Falling Star

Adventure Summary - Week 1
In which the Skeggvasons come upon a fallen star

It was nearing Midwinter in Feyjasfjord.  It had been a week since the sun peeked over the horizon; at noon only faint light could be seen in the southern sky.  It would be several weeks yet before she appeared again.

The last few nights, the Northern Lights had been spectacular.  Everybody was up the roof of Skeggvarshold's longhall to watch (and drink).  Gull-Skeggi told the story (again) of the year the linnorm came, spitting fire, destroyed his sheepfold and ate all his sheep.  His son Skodi helped a bit with the telling; Skodi was quite familiar with the shifting details, although he had not been born yet when it happened.

Gull-Skeggi's story halted as the Lights washed over from green to a blood red.  Nobody at Skeggvarshold had ever seen them do that!  Skodi consulted the spirits of the ancestors, and heard a very clear statement that battle was coming.  Gull-Skeggi could not have been happier – maybe he would again go a-viking!  But then Thrag, Skodi's thrall and bodyguard, heard a hissing coming from the east.  And soon, he spotted a light off near the eastern horizon as well – surely the return of that damned sheep-stealing linnorm!

It soon became clear that this was not a linnorm but a falling star, as it whooshed overhead and smashed into the rebuilt sheepfold.  The Skeggvasons strapped on skis and took off to collect any valuable skymetal that might have fallen.  Unfortunately, upon arriving at the collapsed and burning ruins of the wooden structure, they saw that the meteorite wasn't there – it had smashed right through, skipped a few times, and judging from the new cloud of steam it was now lying at the bottom of the fjord.  Quite close to the far shore – Hallgrimson land.  In fact, in the flickering red cast by the Northern Lights they could just make out a couple of folks on skis heading from Hallgrimshold down to the fjord.

This presented a problem, because there was no fast safe way over there.  There is a lovely bridge, which unfortunately has an ice troll living under it.  Gull-Skeggi and Hallgrim have both encouraged the ice troll to stay there, just so it's not so easy for their kids to interact with each other (and, inevitably, kill each other.)  The Skeggvasons considered trying to buy passage, but eventually decided that since they were on skis and the bridge was at the bottom of a long straight run, they could just rush through and probably be ok.  Bjarkur Bolg, the troll, took a swipe at a thrall and missed – so they were right.

They soon arrived at the rocky beach where the Hallgrimsons were in the process of recovering the fallen star.  Present were Skapti the Lame, a doomsayer, Ullveig Helgasdottir, a capable warrior, and a bunch of thralls for doing the heavy lifting.  Skorvir Skeggvason drew his bow, but Skapti countered this by calling up a blinding mist.  Nobody is entirely sure what happened after this, but by the time the mist lifted Ullveig was down, one of her thralls was dead, and Skapti was hurt; but only after that coward had roasted the Skeggvasons with fire magic from inside the safety of his magical mist.  Ullveig had been disemboweled by Skodi's thrall; but Skodi, thinking this was not a fitting way for her to die, healed her.  Skapti had the Hallgrimshold thralls carry her off, and the Skeggvasons absconded with the meteorite after pulling it from the fjord.

Not wishing to risk Bjarkur Bolg – who was undoubtedly now waiting for their return – Skodi, Skorvir, their dog Huginn, and the thrall headed south along the coast into Gunnar's lands.  They first encountered one of his sons, working on fishing nets, and bought passage back home on his skiff.

There was much feasting at Skeggvarshold that morning.

The next night, after Skeggvarshold's smith had determined he couldn't do anything with the fallen star, Skodi, Skorvir, Huginn, and the thrall packed a sled with supplies and headed up into the hills to visit the dwarves of Dvergshol.  The folk of Feyjasfjord often traded with the dwarves in the summer; the main road to them was little-traveled in the winter, but Gull-Skeggi was eager to get this skymetal turned into weapons immediately.

Unfortunately the road to the dwarves went right through Hallgrim's lands, and access required crossing Bjarkur Bolg's bridge again.  Skodi was not keen on this, and instead convinced his brother that they should set off directly into the hills on game trails, then meet up with the road somewhere well north of Feyjasfjord.  The nine-day trip to the dwarves was uneventful, except when the Skeggvasons fell into a barbegazi pit while trying to sneak across their territory.  This could have been bad – the Skeggvasons were skiing at high speed in the dark, keeping on the track only by their thrall's darkvision – but due to their luck and skill they'd managed to bypass the barbegazi alarm, so the ice gnomes were as surprised as the Skeggvasons to find three men, a sled, and a dog suddenly falling through the ceiling of the burrows at high speed.  However, by the time Skodi, Skorvir, and company had dug themselves out, the ice gnomes were upon them – even worse, they'd brought a tame hoar fox, which blasted the entire group with its frost breath!

Skodi's magical healing shortly got the Skeggvasons and dog back on their feet; then Skorvir's arrows and the thrall's claws made quick work of the two ice gnomes.  The fox fled into a warren of burrows beneath the snow.  The damaged and exhausted party quickly threw the gnomes' bodies on their sled and fled.  Rather than risk another ice gnome trap in the next valley, Skodi suggested they head along the ridge and stay in cover.  They saw no more ice gnomes, but this added another day to their trip, meaning they would run out of supplies before they reached Dvergshol.  Skorvir and the dog spent a day hunting, but prey was scarce; the group decided to just go on half rations as needed, and push on to get to the dwarves.

While they ran into no further mishap, when they arrived at the front gate of Dvergshol, they found it closed and dark.  At first the knocker got no response, but with his darkvision the half-orc thrall noticed someone had opened the peep-hole!  It immediately closed; but the gate did not open, nor was there any response.

As the hungry Skeggvasons contemplated starvation on the very doorstep of the dwarves, they heard the call of a horn – a call which slowly turned into the howl of a wolf!  Seconds later, a pack of white-coated wolves came charging down the mountainside just behind them!


House Rules

1. Background
   You are the Skeggvasons, the sons of the Ulfen farmer Gull-Skeggi and his wife Gudrun.  Gull-Skeggi was once a famed viking raider, but since the Linnorm Kings have forbidden that he has taken to farming … and brooding.  Gull-Skeggi's home is Skeggvarshold in the far western Thanelands, near the border with Icemark.  Skeggvarshold is at the center of a nice chunk of arable land around Feyjasfjord.  King Sveinn's grasp is faintly felt this far from Kalsgard.
   Skeggvarshold is one of a sparse cluster of about 20 farms, total population roughly 300.  The land is fertile but unpopular due to the proximity of Kalva, an island of crazed berserkers.  All the holdings are quite well defended, and generally sport a decent wall.
   The PCs don't all have to be descended from or even related to Gull-Skeggi, but they have to live at Skeggvarshold and have some good reason to go on adventures with the Skeggvasons and Gudrunsdottirs if not.  If someone wants to play a thrall we can probably work something out – see 2.D. below.

2. House Rules

2.A. Alignment
   We will be using alignment.  The game effects of alignment are as usual.  The definitions of alignment are a bit different, however, reflecting the Ulfen culture.  Creatures generally will have their usual alignments, but will act according to these rules.
   Here are some example actions; anything not listed here works the same way it does in the standard alignment definitions.

Non-aligned actions
   killing your neighbor in a fit of drunken rage
   stealing from foreigners in their own lands
   killing anybody in battle
   letting an unconscious foe bleed out
   failure to render aid on land

Evil actions
   hiding in the back during a melee (minor)
   killing your own thrall in a fit of drunken rage (minor)
   failure to render aid at sea
   couping an unconscious foe (applies to "people"-type foes only)

Evil and chaotic actions
   turning a house-guest over to his enemies
   not announcing that you have killed your neighbor in a fit of drunken rage ("secret murder");

Lawful actions
   accepting wergild for a wrong someone has committed against you
   accepting the judgment of a court against you without starting a fight
   turning away an outlaw who you might otherwise have reason to help

Chaotic actions
   refusing to accept wergild, demanding vengeance instead
   helping an outlaw (in addition to being chaotic, to do this risks outlawry yourself if found out; because of the risk involved it can be a good action as well as chaotic)
   rejecting the judgment of a court against you

Good actions
   fighting bravely at great risk to yourself
   going to a lot of trouble to aid a house-guest, particularly one not related to you

2.B. Character generation
   – 20 point buy

   – everybody get Handle Animal as a class skill and a +2 farmer bonus at it as well

   – the number of negative HP at which you die is higher than the default: it is – 5 – max(CON, 10) – 1 per level so for example someone with 8 con and lvl 3 would die at -18 instead of -8; someone with 15 con and level 1 would die at -21 instead of -15.

   – some races will need a good reason to be here.  Gull-Skeggi is human; his children are mostly human although half-elf or half-orc could be half- siblings acquired when he was out viking in his youth; half-snow-elf half-siblings are certainly reasonable as well.

     Halflings: quite rare around here; one could maybe be a thrall that Gull- Skeggi captured in his youth on a viking raid.

     Gnomes: Fey is very close here, so there are some gnomes; they generally don't live with regular folk, though – too weird.

     Elves: there are mostly snow elves in these parts, which are for game purposes elves with the Arctic template.  Snowcasters from northern Icemark have their own very different culture, but they trade with the Varki and sometimes even with the Ulfen.  Snowcasters ("kaldalfar" in Skald) would be very unlikely to live on a human farm.  Normal elves are "lysalfar".  People are aware of rumors of evil dark-skinned elves called "svartalfar" that live under the earth, but you have very likely never met one.

     Half-elf: fine, see above ("hafkaldalfar" or "haflysalfar")
     Half-orc: fine, see above ("haforkken")

     Dwarves: there are plenty of dwarves about, there's a big settlement just a couple of days ride up into the mountains.  Folks hereabout trade with them.  It would be a little weird for a dwarf to be a permanent resident at Skeggvarshold, though, why wouldn't he live with his own kind?  Dwarf culture is basically the same as the local Ulfen culture regarding alignments and such.  They are called "dvergar" in Skald – the evil-type traditional D&D duergar are not known hereabouts.

     More exotic races: almost certainly none of those around here.

  – similarly, classes that require a lot of schooling (like Wizard or Magus) are going to be thin on the ground.  It's not clear how a Skeggvason could possibly have gotten wizard training – maybe a thrall, captured in some distance land, could have.

2.C. Names
   Male children of Gull-Skeggi have the surname Skeggvason (their father's full given name is Skeggvar).  Female daughters of Gudrun, the matron of the house, have the surname Gudrunsdottir.  Thralls have no surname.  People who don't fit into one of these categories either have a surname from some other family in the area, or a Deed Name based on something they did.
   Skeggvar is called Gull-Skeggi because he was as peripatetic as a seagull during his years of viking.  Or so he says now.

   At least two players ought to play Skeggvasons or Gudrunsdottirs.

2.D. Thralls
   Thralls are slaves, but are generally well-treated and have the prospect of eventual freedom.  The children of thralls are free.  You can become a thrall if
  – you are captured in battle and nobody pays your hostage-price
  – as punishment for certain serious crimes
  – you are captured on a viking raid in foreign lands
  – you incur a large enough debt to someone that you can't pay
Debt- and punishment-based thralldom generally has a fixed term, not "life".  Because your thralls might be your neighbors' relatives, and will someday be free members of the community, people generally don't treat them too badly.  
   Thralls are expected to fight in defense of the homestead but not expected to fight otherwise, i.e. in raiding parties.  The exact relationship between a thrall and his masters varies a great deal from case to case.  A thrall who volunteers to help on raids will be more respected and may well be freed early.
   If any players want to be thralls, they will be assumed to have a pretty good relationship with the Skeggvasons.


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