Dungeon World – Sapphire Island mini-campaign

Okay, so last night I started up a mini-campaign (10 sessions or so) for my wife and a couple of friends, we’ve been playing a few one-offs together recently and they’d agreed to have me run some Dungeon World for them; people who’ve read my earlier blog entries will know that i’ve just started running a Dark Sun-esque Dungeon World campaign for my regular group as well, truth be told I was keen to see how different a world and game we’d end up with, having a different group of players.
We started off with the players picking their character classes and genning them up, we ended up with the following:
  • Will (known as ‘Strike’ to his “friends”), a hooded human thief, outcast from the northern barbarian tribes after poisoning their old chieftain; although his uncle the current chieftain was unable to take him back since he’s broken one of their most sacred taboos by using poison, the old warrior had seen his nephew safely to the mainland.
  • Demanor, an elven druid from the mainland, her wild eyes belie a deep and spiritual connection with the lands of the river delta, nestled amidst the jungles of the mainland that she calls her home. Once the elves were a mighty civilisation, but they recognise that their time has passed and, with the grace and calm only such an ancient species could possess, they accept their decline, using what little time they have left attempting to shepherd the younger races into a more positive relationship with the land.
  • Korra, a fiery eyed human bard from the distant Sapphire Isles, she is the bastard child of a noble, receiving little other than some basic schooling by way of compensation for the social stigma that she faced; desperate to add something to the status of her noble house and bring some glory to their name (and hopefully gaining acceptance of herself in the progress) she travelled to the mainland in search of ancient legends and to carry news to the mainland outposts of her house.
We followed up the character creation with everyone introducing their characters and the rest of us taking turns to ask questions, fleshing out the characters and the world using peoples responses, via these questions some of the things we discovered were:
  • Will had encountered Demanor when he first came off the boat on the southern coast of the mainland, he was only able to survive this strange environment due to her help and, as a mark of respect, shared blood with her in a northlander ritual of brotherhood.
  • Korra met Demanor whilst exploring the jungles of the mainland eager to discover storied; whilst there she was poisoned by a serpent and was only saved by the timely arrival of the druidess, whilst Demanor melted back into the jungle when she saw that Korra would recover, the bard would often think on the incident and made an effort to track her down so that her tale could be told.
  • Korra also recorded the story of how Will was banished for poisoning the chief after he took advantage of Will’s sister, in her fictionalised version, Korra re-wrote it so the sister did the poisoning and Will took the blame; worried that someone may one day read this and take it as the truth, Will stole Korra’s most treasured possession, an ancient flute given to her by her half-sister and held it as surety to prevent her account of his banishment ever being made public.
We also discovered a lot of facts about the world, including:
  • There are three known species that have built civilisations in the world:
    • Humans: The only species to populate the Northlands, the Mainland and the distant Sapphire Islands.
    • Elves: Once the sole occupiers of the jungle covered Mainland in a bygone age, the elves were the first to notice that the younger races were starting to forget how to communicate with the wild and strove to preserve these techniques by introducing some of their druidry techniques to those younger than themselves. The elves are fading custodians of the world whose time has passed, but they seem mostly restrained and possess a zen-like calm about this, being wise enough to realise that everything has it’s time and everything ends.
      • As the elves have begun to fade from the world, the Ents, once wise and noble custodians of the woodland reaches have begun to sleep, falling into a deep state of slumber rendering them like the trees that they once protected.
    • Orcs: A wild an barbaric people who focus on conquest and a life of constant fighting and warfare, the orcs mix freely with the people of the Northland, both have a very similar culture, their are mixed tribes of human and orc northlanders who raid the mainlands for supplies, particularly in the winter months when the ice sheets form between their lands and those of the Mainland.
  • The Mainland and the Northlands have been locked in conflict for years with the barbarian tribes constantly raiding and harrassing those on the mainland, this allowed the Sapphire Islands many years of peace and time to devote to improving themselves, meaning that the level of sophistication and technology is higher in the Sapphire Islands (late medieval as opposed to bronze age).
  • A hundred years ago the Sapphire Islands aided the ascension of a royal dynasty to the rulership of the Mainland Kingdom and sold them technology allowed King John I to build a wall around his kingdom to protect it from invasion; since that day the rulers of the kingdom have taken the name ‘John’ by traditions, the current ruler is John V.
  • The Sapphire Islands have come under attack from the Northlands since they provided the Kingdom with their aid, and one of their islands is currently occupied by Northland forces.
    • Having faced little in the way of organised opposition the Sapphire Islands are ruled by noble houses who spend their time competing and squabbling with each other, each house rules one of the smaller islands with the largest island (Mercia) being occupied by three houses, including the royal house of the Sapphire Emperor.
    • Even in with the threat of the Northmen bearing down on them the houses have, as yet, been unable to put up a united front against them.
    • Legend says that the Sapphire Islands were formed when two giants fought and killed each other in the ocean, the smaller islands were where their teeth fell and Mercia is where their bodies collapsed.
  • The barbarian tribes of the Northlands (orc and human) occasionally unite under a charismatic leader who is ‘crowned’ in a brutal ritual known as the ‘rite of the bloodhand’; a slaughtered foe has his blood mixed with various berries and dyes, watched over by the tribal shaman(druid) the new leader dips his left hand in the mixture and has his hand dyed permanently red as a mark of leadership.
Here is a picture of our rough world map (although we have left a fair amount of blank space to explore):
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First Session

The first sesson began with our heroes travelling to a frontier settlement that the Kingdom had setup in the ruins of an ancient elven city on the southeastern part of the Mainland, they had sought (and been given) permission by the elves on the understanding that the elves would monitor them to make sure that their logging did not cause too much of an impact on the environment, Demanor had been chosen to check on them; Korra had also heard that a ship from the Sapphire Islands was going to be docking there shortly and wished to hear news of her homeland.
When they arrived at the settlement they find it nought but a smouldering ruin, huge behemoth-like footprints dotted the scene but there were no signs of any bodies; eventually they discovered a single, barely alive old logger tied to a tree, his eyes had been put out, his left hand cut off and a strange geometric web-like design carved into his flesh. Demanor felt a strange sense of unease as though the wilds had somehow been roused or disturbed, making the man as comfortable as possible they headed to the coast, hoping to intercept the ship from the Sapphire Islands and see if they had any news about what had occurred, but on arrival they found only the wreckage of the boat and a number of crew bodies bobbing in the water.
Will waded out to the boat whilst Korra scoured the beach and Demanor attempted to attune herself to the energies of the wild; reaching the boat Will saw that it was not as badly damaged as it first appeared, in the water he spotted an orc body alongside the crew and a number of primitive black orc arrows sticking from the craft, turning to tell Demanor he saw that the druidess appeared to have disappeared, but their was a trail of her footprints heading back into the jungle the way they had came. Will and Korra ran through the trees back to the ruins where they found Demanor, an expression of utter fury on her face, choking the life from the still-injured logger, when they touched her however the fury seemed to drain from her and she released her terrified prey; all she could remember was joining with the spirit of the land and then feeling a red anger come over her, as though the very spirit of the land itself had been roused.
They had little time to ponder this however when the treeline burst open and a huge lumbering tree-like figure strode into the clearing, roaring inarticulately; recognising an Ent, but being quite unaccustomed to the murderous look on it’s face, Demanor gestured for the others to hide; she tried wrestling the blind logger into cover but he screamed and broke free of her grasp. All they could do was watch from their hiding place as the huge treeherder smashed it’s mighty foot down on the screaming man, crushing him to death, before it roaring once more and stomped off into the trees; as it departed Demanor and Will noticed that the same bloody spiderweb was daubed onto the back of the tree and at it’s centre someone had nailed a severed hand to the Ents trunk-like body.
Arrows filled the air around them, our heroes dived behind a stone outcropping as fur clas orcs began to emerge from the treeline, firing black fletched arrows at them; shouting that they had to get to the boat, Will lead the others on a mad race to the beach, easily outpacing the lumbering orcs. Wading out to the boat he dived onboard and began searching for weapons, whereas Demanor focussed the power of the wild through her, once again feeling the red anger but this time she was ready for it and mastered the feelings, transforming into a huge saltwater crocodile biting and snapping at the orcs, felling two as Will threw spears from the boat felling a third huge orc. However the orcs had inflicted several deep wounds on Demanor and she could feel her alligator form ebbing away, transforming she grabbed hold of the boat and, with the aid of Korra, began to haul herself aboard; spotting the last remaining orc about to attack the druidess, Will launched an attack on it, taking some injury himself but felling the mighty beast and allowing Korra time to pull Demanor aboard.
With their opponents seemingly all dead Will was able to limp the boat to the shoreland, but as he waded ashore he briefly spotted another orc, it’s eyes glowing with reflected light, clad in bones and feathers, slinking back into the woods. 
* * *
So how did it go?

I thought the game went pretty well, especially considering that it was late and we were all quite tired, however people really seemed to get into the idea of creating the world along with the characters; as previously it took everyone a few minutes to get into the idea that we were going to create the world around their characters (since this isn’t the philosophy espoused by a lot of RPGs), but once they had the ideas started coming thick and fast. We ended up with a very different world to the one that was created for my Dark Sun style game, the first session went very smoothly and everyone seemed to enjoy it; this is one of the things I love about Dungeon World, I went it with just the character sheet playbooks and some very basic ideas and a whole campaign has sprung from that and the players input.

I’m now ready to write out the fronts for the mini-campaign and prepare for the next session 🙂

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Rogue Trader Campaign Log – Session 16: Falling Stars

Deacon Kiril leads Admiral Black and his party up to a large stone building in the centre of the Clan Drod settlement, two burly barbaric looking guards clad in furs standing blocking progress to this building, each has an archaic sawn-off shotgun hanging from his belt and numerous broken bits of circuitry and technology hanging from metal thonging around the blade of their spears. In the hall an extremely tall and muscular blonde hair man with pronounced canines sits in the long hall on a wooden and hide throne at the head of a lengthy wooden table, shrunken heads of defated foes and beasts hanging from the throne; Deacon Kiril introduced Admiral Black and his party to Baldur the Chief of Clan Drod.
“We are here on Imperial business and they are not yet Imperial citizens, they may be hostile to our empire.” – Lord Admiral Fortunus Black
The hugely statuesque chieftain stands up and greets Admiral Black in the manner of his people, offering out a huge joint of mammoth meat to the Lord Admiral; thinking that this must be some form of primitive breaking of bread ritual, Admiral Black takes a bite of the meat and hands it back, smiling the chieftain takes a bit himself and puts the meat back on the table seemingly satisfied. In fairly good Imperial Gothic the chieftain asks them to sit down and speak with him, although they are forced to bring an extra seat in to accomodate the massive bulk of Navigator York Benetec. Lord Admiral Black explains that he wishes to set up trade negotiations with Chief Baldur’s people, Baldur appears interested and says that he has great need of weapons to defend his people; as a demonstration of what they can provide Navigator Benetec demonstrates his hellgun, punching a hole through a haunch of meat, the tissue around the hole sizzled and cooking, following this Oberlieutenant Borsch fires his bolt pistol at a rock, it bucks wildly, a huge shell casing ejected over his shoulder as the rock explodes into fragments. As a final show force York Benetec pulls out Cornelius’ thunder hammer and, charging it, he smashes it down onto one of the remaining slabs of meat, it explodes with a roar of thunder that also shatters the table.
The clansmen seem incredibly impressed with the violent power of the thunder hammer and Chief Baldur asks whether Admiral Black can acquire more of the thunder hammers and what he would want in return; Fortunus explains that he wishes to trade for minerals in the area and workers/thralls to serve on Imperial vessels. Baldur seems amenable to this idea, saying that he needs such weapons to defend himself against a possibly aggressive alliance of the other clans that have rallied under a religious figure that has risen over the past couple of years. At this point York Benetec closes his eyes as he feels a psychic astropathic message incoming, he sees twin symbols, the eight point star of chaos or the warp and a skull symbol for danger; Benetec leans in close to the Admiral and informs him what he has seen.
Admiral Black apologises but says that they must leave, Baldur expresses his regret but as they leave Enginseer Pak performs a mental scan for tech in the are and picks up a small malfunctioning machine spirit from inside a hide bag hanging from the throne.
“When you return I may have something for your man of iron to look at.” – Chief Baldur of Clan Drod
Using a long-range vox link they summon their gun cutter to their location and climb aboard; they also contact the second gun cutter (the one that originally bought Borsch and Pak to the planet) telling it’s pilot to pick up their Rhino APC and return to the Venerus. Joergan Borsch takes the helm and they lift off into the lower atmosphere; suddenly Borsch shouts out that he has picked up two fighter craft entering the atmosphere from space, they are approaching the settlement on attack vector. Enginseer Pak conducts a brief scan and identifies the fighters as machines of an ancient Imperial design; realising that the settlement is undefended against such a attack Borsch flies past them and then cuts the engines briefly, using the gravity of the planet to slingshot the gun cutter back towards the fighters, his guns bark and one of the enemy vessels explodes in a fireball, the guncutter flying through the rain of debris. Immediately Enginseer Pak begins broadcasting a jamming signal to prevent the remaining fighter summoning help, however the enemy returns fire and hits one of their thrusters, looking at his display Borsch realises that they are losing altitude and have no chance of getting back to the Venerus with that amount of damage.
As the enemy vessel swings around for another pass, Borsch cuts all power to the engines, causing them to drop several feet and the bolts from the attacking fighter to sail harmlessly over them; shouting for Pak to restore the power he strafes the underbelly of the fighter and, although he does not do enough damage to cripple it, the enemy obviously thinks better of continuing it’s attack and flees back into the upper atmosphere where the damaged gun cutter cannot follow. Admiral Black briefly considers having Benetec send a psychic message to the Venerus to tell them to deal with the fighter and protect the planet but instead decides to have Pak use his in-built vox array to contact the secondary gun cutter and order it to take a message to the Venerus.
“I’m a navigator, not an astropath.” – Navigator York Benetec
Pak transmits the message that the planet is under attack and that the Venerus should establish a protective orbit and intercept the enemy fighter if possible; at this point Benetec winces in pain as he receives a second astropathic signal, two images, the symbol for chaos and the symbol for a warship, gritting his teeth in pain he explains that the chaos vessel they fought previously may have arrived in the system.
Trailing smoke from their damaged thrusted, Borsch has no choice but to land back on the planet and, leaving Pak to repair the damage, Benetec and Borsch head back to the settlement, whilst Lord Admiral black determines to visit Deacon Kiril; before they leave Oberlieutenant Borsch, seeking to fortify himself against the trials ahead grabs a bottle of surgical spirit from the gun cutters emergency medical kit. Arriving at Deacon Kiril’s hut, Admiral Black finds the old priest tutoring some of the native children in the holy Imperial psalms and stories; asking for a private word with the old priest, Black requests that he reveals all he knows about chaos. Kiril tells the Admiral that he has been trained by the Ecclesiarchy to resist the lying promises of the Ruinous Powers but that he is concerned two of the most barbaric clans, Blod and Klok, may have given themselves into heathen patron deities that may be nothing more than a guise for the gods of chaos. He also mentions that Clan Klok are a Sjomann/Navigator clan and that he has heard rumours they have a ship hidden by magic around something called the Eye of Byggmeister near the systems sun.
At the hall of Baldur, Borsch strides into the hall like he owns the place, only to find that he has interrupted a private meeting between Baldur and his generals, one of whom takes exception to this familiarity and smacks Borsch around the side of the head; it seems as though blood is about to be shed when Baldur stands and, with a forceful tone in his voice says simply “Enough.” His voice brooks no arguement and the warrior sits back down as Baldur apologises to Joergan Borsch; Benetec explains about recent events and says that he has heard the Drod clan maintain some sacred writings from their ancestors that lead to them rejecting the new-Sky Warrior. Nodding Baldur rummages in the bag hanging from his throne and produces a metallic cube that he places on the table, he calls it a speaking stone and says that it used to tell many tales of the Sky Warrior but that over the years it has fallen more quieter; running his hands over the box and murmuring a prayer in his native tongue the box hums for a couple of moments and then a flickering green fanged figure clan in the armour of the Adeptus Astartes appears in miniature above the box, projected from an apperture that opens in the top of it.
“…not survive my wounds, I will soon perish, but the thralls of my ship may yet live on this planet that I have bought them to for it is capable of bearing life. It is my wish that the blessed technology on my vessel not fall into enemy hands, I will set course for the sun of this system and it will become my tomb. It is my hope someone will find this and bring my people back to the Imperium. In the Emperor’s name!” – Unnamed Space Wolf Commander
York Benetec says that Admiral Black has come to return the chieftains people to the light of the Emperor as the Sky Warrior prophesised, he even says that their other ship has a Sjomann who has dealings with the brotherhood of the Sky Warrior and that they would be happy to see their lost kin returned.
Chief Baldur explains that his tribe have been approached by a person with a similar aspect to the Sky Warrior seeking their allegiance to the Sky Warrior Returned, however, where the ancient writings said that a serenity and peacefulness were felt in the presence of one born to fight for justice, Baldur felt only rage and darkness in the presence of this emissary. Attempting to stall (knowing that the Sky Warrior Returned had already rallied several of the other clans and that his own could not stand against them) Baldur asked for time to consider the request, as he speaks to Benetec, he has half a year remaining before he has to give his decision, although he has no plan to join this new Sky Warrior’s alliance. 
“You seem nearer in aspect to the Sky Warrior of old than this new false prophet” – Navigator York Benetec
“You do me much honour Sjomann” – Baldur, Chief of the Drod Clan
Benetec tells Baldur that he believes this false prophet is called Lorgar, a twisted corruption of the true Sky Warrior’s ideals, and that they have encountered him previously. Chief Baldur explains that they have been expecting attack for a while and that he has been moving the women and young to caves in the mountains whilst his warriors have been making preparations to fight a last stand; the remaining clanships of Clan Drod have been pulled back and hide in the atmosphere of the nearby gas giant, Baldur tells them that his clan see this world as a sacred place because the Sky Warrior bought them here before they split into clans.
“And if it be our fate to fight and die here, then we will not flee from it, we will fight and we will die, making such a tale that our glory will live on forever.” – Baldur, Chief of the Drod Clan
Admiral Black arrives at this point and catched the end of the conversation; Baldur says that he will understand if they do not wish to get involved, it is not their fight and they if they leave now seeking to avoid being perceived, he will understand and not think less of them; Admiral Black shrugs this off and says that they will stay and make their stand with the clansmen. At this point Admiral Blacks personal vox unit beeps and, through it, Pak tells him that the gun cutter is repaired but that the repair is only temporary, he can’t say how long it will last if the cutter runs into trouble; the Admiral thanks him and tells him to join them at the chieftains hut.
Baldur tells the group that one of his scouts reported seeing a fire in the sky and something falling from it, Borsch thinks from the description, that the fire may have been the exploding fighter that he shot down; Pak arrives at this point and says that if he can salvage parts from the fighter it may help improve his repairs on the gun cutter. The chief of the Drod clan leads them outside and shows that his men are preparing some strange two-legged saurian riding beasts to go and investigate the fallen item, he invites his new friends to join him and Admiral Black accepts despite Benetec looking entirely unthrilled about riding such a beast.
As they leave Admiral Black asks if Baldur has any Sjomann on the planet that he could speak to and the chief tells him that there is a Sjomann, Shulfar of Clan Krieg in the settlement and he will arrange and introduction on their return. The party (accompanying by Baldur and several of his warriors) begin to head through the valleys of the planet, the riding beasts taking strange springing steps; as they travel Benetec and the Admiral fall back to talk more privately, although the Admiral sees a grand opportunity for trade, York tells him that the opportunity is far greater, if they help deal with the chaos threat can potentially bring those clans not truly lost back into the light of the Emperor and that the Space Wolves would surely be grateful to the House of Black for the return of their lost people.
They emerge from the treeline on the lip of a huge crater, the sides of it being studded with twisted fragments of metal debris from the shattered fighter craft; locating a tree that had collapsed into the crater Pak begins picking his way down, followed by the others, leaving a couple of warriors with the riding beasts. Focussing the power of his third eye, York Benetec was able to perceive to his psychic vision a set of glowing footprints heading from the centre of the impact where he could see a monstrously large human shape outline, to the far edge of the crater, climbing up and heading into the tree line beyond.
“What on earth could have survived a fall like this?” – Lord Admiral Black
Piercing through the illusion of time, he witnessed a phantom of a power armoured huge figure with long black hair, black souless eyes and fangs climbing out of the crater, it removes a cracked Astartes helmet and, in frustration throws it to the far side of the crater where it sinks into the muck. Scrambling over to the spot in the present day Benetec digs out the Astartes helmet and finds that it looks like a snarling, cracked demonic visage; he tells Chief Baldur that this is the helmet of one of the false prophets.
“It may have been a helmet but it’s now my personal piss-pot” – Lord Admiral Black
Climbing up the far eye of the crater, against the rising moon and treeline Borsch sees a huge silhouetted figure, it turns red glowing eyes towards him and roars.

Stealing from Athas

One of the AD&D settings that I really liked was the Dark Sun setting, it gave me that feeling of my character struggling to survive on the magic blasted desert world of Athas, with bone weapons being the norm and metal being a preciously guarded resource; one of the other things I liked about it was that it was (as far as I am aware) one of the first AD&D campaign settings to incorporate psionics into it as part of the core world rather than as just an extra tagged on almost as an after-thought.
I’ve been looking for an alternate ‘magic’ system for my nordic god-pocalypse campaign that differs from the standard Vancian magic system used in D&D/Pathfinder; this is not because I have any great dislike of vancian magic, I think it works fine with D&D, it’s not the best system in the world but it’s far from the worst, however I generally prefer a points based system and in my setting magic of all types failed when the gods died in the apocalypse. Psionics seems like a natural alternative to the standard D&D magic systems and I am avidly reading through Psionics Unleashed by Dreamscarred Press; in the Dark Sun campaign setting every player character had a randomly determined wild psionic talent, I want to emphasise that only the strong or those with an edge survived the god-pocalypse and that those races surviving the night of the burning stars were changed by the events of the apocalypse. Although I don’t fancy having random psionic talents for my character, I do like the idea of each PC having a random psionic talent and am considering giving each of the PCs the following feat at character gen for free:
* * *
Hidden Talent
( Expanded Psionics Handbook, p. 67) 
[General] 
Your mind wakes to a previously unrealized talent for psionics.
Prerequisite
This feat can only be taken at 1st level.
Benefit
Your latent power of psionics flares to life, conferring upon you the designation of a psionic character. As a psionic character, you gain a reserve of 2 power points, and you can take psionic feats, metapsionic feats, and psionic item creation feats. If you have or take a class that grants power points, the power points gained from Hidden Talent are added to your total power point reserve.
When you take this feat, choose one 1st-level power from any psionic class list. You know this power (it becomes one of your powers known). You can manifest this power with the power points provided by this feat if you have a Charisma score of 11 or higher. If you have no psionic class levels, you are considered a 1st-level manifester when manifesting this power. If you have psionic class levels, you can manifest the power at the highest manifester level you have attained. (This is not a manifester level, and it does not add to any manifester levels gained by taking psionic classes.) If you have no psionic class levels, use Charisma to determine how powerful a power you can manifest and how hard those powers are to resist.
Note: This is an expanded version of the Wild Talent feat, intended for use in high-psionics campaigns
* * *
My current idea is that, since I am planning to lift the non-psionic classes from Iron Heroes, I will mesh the token-pools acquired to power class abilities (see my review of Iron Heroes for details) in the Iron Heroes classes with the Psionic Point Pool from Psionics Unleashed; each class will have a single pool of tokens that they can use to both power class abilities and psionic powers.
I can see a couple of parallels between the world of Athas and the campaign that I want to create, both settings have suffered an apocalyptic event which has ravished the land and made it harder to survive on the planet and psionics are more prevalent in Athas (and will be in my campaign) than traditional D&D/Pathfinder settings; I also intend to lift the idea of most weapons and armour being made from bone and other materials more easily located than metal, also metal items tend to cause people to lose body temperature far more quickly and thus would not be particularly common in my setting – given that most items will not be made of metal I will probably use normal equipment stats and then add a small bonus for metal items but say that it increases the cold damage from the environment by some amount.

Ideas for a nordic world

So continuing on with my theme of designing a post Ragnarok god-pocalypse world (a term that I may use in the game material I knock up for the players should the campaign get off the ground) i’ve started looking at the Norse creation mythos and diagrams of the nordic mythological cosmology.
Creation Mythos
A brief description of norse mythology can be found here:
Since my idea is not going to be a strict duplication of norse mythology, I am going to select elements from it for inclusion in the game, thus far i’m looking at the following as possible aspects for incorporation:
  • Prior to the creation of the world there exists a void between the lands of Muspelheim (realm of fire) and Nifelheim (realm of ice).
  • The fire and ice meet, the ice melts forming Ymir the first of the giants.
  • Ymir reproduces asexually, his sweat forming the first race of giants.
  • As the frost continues to melt it reveals the cow Audhumbla who nourishes Ymir with her milk and licks the ice for nourishment.
  • Audhumblas licking of the ice uncovers the first of the Aesir gods.
  • The Aesir, lead by Odin slay Ymir and form the world from his corpse, the oceans are made of his blood, the soil from skin and muscles, vegetation from his hair, clouds from his brains and the sky from his skull.
  • Four dwarves at each cardinal point hold up the sky.
  • Dwarves originate at maggots in the body of Ymir.
Cosmology

Below is a diagram showing the nine worlds of the nordic cosmology:
I’ve started jotting down a few ideas for how the worlds/elements may look in my campaign world after the apocalypse:
  • Asgard: Following the deaths the gods their golden halls and their dwellings crashed to earth in a night known as the ‘night of burning stars.’
  • Midgard: The main setting of the game, following the apocalypse Midgard is reduced to a frozen wasteland where only the strongest survive against the predation of the Jotun and the Fenrir.
  • Jotunheim: When the final winter was unleashed in the aftermath of the apocalypse, Niflheim surged forward, engulfing Jotunheim and bringing winter in it’s wake.
  • Svartalheim: The land of dark elves, a realm of tunnels and darkness lies below the ground, hidden from the eyes of most, unwary travellers occasional find hidden entrances – few return.
  • Hel: With the demise of the Goddess of Death, her realm ceased to exist, meaning that the spirits of the dead have nowhere to go after their death and often return to haunt the living.
  • Muspelheim: Exists beneath the realm of Svartalheim, providing some heat to the centre of the world; it is rumoured that the following the aftermath of the apocalypse the last dwarves retreating into such deep realms and were not seen again.
  • Yggdrasil: The scorched and shattered trunks of the world tree lies in the centre of the world, small twinkling fragments of Asgard that did not fall orbit around the unobtainable upper reaches, forming the only stars in the night sky.
  • Rainbow Bridge/Bifrost: Destroyed at Ragnarok, the Bifrost shattered and fell to earth as tiny scattered glittering shards, these shards contain dim flickerings of godly magic and are jealously horded/guarded by those who possess them.
  • Midgard Serpent: Slain in the apocalypse the giant skeleton of the Midgard Serpent can be seen poking through the soil in various places of the earth, the bones are often scavenged to make equipment or dwellings.

Ideas for a D&D/Pathfinder game

As my Rogue Trader game progresses and I do the odd bit of work on my D&D FAE hack here and there (in between making Youtube videos for my channel – http://www.youtube.com/user/MrLARGEJO), my thoughts turn to what sort of campaign and game system I might like to run next; for the last few months it’s been the Lorien Trust LARP mainline season (the time when they run their big 4 events) and i’ve pretty much been concentrating on that and running the odd tabletop session, now that the mainline season has finished i’ve got a bit more time to think about potential future games (also to write up my last Rogue Trader session).
I’m reading a couple of fantasy books at the moment and, inspired by a lot of youtube videos that I have been watching, have been leafing through my old D&D books; i’m also playing in an interesting Pathfinder game run by my friend John Miles which has us exploring a strange other world via a fantasy equivalent of the stargate, the idea of character from one D&D world exploring other planes of existence has always been one that i’ve enjoyed since the original AD&D Planescape setting and so i’m quite enjoying playing the bespectacled scholar who is on his first trip out of the library (despite his age) and is overwhelmed by the potential wealth of information in this strange magic-rich world. All of these factors have got me thinking that it’s been a long while since I actually ran any fantasy/D&D-esque style games, I tend to go for grim contemporary settings like the nWoD or, more recently, darker sci-fi settings such as Shadowrun and Rogue Trader.
D&D with a twist
When running D&D/Pathfinder or any other similar games I generally try to put a little bit of an interesting spin on it, this is mostly because myself and my regular group of players have played in numerous D&D games over the years and the standard Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms game can seem a little stale after a while; not to say that we don’t still enjoy breaking out the Forgotten Realms books on occasion, certainly I have a fondness for Faerun as do a number of my players, we’ve also played numerous Eberron D&D games (and I know John is a big fan of that setting). Possibly my favourite D&D setting that i’ve ran sticks in my mind not so much for the setting but because it introduced elements of time travel into it; being aware that time travel games can create all sorts of problems it was done via a plot device to restrict temporal travel.
Although a lot of details in the setting faded from my memory I do remember that in the past of the setting at some point an evil sorceror had attempted to summon an army of undead to overwhelm the globe and had narrowly been prevented from doing so; the player party (although they had lost a couple of characters including the halfling Pip Ratcatched and the Paladin Delembrandt by then due to various incidents) were sent back in time to this point where, due to their interference the ritual to summon the dead army was interrupted at a crucial point, causing the energies to run wild and tearing a large portal open to the plane of undeath. When the player characters made it back to the present time they found that this portal had allowed legions of undead to storm onto the prime material plane and the future now choked under the oppresive regime of a vampire monarchy lead by none other than the Vampire Lord Delembrandt, a darker version of their old friend who had fallen to the undead hordes and had been raised as a vampire, becoming a fearsome Blackguard; one of the other players was also able to “resurrect” the fallen Pip Ratchcatcher but playing a much grimmer, vampire hunting alternate future version of the character. The game was a bit of a mess (mainly due to my own youthful lack of planning and foresight) and we never really got to finish it, but I certainly found it enjoyable and the players seemed to quite enjoy it.
So what to do now?
I’ve been knocking around the idea of doing a setting with a Nordic flavour for a while, even going so far as to by the D&D book Frostburn because I find the idea of a world encased largely in ice a very cool visual and it would allow me to pull on a lot real-world mythological resources and forteana; in the Nordic myths the gods are set against the background of an apocalyptic Ragnarok that will result in the deaths of most deities and this idea has been visited a few times in various RPG settings. I was reading about the Midnight setting (which i’ve only played briefly), a setting that basically retread the same ground as Lord of the Rings but at a point where the Dark Lord has effectively won the day and subdjugated most of the known world, the players taking on the roles of resistance fighters trying to overthrow the evil regime; it struck me that this ‘after the bomb’ style might be what i’m looking for in a D&D setting.
I’m sure this has been also address in a number of RPGs as well, however, it’s not something that i’m aware my regular group has particularly played before.
So i’ve started jotting down a few thoughts and ideas about what i’d do in this setting, i’ve jotted them below:
– Before the world was a land of fire and ice.
– Gods pushed back the ice giants to the northern and southernmost parts of the world.
– Gods pushed the fire giants down to the centre of the world and imprisoned them there, providing heat that their new creation might live.
– Deities used to exist.
Signs of Ragnarok:
– It sates itself on the life-blood of fated men.
– Paints red the powers homes with crimson gore.
– Black become the suns beams.
– A wind age, a wolf age.
– The world tree shudders.
– The Jotun come from the east.
– Loki breaks free of his imprisonment.
– The fiery inhabitants of Muspelheim come forth.
– Surtr advances from the south.
– The gods go to war.
– Odin is swallowed whole fighting Fenrir.
– Freyr fights Surtr and loses.
– Jormungandr is met in combat by Thor, he defeats it but only takes 9 steps before collapsing.
– The sun becomes black while the earth sinks into the sea, the stars vanish, steam rises, and flames touch the heavens.
– An apocalyptic event occurred that resulted in the deaths of the deities.
– Their bodies fell to earth from the heavens where they because some sort of features (possibly statues that have a minor magical effect around them).
– Divine magic ceased functioning.
– No longer in fear of the Gods, the ice giants moved across the world once again, bringing the cold and snow with them.
– Many peoples perished in the climate changes but some societies were able to survive, albeit reduced to a primitive state.
– Low magic game (possibly using the Iron Heroes alternate players handbook).
– Main focus of the game would be survival at first, followed by discovering the history of the world, then possibly having the player characters push back the ice and rise to replace the old dead gods.
Obviously i’ll be intending to do some more research on this and formalising some of these ideas before actually running it ad a game, but this is my starting off point.
Any thoughts/comments gratefully received.