There was the splash of oars and the clash of iron,
Shield smashed against shield,
The Vikings rowed on; hurtling beneath the heroes
Surged the leader’s ship far from the land.
-The First Poem of Helgi Hundingsbani, v.27
For all of their fame and renown as merchants, traders, and explorers, the Vikings are remembered primarily as warriors. Unconventional, unyielding, and ferocious, the centuries in which the Norse raided the coasts of Northern Europe has left them with a legacy that persists to this day. We knew when we were creating the Sagas of Midgard system that Raiding would have to feature, and feature prominently.
Raiding as a game mechanic arose from our experiences with previous game systems, where we encountered the problem of traveling. Not how to travel, per se, but how to make travel interesting. How do you make getting to wherever your adventure will be worth the trip, rather than merely “cut-scening” through the journey (“Okay, it took a month but you got there!”) or having it broken down into a series of relatively meaningless encounters (“Now there’s a bugbear. For… reasons”)?
Our answer to this problem is Raiding, in which you take control of your Settlement’s warband and seek to plunder, kill, and destroy your foes before taking anything that isn’t nailed down (and perhaps some things that are). Raiding is the primary way by which your Heroes will gain Hacksilver, which is the primary currency in Sagas of Midgard.
How a Raid Works
In the Character Creation article we discussed Divine Abilities: the talents granted to Heroes by the Gods in return for the Heroes’ patronage and expenditure of Skill Points. Conveniently, those Divine Abilities are also applicable to the rolls you’ll need to make while Raiding:
Thor (Might of the Storm) grants a bonus to Navigation: the ability to traverse the perils of the sea safely.
Tyr (Natural Leader) grants a bonus to Tactics: the knowledge and charisma to engage in small skirmishes and field battles.
Odin (One-Eyed Wisdom) grants a bonus to Planning: whether before leaving your mead-hall or after seeing conditions when you land, Odin will provide the wisdom needed to hatch a solid plan of attack.
Loki (Light Hands) grants a bonus to Treachery: whether bribing guards to stand down or poisoning the water supply, sometimes getting one’s hands dirty is the best way to achieve victory.
Freyja (Force of Nature) grants a bonus to Scouting: You CAN overcome challenges you don’t know are out there, but isn’t it a better idea to know what you’re up against?
So the character we made last week (Asmund) would have a +15 to Tactics (for placing all of his starting Skill Points into the Tyr domain), and a -10 to Treachery from his title Hand of Tyr commensurate to his penalty to Light Hands. This will also help Asmund’s player define him in the game-world: a capable leader on the battlefield who prefers not to get his hands (or hand, as the case may be) dirty.
How to Run a Raid
As with much of the Sagas of Midgard system, taken simply as a set of die-rolls and exchanging those in the end for Hacksilver will leave many players unsatisfied. That’s why, as a collaborative story-telling experience Sagas of Midgard encourages the Players to take charge of their own warband and Raiding experience and for the Skald (how our system refers to GMs) to provide them challenges along the way that create an exciting story.
Your group may prefer one way or another (to be led by the nose by the Skald or to have a completely open-ended raid experience), but our favorite way to run raids is by running them as Give-and-Take: namely, that the Heroes and Skald take turns choosing which roll to use and what scenario it creates.
To begin your raid, you (or, more likely, your Skald) will find a suitable raiding-spot. This may be a competing jarldom, it could be a monster den, it may be a monastery on distant shores; it could be a foreign capital over land and sea, promising untold riches but heavily defended. In the beginning, your raiding spots will likely be determined by another character in the world; as you grow in power and acquire settlements of your own, you’ll likely have more autonomy.
Each settlement, including yours, is given a Settlement Rating. This represents the difficulty in getting to the town and ultimately raiding it for treasure. For player settlements, this level is derived from the total number of upgrades built in the settlement and is discussed later in this article.
The SR works similarly to the base 10 difficulty ratings found elsewhere in the system: so an SR 3 settlement would have a base rollover of 30, with any bonuses you have from character abilities, artifacts, or settlement bonuses being added in.
Ultimately, the players are trying to do well on the raid to create favorable conditions for their final assault (called the Assault Phase). During the raid, the Skald has two responsibilities: to tell the “Story” of the raid based on the successes and failures of the Warband (dictated by their rolls), and to keep a “running total” of the player’s bonus or penalty to the Assault Phase as determined by the table below:
Fail a raiding roll by:
10 or less: no effect on Assault Phase
11-50: -5 on the Assault Phase
50 or more -10 on the Assault Phase
Pass a raiding roll by:
10 or less: No effect on Assault Phase
11-50: +5 on Assault Phase
50 or more: +10 on Assault Phase
Consecutive Successes and Failures will also “stack” against you, for better or for worse. For instance, if your warband succeeds three times, you will have a total of +30 to the Assault Phase (+5 for the first success, +10 for the second, +10 for all additional in the “streak”). Any failure will “reset” the streak, and consecutive failures work the same way (-5 for the first, -10 for the second, etc).
As an example, let’s raid a Level 4 Settlement: a monastery near a small town that has a very modest garrison.
The base rollover would be 40 (the settlement rating times 10). Asmund’s fellow Hero Badimur rolls a 65 on his Navigation check, taking them safely through the storms. They now have a +5 to their roll on the Assault Phase.
Upon landing, Asmund’s companion Morotar takes a contingent of the Warband to scout the settlement’s defenses: unfortunately, he rolls a 10. The scouting party is discovered, and after a costly skirmish the garrison is led back to the Warband (running toal: +0). Asmund quickly mobilizes the troops and, adding his Tactics modifier to his roll, rolls a 94! The garrison is obliterated (running total: +10 for succeeding by 50 or more).
As Asmund prepares the warband for the final assault, his fellow Hero Floki sneaks into town under cover of nightfall and, with a successful treachery roll of 77 (running total: +20; +5 for success, +5 for a consecutive success), sows confusion and chaos in the town. Asmund looks the warband up and down; the smoke and screams in the distance are their signal that it’s time to assault the town and face their destiny.
The Assault Phase
The king’s palace is an easy place to enter but hard to leave.
–Egil’s Saga, c.69
Once all preparations, scouting, and skirmishes have been done, the moment of glory is upon you: it’s time to sally forth with your warband and attempt to plunder the Settlement.
The Assault Phase is a straight roll, made by whomever the party thinks is the luckiest. Add (or subtract) any modifiers based on your “running total” throughout the raid, as well as any situational bonuses against the Base Rollover of the settlement. In the example above, the roll would be made at a +25, their “running total” at the end of the raid before the assault.
The amount of Hacksilver gained is divided up amongst the Heroes, evenly unless the Heroes choose otherwise. A table is included in the Corebook with all potential raiding rewards.
With our warband raiding a Level 4 settlement, the base Hacksilver would be 40. Depending on their roll during the Assault Phase, the warband could come away with anywhere from 16 Hacksilver (and the sting of overwhelming defeat) to 64 Hacksilver and either a shiny new Artifact or a (slightly destroyed) new settlement!
Failing a raid can make the resulting adventure much more difficult if the players do not already have Favor banked, and fits our theme perfectly; the Norse pantheon respects power, and Vikings who cannot raid will have to work a little harder (and be a little smarter) to be successful and gain glory in the eyes of the Gods.
Settlements: A Place to Call Home
One’s own house is best, though small it may be;
each man is master at home;
though he have but two goats and a bark-thatched hut
’tis better than craving a boon.
Of course, one must have a home to which they can return all of their ill-gotten gains, and Sagas of Midgard allows for this with player settlements. As Heroes grow in power and wealth, they may even find themselves ruling a settlement of their own. Whether they have pledged fealty to another settlement or are running their own, every player receives settlement bonuses.
Settlement bonuses are determined by which buildings within the settlement the ruling class (typically the players) have elected to build. When a windfall of Hacksilver presents itself, settlement upgrades may be built. These raise the effective Settlement Rating of the Settlement and confer a passive bonus to any player who resides there (players may have only one Settlement bonus at a time). These tiered settlement bonuses can provide a boon to raiding rolls (Navigation, Tactics, etc) as well as modest bonuses to attack, dodge, and Hit Points.
Beyond the numbers, though, Settlements help to flesh out the world and give the players something for which to fight. Vikings, for all their ferocity, were also famously hospitable and worked in tight-knit communities, and Settlements help reflect that even though some warriors are greater than others, no one sails alone. We’ve included rules for a “reverse raid” of sorts, wherein the Heroes will have to defend their home from an invading warband. We’ve also suggested ways within the book to reflect this fact and to help make the Settlement a living, breathing place rather than a set of numbers. One of these suggestions is that for every settlement upgrade built, a prominent NPC must be created to run it. This NPC doesn’t necessarily need stats or a detailed backstory; however, it creates a larger cast of characters with whom the players can interact and helps, in our opinion, to make the settlement feel like home.