Archive for Roleplaying Games

Vanagard: The Vanir

Posted in Fate of the Norns, Publishing, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Vanagard, Writing with tags , , , , , , , on August 29, 2017 by Chall

Stanza 23 – Voluspo – Poetic Edda

On the host his spear | did Othin hurl,
Then in the world | did war first come;
The wall that girdled | the gods was broken,
And the field by the warlike | Wanes was trodden.

This above snippet recalls a time when walls of Asgard fell and the Aesir faced an elemental, unrelenting force… ages before Ragnarok. The Giants had nothing to do with this. These mighty ones, these warriors strong enough to face the Aesir, were the Wanes, also known as the Vanir, also known as the old gods. I can picture it: Ancient Njord striding forward, an entire ocean roaring behind him. Golden haired Frey throwing his sword and it spinning like a buzzsaw seeking blood. Beautiful and terrifying Freya, charging in her chariot, drawn by giant cats, with an army of specters riding close behind. Standing on the wall Odin, young and full of strength; he will survive the crumbling walls to wreak havoc on the foe. At his side his blood brother Loki, a cruel smile on his face, ready to assume a thousand forms each more deadly than the last and teach these invading old ones new tricks.

War

I invite thee to bring it!

With all our shining stars, cinematic wizardry, and legions of writers, I fear we may never see such a scene played out on our screens. This is because we’ve forgotten the Vanir.

I hope to counter this with Vanagard.

Not much is known about the Vanir. By the time Snorri Sturluson wrote the Eddas, Christianity was firmly entrenched and before that worship of the Aesir (we’re talking about Odin, Thor, Frigg, and the like) was prominent. The Vanir came before the Aesir and with two whole theologies between us and them, most of their myths have been lost.

In Vanagard do my best to feature elements we have. The Vanir keep their dominion over nature, how they act in my stories is based off how they act in the Eddas, their look and feel are pulled from authentic sources. However, there are still gaps which need to be filled to make a cohesive game world.

I’d be lying if I claimed this isn’t a golden opportunity, I relish making connections and adapting old ideas to new themes.  The Van-Folk, Phantom Wood, and even some of the set up of the young cosmos are my own creations. Also, enjoying Vanagard does not require a doctorate in Norse mythology, I don’t hold players to strict interpretations of the Eddas. In Vanagard, folks should feel free to draw up their own myths. This is a narrative game aimed at kids, kids WILL make up their own stories, nothing can stop it and that’s a good thing.

However, as mentioned above, there will be many kernels of the actual mythology in the game. My hope is to draw attention to the Vanir and so encourage folks to research on their own. Furthermore, my own stories will veer closer to the myth as they progress, I’d tell more but…spoilers.

Bill.jpg

Besides, others take greater liberties with Norse source material.

 

No matter my mixture of fantasy and myth, my end goal with Vanagard is to promote the Vanir. They play a significant part of the Norse mythology. Back in the day, even with the Aesir in prominence, Nord, Frey, and Freya were well-loved Deities. Vikings prayed to Nord for safe voyages across the sea. The Sweedish Ynglin dynasty is said to have been descended from Frey. Couples prayed to Freya for children and half of the glorious dead went to her. By all rights, they should be more prominent in modern interpretations of Norse myth and it’s a crying shame they are not.

Why? My guess is our need to simplify. We think in terms of gods and demons, two sides, no more. In this regard,  the Vanir are rolled into the background of the Aesir, a mere footnote in the larger struggle against the Jotun. Odin is portrayed as a just sky god. Surtr is set to remind us of an arch villain who lives in a lake of fire. It’s narrative shorthand that’s easy to grasp. I don’t think this does us any good. It’s worthwhile to push out of this limiting paradigm and see the myths as something more.

Not Odin

Not Odin

 

Not Surt

Not Surt

 

The Vanir story is incredibly important for our time. Remeber the war mentioned above? How the Vanir and the Aesir clashed with the full intent on killing each other? Want to know how this Viking story ends?

They make peace.

Both sides, foreseeing mutual annihilation, called a halt to the war and forged alliance. They exchange hostages but the Vanir hostages sent to Asgard were inducted and became high ranking members of Aesir society. The big three back in the day wasn’t Odin, Thor, and Heimdall; it was Odin, Thor and Frey. Odin learned how to gather the honored dead from Freyaand she got the first pick. Both sides found peace, united and became stronger for it.

In our modern climate of fearing the foreign this story, about uniting people of vastly different races and backgrounds, is exactly what we need.

While Vanagard doesn’t cover the Aesir-Vanir war, not yet at least, it is all about this theme. The Van-Folk aren’t conquerors, they are explorers and diplomats. Many Stories I’ve run involve finding and returning stolen things, smoothing over conflicts, and learning about different peoples. If you check out the stories I’ve written, available on both YouTube and Google Play, you’ll see what I mean.

We’re about halfway through the Kickstarter, if you’re interested why not check it out? I’m certain you’ll be glad you did.

 

 

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Coming Soon – Vanagard!

Posted in Fantasy, Publishing, Roleplaying Games, Uncategorized, Vanagard with tags , , , , , , on August 13, 2017 by Chall

 

Vanagard Kickstarter

This bear, this rabbit, they share a story or two.

This is a story about beginnings. Yggdrasil, the World Tree, is young, vibrant and grows between eight worlds. The ninth, our world of Midgard, doesn’t exist yet. There is no Thor or Jormungand. Odin is a young man who just befriended the mischievous Loki. The future is bright and stretches forth with endless possibility.

 
This game is about the Van-Folk, the familiars of the goddess Freya. She is a powerful witch who holds sway over beginnings and endings. The Van-Folk are her people, born out of her dreams and will. They live like normal folk; in halls, working hard and then feasting with fun, family, and music. Freya mostly leaves them to their own lives but, when needed, she calls upon her children to be her eyes, ears, and voice.

Vanagard is a story game suitable for both family and friends. The players tell a story, drawing upon runes and cards for inspiration. Each story takes an hour or so to tell, a single session can have up to five stories. At the end of the game, the characters are tucked away, waiting for the next session of Vanagard to go on more adventures. 

 

A long time I worked as a camp counselor in Jungle Cat World in Orono. Back then, I was very much into storytelling as an art and I relished the chance to perform it for young campers. As such, I wove a little mythology involving wizards by the name of Lady Night, Lord Morning, Lady Rain, and Lord Wind. Dealing with their machinations was a society of animal people, the focus was on a rat named Renn. Over the course my first summer at Jungle Cat World, I crafted a 12 story cycle of this mythology, weaving tales of this little trickster for my camper audience. I shared with them Renn’s life; as a young rat freeing his people from the tyranny of lions, to a sneaky thief who had a wonderful time winning infamy, to an old rat full of both wisdom and regret.  They cycle ended well, with peace amongst the wizards, though not without sacrifice.

The campers loved listening to these stories and I loved telling them.

In Vanagard I’m trying to capture this magic again.

If I’ve done my job right Vanagard will help families and friends can craft their own mythologies within a Norse framework. Vanagard will allow them, with little to no prep, to hold an evening of storytelling that weaves consecutive tales of a close group of Van-Folk heroes. These stories can be as dark and meaningful as what you’d find in the Eddas, or as light and heartwarming as you’d find in a Miyazaki film. The rules are simple but also allow for character growth. At the end of a Vanagard cycle, you’ll have a number of heroes, on whose cards are chronicled a great adventure.

If you want a taste of what kind of story I’m going for, feel free to check out my Vanagard Playlist.

The Kickstarter will be up very soon, in the next day or two at the latest. I hope I’ll have your support.

Alice Black: Blood Tribute – A Fate Solo Adventure Book

Posted in Adventure Book, Fate, Publishing, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Space Pirate Alice Black with tags , , , , , on April 18, 2017 by Chall

I’ve been busy, hence my lack of updates. Work on Vanagard has been going well, very soon it will be ready to be kickstarted. Dragon Trinity Crash is moving along, though Vanagard has taken priority. I’m also close to signing a contract for a small short story gig, I’ll post about it when it nears completion.

I have also released…

frontbaseforchall2

I’ve blogged about this before, and have even offered a free sample. It now finished and ready for purchase, just click here.

As for what it’s about:

You are Alice Black, feared feline space pirate and captain of the dreaded Manticore. For years you have plagued the spaceways trading slaughter for profit. You seek no approval from king or lord. Yet infamy has a price and your coffers are low. Without the necessary funds, your ship will fall into scrap, shadow ports will close their doors, you and your crew will be left helpless against the tender mercies of the Wolves. Your one chance at salvation lies in stealing tribute from a faded wolf house. However, your success will break a treaty and doom trillions to annihilation. Alice Black: Blood Tribute is a solo game and adventure in one book. All you need to play is this book, a pencil, some paper, and a few common dice.

Publishing it has been a dream come true for me. As a kid, I cut my teeth on Fighting Fantasy novels, I am very pleased to have my own adventure book. Evil Hat’s Fate RPG system is a godsend, I was able to tweak it to fit an RPG adventure book perfectly. Those who know Fate can start playing this novel right away. For those who don’t, the rules come with the book and are very easy to learn.

A big thanks to Xenotropos who did the art and layout, and Melanie Jacobs who edited the novel

So, if you like space pirates, adventure books, and other such shenanigans check this out.

I hope to write a sequel soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Trinity Crash Intro Story

Posted in Dragon Trinity Crash, Publishing, Roleplaying Games, RPG, Writing with tags , , on November 27, 2016 by Chall

rendoorcrashers-with-text

Door Crashers graphic by Gnaw.

These days my project time is split between Vanagard and Dragon Trinity Crash.

The ruleset for Vanagard is as solid as it’ll get without outside feedback, once Andrew’s finished with the Illuminated Edda the newest Vanagard Beta will be available for playtesters. Meanwhile, I’ve been updating  my Vanagard YouTube channel with better art and cleaner versions of the intro and the first story. I’ve mostly finished the second story, just waiting on feedback from the last few proofreaders.

As for Dragon Trinity Crash I’ve had a TON of ideas rolling around in my mind about characters, rules, plots and so forth. Which is fine but the actual work on the book needs doing and I have been keen to complete.  The following is the intro story that’ll appear in the rule book. Every RPG has one of these, it’s the first thing you read, designed to give the gist of the world, at a glance. In RPGs I’ve read, I’ve found some of these stories amazing, others…well I skipped so I could get straight to the meat. I hope this one, is one folks will read and enjoy.

So…enjoy!

*****

“I then lifted the puny Orc lord, and smashed him onto the rocks!” Steve the Barbarian smashed the chair onto the hardwood floor where it exploded into splinters. The tavern crowd cheered, while Ansim, cleric of Wal, The Invisible Hand of the Free Market, signalled comfortingly to the tavern master that all would be paid for.

When the cheers died down Ornat the Satyr rogue added, “Those idiot pig snouts were so stunned, none of ‘em saw me take this.” With a flourish, she produced an emerald the size of an apple, even in the dim candle light it glimmered. The crowd gasped in admiration and envy.

Anism snatched the gem from Ornat, “Careful,” he hissed, “it’s holy.”

“Holy?” snorted Haskel Steel Tower, Paladin of Generik, God of Healing Spells, Turning Undead and That’s It. “How can orcs have anything holy?” His lovely baritone caused many in the tavern to swoon.

“It does have an ominous name, the Gem of Don Tre Move,” commented Kassandra Two-Swords, Queen of the Dual-Wheel Clan.

“It will be holy,” answered Ansim, polishing the gem with this sleeve before tucking it away, “after it’s stowed in the church.”

His fellow adventurers shot him a sudden glare.

He sighed and rolled his eyes, “Of course we’ll be rewarded a finder’s fee, Wal’s the God of Profit, not charity.”

At that, the adventurers cheered and clinked mugs.

Suddenly the tavern door was kicked open and three individuals stepped forward. To the  right stood a regal looking Elf, her expression bored. To the left stood a tough Halfling, who wore an evil grin. Between them was a Half-Elf bedecked in blue armour, who strode forward in a manner that was all business.

She shot an even glare at the cleric, “Ansim Molina, we are representatives of the Zhan R.S.S. We have been hired by the royal family of the late Orc king Loukas Katut. You will relinquish the Gem of Don Tre Move or face the consequences.”

The sudden tense silence was broken by Ornat’s snicker. “What? The Orcs are hiring mercs now?”

“Well you did slaughter their army,” the badass Halfling commented.

Haskel frowned, “You have no jurisdiction here. As per the accords of Killt Hemand Tak Etherstuff, any member of the Tolgax alliance is free to raid goblinoid settlements with no fear of recompense.” He stood and sunk the tip of his great sword into the floor, folding both gauntleted hands on its hilt. “If what we did was a crime I would no longer be a paladin; do I look like not-a-paladin to you?” An air of righteous menace hung around him like a cloak of terror.

“Well, you do serve Generik God of Lowest Standards,” quipped the Halfling.

“Jadran,” scolded the Half-Elf.

While they whispered an argument, the Elf walked forward and said, with a strained genteelness, “We made the city guard well aware of our intentions and they do side with you. However, honour demands we not be deterred and in that respect, we offered to allow them to do their duty and try to stop us. However, after we demonstrated our acumen, they wisely stepped aside. I assure you, they send their most sincere apologies.” She looked away from the wall hanging she was examining, some velvet number showing a Dark-Elf with sideburns, and regarded the adventurers with a sudden iciness.

“Can we kill them?” asked Kassandra casually.

“I want to kill them,” added Steve.

“Very well,” Ansim dismissed, “try not wreck the place.”

At that, Steve let out a bloodcurdling war cry and drew his zweihander from the sheath slung across his broad back. He charged forward, his blue-steel eyes filled with bloodlust, an unstoppable juggernaut of muscle and steel.

The Half-Elf paused in her argument to spare the barbarian a harsh glance. She swept her hand towards him. “Thunder Lance.” There was a sudden flash and horrendous boom. Steve cried in surprise and was thrown across the tavern like dirty laundry.  His sword twirled in the air for a moment, before it clattered to the floor.

The adventurers blinked in surprise. Then the ranger drew her swords and grinned fiercely, “Time to bring this up a whole other level!” She raced towards the armoured maiden.

“Jade Club!”  Kassandra was brought to a halt, mid-sprint, by the Halfling’s jade mace thudding into her stomach, “Sorry, but we’re having a conversation here.” He finished his swing and she too went flying across the tavern, with a shriek, to join Steve.

The mystic weapon vanished and Jadran turned back to the armoured one, “Now listen here, I will mock whatever gods I deem fit.”

Dejana let out a frustrated sigh, “You’re being unprofessional. Guild charter specifically states…”

“I don’t care.”

“You should, here’s why…”

The Elf rolled her eyes.

The paladin gave her a sympathetic nod and then raised his gleaming sword in the air. “For Holiness without Commitment!”

The Satyr rogue brandished her daggers, “For the loot!”

They charged together. Haskel lowered his sword like a lance, his expression a grim mask of determination. Ornat followed just behind him and to the left, her daggers twirling in her hands.

The Elf dashed forward with practised speed. “Sea Slash.” She crossed the paladin’s path, a blade of gleaming seawater in her hand. She flicked her wrist and the blade fell to a puddle of blood on the floor. Haskel let out a cry and fell, first to his knees and then onto his face. Without skipping a beat Ornat continued running, right past the arguing Dejana and Jadran, right out the door.

Dejana and Jadran kept to their argument, weighing the value of professionalism vs. liberating speech. The Elf stepped forward and regarded the cleric of Wal with disdain. “The gem if you please.” She held out her hand.

Ansim retreated a couple of paces, holding the gem tight. A cold sweat beaded on his forehead. “I-I recognise you, y-you’re Iset the Dark One. I’m not giving anything to you!”

Iset sighed, “I assure you I’m not nearly as evil as I was. I’ve spent all time owed in prison and accepted an alignment shift. If I was at my full power, using my old methods, that gem would already be mine, and you’d be grovelling at my feet wishing for death.” An eerie light suddenly shone from under her chin, casting her visage in malevolent shadow.

Ansim let out a terrified squeak, he then thrust forward his smiley face holy symbol and chanted,

“Ancient Mascot from Aeons gone

 Scion of Moloch, the golden spawn…”

Dejana and Jadran paused in their argument.

“What the…”, commented the Halfling.

 “You who have outlived both clown and king

The lives of my foes are yours to wring!” Ansim’s smiling holy symbol came to life and laughed malevolently. The patrons behind him cowered.

A glowing portal, too bright to look at, opened up behind them and huge shiny hands emerged from it and ripped off the roof. Stepping out came a hairless, gleaming white giant who towered above the town. He was built like a pristine statue of a powerful man. His smile exuded confidence with a touch of malice. Distant, etherial, voices sung in exaltation:

Mr. Scrub, Mr. Scrub ruba duba duuub

Mr. Scrub, Mr Scrub, he’ll feast on your Bloood

Mr. Scruuub!”

Ansim giggled with the voice of a madman, then he fled, and so did the patrons. The three mercs stared up at the Corporate Avatar, gobsmacked.

He looked down and turned his smile upon them.

Dejana broke out of her terror and pulled her friends close.

“Iset, get Freya and chase after Ansim, don’t let him get away. Jadran you and Ulla help with the evacuation. I’ll deal with the giant.”

“Are you nuts?” Jadran exclaimed.

Iset frowned worriedly, “You can’t, not by yourself, even with Xalladale, he’s too powerful.”

Dejana smirked, “He’s a washer spirit. I’ll be fine, sky beats sea.”

Jadran glanced at Iset, “She’s got a point.”

Iset seemed hesitant but answered, “Very well, but as soon as we’re done we’re coming right back .”

“Appreciated.” Dejana then pointed at Mr. Scrub, “Hey! Your fight’s with me!”

Iset and Jadran scattered as the bald giant lifted a foot and went to stomp Dejana. She barely jumped out of the way and the shockwave from the impact sent her flying. With booming footsteps, he advanced towards her.

“Time to pick on someone your own size,” the merc muttered. She drew in a breath and suddenly was lifted by vortex. Her voice echoing with power she chanted:

“You whose wings span inky sky and encompass stars.

Whose gaze sees all no matter how afar

Bring forth your thunder, whose din terrifies evil hearts

I call forth your child to rip and tear villains apart

Great Dragon who seeks Blood heed my call

Power of Xalladale be mine!”

Chunks of sapphire and silver materialised and orbited around Dejana, at the end of her chant they combined in a brilliant flash of light. In the sorceress’ place stood a mechanical warrior nearly as tall as Mr. Scrub. She walked upright but had draconic features, including wings and a tail. She was constructed of gleaming sapphire and silver. She tilted her head back and roared.

Mr. Scrub let out a booming chuckle and smashed his sparkling fist right underneath Xalladale’s chin. The mech flew back and crashed into a 10-foot pole shop.

“Watch it!” cried the amplified voice of Jadran behind it, “Trying to rescue people here.”

“Sorry,” said Xalladale in Dejana’s voice. She shook her head to clear it and stood. “I’ll finish this now, Thunder Lance!” Twin conductor rods clanked down on Xalladale’s shoulders, they thrummed with electricity and fired two bolts of lightning directly at the Avatar with a tremendous boom. He jolted back an inch, smiled and laughed, the blast having no effect.

“Wha?” Dejana exclaimed.

Mr. Scrub gestured and two sponges of rock erupted from the earth. “I am not my brother Mr. Swish, nor my Sister Ms. Swoosh, I am the third element of our trinity.” His eyes lit up with murderous intent, “I am Mr. Scrub the Land Spirit of Corporate Cleansing and I will rub you  out!” He pointed and the two porous boulders slammed into Xalladale, ripping into her hide, tearing sapphire chunks out of her. Dejana felt Xalladale’s pain through their empathic link and screamed. She then gritted her teeth, focused and cried, “Heaven’s Rise!” Her mech flapped her wings and flew into the air. Mr. Scrub smirked and pointed up to her, the earth sponges followed but Xalladale reduced them to rubble with two punches. She then roared again and swooped down to slam into the Avatar, sending him toppling out of the edge of town.

“You’re a fool!” exclaimed Mr. Scrub. “Land beats sky, you can’t win.”

Xalladale swiped twice with her claws, cutting two large gashes into the giant. “Could have fooled me,” Dejana mocked.

“Enough!” Mr Scrub growled. He stepped behind Xalladale and rapidly hammered punches into her back. She stumbled but managed to turn to block the rest of his attacks. She then swiped a claw upwards cutting his chin. Thus, the fight continued and minutes bled into eternity for Dejana. Xalladale scored many wounds on Mr. Scrub, but they were light. When he struck back each blow hammered the mech further and further out of town.  Finally, he grabbed her by the wing and tossed her into a rocky hillside where she collided with earth-shattering force.

For a moment the dragon armour lay still, but then Dejana gasped and forced her mech back to her feet. “I admit, you’re not half bad.”

Mr. Scrub chuckled, raised his hands in the air and said “Wound Cleanse!” He swept his hands down and a sparkling field followed, one that erased all his injuries.

Dejana’s eyes went wide. “Crud.”

Mr. Scrub shook his head, “Tsk, tsk, tsk, it’s time to wash your mouth out, for good.” He pulled back his fist, drawing magical power. Dejana braced for impact.

Suddenly a green, four-legged, gator-mech crashed into the Avatar from behind, knocking him flying. “No one kills Dejana till we’ve finished our argument,” chuckled Jadran’s voice.

An ice-blue mech, long and serpentine, sprung into the air and knocked Mr. Scrub flying with her tail. “Sea beats land,” said Iset. The Avatar smashed into the ground and rolled to a halt.

“You two…”, Dejana huffed.

“Villagers evacuated ma’am.”, responded Jadran, his mech Ulla, saluting with his tail.

“I have the priest and the gem,” Iset said. Her mech, Freya, lifted her tail, inside the crystal rattle Ansim huddled in a frightened ball.

Meanwhile Mr. Scrub pushed himself onto his feet, his eyes glowing with power. “Mystic Eraser!”, he shouted and in his hand appeared a sword of acidic foam.

“I’d finish him,” Iset mused, “but it might be fitting if we all do it.”

“Fine with me,” said Dejana, “form up.”

Faedra Luna Perfect Crash!”, cried the three as one. Suddenly a shockwave of power erupted from all three mechs, it was enough to knock Mr. Scrub back on his arse. Ulla stood on his hind legs and split forming a throne, Xalladale sat in this, folding up to become the torso and head, Freya rose and slithered behind becoming a set of mighty arms. With a rumble, flash, and boom a new, much larger, mech stood before the prone Avatar.

Her right hand opened. “Sword,” commanded Dejana.

“Sea Slash!” “Jade Club!” “Thunder lance!”, the three called. Suddenly Faedra Luna was armed with a sea sword, inside which swirled huge boulders, outside of which crackled golden lightning.

“I hereby send you back to the celestial bargain bin,” snarled Dejana as Faedra Luna swung her massive blade.

“Suds buckets,” groaned the avatar, right before it struck.

*****

Aaand that’s the intro story. Did it do it’s job? Are you curious to see the rest? Please leave your comments below.

Dragon Trinity Crash – New Adventure Book, Will Be Working On Stand Alone Setting Book

Posted in Adventure Book, Anime, Dragon Trinity Crash, RPG, Satire, Writing with tags , , , , , , on September 18, 2016 by Chall

Before I started writing Seith and Sword , and in between bits of Vanagard, I was plucking away at my 2nd Dragon Trinity Crash adventure book. Well, it turns out that I’ve had enough time to not only finish it; but also update the first one.

Therefore I proudly represent:

Dragon Trinity Crash Adventure Book 1: Call of Cakethulu

 

 

And proudly present:

Dragon Trinity Crash Adventure Book 2: Hamerkop Halfling Blues

 

 

 

As before the covers were drawn by the ever talented Gnaw.

Furthermore, I’ve talked it over with David Hill and have decided to write out Dragon Trinity Crash as a stand alone Fate supplement. Yes, it will still come out with the ADX Anthology, David assures me that this will be released, however, I’d like to give DTC the attention it deserves, in that regard I’ll make my own book.

This book will be a pay what you want release, that way, those who bought the anthology will be able to acquire the PDF without paying anything more. It’ll have a healthy dash of setting information, the full rules, and plenty of sample aspects, stunts and spells. I hope to purchase more art from gNaw, and will put in as much as my wallet and bills will allow.

What’s the timeframe? I don’t know. I’ll be working on this in conjunction with Vanagard, however, Vanagard will get priority. That being said, I’ve impressed myself with the level of work I’ve been able to get done recently, so this may get done soon.

I will keep you all informed.

What I’ve Been Up To Recently: Vanagard

Posted in RPG, Vanagard, Writing with tags , , , , on September 18, 2016 by Chall

So I went dark for a little while but, there’s a good reason for that. After completing Seith and Sword Andrew approached me about writing a sister game for Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok . That’s what I’ve been working on. Here’s a rundown:

Vanagard
This is a story about beginnings. Yggdrasil, the World Tree, is young, vibrant, and grows between eight worlds. The ninth, our world of Midgard, doesn’t exist. There is no Thor or Jormungand. Odin is a young man who just befriended the mischievous Loki. The future is bright and stretches forth with endless possibility.

This story takes place in Vanagard, world of wild beauty. It is a bright land of deep forests, golden fields, and rolling oceans. Here nature is at times gentle, and at others deadly. Fruit hangs heavy on tree and vine; crops and game are ever abundant. Yet Vanagard wolves are fierce; many lions, bears, and beasts fill the woods, and dragons sleep in secret caves.

Despite nature’s hold, small pockets of civilization can be found. The Vanir rule here, wise beings of mysterious power, who live with the land rather than dominating it. Alfar and Svart Alfar, Light and Dark Elves, also reside here; immigrants from their chaotic worlds of Alfgard and Svartalheim. Also to be found are Troll wanderers and Dvergar (dwarven), merchants. The few cities in this realm are filled with lively color and diversity.

In this game, you play Van-Folk, the familiars of the Goddess Freya. Freya is the daughter of Njord, God of Oceans, and twin sister to handsome Frey, God of Harvest. She is a powerful witch who holds sway over beginnings and endings. As mistress of life magic, verwandlung, she chooses those who may have children. As mistress of death magic, seith, she also chooses where the souls of the dead rest. At times she is radiant and benevolent, moving hearts to adore her. At other times … let’s just say she can be terrifying.

 

freya_by_johannes_gehrts

Seriously don’t toy with Freya, she will mess you up.

 

The Van-Folk are her people, born out of her dreams and will. She gifts them as babes to the elder Van-Folk who raise them deep within her domain of Phantom Wood. They grow into beings who are half-people, half-beast. They live like normal folk; in halls, wearing clothes, feasting with fun, family, and music. However, at will they can assume their full animal natures; small, keen and quick. They can speak to other animals as easily as we speak to each other. They can even see and talk to the dead. Freya mostly leaves them to their own lives but, when needed, she calls upon her children to be her eyes, ears, and voice. The Van-Folk are happy to serve, for Freya is their protector, queen, and mother. Though they seem strange to the other denizens of Vanagard, the Van-Folk are given respect, for to cross them is to cross the beautiful and frightful power behind Phantom Wood.

What’s This Game About?
Vanagard is a story game suitable for both family and friends. The players tell a story, drawing upon runes and cards for inspiration. Each story takes ten minutes to half an hour to tell, a single session can have up to five stories. At the end of the game, the characters are tucked away, waiting for the next session of Vanagard to go on more adventures.

Vanagard has come about due to another game, Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok; a table top RPG of epic, Viking mayhem. Fans of FoTN wanted something they could share with their families. Vanagard touches on many of the themes of FoTN: it uses a similar mechanic, it’s set in a world of Norse mythology, and the art and feel are crafted to make it a worthy sister game.

Vanagard is about the following:
Beginnings: Unlike Ragnarok, Vanagard is focused on the beginning of the cosmos, not the end. Fate has yet to be woven. While you play there will be plenty of opportunities to explore the origins of Norse myth: How did Freya tame the boar Hildisvini? Why does Njord have such fine feet? What happened with the Vanir first met the Jotun? What happened when they first met the Aesir? On the other hand, you could make up new origins. The Van-Folk could switch things around and thus craft their own version of the Eddas. In this way, you should be able to enjoy this game whether you’re well versed in Norse mythology or not.

 

 

bear

One ill-fated Vanagard game lead to a cosmos ruled under the iron paw of Professor Bear.

Exploration: You’ll never quite know where a Vanagard game will take you. When the Van-Folk strike out they’ll encounter random places, people, and obstacles. They’ll always be seeking something new, mapping the eight worlds as they go. Who knows, perhaps they’ll even witness the creation of our Midgard?

 

Unity: The Van-Folk, created as they are through Freya’s magic, are all family. They work together in bands because they often encounter challenges they cannot face alone. Yes, at times they compete, bicker and fight, but in the end, they’ll all pull for each other. Vanagard is light on player vs player and heavy on co-operation.

The final form of Vanagard has yet to be drafted, however, we’re close. I see it as a thin booklet game that comes with all the cards you need to play. If you need to expand, doing so will be as simple as investing index cards, and, further down the line some new Vanagard decks we build them.

While primarily a DMless story game, I plan to have a full out RPG element to Vanagard, the idea being that you can run the quick story games one night and roll out into full RPG mode when you want to cover a particularly important adventure. In play testing this transition as worked out smoothly.

Expect Vanagard to be kickstarted after Pendlehaven gets the Illuminated Edda and Lords of the Ash more or less complete; as it stands those two projects are Andrew’s number one priority.

That being said, you can avail yourself of Vanagard news and notes here on the FoTN Forums. You can also listen to some Vanagard stories on my new YouTube Channel.

So check these out if you’re interested.

I’ll be sure to update the Vanagard Forum and here as more material is released.

Character Mortality Is Not A Difficulty Slider

Posted in Game Mastering, Roleplaying Games, RPG with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2015 by Chall

Hi Folks,

A quick update on what I’m up to and then onto the meat of this blog:

As mentioned before Seith and Sword is out. If you like tragic Viking fiction, that’s all about good people trying to kill each other check it out.

Pretty soon I may be involved in another book. Can’t spill the details yet but I’m excited to be a part of it.

Now that that’s out of the way, onto the main event:

David Hill once tweetedEasy mode is for “players who prefer a narrative experience.” Normal mode is “recommended for most players.” Fucking AAA industry.” This echoes something that’s been rattling around in my head for quite some time.

Let’s talk about character mortality. I’m not talking about PC death, that’s something one can come back from. No, I’m talking about mortality, the moment a PC perishes, where the system says: no, this character’s done, you are not allowed to play him ever again. Has kind of a sting to it doesn’t it?

Not that kind of Sting.

Not that kind of Sting.

One reason folks play games that have high character mortality (which I now dub high mort) is for the challenge of it. The last letter in RPG means game, in a game there has to be winners and losers. Winning is character survival, losing is character death. Some feel that, without this simple scoring mechanism, a RPG  isn’t worth playing. If your character dies you must start over with a new one, deal with it, it’s part of the fun.

To bring this back to the above quote, some see high mort as the hard, or normal setting of RPGing. Low mort is easy mode. This is a simple concept, but it’s not one I buy into. More than ‘hardcore play’ goes into PC mortality, it’s no simple slider bar covering ‘narrative’ to ‘normal’. Everything can be narrative. ‘Normal’ is relative. Let us, then, explore deeper, meeting within the nexus of high and low mort.

Folks play high mort games out of a desire for…

Immersion

Let’s face it, slagging dice can be boring, especially when you get into a roll and miss till ad nauseum cycle. A high mort game gets rid of this tedium. If every single exchange could result in your character’s death, even if she’s fighting a foe way beneath her skill, then you can’t help but be pulled into the action. You feel a little of your character’s fear with every single roll.

This doesn’t have to be restricted to combat. In a horror game, fighting is akin to suicide. Every decision you make for your character, where to run, where to hide, who to turn to, becomes significant and meaningful because one wrong step leads to a grizzly end.

Immersion can be an adrenalin rush. One many players enjoy.

A Game That Relies On Smart Play

Let’s face it, standing in an open hallway opening fire against oncoming stormtroopers, charging archers across an open field, walking across a stream towards in cover gunmen, screaming “No.” while blasting your shotgun; these, while awesome, are also incredibly stupid. Many find such scenes jarring. They don’t want Star Wars, Willow or that particular moment from Tombstone. They want their spec. ops characters to plot things out smartly, they want their Shadowrunners to fear plans going awry, they want their hardboiled detectives to rush for cover.

You simply can’t run that sort of game with a system that is forgiving when it comes to defenses and wounds, in other words, something that is low mort. The funny thing is, this sort of game doesn’t set out to murder characters, it’s built into the system. Risks are part of the adventure, smart characters mitigate them. Yet the hard truth is even smart play might lead one to the reaper. Many folks thrive on this sort of dichotomy.

Less Violence

Wait, hear me out. Many games have incredibly lethal combat rules with the proviso: try to avoid it. These sorts of games push characters to sneakiness, cleverness and diplomacy over out and out battle. However, violence isn’t ruled out and, if it happens, some PCs should die, that’s the price one pays for violence. Survival then, in this sort of game, is not excelling at combat, it’s avoiding it.

Besides, there are innumerable other stakes than PC mortality. Will you be able to save your family and friends from a crippling illness? You’ve been betrayed by a loved one, but he’s still necessary for your community to thrive, how do you deal with it? Your lies are catching up with you, quick damage control! Your starship is running out of oxygen, you have three planets in range, which do you choose? And so on and so on…

In real life this is genius compared to solving all your problems with violoence.

In real life, this is genius compared to solving all your problems with violence.

Folks play low mort games out of a desire for…

Investment

I’ve said this earlier, creating characters is hard work. The time you spend doing  it is an investment. You are, in effect, crafting literary work that you hope to enjoy for the upcoming game. When your character dies for the final time, you cash in on that investment. A character you took two hours to write up, with balanced stats, history, background, appearance and ties with other characters, is a very poor investment if she dies in the first five minutes of play. Have that happen a few times and you’ll find yourself writing up such gems as: ‘1st level Fighter Steve: He’s an orphan who hits things’.

Players aren’t the only ones who might lose investment in a high mort game. If a GM has tied his adventure to the backgrounds and relations of the original PCs, her plots, plans, and dreams might go out the window as they croak.   ‘Well the Avatar’s dead, the woman I hoped would lead the Fire Nation out of chaos has just been shredded to bits, and the only original character left is the cabbage salesman who has no stake in any of this. *sigh* My game’s finished, anyone for Settlers of Catan?”

Low mort games offer insurance for this investment. Players feel safe writing up detailed backgrounds and GMs are more or less sure they can count on most of the PCs pulling through to the inevitable climax. Oh, there can still be curve balls, failure is still possible,and even this sort of game can’t 100% guarantee all the PCs will be there at the end. It’s simply likely most of them will be.

Also, this isn’t to say high mort games can’t have player investment. It’s just that, in my experience, said investment comes only after a few sessions of play. 1st Level Fighter Steve might actually make something of himself, but you’ll have to see if he survives a few sessions first.

1st Level Fighter Steve is actually started off a more indepth character than Super Oswald.

1st Level Fighter Steve actually started off a more in depth character than Super Oswald.

Cinematic Action

That woman standing out in the open in a hallway, exchanging fire with a dozen stormtroopers and living? Some people love that, they want their game to be all about that. Low mort games can offer the players exactly this, the breathing room to try outrageous things and maintain the same character throughout multiple adventures. Such players want to chronicle awesomeness as they web sling, light saber, pirate sail through a sea of adventure. The challenge with this sort of adventure isn’t surviving, it’s coming up with wacky ideas and epic scenes. If the group drives forward  a fun, fantastic, memorable tale, they win.

This isn’t to say characters in such games can never lose. Their big bads will cancel out PC plot immunity. When they appear the action gets really intense as legendary heroes and villains clash. In this case, one or all the PCs might die, but if they do, it’ll be in a blaze of glory.

This isn’t to say that high mort games can’t have amazing scenes. It’s just that they’re rare. Wyatt Earping your way across the stream, without cover, shouting “No!” and shooting down outlaws and surviving can happen, but it’s rare. In that specific case, Wyatt’s player was consigning him to death, he’s just lucky that it turned out the way it did.

A Bloodless Game

Believe it or not, there are some RPGs that have no combat what-so-ever. They’re rare, off the top of my head I was only able to think about two: Golden Sky Stories and Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple. I reached out to Machine Age Productions, cause I know they have games with no violence, and they cited Flatpack and Don’t Break the Caul. Unless they deal with combating calamity and disease, bloodless games are low mort.

It would be easy to assume that such games, with no violence and little to no character death, are unchallenging. This is simply not true. These stories can be deeply emotional. Golden Sky Stories deals with the primal childhood friendships and feelings that made us who we are. Pilgrims takes us on fantastic journeys that will stir smiles and laughter. Don’t Break the Caul is about pregnancy, it would be foolish to think such unengaging.

Yes he's a villain in a non-violent story. Still, No Heart's eons more intimidating than Skeletor.

Yes he’s a villain in a non-violent story. Still, No Heart’s eons more intimidating than Skeletor.

That about wraps these thoughts on character mortality, with one further note: It is incredibly reductive to pigeon hole the entirety of a game into high or low mort. Some games let crazy cinematic action be the mainstay AND  make combat  completely deadly. Others would be high mort if it weren’t for the hero point/fate point system. Some at their base are very deadly, I’m looking at you GURPS, but have options to make it less so. My point is there are numerous reasons, preferences, and options for folks to play games with varying degrees of character mortality. None of them are off or wrong. They are all open to incredible nuance. To reduce character mort  to an Easy > Normal > Hard mode slider is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

Addendum:

I’d like to give a quick shout out to games that handle character mortality in interesting ways:

  • Greg Stafford’s Pendragon: You’ll have many characters who will die, but that’s okay. Your story’s not about a single person but an entire legacy. Pendragon has managed to combine great instant investment and deep immersion into a single system and campaign setting. My hats off to the Pendragon.
  • Andrew Valkauskas’ Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok: You’re playing in a Viking saga, during the ages of Ragnarok, your characters are going to die. However, every character who has a good death, and gets to the heavens, offers your next character rising levels of perks. If you get five characters into the afterlife you can bring one of your old ones back as an Einherjar or Son/Daughter of Muspel. Full disclosure: I wrote a novel for Andrew, so I’m a little biased.
  • Kotodama Heavy Industries’ Tenra Bansho Zero: In this game losing all your vitality will just drop your character unconscious. However, rather than fall so easily you can choose, as your character gets hurt, to inflict wounded and even a death status upon him. Rather than decrease your character’s effectiveness, being wounded or near death makes him stronger. This is perfect for a game with rising action. It also assures that any characters who do die, go out with in a heroic fashion.