The tall, fair-haired, sea-loving Northmen barbarians were the third human people in the north. According to dwarven records, the peaceful Ice Hunters had ranged the far North for centuries and the folk of lost Netheril had dwelled along the Narrow Sea for millennia before the Northmen arrived.The Northmen's primitive ancestors built small villages along the Sword Coast. Many grew into places of importance, including fabled Illusk (ancient Luskan), Eigersstor (now Neverwinter), Port Llast, and Nimoar's Hold, which the world now knows as Waterdeep.The early Northmen avoided the wild interior. They farmed the rocky, but rich coastal lands, fished coastal waters warmed by deep north-bound currents, hunted deer in the forests, seals in the coastal rocks, and whales in the depths of the Trackless Sea. Yet with the coming of summer, the call of the sea would be irresistible to the young men and they would go a-raiding. From Kythorn to early Marpenoth, the fierce, barbaric battle-cries of Northmen were heard in Lantan, Amn, and Tethyr, in Calimshan and other countries and cities of the Shining Sea, even as far south as fabled Nimbral.These wild barbarians explored the Trackless Sea, discovering Tbern, Gundarlun, Ruathym, The Purple Rocks, the Whalebones, and eventually the Moonshaes (though others had been there before them).Other Northmen braved and explored the ore-infested interior, becoming the human partners of The Fallen Kingdom, ancestors of the Uthgardt tribes, and mercenaries for lost Ascalhorn.
Though they are often referred to as barbarians, not all Northmen fit this class)fication. Along the Sword Coast, many of these barbaric sea raiders have become civilised, primarily due to the influence of southern folk. They farm, fish, and mine their rugged lands, then smartly trade their goods with southern merchants. Many once-feared raiders have become merchants whose skill at bargaining equals or betters the warlike talents of their ancestors, such that many a Northman merchant returns with more southern booty than do the raiders. Still, an edge of savagery remains. The Northmen of Luskan and the islands are fierce and warlike. The warrior known as the berserker is more often than not a Northman. Fierce, fearless dragonships ply the northern waters, wiley pirates who are able to outrun and outmanoeuvre heavily-laden merchant galleons. And each summer, the fierce, barbaric battle-cries of Northmen raiders still ring loud in the south.
The barbaric Northmen are bold, macho, impetuous, fierce in battle, and callous in their treatment of others. Foreigners (read as "not Northmen") and non-humans are treated with respect only if their skill in battle is obvious. Otherwise, they are weaklings, deserving scorn from ' reel men."
Like other barbarians, Northmen dislike magic and magic-users. In rural communities or on outer islands like Ibern and the Purple Rocks, magic-use is punishable by death. Clerics are treated with aloof disdain (even Northmen shamans receive little respect).
Northmen love a good fight and prize physical strength and weapon prowess above all other things. To prove themselves, the Northmen constantly wage war with whomever they feel that they can defeat. It is uncommon to find a Northman kingdom that is NOT at war.
They enjoy hearty food, sombre songs, good drink (particularly mead and ale), treat their women with respect, but value and cherish the precious long ships beyond other property or family. True Northmen derive sensual pleasure from the appearance of a sleek long ship, its gracefully curving lines slicing easily through even rough seas.
The battle axe is the Northman's weapon of choice. With axe in one hand and a sturdy shield in the other, the Northman believes he can conquer the world. Missile weapons other than the javelin are considered weaklings' tools since they do not rely on the pure strength of the warrior. At sea, Northmen raiders rarely wear armour heavier than studded leather and shield (AC 6). Metal armour drags one down to Umberlee's bosom too quickly. For land raids, chainmail is donned by those lucky enough to own it (AC 4). A Northman king or High Captain usually possesses plate mail.
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The surly Northmen are not what one would call a "religious" people. They pay grudging homage to several gods only because those powers have control over things the Northmen do not. Tempus, the god of battles, is the only deity who receives more than cursory piety. Likewise, the earthly agents of the gods, normally shamans, are treated with similar callousness, having a lower status than warriors. Clerics and shamans are rare and are seldom more powerful than 7th or 8th level. The deities whom the Northmen honor include Auril, the Frostmaiden; Tempus, the Lord of Battles; Umberlee, the Bitch Queen; and occasionally Valkur the Mighty. In rare instances Malar is worshipped, but usually only by those berserkers who revel in battle fury. Northmen rarely devote themselves to one god, but honour their three primary deities: Tempus, Auril and Umberlee, when they are within that deity's sphere of influence. The Northmen see Auril as the bringer of winter on the world, an important part of their existence. They placate her with offerings of food and strong drink in autumn and winter, placed upon rafts set adrift at sea. In times of dire distress, human sacrifices may be the meal placed on the raft. Such sacrifices are usually taken from prisoners or slaves, but not always.
Warriors worship Tempus before battles. He is the berserker's patron, protector of those who succumb to berserking frenzy. He too takes human sacrifice–prisoners taken in battle. The seafaring Northmen give great respect (and fear) to Umberlee, goddess of oceans, waves and currents–the ocean gladly accepts their customary sacrifices before each voyage. The longer the journey, the greater the sacrifice. As with other Northmen deities, Umberlee receives human sacrifices. She is believed to cause shipwrecks and drownings, and is the mistress of the sharks that endanger stranded sailors.
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The long ship of the North is the love of the Northman's life. You will never find one of these war ships used as a fishing vessel. Also known as "dragon ships" due to the carved figureheads mounted on many of these proud northern warships, they conform closely to the drakkar (the Viking Dragon Ship described in the DMG, pp. 53-54). The long ship is a square-sailed, oared ship with a single mast that can be unstepped (removed). Their open, deckless, relatively light hulls are "clinker" built, that is, with overlapping planks riveted together. This flexible hull lets the ship sail over the waves, instead of having to force its hull through them. In mountainous seas, though, the open hold makes even the flexible long ship susceptible to foundering.Long ships are the fastest ships along the Sword Coast in most weather. Even the multi-masted caravels of the south cannot outrun a long ship with a strong breeze at its stern.A typical long ship is crewed by 40 men, warriors all. Each warrior's sea chest is his oar bench.