure, and they have abandoned the pagan ways of their ancestors, most embracing Objectionism. Here too are descriptions of the islands that make up this nation (a map would have been nice...).
Next, Chapter 2: Hero presents an array of NPCs, Vestenmannavjnar and Vendal alike. This is followed by Chapter 3: Drama, which - as usual with the 'Nation' sourcebooks - contains assorted new options and rules mechanics to aid in presenting this nation within your game. There is a Rune Drawing system (in place of the Destiny Deck) and also horoscopes (favoured by the Vendel), along with new backgrounds, new skills, new knacks, new swordsman schools (used loosely, one fights with harpoons, one axes, and another with pistols, as well as more conventional places that teach you to wave a sword around) and more magical rules as well. Advantages, equipment and a collection of new rules finish this off.
Finally, Chapter 4: Riven presents material for both players and (mostly) GMs. The player portion explores the dichotomy inherent in the people and how to use it to effect in your role-playing. The GM part looks at rune magic and the Living Runes. There are also secrets and stat blocks for all the NPCs in Chapter 2 (and a few more), plus a monster, 3 templates for your own NPCs or even player-characters, and a sheet depicting all the runes.
It's all quite fascinating, and the concept of a nation busy reinventing itself is quite unique and rather fun to play with. The place and people really come to life, so whether your party will come from here or just visit, there is loads of useful material in this book.
[5 of 5 Stars!]