Sunday, 8 October 2017

Iceland inspiration 2: start your own blood feud

More roleplaying inspiration from our honeymoon to Iceland. An hour and a half north of Reykjavik is the village of Borgarnes. It's a fine base to explore the western interior or Snæfellsnes peninsula, but while you're there, definitely visit the Settlement Center. Try their top-notch lunch and dinner menu (the buffet is top notch) and gird yourself for the two excellent exhibitions on the settlement era and Egils Saga.

Egil Skallagrímsson (c. 904 Рc. 995[1]),
a Viking-Age poet, warrior and farmer. Also the
protagonist of the eponymous Egil's Saga.
Image: U.Chicago Library
Egils Saga? Some dusty old story from the Dark Ages? The sagas may be a bit rough for our modern sense of storytelling, but did these guys ever rock the murderhobo vibe. Find an academic treatise here. For the rest of you, check out these highlights.

Heads caved in, people stoned just for asking the master not to murder his child? Killing people in their sleep after they broke their backs trying to prove themselves worthy of your daughter? Generations of blood feud over a gift axe which was just not shiny enough? Dude. Have a feud play in your setting's background, spice up random encounters with it, or involve a player directly by having them inherit the family feud.

Here, then, a guide to creating your own blood feud for your game. Some of these results seem to end the game early, when you manage to kill your enemy in a single stroke. Naturally, their offspring and banner-men now take up the blood feud.

Why Bob and his entire family need to die

A good feud starts with a first slight. All stolen from actual sagas or reflavored tales we picked up around Iceland. If this doesn't seem to add up (who forgives and forgets a couple of murder sprees after getting married to their worst enemy's daughter?), well, that's a look into the dark ages for you.

Things Bob should not have done. Roll d12 for the original grievance:

  1. Cheated you in a game when you were seven year-olds.
  2. Had your twice-removed niece burned alive.
  3. Had his herd graze on your land.
  4. Mocked your lack of a beard.
  5. Gifted you a piece of silk.
  6. Cheated on his wife, your kinswoman, and kept the dowry after the divorce.
  7. Kidnapped your daughter after you refused her hand in marriage.
  8. Accidentally wounded you in a legal dispute.
  9. Tried to kill you after you collected the king's tribute.
  10. Carelessly destroyed a worthy gift and sent the remains back to you.
  11. Challenged two of his daughter's suitors to drive a road through a lava field in one day. Killed the exhausted berserkers.
  12. Had his tax collectors claim the property of someone you had killed. To the victor the spoils, not to the IRS!

After which you were honor-bound to... Roll d10 for your fitting response:

  1. Have them proclaimed an outlaw, to be killed freely by anyone who wants to.
  2. Take 80 of your warriors and browbeat the law-givers into granting you all your enemy's lands.
  3. Kill a couple of their kinsmen or servants.
  4. Ruin his reputation with a mocking verse (don't mess with bards).
  5. Cut off his beard and take his right eye.
  6. Mount a horse's head on a pole to curse your stolen property so that the thief will not profit from it.
  7. Tell the drunkard that there's a bear attacking the livestock, then ambush them.
  8. Pull out a sword during a drinking game, in a temple where no weapons were allowed.
  9. Set fire to their hall and butcher the fleeing scoundrels.
  10. Challenge them to a duel, wreck both your weapons and tear out their throat.

However, the cowardly... Roll d12 for stinging insults:

  1. Miser
  2. Law-breaker
  3. Brother-killer
  4. Thorn-foot
  5. Brooch-wearer
  6. Grave-breaker
  7. Truth-blaster 
  8. Wolf-eater
  9. Pale-face
  10. God-feaster
  11. Juggler of justice
  12. Gift-lord of jackals

Manages to... Roll d12 fiendish ploys:

  1. Tangle up the legal debate until the sun sets on assembly, rendering void your claim.
  2. Burn everything of value on their farm to prevent it from being confiscated: house, livestock, and even household. Then flees the country.
  3. Engage the support of the queen, who curses you with restlessness.
  4. Have murderers hunt you and your siblings to distract you.
  5. Build up a stockade so you cannot massacre them and the town they hide in.
  6. Look in amazement when you get yourself captured on an unrelated raiding trip to far, far away.
  7. Ambush you after you are weakened from your berserker rage
  8. Take their entire family and their belongings into hiding on some gods-forsaken island.
  9. Trick you into making your case to the king, who you insult with your limited oratory skills.
  10. Convince the king you are keeping rightful tribute from him.
  11. Whip up a flattering poem to claim protection from the king that would have their head.
  12. Bury their money in secret before dying upright in a chair.

However, you get the last laugh as you... Roll d12 for your endgame:

  1. Marry your opponent's kinswoman to seal peace between you.
  2. Gift a headland rich with fish and game to your enemy's servants to indebt them to you.
  3. Steal a fancy ship to bribe the king's son with.
  4. Pose as the rightful heir to riches that should go to your enemy.
  5. Ram the coward's ship and slaughter them and all aboard.
  6. Cause the holy rope which encircles the judges of your case to be erected around your henchmen.
  7. Win the king's heart with a powerful poem so he gifts you with gold and lands.
  8. Cut a bloody swath in a foreign war and come home showered with riches.
  9. Swim a mile of frigid water to evade the party coming to your island-hideaway, then soak in a hot pool.
  10. Use your own blood to paint runes on your drinking horn, causing it to shatter and spill the poison intended for you.
  11. Tell your family you intend to throw all your silver in the air to incite a general brawl at the country's highest law meeting. Instead, have two slaves bury your two chests of silver and kill them to keep the treasure a secret.
  12. Vomit in their face and they vomit in yours, after which "all was equal".