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Growth of a Campaign

The Ragnarok Missions

by Et Al
Jul 21,2003


Growth of a Campaign, 8th Installment

The Ragnarok Missions

This is an ongoing column following the development of a campaign through emails between a GM, his potential players and a few "consultants" (a "Braintrust") as the campaign develops and progresses through from conception to execution. The players have no hand in the development of the campaign, and the consultants won't play in the game.


Rich is the Game Master.


Hiro, or Norwood, is an English major, a myth lover, and constant debater.


J, or Breitzman, is an art student in the Windy City.


Grover is another myth-lover, and lives in the Cheesey state.

Detailing Ragnarok Missions

I sent out an email asking the BrainTrust to help me come up with Ragnarok-related missions for the party. For the start of the campaign, I wanted to have a series of storylines oriented towards preventing Ragnarok. So, we broke down the players involved in the prophesy of Ragnarok and events leading to it. Grover got it started with Heimdall:

Heimdall's Horn

{One} "item" that could be missing/the subject of a search could be Heimdall's horn. Granted, coming up with an idea for how someone got away with it would be a challenge... Ha! It just occurred to me that we could use Chris's "Gauntlet = Pass Wall spell" here...
(Norwood has described his dislike of using the werewolf ability to step sideways as a cheap way to get through doors and obstacles) A BSD could sneak out of the Umbra, onto the Bifrost Bridge (part of which is on Midgard... I would assume the Aesir would have protection from such on the Asgard side), snag the horn while Heimdall's asleep, and be gone... Heimdall, of course, can see for hundred's of miles, and hear the growth of grass, or a sheep's wool. He also only requires "as much sleep as a bird", but he does, in fact, sleep. And retrieving Heimdall's horn would certainly be a coup for Loki's side of the Ragnarok.

Grover, the stolen Heimdall's Horn plot is sweet. How would you guys suggest I run that without making Heimdall seem inept?

Hrm, what about BDS working in cahoots with Giants? Possibly: BSDs blinked in to abscond with the horn and, at the same time, some Giants attacked Bifrost / Heimdall thinking that Ragnarok was at Hand due to Thor's death. Without the horn blowing (and a cockerel is involved in making noise for Ragnarok sounding, too) Loki was never released and the giants were beat back - at some cost.

The story I had constructed, in my head is this: Heimdall is, in fact, fallible, just like all the Gods. In the story, as the PC's learn that all the old tales are true, you can make it clear that Heimdall does, in fact, rest, at times, but he's also kept watch over the bridge since the age of myth and never let anyone by. Perhaps Loki and the Wyrm have not yet used Garou, directly, in their struggle. As Norwood pointed out, the Umbra and the Gauntlet can be used as a sort of passwall spell (in campaigns run by J., or Jason G., Garou can also "peek through" the Gauntlet, undetectable, unless the proper means are used). So, Loki and the Wyrm have realized that they've got this awesome tactic at their disposal, but they also know that they'll only have one opportunity to use it, since the advantage would be negated by the simple expedient of, say, having a few Garou stand guard in the Umbra, or Odin making the Gauntlet impenetrable, or Heimdall learning the "trick" of seeing into the Umbra. They (Loki and the Wyrm) decide that the one use they'll make of it is stealing Heimdall's horn... A couple Garou stand watch, in the Umbra, for however long it takes until Heimdall takes one of his naps, then one springs through, grabs the horn, and they're gone. A hard lesson for the Aesir, but, in war, ~someone's~ tactics are always the out-dated ones... =) and, no one looks like a schmo...

Hey, I thought you guys might find this interesting. Remember how Heimdall was so vigilant that he could hear grass/wheat grow? Well, I was listening to the auidiobook version of Margaret Visser's "Much Depends on Dinner: the extraordinary history and mythology, allure, and obsessions, perils and taboos, of an ordinary meal" and she relates that some farmers claim to be able to actually hear corn/maize grow. It turns out that some research has shown that it some varieties in some conditions can grow as much as 4 inches in a day. Most of that growing occurs in the evening rather than in the day. Weird, eh?

This caused me to think a bit more about Heimdall. A little research points out an odd thing. "Heimdall doesn't fit in too neatly with all the other Nordic gods, but one can probably place him among the Vanir family rather than the Aesir." This is according to Richard Carlyon's "A Guide to the Gods."

Also, his horn has a name, Gjallarhorn. I don't think that fits too neatly into the Oscar Myer hot dog song, but one could try.

After Norwood's interlude of odd information, we further detailed the idea that some misled Gets of Fenris could be possible thieves as well.

The Get could steal the horn because they want to free Fenris without causing Ragnarok. Their logic is that Fenris won't destroy the world unless Heimdall blows his horn to alert the Aesir and cause a confrontation. So, the Gets flee with the horn to Jotunheim. The Storm Giants decide to double-cross the Get, figuring if they possess the horn, they can freely attack the Bifrost Bridge and destroy Asgard. So, the PCs can try to team up with the remaining Get to recover the horn, then fight the Get over what is done with the horn.

As for Fenris, "Well, heck, everyone else get to run free, up until Ragnarok, why not Fenris?" -- would probably be the argument. Just cause he's free, doesn't mean he's going after Asgard, even though that's one of the warning signs of Ragnarok. Perhaps he's mellowed, over time? Also, even though there is (I think) a vague time-outline for Ragnarok, couldn't one argue that it's sort of like the seven days of the Creation, in Christianity? Maybe his freedom is a sign Ragnarok is coming soon, but "soon" is pretty vague, when you're immortal.

At first I thought you had meant to reference the return of Christ, then I realized you meant the sort of evolutionary apologist view of how to cram evolution into the world being created in 6 days. Another way the bible confuses this, besides the sun being created around day 3 or 4, is the phrase that a thousand years is like a day to God, I think somewhere in Revelations.

However, I am not sure that the Giants, Aesir, and Vanir fall into this camp entirely. I would disagree with the term immortal.

In the first place there are clear examples that the Gods in Nordic Mythos are mortal, i.e., Baldur. Also, there are more than plenty of giants and giant offspring that are killed. The gods require the Apples of Life to remain youthful and cannot do so without these. Also, the gods are shown to have a beginning and, at least the majority, to have some final death.

However, I would agree with extremely long lived and, also, the implication that they would have a different concept of time. If you live for a couple of millennium you might not be too worried if it took you a couple of hundred, or even thousand, years to set up some important plan.

What happens first? The horn being blown to sound Ragnarok for Fenris, et al or Fenris attacking and the horn blows- declaring Ragnarok to the Aesir?

I guess this is a "chicken-and-the-egg" type question. The logic I see for these Get are that Fenris wouldn't destroy the world unless Heimdall sees that he is free and blows the horn, forcing a confrontation. The logic doesn't hold, because a destructive force would be noticed by Odin or the other Aesir eventually, so Ragnarok would just be delayed, not prevented.

I see these Get as young and idealistic, wanting to be heroes for their tribe, win glory, and free their totem. When the Storm Giants double-cross them, they will side with the party. But, as the combines group makes their way out of Jotun, they will probably turn on the party and try to take the horn again.

See above, sounds good. Maybe some sort of initial conflict among the Get to disarm the party. Perhaps the party will come to think that they've befriended or 'enlightened' the Get with their own view. I must say, I like the idea of so many levels of right and wrong. Normally I'm more of a black and white sort of person. However, with the idea of the Vanir staging some attack of their own, I think it introduces all sorts of questions about the Aesir cosmos

The Heimdall storyline was outlined well enough for us to move on. Luckily, J took Norwood's last email and ran with it in another direction:

Food of the gods

What if PENTEX got one of the apples or a branch that they want to graft or otherwise engineer some devious plot - market 'Apples of Youth', develop a super-herbicide, etc.

I don't know if this is helpful or off topic, but I thought I'd contribute.

sounds very PENTEX-ish, in the classic W:ta sense. Though, it seems to be lacking some sort of ulterior motive or horrible consequence of use. Also, I would think PENTEX, in Rich's version, would be against immortality potions for people. Perhaps they get a hold of one and then design a super-herbicide to kill them off so the gods will start to age. That would be devious. The question here, though, is how will the PCs foil this plan.

I was thinking more along the lines of poisoning the gods themselves who eat the apples (not just killing the apples) or giving PENTEX execs immortality. I also thought of a super toxin based on the antithesis of the apples.

Oh. Well, both of these are fine. I like the later ideas the best. Once a Norse god dies, they are Dead. It might be a bit chancy to leave the fate of one of the gods in the hands of the PCs.

I like the idea, J, but I think Norwood has some valid arguments -- it may be a bad idea to incorporate the possibility of death for the Gods, since there's one thing Norse myth makes abundantly clear, and that's dead is dead. The only way that's even hinted at as an escape from Helheim is to ask every living being, one at a time to ask for that being's return. Also, getting into chemical engineering could get pretty dang boring, in an RPG...

So, Norwood and Grover shot down J's idea about the apples, but I stored it away for later use. This did result in a reasonable point from J:

I had another thought while reading this: Are you (Rich) going to have someone the PCs can ask about Norse Mythology? You are taking characters who don't necessarily know the cosmology (assuming even that the players do)? Are they going to know who is who or what the prophecies are? Are they supposed to know the significance of the horn or Fenris getting free or any other signs of Ragnarok? I mean, I don't always know what you guys are talking about and I've been following this discussion (more or less). I've picked up a book on Norse Mythology and I still don't always know what you guys are talking about.

Even if you do provide a source, how much game time do you want to devote to Norse theology lessons?

I've been assuming, for some time now, that the characters (and, thus, the players) will sort of learn by doing...?

You know what happens when you assume...

Anyways, with any luck one of the players will know something about Norse mythology, even if only cursory. At the start that'll be all that's needed. I can't think of much more than a basic knowledge of who Thor, Odin, and Loki are to be of much concern at the start. As the plot thickens it would behoove them to know more depth, but that could be something for them to do on their own. Conversely, a PC who expends XP on learning the knowledge of Norse Mythos might be given some more insightful knowledge that pertains to some of the hooks in the campaign material.... This, along with the previously suggested game prop of handing the Players (and thus the PCs) a book/cyclopedia of Norse mythos, would seem to cover the responsibility of the ST to provide some sort of grounding.

Grover's response mirrored by own thoughts, but J had pointed out a distinct flaw in the campaign development. Norwood gave some tips, but still something was missing. I then began to try to find ways to explain the myths to the PCs in game, and incorporated this need into my design of Razz, one of the major NPCs, he would be a tale teller, and give the party info on legends when needed.

Next, I asked for development on the death of Thor plotline. Specifically, I wanted to follow the idea through. If Thor is dead, then where is his fantastic hammer, Mjollnir?

Mjollnir Recovery:

Where could Mjollnir be? Maybe a giant has it? What would they do with it? Use it as a weapon, or maybe keep it so they have a better chance during Ragnarok?

One thought I had was that one of Thor's sons could have the hammer. Sloane believes that he can grow his cult if he had Mjollnir, but the sons of Thor don't trust a mortal with such a powerful artifact. Perhaps Magni and Modi could require a series of challenges or tests to prove that the party and Sloane are worthy?

Assuming the PCs successfully retrieve the lost hammer of Thor, what could they do with it?

I am thinking it would be cool if the PCs gave the hammer to Sloane, who is now a priest of Thor, trying to grow his Thor cult and belief in the Thunder god so he might one day return. Then, with Mjollnir, Sloane could become an avatar for Thor (much like the Avatar trilogy for Forgotten Realms). This would be a strong link to the Legacy title of the campaign.

However, Thor's return would be a bad thing if the PCs align with the Vanir. The realignment of the forces involved in Ragnarok would mean the prophesied Ragnarok would be more difficult to avert. It would, in some eyes, prove the Aesir right. What an interesting twist if the PCs are moving towards the pre-emptive Ragnarok plan, and some of the Vanir lose faith when Thor returns, and become afraid that they won't survive the change in the apocalypse.

I think this sounds good on the surface, but links Sloane and the party too much. I would think, in a myth, this would be something for Sloane to do. Perhaps the pack has to bail him out of some hot water though.

I agree that Sloane wouldn't team up with the PCs, but the contest seems so chivalric and fits one of my favorite Norse legends about Thor and Loki having to compete against a giant's hirelings (which is where Logi came from). Maybe the sons of Thor think the measure of a man is in his allies, so the party is tested to prove Sloane's worth as a leader? Then, after they succeed, Sloane must undergo his own trials to gain the hammer.

I still think the chivalric conception of the Norse gods (Vanir and Aesir) are gross oversimplifications. All of them were scoundrels. I see this as a good plot device to embroil the pack into a contest, I'm just not sure I buy it as something of Nordic proportions. Admittedly, it sounds Greek, though the party seems to be devoid of demigods. If the party buys into it without any hesitations I think you've got yourself an additional night of adventure partially planned out.

I like the idea of them finding it and then handing it off to someone else. Sort of a zero sum for the group, but a benefit to the Aesir and Sloane.

Maybe you could set the game up so that the final scene isn't Ragnarok, but rather the return of Thor. This might make it a bit less cataclysmic. Also, there is a sense of restoring the balance... at least from the Aesir vantage point. Perhaps at one time the power of the prophecies of Ragnarok were weak, but now that the Norse myths almost stand for this one outcome this is what reality is. This incorporates the White Wolf idea that reality is what people think it is... However, as things begin to unravel from this reality it becomes a conflict to either reassemble it or to forge a new reality. The Vanir try to seize the chance to forge anew, perhaps without alerting the Aesir because they realize it might not work and then they will have to return to the Aesir. The Giants could be equally divided with some of them wanting the surety of the destruction of the Aesir, even if it is mutually ensured destruction.

Norwood then led us on to another possible mission, not directly Ragnarok-related. But it tied in so well with the previous campaign and the Mjollnir plot that I couldn't resist!

I came across this Nordic term, and now I can't remember where, that I thought might be of interest to your game- Ulfheunar. It means, "the wolf skin clad ones" and refers to those Vikings who would wear wolf skin over their regular armor. I'm sure if I get a chance I can rummage around and find the complete thing. I believe it was one of those Osprey history/campaign books.

In the previous game, the PCs killed Sam Haight, a major NPC in the Werewolf mythology. Sam Haight was a villainous kinfolk who killed and skinned werewolves and used foul magics to become a Skindancer, a man who could change into a crinos werewolf.

This is an excellent name to use if I could come up with a revenge plot from some of Sam's other "pack members".

Ulfheunar story:

The Ulfheunar have learned rudimentary gifts and rituals, and have spoken with the ghost of Sam Haight to find out his killer. In the previous game, Sloane killed Sam after Sam killed Monique, Sloane's lover. D.B. is Sloane's younger brother. I could see the Skindancers hunting down D.B. and torturing him to find out where Sloane is, then the main pack leaving a couple behind to finish the job on D.B. The pack comes in, saves D.B., fights the Ulfheunar, and finds out that they are attacking Sloane. Sloane lives out in the Everglades, so the party finds him and helps him fight off the Ulfheunar. Sloane tells them about what he's doing in the Everglades and his Thor cult, and then explains that he is looking for Mjollnir...

Seems like you have a fairly good idea. Maybe they go after some minor NPC from the agency first to help track down DB. Sloane seems a bit like Snake Eyes to me.... that's a good thing, I think. The Thor cult in the Everglades seems a bit odd. Isn't it hard to find converts there for Thor? There are neo-pagan/neo-nordics, is Sloane in touch with one of these groups?

I think the addition of an Agency NPC is a nice touch. It gives the party a heads-up that this is a planned event, and this group is dedicated to finding what they want. Sloane is a very cool character, except maybe not like Snake Eyes. He's a werebear, and while he is Black Ops trained, he's a freakin' behemoth when he changes form, and has the strength of about six men. I picked the Everglades purely because Jeremy (the player) always saw Sloane as a nature lover, and this was the biggest secluded natural place I could think of in Florida, near the party. My thought was that if the Ulfheunar beat up D.B., then race to kill Sloane, that having Sloane somewhere in the Ozarks would cut down on the immediacy of the chase. What other natural places are there in Fl that could work? Maybe something right on the border of a city. Nothing directly on the coast, Sloane's isn't a beach bum. Sloane is a very intelligent person, I'm sure he would have contacts in neo-pagan groups. Maybe this happens at a Ren Fest for a weird twist?

I can't think of a good alternative to the Everglades. I didn't mean to suggest that you should look elsewhere. If you've read "Orchid Thief" by Susan Orleans it mentions several places that would seem like either sylvan nature places or places near communities (I'm thinking of the real estate place gone-bad that she mentions). I can be more specific after I track down my copy of the book- it's around here somewhere. Seriously though, I think the Everglades are a great idea. You could perhaps even ties that Budget Jet crash somehow into your story as some sort of PENTEX conspiracy...

The Ren Fest seems to be a good idea. Maybe a good 'carnival after sunset' sort of thing. Didn't Zartan and his cronies have a hidden base in a condemned theme park? :)

We had detailed several strong stories for the Ragnarok missions, and I was pleased with their development. The Mjollnir and Heimdall plots led to large quests that should take 3-5 games, so I had really set the table for a healthy-sized campaign. All this Ragnarok prevention will make for a nice twist when we spring the Vanir plots on them! The first game looms only a week from this last flurry of emails, so next article will cover remaining Ragnarok missions and the first game session.

- Et Al TQo0~^DҒt< ek&Ǿ$\۵ZFȃuwݝIŃU QYir2HR2.u3MFoعq]4#A`pP5(b& )b)ⰾp7(i<[-2gL#5[f g?*rVGf8*)s'+20ϟ̑F}KB<7wSL\gbvm9WiRބYŜvd y0'p2I_Fc2>#o A )VL[Qk?3`)<У[(*W.JH ?tXCt谙 X:@ \0w ~LqĤE-rFkYœj4q 5AQ6[AxG [>w|?( fХθY䝛$c=_qNĦoǸ>O_|&/_Mi7"宥CЧk0dӷLh;TmuCGU-!Ul{ h<\bQX.~"O2*yPcz!ŠGg

What do you think?

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