Ultima Thule: Mythic Scandinavia is the sourcebook of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Greenland in a mythic version 13th century for the ARS MAGICA game. The ad copy for the game states, "Any roleplayer with an interest in Mythic Scandinavia should have Ultima Thule!", which begs the question, "Am I interested in Scandanavia?"

Frankly, I'm not. That's just the honest truth. When THE DRAGON AND THE BEAR, detailing the Novgorod (Russian) tribunal came out earlier this year, it caught my attention by finally filling in lost facts on the Order of Odin and other long-held mysteries of ARS MAGICA. With the game still lacking an English or French sourcebooks, the decision to go again to the north for two sourcebooks in a row seemed strange--do you really need to know that much about the area?

Well, yes and no. Historically the northern lands are very important for the people we know as Vikings--their attacks on the rest of western Europe during the Dark Ages played a pivotal role in the development of feudalism and the spread of red hair throughout Europe. By 1220 (the year this supplement is set in) their time and power is waning as Christianity has begun to change the fundamental forces at work in their societies. This part of the book is quite fascinating, and useful as text and for game background.

What keeps the book from excelling is tense. Unlike all other Ars Magica sourcebooks to date, ULTIMA THULE is written entirely in the past tense...which makes all of the material in it feel fixed and unchangeable. It also takes away the great strength of ARS MAGICA, which is leveraging the use of real history against a possibly changing future--using 13th century history, told as current events, to provide excellent plot hooks from which GMs can create their own sagas. By placing all of the book in the past tense it comes off as a too-brief, too-shallow history book...an effect to be avoided in historical supplements at all costs.

The additional magical systems are nice, with the Finnish wind wizards being a particularly sharp touch-- they show off the versatillity of the Ars Magica system to accomodate new traditions without stretching or breaking rules. The vitkir (Norse rune masters) have some great thought behind them, and so I would certainly recommend the book...if you are already campaigning in the distant North now.


A mild dissapointment, though ULTIMA THULE is still an order of magnitude better than comparable sourcebooks from White Wolf or Palladium. If you're a completist, or you have ideas for a saga that will take you up past the Arctic Circle you'll want to buy it.