Today I am sharing the following campaign concept for Mythic Iceland – the Chaosium Ink game, based on Basic RPG, using a d100 system. I have been Dming Mythic Iceland since 2013. As a Viking Age scholar, I am quite particular on how my games go: everything is about keeping it real, but with a otherworldly touch to it. If it is not worthy of the sagas or the Eddas if you want to go super epic, then it is not welcomed in my game. So I created this campaign scenario in the Western Fjords – the hardest place to live in due to the topography and resources available. The time frame is set in this particular place to see how the players would experience living in the deepest most pagan part of Iceland while Christianity is taking over. The country goes through several changes in the way the society behaves and how this affects the ordinary man, so I thought both from a historian and a DM point of view, seeing this struggle come to life would be quite interesting. So here are the materials:
Arnarfjörður is one of the large fjords in Western Iceland. It is an area enclosed by mountains, where birch woods used to be abundant. However, for several decades now the woods run thinner and trees are becoming scarce. The land goes further into the sea and diverts in two further fjords forming a fork. The northern one features the waterfall Thunderer (Dynjandi), and the community of Seilerdal, a settlement where Christianity is flourishing. The entire land is well-known as an area where hidden folk (elves) are more often seen than elsewhere in the country. In fact, the Western Fjords – and Arnarfjörður specifically – are lands were magic and pagan folk have deep roots.
The turn of the century is closing by. The White God is finding his way into the heart of the Northmen, and settling into people’s homes. Yet, the Old Gods are strong. Nevertheless, the land is contested, tension is building…Iceland is currently at the peak of its financial development, being one of the first nations in Europe with a proper Parliament where common law is provided by the Lawspeaker. Many Norse find themselves making money through trade, even though the icy landscape does not provide much, the hardy Vikings have found ways of crafting excellent ships, producing high quality yarn, and obtaining goods that for other European nations would be unthinkable – seal and whale oils, fish, driftwood…
The climatic conditions of the area are nonetheless worsening. Due a little Ice Age which seems to have impacted the Viking Age, the summers are becoming wet and colder, and as the forests disappear, the terrain becomes more hostile. Due to the isolated nature of the Western Fjords, travelling happens mostly by boat, as land trips can take awfully long. Moreover, Iceland is starting to suffer from another issue: population is becoming untenable. The small landmass caters for more people than it is physically possible.
The time of the year is currently the 1st of April – Single month, not quite summer yet, but awaiting. After a long, arduous winter, the earth is starting to rejuvenate. In the more fertile areas, greener graze can be perceived by those of keen eyes.
Saturday ‘Wash Day’ of the Single month…Sun arising…Iceland Awaking…
With the help of Google Maps and the map of Iceland that comes with the book this is relatively easy to set up. For farm settlement you can go proper methodical and calculate the area that would be suitable for each household, or use some basic arithmetics – or you know, you can just wing it. But I came up with this:
The filled in circles where the farms chosen by the players. The rest would be their neighbours.
Apart from the multiple adventure seeds that one can find in the book, you have to find some sort of idea of who are the people your party may look upon when trying to find a quest. So I do find that creating the godar for the area makes this process much easier. Then you start making mini-characters, and you can use their political/social/economic motivations to drive the story. These are the chosen ones:
Olafur Grettirsson ‘Deep Minded’ – Owl – 21y – Status: 84% –Area: Latrabjarg
–Allegiance: Viðarr – Archetype: skald –Features: meek, strange designs cut in close-trimmed beard
-STR:8 -CONS:8 -SIZE:11 -INT:15 -POW:6 -DEX:16 -APP:9
–Wife: Auður Flokisdottir (22) – no children – one male slave
Hnikarr Ymirsson ‘The Uninspired’ – Seal – 30y –Status: 92% –Area: Barðastrond
–Allegiance: Oðinn –Archetype: ‘Wiseman’ –Features: left-handed, gray hair
-STR:13 -CONS:12 -SIZE:13 -INT:8 -POW:10 -DEX:8 -APP:10
–Wife: Yr Granisdottir (27) – children: Halldora (11), Þora (8), Einar (2) – 3 female slaves
Haukur Saemundsson ‘Half-troll’ – Ram – 28y –Status: 86% –Area: Glama
–Allegiance: Tyr –Archetype: protector -Features: jaunty, birthmark like a piercing arrow on his right cheek
-STR:10 -CONS:13 -SIZE:17 -INT:11 -POW:13 -DEX:10 -APP:9
–Wife: Gjaflaug Alfgeirsdottir (27) – children: Bjorn (3) – no slaves
Skafti Kettilsson ‘Ale-Lover’ – Weasel – 51y –Status: 93% –Area: Arnarfjorður
–Allegiance: Njorður –Archetype: host –Features: scoliosis, left hand full of rings
-STR:15 -CONS:8 -SIZE:11 -INT:12 -POW:9 -DEX:15 -APP:10
–Wife: Asta Bjornsdottir (48) – no children – 2 female slaves
Gyða Þorbrandsdottir ‘The Fair’ – Elk – 19y –Status: 85% –Area: Dyrafjorður
–Allegiance: Frigg –Archetype: ‘the other’, alienated –Features: slender, friendly
-STR:10 -CONS:12 -SIZE:10 -INT:12 -POW:12 -DEX:10 -APP:16
–Husband: Ulfur Ymirsson (brother of Hnikarr) (32) – children: Mjoll (1) – one male slave
Þorkell Skeggisson ‘The Dueller’ – Wolf – 33y –Status: 87% –Area: Drangajokull
–Allegiance: Hoður –Archetype: Hunter –Features: embroided garments with special pattern, braided beard
-STR:12 -CONS:15 -SIZE:12 -INT:10 -POW:9 -DEX:12 -APP:13
-No wife or children – one female slave
Ossur Grimsson ‘The Troubled’ – Bear – 44y –Status: 98% –Area: Hornstrandir
–Allegiance: Heimdallur –Archetype: cautious –Features: long hair, leering
-STR:7 -CONS:11 -SIZE:15 -INT:9 -POW:4 -DEX:9 -APP:11
–Wife: Deceased – Astriður – children: Dyri (25) – one male slave
Ginnar Helgisson ‘The Dane’ – Raven – 37y –Status: 89% –Area: Standir
–Allegiance: Ullur –Archetype: Warrior –Features: sandy blonde hair, chin beard -STR:12 -CONS:13 -SIZE:10 -INT:10 -POW:17 -DEX:15 -APP:10
–Wife: Þuriður Reginsdottir (30) – children: Hari and Aesa (twins both 5), Sigurður (6) – no slaves
Kari Þorvarðsson ‘Flatnose’ – Bull – 26y –Status: 92% –Area: Reykholar
–Allegiance: Freyja –Archetype: High Class –Features: drawling, muscular legs
-STR:8 -CONS:14 -SIZE:7 -INT:8 -POW:10 -DEX:9 -APP:14
–Wife: Ljot Hauksdottir (29) – children: Erpur (4) – 2 female slaves, one male slave
If you feel like you are ready to drop your players into deep, but you do not know how to get started, you have a few options. The game comes with a potential adventure you can customise and make your own…Or you can borrow my idea 😉
Wash Day. The sun is starting to get kinder on the skin. The wind has stopped blowing now for a few days and you can smell the scent of crops flourishing trying to be ripe, but not quite still. The animals are at peace, they have finally stopped freezing at night. People seem cheery. The winter was hard, and many perished, but Iceland is unforgiving.
The women are out, bringing the clothes to the river, and the children for it is customary to wash and clean away the filth of the week to start all over again. Some speak and wish Freyr will bless their crops. Others are self-assured their soil will suffice for a good harvest. Everything seems just fine…Everything, except those comments, the rumour, the song, the strange words…The White God and his followers. Some of them are neighbours, others strangers. They mostly do no harm, but they do not contribute to the communities festivities anymore. They isolate themselves. They seem unfriendly. And people are starting to catch on this…Rumour has it that on the Sunday to come they are to take people to the great waterfall, Dynjandi, for their ritual of baptism.
The waterfall is the sanctuary of your forebears. Is the living evidence that the gods have still not forsaken these lands. It’s a symbol of freedom. It’s the landmark of your land, with no king or lord over it…And now they want to make it Theirs.
Wash Day, 1st of April, 6am. The land awakens. The day has begun…
I have calculated that this would be a mid-lenght campaign. Ultimately due to the struggle between Christianity and the old ways, there is due some death and unfortunate ends. I would give myself a timeline or a deadline and prepare the game with that purpose. This is not a campaign for epic, heroic actions – this is more an epitaph than anything else. It is going to be somber. Use your Rune masters well, let your players make their own decisions. If you feel the need of throwing a few beasts, I would recommend a few Draugur – you can wave them in easy with the concept of paganism and a new religion disturbing the land – perhaps a good troll and some killer whales if they adventure out in the sea. But mostly, you will be fearing thy neighbours.