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Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 29th is a break day in the A-Z Challenge

So I thought I'd write about a couple of other things that have been on my mind for the last few weeks while I have been doing all this Norse research work, which really wasn't all that hard for me because I am pretty into Norse stuff anyway. Next year though, if there is an A-Z challenge in April, I will think to pick a subject that has more letter options.

But I am digressing from my original point here, which was to NOT write about the Norse A-Z topic I picked this year and instead write about the other things that have been creeping into my brain during that time. First there's the whole Star Trek and Klingon Assault Group thing, both Star Trek gaming, mostly through Star Fleet Battles, but also a little through the FASA RPG have been a big deal for me and my game time in the past. The Klingon Assault Group, while it coincides slightly with the gaming, is another beast altogether. I want to recruit people to KAG, because dressing like a Klingon and acting like a Klingon is awesome fun; but I guess only if you are part of a particularly brave subset of Trekkie.

I have also been slowly working on my own realization of the 1985 TSR AD&D 1st edition Oriental Adventures book. I wrestle with some of the core ideas presented in that book, and I go back and forth over whether or not the book was too ambitiously focused on presenting an entire fantasy east Asia, while still being concentrated on Japan, or if they weren't ambitious enough and should have gone further in their attempt to include everything Asian with the same "kitchen-sink" approach they gave the western world with "regular" AD&D. As it stands, the book is a mostly Japanese game that could not decide on it's focus; was it going to be about court and intrigue? Those skills (sorry, proficiencies) were presented for the first time in any D&D product in the OA book. Was the game about serving a Lord or Clan or a Temple even? That's kind of implied in several class descriptions, but no real advice was given to the DM about how to make a well balanced party work together if it included, for instance, a Samurai, a Ninja and a Sohei. The "normal" adventuring paradigm of AD&D was broken in OA, and no fixed replacement was offered.

Add on top of that the fact that the game had a real issue deciding whether it wanted to emulate a Chanbara film or Ninja film or a Kung-Fu film and we have a problem. Many of the classes don't work well together, and, even if you are not a Monk, you can easily become a martial artist deadly enough to out class the party Samurai, as I saw in my last OA campaign when the Yakuza character took Tae Kwon Do instead of weapons proficiencies. The Wu Jen spell list is inadequate, and while I intend to reverse engineer that list from the 3e compatible magic books I snagged off Ebay that were designed for Rokugan and the Legend of the Five Rings Setting, I can only come to the inescapable conclusion, despite my love of 1st edition AD&D and my nostalgia for Oriental Adventures and the fun campaigns that I have played using those rules, that AEG and L5R were better conceived and better designed than the rush job that I suspect that 1st edition OA was. The best thing I can say about 1st edition's AD&D Oriental Adventures is that it is far superior to the abortion that was 3e OA.

There are gems in the 1st edition OA books, I have seen mentioned on other blogs recently the Yearly,Monthly,Daily events tables. The court game might have worked if they had separated out weapon proficiencies from the "peaceful" ones. The Samurai class might have been less the super class that it was if it hadn't gotten a requirement to specialize in two weapons, something BANNED to every other class. The Kensai, which should be spelled Kensei, needs a total reworking, it is a valid class idea, but screwing him over by never letting him wear any armor OR have a magic weapon of his "chosen" type blows. The two "Cleric" classes of OA both suck though, the Sohei is just a second class Fighter until finally receiving some spells at 6th level? The Shukenja (which should be spelled Shugenja) can't fight anything BUT spirits? Ninja as a "Split-Class" = dumb idea, easy enough to create a Shinobi class, I did it once and I can do it again.

Currently I am reading a lot of Japanese history, watching Samurai movies about the Sengoku Jidai era and reading books about the Samurai and Bushido written during the Tokugawa era, while I am not reading and studying up on Norse history and lore. Obviously, I think the focus of Oriental Adventures should be on Japan and Japanese history and mythology, more focus is better. This is why OA1: Swords of the Daimyo was such a good sandbox to play in, it ignored all of the other nations of Kara-Tur, except for brief mentions. I think every single copy of Oriental Adventures should have come packaged with that module, although the adventures presented are weak.

The other thing that has me feeling nostalgic is my old Steppe Warriors guild, I recently spruced up our Facebook tribute page a bit, and I tried to get in touch with some of the old guys that I lost contact with over the years. AOL's Neverwinter Nights did go offline in July of 1997, we tried a few other online games, even text based ones, but none had the awesome community of AOL's NWN. We weren't there for long, and the core of us were local to the Oswego county area, which is why it was easy for us to have our reunions, at least in the beginning. But I miss all those guys, even the ones I have fought with over the years; and it kind of makes me sad that I never did get around to playing that Steppe Warrior campaign that I always wanted to. I even have a good idea for it now, but we've scattered to the four winds, and the ones left in the area mostly don't talk to each other anymore. Upstate New York's greatest export has always been it's people.

Now, lastly, I have a Dawn Patrol play report that's more than a week over due. We had decided the last time we played that we were sick and tired of random encounters with Fighters versus Two-Seaters and the whole "I fly straight for six squares to complete my mission, now try and shoot me down before I get home" BS. So we just decided on a Fighter engagement, and randomly chose French or British to engage the Germans; then rolled a die to advance the war a number of days. Since I got thee time wrong, and was running late to start with, all of this was taken care of before myself and John even made it to Big Darryl's house.

The date was February 10, 1917. Two Fighter patrols ran into each other deep inside German held territory. My son John and I played the French, we were flying Spad VIIs and the two Darryls were playing the Germans who were both flying Albatross DIIIs. Darryl Jr. was playing his pilot Vizefeldwebel Oskar Schaeffer, who was flying his second mission. Darryl Sr. was playing his pilot Oberleutnant Erich Von Reinstadt, who was flying his 10th mission. John was flying his pilot Lieutenant Guy Bernet and I was flying my pilot, the Serbian volunteer, Lieutenant Vaclev Petrovic; Lieutenant Bernet had two missions and was deemed the flight leader.

Now is the part where I wish I had written this out while it was clearer in my memory, I took a few notes, but I didn't bring the mission logs home with me, maybe I should do that in the future.

The mission started out well enough for us Frenchmen, we were all at high altitude and the Spads outperform the Albatrosses at pretty much every altitude anyway, their only advantage is their dual Spandau guns, which are deadly. We closed to dogfighting range and ended up in a line firing at each other's tails, poor Darryl Jr. in the lead with no target, everyone took a little bit of damage, except me, because I was in the back. It got a little chaotic then, it broke into two dogfights that kept running back into each other, we ban overt table talk during the game, but we can give some pointers about rules and tactics to newer players like John or Dalton (who didn't make this game). Sadly, seven turns into the game Schaeffer scored a critical engine hit on Bernet's plane and it exploded.

Now, completely out of character, it was the luckiest of hits possible, and I felt kind of bad because I shot down John the last time he played (while he was playing MY pilot I might add), so the poor kid has played twice now, and gotten shot down twice. He's a quick learner and he didn't do anything wrong here, except be unlucky; yes, if he stuck around he might have gotten shot down anyway, he was the least experienced player in the game, but I really hope it doesn't sour him on Dawn Patrol.

At that point, outnumbered two to one, you might think I'd just cut and run for my lines, right? Nope. I stuck it out for another ten turns. I'd like to say it was purely for vengeance for my downed comrade, but part of it was also because I was, up until that point, the only one in the group with a legitimate kill scored on another player, so I was trying to shoot Darryl Jr.'s pilot Schaeffer down to keep my record intact. I almost had him a couple of times, I missed at 50' range twice, my guns jammed once, and I had to do all this while evading the other Albatross DIII, not always successfully. Not all the bad luck went in the favor of the Germans, there were a couple of occasions where I almost certainly should have been shot down, both of my wings had sustained a lot of damage and my engine was two hits away from gone, I was just incredibly lucky on critical hit rolls.

In the end, I shot Schaeffer's plane up pretty bad, and Von Reinhardt had some minor damage too, but I was in a position where, if I stuck it out any longer, I was most likely going to give the Hun another aerial victory. I managed to maneuver so that I was pointed towards home and they were either too far behind me or pointed in the wrong direction, and broke for home. My plane had sustained an incredible amount of damage in the fighting, but luckily only one, relatively minor critical hit, to the wing. My Spad was still faster and more maneuverable, so they gave up the chase and the game was over. Lt.Petrovic added a mission to his resume, Vizefeldwebel Schaeffer added both a mission and a kill, and Lt. Von Rienhardt added another mission to his pretty impressive score.

So, if you live in central NY and you have an interest in playing Dawn Patrol, or helping to fix the bugs of 1st edition AD&D's Oriental Adventures through campaign play, or want to play in a B/X Norse campaign, or are interested in alpha-testing a B/X D&D World War II game, or are an old Steppe Warrior from AOL's NWN or one of the other Ordus like Nyrthellan's Woods or The Realm or Everquest or one of the eight million Facebook games we played as a group, or are interested in Star Trek, especially Klingons, but not limited to them, leave me a comment and I'll get back to you.  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 28th Y day

Y is not a huge day for the Old Norse theme, although at least two of the words are pretty significant.

Y is for Yggdrasil, the "World Tree" which literally means "Steed of Ygg", which may be a by-name of Odin, in which case Yggdrasil would be the tree from which he hung as a sacrifice for nine nights to learn the runes presumably. Yggdrasil is an Ash tree and the Aesir go there daily to make judgments. A dragon gnaws at it's roots, a stag eats it's leaves; it connect all of the nine worlds.

Y is for Ymir, the primal giant from whom almost all life sprung. The entire universe is made from his body, before him there was nothing. Giants were born from his sweat, dwarves from the maggots that swarmed upon his dead flesh. The gods were related having been born from the great cosmic Cow Audhumla, who licked Buri, the first of the Aesir, from the ice of Ginnungagap, where Ymir also spontaneously formed. Either way, Ymir is the father (and mother) of the race of Jötnar, and also a forefather, presumably of the races of both the Aesir and the Vanir, since Audhumla only licked Buri from the ice, and both Ymir and Buri were nourished by her milk. Eventually, Ymir was killed, possibly by Odin, and his body was used to create the universe and pretty much everything in it.

Y is for Yngvi, which is another name for Frey, who is sometimes called Yngvi-Frey.

I didn't actually get to go to the gaming convention I have been pimping here on my blog today, apparently buying a new vehicle drains all your excess "fun" funds away, so I hope that anyone who did get a chance to go to Arcon XI had a good time. It kind of bums me out too that I pre-cancelled my B/X game for tomorrow for the convention and now I can't go, but I guess that's the breaks when you are a grown up. Maybe I'll actually get around to painting some miniatures tomorrow?

April 27th X Day

Truth be told, I got nothing here folks. There is no Old Norse letter X, and damned few words to cheat with, so when it was suggested that I go with Xenophilia and Xenophobia as cultural traits among the Norse, how they interacted with various other cultures they came across, I have to say I was really tempted by this easy out, so here goes.

They seemed to have some really xenophiliac tendencies towards both the Byzantines and, at least as trading partners, the Arabs. They also seem to have really had it in for, in a really xenophobic way, the cultures that they most resembled, the Anglo-Saxons, the Irish & Scots, the Franks and other Germanic tribes, and let's not forget the poor Slavs. They also had really super xenophobic tendencies towards their nearest non-Indo-European speaking neighbors, the peoples of the Baltic countries, the Finns and the Lapps, who might as well have been martian sorcerers to the Norsemen. They were also none too fond of the Inuit and whatever other Native American Indians they ran across.

What it comes down to though is that they seem to hate everyone near them, that has shit they can take, or whom they can dominate; regardless of cultural similarity or how foreign, exotic or strange your culture might be. They could literally speak with the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants of England, if both parties spoke slowly and used simple words, the languages had not diverged enough to make that big a difference yet, they were still about 30-50% mutually comprehensible, and they still committed atrocities on a grand scale there, against a people that they had a shared cultural heritage with, a shared corpus of oral tradition and mythology. When the Viking Age began the last of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms had converted to Christianity perhaps roughly a century earlier.

The Irish and the Scots and the Welsh, who all had similar heroic traditions were treated much the same as the Anglo-Saxons and, while their languages were certainly different enough to be absolutely unintelligible, the cultural similarities were certainly abundant, and they too had only been Christian for, depending on which country, at most a few centuries, and in Scotland's case it was still relatively new, like in England. But the British Isles got stomped, raped, robbed, and eventually settled, their people enslaved to the point where half of the DNA in Iceland is Irish in origin.

The Lapps, and the Finns and a bunch of other Balts ended up on the short end of the raiding and enslaving too, or were just conquered and forced to pay tribute, or were colonized. That happened to the Slavs too, that's where Russia comes from. The Franks got their share too, Normandy isn't just a cool name for a place to invade in WW II, Norsemen took that land by force and then forced the French Kings to legitimize it by making them Dukes.

But if you are far away strong and wealthy, like the Byzantines or the Arabs, the Norsemen loved you. You got to be a trading partner, they might serve as mercenary soldiers for you, the sky is the limit, although the odds were good they'd try their hand to see how tough you were at least once before deciding on whether a subordinate role was OK.

The fact of the matter is they traded with all the same people the hated and raided too. They weren't exactly racist either, although they had a preference for blue-eyed blondes. There was an entire "race" of half-breed Irish-Norsemen called the Gille-Gall, the "Sons of the Foreigners", the Irish hated them, not the Norse, so they rejected Christianity and came over to the Norse Gods of their fathers. In Russia a Half-breed dynasty, the Rurikovich ruled over Kiev, and apparently became Czars of Russia until 1605.

The only place I can think of where their xenophobia really got the better of them was the Greenland colony, they refused to adapt to Inuit methods to survive, and attempted to cling to their own clearly failing ways. That said, it is entirely possible that the Inuit got sick of their shit and just wiped them out. I guess you can only take being referred to as a Skraeling so many times, especially when you figure out what that word means.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26th W Day

I am not holding out a lot of hope for W day, since W is not an Old Norse letter. I am going to have to cheat some to get anything here today. I guess I have two choices here, I can either start stealing similar words from Old English, and explain how they fit the Old Norse world view because they are "cousin" cultures, but I think I covered most of those concepts already with the actual Old Norse words; or I can just throw out a few modern English words and explain the ways the Norsemen used those things or concepts. I think I'll go with the latter.

So W is for Weapons, and in my B/X Norse campaign the most common weapons currently are Spears and Axes. Not a single PC was wealthy enough at the start of the game to afford a Sword. I did this deliberately to reflect the higher prices and prestige of the better weapons and armor. Knives aren't exactly uncommon either, but the main weapon in the party is certainly the Spear, which is reflective of Viking Age reality.

W is for Women, and it's a damned good thing women have a decent status among the Norse, because over half of my players are women. In the Norse world women might not be exactly equal to men, but it's as close as it's going to get until roughly modern times, so it makes it a little easier for me to maintain my historical veracity AND not piss off over half the party, try doing that with a game set in, say, Ancient Rome. That being said, my Garnia campaign world being populated by Ancient Celts has roughly the same set of advantages, and my old Steppe Warrior Mongol online gaming guild also has a pretty good standard of treatment for women based on the actual treatment of women in the Mongol empire.

I am actually more worried about tomorrow, because X day is, as near as I can tell, going to be impossible for me to do and maintain any semblance of my Norse theme.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25th V Day

This should be an easy day, since I am running a Norse campaign, and it's V day I know I get to do Vikings anyway. The odd, shifting weather here has left me kind of sick and tired though and not really feeling it, plus I know I won't be playing this weekend because I have talked every single gamer I know into going to the local gaming convention at SUNY Oswego, Arcon XI. Seriously, this con has the shittiest advertising on earth, I made it to Arcon I and II, only because I had a friend still going to SUNY Oswego AND I still bought my gaming stuff at the Oswego Comic shop, which gets a flyer for the con roughly 2 days before the convention. They advertise on the stealth principal, I was a sanctioned Hackmaster GM for Oswego for years AND they wanted to run sanctioned Hackmaster events there, and I never got a call or an email. But once you get there it's pretty good.

So, anyway, V is for Viking, which is a verb, not a noun. You go viking you are not a Viking, etymologists can argue about what the word originally meant, what it's original derivation was, but I think we all can agree that it came to mean "raiding by way of the sea".

V is for Vættir, which are supernatural spirits of any kind, really a catch-all name for everything from Aesir to Trolls and everything in between. Mostly people speak of the Landvættir though, the spirits that inhabit all the trees, rocks, water and everything else around us in the natural world.

V is for Valkyrie, the choosers of the slain. Wagner probably makes them out as somewhat more angelic and beautiful than their names and the stories about them would seem to suggest.

V is for Vanir, the "other" Norse Gods. Their cultic centers would seem to be more prevalent in Sweden than in western Scandinavia.

V is for Valhalla, the "Hall of the Slain", one of the places where humans get to dwell after death in Asgarð.

V is for Vanaheim, the homeland of the Vanir.

V is for Vitki, which technically means something akin to "wise-one" or "sage", but carries a real connotation of Wizard, and that's how I intend to use it in my campaign.

V is for Valknutr- this funky, cool symbol.

Well friends, I am beat, I had another six entries I deleted because I didn't feel like typing them out, maybe after April is done I'll go back and cover all the Norse stuff I cut out for time and space concerns; or maybe I won't. Sometimes I get mercurial and I have a lot of other gaming stuff I am peripherally working on too. This is what happens when I get too many weeks off from my D&D game in a row. I was all set and ready there, chomping at the bit; now I am picking up old projects, dusting them off and fixing them too. We'll see some new OA stuff coming from me soonish I am thinking, because everyone else working on the project seems to have stalled out.

April 24th U day

I am not going to lie, I don't really feel good today. We have had snow, sleet, hail and freezing rain on and off all day and I spent half of my day tracking down a new Minivan and putting it on the road. Oddly, it looks pretty much the same as my old Minivan, which was a silver Dodge Grand Caravan, this one is a slightly newer silver Plymouth Grand Voyager. So I am not really feeling U day here at all, so it is fortunate that it is not an important letter day.

U is for Úlfhéðinn, an Old Norse word for a warrior that usually fought alone and often at night. Rumor has it that they specialized in long range operations behind enemy lines. Úlf means "Wolf" and Héðinn means "Skin or Jacket"; kind of sound like a Werewolf to anyone? They also apparently have a special dedication to Odin.

U is for Ullr, a God of the Aesir, strongly associated with hunting, winter and skiing. He is another candidate for one time king of Asgarð that Odin supplanted. He may also have a female counterpart named Ullin, with pretty much the same attributes. Also, while it chronologically doesn't fit, he is said to be the son of Sif and the step-son of Thor. He also has a dwelling at Ýdalir.

U is for Útgarðr, which stands for the "outer-enclosure", or pretty much every place that is not under the control of Gods or Men or Elves, a periphery full of shady characters like Jötnar and Thursar and Trolls and all manner of ill meaning Vaettir.

On a personal note, I am thinking that I need to be playing some more games, wargames, RPGs, doesn't matter. I know Lee wasn't super into my OA game, and that kind of threw that whole project under the bus, I am thinking about doing some more with that. Dalton has a D&D group in Oswego, I'd like to meet and maybe they'd be interested in picking up where we left off before. My B/X Viking game keeps getting bad luck in the way of gaming, what were the odds two of us were going to have vehicles die last week? We have a gaming convention at SUNY Oswego next weekend, so I am going to go to that Arcon XI, maybe I'll meet some more local and interested gamers there too. I also have my grand Mongol RPG/Wargame crossover that's been on a back burner for a long while that I'd like to start working on and my Dawn Patrol group said they'd be receptive to play-testing my B/X World War II game, so I guess we'll see which of these catches, eh?

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23rd T Day

T day is probably the last really tough Norse themed day to do, so I figure even if I start late, like seems to be the case with all my posts lately; I'll probably not have to cut too much content. Not like poor S that got totally shorted.

T is for Thegn, an Old Norse word for a free person, that is someone who was neither a Thrall (serf) or a Jarl (lord).

T is for Thor, a God of the Aesir, the son of Odin and Jorð, easily the most popular god of the Viking age among the Heathen Norse. He is the protector of Asgarð and Miðgarð, and took pride of place in most temples, front and center, between Odin and Frey. He is the patron of common born men.

T is for Thing, a combination of a democratic assembly meeting and law court; usually with a wide variety of social and religious functions thrown in for good measure.

T is for Thrall, the unfree class in Norse society. They may have been born to this status, or they may have been captured and had it forced upon them. It is an unpleasant fact of history that many societies have relied on unfree labor, we modern Americans associate this strongly with racism. There wasn't really a strongly racist element to Norse Thralldom, and there was upward mobility to freedom, although it was usually rather difficult. I hesitate to translate Thrall as "Slave", because it is more akin to "Serf", although the methods by which you may have entered Thralldom may certainly have been similar to becoming a slave, and, unlike Serfs, you could be sold along to someone else, although that was really more a thing that happened in the actual slave markets they set up for dealing with foreign slave traders, to sell captured people. So it's a fuzzy distinction, if you were born a Thrall in Norway, you were probably better off than if you were captured in Scotland or Russia and sold off in Dublin or Kiev.

T is for Tyr, a God of the Aesir, the one that sacrificed his hand to uphold his oath to Fenrir. He is widely associated with order, justice, stability, courage, honor, and truthfulness. Some say that he was once ruler of the Aesir, but he lost his place to Odin. Some say he has a wife named Zisa, who shares many of his traits.

T is for Trade, the activity for which the Vikings are NOT widely known, yet indulged in at least as much, if not more than the whole raiding thing.

T is for Thurs, a type of supernatural being, a giant, that is strong, surly and generally stupid. They are hostile to the Gods and to men, and to pretty much everything that isn't their own kind. There are several "orders" of Thursar, Fire Giants, Frost Giants and Trolls.

T is for Trolls, the most important thing to remember about these guys, aside from what I said about Thursar in general, is what Tolkien wrote about the in "The Hobbit", these boys are extremely photosensitive. There was a recent Norwegian movie called "Troll Hunter" that covered the same topic.

This stuff came in the mail today-

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 21st S Day

Just for the record I should have been gaming on Saturday the 21st and wasn't, because my minivan had the temerity to die on me. I not only had a game (Dawn Patrol), but a back-up game (Axis & Allies) if the first fell through, which it actually did. So I spent most of the day sitting around the house, feeling sorry for myself, because I couldn't get my game on and my only means of transportation had died right after I filled the gas tank. To make matters worse, one of my B/X game players also had his truck die this week, so I was probably going to have to cancel my B/X game for today, the 22nd, since I am the ride for yet another of the players. So I took Saturday off from blogging my April A-Z Challenge, because I knew Sunday, today, would be a blog break day anyway, and I was unlikely to get a D&D game in with two or three, maybe four of the players not here.

But then I got a call from my dad, reminding me that since he's been driving me to doctor's appointments and out for groceries this week, that he'd like a little bit of labor service from me and my kids on today, pretty much regardless of what our plans are, so there you have it; I don't even really get the choice to make the call to cancel my B/X game, instead it's slave labor Sunday, despite the fact that I just hooked up his new, giant flat screen TV on Friday. So, now, it's not that late, but I am tired so you are getting an abbreviated S day. Sorry.

S is for Sif, a Goddess of the Aesir, wife of Thor, most well know for having her head shaved by Loki.

S is for Skáld, which is, more or less, the Old Norse word for Bard. The compose and recite poetry and music and are, essentially, oral historians.

S is for Skraeling, an Old Norse word the means something like "Screaming Wretch", in the sense that they are scrawny, weak, or primitive. The word was used to describe both the Eskimos and the Native American Indians that the Norsemen encountered in the Sagas.

S is for Slav, the tribes of Slavic speaking peoples of eastern Europe. So many of them were taken as slaves by the Vikings that the word for slave in many European languages is derived from their tribal name, previously the word for slave was derived from the Latin Servus.

S is for Surt, the bad-ass Fire Giant that Frey gets to fight with an antler, and will pretty much end the nine worlds with fire at Ragnarok.

I'd be remiss not to mention that SUNY Oswego has a gaming convention coming up next weekend too, I have mentioned it sooner, but their stealth scheduling has always made this con sneak up on me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20th R Day

Also known as "weed-day" to pot smokers across the USA and Hitler's birthday to historians and, I suppose, neo-Nazis, everywhere. Unlike P and Q, R actually is a significant letter in Old Norse so I may actually end up cutting some stuff for space, but since my minivan died, I have more time to work on this today, so maybe not.

R is for Ragnarök, we may as well get the big one out of the way first, eh? First off this represents "the outcome of destiny" rather than "the twilight of the gods", it is more the completion of one cycle of events than the end of everything. New Gods arise, mankind is renewed, things will be rebuilt. Secondly, it arrives very late in the corpus of Germanic lore, so it is very likely to have been heavily influenced by Christian tales of Armageddon. I have issues with the idea of a Norse apocalypse just because setting it in motion changes the character of Loki from well meaning, but occasionally foolish or weak, Trickster and friend of the Aesir to Norse Satan and 5th Columnist for the Jötunn; I don't see it. Sure, I can see Loki having the monster children with Angrboða, pretty much every one of the Aesir is boning some Jötunn chick, but Odin is a little more savvy than to keep Loki on staff if he can see what's coming, and he can.

R is for Runes, a big number two on the Norse significance list. They are both an alphabet and a mystical symbol system used for magical purposes. I kind of covered them under Futhark a bit and under Galðr some. There were actually a number of different variant runic alphabets in use across the Germanic world, mostly pretty similar to each other but always adapted to the languages of the people that were using them, the Anglo-Saxons used a runic alphabet called the Futhorc for instance, there were Frisian runes and Norse runes and the ever popular, and I am not really sure why, except that it is "ancestral" to other runic alphabets, the Elder Futhark- often referred to as "The Viking Oracle" or some such nonsense; especially considering the Vikings were using the Younger Futhark when the were using runes at all, and there is very slim evidence that the Norse used them in any kind of oracular way.

R is for Rune stones, which, unlike what purveyors of necklaces at renaissance festivals would have you believe, were actually more like commemorative stones, usually bigger than a headstone for a grave, they were carved with runes telling, briefly, the reason why they were there. This might be because someone important built a bridge and wanted everyone to know it for posterity, or it might be to remember that your fallen comrades died bravely in a far away land and you wanted to make sure no one forgot who they were or what they did.

R is for River Travel, which is what made the Norsemen the bloody threat they were. Not only could their ships cross the sea, but they could sail right up river too, striking deep inside your country, coastal defenses were not enough. The Vikings attacked Paris this way. They conquered Russia this way. Let's look at it from an ancient/medieval perspective, water makes the best defensive barriers and it makes a good way to ship goods. Even today most countries on the map have some sort of impassible barrier as a border between them, and that barrier is either water or mountain most of the time. The Vikings turned the defensive advantage into a critical defensive flaw.

R is for Rus the name the Greeks called the Vikings, and it stuck to Russia.

R is for Raids and Raiding, and isn't that what everyone really remembers about the Viking Age? I am not going to play Devil's Advocate here and point out all the good things the Vikings did for Europe too, the raids were bad, at least from the point of view of the people being raided. The "Dark Ages" weren't a particularly nice time to live in for anyone, anywhere on Earth.

R is for Riddle Games, Tolkien didn't invent this for Bilbo and Gollum, he was using a pattern established by none other than Odin in Vafþrúðnismál.

R is for Rán, a Jötunn woman who is nevertheless considered the Goddess of the Sea Bottom. She is the wife of Ægir, who is also a Jötunn and considered a God of the Sea. Both are friends and allies of the Aesir, and they have nine daughters, who may be the mothers of Heimdall.

R is for Ratatosk, a Squirrel that lives in the branches of Yggdrasil and carries insults between the dragon at it's base and the eagle at it's peak.

R is for Rind, a Goddess of the Aesir, who will become the mother of Vali, the avenger of Balder. The stories of how Odin convinces her to bear him a son to avenge his dead son Balder are slightly conflicting, but unsavory in any case. He either uses seið magic to strip her of her will to resist (and seið magic is the kind of gay lady's magic) or he just attempts to seduce her several times, fails, then poisons her and rapes her. Odin is an ends justify the means kind of a God.

Oh, and I got this stuff in the mail today-

I already had Commander's SSD Book #2, but it came with Captain's Log #1 and they were dirt cheap.

April 19th Q Day

You know I am really trying to stick to my Norse theme here, but apparently I didn't consider that certain days are just going to suck for the purposes of A-Z blogging Q is worse than P. Q doesn't exist in Old Norse or even Modern Icelandic, so just what the hell am I supposed to talk about on Q day? I have been wracking my brain for an hour and I have got nothing but Quisling, the Norwegian Nazi collaborator, and that is WAY post Viking age and has nothing to do with either Norse lore or the events and circumstances of my current Viking age D&D campaign.

So, sorry, Q day is a total bust, on the plus side R day should be so totally jam packed I might not be able to fit it all in.

I'll still make sure you get a cool Viking picture for today though.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 18th P Day

I have to tell you all that P day for a Norse oriented blogging month might as well be a break day. Sure I can point out that they were Pagans, but I think I covered that under Heathen, which is a less Latin, more Germanic term meaning the same thing. I could point out that they worshiped a Pantheon of Gods, that they were Polytheistic, like other Pagan peoples, but I think we got that covered too. Probably the most ground breaking news I could mention is that their naming practices were Patronymic, meaning that their names were (usually) derived from adding son or daughter to their father's name to give them a "last name"; but that's a pretty common practice for a lot of European cultures right up into the modern era, and is still pretty common in Iceland.

So I guess I just don't have a lot to give you all for P day, and I have had kind of a suck day anyway. My minivan finally crossed the threshold of more expensive to fix than it was worth. Blown head gasket, 180+ thousand miles on it, it was a 1996 Dodge Grand Caravan and it served me well for many years, but now I have to find a new vehicle that will be big enough for me to be comfortable driving (remember I am 6'6"), fit my entire 5 member family and all of our SCA gear, plus, hopefully be fuel efficient AND not cost an arm and a leg.

Since I live on a dirt road in snow country 4-wheel drive would be a plus too, but I won't hold my breath. I am thinking SUV rather than minivan this time around though.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Not for nothing...

...But when I showed this picture to my youngest daughter Ember, we both agreed that it kind of reminded us of her. It looks like her a bit and has her attitude. Lamentations of the Flame Princess has certainly been an interesting look at old school gaming, and it's had a pretty good effect on my blog, I get a lot of hits from Finland. But I think it's starting to seep into my daughter's brains, or maybe it's just that Raggi and I are a little too alike and they'd be what his daughters would be like?

Next Question- If you had to pick an old school Star Trek game to play, would you go with FASA's Star Trek RPG and it's associated Starship Tactical Combat Simulator or Task Force Games/Amarillo Design Bureau's Federation & Empire/Star Fleet Battles/Prime Directive? I know that Prime Directive made it on to the scene a little late, but I also know that the Tactical Combat Simulator was a later add-on. Both games suffer from having to make up a lot of new Star Trek material and extrapolate from what they had available at the time, SFB/PD is still in print, although PD has undergone numerous rules changes from d20 to GURPS to the upcoming Traveler,they are still restricted by their license to ONLY use elements of Star Trek from the original series, the animated series and what they snuck in from some of the original series cast movies; everything elsethey were forced to make up as they went along. FASA did the same thing, only with a better, but more restrictive license until they got smacked down for assuming that Star Trek: The Next Generation was covered by the same license. So which old school Star Trek game do you prefer and why?

I only ask because I already had this.

But this came in the mail today.

And so did this.

All of these miniatures came today too, a good many Celts, always good for my Garnia campaign; and some Norse and Normans, which should be handy in most other cases, as well as in Garnia.

April 17th O Day

I wish I had more for you today, I started late again today, and as it turns out O is another letter that is more full of proper names than actual culturally significant Norse things to know. I also spent a significant part of my free time today working on KAG business, so I didn't even get a chance to do the Dawn Patrol write up.

O is for Odin, the Chief God of the Aesir, Husband of Frigg, Father of Balder and Thor, Blood-Brother of Loki, Brother of Vili and Vé, King of the Gods. Lord of the Slain, God of the Gallows, Giver of Victory, etc. He does pretty much everything he can to get the knowledge necessary to avert Ragnarök, or at least see that his side is best prepared for it when it does arrive; at great personal sacrifice. In the end, all he really achieves is the lack of total destruction and the continuation of life, a new cycle begins. He and most of the people and things he knows and loves will be destroyed, but his victory will be the continuation of life itself. Balder will return from the land of the dead, a younger generation of gods will start to rebuild in Asgarð and humankind will restart again in Midgarð.

O is for Oath and Norsemen took oaths seriously, they were sacred. A man's word really was his bond.

O is for Örlög, a word that means almost the same thing as destiny or fate or doom.

O is for Ód, the missing husband of Freyja, for whom she weeps her tears of gold; and the reason some scholars believe that Frigg and Freyja may have once been the same Goddess.

O is for Ódrerir, the sources are unclear on this one, it is either name of the pot in which the mead of poetry was brewed, or the actual name of the mead of poetry.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 16th N Day

To be honest today has been to hot for me to spend to much time inside in front of my computer, and what time I have spent has been mostly checking Facebook updates and email. It's a bit cooler now that it's later, so let's hope N isn't a huge day for Norse stuff, eh?

N is for Nerthus, a Germanic Goddess, probably of the Vanir, mentioned by Tacitus, possibly the consort/twin of Njörðr.

N is for Njörðr, a God of the Vanir who came to live among the Aesir as a hostage after their war. He is the father of Frey and Freyja, the consort and possibly twin of Nerthus and the husband of Skaði. He prefers to dwell near the sea shore and lives in a hall called Nóatún, which probably means something like "Ship-Yard".

N is for Nornir or "Norns" in modern English, the Nornir are Urðr, Verðandi and Skuld and they are often thought of as the Norse fates, but that is a simplistic and incomplete understanding of them. They dwell at the Urðrbrunnar or "Spring of Destiny" at the base of Yggdrasil, they have a hand in shaping the destiny of every entity, man, God or otherwise in existence. Their names are often simplistically translated as "Past", "Present" and "Future", but they are more accurately translated as "What Became or Happened", "What is Becoming or Happening" and "What Should Become or Happen, or That Which Should Come To Pass", it is a subtle, but important distinction to understand the Norse/Germanic world view.

N is for Norse, which is of course a description of everything about the people and their culture and the name of their language, which, for the record is a north Germanic language, and around the year 1000 AD split between western and eastern dialects. Modern Icelandic, and some Norwegian dialects are west Norse, Swedish, Danish and the rest of the Norwegian dialects are east Norse. I assume Faeroese is west Norse, but I don't have time to check if I am going to make it before midnight here.

N is for Norway, which is not just a major source of Vikings, it's the original homeland of all the starting PCs in my current Norse colony campaign.

N is also for No time for my weekend Dawn Patrol game report, hopefully tomorrow!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 14th M Day

I don't have a lot of time to write today either, I played a Dawn Patrol game today and got home kind of late, then spent a little time with my family before I sat down to write, so this list is a bit short too.

M is for Mjöðr , or Mead, a wine made of honey and water and yeast. I can attest that it is very good, and the Norsemen loved it too.

M is for Miðgarð, "Middle Earth", the land of men.

M is for Mímir, a God of the Aesir, who was traded as a hostage to the Vanir after their war. The Vanir killed him and sent his head back to Odin. Odin preserved it and kept it alive, because he was so wise, he learned from it many things. Mímir also had a well that imparted great knowledge, it was there that Odin sacrificed his eye, perhaps so he could continue seeing through the well of knowledge?

M is for Madjus, this is an Arabic word used to describe the Norsemen, it means roughly "Heathen Wizards", which I guess says something about the way the Arabs saw the Vikings.

M is for Magic, there are three main forms of Norse magic Seið (magic through trance, contact with spirits), Galðr (magic through words, written, spoken or chanted/sung) and Hamr (magic through shape changing or sending forth the spirit).

M is for Maðr, which is just the Norse word for man, but since I gave the Norse word for woman, I figured I'd do the same here. It is also used in compound words a lot, so a Wizard (Vitki) might be a Galðramaðr.

M is for Mikligarð, the "Great City", Constantinople. Many Norsemen traveled there to serve in the Byzantine Emperor's Varangian Guard, which was essentially a latter day Praetorian guard made up primarily of Norsemen; after 1066 many Saxons fleeing the Norman yoke in England joined it's ranks.

M is for Mjölnir, the hammer of Thor. Made by Dwarves, it has a handle too short to make it useful as a a melee weapon because Loki, in the form of a fly, bit the Dwarf working the bellows, which is why it is used by Thor as a throwing hammer. Sometime after the introduction of Christianity to the Norse world the Mjölnir became a symbol of their Heathen faith, just as the Cross is worn by Christians.

M is for Muninn, one of Odin's Ravens, "Memory".

M is for Múspellheim, the "Land of Fire", a type of Giants live there, Fire Giants in English, thier leader is Surt, and he'll burn the nine worlds at Ragnarök.

I also got this cool Star Trek stuff in the mail today from EBay, the pictures are, of course, from the auction.

Since this is hard to read- it's the Star Trek III Struggle for the Throne Klingon game from FASA, I'd never heard of it before, it's complete though, but the box is kind of beat up.

This bunch of stuff is FASA trek's Star Trek The Next Generation First Year Sourcebook, AKA the book that killed FASA Trek, the adventure module "Where Has All The Glory Gone?", The Star Trek RPG Adventure book, the adventure module "An Imbalance of Power" (which I already had), the supplement "The Federation" and, oddly enough, the LUG, GM's screen, which is pretty much useless to me. I got all of this for $4.99+ shipping though, so I don't really mind.

Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13th L Day

I don't have a lot of time to screw around today either, I have wasted a bunch of time today, so, that's on me. It's 11:28 right now and I am trying to make a midnight deadline.

L is for Loki, dude, we really have to start with a tough one here, eh? Loki is the blood brother of Odin and the frequent traveling companion of Thor. He's not really one of the Aesir, but not really a Jötunn either, given his companions. Almost all of the Norse myths start with Loki either screwing something up just for the sheer chaotic joy of it, or because he got forced to do it by some more powerful Jötunn or Odin. He almost always fixes things, and makes the Aesir come out much further ahead, right up until the end of the cycle when he sets in motion the events that lead to Ragnarök. Loki was never worshiped by the Norsemen, but he is integral to their entire cycle of myths. Some think of him as a Norse Satan figure, some simply as a Trickster. I fall on the side of Trickster myself, since the entire Ragnarök end theme may have been a late addition to the corpus of Norse lore accreted to it by exposure to Christianity. Loki is interesting though, because he can change shape and gender, knows a fair bit of magic and is the father of Jörmungand, Fenrir and Hel, and the mother of Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged horse.

L is for Loot, we can't really talk about Vikings without talking about the loot. That's what the raiding was, at least initially, for. Loot comes in many forms, but the best kind is small and valuable, gold, silver, gems and jewelry, the kind of stuff any D&D player is intimately familiar with, weapons, art objects, tools, food stuffs, raw materials, livestock and slaves also rank pretty high on the list.

L is for Law, you'd think with the outlaw biker image that the Norsemen have that Law wouldn't be mentioned at all, but it actually ranks pretty high on the list of Norse things to know and respect. In parts of the Norse world they had Law Speakers that were expected to memorize the law and recite it, usually annually. Enforcement of the law was a little trickier, but the Norse were actually a pretty litigious people, as was alluded to when I wrote about Forseti.

L is for Ljósálfr or "Light Elf", the Elves that are ruled over by the God Frey. They are, more or less, good elves.

L is for Longship, the stereotypical Viking raiding vessel.

L is for Líf and Lífthrasir, the two humans that survive Ragnarök.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12th K Day

As it turns out, aside from a bunch of proper names like Knut and Karl or names of objects like Knives (Knífar), there aren't a whole lot of important Old Norse words or concepts that are important for my Viking campaign from either a historical, mythological or cultural point of view, so I am going to have to pad out today's post with some extra stuff that is non-Norse in nature.

K is for Kvásir, a God created by both the Aesir and the Vanir to seal their truce, oddly by mixing together their collective spit. Sadly, it doesn't end well for him. He is so well renowned for his wisdom that "No man can ask him a question he cannot answer."; so of course this engenders jealousy and he is murdered by a pair of Dwarf brothers, Fjalar and Galar, who then mix his blood with honey to brew the mead of poetry. When the Aesir come looking for him the Dwarves lie and say he died by choking to death on his own wisdom.

K is for Kona, which is just the Old Norse word for woman. I mention it specifically because it gets used a lot in compound words like seiðkona.

K is for Konung, which is the Old Norse word for King.

K is for Kennings. Kennings are like poetic code words or phrases, they might be something simple like calling the sea "the whale's road", or something more obscure, like referring to gold as "Freyja's tears".

K is for Klingon, OK, the original Klingons on Star Trek were, more or less, stand ins for the Soviets versus the Federation's USA/NATO. John M. Ford in his book "The Final Reflection" completely redefined what Klingons were, and FASA ran with that during their run with the Star Trek RPG lisence. Actually, that might be a chicken/egg thing, I see that John M. Ford was one of the designers for FASA's Klingons supplement and it mentions his upcoming book in the designers notes in the back; but I read "The Final Reflection" long before I ever saw the FASA Klingons supplement, so I guess it doesn't matter. Anyway, long digression aside, I know that the later Star Trek movies and TV series that came along kind of played havoc with Ford's Klingons and the FASA canon, but I am still a big fan, and from what I have read, so were most of the writers that wrote for the later shows. Ron Moore and Keith R.A. DeCandido have both mentioned that they were inspired by Ford's take on Klingon culture. That's why the Klingons got to get so much awesome added to them, they took all the coolest warrior cultures from earth and threw them in a blender set to "make awesome", Klingons are part Viking, part Mongol and part Samurai, with a dash of some other stuff occasionally thrown in for flavor, set in SPACE.

K is for KAG, which is the Klingon Assault Group, of which I am a member. If you have ever thought about getting costumed up as a member of the original party race of Star Trek, check us out. No Dues, Few Rules, join us or tell a friend about us; we're the largest Klingon fan organization in the world.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 11th J Day

As it turns out J day is somewhat short due to a lack of Norse related material. I could throw in some filler here I guess, but I can't really think of anything to say except that my copy of "The Wilderness Alphabet" arrived today. I only had a chance to briefly flip through it, but it looked pretty cool and the binding seemed fine and any other Lulu related problems that I have heard about seemed to be absent. So I guess I may start catching up on some OSR publications now that I don't fear the print-on-demand service. I plan a review of "The Wilderness Alphabet" after the April posting blitz, but I may have time to sneak it in on one of the "Break" days. Oh, it also turns out this will be my 350th post on this blog, so that's pretty cool too I guess, right?

J is for Jarl, the warrior aristocracy/noble class in Norse society, it eventually becomes just a title roughly equivalent to an Earl, Count or Duke. It was from this class that Kings were drawn. They led troops in battle during wartime and administered justice and performed certain public religious rites all the time. Their powers were somewhat limited before the advent of Christianity in Norse lands.

J is for Járnsaxa, a Giantess who is a concubine of Thor. The mother of his prodigiously strong son Magni.

J is for Jörmungand, the proper name of the Midgard Serpent (Miðgarðsormr), another of the monstrous children of Loki and Angrboða. Jörmungand is so large that he encircles the entire earth lying beneath the sea and at Ragnarök he and Thor will kill each other.

J is for Jómsvíkings, a legendary and totally bad-ass Norse warrior society said to live on the south shore of the Baltic sea in a fortress called Jómsborg. They have their own saga, but it is considered to be a "legendary" saga just because no one has ever found their fortress. Full disclosure here, the Saga of the Jomsvikings was the first actual saga I ever read and I loved it, so I don't care if scholars don't think they ever really existed, they exist in my Viking campaigns.

J is for Jörð, the Old Norse word for "Earth", it is also the name of a Goddess, or Giantess that is the mother, depending on who you listen to, of either Thor or Frigg or both. She is also somewhat analogous to the Greco-Roman Gaia, and therefore might be thought of as "Mother Earth" or "Mother Nature" or even the mother of Miðgarð.

J is for Jól or Jul, the holiday known in English as Yule, whose traditions have been largely taken over by Christmas.

J is for Jötunn is the Old Norse word usually translated as Giant, but really there is more to it than that. They are more like another race of Gods really, from which the Aesir are descended; they are kind of like the Greek Titans, both relatives of and implacable foes of the Gods, but sometimes allies as well. Giant doesn't cover it very well because there are other Old Norse words for Giant, and not all Jötnar are in fact huge and giant-like and many can change their size at will. They are immensely old and powerful creatures, often very destructive, like nature can be; sometimes they can be friendly, more often they are not.

J is for Jötunheim, the land of the Jötnar, it borders Asgarð.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April 10th I day

I am not going to lie, I day is going to be short. My oldest daughter had a doctors appointment today and my youngest daughter had a German Honor Society thing, so my time is limited, it's 11:31 now and I am not sure I'll get this up before midnight.

I is for Iðunn, a goddess of the Aesir, she is the keeper of the apples of youth. That's a pretty important job, since the gods would otherwise grow old and die.

I is for Irminsul, the great world pillar, sacred to the Saxons, that Charlemagne destroyed in July of 772 AD.

I is for Islam, the name of the religion founded by Muhammed, the followers of which are referred to as Muslims. Despite sharing a common root with Christianity, Norsemen seemed to get along quite a bit better with the followers of Islam than their neighbors the Christians, and they did quite a bit of trading with them. Muslim silver is often found in Viking hoards.

I is for Ifing, the river that separates the lad of the Gods from the land of the Giants. It runs swiftly and deep, ice will never form upon it, and it is difficult to ford.

That's all for today, I am skipping Iceland, as I assume everyone has heard of it, but my campaign is pre-Icelandic settlement.

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9th H Day

I am back on the proper schedule again. Unfortunately H is another long day, H being such an important letter in Old Norse. I am going to skip over things that are just direct translations of English words, like Hrafn meaning Raven, and try to stick to unusual words that have an important cultural context or English words that might have a special meaning to the Norsemen.

H is for Hnefatafl and Halatafl are a pair of Norse board games that were very popular until they were supplanted in popularity by Chess. Hnefatafl is called "King's Table" by some, and the object is to block attackers from getting the king, or to get the king if you are the attacking player. Halatafl is also known as "Fox and Geese" and the object is to protect your geese and trap the fox, or to eliminate the geese if you are playing the fox.

H is for Hair, and, believe it or not, hair is really important to Norsemen. What color it is, what length it is, whether or not you are balding. Fair hair is considered better and more attractive in both men and women, which I think sucks because I have dark hair, which is considered a sign of low birth and untrustworthy character, as well as just being ugly. Free men wore their hair to about shoulder length, women as long as waist length. Thralls of both sexes often had their hair cut short to show their unfree status.

H is for Height, burials indicate that the average male Norseman was 5'8" tall and the average female 5'6" tall, which isn't too far from where modern Scandinavians are. Compare that with the average Saxon who was 6" shorter and I guess that's why everyone assumes the Vikings were giants. That said, I know that the nobility of medieval England stood easily 6" taller on average than the peasants, so I am guessing that the Norsemen just got more meat and dairy in their diets, and more food overall, than the peasantry in the countries they invaded. Score one point for quasi-democratic systems there, eh?

H is for Hel, a Goddess, but I am not certain how to classify her. She is one of the monstrous children of Loki and the Giantess Angrboða, but she certainly lacks the destructive feel of the other two. Sure she is the unfeeling ruler of the land of the dead, which has the same name as her conveniently, but there's not really any malice in it, it's more like it's just her job.

H is for Heimdal, a God of the Aesir, guardian of Bifröst, the rainbow bridge to Asgarð. Interesting things about him include the fact that he has nine mothers, who are possibly the daughters of Aegir, and that he has a cool horn called Gjallarhorn, which can be heard across the nine worlds, and that he is also the father of the three races of men, the Thralls, the Karls, and the Jarls. Oh, he can also see and hear things well beyond what any other God can, and he is bright shining white, blindingly so, needs next to no sleep, and will kill Loki at Ragarok.

H is for Hospitality, which the Norsemen took very seriously. Once hospitality had been granted it was inviolate. A guest was protected from his enemies, even if they were your friends, even if it was discovered he had done you wrong.

H is for Huskarl, which is as close to being a full time standing army type soldier as you get in the Norse world. A Huskarl swears an oath to become a King's or a Jarl's man and lives in his service. I guess it's a pretty sweet deal if you can get it, but you are expected to die with your lord if he falls in battle.

H is for Hávámal, the Sayings of the High One, Odin in this case, it is essentially a Norse code of conduct, full of proverbs and wisdom to live by, most of which, if you updated it to modern terms, would be perfectly applicable today.

H is for Heathen, which, like Pagan, means roughly "person who lives in the country", but with a Germanic root instead of a Latin one; it obviously came to mean a non-Christian. In my current D&D game all of the Characters are Heathens. I am using this term so as not to confuse the modern reconstructionist or neo-pagan terms within the context of in game religious discussion.

H is for Heim, which just means "Home", but can mean that as in "abode of", "region of", "Land of" or even "world of", like Vanaheim

H is for Helga, in addition to being a woman's name, it means "to make holy", which I thought was noteworthy enough to mention.

H is for Hersir, an Old Norse word for "Chief", but in a purely political and military sense, rather than anything religious.

H is for Hildisvíni, the name of Freyja's Boar.

H is for Himinbjörg, the name of Heimdal's hall.

H is for Hliðskjálf, the name of Odin's high seat, from which he can see any point in all the nine worlds.

H is for Hnoss, a Goddess, probably of the Vanir, the Daughter of Freyja and Ód. Her claim to fame is that she is so beautiful that all lovely things are called Hnossir after her.

H is for Hlín, a minor Goddess of the Aesir, a servant of Frigg, whom Frigg sends to protect those she wishes to save from danger.

H is for Hodr, the blind brother of Balder whom Loki tricks into killing Balder with a dart made of mistletoe.

H is for Hoenir, a brother of Odin, exchanged as a hostage to the Vanir after the Aesir-Vanir war, he alone of the oldest generation of Gods will survive Ragnarok.

H is for Hof, Old Norse for temple, technically it is a building with a roof used for religious purposes.

H is for Hörgr, an altar, usually made of stone, that is open to the sky.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 7th G

With as many entries as there were for F, it's a damned good thing there's so few G words of any note in Old Norse. Oh wait.... And yes, I understand this is getting posted a day late. I figured if I posted it right after the F post nobody would have a chance to read that one and Sunday was a "break" day anyway. I did forget it was a holiday though, so Happy Eostre, Ostara, Easter, Passover, or whatever it is, if anything, you celebrate this weekend.

G is for Galðr, which is a type of magic involving words and/or runes, they may be written, spoken or chanted, but they must be words. This is what I think of when I think of a traditional Magic-User in an Old Norse or Viking context. There are spells that have verbal, somatic and material components, in Galðr you have Galðrbók (Book of Magic, Spell Book), Galðrastafr (Magic Staff) and Galðravél (Magical Device). This is a type of magic used by both men and women, as opposed to seiðr, which was considered to be a woman's magic (despite Odin's having learned it from Freyja).

G is for Gullinborsti, which means "Golden-Bristle", it is the name of Frey's boar that was made by the Svartálfar (or Dwarf) brothers Brokkr and Sindri. He either rides it like a horse or has it pull a cart.

G is for Garð, which is a word meaning "enclosure", but really means something more akin to "protected-space" or "inside the walls". The most famous Garðs are Asgarð and Midgarð, the realms of the Aesir and of men respectively, but the term was used for other places than just worlds. The Norsemen referred to Constantinople as Mikligarð (the Great Enclosure, or simply, the great city), and when gathering for a truce during war or at a temple it was sometimes referred to as a "friðgarð" or an "enclosure of peace", yes, I started using the eth today instead of constantly using a th, otherwise the sound of the letter will get mixed up with the other th sound.

G is for Garmr, the "Hound of Hel" who is chained in a cave called Gnípahellir, which is either the entrance to Hel's realm, sometimes called Helheim apparently just to keep the ruler and the place clear; or it is the entrance to Niflheim, which is a much nastier place under Hel's dominion. Either way, he is referred to once as "The best of Hounds", then it is revealed that he will break his bonds at Ragnarok, seek out and kill the God Tyr. Between this and the use of his name in kennings as a word for destructive forces, some scholars believe that Garm may just be another name for Fenrir, which I guess means that Fenrir's body count at Ragnarok is better than anyone else's because he takes down to major Gods of the Aesir.

G is for Gefjon, a Goddess of the Aesir with two contradictory background stories, in one she is said to be a virgin Goddess and really not terribly interesting; in the other it is said that she was a prostitute that sold herself to the King of Sweden. As payment for her services rendered he offered her as much land as she could plow with four oxen. She got four huge oxen, which were actually her sons with a Jötunn, and plowed away from Sweden a huge chunk of land into the sea, which became the island of Sjælland, which became Denmark's main island and where the city of Copenhagen is located. She is also associated as an ancestress of the Danish kings of old, the Skjöldungs, who are known in Old English as the Scyldingas.

G is for Geri, the other Wolf of Odin.

G is for Gná, a goddess of the Aesir, who is primarily known as Frigg's go-fer. She has a magic horse that can run over air and water. She runs a lot of errands.

G is for Gullveig, a Goddess of the Vanir, a witch. Her attempted execution at the hands of the Aesir caused the war between the Aesir and the Vanir. She may actually be the Goddess Freyja.

G is for Gungnir, Odin's Spear, made by the sons of Ívaldi. The D&D books make a lot out about the powers of this spear, but the lore doesn't really attest to much about it except to say that "it is so well balanced that it can strike any target, no matter the skill of the wielder". It may well be the spear that pierces Odin as he hangs on the tree for nine nights as a sacrifice to gain knowledge of the runes, and it is attested that the act of throwing a spear over the enemy army makes them,and their goods, a sacrifice to Odin; therefore you may take no booty and any prisoners must be sacrificed.

G is for Glíma, which is the Old Norse word for wrestling, but is also a modern Icelandic sport that I became aware of when I was writing up prestige classes for my 3e Norse campaign. Glíma has a number of interesting things about it that make it stand out from standard wrestling or really any other type of ethnic wrestling I have ever seen. Oddly, it reminds me most of Mongolian wrestling. Anyway, being a bad-ass wrestler is always a good thing, and more so in a scoiety that celebrates strength and martial manliness like the Norsemen. Slightly out of period, but Beowulf wrestled Grendel and tore his arm off. That's a totally Viking style thing to do.

G is for Goði, in Iceland they were a combination of chieftain and priest, a secular and religious leader. The plural is Goðar, their domain is called a Goðorð. The feminine version of the title is Gyðja. It is probable that in continental Scandinavia there were temple based Goðar and that in Iceland the traditional duty of Jarls devolved into the duties of Goðar. In modern Germanic Heathenry, particularly Asatru, this is often a term used for the priesthood.