AD&D: Into the Wilderness!

Sondra, who is new to all of this D&D madness, now has a 5th level druid, whose role has mostly been in combat to cast Faerie Fire and then hang back – not entirely the stuff of legends. I’m working on a big article about how druids work so that she has something to go on. My knowledge of druids is a bit lacking, so it’s an interesting research project. I thought she’d be able to turn into an animal by now, but apparently “Initiate of the 5th Circle” actually refers to 7th level. My mistake. Not that the animals the druid can turn into in AD&D are that much to write home about. They’re great for running and scouting, but poor for actual combat.

However, actually using the animal friendship spell seems far more interesting. And, given this is a Viking-inspired campaign, with them all being Frost Barbarians, the animal that really jumped out as a companion? The polar bear.

I could just allow Sondra to get a polar bear, but as the group aren’t really up to bearding the Overking of the Great Kingdom in his lair – he holds the final key to the Bifrost Bridge – instead it looks like the next session or two will be The Hunt for the Polar Bear!

Of course, are Norse Druids known for Polar Bears? Heck, are polar bears known anywhere in Scandinavia? Not really. But that’s the fun of D&D, you can change things to suit yourself. Eventually, this isn’t our world, this is the World of Greyhawk – and more correctly, it’s my version of that world, so I can do what I like with it.

Still, I’m happy to do some research to find out what I’m ignoring. The animals that *do* exist in Scandinavia? Brown bears, Wolves, Arctic Foxes, Weasels and Lynxes seem the main ones a druid would command. Polar bears live nowhere near Norway, although there’s a remote archipelago that “belongs” to Norway where they live. (It’s called Svalbard – look it up!)

Wilderness adventuring in AD&D is a funny business. Original D&D used the Outdoor Survival map to handle unplanned jaunts into the wilderness. I finally have that map, but something tells me it’s completely unsuitable for travelling in the lands of the Frost Barbarians. So, instead, I really should draw up a map myself, and stock it with interesting encounters, and let them at it. Oh, and use a lot of random wilderness encounters along the way. The thing is that whilst AD&D gives a lot of ideas for adventuring in the dungeon, the ideas for wilderness encounters aren’t as detailed. The most interesting it gets is “there’s a castle – ruined or inhabited”.

It may well be worth taking a look at Frostburn, one of the 3rd edition books on the subject. I rather enjoyed the wilderness books of that era of 3.5e; lots of good ideas. I don’t think 1E’s Wilderness Survival Guide has much to recommend it, but I have a copy so I might as well check.

And this might be just the time to reintroduce the Frost Queen, who was a significant presence in the first few sessions, and has completely gone by the wayside in the last two years.

The campaign has reached 75 sessions, as best I can make it. I’m so pleased!

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