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Notes for an Old Norse-inspired campaign

April 6, 2014

I’m running an Old Norse-inspired game using Swords & Wizardry Core Rules. Here are some of my notes, probably too rough-and-ready as yet to be dignified with the term “house rules”, but already beginning to resemble a kind of “2e-lite”. (No bad thing in my book.) None of this is set in stone yet. Please feel free to chip in with comments and criticism.

All PCs are human. Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User (Sorcerer), Thief. Maximum level is 9th, for whatever that’s worth.

Forest Troll (1906) by Theodor Kittelsen

Forest Troll (1906) by Theodor Kittelsen

A patron deity – either Odin, Thor or Freyr – should be chosen for each cleric character. Each god grants a slightly different spell list to his representatives in Midgard. Here are the draft spell lists for clerics of Odin and Thor. (I haven’t done Freyr yet.)

Level 1: Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Protection from Evil, Purify Food and Drink
Level 2: Bless, Find Traps, Snake Charm, Speak with Animals
Level 3: Locate Object, Prayer, Remove Curse, Speak with Dead
Level 4: Create Water, Protection from Evil 10-foot Radius
Level 5: Commune, Dispel Evil

Notes: Clerics of Odin may have any alignment. They must wield a spear. They can Turn Undead.

Given Odin’s stewardship of both poetic inspiration and runic wisdom, I am minded to give his clerics some or all of the distinctive abilities of the AD&D 2e bard: Influence Reactions, Rally Allies, Counter Song and Legend Lore.

Level 1: Light, Detect Evil, Protection from Evil, Purify Food and Drink
Level 2: Bless, Hold Person, Chant*, Spiritual Hammer*
Level 3: Call Lightning*, Continual Light, Prayer, Remove Curse
Level 4: Create Water, Protection from Evil 10-foot Radius
Level 5: Dispel Evil, Quest

*These spells are not in S&W Core Rules but can be imported from other editions and/or clones.

Notes: Clerics of Thor cannot be Chaotic. They must wield a warhammer. They can Turn Undead. Outdoors, they can control local weather conditions (within natural parameters) once per day. The process takes a turn and the effects last 2d6 turns.

Magic-Users (Sorcerers)
They cannot be Lawful. They can wear leather armour and wield any weapon doing 1d6 damage or less. (A hand axe is often favoured.) They also have a limited selection of spells, as follows:

Level 1: Charm Person, Detect Magic, Protection from Evil, Read Languages, Read Magic, Sleep
Level 2: Detect Evil, Detect Invisibility, ESP, Invisibility, Locate Object, Mirror Image, Phantasmal Force
Level 3: Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, Dispel Magic, Hold Person, Invisibility 10-foot Radius, Protection from Evil 10-foot Radius, Protection from Normal Missiles, Suggestion
Level 4: Charm Monster, Confusion, Fear, Hallucinatory Terrain, Remove Curse
Level 5: Animate Dead, Contact Other Plane, Feeblemind, Hold Monster, Magic Jar

Money and equipment
Money in medieval Scandinavia is a complicated topic, but I don’t need that complexity in my game so let’s simplify things by adopting a silver standard and saying that whenever a treasure hoard contains, say, 530 sp it doesn’t necessarily mean there are 530 individual silver coins; it’s an abstraction representing a collection of coinage, bits of hacksilver and precious objects worth, in total, 530 sp. (And probably weighing 53 lbs., using standard encumbrance.)

No plate armour, crossbows, lances or warhorses. The best armour is mail and shield, AC 4 [15].

Clerics don’t have healing spells. Therefore I’ll probably allow something like “Dutch Courage” – except it’s “Norse Courage” and obviously it’s a horn of mead, not a flagon of wine.

These include dwarves, trolls and giants, all of which commonly have magical powers.
There are those – often crusty old vikings – who do not rest easy in their grave-mounds. Such undead beings will have unique stats and uncanny abilities.
Berserkers are always bad guys.



Norns weaving destiny (1912) by Arthur Rackham

Edit: I think clerics of Odin should be Lawful or, at worst, Neutral. Pulp fantasy-style alignments aren’t necessarily a good fit for Norse mythology, but if I’m going to use them then it seems to me that the Æsir represent a stable, orderly cosmos in opposition to chaotic, destructive forces like the jötnar (especially the fire giants) and the old worm Níðhöggr, gnawing at the roots of the World Tree. Moreover, Odin – despite his wandering ways and troublesome relationship with the occult – is the ruler of the gods, so his clerics ought to be interested in the maintenance of social order and hierarchical power structures. As well as killing monsters and taking their treasure, obviously.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 6, 2014 5:44 pm

    Sounds very cool, a good start! Undead viking warrior = draugr = awesome!

  2. April 6, 2014 5:46 pm

    Thought of a question: why would berserkers only be bad guys?

    • April 6, 2014 11:56 pm

      Thanks for commenting! Well, in the source material berserks are never protagonists; they’re always troublesome loutish types causing havoc and needing got rid of. Wikipedia describes them as “ravenous men who loot, plunder, and kill indiscriminately”. Although, come to think of it, that sounds quite a lot like my players’ murderhobo characters. Hmmm, maybe this requires some more thought.

      I ran the second (and final) session of the “test” adventure earlier this evening. There was a climactic battle with a mound-dwelling draugr, which efficiently despatched one bold PC and several retainers before the cleric of Odin stepped in and kept it at bay while the rest looted the grave goods.

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