Sagas of the Icelanders: Session 2

Well, the second session went pretty well I think. This was the first time I tried extending the game beyond a one-shot, and it was so interesting to feel my way around that.

Aesthetically, my goal is to make each session feel like a one-shot. I’m going to run one session per season, I think, with a major arc and finale for each. I’ve talked about how to run sessions like one-shots before.

We were down a player (the Man) and up a player, who chose the Wanderer. I’ve never had a Wanderer in play, so it was fun to see that play out. The Wanderer’s schtick is that he brings a Secret into the game, and when he reveals it he gets +1 ongoing until it’s accomplished. That feels like a short-term thing; I assume Wanderers perhaps move on, or just die, or whatever. Ours revealed his Secret, which was that he came to the settlement area to bring the gods back into their lives, that the Goði was (perhaps!) a poor priest (he is).

The original, very messy map
The cleaned-up r-map

The reconfigured relationship map worked well to simplify presentation. It made it really easy to plop the Wanderer into the corner and just draw big red lines as he established relationships in play.

So since this was a second session, I immediately felt how claustrophobic the starting situation was. Folks changed one or two relationships, but not IMO enough to really have “a new situation.” So I sent the story out of the village, with the young seiðkona — the goði’s niece/maybe-daughter, who he believes is “touched by the gods” and kind of can’t take care of herself — kidnapped by Danelander bandits in the hills above the homesteads. I know fuckall about Danish banditry in 900AD so I had to wing a lot. At that point the game largely ran itself: lots of 6- rolls gave me plenty of breathing room to build out the situation and inflict a couple Grave Harms as PCs chased the bandits into the woods. I’m really digging how quick and brutal and tense the rolls are; thankfully, none of my players put up any fuss when they’d, you know, Tempt Fate by chasing armed assholes into an ambush.

Mikael Andersson will be thrilled to hear that I got to put his Fate bond advice to use! After the goði tries to accost the bandits and gets a blade in the gut for his troubles, he’s left alone with his injury, slowly dying, while others run back to the matriarch for help (she’s an old woman, it’s gonna take some time to get back out to where he’s fallen). So the goði is laying there contemplating the night sky and I ask him: “What do you wish the gods would do? If they were listening right now, what would be on your mind?” (That’s me spending the Fate’s bond with him). The player laughs because, oh yeah, he’s definitely been scheming. And he knows that this is no-bullshit straight talk between players. He sighs and says “I really wish Sola would just die, so I can get her land.” Sola is the widow of his older brother, whose death kicked off the first session. There’s been some maneuvering to get the goði and Sola together, but that’s not in his plan at all. So here he is, at death’s door, still scheming. Marvelous.

The Wanderer character is interesting. The player playing him frequently picks up outsider/outcast type characters so I was not at all surprised when he chose The Wanderer. I think he kind of had it in his head that he was above the man/woman move rules, but he’s so not. Maybe my favorite PC-PC scene was where his character needed to save the goði’s life by providing some measure of first aid and couldn’t arrange for that to happen in private. Medicine is woman’s work! So both he and the goði are shamed before pretty much all the settlers. That scene really set up the rest of the session.

So the goði and wanderer, largely reasserting their honor after the medical fiasco, bring the old huscarl along back into the woods to retrieve the witch. The game has no particular support for journeys or, you know, adventuring, which I think is very much to its benefit: it makes me continue focusing on relationships and honor, where the moves are.

The rescue is largely uneventful, with good rolls and lots of forwards being put toward their efforts. I actually liked that it played out this way, because it got them thinking and working together a little more mechanically: they figured out how to line up multiple bonuses and mark their relationships to advance and all that. “The gods have answered our prayers!” says the goði when things line up so well. “The gods answer all prayers, uncle,” says his niece. “Sometimes the answer is no.”

Everyone gets home intact and they throw a feast. To celebrate her return and to hopefully protect her darling oldest granddaughter from future troubles, the matriarch presents to her a gift of a beautiful knife, paid for out of more than half her stash of silver. The matriarch’s player wants a mark and an alliance (it’s one of the matriarch’s moves, I like it very much) and now she has a bond with the seiðkona girl. There are a couple other interactions, mostly Sola making her moves toward the goði — also part of behind-the-scenes scheming between the old matriarch of the house and Sola to hook her up with the oldest surviving son.

Later that night, in the wee hours, the goði’s niece wanders back into his house. She’s holding her grandmother’s beautiful knife and is covered in blood.

“Fura! What are you doing out so late?” her uncle asks. “What’s going on?”

“The gods answer all prayers, uncle,” the seiðkona, touched by the gods, answers. “Sometimes the answer is yes.

I put an X through Sola’s box.

10 thoughts on “Sagas of the Icelanders: Session 2”

  1. Oh oh! PS to Jason Morningstar: We discovered that your Goði playbook is missing the last two moves — Ring of Oaths and Rites. Was there a particular reason they were left off? Given your fondness for the book, I can’t imagine it was an oversight. Just wondering, no big, I reprinted Gregor’s original for him.

  2. !!

    Well, there’s now a lot of interest in the interplay of bonds to and from the gods as a result of this session. We wouldn’t have noticed otherwise, I think.

  3. Paul Taliesin it’s not a rules change, it’s the rules.

    Mikael just told me about best practices. Specifically, to ask the players what they wished the gods would do.

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