Sagas of the Icelanders: Episode 4

Okay, first a brief side note. Yes, I’m writing about make-believe and not much more important things today. I confess I’m getting worn out. But I’m in it for the long haul, so I’m pacing myself and that means indulging in less-serious things. If that’s a problem for you, please do unfollow my collection.

We had our fourth session of Sagas of the Icelanders last night, my first attempt at running the game as a campaign and not a convention one-shot. I’m still learning so much as I dig deeper into it as a campaign vehicle.

The big one is figuring out efficient prep. There’s real history and momentum on several tracks in the game at this point, so it’s easy to let some issues subside or percolate for a while while bringing others to the forefront. So when I look at the current situation, what I look for is unaddressed tensions. What do we need to be reminded of from two sessions ago? We usually have one or two major unresolved problems as well, so I try to add one new factor to the unresolved problem to see if that finally shakes something loose.

I’m happy about so many things that came about this session, it’s really hard to point at any one item as the focal point. That I think is what makes campaign-style SotI different than con-style, the fact that there are so many moving parts now.

Some highlights:

* The woman thrall, who got introduced last session, had terrific momentum and really fit into the situation nicely. That was great. I was a little concerned about the player — she’s predominantly a D&D player — but I think SotI has worked its magic yet again and gotten an inexperienced player to really buy in. I point at the accessible melodrama quality of the game. She finally figured out the power of enticing men, playing them against one another, working with limited tools to get out from under the constraints of her slavery.

* The focal point I concentrated on during prep was bringing the question of the unclaimed property to a head. The past three sessions, I’ve been slowly stacking conflicting interest atop one another: the Goði’s greed, his niece-maybe-daughter’s role in the murder of the last owner (her stepmother), the resentful huscarl with eyes toward being more than a bodyguard while renewing his friendship with the goði, the Goði’s little brother and his ambitious wife, the neighbor with the money and staff to actually run the thing. Everyone wants it and the goði finally had to make a ruling. So really it’s The Goði Show, which the player of course is loving despite being painted into more and more corners.

* The “new element” I added to the inheritance problem was the dead wife’s family, who showed up seeking justice in the form of weregeld or blood. Her dad, his huscarl and his son — the twin brother of the dead wife — all arrived on the scene right at the beginning. Everyone groaned and it was hilarious: literally the last people anyone in the game wanted to come knocking. They’re also a spot of hope for the thrall, who entices the grieving brother, succeeds hard, and might actually get bought and emancipated by him at some point. But then later it’s revealed that the brother is married — what a scumbag! maybe! — so who knows. We’ll play to find out.

* The second major thread is the growing supernatural thread that runs throughout the game. At least one of my players reads my threads here so I’m not going to reveal what I’ve got in mind, but they’ve had their first landvættir experiences so that’s interesting. The seiðkona’s dead mother made an appearance and a very dark demand of the old matriarch — “bring me my Rurik” (the goði) she says. The spooky seiðkona continues to be weird and mysterious and is probably my favorite character to play in the game.

* Next session will be winter 900AD, so that’ll be interesting. The Man made the right call taking the Thralls move for his first upgrade: combined with a sudden windfall of sheep, they’ll scrape by. Interested to see what everyone else does with their winter option, because I could legitimately see all of them (retire/die, new character, change playbooks, new relationship) as good choices for anyone.

I have no idea how long we’re going to play but so far so good.

Hope y’all have a great February. Stay sane.

0 thoughts on “Sagas of the Icelanders: Episode 4”

  1. So are you playing with fronts at all? I know SotI has a cool Norse pinwheel for where to put… ‘problems’ on. The way you’re adding one more element feels like fronts, but I think that might just be your instincts for raising the stakes?

    How is the Relationship map feeling? I can’t remember, but did you have a R-map for your Mutant Year: Zero games? Just curious how you feel about it as a tool for long term campaigns.

    The idea to bring the rest of her family to the scene seems natural if you’re staring at a family tree, and wondering where the rest of her family is.

  2. Fronts: uhhhh not really. They’re inspirational. Honestly the fronts/threats worksheets are not well structured, to my eyes. Folks seem to love them! But I haven’t been able to really use them formally. Like I said, inspirational.

    The r-map is fucking awwwesome. I’ve been updating it every session, I’ll post the series as it stands now.

    Re the family: right? That was a big reason I transitioned from a blobby r-map to more formal family trees. There are three of them on the map now, and more will be added. The Man’s (npc) wife’s family, for example, needs to make an appearance soon. Maybe not in the middle of winter — our next session — but in the spring perhaps. Just in time for calamity.

  3. Paul Beakley I actually really like the fronts sheet more than other games! Not the hexagon, the one with columns. “The land and the sea” and “powerful people” and whatnot. I slap some names into those columns and have some moves that help me decide how they act.

    I like the hex in theory, but just don’t really use it.

  4. I did up a “Threat Moves” sheet — that’s the one with the columns — for the second session and haven’t done them since.

    Sagas reminds me of Urban Shadows in that those sub-moves are really hard for me to grasp as moves. They feel more like inspirations than discrete moves. Like…on a miss, I just have a very hard time with “act in secret” as a formal directive. It’s on a totally different scale than “separate them” or “announce future calamity” or whatever.

    I do kind of like that the God fronts’ moves are meant to flavor and color whatever other move is about to take place. That I think I’ve internalized. I haven’t formally divvied up my NPCs among the six fronts, and I suppose I could, but whatever. I do almost always look back at the pinwheel after a session and post-hoc split up my NPCs: so-and-so exhibited stubborn pride, yup. I think I’ve just got the vibe thoroughly internalized at this point.

  5. Paul Beakley totally agree on them being inspirational, but I feel that inspiration is important for sticking to the genre.

    I think we use these things similarly – not as actual moves, but as coloring for the actual moves.

  6. I could see going through the threat sheet process again, see if combinations of gods/fronts + threat meta-moves shakes anything loose.

    What I know I’m totally not doing is constraining the sessions to one or two fronts. I’m sure it would help maintain a tighter thematic focus but that doesn’t seem important for our game.

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