[Roleplaying Poem] Once I Was a Warrior

edited October 2011 in Story Games
For my Brother's 30th birthday, I wrote this. It's a Norse saga about fate, growing older and how people change over time.

A brave young warrior stands before the three witches of fate. He wishes to see his future, how he will grow as a man and inevitably grow old and be remembered. But what he sees will rarely be what he hopes for.

This is a game for four or more players. Three players will play the three Witches of Fate: Urthr, Verthandi and Skuld. The other player(s) will form a lineage of noble Norse warriors, who one after the other come to the Witches of Fate to divine their future.

Choose one player to be the first brave warrior. Give the warrior a mighty name, suitable for a warrior chieftain of the northern tribes.

Brave Warrior: Name five skills or abilities that you wish to master. You may wish to become as strong as an ox, or learn the Way of the Spinning Axe, or the secret of Spiritsight or any other cool, Norse-warrior things you'd like to see in the game.

Urthr, the Witch of Beginnings: Choose three of these skills that the brave warrior masters in his youth. Tell us how he masters those three. The other two skills he never masters. Then tell us why he never learns these abilities.

Brave Warrior: Based on Urthr's narration, name the two failings that prevented you learning your chosen skills.

Verthandi, the Witch of the Present: It is now ten years later, and the brave youth is now a mighty man. Name five challenges that the brave warrior will face in his life. These may be heroic, action oriented events, like outwitting a dragon, swimming for days across the Great Northern Sea or wrestling an ogre with his bare hands. They also may be more earthly, dramatic or mundane challenges, such as convincing Chieftain Hretel's daughter to marry him, teaching his son the meaning of justice, or finding the right words to speak at a noble warrior's funeral.

Brave Warrior: You have five tasks before you, and five traits to choose from (your three skills and two failings). Assign each task a trait, but you can only use each trait once. Explain how you will face each challenge using that skill to the best of your ability, or how your failings will impact the task at hand.

Skuld, the Witch of the Future: Of the the two tasks the brave warrior assigned a flaw to, one will fail. Describe how he fails becase of that flaw. The other, though, will succeed, and the noble warrior learns an important lesson from his own failings. Tell us what lessons he learns and how his flaw leads to future success. Then describe how the tasks he assigned a skill to succeed or fail, using your best judgment. Two of these tasks will succeed, while the third will fail. The failed task does not fail because the warrior's skills are lacking, though. The warrior fails the task because he overdoes it: his skill is too vast, too strong for the challenge he attempts.

Whitehaired Warrior: It is now thirty years later, and our brave is now old and whitehaired. Tell us how two of your three skills twisted over time into your worst failings. Then tell us what you learned from your failures and flaws. Narrate appropriate vignettes to describe these transformations over the years.

Whitehaired Warrior: Now you are now old and grey. You have seen many things in your life, and attempted much. You now stand ready to lead your son, himself a brave young warrior, to meet the Witches of Fate, as you once did. Name your son, a name that fits the virtues that you now value. Give him the advice that he needs to hear. Base your advice on the challenges, successes and failures that life has presented you.

Next Young Warrior: Listen to your father's advice. Think carefully on what he can teach you, before going to face the Witches of Fate. Will you follow his hard-won wisdom, or strike out on your own path? Tell us of your father's death and funeral. Then return to the first instruction, above, and repeat this cycle.

Everyone: Repeat the cycle until everyone has had a chance to play in some way. Or until you reach an appropriate ending.


  • This looks great! I can't wait to try it. I think I would hack it to be a dedicated four-player game, that runs through four generations of the lineage - all four roles would rotate, so that the Brave Warror's son would be played by the next player clockwise, and the most recent Brave Warrior would become Skuld. After one full rotation, the game ends and everyone has had a chance to try each role.

    Alternatively, after the first Brave Warrior's story is complete, she or he could choose any one of the other three players (who hasn't been a Warrior yet) to be the next Brave Warrior, and trade roles with that player. Once everyone has played a Brave Warrior once, the game ends.

    Again, this is fine work.
  • Thanks.

    I think that there is value in rotating the roles around. That way each person gets to try each role and gets each different kind of spotlight time. But I also feel like there is value in keeping the Fates in the same player, generation after generation. That way the three witches can sit back and laugh at how these pesky mortals never heed the knowledge that their fathers fought so hard to learn.

    I probably should playtest the game a few different ways, to see which way works best.
  • I agree, there's something cool about keeping the witches static - it would be fun to run the game at a party or even a con and have the three witches sitting at an elevated table with one seat facing them, waiting for mortals who dare approach. Then once the first warrior was done, they would have to go find their "son" and bring them before the witches, to be the next person on the hotseat. :D
  • edited October 2011
    It looks great, Nick! I like the way you use "volvene" to give a simple structure to the game. Urd, Verdande and Skuld are cool figures in my childhood myths. So it's really cool to see them used like this. Thanks for sharing!

    One thing, though; it is not a "role-playing poem" per se. The point of the role-playing poem genre is to make games for short sessions. 15 minutes game time is stipulated.
  • Posted By: TomasHVMThe point of the role-playing poem genre is to make games forshortsessions. 15 minutes game time is stipulated.
    I guess that makes it an epic roleplaying poem, in the tradition of Beowulf. ;)
  • Yeah, it may not technically be a roleplaying poem. But that's the gaming tradition that comes closest to what I'm going for (I think).

    The game is coming along nicely:

  • This looks tantalizingly well-designed, Nick! I'm looking forward to having one in my hand.
  • My brother seemed very happy with his present. He may have been more impressed by the presentation (and my wife's scrapbooking skills used to make the presentation), though. But it seemed to be a success.

    (PDF version here.)
  • Did you play the game yet? It would be great to read an AP.
  • Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to play at the party. And I haven't had any other chance yet. (I hope to at some point.)

    It's probably a mistake, giving away an untested game as a present. But he seemed to like it.
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