Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Norse Mythic Campaign Setting

I’ve recently started readin “The Norse Myths: Introduced and Retold” by Kevin Crossley-Holland. In it he discusses the 9 worlds of the Norse mythology. The highest two are Asgard and Vanaheim the worlds of Aesir and Vanir the gods of Norse Myth. Alfheim is the realm of the “Light Elves” those creatures that are not gods but still powerful spirits willing to help man.  Midguard the world of mortals. Two worlds for the homes of Dwarves and Dark Elves Nidavellir and Svartalfheim, notably all the Dwarves are greedy self centered troublemakers most Elves also seem to fall into the Dark Elf territory making them nearly indifferent from the Dwarves. The Giants lay claim to Jutunheim these are beings as powerful as the gods but set on the disruption of the order of things and cause chaos and strife, they seek to see the world changed and if that means burning it down first then that is what they will do. The underworld is is Hel/Niflheim this is where the majority of the dead go guarded over by mighty beasts those deemed particularly troubles are punished in the torments of Hel. The final world in Muspellheim the land of fire, it is from here that, Surt will rise and with his burning sword will bring about, the ultimate destruction of worlds and it will come in blood and fire.

This alone would make a fantastic RPG campaign setting and certainly has been used more than once. However, having recently read several stories with a strong Sci-Fi element like the “Dying Earth” stories by Jack Vance this got me thinking. What if...

What if the worlds as described above were actual worlds? This number of nine world parallels our own solar system. The Sun would be Muspelhiem. Mercury and the Dwarf Planets of Pluto and Eiris would be Hel and Niefhelm split apart. I would keep the 8 planets that we have today and cast each as a Norse world inhabitable by humans but strange and with unique properties like those found in Burrough’s “Mars” stories and similar pulp Sci-Fi. The gods and Giants would be destructive and powerful aliens making and breaking deals with humanity as a proxy in their stalled war. The other races like the Elves and Dwarves might lack the ability to easily cross worlds. Those found on “Earth” would be lost colonies from the other worlds. Perhaps they are only able to travel in one direction or only travel during certain conjunctions of the worlds. Magic would likely be interacting with old technological bits or performing acts that trigger still operating systems placed by a lost civilization or the gods and giants.

I doubt I would reveal intricate details like gods and giants are really technologically advanced aliens to the players at the start of the game. Having them discover this and put such might powers to use for either law or chaos. Will they take part in causing Ragnarok or preventing it from occurring? I also suspect a campaign would need to alter the Norse Dwarves and Elves, not use those names for those creatures and instead find new terms, turning the traditional PC races of Dwarf and Elf into something more in line with the Norse, or my personal favorite make the PC available race human only.