Mr. Pants

I recently fell into a fey mood and felt the desperate need to:

Play Oblivion

a.As a Khajit

i. Named Mr. Pants
ii. Dressed in the finest imperial fashions

b.Who is a lordly swashbuckler

i. using ONLY a Cutlass
ii. wearing NO Armor (see also dressed in the finest imperial fashion)

c.Leveling up only when necessary

i. Stupid Anvil Mage’s guild quest
ii. Stupid Dark Brotherhood
iii. Stupid Dark Brotherhood
iv. Stupid whatever is going to make me level up next

I wish there were an “unarmored” skill like in Morrowind. Eventually I’ll probably enchant my fancy clothes for some shield bonus. Meantime, I’m trying to stay ‘under-leveled’ to where I can handle just about anything with only my blade to defend me.

A follow up…: A few examples of how some fantasy settings handle ‘non-white’ races

This list will be by no means exhaustive or even particularly detailed. But I hope it will be more interesting than those “1d10 Names of random garbage” posts that I see everywhere ūüôā

Just off the top of my head…

Order of the Stick: OoTS takes place in a Multi-ethnic world that for most purposes seems colorblind, at least insofar as humans are concerned, though racial tension is explored a bit through the goblins (green) and hobgoblins (yellow). Features both non-white protagonists and antagonists. Also depicts a number of cross-racial romantic couplings.

Earthsea: Multiple ethnicities exist, though each culture is homogeneous in the pockets they’re indigenous to, except in certain cosmopolitan areas. Features a non-white protagonist and a black side-kick. White people are pretty much villainous vikings through most of the series.

Middle Earth: Oh, my. Despite some claims as such, Orcs are never explicitly said to be “black”, just that they are all (probably, even Tolkien admitted having reservations, as a Christian man, in claiming that an entire race of people was evil, irredeemable and incapable of good) evil and speak the Black Tongue. Easterlings are never explicitly defined as Hun or Asiatic or such, but they’re all pretty much evil barbarians. Same with the Haradrim, except one gathers that they’re Moorish or Arabian and universally opposed to Civilization (with a capital C). I’m pretty sure the Wainriders are Gypsies.

Elder Scrolls: Lots of races here, and a lot of them are pretty racist against each other. But no race is universally defined by their racial traits, at least as personality goes. It is interesting, though, that there doesn’t seem to be much, if any, racial mixing (with the exception of the Bretons, who are apparently all half-elven?). I wonder if there are any black people that aren’t Redguards? Or if there could be a black imperial? “I’m from the imperial province, born and raised!” Too bad, you’re black, so you’re a Redguard.

Dragonlance: Were there black people in Dragonlance? People were pretty uncomfortable around Raistlin because of the color of his skin, but I’m not sure that counts.

Prydain: I’m pretty sure everyone in this was either welsh or a goblin.

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’/’Jarnma√įr’; 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 “Vei√įr”(old) and “Byggjandi”(New), “Sei√įr”(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 “Vei√įima√įr” and “Buandi”), but gains new roles throughout their adventures, such as “Stri√įsma√įr”(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
Vei√įima√įr and Stri√įsma√įr 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.