Northern Crown: Stronghold of the Stag Lord Sundered

This week in Northern Crown, the Sophian contingent resumed their assault on the Stag Lord’s fortifications. Somehow, despite the party’s best efforts, Ethan Allen survived the frontal assault, so that’s an issue. Ivy and the pukwudgies arrived in time to turn the tide, helping keep the Stag Lord and his minions confused and in disarray while watch towers burned.

Now, once all the level-up goodies are dealt with, there remains the question of precisely what is hidden under the Stag Lord’s stronghold.

Pukwudgie reinforcements take the Stag Lord by surprise from the rear.

They have an owl bear.

It wasn’t going great on the frontal approach, as planned.

Foxglove managed to strangle a watchtower guard and swing onto the nearby roof in one go.

Boarding Man’s Promise

 Skull & Shackles convened this week for what turned out to be the taking of Man’s Promise. We did a bang-up job of securing the sterncastle, as well as repelling a band of grindylows. Dealing with the goons Plugg sent down into the bilges proved more troublesome, but ultimately soluble.

Our GM Mike did a bang-up job with the miniatures, right? He built both the Wormwood and Man’s Promise and painted most of the figures you see — excepting Usidore the Blue, of course.

Skull & Shackles: Dire Rats Redux

Four shanghaied adventurers face off against dire rats in the bilges of a sailing ship, as role-playing minis on a map.
Can you pick out Usidore the Blue in this picture? He’s a water wizard, ‘Arry.

After a very, very long run-up, I got to join in a nascent campaign of Skull & Shackles, which readers may recall I have sampled before. Hopefully this time, bot fly fever will be less of a crushing burden.

Defending Egil

Defending Egil the Icelander from the search party of Erik Bloodaxe, as rendered in Heroscape tiles.

Defending Egil the Icelander from the search party of Erik Bloodaxe, as rendered in Heroscape tiles.

I played in a session of Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok yesterday that includes this amazing spread of Heroscape terrain and traditionally painted miniatures, as well as Egil the Icelandic Heroclix (Mage Knight, maybe?) figure. This was the second part of the scenario in the back of the core book. Everything points to the next stop in this pick-up campaign being Iceland itself. We glossed over how NPC-ified Turborg might rather return Ingrid to her father in Dublin immediately.

#RPGaDay2015 29: Favorite RPG Website or Blog

RPG-a-day-2015Certainly the RPG website I visit the most is It was one of the first I stumbled across when learning about role-playing games and its reviews database at the time had a strong influence on how my library grew. I still visit it regularly — multiple times a day, in fact. For a long time, though, that custom of frequent visits has felt akin to turning on the television to make noise in the house: you get more comfort from the constant background buzz than you do any significant gain from the content there. Like any web forum, there are perennial topics that come up again and again. It’s almost reassuring to see people continue to bicker over whether role-playing games are dying and whether game publishing is an industry or a hobby.

Instead, I’ll give a shout-out to A dedicated team of Pathfinder fans did an amazing job of taking the game’s system reference document and to host it the Google Sites platform with a breathtaking amount of cross-referencing. It’s absurdly easy to jump from one related topic to the next because how of thoroughly game terms are hyper-linked. They use a “linkifier” script to recognize the use of a term that needs to be linked, and run it through what must now be thousands of pages.

Those thousands of pages are ridiculously up to date, too. As Paizo releases more open content, the team industriously brings it into the site. That website is such a huge boon to sifting through the maze of options that has sprung up around playing a Pathfinder character. I can’t recommend it enough to someone trying to figure the mechanical part of a character they’d like to play.

#RPGaDay2015 17: Favorite Fantasy RPG

RPG-a-day-2015It’s not a list without me bringing up Northern Crown, an alternate history of North America’s colonization period mixing d20 fantasy tropes with a “greatest hits” version of Earth’s history. It’s fantasy with a gun powder twist!

The honorary mention is Blue Rose, and not so much because it was exceptional — it was pretty good — but more because it got up the collective nose of people whose collective nose needed to be got up. Congratulations to Green Ronin for their pretty amazing crowdfunding of a new edition!

#RPGaDay2015 15: Longest Campaign Played

RPG-a-day-2015Carrion Crown: The Haunting of Harrowstone coverThe honor of longest campaign played goes to Carrion Crown. I’ve written extensively about it, recorded post-mortems with the GM and players, and generally covered it at length. Basically, Carrion Crown was a blast to play and a very singular experience in my tabletop game history. We developed a camaraderie there that I hadn’t enjoyed before or since. I’ll be thinking fondly of those folks when I’m old and senile.

Fate of the Norns: Fafnir’s Treasure

Join me in welcoming Dan as a contributor to Held Action. You may remember him from Carrion Crown, Mummy’s Mask and Carnagecast. This time, Dan’s written an actual play report of running Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok, which has proven quite popular at Carnage and around Vermont. Take it away, Dan!

This past Saturday, down at Brap’s Magic, I ran a one-shot session of Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok, using the quick-start rules, pregenerated characters, and adventure provided in the Fafnir’s Treasure sourcebook. I was joined by Toby, Hunter, Jake, Cory, and Tom.

After a bit of explanation of how the Runic Game System works, and a rundown of the pregens, we had this lineup:

  • Toby: Sigyn the Maiden of Ratatosk (a taunting agility-based fighter)
  • Hunter: Fjori the Skald (a spellsinger)
  • Jake: Jokull the Galdr (a runecaster)
  • Cory: Vanadis the Seithkona (a witch)
  • Tom: Turbog the Ulfhednar (a wolf’s-head, a strong warrior who can assume the shape of a wolf)

Once the characters were chosen and folks read over their various abilities and such, we got right into it. After here, be warned: spoilers for Fafnir’s Treasure abound!

The scene opened on the docks outside the Icelandic town of Evingard — the party’s ship had been attacked by ice krakens, but made it to town, sailing though the sunless days and moonless nights of the Fimbulwinter, their way lit only by the stars.

A Viking longshop lands on a landscape of plastic green hexes. The hero figures approach the walls of Evingard.Abandoned by the ship captain, they wandered to the gates of the town, only to find scorch marks on the walls, arrows all over, and a bunch of dead, dying, and wounded townsfolk — the guards quickly explained that the town was seemingly cursed: the mine was shut down, there were undead polar bears attacking every few hours, and to make matters worse, the town was playing host to Volstagg the Einherjar, an emissary of the Aesir, and Aud the Son of Muspel, an emissary of the Jotuns. Either of these immortal beings could destroy the whole town, if the mood struck them, but the guards were afraid that if they fell to fighting, they’d level the town and everyone in it.

While the guards were explaining what was going on, Fjori took out his harp and played a song about the Apples of Idun, a powerful healing melody, and helped many of the wounded to live on.

Counter clockwise, from lower left: Toby, Cory, Hunter, Jake and Tom sit around the game table.

Counter clockwise, from lower left: Toby, Cory, Hunter, Jake and Tom.

They headed into the town, seeing the poor and destitute eking out a miserable existence, beset by frostbite, while the wealthy strut around in silks and jewels. Truly, all bonds of human kindness have broken down during Ragnarok!

The gate guards had mentioned that there was a tavern called the Burning Boar in town. Expressing a desire to see a flaming pig, Sigyn exhorted everyone to head there for some drinking and maybe to meet this Einherjar, Volstagg. Well, the tavern didn’t have an actual pig on fire, but it *did* have an abundance of delicious raspberry fishcakes! A true Nordic delicacy, but the tavernkeep, Sven, refused to say where he got raspberries in the time of the Fimbulwinter, when the sun and moon had been eaten by wolves.

Well, after a bit of knife-throwing with the guards, some drinking and more of those fantastic raspberry fishcakes, our heroes went up to speak to the Einherjar, Volstagg. Volstagg explained that he seeks Andvarinaut, the Ring of the Niebelungs. He would use the gold it makes to finance the Aesir armies when the last battle comes. While he told the story of Fafnir and the treasure, though, Vanadis slipped into the shadows and out into the town. She crept to Astrid’s House of Pleasure, where she had heard that Aud, the Son of Muspel was staying. While the others discussed things with Volstagg, Vanadis asked Aud what he wanted — well, of course he wanted Andvarinaut as well! Many armies can be paid from the gold brought forth from the ring.

Eventually, everyone regrouped at the Burning Boar. They drank, they sang, they talked about the problems in town. Vanadis wanted to investigate the mines, so they did talk to Magnus, the mine-owner — but he did not want to discuss the matter. So, they decided to go after the great treasure. They wanted supplies, though, and alas! did not have enough skatt to buy skis or snowshoes or any other supplies. Reasoning that the town would reward them if they dealt with these supposedly unkillable bears, they decided to investigate. The townsfolk told them that they had tried everything to kill the bears — swords, arrows, fire, everything, but the bears just keep rising and coming back. Turbog tracked the bears, and determined they were coming from the forests to the northwest, so they headed out.

A near skeletal bear charges across a field of green Heroscape tiles at the heroes.It didn’t take long before they encountered a ragged bear, a miserable white specimen that looked as though it had been killed over and over again. It roared and charged at them!

The bears claws were deadly, and its icy breath chilling — but when Sigyn enraged it with her snide taunts, Turbog slew it with his maul. They burned the body as best they could, but they couldn’t know if it would stay dead. They chose to press on.

After camping in the night-black woods, the dark chill kept away only by their campfire, they headed further into the snows. It wasn’t long before they found more bears.

IMG_1763Jokull called on the power of the World-Tree to create an alka to erode the bears’ life-force, Vanadis invoked her seith to snap their bones, and Fjori unleashed his song of the Long Knives, spurring his friends to ever-greater heights of combat prowess. The bears did not stand a chance before the onslaught of these mighty heroes.

No matter how many they killed, though, the bears kept coming.


Sigyn taunted the bears, slashing at them with her sword. Turbog took the form of a deadly blood-wolf to savage them. Fjori sang of the long knives, and he stabbed them in the back when they were attacking others. Vanadis snapped their bones, and called on the dead sun and moon to heal her compatriots. Jokull’s runic powers called forth the alka of Yggdrasil to harm them, and used his crossbow to send them flying. Eventually, after slaying bear after bear, taking grievous wounds themselves, they reached a deep crevasse at the base of the mountains, the ground falling away into darkness.

Jokull and Vanadis studied the crevasse, consulting the runes and reading the omens. They determined that the crevasse was full of the stuff of Niflheim, and was corrupting the bears, making them even more deadly. They didn’t know what to do, at first, but then Vanadis opened herself to the spirit of the mountains, using her seith magic to become a living conduit for the will and desire of the landvaettir.

The spirit spoke through her, and told that it knew of the corruption leaking from Niflheim in the crevasse. It said that it would fall into the crevasse and bury the foulness, but only if they did something for it, first. It knew of a place of comfort and springtime nearby, and it wished to feel that spring weather upon its mountaintop again.

They had no idea how to accomplish this, so they went back to Evingard to talk to Sven again. As the local tavernkeep, he seemed to have a pretty good handle on what was up in town. Eventually, with much mead and skilful cajoling from Sigyn, they did get him to reveal where he was getting those amazing raspberries — from Ivar the druid. They surmised that a druid might dwell in the stone circle they’d seen outside town, so they headed there to beard the druid in his den.

It took some yelling, some pounding on the walls, and a bit of smashing things up to get Ivar to acknowledge them, but eventually he grudgingly opened his manse to them and brought them into his lands — his druid’s power kept his land green and growing, even in the midst of the eternal night of Ragnarok. With some doing, the party gained Ivar’s trust — at least, enough for him to tell them what he would desire if he were to make the three or four day hike to the mountain, and then the week of work to make it feel the spring again. It turned out that Ivar is Ingvar’s son — Ingvar being the chieftain of the Wolf Clan and ruler of Evingard. He was exiled for marrying his sister, Ingvar’s daughter. He wanted the exile lifted — not to live in Evingard again, but freedom to travel there as needed. Tutting a bit at this indecorous behavior, everyone decided to talk to Ingvar anyway — what does it matter of Ivar marries his sister Bera? the world would be over soon anyway, let men and women seek what solace they can, ere Garm’s third howl.

Ingvar, at least, was easy to find — his hall was the greatest in Evingard. Explaining that they could solve the bear problem, Ingvar’s guards led them to the old war-hound. Stroking his beard, Ingvar heard their plea. The old man weighed the plague of bears against his son’s misdeeds, and decided that it should be left to Jadvyg, the Angel of Death.

Entering the frozen cemetery, the party were struck by how silent it was, even inside the town walls. They found the Angel of Death in the House of Hel in the burying ground’s center. Speaking to her in the silent darkness of that place, they had to speak carefully — Jadvyg suffers neither fool or idle chatter. She asked them about the Einherjar and the Son of Muspel — she had heard they spoke with the immortals, and she wished to know whom they would serve. At first, the party tried to hedge their bets, and avoid a decision — but the crone would not have it. She gave them one chance to decide and decide now, and how they chose would tell her everything she needed to know about them and whether or no she should support their plea to help Ivar.

Well, they could not decide. They talked about it, but were unsure whom they should support — until Jokull the galdr realized the best course of action — to let the runes decide. He raised up his bag of runes and wyrded one solitary rune — and the runes indicated they should serve the Aesir.

Jadvyg nodded, satisfied. She send a message to Ingvar that she would support lifting Ivar’s exile. Ivar traveled to the mountain top and in due time the rumbles of a great avalanche were heard. The foul current of Niflheim were drowned in a thousand tons of snow and rock, and the bears returned to being regular bears. Ingvar rewarded the heroes with a feast and a thousand skatt, and they prepared later to head out in search of the treasure for Volstagg — but that is a story for another time.

And that is where we ended it — they got a little ways into the hunt for Fafnir’s treasure, but not very far before time was up. Everyone had a great time, and found the runic system to be pretty easy to use once you got used to it.

I’m looking forward to running it again!

Cartography of Theah

An alternative map of the alternate version of Europe from the role-playing game 7th Sea.
Check out Guardnacho’s alternative take on the geography of 7th Sea‘s Theah, particularly if, as the RPGnet poster put it, you like maps that reflect “basic geography concepts like water flowing downhill.” Thanks to Fiver for the link.

That same thread also suggested that Theah could couple fairly well with Northern Crown, which is an interesting idea.

Carnagecast 56: Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League

carnagecast-rss-image-300This week on Carnagecast, we talked with Al Spader from Jetpack Comics about Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, Wizards of the Coast’s new Adventurers League organized play structure and what Dungeons & Dragons-related fun folks can expect at A Fistful of Carnage in Killington this November.

Probably my favorite part of this episode was sitting more fully in the producer/engineer’s seat, which is my wheelhouse by trade and inclination. Ray leading the interview gave me the opportunity to focus more on making sure everyone sounded good. Sometimes this makes me feel hyper-critical, as I want to re-take every statement covered up by incidental noise, but having the freedom to watch the audio levels and listen for quality without also tracking the conversation and moving it forward was a rare treat for me, and greatly enjoyed.