Adventure Idea - Nordheimer Undead


I've had an idea for a one session adventure that can be slotted in pretty much anytime that the players would part of the crew of the boat. It's still work in progress and I can see a few holes, any suggestions?

The players will meet a badly damaged ship drifting. The crew appear to be dead, victims of an apparent pirate attack. However a search will reveal a chest of gold hidden on the ship and possibly an unconscious survivor or two. These will be taken aboard the players ship.

The survivor(s) awake and tell a story of how they found an island with burial mounds on it's foreshore, they broke into a mound and found the gold. On the evening of the voyage away from the island they were attacked by pale skinned pirates who appeared to be Nordheimers. The teller of the tale recounts that he was knocked unconscious in the fight and remembers nothing after that.

That evening the wind will drop, the sea will be still and a mist will roll over the ship. The survivor will appear to be anxious. Out of the moonlit mist a black ship will appear, pale skinned and bearded Nordheimers will pour onto the players craft. The survivor will rush out of his cabin and see a pirate he recognises, "We killed you! I slit your throat myself! Your blood stains my robes even now!" he will shout. The pirate will grin through his unkempt beard and reply in a guttural voice, "I died years ago you fool, it was our burial mounds that you raided, we want our gold!" Pulling aside his beard he'll reveal a gaping bloody wound across his throat, the survivor screams and faints.

Queue a fight sequence which should reveal that the Nordheimers are unusually tough. Hopefully the fight will be won and the corpses kicked off the deck.

Now hopefully someone on the crew will start speaking of the Nordheimers as being Draugr, undead. They'll keep coming every night for their gold. A Draugr can only be really killed by killing it with your bare hands, no weapons just your own strength. If the captain of the ship can be destroyed his crew should either die with him or stop fighting conceding that the treasure is now theirs by right of combat and retreat into the night.

Now I'm not too sure where to take it from there. On the one hand the Draugr could return and one of the characters get into the position where he can defeat the leader of the Draugrs, I could even try and engineer the fight so that the exposition comes out half way through and the players realise what they have to do. Alternatively maybe the treasure should be returned to the burial mound. There's also some versions of the Draugr myth where they can only truely be killed with a sword found in their own burial mounds. That would provide a reason for a 2nd fight and a big climax among the old burial mounds.

So what do people think of this? Any ideas on how to finish it up?

Jason Durall

Sounds pretty cool, but I had some questions about how to really involve the PCs:

If they attack the first night, and demand their gold, what happens if the PCs just hand it over?

If they're after the NPC survivor, what happens if he is killed or the PCs give him over to them, along with the gold?

Perhaps the treasure must be returned to the mounds, along with its equal in weight. Any who have touched it are culpable. Perhaps each night, the draugr return in greater numbers, or begin to raid villages along the shore, in addition to coming after the PCs.

One could steal a page from Pirates of the Carribean and threaten the PCs with life as draugrs themselves if they do not break the curse that handling the gold has placed upon them. Perhaps when the put to port, they find that normal folk are afraid of them, candles gutter around them, milk sours, animals shun them... anything to drive home the point that they are touched by the curse of draugr gold.

I do like the notion of having the climax be at the mounds themselves, with exploring them looking for suitable weapons being the first part of the combat, then facing them in the dead of night with those grave blades.



Thanks for the reply, I'd been pondering how the characters might get out of the situation. I think that you've got a good idea when you say that all who touch it are culpable. I think your examples of being touched by the curse are great, hopefully the players will be able to question the survivor and gain knowledge of the location of the burial mounds that way. If not then they'll be harried each night and some old sea dog in a port is bound to know a "arghh, they do say that there be strange mounds on the island a days sail west of here, arghhh."

I don't mind stealing from Pirates of the Caribean at all, this is going to hopefully be a fun one off and all the players enjoyed the movie.

The idea of the climax at the mounds is growing in appeal to me too. Of course they'd reach them just as the sun was setting.....



Sounds good. The survivor could tell the navigator on the PC's ship where/how to find the mysterious island, or it could show up out of a fog bank or something. Any Nordheimer PC could try an INT check to know tidbits about Draugr lore. I think the curse is a great idea, godd way to keep the PCs on the plot.


Wow, I really like this adventure idea!

What if the players believed that the gold had to be returned to the mound? I think it should anyways - killing the druagr captain is a good idea, but from a pirate story POV I like returning it more. However, here's a possible complication: since they're northrons, what if they as children of Ymir are not freed by returning the gold, but it must be delivered to the northern wastes? Not if you're doing one-night adventure, but this would allow it to have a nifty complication and force the crew to head north, where they wouldn't want to go otherwise.

Jason's suggestions are really good. The curse especially. If the rescued crewman transforms into one of the druagr, it could impel the PCs to want to return the gold. Not all the crew may want to however, maybe leading to a fight between the crew/some crew vs. PCs.

If you don't like the idea of having to head to the northrons' homelands, then the climactic return to fight the mound is a great one. I also like the sword idea.

Lastly, based on the previous post, Knowledge:Local would help a Nordheimer PC.


Thanks for the comments, it's all coming together in my head now....

I like the idea of the survivor being offered food and drink by the characters and spitting it out claiming that it tastes awful. After the first encounter with the draugr they players will notice the same thing. If they need a further kick in the right direction I'll then start turning the survivor into a draugr too, hopefully they'll get the hint.

I can see a couple of ways of getting to the island so I think I can wing that one depending on what the players get up to.

Being as it is a one nighter I will pass over the idea of needing the characters to go north, however it's a great idea and for when I do need to move the players around, I'll file that one for later.

A disagreement with the crew is a great idea, some sort of split developing that they'll have to tackle as well.

There's some more information on draugr here:

Jason Durall

A recent over-the-top Thor comic miniseries had the Asgardian hero fighting a group of Vikings, who had raided a village in around 1000 AD. The village shaman, with his dying breath, cursed them to never find rest in any port for one thousand years. They arrived in New York City, one thousand years after, having drifted through dark and deathless seas for all that time, drawn there, if I remember correctly, because of Thor's presence there. They were incredibly powerful, having transcended death through the curse and their own hate for all the living, and were able to do terrible things to most of NYC and Thor himself.


I think the concept of the characters becoming undead is great. Especially since constant attacks from the pirates would become quickly tiresome each night. I'd find it too monotonous. If the players are forced to return the gold for other reasons, then that seems much easier to work with.

Also, what if the PC's were the only members of the crew to touch the gold, or half the crew had not? Would some of them decide to jump ship? Perhaps, if the Druagr were only visable to those haunted, the crew might think the players are possesssed or insane?

Just a few more ideas.



I ran the adventure last night, I made the following changes:

The survivor had a single unusual gold coin in his pocket, this was found by the character who gave him medical treatment. The ship he was on had been visibly searched but the ivory and furs it was carrying hadn't been taken. When he awoke he couldn’t eat or drink the food that he was offered though everyone else could. The group could tell he was hiding something with his tale of a pirate raid, they also couldn't work out why the "pirates" that he said attacked the boat didn't take the ivory.

That night a mist rose and the Draugrs ship approached, the lead Draugr called for his cold and the character who found the coin casually flipped it to him. At this point the survivor emerged and did his "I killed you" speech. The Draugr pocketed the coin and said that he wouldn't do him the honour of killing him, he'd touched the gold, he'd be dead soon enough and he wouldn't help him to go to Valhalla (presuming that the dieing in battle belief is held by the Nordheimers).

At this point the cockiness of the coin flipping character vanished as he realised what was going on, he tried to eat and drink and couldn't.

There just "happened" to be an old Nordheimer on the ship called Sven who spilled the beans on the legends of the Draugrs. He also said that one of them must have picked up some magic to place the curse but that if a sorcerer dies his magic dies with him, the curse would be lifted.

The players now had their own interests at heart to go and deal with the Draugrs and I didn't need to keep throwing them at them every night until they decided to do it.

The crew were persuaded to drop the characters off at the island and collect them two days later in exchange for them giving up all their shares in the profit of the trip.

There was a bear guarding the burial mounds, this was meant to be something they would have to think about as the old Nordheimer should have told them that Draugrs often sleep in their mounds. I'd have thought that they'd try to lure the bear away, instead the just dove in. The Draugrs awoke and there was a few rounds of combat where they were invulnerable before the players got their hands on the swords from a mound.

All told it seemed to go OK, the curse being passed by touching the coin worked well. I'd hoped the survivor would be searched but he wasn't, as was it got one character involved and facing death if he didn't kill the Draugrs. I think the character thought I was doing something too close to Pirates of the Caribbean and that returning the gold would be the end of the story, his surprise (which he played out well) was a definite high point for me.

Thanks to all those that helped.