Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Exploring Exploration

Firstly, there's an interesting discussion occurring in the comments ofyesterday's Worldblogger about the Norseness and inclusion of arcane magic and specifically the wizard in the theoretical campaign setting. Please, share your thoughts on the matter down there!

A few ideas simmered overnight. In no particular order:
  • The random Yggdrasil idea has been growing on me; that the celestial heavens are actually composed of Yggdrasil's branches. I like the stars as glimmering fruits, maybe even have day-stars or something, as opposed to one centralized sun, that wilt or close at the onset of night. Maybe the tree's trunk stands over the northern pole and its boughs reach out and encompass the entire northern hemisphere or something. There might even be a way to combine this with the Ymir's skull myth. Maybe the gods planted Yggdrasil's seeds in dead Ymir's skull?
Obviously lots of things to be hammered out, but I think that's a big, mythic, obviously fantastical set piece that could be interesting to explore further.

(A hasty Wikipedia search has revealed the existence of Sól, the Norse sun deity, that striking the sun would probably remove the need for. She doesn't seem super relevant, from a cursory glance, to the machinations of men or the pantheon.)
  • Not a huge revelation, but I think despite prevailing cultural thought about how the gender politics during the Viking Age might have been, I'm gonna continue Mooncrash's 100% random sex assignment. No trumped up “historical accuracy” is gonna justify sexism here. Plus, this.
  • The big thing that's been percolating, I think, is more a setting theme than anything else. I want this setting to focus on exploration.
So much of what we perceive of the Viking Age is dominated by images of plunder and rapine. I'd be lying if I said that's not one of the main attractions for me, at least initially, to the aesthetic – bold, barbaric warriors, pillaging the fat lands of Europe and being compared unfavorably to sea-wolves – but that's a very shallow read into the accomplishments that Dark Ages Scandinavia gave European culture at the time.

Trade is such a huge part of the Viking's contribution – interconnecting nations and peoples that never would have had any contacts, shipping goods and slaves along these routes, inter-populating the world. Sure, they were raiders and slavers and bloodthirsty conquerors at times, but the inroads the Vikings carved, with their superior seafaring technology and far-ranging exploration, is way, way more culturally significant than horns on helmets and bearded axes.

I mean, to get technical, I think the first real “adventurers” in the medieval period, as a D&D player would think of an adventurer were Norse and Germanic mercenaries, like Harald Hardrada or the Varangian Guard.

In short, I think I'm going to place a greater emphasis on the Norse people striking out and making contact with other cultures for the first time. Rather than extensively mapping the entire world, I think I'm gonna map the region or small continent than the “Vikings” originate from and imply, via the salty rumor of mythical sailors, the distant lands and strange peoples that can be found far and away across the ocean. In the way that previous Edge of the Empire assumes your party is the rough-and-tumble crew of a smuggling vessel, I feel like this setting can be constructed, assuming your the rough- and-tumble crew of a Viking longship, bound for trade, plunder and exploration across the sea.

More as this stuff trickles in. Thanks for reading and lemme know – do you think I should use arcane magic in my fictional, fantastical Scandinavia?

1 comment:

  1. The ancient Norse world had a problematic relationship with arcane magic, on the one hand, Odin did hang on Yggdrasil and gave his eye for the secrets of runes and speaking with soothsayers was an accepted part of life (seidr). On the other hand, Odin was distrusted (as their chief god, it tells you a lot about their relationship with authority) and magic was explicitly consider 'Argr' (an all-purpose cross of unmanly, unclean and dishonorable), so was only practiced by women, witches, Trolls, foreigners (Finns and Lapps were notorious as sorcerers) and other 'outsiders'. If you want my two krona, it should have prices (the drawbacks of the Oracle class in Pathfinder is a particularly well-done example of this) or perhaps exist but not be in the hands of PC's. At least not to start with.