Monday, 9 July 2018

Legacy of Lindisfarne - A Viking Campaign for Runequest

So I've been on kind of a Viking kick the last few days.  I had originally planned to use a hack of Pendragon for this.  However that ended up not being as doable as I thought it would be.  For a number of reasons that I won't go into for the sake of brevity.  So after being left wanting by Pendragon, I started looking around for alternatives.  I had considered GURPS prior to Pendragon, but it seemed clunky and not conducive to the sort of campaign I wanted to run.  While I love the Powered by the Apocalypse engine, Sagas of the Icelanders didn't quite fit either.  So for a while there I thought I was at the end of my rope.  This campaign idea sputtering out before it even caught fire.  Until I came across the Vikings Sourcebook for Runequest II by Mongoose publishing.  Now we're cooking with gas.  Let's get right to it.

The Pitch

Roughly what this campaign will be about.
Now the reason I originally chose Pendragon was because I wanted to make this a multi-generational campaign.  Much like how the players in Pendragon play knights and slowly build a family legacy.  Playing their original characters' heirs and their grandchildren (possibly even great grandchildren) building themselves a dynasty.  So too would the players in this campaign build a lineage, only Vikings instead of knights.  The idea would look something like this.  The players start out as young residents in a dirt-poor settlement (or rather a collection of neighbouring homesteads), somewhere in either Norway or Denmark.  (I'm thinking Rogaland or Jutland respectively).  Which of the two is entirely up to the players' personal preferences.  More often than not they'll be non-landholding members of society.  Even the wealthiest among them will not own land.  (If they play someone of the Jarl class it's almost required that they are not the heir to the family lands and fortune).  In a time and place when wealth is measured by the land you own.  The players will be somewhat lacking...  Point being that they'll have plenty of motivation to go out, raid and conquer.  The types of character concepts conducive to this campaign are as follows.

  • Bondi or Tenant farmers, who owe their land (as crummy, sandy and rocky as it is) to a larger landowner for a fee.  
  • Leysingi or Freedman, former thralls who likely own no land of their own.  But likely possess freshly acquired weapons with which to take some.
  • Second sons of both Jarls and Karls (nobles, freeman respectively) who stand to inherit nothing.
  • Outlaws and outcasts of all kinds.  Those trying to put their past behind them and make a new life for themselves.  A process that land and newly acquired wealth tends to help with.  Your obligatory shield-maiden falls under this category.  As a woman dressing and fighting as man does is transvestism and punishable by outlawing of the offending party.  
The players first adventure or dungeon if you will.
Anyways you have all these opportunistic individuals who nothing to lose and everything to gain.  And you set them on a course to build a legacy for themselves.  In Norse religion there is no life after death unless you die well in battle (earning yourself a spot in Valhalla) or are a completely evil and irredeemable bastard (thus earning a spot in what's essentially Viking Hell).  So all that really matters is what kind of a name you leave for yourself before the Norns cut your thread of life.  So as the GM you start out small giving the players a little taste of the riches in store.  Participating in some of the earlier Viking raids.  Personally I seek to start with the infamous raid on the monastery at Lindisfarne.  The proceedings would follow a path somewhat along these lines.
  1.   Start the players off with a short introductory scenario in the Spring of 793 AD.  Involving a bear that's been harassing what little livestock there is.  The hunting of said bear would serve as a way to get the players acclimated to the setting.
  2. Have word come to the settlement, possibly later in the year.  Right before summer of the wealth of the monastery at Lindisfarne.  If the players opted play Danes in Jutland throw in a  mention of the recent atrocities committed by Charlemagne against pagans in Frisia.  (The king of Frisia is related to the king of Denmark).  Possibly as a roleplaying hook for those characters that decided to play devout Pagans.  
  3. Have the local Jarl put out word that he's going to Lindisfarne to sack the place.  The players and possibly several of their NPC family members are welcome to come along.  
  4. From there conduct the voyage to the Holy Island.  It won't be a simple matter of getting from point A to point B.  Sea voyages were dangerous back in those days.  
  5. Then there's the actual raid, which is a cakewalk.  Everyone involved makes out like bandits.  Treasure in the form of tithes/donations and various religious paraphernalia is plentiful.  The players can even take a few captives to be sold as slaves.  If anyone's feeling antsy for a fight, they can vent their murder-hobo tendencies by killing some unharmed monks and layman.  It's one of the few times in a game I'd run where they'd be able to get away with it without consequence.
  6. Now while getting the loot was easy enough the trip back won't be.  Turns out somebody else had the exact same idea as the players' raiding party.  Just as they're leaving the area, a small of fleet of ships roughly the size of their own comes into view.  Who they are depends on a number of factors.  If the players are Norwegian make them Danes.  If the players are Danes make them Norwegians come down from a base in the Orkneys.  If a player has a character with a particular hatred of a nation (say the Frisians, after all they're the ones who had numerous of their people drowned on Charlemagne's orders) or if a player has an enemy from back home.  Have it be them.  Point is they came here to loot the riches of Lindisfarne and found you leaving the burning ruins.  They are not happy and spoiling for a fight.  
With the first adventure over and done with the possibilities are endless.  Do they go on another raid? Where to this time?  Against coastal villages in England or Frankland?  Perhaps find another monastery to loot?  Or do they prefer to stick close to home?  Getting involved in local politics, choosing to instead raid their ancestral enemies.  Be it the next settlement over or a across the ocean against the Danes, Norse, Swedes or whoever.  Once they tire of raiding or perhaps have built themselves up something of a reputation and some experience.  They may join in on the invasion of Ireland or England becoming the foot soldiers of the Great Pagan armies that conquered those lands.  My lofty ambition is to play an adventure for each year of the timeline.  Though if the players decide they don't have any great plans in mind we can always skip a year or two here or there.  Eventually the players may find themselves in a position to acquire land after years of fighting.  Of course they'll always end up with land located right on the frontier of the conquered lands.  Allowing for all kinds of opportunities for adventure.  Even when the players are supposedly settled.  There's always the possibility that the natives of the conquered land or even other Vikings will send them packing.  Forcing the players to go back to square one as landless wanderers.  Allowing the GM to switch things up, sick of fighting in Ireland or England?  Maybe go settle a farmstead in Iceland or go on a trading expedition to Constantinople.  Or help old Rollo intimidate King Charles the Simple of the Franks into giving him a duchy.  The possibilities are endless.  Each generation that comes as the original players settle down and have children will provide a way build on their legacy.  As well as provide replacement characters should someone ever bite it or get maimed in the midst of all that fighting.  

Anyways that's about all I have to say on the subject.  If you liked this post be sure to +1, re-share, follow this blog and comment any feedback down below.  As always may you roll many crits and have a nice day.