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11/15/2016 4:42 am  #1


Migration Era BoL - Barbarians of the Dark Ages

Hi all - first post on the Forum!

I am working on a hack for a late antiquity/migration era setting based on dark age heroic literature such as Beowulf, the Nieblungenlied, Y Gododdin etc - as well as Prince Valiant, Thorgal and historic pulp in general.

The concept is to focus on the mead hall as a focus for campaigns, and service to a lord as a driver for adventuring.

Very grateful for any thoughts or input

Thank you!
Peter



Barbarians of the Mirkwood

Your hall is bright, and warm and safe. Your lord is open-handed and wise. Mead and meat and song is plentiful. But outside the forest is dark and endless. The Mirkwood stretches for miles and miles of sodden bogs and dark glens.


The Mead Hall
Your place at the fireside cannot be taken for granted - it must be earned. To merit food, ale, warmth and light, you must make yourself useful to your lord. If you drink and eat then you must also be prepared to fight and die.

A lord will always welcome rich offerings - plunder from the south and west, wondrous beasts, ancient artifacts. Whatever may cause others to wonder and marvel will be warmly received. For a newcomer, such a gift may be needed to gain a seat at the foot of the table as a guest. Further gifts and good service will be needed to move closer to the lord, and to be admitted into his retinue.

But your lord craves good service even more. There are always plots to thwart, beasts to slay, enemies to kill and dangerous journeys to undertake. Such deeds will add to your heroes fame and may grant them access to the fireside just as quickly as a snow white bear or the Sword of Mark the Golden.

You will find not only friends but also enemies around the fire. Those who hate you for your past deeds, your family, your glory and your fame. They will do all they can to stop you from proving yourself to your lord.


The Mirkwood
Darkness. Danger. Enemy tribes. Fierce beasts. To leave the comfort of the fireside and step across the threshold into the untamed woods in an adventure in its own right. The Mirkwood is home to many savage tribes - Goths, Vandals, Thuringians and Swabians - who bedeck their halls with the plunder of a crumbling empire. It is also home to proud aurochs, grizzled bears and grunting boars - all ready to gore the careless. Those who know also tell of worse dangers - of troll and wight, wyrm and giant hiding in the dark recesses of the woods.


Beyond the Mirkwood
To the far north lies the endless woods of Hyperborea - the land of constant night and northern lights. Its shores are washed by the cool Suevian seas. To the east lie the open great plains where the Scythians roam. To the south lies the wide Danube, and beyond it the great Empire. On both sides of the Danube, the dark woods of Mirkwood shift to the green and delightfully treacherous glades of the enchanted Hercynian forest. There moss grows over old ruins - and the bones and ghosts from massacres past. To the west lies the rich Rhineland, and on the other side of the great river Rhine the crumbling defenses of the Empire.


The rules of guest friendship and gift giving hold true everywhere. On the open steppes, you may be welcomed into a richly brocaded tent rather than a wooden hall. In the provinces of the Empire, it will be on the marbled floor of a great Aula that you speak to your lord. But in these uncertain times, loyal service to a firm ruler is well rewarded.

EDIT: changed the title to reflect new name of the hack

Last edited by Peter (12/15/2016 3:24 am)

 

11/15/2016 4:46 am  #2


Re: Migration Era BoL - Barbarians of the Dark Ages

Careers
Warrior (Paladin)
Horseman (Cataphract)
Blacksmith (Metalworker)
Berserker (Fanatic)
Carpenter (Woodworker)
Hunter (Trapper)
Forager (Woodsman)
Farmer (Peasant)
Scholar (Scribe)
Wanderer (Hermit)
Sorcerer (Wizard)
Shapeshifter (Skin-changer)
Seafarer (Boatswain)
Trader (Merchant)
Poet (Skald)
Healer (Physician)
Priest (Sooth-sayer)
Bandit (Brigand)
Slave (Thrall)


Origins
The Mirkwood

The woodland north of the Danube, east of the Rhine, south of the Saxon shores and west of the Hyperborean woods and the plain. It is home to a great multitude of tribes including great germanic federations such as the Alamanni, the Suebi and the Thuringians.


Boons
Hard-To-Kill: You are particularly solidly built. Add +2 LB to your total.
Quick Recovery: Living in the wilds gives you better endurance than many. When recovering after a combat, you regain an additional LB point, on top of the half you recover normally.
Woodland Tracker: You are skilled in hunting creatures that live in the mountains. When tracking, trapping, or hunting creatures in this environment, you may use an extra die.
War Cry: Scares the hell out of your character’s opponents that can hear the war cry. They take a Flaw (that is roll an extra die, take the two least favourable results) on all their rolls for the first round following the War cry, and gives Boons to all your character’s friends (that is they roll an extra die and take the two highest) for that round as well.
Heir: You belong to the extended family of a Lord or King. Increase your Favour with that Lord by +1. May be taken many times to represent closer kinship.


Flaws
Landlubber: Your character is unused to travelling by sea. Roll an extra die for all activities undertaken whilst at sea.
Taciturn: Your character is ridiculously tightlipped. It's a rare day on which he uses a sentence of more than three words, and it's virtually unheard-of for him to initiate
conversation. His extreme reluctance to speak unfortunately means he never volunteers information without being asked. Roll an extra die in social situations.
Greed: You cannot resist any chance to make money. If money is to be made, your judgement goes out of the window. Roll an extra die whenever tempted by the offer of cash.
Drunkard: You cannot help but get drunk whenever feasting in your lords hall or whenever you are offered wine or mead. Roll a die when you are required to do something important for the rest of your companions. If a ‘1’ comes up, you are drunk and unable to do anything until sobered up.
Blood Feud: Your family has mortal enemies who will stop at nothing to exact their vengance for perceived or real wrongs.


Northern Shores
The shores and delta of the river Rhine, the Suevian sea, the Saxon shore and the islands of Britannia and Hibernaia. Home to Saxons, Franks, Scots and


Boons
Born sailor: You are a seaman through and through. When dealing with ships or carrying out physical activities on board ship (other than fighting), you may roll an extra die.
Drinking Mate: You are the life and soul of the feast. Use an extra die to gain information, make contacts or acquire favours whilst at the lord's hall.
Quick Recovery: You have better endurance than many. When recovering after a combat, you regain an additional LB point, on top of the half you recover normally.
Francisca: You are trained in the traditional Frankic throwing Axe. If you are using a balanced Francisca, you may roll one extra die.
Companion to Saexnot: You are trained in the typical saxon longknife. If you use a saex fighting next to an ally, you may roll one extra die.
Blood Bonds: Your family is a large and powerful one. Use an extra die to gain resources or favours from kin and allies.

Flaws
Drunkard: You cannot help but get drunk whenever feasting in your lord's hall or whenever you are offered wine or mead. Roll a die when you are required to do something important for the rest of your companions. If a ‘1’ comes up, you are drunk and unable to do anything until sobered up.
Blood Feud: Your family has mortal enemies who will stop at nothing to exact their vengance for perceived or real wrongs.



Hyperborean Woods
The great marshes and woodlands of the north and the east.


Boons
Hard-To-Kill: You are particularly solidly built. Add +2 LB to your total.
Quick Recovery: Living in the wilds gives you better endurance than many. When recovering after a combat, you regain an additional LB point, on top of the half you recover normally.
Woodland Tracker: You are skilled in hunting creatures that live in the woods. When tracking, trapping, or hunting creatures in this environment, you may use an extra die.
Snow Tracker: You are skilled in hunting creatures that live in snowy landscapes and across glaciers. When tracking, trapping, or hunting creatures in this environment, you may use an extra die.
Keen Scent: You have a better than normal sense of smell. Whenever you make a mind check to perceive something using your sense of smell, you may roll one extra die.


Flaws
Landlubber: Your character is unused to travelling by sea. Roll an extra die for all activities undertaken whilst at sea.
Taciturn: Your character is ridiculously tightlipped. It's a rare day on which he uses a sentence of more than three words, and it's virtually unheard-of for him to initiate
conversation. His extreme reluctance to speak unfortunately means he never volunteers information without being asked. Roll an extra die in social situations.
Feels the Heat: You are unable to cope in very hot conditions. Roll an extra die for any tasks undertaken in a hot desert environment.




Imperial Provinces

Boons
Senator: You come from a rich and influential family You own lands around one of the great cities of the Empire and a house in that city. Roll an extra die on any attempt to obtain any goods, services or items you need whilst in your home Province. You may be granted audience with fellow imperials and Scriptural priests.
Learned: You have studied. Choose any specialty from Star Lore, Flora & Fauna, Geography, Law or Legends. When recalling a fact from your area of specialty, you use an extra die.
Artistic: You have a skill in creating works of art. Roll an extra die when appraising or creating such items.
Etiquette: You are an expert in the social graces. You gain an extra die on any task where good form is important.
Spatha-wielder: If you use a true imperial longsword, the Spatha, forged in the Fabrici of the Empire, you gain one extra die.



Flaws
City dweller: You are not at ease when in the wilderness. Roll an extra die in situations to do with outdoor survival.
Arrogant: The Empire may be crumbling, but you still see yourself as far superior to the unwashed barbarians outside its border. Roll an extra die when dealing with people who are not of the Empire, where your arrogance might annoy or offend them.
Greed: You cannot resist any chance to make money. If money is to be made, your judgement goes out of the window. Roll an extra die whenever tempted by the offer of cash.


Scythian Plains
A quiltwork of open steppe where the horse is king. Home to Goths, Alans, Vandals and Huns.


Boons
Beast Friend: Easily domesticated creatures are not afraid of you and you are able to train them more easily. Ferocious animals are less likely to attack you. Whenever dealing with animals, roll an extra die.
Keen Eyesight: You have improved vision. Whenever you make a mind check to perceive something using your eyesight, you may roll one extra die.
Plains Tracker: You are skilled in hunting creatures that live in on steppes or plains. When tracking, trapping, or hunting creatures in this environment, you may use an extra die.
Born in the saddle: To you, the saddle is as comfortable as a soft pillow. When fighting or performing actions on hoseback, you may use an extra die.
Hunnic Bow: When you use a true hunnic composite bone and sinew bow, roll an extra die.


Flaws
Landlubber: Your character is unused to travelling by sea. Roll an extra die for all activities whilst at sea.
Taciturn: Your character is ridiculously tightlipped. It's a rare day on which he uses a sentence of more than three words, and it's virtually unheard-of for him to initiate
conversation. His extreme reluctance to speak unfortunately means he never volunteers information without being asked. Roll an extra die in social situations.

Last edited by Peter (11/22/2016 10:26 am)

     Thread Starter
 

11/15/2016 6:45 am  #3


Re: Migration Era BoL - Barbarians of the Dark Ages

Great stuff!

​I've often toyed with this sort of setting - the end of the Empire in the west has long been an interest of mine. The great thing about it is that you can have a mixed group of Goths, Romans, Alans, Sarmatians and Huns all working together, and it's historically correct! An alternative to your 'In the King's Mead Hall' set up (which I also like, by the way).

Any other contributions welcome. As I say, I've often wanted to run something like this, but have never had the time to work out the setting, rules wise. Thanks to you, I no longer have to!
 


My real name is Steve
 

11/15/2016 7:21 am  #4


Re: Migration Era BoL - Barbarians of the Dark Ages

Gruntfuttock wrote:

Great stuff!

​I've often toyed with this sort of setting - the end of the Empire in the west has long been an interest of mine. The great thing about it is that you can have a mixed group of Goths, Romans, Alans, Sarmatians and Huns all working together, and it's historically correct! An alternative to your 'In the King's Mead Hall' set up (which I also like, by the way).
 

Exactly! One of the really cool things about the era is how cosmopolitan it is - and I think this comes across in some of the heroic literature and in the historical and archaeological evidence. What matters is not your ethnicity but your pledges of loyalty and support.

And this is also the thinking about the mead hall. A great lord attracts henchmen from near and far. And while you can play a local boy with your seat around the table assured, the concept is more geared toward a rag tag assembly of fortune hunters from all over the post roman world striving for access as guest-friends.

So I suppose my concept is meant to be both. Romans, Alans and Sclavones (etc) working together at the behest of the lord of the hall.

Last edited by Peter (11/15/2016 7:24 am)

     Thread Starter
 

11/15/2016 8:26 am  #5


Re: Migration Era BoL - Barbarians of the Dark Ages

To be more specific about the setting, I am thinking three possible eras, only a few decades apart but quite a big impact in terms of setting:

- The Reign Of Attila - before the battle of the Catalaunian Plains. The Huns loom large in the person of Attila and the Mirkwood is split into competing factions. The Empire is still a force to be reckoned with and the limes is still partially in play. Likely to be very focused on the Mirkwood.

- The Fall of Rome - the time of Odoacer and the empire being carved up by competing warlords. The limes is gone and tribes are spilling into the former imperial provinces to carve out their lands with considerable pioneering spirit. The Domain of Soissons and other pockets of Roman Resistance holds out ('The year is 470 A.D. Dioecesis Galliarum is entirely occupied by the Barbarians. Well not entirely! One small Domain of indomitable Romans still holds out against the invader.")

- The Reign of Kings - the era
of Theodoric the Great, of Clovis I and of King Arthur. Mead Halls are replaced by resplendent palaces, and the unmapped darkness of the Mirkwood becomes pulled into the orbit of stable states. This makes for a much more political game, but can also be used for the struggle between christianity and paganism
 

Last edited by Peter (11/15/2016 8:28 am)

     Thread Starter
 

11/15/2016 8:42 am  #6


Re: Migration Era BoL - Barbarians of the Dark Ages

This is excellent.  Putting a focus on the mead hall as a 'frame' for adventures in this rich historical setting is a great idea.

One question:  would PC's still have 4 careers?  It makes sense for a more gonzo fantasy world, but I'm not sure heroes in a quasi-historical context would have as much varied background.

 

11/15/2016 8:53 am  #7


Re: Migration Era BoL - Barbarians of the Dark Ages

Thank you both for your kind encouragement

G-Man wrote:

One question:  would PC's still have 4 careers?  It makes sense for a more gonzo fantasy world, but I'm not sure heroes in a quasi-historical context would have as much varied background.

That's a very good question - I hadn't really thought of reducing nbr of careers as an option.

My way of tackling that issue was to use down to earth careers to reflect basic skills in an iron age society like hunting, foraging, crafts. I dont want to make it too gritty - the pcs are still meant to be larger than life.

P.s. Some examples:
For a semi-magical Berserker - Berserker, Warrior, Shape-shifter, Hunter
For a classic warrior hero - Warrior, Heir, Skald, Horseman
For a tribal warrior - Bandit, Hunter, Warrior, Farmer
For a wise hermit - Healer, Wanderer, Scholar, Forager
 

Last edited by Peter (11/15/2016 9:00 am)

     Thread Starter
 

11/15/2016 10:06 am  #8


Re: Migration Era BoL - Barbarians of the Dark Ages

Sounds fab! Keep going...

 

11/15/2016 10:20 am  #9


Re: Migration Era BoL - Barbarians of the Dark Ages

I think that the heroes being larger than life is important with this setting, even if you don't have any supernatural themes (gasp!) You could have a totally non-magical game, but still the heroes are larger than life 'supermen' who's stories are told around the mead halls.

​Personally I would keep magic and the supernatural as part of the setting, but with the understanding that less is more.

When I was kicking around ideas for an age of migration setting, I thought that the Roman world would have barely any magic at all and what there was was mainly divination and small stuff - very discrete. Over the border would be your mystical warriors and shapeshifters and magic swords. In the Mirkwood - elf and dwarf perhaps (though not many) and things like Grendel. And here be dragons...

​Another thing to remember from real history, is that elite German warriors would almost certainly fight on horseback - yes, even Saxons and Angles. They would use javlin, spear and sword rather than bows like Easterners, but all professionals would ride and fight as cavalry in battle. They could fight on foot as well, of course.


My real name is Steve
 

11/15/2016 10:26 am  #10


Re: Migration Era BoL - Barbarians of the Dark Ages

And I'd second Simon's call to 'Keep going!'

With your stuff and Finn's stuff we are really being spoilt here at the moment.

​Now G Man,...about that Lankmar game you were working on....


My real name is Steve
 

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