Growth of a Campaign
Nine Worlds' Images, Traveling, and Neo-Sethby Et Al
Growth of a Campaign
Nine Worlds' Images, Traveling, and Neo-Sethby Et Al
Growth of a Campaign, 5th Installment
Nine Worlds' Images, Traveling, and Neo-Seth
This is an ongoing article following the development of a new campaign via GM emails between his potential players and a few "consultants" (my "Braintrust") as the campaign develops and progresses through its first games. The players have no hand in the development of the campaign, and the consultants won't play in the game.
Rich is myself, the Game Master of the game in question.
Hiro, or Norwood, is an English major, a myth lover, and a poet.
J, or Breitzman, is a student at an art institute in Chicago. J keeps the discussions grounded, and always keeps the players' viewpoints in mind.
Grover is another myth-lover, and he and Norwood feed off of each other's ideas very well.
Images of the Nine
After deciding on which worlds to use for Yggdrasil the World Tree, I set about trying to nail down what they would look like, and how one could travel between them. Brian got the ball rolling with:
Do you want round worlds? In Norse times, I don't know that they were up on the "round world" idea, which is one of the reasons that one could sail to Jotunhiem, or travel nine days north and then go down... On the other hand, if we're looking at all the travels as rituals that allow transplanar teleport, all the worlds could be round... So, the question is, do you want all the worlds round? All the worlds flat? Some of each? Just let me know.
I'd like a variety of world shapes, or at least one or two different from the rest. Not to be cheesy, but the ring-world idea is so neat.
So, a swiss cheese-like world and a ring like one?
Damn. That would have been more smart-assed, if it weren't a sort of decent idea, for Svartalfheim and the light-sensitive dwarves...
I sent out an email with ideas on the look for each world after Brian's contribution. It got some good discussions going.
Here are the Nine Worlds, and ideas on their "look". Feedback please:
Asgard will be the most static realm. The gods have remained mostly the same here, and the terrain will be unchanged as well. The wall constructed by the now dead giant/stonemason still stands around the Nordic castles of light. The world itself will be rather small, much like the reigned-in mindset of the Aesir.
I differ here. I feel the Aesir should be the most apt to change. If any place should be overhauled with technology I think it would be the Aesir. While not craftsmen themselves, they recognize its import. They also have the apples of life, which mirror modern medicine. Plus, the Nordic myths did accept Christianizing.... all this points to change and adapting.
So, you see a Techno-Asgard? How would you combine technology with their godlike power? Would it look like a Flash Gordon world, or more like Star Wars world, or what?
I like both ideas... Flash Gordon-y ("Emperor Odin, the Merciless!") will be cool, but Coruscant-y would also be pretty sweet.
Of course, Alfheim is so loose and undefined, I'd like to make it different. Perhaps a bio-tech world using living machines with a natural look? Or is this too silly for you guys to consider cool? Do you have a better suggestion (not a challenge, a true request for input)?
Seriously, off hand I'd say it is silly. However, I suppose all this could be written up well and come off as cool. I'm reminded of the war torn world and tech in the Rogue Trooper comics.These always come off as silly when explained, but seem damn cool in the comics.
I am undecided here. I'm tempted to have a classic Elven world, full of tree cities and bird riding warriors, and nature dominated structures. However, I don't want it to feel like Vanaheim, which is the realm of the old gods of the wild, and also should have wild things growing. Norwood balked at the biotech idea, and it is a bit off. I want this world to be stately and beautiful, and with so little details, I have an open palate here. Thoughts?
Why not go the opposite of forests? Perhaps beautiful leys and meadows. Lots of French gardens around the place. Maybe a giant hedge maze could be a portal in and out of this world.
I like it, too... Very formal in appearance... well-manicured and well tended, maybe a combination of pre-Revolutionary France (or, at least what Hollywood would like you to think pre-Revolutionary France looked like) and Holland, for the gardens...
Vanaheim is a world of the dead gods. As I understand them, the Vanir were wild gods, so the world should reflect this. Perhaps I could have a sunken city overrun with nature and filled with tombs and empty streets, a sign of the loss of the Vanir. My big influence here is the Sunken city from the XBox version of Baldur's Gate.
I'm thinking Dagobah from Empire Strikes back. It's beyond some virgin hardwood forest. Also, all the gods have left the place, no? So, perhaps the place has lots of vegetation but no animal life. That would be a neat twist. Perhaps once the Vanir are unveiled as traitors to the Aesir they will relocate to the Vanaheim and animals would return. I'm thinking growth without any direction to it, its chaotic, unplanned, etc. perhaps even cancerous in a way until the Vanir return to give it direction.
That's an interesting idea. I do love the "old temple" feel from movies like Raiders and The Mummy tho. But, I like the two-phase world approach. What do you think, guys?
I don't think these ideas are mutually exclusive. The temple at the beginning of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" is in a rather Dagobah-like setting... You could split the difference, then have the return of the (or a few) Vanir start to make the difference.
Another thought... if you end up having the balance of power swing back to the Vanir, do you want to allow some of the Aesir to go along? If so, who? Certainly none of Odin's faction, since that would cause to many problems (Frey's faction would never trust them, even if the others were willing to concede and join). Perhaps Sif, for example... Magni and Modi, however, seem to have a rep. that doesn't seem very nature-based...
I would agree with you that it would be hard for us if we were Vanir to trust any of Odins loyal following. However, the Norse myths seem to overflow with a sort of chivalric acceptance of a person at their word. I mean the Aesir/Vanir put up with Loki until he kills one of them, Odin is nearly as untrustworthy, and while the Vanir are obviously opponents of the Aesir initially they are welcomed to Asgard and become chief gods hand in hand with the Aesir. While the characters constantly cheat and backstab each other (Even Tyr placing his hand in Fenrir mouth is a sort of trick on the basis of loyalty) they always trust each other until the blow is landed.
I think that says something about their mentality. I'm not sure exactly what since it could be interpreted several different ways. My feeling is a sort of doomed fate and also a certain chivalric code.
Bringing up Modi and Magni is a good point. Why is it, do you think, that these two gods survive Ragnarok?
Good point, on the mindset of the Aesir, Chris. Rich, this could certainly be a useful game tool (particularly if the PC's figure out that the Aesir will take them at their word, until they're definitely found out...)
Jotunheim is really icy. I see huge castles and caves of ice. Something that looks like giants chipped away from some monolithic iceberg. And lots of ice. I'd steal images from The Thing quite a bit here.
That would be neat. "Storm giant" is also a term used about these giants. I wouldn't go so far as to make them the abominable snowmen, but I think that men of a giant stature that look as if they have suffered from complete hypothermia would be neat. Flesh that is icy to the touch. It could be neat to show this absence of humanity. Perhaps those closest to the trunk/portals would be more "human-like" and the further one out would be less so.
Midgard is earth, so its pretty much done. Yay.
I like the idea of the subterranean world of the dwarves, and the city of the dark elves/dwarves inside it. What do you guys think about my chunk of cheese world idea? I'd go for the swiss cheese idea. Makes perfect sense what with all the tunnels. I'd make the exterior irregular, rather than a cube or sphere. I think this would add to the disorientation of the world.
Helheim will be unchanged from the Norse myths. I'd draw from your emails about its look and combine that with stuff from pantheon.org. What if had some kind of Road Warrior feel to the world? You know, bands of warriors traveling the desolate plain, a barren wasteland filled with combat.
I think an image for this has to be the bog from Two Towers, a huge marshy stinky sad place.
Hmmm, see my comments above regarding Vanaheim. Perhaps if this bog had no or little trees the two would make an interesting comparison/contrast. I'd give it lots of bog-gas and will-o-wisps....
This is the home of the fire giants and Surt, right? So, volcanoes and lava, and red everywhere.
1st cover of the 1st edition DMG .... the sea of fire and the efreeti.
Traveling the Tree
With a good idea of the images of each world, I decided to firm up how they will get there.
As far as travel, I need a list of how to get from one to the other as defined in the myths, then we can come up with some spitballing.
Hrm. Well, some legends are quite clear on how to get from one world to another. Jotunheim and Asgard are connected by a river. Asgard and Midgard are connected by the Bifrost Bridge. I think that Travel between Midgard, Jotunheim, and Nidavellir was accomplished by sea. Going from Midgard to Nifheim was a matter of travelling north for 9 days, then down. I would assume that, in game terms, these are basically rituals that allow one to pierce a Gauntlet of a different sort. As for other connections... Niflheim to Asgard, for example, who knows? Maybe certain worlds aren't accessable from certain other ones... Getting from Midgard to Muspellheim, for example, might require travelling to Jotunheim, and ~then~ to Muspellheim. Up to you, Rich.
River travel. I believe the word Viking means river. They didn't call themselves Vikings but referred to their plunding expeditions, often done along coasts and up rivers, as going viking. When Hoder goes to Hel it takes him 9 days to reach it. I like the idea that certain paths must be taken- one can't merely teleport all around the worlds. I think this will cause some down time and also grant the ST an opportunity to play up how the different worlds look different and are reflective of the nature of that world.
How else could one travel along Yggdrasil from one world to another? Should it be ritualistic teleport, or just walking along a path, or some transport device, or some creature of burden, or what?
I think you could do it a number of ways. Perhaps, to start with, they have to be at the right place at the right time. Then, they could shift with the help of some artifact. Finally, as the group gains power, they can cause the shift themselves. At least that is how I would run it. This goes back to building up the power of the group over time.
What if the PC's learn a sort of ritual teleporation that allows them to reach Yggdrasil (example, going to Niflheim, from Midgard, not using the tree, requires a journey, northward, of 9 days, at which point they find a passage downward... Maybe they simply have to each circle a tree 9 times, to reach Yggdrasil, once they learn the trick? It would certainly negate use of the tree as an "easy escape"... The BSD's might pause, in confusion, the first couple times the PC's run around the tree, but then they'll have plenty of free attacks...)
That's hilarious! It makes me think of Sliders or something. Have you guys seen the low budget sci-fi movie called Crossworlds with Rutger Hauer? It deals with world travel and has some neat ideas. I'm fuzzy on how one moved from one world to their Middle World, but will watch it again to see.
But you expand on how difficult it is to travel, via the world tree? Or various enemies also know the trick, so the longer they're on the Tree the more likely they are to be attacked (Maybe that bastard Ratatosk keeps narc'ing on them, giving their location to their enemies...? A neat character bit would be for Ratatosk to just be giving them a hard time, a LOT, at first--which is just his way, and, if any of the PC's react harshly, then he decides to screw them over...?)
Just a quick thought regarding travel that came as I was scanning the posts: If all these worlds are boughs of Yggdrasil maybe the only way to get from one to the other would be to 'tap' into the tree and ride the nutrient stream through to the next world. That might open up some possibilities with Pentex trying to poison the tree. I don't know if this is at all on topic, but just a random thought I thought I'd share.
Jason's idea has some merit... Travel between worlds could be on "rivers" of nutrient flows, for example... How PC's get ~inside~ the tree could be an issue, though...
I think it could work for sure. We could have the sap be akin to the river travels for 9 days mentioned in legend, or link them somehow.
Norwood had a thought about the overall look for the worlds that I found very interesting.
I would say that as the faith in the Nordic religion/myths faded so to did the power of the world. This would, I think, have several effects. Perhaps first goes back to how to reach these other worlds. I'd most likely start witha Brigadoon approach. The players have to be at the right place at the right time. Once they succeed in believing in these other worlds they begin to take on a more substantive form. Also, since those who do think of these worlds think of them as being stuck in the age of vikings I'd leave the tech at that level.
This was more than enough to get started. With some of our own ideas coupled with the Norse legends on travel, I was comfortable with running it in a pinch, and didn't plan on using that story element for the first story arc.
A Rose By Another Name
I then decided to move to a more immediate concern, one of the major NPCs in the game. He is the NPC responsible for finding the PCs, and would most likely have a hand in bringing them together.
In the original game, William Edwards played a pregenned character partially created by Norwood. The character was named Seth, and he was created just to push William out of his shell. I gave him the Too Curious flaw, and he had a messed up psyche. He has multiple personality disorder, and his dominant personality switches every five to eight years. The Seth personality was his fourth, and Seth was chasing down his evil brother, who in fact, was his previous personality. Anyways, in this campaign, Seth will be in a new personna, and I thought it would be cool if he was a rune master, and had some cool Viking name. I see him as a guy in robes covered with tattoos, all mysterious. He would be the one who found the PCs originally, and he is also the strongest proponent for serving the Aesir, possibly seeing himself as an Einherjar inhabiting a dead body or something crazy like that.
Since I have a clean slate for the personality, I'm looking for a great name, and ideas on what he's like and how to utilize him in the game.
Despite the cool factor for the tattoos, wouldn't they be, culturally, way out of place on a Norse man? I mean, you could show case his viking know-howby having him clean his clothes in sheep-badders filled with week old urine... Amonia, after all the water evaporates that's what is mostly left, is a really great cleaner... Smells funky, but cleans well.
Okay, so a bunch of tattoos may not be Nordic.
The Celts tattooed, I think. Or you could do some sort of ritual scarring. I'm not sure if that's Nordic either, but it's cool regardless.
Hrm, so maybe Nordic isn't what you really want. After all I am still advocating for the Aesir to be agents of the Weaver and this would entail embracing change, right? (BTW, you mention the Get working for Fenris. I would think the Red Talons could be working for the Vanir perhaps. Does this make sense? Sort of factions amongst the garou without, perhaps, their being fully aware of how these forces are opposed in the Nordic cosmology.)
How can I have Seth "look" different then? I want some kind of look that's more like a wizard that a warrior. Its been fifteen years, but the character ages very slowly, so he's aged, say five years.
This brings me back to an earlier idea of using "The Matrix" type stuff. Seth could be along the lines of either Mouse, or Tank (Tank's the smaller one, right? And Dozer the larger?). I like the idea of moving tattoos... perhaps a combination of the ritualist/shamanist concepts of the tattoos, but made with nanobots, or something, that can be programmed to shift tattoo shapes, for different rituals...?
So, we have two ideas for Seth's new look.
1. Neo-nordic, with tattooos and a cyberpunk look.
This does give an impression that the Aesir are different from their legends, and he will be a striking figure. I could see it working, and it sits well with his apparent age.
This is what I originally had in mind. I like it because Seth isn't quite right in his head, so the new personality would tend towards an extreme, the "classic" look being a possiblity. Grover, what do you think? I can make either work. J, I'd love to see some character development, would you like to have "Seth" as your own and just let me know what you end up with?
Tell me what celebrity reminds you of this character - it helps to gauge attitude and age (the line drawing you attached before is tough to look at and then imagine 'five years' different.
I love the ideas for Norse-themed tattoos - especially the crow stretching across the back.
His first pic was Brad Renfro. The player I have a more recent pic of him that looks pretty good. He's blond, average sized, with good muscle tone. He has piercing eyes, and was the team's sniper.
Anybody thought of a name yet?
I would let your choices with the Aesir and Asgard guide the direction you take with Seth; if you're going Coruscant/Flash Gordon/Techno, then I'd have Seth be Cyberpunk, and, if you're going with the Aesir as old-school traditionalist Gods, then I'd have Neo-Nordic (and, as the name "neo-nordic" would imply, you don't ~have~ to stick to ideas that are traditionally Nordic. Nazis didn't shave their heads, but "Neo-Nazis" often do, for example... Even if tattoos and such aren't Nordic, that's no reason not to include them in a "New-Nordic" look ((the term "Neo-Nordic" would be "New Nordic", not "Nordic-esque"))). Personally, I like the Cyberpunk idea, nanobot/shamanist tattoos, etc. Due to the various techno, CIA,, Aesir connections, this would seem the most realistic way to go, in game terms, anyway.
I understood the implication of Neo-Nordic being new Nordic and I can appreciate the analogy to neo-nazis. However, even that seems to betray the idea that the Aesir were crumudgeon gods uncapable of changing. I suppose I was poo-pooing on the idea of Neo-Nordic because I felt as though it would be hard to pull of. If I was a player in the game it might be more distracting than interesting. And, if you are trying to make this tie into a theme of the game, I think it causes more complications than it resolves. Like Brian I would go with the Cyberpunk idea. It opens the game up more and allows you to bring in more ideas and flavorings rather than tying you down to what is already known and trying to work with perceptions and misperceptions.
[I could very well be wrong but I thought the Germanic peoples didn't have tattoos. Isn't that part of what made European discovery in the South pacific and Eastern Asia so unusual? I would have thought that wode would have been used by the Germanic people, but not pricking themselves with tiny sharp objects and filling them in with pigments. it just doesn't sound Northern European to me. But, as I was saying, this could just be a misperception on my part. I guess I'll have to dig arond for my AD&D 2nd ed Celt Campaign book now :) ]
I was thinking of Seth in terms of part "Mouse" and part "Tank" from "The Matrix" (that is, assuming Tank's the smaller one... Dozer was the BIG big brother, right?), maybe wirey and scrapp, but with elements of cool and bad ass, too. The nanobot tattoos I mentioned were an idea I had that combined tattoos that could be used in actual shamanistic rituals (even if they're not, technically, Nordic), along with nanobot technology, that would allow him to change one tattoo into a different one, for a different ritual.
One possible "look" for him, also -- and based on a celebrity, is Orlando Bloom (not the Legolas version -- in real life, he is sorta punk...) You can do a quick image search with google, and you'll probably find him in a suit, or in a mohawk, or in a suit and wearing a mohawk...
I think this is consitent with the Weaver allied Aesir. I also agree with the comment about Orlando Bloom looking very punk in real life. In the few clips I've seen him in I've wondered if it was some look for a movie he was currently working on, or what. In anycase, I think that style would be very appropo.
After re-reading all the emails, I want to use the cyberpunk look with nanite tattoos and a high tech punk look. Orlando Bloom in punk gear would be a great image for this. I will hunt some images down for you, J.
Any ideas for a Viking name for him? Maybe an old skald or the name of a Norse wizard?
As far as the name, (my wife) is bringing a couple of Finnish students with her this weekend so I could ask them what might be a cool name. Maybe the Finnish version of some of the Aesir (to be honest I don't really know who is who) or something. Is there a particular diety that Seth identifies with? Maybe the Finnish version of that diety - if it sounds cool (although Finnish is a really cool sounding language).
During the end of the first Draupnir campaign, Seth served Freya as one of her nine cats, so he is very aligned with her. According to a book on Norse Myths by R.I. Page, "seior" means magic. What if Neo-Seth calls himself Seior?
I listened to the audiobook reading of the Vinland sagas over the weekend. What if he called himself torstain or torbeorn. Also, remember that all of these words transliterated come before the great vowel shift so it seems probable that /i/ sounds like long 'e' and /e/ is a long 'a'. At least, off the top of my head I think that's how it goes. Also, to would be similar to thor only not a soft th as in 'this' but more like the th in 'that'. With the later th there should be a sort of stop as when p or b is sounded.
I like Torstain (Tore-stain).
Now I had finalized Yggdrasil, and was very comfortable with its look, the look of the nine worlds, how to traverse them, and also the development of an important figure who bridges the gap between the first campaign and the new one.
The background of the campaign world(s) was nearly completed. Next article, we explore some storylines and develop some character-driven stories based on growing information from the actual players.
- Et Al