Runequest 6 - The Vikings

Atlatl Jones

I've been GMing my first campaign of RQ6, a relatively historical Vikings game set in West Gotland (southwestern Sweden).

The PCs are:

Hrafn Erlendson, who is seeking to avenge the death of his father and regain his lands. His father was an unpleasant man whose lands were taken by Sigarr, a neighboring wealthy homesteader who was had much more support among the other freeholders and Jarls. When his father drunkenly started a fight to get his lands back, he was killed and the young Hran fled to the woods. Hrafn lived in the wild for a while with his Irish wolfhound until he met up with his uncle, who trained him as a hunter, though Hrafn gained a reputation as a wild man and possible shapeshifter. He’s befriended a German monk who is a thrall of the steading where he and most of the other PCs now live, and the monk is teaching him to speak and read Latin.

Hrolfr (nickname to be determined*), a young smith, the son of a freeholder who was fostered at the stead of Sigarr, and apprenticed to his smith. A few years ago he was captured during a raid to Frankish lands, and hates them with a passion.

Eydis the Cunning, a Sami shaman and seidrkona, who fled her homeland after a prophecy she gave ended up causing a small war. She’s an old crone (in her 40’s) who lives in the woods and helps the nearby steadings out with healing and other matters.

Halla Fishhook, an enormous (size 19) whaler who is seeking respect after his father died embarrassingly, by getting his foot tangled in some rope and being dragged and drowned to death by a whale. We’ve agreed that somewhere in the ocean there’s still a whale dragging the fully intact skeleton of his father behind it.

Alrik the mad, who was found raving out of his mind during a pilgrimage to the religious site of Uppsala. He has no memory of anything from before, including where he’s from. A consummate hunter, he still has occasional bouts of madness. One of his Passions is just “Madness”. It’s only 1% lower than his Loyalty to Jarl Ottar. He wasn’t at the first session, but was at the previous session when we made characters.

* On the random Viking nickname table, he rolled the nickname “Prick”, which the other players loved but he didn’t.

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Atlatl Jones

We had a short first session, because we had some character creation stuff to complete. The game began with the characters traveling to the coastal town of Jarl Ottar for the Midsummer festival, with an oxcart full of trading goods. After they arrive and set up their trading cart, they leave it in the hands of their monk thrall and check out the games and competitions.

Halla walks over to a muddy pen surrounded by cheering men. He sees a beefy man inside the ring, assumes there’s wresting going on, and walks up to volunteer. That’s when he sees Lump, the biggest pig he’s ever laid eyes upon. The swineherd approaches and goads him into trying his hand at the competition to push the pig to the end of the pen, meanwhile repeatedly berating Olaf, the current competitor, whose attempts to wrestle the pig end up looking rather... intimate. (I had rather a lot of fun hamming it up as the swineherd). Once the soon-to-be-nicknamed Olaf Pigf—er* is finished, Halla eagerly steps into the ring, taking off his shirt to keep it from the mud. He smiles and rushes forward to shoulder-tackles the pig to push it over… and nothing happens. A rush of laughter from the crowd. Halla checks his footing and pushes forward with all his might, toppling the mighty swine into the muck. As Lump squeals and tries to roll around to regain his footing, Halla grabs two of its legs and tries to pull it towards the end of the muddy pen, but he can’t get his footing right and the pig doesn’t bulge. He moves around the pig and tries pushing it, and moves it maybe an inch or two while it snorts and the crowd guffaws at his red-faced exertions. Finally he gets a purchase on the pig and pushes it forward a good half of the way down the pen to piggish squeals and cheers from the crowd. Feeling victory within his reach Halla rushes it forward the rest of the way with his size and inertia. But just as Lump is about to reach the boards at the end of the pigpen, Halla loses his footing, his feet shoot out from under him, and his inertia carries him face-first into the muck with a loud splat. As he lies there stunned, the disgruntled Lump rolls over and sits on top of his submerged head.**

As the crowd howls, Hrolfr runs into the pigpen to save Halla from a particularly ignominious drowning, slips, and sails through the air to bellyflop face-first into the mud next to Halla.*** The swineherd, howling with laughter with the rest of the crowd, walks up and slaps Lump on the rump, and the great pig moves off of Halla’s head, stepping on the middle of Hrolfr’s back in the process as he tries to rise. Halla then goes back to the cart to sulk, lying in the sun next to the whale blubber he’s selling. Hrolfr goes to the shore to wash off the pig filth and change into the good clothes be brought for the feasting.

Meanwhile, Hrafn has wandered over to the archery competition. He lined up with two farmers, an old hunter, and a expensively dressed young man. They each took several shots against straw targets, with no one shooting much better than the others. After Hrafn took an especially poor shot (two points short of a fumble), the well dressed man loudly said “You shoot as well as your family farms!” They traded banter back and forth during the firing, with the well-dressed man saying “Shame, it’s a nice farm; I’m enjoying it a lot.” Their firing came to a three way tie between Hrafn, the young man, and one of the farmers. In a final showdown, the farmer finally pulled ahead, and won the honor. The dandy congratulated the farmer then walked over to Hrafn and introduced himself as Bragi Sigarrson, obviously the son of the Sigarr who took the land from Hrafn’s father and then killed him. They traded thinly veiled insults, and Bragi invited Hrafn to a duel, in the part of the midsummer festival where warriors tested each other with blunted weapons. “I’d be happy to, peacock” Hrafn replied. “What did you call me?” “I called you a peacock, peacock!” Then Bragi drew his sax (a long knife or short sword), and snarled “draw your sax!"

They circled each other with blades drawn, and we entered our first combat of the game. Hrafn won the initiative (barely), and struck, rolling a 06 - a critical! Bragi stumbled back to defend - rolling 00! With a critical hit and a fumble defense, Hrafn had three combat effects. He chose disarm, force failure, and compel surrender. With a flourish he batted the sax out of Bragi Sigarrson’s hand, and plunged his sax toward’s Bragi’s throat, drawing a bead of blood. “Do you yield?” he shouted, and Bragi, his eyes wide, hesitated. On his willpower roll to resist the compel surrender, Bragi also rolled a critical success, but not as good a one as Hrafn’s original critical. Bragi gritted his teeth and said “I yield.” Hrafn picked up the sax from the ground, handed it back to Bragi, then turned his back and walked away. Bragi was raging, and was clearly tempted to follow Hrafn and stab him in the back, but the presence of witnesses and the need to save face stayed his hand. There was much cheering among Hrafn and his friends and kin, and they give him ale and mead to celebrate.

Elsewhere, the loner Eydis the Cunning is wandering through the town when she sees, in the shadow of the Jarl’s great hall, an old crone with a hooded cloak looking over a carved bowl of water, with an eager young warrior in front of her awaiting his fortune. Eydis didn’t recognize her, but was outraged that some charlatan was honing in on her territory. She approached and confronted the other witch, who turned out to be a Slav, and accused her of being a fake. (I wish I had recorded the session because some of the back and forth between the two witches was quite fun, as they each tried to out-BS the other.) They almost brought the poor young warrior to tears by emotionally blackmailing him into supporting their powers and threatening the evil eye. Finally, in a fit of pique, Eydis manifested her lynx fylgjr (totem spirit), which I described as a ghostly lynx superimposing over her face, with a darkening in the air and a sudden smell of musk and blood, akin to the scene near the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring with Gandalf and Frodo. After a few moments of shock, the Slavic witch recovered, and exclaimed “Sister!” with a smile.

** One of the players also suggested Olaf Boar-Spearer, which also works.

*** Fumbles are fun.

**** Fumbles are still fun.
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