Burning some vikings

5 January, 2008 at 11:34 am (Burning vikings, game mastering, roleplaying) (, , , , )

So, I’m starting a Burning Wheel game soon enough. There shall be vikings (without the horned helmets) present. And a giant.

My initial inspiration is a number of Icelandic sagas and the written Beowulf. Second inspiration is a scenario called Fury of Nifur by Eero Tuovinen. Third inspiration is the Beowulf movie. Fourth inspiration is an old campaign setting of mine.

Phil (Chatty DM) asked how much people prepare. I figured that it is as good a subject as any, so my prep thus far: An outline of the starting situation, this being the only place where I write this down. Stats for three potential important NPCs. Some pre-game discussions with one player.

Starting situation

In the distant north (of Earth or some fictional world, doesn’t really matter) there is a lone viking settlement. A raiding party left it years ago. PCs are on the sole longship that is returning. The settlement itself is in bad shape. The former leader, Thorvald, has died and his most trusted companion, Sigurd, has grudgingly taken command. The giant Nifur is threatening the settlement, requiring great ransom to leave. Everyone thinks the raiding party is long dead and gone.

Character guidelines

Some potential player character ideas: A son of Thorvald, possible leader of the raiding party. A warrior who joined the party to show his courage and might. A weather witch to make sacrifices to the gods to grant safe passage across the sea. An exotic ally from some foreign land. A prisoner for ransom, slavery or marriage. A priest of some foreign faith (Christianity, mayhaps), trying to convert the heathens.

In Burning Wheel, all character have three beliefs. My preferred format for them is “What I believe; A concrete goal.” For example: “I am the only fit ruler of this village and will let nothing stand between me and rulership.” “Only in God is there meaning in life; I will convert these pagans.” “Life without glory is worthless; I shall kill the giant or perish in the attempt.” “My former life is gone; I will build a new one in this barbaric wasteland.” “Great heroes deserve great burials; Thorvald will sail to the great seas in a burning ship filled with treasure worthy of his deeds.” “Salvation can only be achieved through the cross; Thorvald shall be buried according to the true holy rites.”

My suggestion for beliefs is that one should be about another player character (as there won’t necessarily be any meaningful party, this is hopefully a good way to keep the player characters interacting) and one should be about the village, the giant or Thorvald (the former ruler). Together these constraints should keep the game focused and characters reasonably intertwined.

Where it might go

I’m waiting for character generation session before any solid stabs. Some possibilities: Giant-slaying, giant-bribing, taking control of the village, trying to fit in, proving one’s identity, dealing with the potentially undead Thorvald (the might or might not go that way), surviving the harsh winter augmented by Nifur’s ravagings.


  1. chattydm said,

    I like this beliefs system, and your request to the players to link one to the setting and one to other party members is a very good idea. It addresses one of the challenge seen in my group:

    While my players want and expect to play as a party, it takes several sessions of shared danger and role-playing situations for bonds to form and a ‘raison d’être’ to be established.

  2. Tommi said,

    Sure beats a group of strangers meeting in a tavern.

    A word of warning, though: It can seem forced and unrealistic to some players.

  3. Phased Weasel said,

    Some of my players have been wanting to start in a less conventional way. Everyone on a boat about to return to a village is close to in media res, I like it. Allows a good variety of types while providing a linked theme. Sounds fun to me!

  4. Character burning: The crunch « Cogito, ergo ludo. said,

    […] at 12:06 pm (Burning Wheel, actual play) This Wednesday I had the pleasure of actually getting the Burning Wheel campaign going. Sort of. BW is an excellent game, but it does have the problem of involved character […]

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