Growth of a Campaign
Ragnarok and Rollby Et Al
Growth of a Campaign
Ragnarok and Rollby Et Al
Growth of a Campaign, 4th Installment
Ragnarok and Roll
This is a series of articles 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.
Rich - myself, the Game Master of the game in question.
Hiro, or Norwood, is an English major, a poet, and for some reason he loves squirrels.
J , or Breitzman, is a student at an art institute in Chicago. His school schedule has unfortunately begun to interfere with his involvement with the BrainTrust.
Grover is a student of myths and legends, and we've never actually played an RPG together.
A Look Back
Just over four years ago I was running a game in Tennessee, and I had this great idea for a campaign. I thought it would be awesome to combine Werewolf with Norse myths and use the PCs as a Black Ops hit team working for the government. The campaign ran smoothly, and ended with the party averting Ragnarok when the captain of the team (Chance) literally rode a nuclear missile into the ocean to keep it from hitting a US shore and starting WW3. Oh, and the player tried to use the reflection of the water to enter the spirit world right before impact. I told him he'd have to have three 10s to make it. On a die roll of 6d10, if I remember correctly. He made the roll. Lucky bastard.
I moved to Minnesota after the game ended. I kept in touch with the players, and we eventually met up at a friend's house in Tennessee to hang out and game together. I decided to run a reunion game to mark the occasion. I spoke with the player of Chance (the party/team leader) beforehand about it, and he told me he wanted his character to die in the game. I was ecstatic! I mean, I'm not normally a PC killer, but death is so dramatic, and when a player wants it, even better! So, I worked with Norwood to come up with a good excuse for the reunion, and he and I came with Chance's death in the streets of Cambodia at the hands of some thugs (assassins for the fallen Pol Pot regime) who had unexpected powers. The party researched the murder of their former leader, and discovered that the assassins were leeching power from Thor. After investigating the reasons for Thor's new "priests", they ended up in an Umbral, or Spirit, Realm called the Atrocity Realm.
The Atrocity Realm is a place where "all atrocities on Earth - enimal cruelty, sword-point religious conversions, child-abuse, rape camps, genocide - have reflections here." Also, "one can escape from this Realm only via empathic suffering with the victims." (all quote from Werewolf: the Apocalypse Revised edition by White Wolf). In Umbra: The Velvet Shadow>, Atrocity is further described as a place where the egress is death at the hands of these atrocities, to understand this evil.
The party found Thor smack dab in the middle of Atrocity, nearly catatonic from the horrors. The player of Chance was guest starring as a Native American Werewolf who told the players Thor had to die to escape Atrocity. The story ended as Sloane, one of the PCs who had discovered he was the son of Magni, grandson of Thor, picked up Mjolnir, and killed Thor to save him. The players and I really enjoyed the game, and it was a great reunion and allowed us to put the characters more or less "to bed".
Back to the BrainTrust
We began to discuss Ragnarok, and how it would work in the modern world. I also asked the group about their opinions about Loki as a neutral force versus an evil one.
Loki's "help" usually only happened when it was on behalf of the winning team, whether in the short run, or the long run. In the Story Chris and I both used, he helps the Aesir because Odin will kill him, if he doesn't. In Ragnarok, I assume he fights with the giants and monsters because a.) prophecies indicate they'll be the winners, basically, and b.) the Aesir chained him to a rock for ages... You gotta admire, though, the major way in which he "took one for the team", actually bearing and giving birth to a horse!
I can see Loki-related possibilities, using the fact that, in myths, there are seemingly many beings, and types of beings, who can travel between the worlds. Loki could trick some rube into sending missions to the players... Heck, if you end up using a Valkyrie/Totem, as we've discussed, Loki could get another shape-shifter to take the form of that valkyrie, and all sorts of fun possibilities appear... =) Eventually, the PC's could find out they're being manipulated, and go and confront Loki (or, in typical Garou fashion, "go and kill Loki")
Or, on their travels, possibly in the midst of an "errand/mission", they could stumble across Loki... who, being a shapeshifter, could, for example, take the form of an attractive woman, cruelly captured with snakes dripping poison on "her"... The PC's might even start Ragnarok, by being the ones to free her/him...
Another tie in, what if the forces of monsters and giants were to strike up an accord, or something, with the Wyrm, to hasten the Apocalypse/Ragnarok? They sort of exist on the same level, and that would be a way to incorporate Pentex, as you've considered, Rich. Heck, the Midgard Serpent, the one who's supposed to kill Thor, via poison, at Ragnarok, could be thought of as one of the "aspects" of the Wyrm...
Also, the players could, if the game last long enough and they become powerful enough to be able to do it, start off Ragnarok intentionally, so that all these mega-powerful beings who are very capricious, ~do~ kill themselves off. I mean, if they were to, say, grease Surt's sorry ass, then start it all off, Ragnarok would barely effect Midgard... Then the PC's could take their places as the new gods.
So, looking at Ragnarok as a prophecy of the future...
Since Thor died already, possibly by aid of Loki but without the venom of the Midgard Serpent, does that mean that all bets are off as to what will happen at Ragnarok? Perhaps this has the Aesir even more worried than knowing what to expect. Sure, Ragnarok was horrible for them, but at least there was some comfort in knowing what to expect (if we proceed with the idea that the myths/prophecies were to be believed). However, since we are already diverting from them, suppose the faith in Ragnarok playing out as foretold has been shaken. With the White Wolf game world placing so much faith in belief=reality, you can divert from the Ragnarok tales pretty much as you see fit. Or, if you wanted to make things very confusing, even Thor has died without the beginning of Ragnarok yet it doesn't mean it won't play out as foretold. I can't remember the name of the movie, but there's a sequel coming out for it later this year (Final Destination, or something). Anyways, it dealt with these kids cheating death and death coming after them until they died in the proper order. Until them, as I recall, death couldn't go on and kill anyone else. .... there were a few other cliff hangers, but basically I felt it was a bad movie. However, you could play on the idea that Thor's premature death has scared the gods/monsters shitless because now they don't know what to do- do they have free will or are they forced to right things so that predestination/fate will again set the course of events for them.
I like this idea. Loki tricked Thor into a realm where you have to die to exit, and this kills him. So now the Aesir fear the unknown. The turmoil has caused the Aesir to wonder what will become of them. The PCs are called upon to help avert Ragnarok for a few of the gods who think this means all bets are off and it's imminent. While some of the gods may think they can act freely, and that this is a sign that Ragnarok may not come after all.
Norwood set my mind racing with new possibilities. If we threw out Ragnarok as a certainty, then the players could take major roles in the events to come. Instead of doggedly running around and fulfilling myths, and getting a neat-o class on Norse mythology, I started thinking of what Grover had mentioned in an email: "show us, don't tell us". Grover quickly followed up with:
A few ideas occurred to me, in light of recent discussions and debates.
The first one, and one that has the potential of making your game even longer and more involved, Rich, is dissention in Asgard. In light of Thor's death, particularly if it's known (or even suspected) that Loki helped arrange it, I would imagine that the gods would be rather divided on what to do, both in the immediate sense and in terms of planning and preparing for Ragnarok. I can imagine quite a few of the gods, led by Odin, taking the tried and true track (apologies for the excessive alliteration), of preparing for Ragnarok, whenever it may come, but also attempting to forestall it, as best they can. However, it would seem that others would react differently.
Frey, perhaps, might realize that none of the prophecies of Ragnarok are necessarily going to happen... Indeed, he might be the one who (eventually) "suggests" the idea that the PC's remove Surt from the field (for several reasons -- to keep him from burning the worlds ((Frey was supposedly very strongly attached to the elves and Alfheim)), and, of course, because Surt was supposed to kill him, Frey, in Ragnarok, and get away clean...).
On the other hand, I can imagine another faction, perhaps led by Thor's son Modi. Modi's name means "Wrath", and he was something of a patron of the "berserkers" of legend... I would think, if he got wind that Loki arranged Thor's death, that he'd act on it -- and probably rashly. Thor's other son, Magni ("Strength", appropriately, since he's supposed to be to only one, other than Thor, capable of wielding Mjolnir...), and, perhaps, Thor's daughter, Thrud ("Might") and wife Sif would be obvious candidates for joining this faction.
This is where I'd like to take the game. It's where I saw it in my imagination but could never detail it. The PCs are agents of change. In a way, they're a part of the Apocalypse, and they don't know it. With the death of Thor, aided by the PCs parents (they told Thor the only way out of the realm he was stuck in), Ragnarok is unbalanced. Now, Asgard is in turmoil, and the PCs are a vital part of the gods' plans.
This all, of course, can help lead the PC's to realizing that they can take action in all sorts of different ways, if they want (and, particularly, if they haven't figured out that fact, on their own, yet...). Whether they want to try to hurry Ragnarok along, unhindered, and see what happens, to delay it, to stop it from happening, or to influence the outcome... whatever...
Perfect. It gives the PCs choices but keeps it all within the framework of the campaign.
But now we have to detail the reactions of the Aesir, who sides with whom. I like the Thor family wanting to punish Loki, and Odin preparing for Ragnarok. Would Valkyries serve Odin, or other Aesir? Because the pack's totem would have a strong influence on decisions of the players.
Here's where things get even more complicated. The Valkyries are supposed to be sworn to service of Odin and Odin alone. As are the Einherjar of Valhalla. So, if the PC's end up turning against Odin's faction, then they would, in theory, lose the support of the Valkyrie, and, in fact, make potential enemies of the Valkyrie and the Einherjar...
Wow, that's tough. I like the hard choices the PCs will have to make here. Switching "totems" could be a very interesting story.
Hm, this does make for a tough choice. However, the Aesir and other giants and gods are not the most honest. Just as Satan revolts against God in Christianity, I would think it possible for a valk to switch sides. Perhaps Loki has managed to corrupt that which all the Aesir thought incorruptible... Or, perhaps, with the death of Thor they see that there is no predestination and it's everyone for themselves....
You know, in re-reading some stuff, I stumbled across something I must have read 15 times, or more, in the last couple weeks. I don't know why it didn't click, but there it is. Anyway, there is one aspect of Norse mythos could serve to tie in several plots and offer an interesting direction/choice, both for the campaign and for the PC's.
Frey, Freya, and their father, Njord, the Sea God, are Vanir... not Aesir. They were the Vanir exchanged for Mimir and Honir. What if they've been working against the Aesir, all along? Or, maybe they've been true to their word and honored the Aesir/Vanir arrangement, until the death of Thor, which was a sign that all bets are off?
If the PC's accept Frey's mission to whack Surt, and if they're successful, maybe he then recruits them a little more fully, on behalf of the Vanir (or the Vanir who survive... we've talked about how they faded out... Maybe these are the only three remaining, or maybe there are plenty of others... Depends on the direction you want to take it).
I was amazed at how far we'd taken this campaign. I started off thinking I could run a game using NPCs I knew and loved, and work it around the idea of new players taking up the mantle of former PCs they never played. Now, I had a whole new world(s) to explore and a framework of quests to ebgin the game, create unity within the party, followed by a decision time where the players could take the reigns of the campaign.
Speaking of world(s), next article will be our conversations about the Nine Worlds of Yggdrasil, how I could protray them, what I could change about them, and what quests we could link to them.
- Et Al