[Sagas of the Icelanders] Viking Iceland AW hack, playtest!

edited January 2011 in Directed Promotion

I've been working on this on-off for a while. Initially it would have been a stand alone game but then AW came along and it proved to be extremely suitable to the kind of thing I wanted to do. I quickly put together an early draft and got a ton of unexpectedly positive feedback from a bunch of cool people, but then real life intervened and things got slooooow. Finally here's an updated and fairly complete playtest document.

You're expected to be fairly familiar with AW, as the text doesn't go deep into mechanics at all, it's more concerned with colour, setting, flavour and some loose advice. I expect things to improve a lot once serious actual play starts coming in.

I don't know what else to say other than "it's cool, go read it!".

P.S.: I just noticed a large chunk of the Bonds section went missing in the edit. I will fix that and reupload as soon as I can.


  • It is cool. I've been keeping an eye on this for a while!

    I'd love to playtest this for you so I'll pitch it to my group. We're playing vanilla AW now, so they might be a bit weary. Hell, I might be a bit weary. But I love the setting and color and how you've wrapped AW around it. You've also done justice to women from the sagas, I think.
  • I haven't even read this yet, but it features Vikings. That makes you my second favorite person ever.
  • Why is "peaceful death" something a Viking would want?
  • Well you better get into some battles then, before you die of old age.
  • edited January 2011
    Also, the Sagas aren't all about vikings. See Grettir, for example, who is an awesome hero, but also an outlaw and a dick - and never a viking.
  • yayyyy this has been updated! thank you :)
    i love it.
  • Some very nice things in here. I thought I saw another AW Viking/Norse hack as well... was it an earlier version of this?

    I like the harm move a lot. I kind of wish Apocalypse World had something more interesting in that category, too!
  • Fantastic. I have a bunch of other things in the queue right now, but I'm really looking forward to playing this at some point.
  • Damn, this is cool!
  • Gotta love a corporate net nanny service that blocks Google Docs...all of it...completely...fuckers.
  • That looks bloomin' awesome.
    Since I live in iceland and work for a company full of geeky icelanders who love games, I am going to most definently try this out :)
    I'll get back to you in a week or so :)
  • ok wow. That was a damn good game.
    4 of us sat down to play tonight. i was the only one who had played Apoc World before. H is an author, S is a game designer, (both noobies to RPGs though) and R is a old D&D nut. H and S are both icelanders who know the old Sagas pretty darned well also :)

    Anyway, we had the saga of the village of Akureyri. H was the Grandmother Sigrun, S was her grandson Skiði the Viking, and R was the Wanderer Ari.

    The story that came out felt very true to the old sagas - we had a village falling apart because the men had been off raiding (unsucessfully) with Skiði, and the folk were only surviving because of Sigrun's cajoling. Ari comes into town and starts tricking people and stealing things, making the townsfolk think they have plenty, Skiði ends up making a fool of himself and the pair start insulting each other trying to prove who is the bigger man.
    It almost comes to a fight until old Sigrun goads them into a competition to provide for the village. Skiði tries boasting about his exploits while Ari brings in warm wool and skins he'd hidden during the summer. A prophesy is made that Skiði will loose himself if he continues his boastful ways The viking gets mad so decides on a late raid to violently take goods. He ends up lost at sea and has a vision - he converts to the white christ (and manages to convince his now mad followers to not throw him overboard) and returns to the village after a long voyage.
    During the winter the village has fallen to ruin as Ari is finally shown up to be all tricks and little substance - and the lack of strong men in town leads to building falling into disrepair and collapsing under snow - Skiði returns to find his grandmother on her deathbed. Ari hates the return of the grandson and the crazyness of the White God's preaching, and after many harsh words between the two Skiði claims that his white god will save the grandmother - But while prayers and vigils are held, Ari slips in some poison which leads to the Grandmother dying. Her final breath in praise of the old gods and cursing her grandson.

    So yeah, it was a great story and a lot of fun was had by everyone. But there were some difficulties.
    No one liked the layout - there were many times when the game practically ground to as we tried to figure out what was supposed to be rolled etc. Some kind of summary sheet or change in layout is probably needed to get the infomation in one place (or on a page spread).
    While the moves were colourful and felt appropriate, they were limiting in strange ways. H definently complained that Granny Sigrun couldn't really do anything but talk. During the game I brought in more apoc world rules as the grandmother seemed to shift into a hardholder.

    Everyone felt unhappy with "scrape together a living" as it was practically the only "useful" thing everyone could do. It should be split up and made into more colourful moves for the various types, or even a couple of different ones for men and women.

    You mention that the bond rules are still to be written, and having the lack of history between the characters was very telling. we ended up sorta winging it, but the +hx rules in Apoc World REALLY tie together the players, and it was very sorely missed. Having question or statements about bonds for each of the archtypes would really help. The Wanderer named himself the secret son of the Grandmother who had run away years before - its what inspired many of the arguments and the power play between himself and Skiði the young "big man" in the town.

    Some things that they felt -
    - everyone needs to be able to "make prophesy" or have some way of getting wyrd more into play. The "I told you so..." or "if you keep going it will be the death of you" actions need to be improved. Maybe something like "look for a sign from the gods" move.
    - Noone fights around women. The grandmother was constantly telling off the menfolk or being convinced by her. Women are critical in this game! Skiði and his warband were faced down by the old gummy grandmother and her walking stick. Might want to tone this down a little.
    - Barter needs to be more strongly brought into the rules. Holdings, buying stuff etc desperately needs some rulings. Having everything taken care of by "scraping together a living" made people feel a little let down and lessened the impact of the harsh nature.

    We discussed the game a little over dinner. The basic feel and theme of the game absolutely rocks. They all want to play again. (although maybe 4 people instead of 3 moght make things more interesting). The "blót sacrifice" move should be a common move, like the "open your mind to the maelstrom", but being a christian lets you ignore prophesy. There really needs to be rules for holdings and things more throughly pulled from Apoc World, the villages and family farmsteads are crucial to the feel of the game. The community against the others felt like it was missing, and everyone at the table

    Happy to talk more about this :) And looking forward to trying to redo the moves play again soon!
  • I am very excited to try this out! My Viking blood may be running thin but there's still something stirring inside me when I see a well thought through Viking game (and there aint many of those!). I especially like the "change season" MC move and the stab at generational AW. I think there is something in there that could be relevant to that "hacking AW for long campaigns thread" that was running wild a while back.

    Will post more once we've had a stab at an Iceland saga or two.
  • Great stuff, Kenny!
    Posted By: DionysusEveryone felt unhappy with "scrape together a living" as it was practically the only "useful" thing everyone could do. It should be split up and made into more colourful moves for the various types, or even a couple of different ones for men and women.
    Any suggestions/ideas for these?

  • Thats the interesting thing.
    The way the players approached the game was quite different from how my other players approached AW. In AW they had been primed by movies like Mad Max, The Road, etc. They described their actions in a type of "'stream of consciousness' way, and how they felt about the ask and things. In Saga it was very very different. H (The granny) started us out with a very stage like monologue. "It was a harsh winter and our families have suffered under the yoke of Winter's cruel lash", or "The mothers of the town have gathered to talk and... (clatter of dice) after hours of discussion it was decided..." etc etc.

    The feeling was one of sitting down and opening a big old leather bound tome and reading out aloud from it. Its not something that came from the rules anywhere, but everyone sort of fell into it. Our D&D player R (the wanderer) also jumped in with "Ari, with the cunning of one inspired by Loki, had dealt falsely with the neighboring farmers, and only now returned their missing sheep under the guise of Gifts of largess".

    Everyone was declaiming their lines :) It felt at times like a "bad Shakespearean acting night". Some of this came from the 'scraping together a living', as H and S started off the game by wanting to know how they had survived the winter. The feedback I got was that the players felt a disconnect between some of the moves - how some feel like season long actions, while others are the result of a few moments or sly words. So starting the game with these sweeping season long moves put the players into a mental picture that moves represented longish term things.
    Eg, the "goad a man into action" H described Sigrun harping at her grandson over a period of weeks, pointing out the humble men working the fields during the days and the grandson's drunken boasting during nightly feasting. It was assumed by all the players that this was the intention, as that is pretty much how its written in the Sagas.

    There probably needs to be a "only use these actions at the beginning of a session or after a period of long downtime" provision added.
    Another way would be to divide them up into action specific moves - "when you haggle for an item, roll +versed, on a hit you get +1 barter" or something like that.

    There was also a lot of uses of "prove yourself", but they were used for things like repairing houses, hunting for lost sheep and similar activities. The players were jumping on activities that would somehow improve the lot of the villagers and the community. There was some bickering over rules as women dont get this move, and so the heavy use of "scraping together a living":

    I think this might point to a lack, either a hole in the rules, or a misunderstanding by the players on the goal of the game...
    (sorry it sounds like i'm complaining, I really dont mean to. Everyone is fired up to play again, but i'm mentally feeling around in the dark to try to work out where the disconnect it)

    So yes, I almost feel that there should be a kind of "helping" move that the various archetypes can make. So the freeman, chieftain etc who have the holdings can get bonuses to their die rolls on determining how the village scrapes together a living at the end of a session.
    Like if there is a marketplace, you can try to use +versed to get the better of a trader etc.
    If you are working as a fieldhand +young to get results that help.
    +hard for defending from wild animals etc.

    (thought just coming to me as I write)
    Perhaps the idea of +hx and bonds should be changed and made into how the character is contributing to the health of the community. The core of the game we played, and the crux of arguments of what to do next, was the fate of the village of Akureyri more than the fate of the individual characters. The actions and results of moves were often described by the players in the mood of the townsfolk. Ari's return of the 'missing' sheep resulted in the townfolk "hosting a feast in his honour, despite the warnings of the old grandmother".

    Maybe making a fame/honour/opinion stat which can be raised and lowered by various action? Like an option in various actions where instead of a personal benefit (barter, etc) you get +1 honour which acts like an additional bonus when you are carrying out an action like defending your name. Not sure where i'm going with this.
  • Íslendingasögur! I must play this. Maybe tonight!
  • edited February 2011
    Kenny, this is awesome! I'm taking notes and thinking hard. I'll get back to you when I've slept it over.

    Just a few quick notes:
    -I originally intended it to be more focused on a community, but then I started thinking it should be several communities or disparate people, so I loosened that up. Your account convinces me otherwise. Bonds, "hardholder rules" etc.
    -The layout is terrible. I'll make better sheets asap.
    -"No one fights around women" was really my intention. Maybe I'll make the move a little less powerful.
    -The "narration" sounds awesome. I'll think about bringing that into the rules somehow.

    Thank you for playing!
  • The community bit is important.
    When the players picked their characters and started picking abilities, I was already asking questions. 'Why' always brought out neat answers.

    Why was the grandmother so hearthy? Because her sons had died off a-viking and her grandchildren were not up to the task of running the household so well. S built off this, Skiði (skis in english.. funny) was the grandchild, and was trying to live up to the ledgendary deaths of his forefathers. Trying to always prove that he was a benefit for the community. (The warriors cunning turned into more of a baldrik "I have a cunning plan", the dice were not kind)

    R picking the wanderer cemented the focus on community for our game - if he's the outsider, _what_ is he outside of?

    Anyway - more thoughts on "scraping together a living" and making barter more important. How about making it something like a "winter move" (ala pendragon). How about making the game very consciously be about the survival of the community rather than just individuals? Every winter the community has to scrape together a living, something like "roll+barter spent" On a miss the community gets smaller and suffers lots of bad stuff, on a 7-9 pick one bad from a number of choices, on a 10+ hit all is well. On 12+ it gets bigger (add a bonus like a growing hardhold).

    I'd also say that the Goði and the Grandmother are the two "community" leaders.
    Although it might be nice to let the freeman and freewoman start with the very small community as well. A bær if you will.
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