Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Vikings & Valkyries, Session 1

Session 1 (March 30, 2013)

I have previously played Mazes & Minotaurs with a couple of Hungarian gamers (Narmor, Marvin, and Premier as Maze Master) and I also launched a Vikings & Valkyries PbP game; unfortunately, both were pretty short (the former spanning over two or three sessions, the latter only a single scene). Nevertheless, my enthusiasm for M&M and V&V reached its peaks over and over again, this time resulting in a longish gaming session.

With this play report I actually try another method for presenting the game sessions. Instead of writing in summarised points I write in full sentences, occasionally pausing to make a comment on my own refereeing, realising mistakes in hindsight, describing why I thought something would work, etc. You are encouraged to tell me in your comments whether this approach to actual play reports is more enjoyable/useful/better or not.

The player characters were the following:
  • Harald Greentooth (Viking), excellent leader and fearsome wielder of javelins
  • Jormund (Sorcerer), a trickster at his heart, a formidable fighter nonetheless
  • + Erik Nikolasson (Berserker), short-tempered and greedy warrior; killed by his own companions
  • Karl Gregorson (Skald), a replacement character; his annoying behaviour foreshadows his tragic end, not unlike Erik's
The major NPCs were the following:
  • Jarl Olaf Gunnbjörn, husband of Fridha, father of Ingrid and Helvi
  • Fridha, wife of the Jarl, mother of Ingrid and Helvi, sister to Faraldr
  • Ingrid, daughter of Olaf and Fridha, sister to Helvi, engaged to Varghöss
  • Helvi, daughter of Olaf and Fridha, sister to Ingrid
  • Faraldr, brother to Fridha
  • Varghöss, engaged to Ingrid
  • Amundr, cousin of Varghöss
The party just arrived with the ship of Captain Torrad. As it turned out, the locals were celebrating both the returning of the raiding party and the engagement of Ingrid and Varghöss. The players joined the feast, eating and drinking as much as they could. Erik even got into a fist-fight and then a drinking contest with Amundr. In the meantime, Jormund noticed Helvi ogling him, while Harald witnessed a fight between Ingrid and Varghöss, after which Varghöss rushed out, joining Erik urinating outside the longhouse. Harald, in a secluded room, talked to Ingrid about what happened, suspecting (rightly) that she is in love with someone else. Their conversation ended with Faraldr stepping in and asking Harald to leave.

Varghöss confessed to Erik that, despite the fact that from a monetary point of view this marriage could be rather fruitful, he has doubts regarding Ingrid's capability of bearing an heir, not to mention her complete dislike towards him (which can be worse than unpleasant) - Erik agreed to talk about this matter the following day.
(Referee's note: The game started rather sluggishly but I feel it was necessary to introduce every important NPC to the players. There could have been a greater emphasis on their different personalities, I guess; all in all, it went fairly well. The only thing that later turned out to be a problem were the names and exact relationships between the NPCs - to defend myself, I deliberately chose names that do not sound alike and woven their relations into the discussion regularly.)
Suddenly, a couple of commoners rushed into the longhouse with frightening news: a dragon called Guldnar had attacked their homes. Harald was the first among the many men who stood up, saying they must kill the dragon - Jormund, Erik, and seven other men joined him; Jarl Olaf looked a bit relieved and told them they should hunt down Guldnar the following day.

Before he went to sleep, Harald practised in the hall with his javelins; then Fridha came to him and told Harald that the dragon Guldnar is indestructible and can only be killed through ungodly means. Not saying from where she knew about it, Fridha said there is a witch called Grimhulda, who could help; she lives in the forest to the east, in the parts which is most avoided by ravens.
(Referee's note: Another clue revealed itself in the form of a dream: Erik saw himself fighting the dragon, wielding a magic sword forged by a dwarf. This clue, to my surprise, was not followed at all. After the game we talked about it and I confessed it might have been a wrong move to present this - important - clue to only a single player, to which the player responded he did not forget about it but was occupied with other issues.)
Next day, Harald (with the help of Jormund and Erik) convinced Jarl Olaf that it would be foolish to attack the dragon right then and they should be given some time to raise more able men and prepare for the monster-hunt. The Jarl gave them three days.

Erik talked to Varghöss about the matters mentioned the night before; Varghöss asked Erik if he could talk to the witch Grimhulda and ask her help, without anything leading back to him. Erik agreed and joined his companions.

The party set off towards Grimhulda's lair; they were attacked by wolves on their way but ultimately reached their destination. There was a clearing in the forest with a deep, reversed cone-shaped pit from which roots and vines climbed up on its sides. There was also a cave entrance on its bottom. The characters climbed down on a rope and entered the cave.

They discovered a huge chamber; there were a dozen or so skeletons scattered about the room, heaps of hay in one corner, and a giant cauldron with dubious materials stewing in it. The chamber had three exits, including the one through which the party entered. After some examination, half-cooked remains of a man emerged from the cauldron asking for their help - right before he collapsed. The characters, for reasons still shady to me, knocked over the cauldron and, hearing not only its metallic clashing but a monstrous roar from another chamber, ran for it.

They saw a giant mockery of man (something like Grendel in this); most unfortunately to them, the creature saw them as well. While Harald and Jormund managed to escape, Erik was not so lucky - he begged for "the beautiful Grimhulda's help", and - after a few hits with her claws, her help he got. The creature dragged him back to the huge chamber, changed its shape into an old hag's (for the party figured right: the creature was indeed Grimhulda), and asked why they disturbed her. Long story short, Grimhulda told him that she could make a powder that can make a woman love a man and bear an heir for him - the price would be her sister.
(Referee's note: Another excellent example of why the session's events were headed towards an unhappy ending: the players appeared to be rather reluctant concerning sharing information, e.g. Erik's player thought of his "quest" of helping Varghöss as his own.)
After returning from Grimhulda's lair, Harald learned from Fridha a way of pleasing Grimhulda: a gift that felt the blood of generations. Harald decided he should steal Amundr's sword; he planned the thievery and executed it perfectly.

In the meantime, Jormund continued to bond with Helvi, and discussed how much more the world holds than what men can experience from here. She was considering escaping with Jormund.

Erik told Varghöss what the witch wanted (i.e. Helvi) and, after thinking it through, Varghöss accepted the price. Erik found Helvi alone; he knocked her out and brought her to Grimhulda. He had the feeling of being followed (for it has not yet been revealed who followed Erik, I cannot say). Arriving there, the witch first sucked the life out of the pure girl (effectively killing her, leaving a corpse of a hundred-year-old behind), then started creating the powder. Erik did not want to leave for the forest is dangerous at night - Grimhulda tied him up and let him sleep in her cave.

Next morning, everyone was looking for Helvi; Harald acted enthusiastically (so that he looked more trustworthy and avoid being suspected for the thievery he committed); nevertheless, both him and Jormund were interrogated. All of a sudden, Helvi rushed in, speaking of horrible things: she claimed she was kidnapped by Erik Nikolasson and taken to a cave in the middle of the forest, and she managed to escape while he was asleep.

Harald, Jormund, a few more men went looking after Erik, who just woke up in the witch's lair, dazed and tired. He found the powder next to the stewing pot, grabbed it and walked out. Then, the searching party came in - it took only a single javelin to take Erik down. The place was searched but not too thoroughly, and they left with Erik's body as proof.

Back at the village, they impaled Erik's body in public; then, Harald confessed to Jormund what he did, and the two talked about their plans of leaving the place. Unfortunately, their time the Jarl gave them was up - they all headed towards the cave the commoners suspected the dragon to dwell. The dragon hunters consisted of Jormund, Harald, several warriors, and an annoying skald called Karl Gregorson (the new character of Erik's player).

To cut the long story short, they fought the dragon, it was a great battle. They lost a few men but not too many, partially due to their incredibly lucky rolls; Jormund opened with a mistletoe arrow right into the mouth of the beast, followed by javelins hurled by Harald, while Karl was hiding in the back and the nameless warriors were fighting hand-to-claw with Guldnar, the dragon. The final hit (a spectacular move involving climbing onto the back of the dragon and thrusting his sword through its neck) was made by one named Skjadulf ("noname #7" before the battle). With Guldnar's head as a memorable trophy they headed back to the village.
(Referee's note: Despite the tragic end of Erik, it was a great session, all of us enjoyed it very much. For the players might read this report, I decided not to spoiler anything; secrets are to be revealed and more viking adventure are to be told after the next session.)
(Next session) 


  1. I like reports with "referee commentary".

    1. I try to add as much as possible, though I'm still figuring out what is really important to mention and what is not.