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
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.
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
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");
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
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
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.
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.
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.