Norse Magic in Conan d20

Daz

Mongoose
I'm thinking of running a campaign based off of Icelandic sagas with Conan d20 rules (they fit the flavor of the sagas much much much better than D&D) sometime within the next couple of months. Converting things from Hyboria to Iceland seems pretty easy, a good bit of the tone and general style is similar. For races I can just use the Hyborian race for everyone pretty much and for classes most all of them work with minimal tweaking.

The only real problem I've run into while skimming things over is the magic system. For the most part it works very very well if I scrap some of the more obviously Lovecraftian things (as much as I love Lovecraft, Cthulhu and the Icelandic sagas don't mix too well). For the most part Conan d20 magic is much less flashy than D&D magic, which is great since Norse magic isn't too flashy either. My problem is that a lot of the spells don't fit well with the kind of magic that is present in the Sagas and a lot of the magical spells that are cast in the Sagas don't fit with any of the spells in the Core book.

Spells from the core book that fit well with Norse-style magic:

-Lesser Ill-fortune etc. (plenty of curses in the sagas)
-Curse of Yizil (plenty of saga characters curse people as they die)
-Other curses (sort of fit, kind of)
-Dream of wisdom (huge amount of using dreams to predict the future in the sagas)
-Sorcerous news (various sorcerers in the sagas always seem to know when someone's about to show up to kill them)
-Visions (in various sagas various Lap sorceresses can see things from great distances)
-Savage beast (sort of fits, kind of)
-Summon beast etc. (in the Saga of the People of Vatnsdal a sorcerer has a bunch of monstrous cats serving him, can't think of other examples of this kind of magic in the sagas off the top of my head though)
-Raise corpse (Norse ghosts are more zombies than anything since they wrestle with people, not much necromantic magic in the sagas though except that the corpses of dead sorcerers are pretty active)
-Black Plague (there's disease curses in the sagas, but this has a bit more oomph than any of them)
-Shape shifter (lots of shape shifting in the sagas, but would like a lower level weaker version of this spell)
-Warrior Trance (change the flavor to a rune that provides a warrior with luck and it works great)

Spells that are present in the Sagas that I would like to be able to use in a Conan d20 game:

-Iron Can't Bite. This is one of the most meat and potatoes kinds of Norse magic. I would love to have some kind of spell that would grant DR/iron to a spell-caster or an ally.
-Spells that grant a friend of the caster (or something inanimate) good luck. Didn't notice anything like this in the core book.
-Spells that cure/cause a disease in an individual.
-Magic that speeds natural healing.
-Weather magic, specifically magic that can create a snowstorm or a storm big enough of sink a boat.
-Shapeshifting magic that can be cast at low levels and is correspondingly weak.
-Something that would allow the spirit of the caster to leave his body in the form of an animal (I don't think there's anything like this in the core book, but I might have missed it)
-More curses and divination, these are the basics of norse magic.

How would you recommend either modifying Conan magic to make things more like what I'm looking for? Are there spells in Conan supplement books that match the sort of things I'm looking for? Any tips?

Thanks!
 
Daz said:
-Weather magic, specifically magic that can create a snowstorm or a storm big enough of sink a boat.

See Conan: Pirate Isles.


Daz said:
-Something that would allow the spirit of the caster to leave his body in the form of an animal (I don't think there's anything like this in the core book, but I might have missed it)

This is how a War of Souls appears when sorcerers in my campaigns battle it out. There is a spell that might be of use in Conan: Faith & Fervour for shamans.

Daz said:
-More curses and divination, these are the basics of norse magic.

See Across the Thunder River and Faith & Fervour.
 

Daz

Mongoose
Nothing like "Iron Can't Bite" then :(

See Conan: Pirate Isles.
Thanks, will do.

This is how a War of Souls appears when sorcerers in my campaigns battle it out.
Yeah, but would like to have this sort of thing be useful for scouting and whatnot.

See Across the Thunder River and Faith & Fervour.
Thanks, will do.
 

Daz

Mongoose
Oh, one more thing, I can't believe I forgot Egil Skallagrimson carving a rune into his drinking horn and smearing it with his blood in order to figure out that someone had put poison in his drink.

Any Conan detect poison spell out there?
 

toothill man

Mongoose
also have a look at slaine and their midguard races as well as the three norse peices in signs for slaine would be just right 8)
 
Daz said:
Any Conan detect poison spell out there?

Conan relies more on skills than spells to do things like that. Other than the Oriental magic, very few spells replace a skill, so no healing magic (heal skill instead), tracking magic (survival skill), detect poison (craft (alchemy)), invisibility (Hide and Move Silently) and so on. The magic system is designed to not make skills useless (unlike DnD).
 

Crisippo

Mongoose
Daz said:
Nothing like "Iron Can't Bite" then :(

If i remember my childhood schooldays correctly almost all the magic in the Icelandic sagas could be defined as curses or divinations of some kind.
So a "Iron Can't Bite" spell should be a curse directed at an opponents weapon. (Sounds intriguing, perhaps i'll make one...)

I think you should reduce the magic system in a Icelandic saga type setting to curses and divinations. Most of the other things you mention i would try to work in as special abilities or something in that nature. At least if you want to move away from cliché like fantasy elements. The idea of a scholar or sorcerer class in that type of setting would ruin my belief in the setting. All viking characters are warriors (just different kinds of warriors)

Sorry for giving so much unsolicited advice, but your idea kinda sparked long dormant areas of my imagnination...
 

Daz

Mongoose
also have a look at slaine
What's slaine?

Conan relies more on skills than spells to do things like that. Other than the Oriental magic, very few spells replace a skill, so no healing magic (heal skill instead), tracking magic (survival skill), detect poison (craft (alchemy)), invisibility (Hide and Move Silently) and so on. The magic system is designed to not make skills useless (unlike DnD).
Ah that makes sense, that's very annoying in D&D. But what about magic that complements skills?

If i remember my childhood schooldays correctly almost all the magic in the Icelandic sagas could be defined as curses or divinations of some kind.
Most Icelandic spells are curses and divinations but not all. I'm in the middle of rereading of my beloved Sagas of the Icelanders compilation of sagas so some of my memories might be a bit fuzzy, but some exceptions to the curse/divination rule:
-Berzerkers/shapeshifters in general. In Egil's Saga his grandfather can apparently become a wolf, there's another shapeshifter that becomes a bird and sings at him all night to make it harder for him to compose a drapa, etc. Also berzerkers howl and chew on their shields in several sagas, it is usually (but not always) berzerkers who are described as going into battle but not receiving any wounds and it's definately NOT a curse on an enemy's weapon. In the Saga of the People of Vatnsdal one guy fights a posse with some of his henchmen and none of the people in the posse can scratch him with their iron weapons.
-The magic cats that fight for their master in Saga of the People of Vatnsday.
-Weather summoning in various sagas, notably the summoning of the storm that kills Gudron's second husband in the Saga of the People of Laxardal and the summoning of a snow storm in the Saga of the People of Vatnsdal.
-In Egil's Saga there is talk of love charms (not really a curse or divination) and rune that is put under someone's bed can make them stop being sick.
-In the Saga of the People of Laxardal there's a magic stone that heals of wounds delivered by a certain sword.

All viking characters are warriors (just different kinds of warriors)
Well the hero of the Saga of the Confederates is more of a good lawyer than anything else, same goes for Sam (sort of the hero) in the Saga of Hrafnkel Frey's Godi.
 

Crisippo

Mongoose
Berzerkers/shapeshifters in general. In Egil's Saga his grandfather can apparently become a wolf, there's another shapeshifter that becomes a bird and sings at him all night to make it harder for him to compose a drapa, etc.

I agree with with you that spell changing magic is prevalent, but i would avoid making shapeshifters spell-users. Instead i would give certain people and berserkers a shapshifting special ability. Just to avoid the feeling of wizardry on an icelandic battlefield.

Daz said:
Quote:
All viking characters are warriors (just different kinds of warriors)

Well the hero of the Saga of the Confederates is more of a good lawyer than anything else, same goes for Sam (sort of the hero) in the Saga of Hrafnkel Frey's Godi.

My point was that status(at least for males) in Viking society was invariably linked to martial prowess. No one would become a good lawyer without first proving himself as a warrior. So at least all male characters would be warriors, even if they put up their swords long ago.
 

Daz

Mongoose
Yogah of Yag said:
I majored in this field in college, and had to read zillions of the sagas.
I found them to be very dry, honestly.
Maybe you had a bad translation. I find it hard to believe that anyone would describe the translation of Egil's Saga that I have as "dry." Now something like the Saga of the People of Vatnsday is a bit boring and you can get lost in the geneologies of the Saga of the People of Laxardal (two I've read recently) but Egil's Saga is pure gold...

I just finished off the Saga of the Confederates on the subway today and that one was also excellent...
 

toothill man

Mongoose
could we have links to these sagas please and slaine is mongooses celtic roleplaying game further details on these boards and on the main site 8)
 

Yogah of Yag

Mongoose
Daz said:
Yogah of Yag said:
I majored in this field in college, and had to read zillions of the sagas.
I found them to be very dry, honestly.
Maybe you had a bad translation.

I had to read them in the original Icelandic. They were dull then, too.
Scandinavians never learned to use their languages with the flair that the Romans (Ovid, Vergil, etc.) and Mediaeval Italians did (Dante).
Getting back to the subject...Yes, I do think that one could "mine" the sagas for material for RPG, but it would take time. Best of luck! :)
 

bradius

Mongoose
I'm running some adventues in Nordhiem. I found GURPs Vikings II to be usefull. Had guidelines for magic too, which I put to use with a nasty Troll-wife and her brood the party ran into.
 

Etepete

Mongoose
Yogah of Yag said:
Daz said:
Yogah of Yag said:
I majored in this field in college, and had to read zillions of the sagas.
I found them to be very dry, honestly.
Maybe you had a bad translation.

I had to read them in the original Icelandic. They were dull then, too.
Scandinavians never learned to use their languages with the flair that the Romans (Ovid, Vergil, etc.) and Mediaeval Italians did (Dante).
Getting back to the subject...Yes, I do think that one could "mine" the sagas for material for RPG, but it would take time. Best of luck! :)

I'm utterly at odds with this pow. Roman languages, and English, does not have the poetical potential of most germanic languages. The thing with the sagas is that theres a lot of undertext that creates a lot of depth. And of course the charachters, if sometimes flat, are very vivid and dramatic. Maybe you just don't like hardboiled?

Roman languages, or at least Latin, French and from what I know of it spanish are far too rationalistic and structured. Germanic languages can make all these different compound words, which gives far greater versatility without having to spell things out.

That said, obviously Dante, Virgilius and Ovidius are greater writers than Snorre Sturlasson. A saga should be read for what it is, not as a classic, but as piece of folklore.
 

Yogah of Yag

Mongoose
Etepete said:
Yogah of Yag said:
Daz said:
Maybe you had a bad translation.

I had to read them in the original Icelandic. They were dull then, too.
Scandinavians never learned to use their languages with the flair that the Romans (Ovid, Vergil, etc.) and Mediaeval Italians did (Dante).
Getting back to the subject...Yes, I do think that one could "mine" the sagas for material for RPG, but it would take time. Best of luck! :)

I'm utterly at odds with this pow. Roman languages, and English, does not have the poetical potential of most germanic languages. The thing with the sagas is that theres a lot of undertext that creates a lot of depth. And of course the charachters, if sometimes flat, are very vivid and dramatic. Maybe you just don't like hardboiled?

Roman languages, or at least Latin, French and from what I know of it spanish are far too rationalistic and structured. Germanic languages can make all these different compound words, which gives far greater versatility without having to spell things out.

That said, obviously Dante, Virgilius and Ovidius are greater writers than Snorre Sturlasson. A saga should be read for what it is, not as a classic, but as piece of folklore.

pow: onomatopoeia or acronym?

Compounding tends to have, not a poetic feel, but technical or, worse, bureaucratic. An extreme case is Sanskrit which compounds more heavily than any other IE language, IMO.

I was taught that the primary purpose of the sagas was essentially geneological, esp. on Iceland in order to keep track of lineages and to curb the chance of inbreeding, which is a big problem with such a small population. Inbreeding is always a concern in peripheral, less central regions of Europe, especially Scandinavia. More advanced civilizations with larger populations don't necessarily have this as a concern. I think in Physical Anthropology it's called "Founder's Syndrome" or somesuch. In sagas the anecdotes attached to each individual (usually kings, nobles, elitists, the 'rich and famous') were probably of peripheral importance at most. They have the same feel as the introductory chapters of the Bible that state "A begat B, who begat C, who begat..." ad nauseum et infinitum. Of course, compared to REH the sagas are very dry. :wink:
If Howard had the chance, I think he would have loved to rewrite the sagas to make them more colourful (red, that is!)
 

Etepete

Mongoose
Yogah of Yag said:
pow: onomatopoeia or acronym?

Prisoner of War :shock: ... no I actually meant point of view,

Yogah of Yag said:
Compounding tends to have, not a poetic feel, but technical or, worse, bureaucratic. An extreme case is Sanskrit which compounds more heavily than any other IE language, IMO.

I disagree. Do you find Homer bureaucratic? And yet greek does compounds like noone else. I think that analytic languages (like english and french) tend to overly verbose and even superficial texts. Obviously, what really decides the quality of a text is the artists talent, but language is a very important as a framework, and sometimes as a limit for that.

Yogah of Yag said:
I was taught that the primary purpose of the sagas was essentially geneological, esp. on Iceland in order to keep track of lineages and to curb the chance of inbreeding, which is a big problem with such a small population. Inbreeding is always a concern in peripheral, less central regions of Europe, especially Scandinavia. More advanced civilizations with larger populations don't necessarily have this as a concern. I think in Physical Anthropology it's called "Founder's Syndrome" or somesuch. In sagas the anecdotes attached to each individual (usually kings, nobles, elitists, the 'rich and famous') were probably of peripheral importance at most. They have the same feel as the introductory chapters of the Bible that state "A begat B, who begat C, who begat..." ad nauseum et infinitum.

Interesting theory, though I must object to the eurocentrism and progressionism implicit in it. Obviously there are many demographic factors involved, and mere urbanism shouldn't be seen as the only way of avoiding inbreeding.
 

tuco

Mongoose
I thought that the main reason that keeping track of geneologies was necessary, in Iceland in particular, was their system for names. Sons took their father's first name and added -son while daughters took their father's first name and added -dottir. Egel Skallgrimson was the son of Skallagrim (grim the bald?) Skeldulffson who was in turn the son of Skeldulf (the night wolf, who was if I remember reported to be half troll and able to shape shift, though I think they called him the night wolf because he was so foul tempered by the end of each day that no one would go anywhere near him). So in a country where a name like Olaf or Sven is popular you will have a lot of people who are in no way related with the same last name.

Wasn't there a brief passage on Berzerkers in St. Olaf's saga that described them as being immune to iron, but completely unable to swim when in a rage?

On the topic of Berzerkers, I have seen several articles on the what the term "Berzerker" was really intended to mean. These days we often have a vision of vikings with their shirts at least, and sometimes all their clothes, off running in a rage at the enemy. Some authors say that this is due to a translation problem coverting "berzerker" into bare shirt, or shirtless. These same authors say that "baersark" or "berzerk" translates into "bear shirt" which they then use to make a case for berzerkers being shapeshifters.

I'm sure it's just personal preference, but how on earth could you call the Sagas dry? And if anyone is after an intro into to the sagas, you would be hard pressed to go wrong with The Sagas of the Icelanders. The paperback is like $20 or so and worth every penny for Egel's Saga alone.

Keep working on this and give us updates. I've been reading the Scandinavian Sagas for years.
 

Daz

Mongoose
could we have links to these sagas please
I don't think that my particular translation (a very very good one) is available on the internet. For other translations I'm sure they'd come up if you googled Icelandic Sagas (start with Egil's Saga).

Getting back to the subject...Yes, I do think that one could "mine" the sagas for material for RPG, but it would take time.
Well I spend a lot of time commuting on the subway everyday, so I've got time...

Of course, compared to REH the sagas are very dry.
Well in many of the sagas the begats are pretty peripheral to the story, but in some I had to keep looking at the geneological chart every five minutes (Saga of the People Laxardal etc.).

These same authors say that "baersark" or "berzerk" translates into "bear shirt" which they then use to make a case for berzerkers being shapeshifters.
Yeah there's a definate connection between berzerkers and shapeshifters (see Kveltulf, Egil's grandfather) but there's whole bunches of berzerkers in sagas who never shapeshift.

The Sagas of the Icelanders
That's my translation, worth every penny. I'd get the complete version of that with all of the sagas (have had a hard time finding a decent translation of sagas not in my book) but the shipping costs alone would bankrupt me :(
 
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