So our band of players once again gathered, this time to delve the depths of an ancient barrow filled with evil(?) men. This session was a little shorter than last, as we had a few people with some family obligations later in the day…
It really is hard to co-ordinate players from radically different time zone!
But a grand time was had!
PCs present: Cunach(Galdorman 2) Feorrehad(Warrior 2) Oswyn(Warrior 2) Reginleif(Adventurer 2)
NPCS: Wulfred(Saint 2), Beowine (Warrior 1)
The Companions slowly paced towards the black entrance. The grass was brown and rotten, while a pair of human skulls smiled at them. The very skies grew darker as they approached. On their final step into the shadowed doorway the skulls began to wail and clatter. Feorrehad poked one with a spear. It turned to face the warrior and began to laugh.
“Who are you, dead man’s tribute?”Feorrehad asked
“I am a servant of the gods, sacrificed to ensnare these invaders for all time.”
The companions quailed at this evidence of ancient Dru magics. “We seek the sword of one buried here, to rid the land of a devil-spawn beast.”
The skull wailed. “Do not take the treasures from this barrow, or our spell will unbind.”
“Can you tell us how to kill the invaders buried here?”
“If I had known, I would not be here now.”
The Companions stopped in shock, and considered the choice before them. Take the sword to rid the land of the best, and release the twelve brothers to rage across the land in it’s stead. Or leave and let the beast devour the people of Langmere and beyond. Each of the companions spoke their argument, but none knew how to pass the horns of this dilemma. But nevertheless they readied the simple torches brought from Langmere, squeezed through the doorway and descended into the darkness.
After what felt like a lifetime of being pressed beneath stone and dirt, the Companions were able to stand tall and stretch out, torchlight revealing a vast half circle of menhirs behind them, and a fog filled valley stretching before them. Strange stars and curtains of eerie light hung above them.
“We have truly crossed to the Otherworld” Cunach exclaimed.
They slowly walked into the fog, the ground sinking beneath their feet. None knew where they were bound for, and the fog confused their senses. Oswyn grew frustrated and screamed a challenge into the fog “Where are you? Are you too afraid to meet the righteous soldiers of the Lord?”
A groan came from the depths of the fog, and three shadows loomed in the mist. Great gaunt figures came before them, arrayed in tattered war-harness and carrying fearsome axes. “We are afraid of no man, especially not such weak folk that quail at some shadows and damp. Who are you to challenge us?”
Feorrehad stepped forward “I am Feorrehad, far traveler. We are servants of the great Carpenter-God who wields a mighty hammer. We quest to gain the mighty sword of Arngrim, to rid our lands of a powerful beast.”
The skeletal figure looked down on the Companions and clashed his axe against his shield. “I am Örvar, one of twelve sons of Angantyr who came to this land to make our name. No man can kill me. We were only halted by the curse of the Dru and their Gods. What threat do you pose to me”
“I do not seek to kill you, but I will humble you and speak to your brother.” Feorrehad drew his sword and banged his shield in challenge.
Two of the brothers stood at the back and raised their shields, the rest of the companions took places opposite and likewise raised their shields. Feorrehad and Örvar curcled each other and waited for an opening. Örvar found the first opening and struck a mighty blow. Feorrehad took the opportunity – weathering the blow to his shield and leaping forward. His sword cleaved Örvar’s shoulder. The limb dropped to the ground, bloodless, still holding an axe. Feorrehad placed a foot on the limb and stared down at Örvar. “We do not seek your death or even your suffering. Bring us to your brothers and let us share stories over mead.”
Örvar looked up in wonder, took the proffered hand and they all travelled into the mists to find Arngrim.
The companions were led by the three undead brothers to a hillfort overlooking a black river. Inside the wooden walls stood a rough hall carved from tree trunks and hand cut wood. The curious companions were brought inside where they found themselves surrounded by treasures! Treasures taken by the twelve brothers over their years of raiding. Now the twelve were arrayed around the companion, and seated before them was the giant brother Arngrim, leaning back on a carved throne with a sheathed sword across his lap. This giant figure confronted the companions, demanding the reason for their intrusion.
With sweet words did the companions lull the brothers, drawing out their tale before the companions shared their purpose. Angrim told of a far, cold, land in the north, and a journey south to make their names. How they became the sworn companions of a great king of England, and defeated all who opposed him. Unbowed and unbreakable, the brothers were finally offered their reward – Angrim asked for the hand of the fairest woman in the land, the King’s daughter – and it was refused. The King then plotted with the Dru-priests of the old gods of england and felled the brothers with foul magics and deceits. Still unbroken but trapped, unable to die, unable to leave, and weary from eternal battle against the beasts of this otherworld.
Foerrehad and Oswyn had a cunning plan. They told the brothers of the fall of the Old Gods and Dru, and the conquest of the new Christ-God. The wove a tale of mighty deeds and miracles, proclaiming that the true ways had been returned. Giving day and month names, along with other traditions as proof, they proclaimed that they had come to rescue Angrim and his brothers from the evil sorceries of the Dru. Angrim was not convinced, disliking the weak priest Wulfred. But Oswyn revealed his shameful knowledge of the old traditions, and led the brothers in the old rituals of glory.
Finally convinced that his people’s ways had finally defeated the Dru, Angrim brought out food and mead to celebrate with the companions. Wulfred tried to explain the True Faith to the brothers, but they were more concerned with boasting to Reginlief – the first woman they had seen for many lifetimes! She had caught on to the plan, and told the brothers about baptism – swearing an Oath to the Christ-God, battling the evil Dru and demons, and feasting in the halls built by the carpenter-priests in the afterlife. She convinced them that she could only ever fight beside the true oathbound warriors – and the brothers finally agreed to Wulfred’s plans of baptising them.
Wulfred led them all down to the black river, and baptised the twelve brothers, witnessing their Oaths to cast aside all evil sorceries and lead a life devoted to the Glory of the Christ-God. Wulfred prayed mightily to scourge the evil curse from the brothers – and his prayers were answered. Heavenly light broke through and for the first time shone on this blighted land. The curse lifted and the brothers were able to finally rest – one by one they lifted their gaze to the light and dissolved in it’s glory. Angrim took one final act, he turned and thanked the companions, gifting his sword – Tyr’s fang. He told them that it would bring victory against any weapon or shield, but warned that it had been cursed to bring great sorrows to the bearer.
The companions each took a treasure from the hall, except Oswyn who refused to take anything from this cursed otherworld. The mists had been burned away by the dawning light, and they returned to the Isle of Rynelaw without issue. The morning sun was still rising The companions celebrated their victory over the Dru curse and now looked to their future confrontation with the Beast
At the Table
This seems to be a perfect storm of players, system, and setting. I actually had to stop the game a couple of time as I was laughing so much at the antics and crazy stories that the players came up with – I really can’t do justice to the in-character discussions between the various characters in the game – the feast in Angrim’s hall was a real highlight for me.
This is a “one shot” (or limited series) so the mechanics are perhaps a little skewed, but the mechanic of “Wyrds” in this game is just fantastic for fostering that “mythic/legendary” feel that comes up in the fornaldarsögur (Legendary Sagas). It really felt like a strange lost chapter from Beowulf or the Niebelung. The ability for a player to basically declare what will happen because it is a part of the “fated story of a character” is just magical for making this kind of epic feel – but it is still a dangerous choice because the player is willingly bringing the fated end of the character one step closer!
The rest of the mechanics are nice and slick and built tension – the skill checks at key moments of choice – even the short duel was a tense moment that brought home how deadly this game was – effectively either of the combatants were able to be “one shot” with a lucky roll, which is exactly what Feorrehad did. Of course it was a non-magical weapon which didn’t do any lasting damage to the orcneas (basically undead…)
Next session they will be facing off against the Beast of Langmere, and they will hopefully discover what happened to the lost Edling Wulfric. Fingers crossed for a good ending – odds seem to favour this outcome. But in any case, the Wolves of God system has proved itself to me as a great system for creating games that can mimic the feel of the old “dark age” Sagas.