Alignment in MYFAROG

Though I’m sure most of you folks out there have yet to glimpse into the dark depth that is MYFAROG, discussions on the virtues of Alignment and Alignment systems are ongoing and ubiquitous throughout the gaming community. Some time ago, when I was posting my first reactions to MYFAROG, I’d mentioned briefly how alignment worked, but did not go into any details other than that it is determined by a combination of factors rather than plotted on a grid or spectrum. Well, turns out I’m a little wrong; it can be plotted on a grid, as is illustrated in this post. If anything, alignment in MYFAROG is similar to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator archetyping.

With any game system that implements an alignment system, one needs to decide if alignment is what guides and motivates the character or if alignment is the manifestation of a character’s actions. Alignment as a constraint is very unpopular in some circles, with many players simply choosing to ignore it altogether, treating it as an optional rule. But in a game like MYFAROG that focuses on social interaction, diplomacy and both the mechanical and cultural aspects of religious practice, the alignment, in some ways, IS the game.

I’ve said before that MYFAROG is an incredible world bogged down by some cumbersome stat-based rules. If I had to recommend a way to play a rules-lite “introduction” to MYFAROG, instead of discarding the non-mechanical optional rules, create characters using ONLY the the rules regarding Culture, World-view, and Alignment. Play around in the world of Thule a bit, exploring the motives and means of its inhabitants. Use some simple proxy system for combat until you decide that you want to get into the system’s crunchier aspects.

Demise of Watchman Island

I was totally planning on writing a review of Demise of Watchman Island, the sample adventure included in the playtest material of Varg’s MYFAROG, but B/X has taken up a lot more of my time lately, particularly my writing on Vampires & Liches. I may get to it eventually, but now that I am writing for both Cirsova (whose core content I am falling behind on) and Dice Monkey, I have my work cut out for me.

Rather than give you my interpretations of it, you can check DoWI out for yourselves, as Varg has made it public. Additionally, he has posted a Fan-written expansion to the module that somewhat rectifies the original’s downer ending, in which no mysteries are solved despite a significant loss of life.

My First MYFAROG character: Krokar the Barbarian Swordsinger

In my first serious attempt to roll up a character for MYFAROG, I probably made some mistakes, some due to laziness (mostly in the form of omissions), others due to difficulties in finding the appropriate tables.

Once Varg hammers out power levels a bit better, it might be easier to create NPCs, but if you want a fleshed out, equipped individual, you’ve gotta get your hands dirty. Very dirty. Especially since things like birthdays actually have significant gameplay effects in terms of abilities and divine favor.

The result of a little over an hour’s work, I give you Krokar the Barbarian Swordsinger.

Name: Krokar (I didn’t give him a full name; he should be ‘Krokar af (tribe) auk (homeland)’. While you wouldn’t think this would be a big deal, it kind of is. Because I didn’t give him a full name, he cannot properly and formally introduce himself to strangers, and will thus provoke a hostile reaction for bringing dishonor upon both himself and the other party.)

Species: Jarlaaett (the default)
Race: Jarnmaðr (Iron Man, again the default)
Gender: Male
Weight: 146 lbs (this involved some rolling dice, comparing against strength, gender, etc)
Size: Average
DV (Defense Value) ME (Melee): 0 (I think I made a mistake here. Probably because I equipped him, but never got around to crunching the number on what his furs and swordsdudeship meant to his real defense)
DV (Defense Value) MI (Missile): 0 (Again, I think I was too lazy to crunch the numbers. Pulling out Krokar’s sheet, I’m pretty sure I never finished him. Stuff at the top of the sheet can’t be fully calculated until you get all of your equipment values and skills calculated first.)
Height: 70″ (again, there was some dice rolling involved)

I think I should’ve checked a table somewhere to figure out what my Skin, Hair and Eyes are, but I figure that regardless of the dice or tables Krokar is gonna look like one of the guys from Vore .

Again, I didn’t get far enough to calculate Daily Needs, in terms of hours of Sleep, lbs of Food, justas of Beverages, number of Hugs, etc.

Social Class: Noble (default; think ‘Honorable Bloodskaal’ rather than lord of the manor house)

Life Stance: Asatru (religion & gods rather than spirits and animism; also, he can’t be a wizard)
Cultural Background: Byggjandi (sedentary rather than hunter gatherer)
Alignment: Ecstatic Harmonic Spiritual Sympathetic (Just go look for yourself)
Birthday: Summer (aspect of fire), month of Pulkawangis (“folk meadow” sacred to Prio), and the 18th day (no cool bonuses, but born under the Full Moon and cycle of Life)

Age: 19, but with a maximum calculated age of 57.

Krokar is “marked” by the Gods and has +1 to fortitude.

Krokar is pretty middle of the road, healthier than normal, but a little slow-witted.
Chr 11
Con 14 +1
Dex 10
INT 8 -1 (This is a huge problem, because skills are skewed heavily in favor of INT mods)
STR 10
WIL 9

He’s got 13 stamina points (I think) based on the base of 12 + whatever I pour into the skill and modifiers…

I haven’t calculated his Melee or missile values on attack or defense, again, cuz lazy.

He wears fur and leather armor, an Iron Cap helmet, Leather arm guards and leather greaves and wields a short sword.

As new character, he has 12 skill points to distribute, so I gave him
Acrobatics: 1 (so only a -1 penalty)
Foraging: 1 (-1 penalty)
Singing: 4 (+2, he’s gonna sing a song while he kicks your ass!)
Social Skills: 2 (0)
World Lore: 1 (-4)
Melee: 2 (0)
Swords: 3 (+1)

There are 2 dozen or so extra skills that he doesn’t have points in, so he really sucks at all of those, like his -5 when attempting to do Arts & Crafts.

He only has his starting role, which is “Buandi” or “Peasant”, though presumably, as a sworddude, he would quickly pick up the “Striðsmaðr” or “Warrior” role not long after his story began.

He may or may not have divine favor based on god knows what, but I haven’t bothered to fill out the half page of character sheet devoted to that.

Again, I find myself loving the setting more than the system, though the system is like a precious ore: there may be something of great value once it has been smelted down.

The thing that will be most beneficial to the future of MYFAROG at gaming tables would be if someone came up with character Generation software. I know this goes against the spirit of playing tabletop RPGs in the woods after civilization has collapsed, which Varg puts forth as a great selling point of his and other tabletop games, but the rules, as currently organized, pose a fairly high wall into entry of the world of MYFAROG. Then again, if Varg’s apocalypse comes about, we’ll all be LARPing as Hunter/Gatherers, like it or not, which may be preferrable, at the end of the day, to learning a new core rule system.

Note that I’m not doing a ‘necropsy’ on this, by any means, and I fully intend to get the finished product when it’s available, because the world is great (I cannot state this enough), but whether or not it ends up on my shelf or on a gaming table is highly dependent on the changes Varg makes to the core rules, both in content and presentation. Maybe someday down the line, someone can Holmes Basic it for him?

Next MYFAROG post will be taking a look at the adventure Demise of Watchman Isle and some of the Monsters and Ettins in the world of MYFAROG.

A First Look at MYFAROG (Varg’s ‘Burzum’ RPG)

While the vast swaths of the tabletop gaming community spend  post after post wringing their hands over the fate of Dwimmermount, Shortymonster and I seem to be the only members of RPG Blog Alliance community who have taken up the bizarre, once in a life-time opportunity to be play-testers for MYFAROG (Mythical Fantasy Roleplaying Game), a game developed by the infamous Varg Vikernes of Burzum fame.  Mr Vikernes, who has already stated he would be using his own money rather than Kickstarter to fund his project, recently announced that the core book that he’d hinted at a few times over the year was complete and ready for playtesting.  For that alone, he towers above much of the gaming development community as a gentleman and a scholar.

Pretend I spent this paragraph explaining who Varg is and how I disavow him. These posts are going to be a review of his game and the adventure he supplied with it.

First, let me say that I guess my head has been so wrapped around the purely academic question of which OSR ruleset would be the best to play with, I was briefly under the illusion that maybe Varg had the answer. Maybe I was hoping for Dungeons & Vikings? Instead, what he has given us is “Norseman: the (Hunting and) Gathering”.

In many ways, MYFAROG reminds me of a White Wolf game, in that the system is inextricable from its setting. While all White Wolf games (the last time I looked at them, which was back in 2004) had a common character sheet and dice-rolling mechanic (Stat 1-5 + Skill 1-5, then whatever crazy system/character/class related stuff added to it), Races, Classes, “Charms” or whatever their Masquerade equivalent was, were all highly specific to the setting. With something like Exalted or Vampire, rather than buying a game that could be plugged into settings, you were buying a setting that came with game mechanics.

MYFAROG is an astoundingly detailed setting for which mechanics have been lovingly created. Yet herein lies some of the difficulties of bringing MYFAROG to your gaming table. Varg’s world is a vibrant and complex fantasy realm set in a far northern pre-medieval pseudo-Europe called Thule; the cultures of Thule are coming to grips with the growing pains of transitioning from Hunting/Gathering to settled society, transition from ‘The Old ways’ and ‘Tradition’ to ‘The New Ways’ and ‘Religion’, all while the mysterious realms of the Ettin grows and threatens human life. The game’s mechanics account for the sub-races of men, all of which have names which are both difficult to spell and/or pronounce unless you have some background in Scandanavian language, culture and grammar (consider that your default race is ‘Jarlaaett’/’Jarnmaðr’; I am looking forward to seeing the additional rules on the ‘Alfaborinar’ or ‘Elfborn’, which are gonna be the half-elves, I think). Worldview is divided into a 2×2 of “Veiðr”(old) and “Byggjandi”(New), “Seiðr”(Tradition) and “Asatru”(Religion), which respectively represent chaos (entropic & natural, not evil) and law (order and structure to society), and bestows mechanical benefits as part of a characters ‘upbringing’, as it means that, as a part of that culture, the character was raised with certain skills and values. Note that this is on top of an alignment system, which I’ll go into in a future post, perhaps.

There’s the old saying “A truly great (whatever) must wear many hats.” In MYFAROG, think not of classes but roles, and these roles are the many ‘hats’ that the character wears. Everyone starts out as either a ‘Hunter/Gatherer’ or a ‘Peasant’ (of course MYFAROG uses the more appropriate terms “Veiðimaðr” and “Buandi”), but gains new roles throughout their adventures, such as “Striðsmaðr”(warrior), gaining points to allocate and develop skills and attributes along the way.Thule has a complex pantheon and system of high festivals.

Further adding depth and complexity, your character’s birthday is important in determining which gods influence their life, bonuses to divine interaction, and other attributes.There are tables for ways of currying favor with deities (I’ll have to read more on how Favour Points work, cuz it seems that even a moderately devout character can rack them up extremely fast).  Needless to say, if you want to get the full experience, you’re going to need to use a campaign calendar (Varg has provided a sample 28 day lunar calendar).

As you can imagine, I have been a bit overwhelmed by the amount of detail, to the point where I’m still not ready to roll up a sample character yet. If and when I do get a chance to run the sample adventure, I think I’ll use some of the pre-generated characters that Varg provided, and instead just give the players a chance to read up on the world and what their character’s stats all mean, rather than send them headlong into things saying “here’s a book, you’re all playing Jarlaaett with the
Veiðimaðr and Striðsmaðr roles and Byggjandi/Asatru worldview, good luck!” Well, I guess that’s the same thing, only they won’t have to fill out the stat sheets…

Varg himself recommends starting with a stripped down version of the ruleset and slowly adding rules to add complexity to the campaign. A lot of your enjoyment of MYFAROG will be determined by how invested you become in the setting, which should not be hard if you give it a chance. So far, most of what I’ve gotten through is ‘fluff’ rather than mechanic, but by golly, what amazing fluff it is! (Even if MYFAROG ends up on your shelf more than your table, it’s a great fantasy read, so I highly
recommend it.)

I’d also like to mention that it was a ballsy move to make the playtest scenario a wilderness adventure. I won’t give away any details, but “The Demise of Watchmen Island” embodies all of the best moments of Morrowind’s Bloodmoon expansion. It also sets a number of expectations, in my mind, for what MYFAROG should be. Norsemen wage war bravely and heroically, go on mighty hunts, fight giants and monsters who threaten their homes, etc. etc., but don’t spend a lot of time in dark caves and dungeons looking for treasure. There should be some opportunities for dungeon crawling, but looking for treasure in a hole should take a back seat to going forth against incredible odds to outsmart the Ettin and possibly die a heroes death on the field of battle. While Varg mentioned that he didn’t make MYFAROG with minis in mind, this is a perfect game for setting up a wilderness hex map.

As I get through more of the book, I’ll try to review the content, and I DO hope that I get the opportunity to run “The Demise of Watchmen Island” with some folks. When I do, I’ll relay the experience here.

MYFAROG: Varg Vikernes’ (Burzum) new RPG

So, despite poking around on Burzum.org every now and then expecting to see something pop up on the news feed, I’m just now finding that Varg has had a site up since almost the beginning of January this year focused entirely on the RPG he’s been working on.

And the Play Test period is beginning soon!

Just based on the information he’s already posted, his Mythical Fantasy Roleplaying Game or “MYFAROG” looks like it’s going to be fairly brutal for hack n slashers. The combat strives for realism, but as such is complex and unforgiving, thereby discouraging (purposefully so, according to Varg) combat as a first option for problem solving. Plus, as there are no levels, and characters are simply heroic individuals, not super powered plot monsters, the engine looks to force teamwork, cunning and innovative problem solving to take out the sort of monsters who would make quick squishies out of even the most hardened of veterans. Additionally, there won’t be hit-points, but rather some sort of function of toughness (as a calculation of strength, constitution, and size?) vs strength to figure hout the results of hits in combat. In a way, this makes a lot of sense: even if you’ve killed several dragons, that shouldn’t mean that if a dragon hits you really hard you’re going to be able to shrug it off because you’re level whatever; it’s using a crane to crush a fly.

Another point I was interested in was the magic system. Varg has expressed on his Burzum blog that he wasn’t a fan of Vancian magic and that it wouldn’t show up in his game. It sounds like spellcasting is going to be based on a combination of stamina (he says it’s not the same as having spell points, but I guess I’d have to actually see the mechanics of it) and having an awesome beard (seriously, you can depower wizards by cutting off their beards).

He’s spent a lot of time on background and “fluff” a lot of which is available for download on his new page. The font is… unpleasant (I like a cleaner font for anything that will be used for reference). I’ll either get a chance to read it in the next few days or later if it’s included in the PlayTesting stuff.

For the Playtest, Varg is including a sample adventure.

The main questions will be:
How well does combat flow? As someone who has mostly just played older D&D and Exalted, it looks a little overwhelming.
How easy will it be to create for Varg’s system?
Who will be my friend and play Varg’s game with me?

2012 Music Mini-Roundup

There were some great albums that came out in 2012, and I’d like to highlight a few of them. Is this RPG related? I’d say yes, because a lot of these albums are great atmospheric pieces, fit into common RPG themes, or are just plain nerdy as all get out. Of course this list isn’t exhaustive, and I’m sure there are a lot of other amazing albums that came out in 2012, but these are just a few I’d like to bring particular attention to.

Ahab – The Giant
Awhile back, I mentioned that what I’d heard of Ahab’s new album wasn’t that great. I WAS WRONG. The Giant is an absolutely amazing work, a concept album that revolves around Edgar Allan Poe’s Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. The Giant is just as haunting and mystical as Call of the Wretched Sea, but pushes in new and different directions of post-rock influences on the traditional funeral doom formula. If you like songs about the high seas, this album is a must have.

Monarch! – Omens
I’m still not entirely sure what to think of Omens. I enjoy it, a lot, but it remains a bit of a mystery to me. Monarch!’s latest album, Omens is one of the first that is not overtly nautically themed. Or at least that’s how it seems. Unlike the other albums I have by Monarch!, it doesn’t come with liner notes or lyrics, and given Eurogirl’s french accent and vocal style, is not particularly conducive to easy interpretation. Nonetheless, the songs on Omens feel more structured and purposeful than some more meandering previous efforts. Not that meandering is bad, it’s what Monarch! excels at. As much as I like it, I don’t know how well it would stack up against Mer Morte or Dead Men Tell No Tales for use during roleplay.

Burzum – Umskiptar
There have been many mixed responses to this album. The most negative was perhaps Pitchfork’s, which declared Burzum to be an irrelevant old fuddy-duddy who should just hang it up. One of my metal maven friends said “At least as good as Bellus, better than Fallen”. Well, I, for one, loved Fallen. I don’t know if I love Umskiptar, but do appreciate it. Every artist, I think, is entitled to self-indulgence, because if you’re not pleasing yourself, you’re not really creating art. This recitation of the Voluspa set to music (I’m hesitant to call Umskiptar metal; while it is unmistakably Burzum, calling the eclectic mix of folk, martial, and balladry ‘metal’ just doesn’t do it descriptive justice) is clearly something that Varg wanted to do because HE wanted to do it, not because he thought it would be cool, hip or particularly influential to play guitar with a lot of tremolo while reciting the names of around 20-odd random dwarves. If anything, Umskiptar is reflective of Varg’s love of mythology, which has recently taken him back in the direction of fantasy role playing. Varg has been working on his own fantasy RPG, and, based on his previous music and writings on mythology, love him or hate him, agree with him or disagree, it should be very interesting to see.

Towards Darkness – Barren
I don’t really know what to say about this, other than Barren is probably the most beautiful doom album of 2012. Fire up your PIP-Boy, grab a short wave radio and whatever provisions you can. Barren will take you through the end of the world. If you’re like me and like doom metal with a synth heavy rhythm section, you’ll love this album. If you hate hour long albums that only have 4 tracks, you’d probably want to avoid it.

Winter is Coming II Blog Carnival

You may have noticed I’ve got a new image link over there on the right.  That’s because i’m taking part in the Winter is Coming II Blog Carnival that is being hosted over at Dice Monkey.

Be sure to check it out!  I’ll have a guest post up over there on Friday.

Join in the fun!

 

Also, yesterday, Varg  told me that he might grant me an interview about his RPG  when it’s closer to being published.  I hope he means it!