MYFAROG RPG Delay: Varg Vikernes Arrested! (Anniversary Edition)

Okay, Varg’s been arrested. The French think that he’s planning a massacre. Now, I don’t follow all of what Varg’s up to, but I’m pretty sure he’s been too busy building his house, blogging, working on music and writing an RPG to be planning a massacre. Varg strikes me as being too busy with various personal projects to jeopardize it by planning a massacre.

I guess I should’ve ordered a copy of Forebears sooner than later. And I figured out why all of a sudden I’m getting all of these hits on my old MYFAROG post.

Apparently his wife bought a few guns (legally, I might add; she’s a member of a rifle club), and that was enough to bring the heat down on the couple, and both of them were arrested. The articles are quick to point out that he’s a “convicted murderer”, but don’t forget that, while Varg didn’t do himself any favors in trying to cover it up initially, it was a case of self-defense. Also, the articles have pointed out that “there is no evidence that Kristian Vikernes was formulating any kind of plan.”

Anyway, the whole thing got kicked off apparently because Behring Brevik sent Varg a copy of his manifesto in hopes of finding an ally. Varg basically called Brevik an idiot, but receiving and commenting on it was enough to make French officials worry.

I hope things get straightened out soon. Varg has always been very personable and a generally nice guy to me, and while I heartily disagree with many of his ideas and points of view, I don’t believe that he is personally a threat to anyone.

Update: They don’t have anything on them, but are holding them anyway (probably for political reasons)http://www.euronews.com/2013/07/17/no-target-no-identified-project-as-vikernes-and-his-wife-s-custody-extended/

Also, it should be noted that in the posts in question, Varg specifically said not to do anything illegal in ‘revolt’ against the European status quo.

Update 2: Marie Cachet has been released from custody.

Update 3: Varg has been released, but may be prosecuted for hate speech. http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2013/07/18/la-garde-a-vue-de-l-extremiste-norvegien-kristian-vikernes-levee_3449857_3224.html

Update 4: Varg has an account of the incident, which may be found here.

Update 5: A candid interview with Marie Cachet & Varg Vikernes.

Update 6:  The verdict of Guilty for charges of hate-speech quietly came and went, followed by a few news articles reminding us of Varg’s past, calling him a neo-Nazi (he’s not) and making spurious allegations in an attempt to link him with Breivik.  I’m guessing that since Varg’s most recent update, post verdict, is explaining mechanical changes to his RPG that he’s taking things in stride.

Radical New Changes Pre-Publication to MYFAROG Skill System

So, the news is that MYFAROG is doing away with its skill system in favor of XP based point-buy. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the overall system.

Originally, rather than using XP, MYFAROG used a system not too dissimilar from the old FF2/Daggerfall skill-grind. The idea was that improving skill is something of an upward curve; while it wasn’t hard to learn a basic skill and improve it somewhat, the higher your mastery, the longer it took to improve. It was an interesting idea, and not something you saw in tabletop games too often. But as Varg himself pointed out, you don’t want the tabletop version of taping down the run button in Morrowind and leaving your character to run against a wall to grind athletics.

So, now he’s implementing an XP based system which we have yet to see. As clunky as the old skill system might have been (I don’t really like skill systems in general for tabletop games), I can’t say I’m a huge fan of point-buy systems either. Well, okay, the old white-wolf point-buy system held up alright for what was essentially a rules lite game focused on story, but I’ve seen 3.5e Eclipse stuff that boggles the mind.  If he has gone the XP route, I’m hoping Varg took my suggestion to better flesh out the Power Levels to something equivalent to the 3e CR rating system.

When I do get the final version of MYFAROG, if I end up running it, it will undoubtedly be with some of my own tweaks and adjustments (c’mon, who doesn’t houserule things a bit?). Luckily, this time I’ll be approaching it with some more experience with both GMing and game design under my belt, so I might make some changes of my own to keep the old skill rules, or a variant of it. Recently a friend introduced me to Altars and Archetypes, which is a ruleslite system that allows for pretty infinite flexibility in character creation; you choose your character’s archetypes/roles (so you can have a Pirate/Wizard/Baker) and you roll dice of varying sides based on your character’s experience in that role to perform tasks. You’ve been a pirate for a long time, so you’d roll 1d12 for pirating tasks; you’ve been studying magic for the last year, so you’d roll 1d8 for casting spells; you’ve recently taken up baking, though you’re not very good at it yet, so you’d roll 1d6 when you’d try to bake something. That’s a silly example, but you get the idea.

Since MYFAROG is essentially a “Job” based game, I think that a similar system could be swapped out if you didn’t want to use point-buy or the crunchier Skill system. You’d simply have to take into account what each job/role is and the skills/abilities they grant you in MYFAROG and translate that to the flexible skill system.  I don’t know.  It’s something I might look at.

Most of all, I’m itching to read the portions of the worldbuilding and background info that was dummied out of the playtest version. Once it’s out or once I know more about the changes Varg has made, I’ll start fleshing out ideas, maybe even write up a module or something.

 

V – Varg Vikernes

Fantasy has always had big impact on metal, and metal has had a big impact on fantasy. But so rarely have the two been joined so integrally as by Varg Vikernes. Sure Summoning, which is a great band, may put out album after album of (often obscurely) Tolkien themed black metal, but at the early forefront of the movement was Varg. While many of the other black metal bands had ‘cool’ ‘evil-sounding’ names in English, Burzum stood out. Meaning ‘Darkness’ in the Black Tongue of Mordor, Burzum was the brainchild of its sole member, ‘Count Grishnakh’, whose name was also an obscure lord of the rings reference. The project sprung out of an earlier effort, Uruk-hai, but beyond and apart from singing songs about elves and hobbits, as most metal bands are wont to do, Burzum explored the black and white morality presented in Tolkien’s world as it could be applied to the real world, viewing it through the lens of his own unique brand of Norse pagan nationalism.

Tolkien’s Middle Earth is a setting heavily influenced by old English and Scandinavian culture and mythology. However because he was a Christian writer essentially writing morality tales for a Christian audience, his cultures tended to be rather flat morally, which could be seen as a bowdlerization of the peoples from whom they were derived. His Orcs were uniformly evil, and his Men of the East were all barbarous, vile and amoral; a traditional view of less civilized pre-Christianized warrior societies and cultures.

For Varg, darkness represented the adventure to be had in the world, and when the light had purged that darkness, society would become decadent for that lack of adventure. Recall for a moment, how little of any import or interest happens in the 4th age; though it may be Middle Earth’s ‘happily ever after’, there is something sad about Sam all alone in his final days, looking to the west. In a more real-world sense, Varg explores the ideas of an ancient world that has been purged and homogenized by Christianity. The old ways and ancient culture is inevitably lost. It’s a recurring theme in fantasy, the departure of magic from the world. From the exodus of Dunsany’s Magician in the Charwoman’s Shadow to the last desperate attempt to stop the march of man’s progress by the Woodsy Lord in Thief, fantasy is filled with stories of a world diminished by the absence of these things. Man creates light to push back the darkness, because man fears the dark. But that is where the magic is.

Over his long career, he has recorded several albums that run quite the range of genre and style, never easy to peg down. His stuff gets lumped in with Black Metal because of the time in which Burzum was recording and individuals associated with him, though he has distanced himself from the movement and scene which he was never actively a part of.

This track from the album Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (If the Light Takes Us) is quintessential black metal, provided you like keyboards in your black metal:

This track from Filosofem is more along the lines of (oldschool) industrial metal:

This track from Daudi Baldrs (The Death of Baldr), which was recorded while in prison (for the slaying of Øystein Aarseth, who had concocted an elaborate plan to murder Vikernes, in self-defense), is something else entirely.

If I ever get around to playing Daggerfall again, I fully intend to go through with my plan to swap out the original sound files for the Daudi Baldrs album.  As a fellow fan of the Elder Scrolls, I think he might be able to appreciate that.

After being released from prison, he put out a pair of excellent metally albums, but has been on a much more experimental bent the last few years with Umskiptar (neo-folk with some heavier elements) and Sol Austan, Mani Vestan, which admittedly reminds me a lot of the stuff I was doing with Medicide before I had my mid-life crisis.

There are plenty of reasons you can find to not like Varg or to discount his body of work, but I won’t go into them here. You can do your homework and come to your own conclusions. As for me, I’ve found that despite any disagreement, qualms or whatnot, I’ve found his output incredibly enjoyable and excellent inspirational material for fantasy settings. Oh, yeah, and have I mentioned he’s working on an RPG? MYFAROG.org. You can find a lot of his thoughts on music, gaming and other things at Burzum.org.   He regularly blogs about religion and survivalism over at Thulean Perspective over on the blog-list there.

 

Emergent Narratives and a Few More Shout Outs

I’m always intrigued by games that have emergent narratives, and the emergent aspect of rogue-likes combined with the work/reward cycle makes games like Elona particularly addictive.

I’ve been playing in a way I hadn’t ever played before. Usually, I would only have 1 or 2 allies and would never even think about hiring other adventurers in the world for short term contracts. The character I’ve been playing this time, however, has grown to have quite the entourage, including a core party of a tank, two gunners, a tank in training, and a very low-level tank in training that I don’t quite know what to do with right now. I’ve got a high level rock-thrower, but he’s keeping things under control at my Shop, which is like a used car lot for undesired dungeon-loot. In addition to this fairly large party, I’ve been taking the opportunity to hire any reasonably priced adventurer who swings by my house to say “hi”. This has more or less ended up with there being 3 mediocre adventurers I’ve had with me several different 7 day stretches each, as well as a few others I may have only hired once. I typically use them for a little extra oomph in dungeons around my level, hoping that they’ll keep my lower level companions from taking the heaviest hits.

Anyway, I was playing last night, and something happened. Some adventurer showed up at my character’s house, and she had the Zantetsu. The Zantetsu is probably the best longsword-type weapon in the game, and god knows how much stuff you have to have to be able to trade for it (you can only trade one stack of items at a time, and 19 Scrolls of Wonder got me laughed at). The chances of finding one or having someone who has one stop by your house is astronomically low. So, I had a plan. I hired her.

Hiring this adventurer cost me about 1.5 million gold for a 7 day contract. This pretty much broke the bank for me, so I had to get my money’s worth. The original plan was to tell my main party to stay behind, take her to high level dungeons, and hope that she got killed by something so I could get her loot and escape using various scrolls before whatever killed her got me. After clearing 2 high level dungeons, it became apparent that there’s next to no way that anything in these holes are going to kill her. I’ve got maybe a day or so left on her contract and I’ve taken her into a level 34 dungeon, which is more than twice my current level and will have out of depth monsters of nearly godlike proportion. One after another, she cleaves her way through wyverns, titans, liches, dragons, greater mummies, evil chess sets, and worse. And with each monster she obliterates with her Infinity+1 sword, she smiles at me and winks. This changes everything. I may not get Zantetsu as a bequest but as a dowry.

Sleezy evil wizard (c’mon, it’s a roguelike!) brings a beautiful warrior with him, hoping that she will die and he can steal her treasures, but over the course of their time together, he sees more than her sword, she maybe sees the job as more than just a contract, and they start to fall in love. Will they get married? Will they live happily ever after? WHO KNOWS!? I do know that mechanically, the characters are a little over half-way there. I don’t know exactly how much time is left on her current contract, but it should be enough to finish off this last dungeon. If I’m lucky, she’ll have killed enough monsters that she’ll be willing to stay as a permanent fixture of the party. If I’m less lucky, I might at least get enough money to hire her again and run another high level dungeon or two. Because it’s Elona, there’s a lot of potential for evil unhappy endings for this relationship: after the wizard and warrior get married, and the wizard could always just rob her of her prized possessions and then sell her into slavery. But that’s pretty awful. I’d like to think that maybe the wizard sees more in her than her valuable equipment and she becomes a staple in his party and in his life.

Anyway, enough about that, there are a few other things I wanted to mention.

First of all, there are only 10 days left on the Rumors of War kickstarter, and it’s just under half-way to its goal. Go over there and show some love!

Secondly, Varg has started a new video series of mini-documentaries on Black Metal. The first might be of particular interest to some of the readers here, as it pertains in part to the influence of RPGs on Metal. I’m not entirely sure how this documentary project is going to turn out, as it’s just begun. If he cuts it short and only makes a few, it’ll be kind of a disappointment, especially as a lot of what he talks about can be found elsewhere or is common knowledge to music wonks. But if he keeps it up and actually creates, as he says he’s planning, a definitive and myth-dispelling analysis of Black Metal from the perspective of someone who was there, if only to try to set the record straight, it will doubtlessly be insightful and fascinating.

Lastly, I’ve found a tool that will help me in my Batman quest. Or deter me. I haven’t decided yet. Either way, http://www.therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/ is a thing of wonder.