I look forward to DriveThruRPG’s New Year, New Game sale as a chance to get to know new games. That said; it is not possible to judge a book by its cover and it is not always possible to get a feel for a RPG from a description. Authors and game designers who are generous enough with their time to step forward and talk about the RPGs in a little more detail are providing a helpful service.
In this post Andrew Valkauskas of Pendelhaven and author of the game Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok talks about this RPG.
Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok is another of RPGs currently enjoying a 50% sale but there’s only a few days left and so gamers will have to be quick.
Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok is in DriveThru RPG’s “New Year, New Game” promotion. Can you summarize the game for us?
FOTN:R is a complete tabletop role playing game that includes setting, rules and adventure material. This Viking RPG is set during the second age of Ragnarok. During the first age the sun and moon were devoured and a Fimbulwinter fell over the realms. The setting ranges from low fantasy- depicting a crumbling kingdom during the decline of the Viking Age, to high fantasy- Asgard the city of the gods is under siege and its destruction by the ice and fire giants may be imminent. The players take on the role of new heroes that need to fight to survive and perhaps, if the Norns are kind, ascend to legend.
Could you describe the game to experienced gamers?
In order to be true to the genre FOTN:R has replaced the traditional dice with Futhark rune stones. The Runic Game System (RGS) handles all resolution mechanics, from world interactions to combat and skill checks. Runes bring a new element to the game, granting added abstraction that coaxes out more narrative. The runes are broken down into three colours, and these represent three umbrella attributes: red are physical, blue are mental and green are spiritual.
The runes are drawn from a bag of 24 in order to create the dweller. Each player customizes how much Essence (runes in bag that represent life force and skills/powers) and Destiny (number of runes they draw when trying to affect the world around them) they will have. The Essence runes are then bound to powers and skills. As a dweller takes damage (it’s a Viking game, there will be copious unapologetic violence) they will lose runes from them Essence bag, effectively making the wound feel very real. Lost runes won’t be drawn, stripping away opportunities/powers/skills until the runes are healed. You literally feel your dweller’s pain.
You’ll only need a pencil and paper to manage inventory and quest notes… even conditions such as poison and curses are managed by the RGS. For free, the runes can be printed out on stickers and stuck on anything that may have some satisfying tactile weight. We also produce wood, stone and stainless steel runes.
How would you describe the game to groups new to the hobby?
FOTN:R – Fafnir’s Treasure was specifically designed for entry levels players. The Core Rulebook will do the trick, but Fafnir’s is specifically streamlined to ease new players into the hobby. The book is a quick-start adventure that includes a little lore, some light rules, pre-generated heroes and an an iconic adventure that has been written to guide a new Norn (GM) through the experience. The pre-generated dwellers are also written in a way that answers questions before they need to be asked.
What’s your favourite thing about the game?
I think the fact that players can level up in a similar way as their characters is a very cool mechanic. You see in most RPGs, death is the ultimate penalty. However the Viking culture and sagas were driven by epic heroes performing legendary deeds and meeting their end head-on in the symphony of the battlefield. We wanted this translated into game mechanics, not just fluff text. So FOTN:R sports an afterlife mechanic that allows for the very best heroes to ascend to Valhalla or Glasisvellir. If they do, the player levels up and more options open up to them for their next dweller. These unlocked abilities are very party friendly, so everyone at the game table cheers when someone dies and the Valkyries comes to visit. I tell you, we get funny looks at conventions! ;-)
FOTN:R also has 3 (soon to be 4) distinct magic systems and damage types. Each one works very differently giving the players a very unique feel.
What are the 4 magic systems?
The first is Rune Magic: It draws energy from the cosmic tree Yggdrasil and can be evoked in two ways. The first is a permanent effect if scribed on a tangible surface, and the second is as instant effect as the rune sequence is gestured in the air. The second is Seith Magic: Being the domain of witches, it deals with the unseen spirit world. Seith binds angry spirits and compels them to serve the Seithkona for a short while- usually resulting in very violent magical effects. The third is Spell Songs: These are granted through the Mead of Poetry allowing one’s voice to project wondrous effects. These are area effects that range from materializing ghostly hands all the way to evoking crippling nightmares. The fourth one which will be revealed in the next book is Verwandlung Magic: The realm of the Druid, this wood magic alters the surrounding world. The Druid can tap into not only their native realm of Midgard, but they can also summon the essence of another realm. There is also a fifth type of magic that will show up in a subsequent source book.
What are the 3 damage types?
Just like the 3 rune traits, FOTN:R has physical, mental and spiritual damage. Each behaves very differently and a true warrior will understand and strive to master each one. Physical damage is the most common and it is also the one with the highest impact (highest numerical values). The second is Mental damage, it does less damage, but it is a lot more disruptive. Rather than target the player’s rune bag, Mental damage strikes the runes in play, breaking up powers and combos. The last is Spiritual damage, and even though the numbers are less than Physical damage, it is probably the most frightening damage. This type of damage cannot be healed- only time will restore runes lost due to Spiritual damage.
Players will be facing all 3 types and will need to work together in order to prevail. The RGS game design was purposely built in a way to reward cooperation and team play.
Anything else that stands out as different from other games?
Well unlike typical games which deal more damage with critical hits, critical hits deal status effects that are determined by the attack type. Blunt weapons knock foes down making them vulnerable, slashing weapons will hamstring an opponent and piercing weapons will cause opponents to bleed out. There are more exotic critical hit types, but you get the idea. This will set warrior types apart from one another. Warriors will pick weapon types for what they do, defining their combat style.
Has the success of Marvel’s Thor in movies had any influence in Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok at all? Either in terms of demand from players or ideas for the creators.
The movies have definitely helped bring this genre to the masses, no doubt! However FOTN:R is heavily researched from sources like the Icelandic sagas and the Poetic and Prose Eddas. The more recent editions have also drawn a lot from the history books as the 900’s were a very tumultuous period. The real world chaos seemed very fitting for the dark times of Ragnarok. Overall I’ve made a very conscious effort stick with the lore as it is really a treasure trove of amazing tales in its unaltered form. I think the players really enjoy the fact that the FOTN:R universe stands apart from generic fantasy, but I’ll let the players be the final judge.
Why do you think gamers tend to be energized and interested by Norse mythology?
It’s fertile ground for epic tales! The collection of works produced between 200 and 1000 AD has been an inspiration for many notable authors like JRR Tolkein, as well as hit movies, comics and games. The struggle, aggression, romance, mystery, tragedy and humour found in the sagas are very timeless and strike a universal primordial chord. Actually I think a lot of real world mythologies and folktales relate to us in a timeless manner.
Over at DriveThru RPG today you’ve a set of 5/5 perfect reviews. Why do you think the game struck a chord with gamers?
There have been some very kind reviews. I know as a game designer you can’t please everyone, but I am genuinely surprised at all of the positive feedback and generous Kickstarter support. Finding out that FOTN has a sizeable following is what spurred me on to migrate all of the manuscripts into print. Having happy fans puts a strong wind to your sails, propelling you to achieve more than you thought possible.
Deep down I really care about the game, the design and the polish in the final deliverable. My editor told me that it shows through in the final product, but it’s also a double edged sword. I know I have delayed several projects well past our internal due dates because I wasn’t happy with the current state of the deliverable. I think I’ll have to get better at letting some things go in order for us to accelerate all of the products to market. Note: I get daily queries on where we’re at with “Denizens of the North”! ;-)
There is a thread about this on our official forums, so I’ll refer your readers that way. Our growing community is very active, beating me to answering new player questions. I’m really proud of our FOTN:R community. They have really embraced the game and have run with it, creating RGS apps, their own runes and some really cool adventures. Oh, and we also have a silversmith who has started to produce some really cool FOTN:R inspired jewelry!
Are there any plans for new Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok content in 2014?
We have a very ambitious 2014 planned out. We’re hoping to get four new and exciting products out by end of year. I can get into the first three, but the fourth is under wraps for now. We’re going to be announcing the release of “Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok – Denizens of the North” really soon. It was originally envisioned to be a small NPC source booklet, but has grown into a book that is now larger than Fafnir’s Treasure (this is after we pruned a bunch of stuff out and saved it for future supplements). This source book will contain not only interesting personalities for the Fate of the Norns: Ragnarok universe, but also a multitude of special locales, exotic magic items, at least one new playable archetype and a mini-saga that continues the mystery of Evingard.
The second game will be our very first card game. It’s called “Fate of the Norns – Gulveig”, named after a powerful Vanir goddess whose magic brought ruin to Asgard when she intensified avarice. The core mechanic is about bidding and pressing your luck. In fact bluffing goes very much hand in hand with those drivers. It’s a casual game that is targeted at both poker/blackjack players as much as Magic the Gathering players.
The third release (well maybe released before the other two) is “Fate of the Norns – Diviner” which is a companion book to the iron rune sets we have produced. It goes into the futhark runic history, lore, linguistics and divination. We also include a very rules light table-top game at the end that helps players weave an epic saga using their runes.
And of course, our convention attendance will continue to grow in 2014. We may even organize Fimbulwinter Fest again! It’s a winter/Viking themed mini-con that included every form of related table-top gaming (cards, board games, RPGs and minis). Upwards and onwards!
What URLs should people know about?
- There’s Twitter @avalkauskas and we use the hashtag
- The website at fateofthenorns.com and Facebook too.
- You can find our range at DriveThruRPG and checkout our Kickstarters for Iron Runes of Power and the 20th anniversary edition.
Start up a conversation in the comments below.