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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Norse Clerics

Norse Clerics are an odd topic for me, they don't exist in a strictly historical setting, so I have to kid of hand wave them in since I have decided to run just a slightly modified B/X game here. The Norse people didn't have a strong tradition of professional priesthood, and especially not any sort of adventuring warrior priests. What temples did exist in the Viking age Norse world were mostly watched over by either professional, stay in the temple type priests, like at Uppsala in Sweden, according to Adam of Bremen; or were members of the local nobility* performing public religious rites for the good of the community. Most religion at the time was home based, not public, and didn't require a trained full time professional priesthood.

History lesson aside, anyone that wants to play a Cleric in D&D probably wants to be able to play the warrior priest from D&D, not a temple bound full time religious or an elected official with some public religious duties, and the Sagas do mention that there were people that were devoted to particular gods. Magic in the Norse world tends to be more sorcery than miracles, but even some of that is religious in nature, kind of, so I guess I can roll with this too. Now, the big three Gods of the Norse religion were, according to the surviving chronicles anyway, Odin, Thor and Frey, with Thor being the most popular, apparently by far. So I will randomly assign a Patron God or Goddess, with the big three being the most common and any others being less likely; except Loki, for whom there is no evidence he was ever worshiped at all, and would be kind of a pain in the ass to have as a party Cleric's Patron; then, unlike how I have done it in the past, I'll assign an Alignment based on compatibility with the Patron God.

Cleric 1-

Ivar Freysman


Starting Coin- 120SP

Equipment-Leather, Shield, Helmet, Spear


Blond, 5'9" 155lbs, 19 years old. Ivar is a golden boy, coming from a good farming family he is devout and open handed. Handsome and well mannered, athletic, healthy and good looking, lucky with the ladies. Fun to game with, even tempered, even when he loses money. Always willing to share his food and drink. A bit wanderlustful. He is a younger sibling in a large family, but he is devoted to both his older siblings and his younger siblings, as well as his parents and grandmother.

OK, Ivar just got pretty awesome stats right out of the gate, he'd have made a good AD&D character. I did away with the Cleric weapon restrictions for the same reasons that I did away with the Thief shield restriction, they didn't really fit the setting. This may come up later if I roll up a Cleric of Thor, but the Norse didn't really use War Hammers, they are more of a later period, plate armor cracking thing, same with Maces really. Clubs are fitting, but really as a weapon of last resort/desperation, so I decided to let go of some familiar D&D weapons and go with a more Viking Age appropriate weapon and armor list, so the Cleric of Thor is probably going to end up using a Spear, unless he can afford better. Also, some may question my decision to make Frey a Neutral God, I based this on a couple of things, first, in the Deities & Demigods book he is listed as Neutral Good, and he is a Vanir nature god, more associated with growth and plenty than with Law in my opinion, he is also associated with Alfheim, which is less a place of the laws of man; he strikes me as more a God that an AD&D Druid would worship than a conventional Cleric, but there you have it.

Cleric 2

Rannveig Freyskona


Starting Coin-100SP

Equipment- Leather, Shield, Spear, 5 Silver Pieces


Brown Hair, 6', 160lbs. 16 years old. The only daughter of a family of horse breeders, Rannveig has 5 older brothers and 6 younger brothers. Tough, but a little clumsy. Rannveig is strong in her devotion to Frey.

Interesting that with a 20% chance assigned to Frey, I have gotten two Clerics of Frey in a row so far. This one didn't do quite as well as her predecessor, but is still a pretty darned respectable B/X Character. The poor Dexterity score is going to hurt here though. I am going to kind of miss the bonus spells for high Wisdom from AD&D though, and so will the party I think.

Cleric 3

Greilad Heimdallsman (an unusual name for a worshiper of an uncommon God)

Con-7 (one of these was a 6 until it got hit by another and bounce off the keyboard)

Starting Coin- 120SP

Equipment- Leather, Shield, Axe, 15 Silver Pieces

Red Hair, 5'10", 215lbs, 18 years old, Greilad is a serious man. He came to this colony when he heard rumors of the unnatural creatures that dwell here, he is determined that no creature not belonging on Midgard will pass into this realm. He drinks only milk or water, so he keeps his wits about him at all times, he eats sparingly, so he does not become drowsy from too much food. He exercises and trains with his weapons daily to hone his skills. He is devoted to duty. He shuns the company of women as a distraction from his duties. He takes no idle pleasures.

Yep, that was min/maxxing, dropping the Strength from 15 to 13 left him in the same bonus category; my first instinct was to drop it from his Intelligence since he really gains no benefit from having the higher Intelligence score. I am tempted to port in the Intelligence tables from AD&D just because they start giving additional languages at 8 Intelligence, which would be helpful for the more well traveled Norsemen, and they don't address literacy, which is irrelevant in this setting (largely). Interesting that I got a non-standard God result too, although it is nice to have a Lawful Cleric option for the party available, I do fear that his low Constitution score will be seen as too much of a weakness, despite his other advantages. Odd Hair coloring and kind of beefy too, I was beginning to wonder if I was going to need to start adjusting my height/weight table; currently weight is linked to height, but everyone was starting to seem a little skinny to me and I was considering breaking out the old Dragon magazine tables that linked weight to height, but modified the whole thing with Strength, Dexterity and Constitution, I was using a much simplified version of that, based on an average height of 5'10" for men and 5'7" for women and then a deviation plus or minus from that.

Cleric 4

Yngvild Thorskona (finally, a Cleric of Thor)

Dex-13 (Here a 1 got knocked into a 5)

Starting Coin- 140SP

Equipment- Chainmail, Shield, Axe


Blond, 6'1", 235lbs, 22 years old, Good looking and well liked. Yngvild was orphaned as a small child and taken in by the local Gothi, if she has a fault it's that she may be too impulsive and trusting. She loves to brawl, feast and sing. She is broad shouldered and tall, she looks like a Valkyrie. She is merciless death on the battlefield.

First off, I can see people questioning me on the Alignment. Thor Lawful? Yes, the protector of Midgard and all mankind gets to be Lawful in the B/X Alignment system. AD&D's nine-fold Alignment system is certainly more elegant when it comes to describing personalities, eh? Secondly, I know I min/maxxed every other Character I created so far to make them more attractive members of their class, dropping the Ability Scores down as far as I could to make them have as high a Prime Requisite as possible within the limits of the rules, but this time I thought it would be better to leave the Strength a little higher and keep that bonus. My dice still in motion rule helped this Character as much as it screwed the last one.

OK, now some Saga based shield tricks for Fighters-

Shield Spin- If you are attacked this round, but missed, you can attempt to lodge your opponents weapon in your shield, then quickly spin it to disarm him. I haven't decided on the exact mechanics of this yet, so I am open to suggestions. For realism's sake we should probably record damage to the shield each time this is attempted, regardless of whether or not it is successful, since you are deliberately damaging your own shield to attempt to disarm your opponent; but I hate to get into that kind of bean counting.

Shield Punch- Stop using your shield for defense for a round and get an extra attack. I am thinking it does 1d6 damage if it hits, but it might cause you to drop your shield. They are only center grip after all. Maybe a Strength check modified by the amount of damage that you inflict? It seems like the harder you hit someone the more likely you would be to drop your shield doing this, but maybe that's too prohibitive.

Shield Rush- Kind of a charge maneuver, just throw your shield up in front of you and smash into your enemy with your whole body. The damage is less than with the punch, but you are not going to drop your shield and you are likely to either knock the enemy down or push them back on a successful attack roll; I am thinking 1d4 damage + Saving Throw or Dexterity Check to avoid the fall/push back, really more useful if I decide to go with the combat grid/miniatures tactical thing. Most people seem to like it, and it works pretty quickly in B/X or AD&D, I am just gun-shy after 3e.

Oh, and what do you do when your Shield has already been Splintered? Your Shield Boss can be used as a makeshift weapon, they do it all the time in the Sagas. I suggest, since it has become essentially a steel boxing glove when the wooden frame is splintered off, that it becomes a weapon that does 1d3 damage for a second attack in the off hand, however you handle two-weapon fighting. Since it's blunt, even standard Clerics could use them and they would do full damage against Skeletons.

*Although sometimes the local nobles sold or gave away the rights to perform those religious duties, they were rather prestigious; also, in Iceland the job was an elected position, but also came with the governing duties.

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