Forn Sidthr: The Old Custom is a 13-page PDF released by James Mishler's Adventure Games Publishing and selling for $3.00. Describing the worship of the Aesir (and Vanir) gods, this product is the first in the "Faiths of the City State" series for use with AGP's Wilderlands of High Adventure setting, but it's generic enough that it'd be useful in any setting that includes the Norse pantheon. Likewise, though Forn Sidthr written with Castles & Crusades in mind, makes no specific references to C&C's game mechanics, thereby making it easy to use with any fantasy RPG, old school or otherwise.
The product begins with a one-page overview of the religious life of the City State of the Invincible Overlord. The overview gives a good sense of the riotous polytheism of the City State and, by implication, the Wilderlands as a whole by introducing five ranks to measure one's devotion to a particular faith: irregular, regular, semi-exclusive, initiate, and priest. What's nice about these ranks is that, in addition to providing context for the setting, they also include practical guidelines about what level of religious devotion qualifies one for each. It's a small thing, admittedly, but I appreciated it, since, as we'll see shortly, there are consequences to whether one is devout or lax in his observances.
Five pages are devoted to Old Custom itself, with information on the religion's history, deities, symbols, hierarchy, and so forth. There's also a section detailing the Forn Sidthr's beliefs and dogma. Again, this information is presented very practically, with eye toward how it can be used in play. This is not an abstract flight of fancy into fantastical theology but rather a brief but specific discussion of how adherents to the Old Custom behave -- or are expected to, at any rate -- and what this means. I also appreciated the way that these five pages gave a sense of the Forn Sidthr as being a unified pantheon with a proper "church." All too often, fantasy games have no notion of ritual, hierarchy, or doctrine, treating religion as individualistic and atomized, with no regard for how its various pieces fit together. Forn Sidthr nicely avoids that error, but without committing the concomitant error of getting bogged down in pointless detail.
The last six pages of the PDF are devoted to a discussion of the afterlife and the disposition of the soul of a follower of the Old Custom. In it, we're introduced to a new system that tracks the virtues and sins of members of the faith, so that the referee can keep a running tallying that determines the fate of a character's soul after death. The section catalogs the major and minor acts that earn one approbation or condemnation in the eyes of the Aesir and gives a table that enables the referee to see what happens to your character should he die at any given point. Depending on his faithfulness, he could be rewarded with a seat at Odin's table in Valhalla or cursed to wander the earth as an undead draugr -- or anything in between. The table also shows how effective raise dead and similar spells will be on a character whose soul is in each category, which I found to be an excellent bit of forethought on Mishler's part.
I can find almost nothing to dislike in Forn Sidthr: The Old Custom, except perhaps its somewhat pedestrian three-column layout, but that's a small quibble, because, boring though it may be, the layout is nevertheless easy on the eyes and free from errors. This is an excellent product and a good example I think of how much Mishler has learned since he began publishing his Wilderlands products. Earlier products tended to be a bit too "heavy" on minutiae for my liking, whereas his more recent endeavors have been eminently "practical" in their approach. They don't skimp on details by any means, but the details are carefully chosen for maximum utility. That is, they're useful in play and not just as bits of trivia that gamers can swap while talking about playing rather than actually doing so. For me, this quality is exactly what old school gaming products should possess and Mishler has shown he understands it well. I continue to be very impressed with AGP's PDFs and look forward to future releases with great anticipation.
Final Score: 5 out of 5 polearms