Saturday, 30 April 2016

1 Flaurmont 1000AC - That sinking feeling

Leaving the kitchen with full bellies, Broneslav and Baik headed northwards. They passed the large bronze double doors on their right and returned to a short corridor that ran northwards from the main passage. There were four doors off this passage, two on each side. Broneslav checked the first door on the right, opening it carefully. He recognised the room he entered because a huge explosion had taken place in it, and there was a hole in the wall leading through to the stairs they had climbed.

"Hey, Baik," he exclaimed, "looks like the floors here must be sloping or something, because we climbed those stairs but we're still on the same floor."

Returning to the corridor, he opened the first door on the left. Shelves filled with dusty jars and bottles lined the walls of this room. A strong smell permeated the place and left the heroes feeling queasy and red eyes glittered from the back of the room. Suddenly the owners of the red eyes chittered forwards. Giant rats! Broneslav stumbled backwards swinging wildly, but failed to hurt any of them. In doing so, he knocked Baik off balance, making him smash jars on the walls instead of rats. Although his armour fended most of them off, one rat managed to bite him hard in the leg [1 DAM]. Baik too managed to fend off most of the rats, but still received a vicious bite on the hand [1 DAM]. [Can't believe Broneslav rolled so badly on both attack and Fray Die!] Recovering slightly, Broneslav crushed a rat under foot, but that did not stop him getting bitten again [1 DAM]. Baik smashed a rat with his mace, but got bitten again for his troubles [1 DAM]. Now fully recovered from his initial discomfiture, Broneslav laid into the rats, slicing two in half with one blow and crushing a third. Determined not to be outdone, Baik crushed two more rats. The remaining rat ran for it before either Broneslav or Baik could do anything about it. Retreating into the blasted room opposite, they shut the door and bandaged their newest wounds [Both recovered 2hp]. Bandaged up once more they opened the last door up the corridor to find an empty room.
Returning to the bronze double doors, they pushed open one side and slipped into a corridor lined with incredibly life-like statues in running positions with their hands outstretched. They are made of what appears to be platinum. Moving past these statues, Broneslav pushed through a pair of bronze doors, and led the way into a circular room at the end of the corridor. Statues stood in it on three sides around a well in the centre of the room. Faint murmurings and moanings could be heard like the quiet susuration of a gentle wind among the pines. Looking down the well, Broneslav could see something glowing and blue. On the wall of the room, were written the words 'PAH' and 'NWAD'. Nonsense words, but he decided to try something.

"Pah," he said out loud.

Baik looked at him oddly. Then a glowing blue disc was visible at the top of the well. Broneslav nodded to himself.

"Nwad," he declared.

The disc floated downwards out of sight once more. Looking down the well, it could be seen floating in the distance below.

"Pah," he said again, and soon the disc was once more floating in the room.

"Come on," he said to Baik, and led the way to the smallest of the statues in the corridor.
Together they picked it up, surprised that it weighed little more than a normal person, despite apparently being made of precious metal.

"We'll have to come back for these once we've rescued Merisa and Sylva. I bet they're worth a fortune."

He and Baik lifted the statue onto the blue disc which supported its weight easily.

"Nwad,"

The disc floated down. The statue could be seen still on it when the disc had stopped descending.

"So, Baik. We going to try that, or are are we going to check out the rest of this area first?"

Character
Broneslav Torenescu (S16, D14, C15, I12, W10, Ch14, F1, HP 9, AC4, Sword 1d8+3, Bow 1d8)
Human (Traladaran)

Traits:
Torenescu Family Member 1
Hunter 1
Keen Vision 1
Good Education 1
Empathy with Animals 1

Goal: Prove that he is an adult following the Shearing Ceremony
Goal: Slay a red dragon
Quest: Deliver a parcel to Merisa in Gray Mountain Village
Quest: Rescue Sylva and Merisa
Quest: Undo the greater evil under Kota-Hutan Temple

Allies
Baik Telor (HD 4, AC 4, ATK +5, DAM 1d8+1)
Stats include Mace+1

Roll of Honour
Alki (Level 2 Elven warrior brutally slain while helpless by the Rahib)

Saturday, 23 April 2016

1 Flaurmont 1000AC - Getting Catty

"Where now?" Asked Baik.
"Let's try through that door to the south," said Broneslav, opening the door and stepping out into a corridor.
The pair scouted the corridor quickly and saw that it joined up with the octagonal room they had previously entered through. The corridor ended to the south at some stairs whose upper level had been destroyed when the mountain fell on the temple. Retracing their steps, the two heroes pushed open the first door they came to. Inside was a well-stocked kitchen.
"No point wasting good food," announced Broneslav whose stomach rumbled at the prospect of something other than the preserved foods he had in his pack. Very soon, he and Baik were tucking into a cheese, ham and bread, following the soldier's dictum that you should eat whenever you get the chance. Or was that sleep? Broneslav was not sure, but eating when you had the chance certainly sounded right to him.
As he stuffed his mouth with more cheese, he heard a noise at the door. He grabbed his sword and shield as it swung open. An Elven woman entered, a black panther at her side. Broneslav recognised her from the descriptions he had been given. This was Merisa, one of the missing Elven maids.
"Ho there, Merisa. I am Broneslav. I am here to rescue you."
The woman yelled a command to her panther, which attacked immediately. It's claws raked Broneslav's arm, tearing bloody gashes down it and his already tattered shirt [2 DAM]. Baik stepped in and hammered the panther hard in the side with his new mace [2 DAM]. Merisa gestured at the two men and spoke a mystical word. Broneslav slumped to the floor where he stood, but Baik remained standing. The panther turned on him and clawed his leg [1 DAM]. In return, Baik crushed its skull with his mace [2 DAM]. On seeing this Merisa fled. Baik was torn. To pursue the woman or to take care of his rescuer. He turned to Broneslav and shook him. Broneslav awoke from the sleep spell quickly.

"Follow me," said Baik, "She ran away."
They raced to the door, but found it locked tight. By the time the pair had smashed the door down, she was long gone. They stopped and returned the kitchen, where they bandaged their wounds, and got ready to continue their quest.

Character
Broneslav Torenescu (S16, D14, C15, I12, W10, Ch14, F1, HP 9, AC4, Sword 1d8+3, Bow 1d8)
Human (Traladaran)

Traits:
Torenescu Family Member 1
Hunter 1
Keen Vision 1
Good Education 1
Empathy with Animals 1

Goal: Prove that he is an adult following the Shearing Ceremony
Goal: Slay a red dragon
Quest: Deliver a parcel to Merisa in Gray Mountain Village
Quest: Rescue Sylva and Merisa
Quest: Undo the greater evil under Kota-Hutan Temple

Allies
Baik Telor (HD 4, AC 4, ATK +5, DAM 1d8+1)
Stats include Mace+1

Roll of Honour
Alki (Level 2 Elven warrior brutally slain while helpless by the Rahib)

Saturday, 16 April 2016

1 Flaurmont 1000AC - Blasted Rooms and Orcs

Broneslav took the lead. He levered the door open and looked through. A corridor extended a short distance ahead of him and then turned to the right. There the intrepid duo saw a wooden door to one side and stairs rising gently to the east. Listening at the door, he heard nothing. He slammed it open and beheld in the flickering light of his torch a room lined with racks containing bottles. Upon examination, they were all from the Wizard of Wines Winery. These were called Red Dragon Crush, and had a serial number on the bottom of the label, just like the last lot of wine he had found. This one read 331422-W. Broneslav thought it odd that the numbers on this label and the previous label did not match. His experience growing up in a merchant family told him that they should follow the same format. However, the reason why did not escaped him.
I've decided to only show the part of the map traversed in this session because it's easier for me to edit. The whole map will appear later. See the previous session for the adjoining map.
On, up the stairs. At the corner, the stairs rose to the south but they were covered in blackened rubble. A hole gaped in the wall to one side and he could see into a room beyond. Climbing through, he stood in a room whose contents had been destroyed in a massive blast, the same one, he presumed, that had made the hole in the wall. Doors led out of the room, but Broneslav decided to check the end of the stairs first. It ended in a blank wall with a poorly disguised secret door. He pushed it open and emerged into a small room. Five humanoid creatures spun round as he opened the door. Orcs! He yelled, and charged. His sword cleaved one orc's head from its shoulders, before thrusting through the heart of a second. A third was laid low by a swipe of his shield. Meanwhile Baik struggled to attack a fourth one. As the last two orcs gathered their wits, Broneslav slammed one in its face with his shield and sliced wildly with his sword at the other. Both crumpled to the floor.
"What was that, Baik? I thought you were a warrior," he grumbled as he cleaned his blade.
Baik had the good grace to look shamefaced at his pitiful performance. He muttered something unintelligible that managed to sound both apologetic and obscene at the same time.
"Come on, let's see what they were up to," he said aloud, "There's a chest over there."
The chest contained three bottles of the Red Dragon Crush wine, some coins and a mace.
"Hey," said Broneslav, "This mace feels nicely balanced. Maybe you'll do better with this."
Baik gave him a sour look, but took it anyway and declared himself satisfied with its balance and weight.
"So, which way now, oh mighty leader?"

Character
Broneslav Torenescu (S16, D14, C15, I12, W10, Ch14, F1, HP 9, AC4, Sword 1d8+3, Bow 1d8)
Human (Traladaran)

Traits:
Torenescu Family Member 1
Hunter 1
Keen Vision 1
Good Education 1
Empathy with Animals 1

Goal: Prove that he is an adult following the Shearing Ceremony
Goal: Slay a red dragon
Quest: Deliver a parcel to Merisa in Gray Mountain Village
Quest: Rescue Sylva and Merisa
Quest: Undo the greater evil under Kota-Hutan Temple

Allies
Baik Telor (HD 4, AC 4, ATK +5, DAM 1d8+1)
Stats include Mace+1

Roll of Honour
Alki (Level 2 Elven warrior brutally slain while helpless by the Rahib)

Sunday, 10 April 2016

1 Flaurmont AC - Deeper into the tower

Note: This is a continuation of my solo adventures using Scarlet Heroes and the Basic D&D modules. The plan is to work my way through one of the paths of  B1-9 In Search of Adventure and see if my character can survive to the end. I have a couple of friends back home who have been playing this module with me using Scarlet Heroes. They are following a different path through it. Sadly I'm not home enough to run adventures for them at the moment, but they are still ahead of my character Broneslav in the timeline. It will be interesting to see if I can get both in sync, so that they can hear about Broneslav's exploits, and perhaps one group's actions will have an effect on who and what the other group can do or meets. There are three paths through this adventure, with sidetracks and plenty of room to just mess everything up for the DM. I think it would be awesome to be running the adventure  for three groups and actually make the world seem like it were more alive and less focused on the PCs.

For rules, I'm using Scarlet Heroes as the core engine, but cannibalising the Basic D&D rule book for spells and experience system. I've nothing against the Scarlet Heroes spells but they do not fit the background of my game. The Scarlet Heroes experience system is too deterministic for my liking. Scenarios are likely to take a fair while to complete, and I want to see my character inching towards new levels as the game plays out.

So, it's been over a year since I last posted anything from this, and it is likely that this series will continue to be irregular, although hopefully not that irregular. I've added a full character sheet for Broneslav as a page now and I have the modules and rules as pdfs, because I am travelling a lot and want to keep the amount of paperwork I need to a minimum. If you want to catch up on Broneslav's adventures or see what went before this post, click HERE.

The doors creaked open, revealing a huge chamber with alcoves set in the east and west walls. The chamber was empty but rotting, red curtains hung across it part way down. Beyond the curtains was a room lit by a brazier that burned with a blue light. On a platform across the top end of the room was a throne with a lectern beside it and three stone coffins arranged in a triangular pattern.

The book on the lectern was in very good condition. It must have had a preservation spell cast on it. When he opened it, the book suddenly spoke, "Receive the tale of years." Inside, though, the pages were blank. Then the book spoke again. It recited some bad poetry about the mage Elyas imprisoning the three witches, but being killed in the process. The poem mentioned a black opal, like the one now in Broneslav's possession, and said that it was the key to vanquishing the witches forever. In the meantime, their souls and bodies were kept imprisoned by Elyas' magic, until they can take over the bodies of young maidens and walk once more in the world. So, that explained the need to kidnap the maidens, but only two had been taken. "Well," thought Broneslav, "I'll not give them time to get a third". Perhaps the coffins contained a key to it. There were three coffins and two were sealed by lead, so they might relate to the witches.

Broneslav and Baik lifted the lid from the coffin nearest the lectern. As the lid tumbled to the floor, a skeleton clad in rusting mail armour and and rotting furs leapt from it, sword in hand. His sword did nothing to it, but a blow from Broneslav's shield shattered its bones and it crumpled to dust, while Baik just stood and gawped, too surprised to move.

The next coffin was tougher to open, but the pair were better prepared. Nothing leapt out and they beheld a skeleton dressed in a deep blue robe within this one. Broneslav smashed its skull just in case, and found a small compartment under the skull containing 100gp. The third coffin was the resting place of a skeleton in a red dress. He smashed its skull too, just in case. None of the coffins contained any clues about what to do next, meaning that Broneslav would just have to guess where to go next. He presumed that these were the coffins of the witches, although it seemed a bit strange that they could have been buried here by the wizard, if they had also killed him. Perhaps something was not quite right about the story.

There appeared to be no way out of this room, so they retraced their steps back to the octagonal room and headed eastwards. There was something odd about the wall to his left as they entered the passageway (Average task check with bonus for Keen Vision). Checking the wall, he soon opened a secret door. Beyond the door were stairs going down. A secret door probably meant something worth checking out, so the pair decided to see where the stairs led before returning to investigate the passages and doors that they could see ahead of them.

Broneslav led the way. As soon as he stepped onto the stairs, they suddenly slid together and he found himself tumbling down them, unable to stop. Baik, at the top of the stairs, had stopped just in time. Broneslav landed in a room at the bottom with a large pillar in its centre. Just ahead of him was a large gelatinous cube. The remains of some hapless creature were visible within it. As it oozed towards Broneslav, he yelled for Baik to join him and sliced quickly  at it, shearing off a substantial chunk. Dodging backwards as the creature oozed quickly towards him, he sliced again and the creature suddenly collapsed as if deflated. At that point Baik joined him.

The stairs remained resolutely slippery and in a slide form, so the pair could not climb back up. There were no obvious doors out of this room. But, the creature must have got in somehow, and there must be a way for anyone entering this room to leave it, so he searched carefully for secret doors. Between them Broneslav and Baik found two doors. One in the central pillar and one in the east wall. They opened the central one first.

The secret door opened into a small vault. A chest sat at the far side away from the door. Broneslav stepped carefully into the room and only narrowly avoided getting his skull split by an axe blade that scythed down from the ceiling and began to swing from above the chest to the door. Timing his next move carefully, Broneslav dived into the vault and along the wall. He got to the chest without further harm. Seeing nothing amiss, he dragged the chest carefully to the door while keeping low to avoid the swinging axe blade. The chest was light enough that he was able to shove it to Baik outside, but then he misjudged his dive out, and the axe took a chunk out of his shoulder. He was really going to need some new clothes after this rescue was over. His clothes were looking tattered and torn. They were certainly beyond repair now.

With the chest safely outside the range of the axe blade, Baik and Broneslav were able to open it and gaze upon a pile of copper and gold, and three bottles labeled Wizard of Wines Winery Superb Wine. Each label had the same serial number (3132-N) listed on it. Broneslav knew nothing about wine, so this meant nothing to him. With these treasures divided between them and packed away, Baik and Broneslav were ready to open the secret door to the east.

Character
Broneslav Torenescu (S16, D14, C15, I12, W10, Ch14, F1, HP 9, AC4, Sword 1d8+3, Bow 1d8)
Human (Traladaran)
XPs: 1332

Traits:
Torenescu Family Member 1
Hunter 1
Keen Vision 1
Good Education 1
Empathy with Animals 1

Goal: Prove that he is an adult following the Shearing Ceremony
Goal: Slay a red dragon
Quest: Deliver a parcel to Merisa in Gray Mountain Village
Quest: Rescue Sylva and Merisa
Quest: Undo the greater evil under Kota-Hutan Temple

Allies
Baik Telor (HD 4, AC 4, ATK +4, DAM 1d8)

Roll of Honour
Alki (Level 2 Elven warrior brutally slain while helpless by the Rahib)

Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Complex Temple - More Frostgrave

After Petunia Gladiolus' abortive attempt to enter Sandgrave and acquire artefacts, it was her twin sister's turn to try. Peony Gladiolus was certain that she would succeed where her sister had failed. She had recruited the best soldiers she could find, and, like her sister, had a budding apprentice whose skills should be up to the task.

As she approached the old temple, she espied the witch that her sister had warned her about. Curious how both should seek to plunder these ruins at the same time. Perhaps the witch was a rival to House Gladiolus too. She would have to sort that out.

We rolled the Complex Temple scenario. This one requires six pillars on the board that must be 'fought' to gain the treasure they contain. We marked the objective pillars with treasure tokens. Steve's warband was four levels higher than mine, and had the advantage of around 500gc for buying troops, as well as having several magic weapons. Therefore I planned to use my Chronomancer's 'Fleet Foot' and 'Leap' spells to grab the loot and run. If I could avoid fighting too much, I could survive the fight and perhaps close the gap between the two warbands.

As both warbands approached the temple, The apprentice cast a Leap spell on Kurt the Thug and transported him immediately to a likely spot for finding treasure. He quickly found the treasure and started running for home with it. Peony cast Fleet Foot on Young Kurt the Mendacious, her warband's thief, who sprinted towards the treasure too. Meanwhile her thugs formed a shieldwall intent on defending the treasure grabbers.

Gunnhild the Knight was Leapt to the treasure but failed to find it. All too soon she was surrounded by the enemy and cut down. However, while this was happening, a combination of bow-fire and Bone Dart spells was whittling the enemy numbers down to the point where the enemy witch had to cast Fog to give his troops some cover. However, this was not enough. Peony and her troops, though bloodied, ganged up on and picked off piecemeal the scattered enemy. Soon she held the field and half the treasure. Her first foray into Sandgrave had gone well.

Yes, the game was a draw with each of us getting three treasure tokens, but I had successfully taken out three-quarters of Steve's warband. I was happy with that. However, the treasure rolls were not so good. I got two grimoires, a Horn of Destruction, and 300gc. Steve got something like 700gc or so. The grimoires are useless to me right now, although they will be useful later in the campaign if my wizard survives. I would have been happier with more gold so that I could bring my warband's level up to that of Steve's.

Current campaign standings:
Peony Gladiolus (Level 3 Chronomancer) with warband worth 810gc.
Rasgor (Level 7 Witch) with warband worth approx 1000gc.

My plan for the next scenario must be to inch back a little bit of ground. If I get the opportunity to take out his Witch with my Chronomancer then I shall be particularly pleased, but playing for a draw until I have enough gold to match Steve's warband size might not be a bad idea for now.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Wizard's House: A Frostgrave mini-AAR

We played Frostgrave on Tuesday evening. This was our third game and the start of a mini-campaign. The idea is to play half a dozen games and see how the wizards progress. With that under our belt, we will then have a clue about any changes that need to be made for an extended campaign. I have read much over on the Lead Adventures forum about how the campaign as written does not work well, and how a variety of house rules need to be implemented to make it feasible. Well, now we are about to find out.

Both Steve and I had bought the original Nickstarter from North Star, when the game was first offered up for pre-order. I got the Chronomancer, because I thought the figures were cool, and I love the whole idea of a wizard whose focus is on wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff. Steve got the Witch. I really like the figures, and find the plastic minions interesting to build and paint.

So, Steve had a Witch, an apprentice, a barbarian, two archers, four thugs and a thief. I had a Chronomancer, an apprentice, a templar, two crossbowmen, three thugs and two thieves. We rolled for scenario and got The Wizard's House. This meant that all the treasure was gathered in the centre of the table guarded by animated statues. Here follow's Rasgor the Witch's version of events as he and Petunia Gladiolus entered Sandgrave in search of treasure and magic (our setting is Sandgrave because I have lots of desert terrain in the right scale).

It had taken Rasgor many months to gather the right people from the tribes. It had taken even longer to convince the chief to allow him to go. Especially with one of the Chief’s sons, Doug, who was already one of the finest warriors in the Steppes.

This would be their first true foray into the city of Sandgrave. They had scouted the area for the last few weeks, searching for a suitable place to begin their exploration. Yesterday they had stumbled across these ruins, so after looking them over they had returned today.

Just as they approached the ruins, they had noticed another band arriving from the opposite side. Rasgor had taken Doug, Mirk and Tug to the left, while his apprentice Naseby lead Slight the Thief, Nug and Beck to the right. Cal and Dirk approached the centre of the building. Rasgor called upon the spirit to give Mirk strength and Mirk felt the power flow into him.

Suddenly a crossbowman let fly and Tug dropped his bow as he crumpled to the ground. Doug and Mirk ran forward into cover, while Rasgor send forth a dart and had the satisfaction of seeing the assailant crumple to the floor clutching his throat.

Inside the ruins stood six statues, each with a chest at their feet. One of the opposing force charged forward and grabbed a chest, as he lifted it from the ground the statue began to move towards him. At which point Slight sprinted around the corner only to become entangled in the fight. The statue knocked one to the floor and then the next. As Cal picked up another chest, the statue guarding this came to life. Rasgor cast a Strength spell on her, as Doug, Mirk and Dirk ran to help her. The opposing force seemed to be tied up by the statues themselves.

Nug eventually won an archery duel with a crossbowman on the right hand side, but before he could celebrate a door crashed open to his right and a huge bear lumbered out. Doug had found himself in no man’s land between the two groups, as a wall appeared behind him. He attempted to charge the opposing wizard, but it was as though a glamour were cast on him. He shook his black maned head to clear his head then charged forward again knocking down the wizard before turning on her apprentice cowering in the corner.

The rest of the statues were soon defeated and the bear was soon skinned. Tug, Beck and Slight had all suffered only superficial wounds, they would be stiff and sore for a few days, but a barrel round the fire would soon ease those pains.

The game was a whitewash. My entire warband was put out of the fight. I got no treasure. Worse yet, my templar (my best soldier) actually died in the post-game rolling for wounds. I did, however, gain one level.

Steve gained four levels for his wizard and got all the treasure. I cannot remember exactly how much treasure he got, but I remember him getting a whole bunch of scrolls, a couple of magic weapons and a couple of grimoires as well as lots of gold. In the next game I shall be facing a warband that should be worth nearly double mine, and whose wizard will be higher level.

With Steve's superiority in firepower in mind, I do not want to start with a warband that is worth 80% of a starting warband and thus is so much further behind Steve's warband  that I shall almost certainly be creamed again next time. Therefore, my wizard has retired to her country mansion and I shall start a new warband next time. I lose the level gained, but get to choose a bunch of different spells to see if my Chronomancer can be more effective, and I also start with a full-strength warband. I plan to try to grab some treasure, gain a level if possible, and, most importantly, keep my whole warband alive next time. Unless my dice are on fire, I doubt I can win the next game, so I shall instead try for damage limitation.

One thing I have become aware of since starting playing the game and reading about it on the forum is that Chronomancers are probably the weakest wizards in the game. I wish I had realised that before picking the shiniest figures for my warband! Ah well, I shall just have to play more cunningly. That will include destroying Steve's dice which rolled more 20s (critical hits) than they should have in the last game. He had better not leave them unaccompanied at any point ...

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Viking berserkers in wargames - a thesis and some notes

Gosh, it's been quiet round here. I have several games to write reports on, although they may just be short notes and photos at this late date, but they are languishing in the doldrums of lack of desire to edit the photos and write about them. However, I have just been informed that my PhD has gone live on the Nottingham eTheses website, so, instead of writing battle reports, and while my work on turning my PhD into a thrilling bestseller falters along like a 3 minute old foal, I offer the chance to read my deathless prose offline by downloading my thesis, while waiting for the next gaming related post. Alternatively, you could wait for a more reader-friendly version when the book is finally published. Click the title below to go to the page for my thesis. It's a 31Mb download. You have been warned. I've also added some thoughts after the abstract on what my conclusions mean for a Viking wargame army.

Berserkir: A re-examination of the phenomenon in literature and life
Abstract
This thesis discusses whether berserkir really went berserk. It proposes revised paradigms for berserkir as they existed in the Viking Age and as depicted in Old Norse literature. It clarifies the Viking Age berserkr as an elite warrior whose practices have a function in warfare and ritual life rather than as an example of aberrant behaviour, and considers how usage of PDE ‘berserk’ may affect the framing of research questions about berserkir through analysis of depictions in modern popular culture. The analysis shows how berserksgangr has received greater attention than it warrants with the emphasis being on how berserkir went berserk. A critical review of Old Norse literature shows that berserkir do not go berserk, and suggests that berserksgangr was a calculated form of posturing and a ritual activity designed to bolster the courage of the berserkr.

It shows how the medieval concept of berserkir  was more nuanced and less negative than is usually believed, as demonstrated by the contemporaneous existence in narratives of berserkir as king’s men, hall challengers, hólmgöngumenn, Viking raiders, and Christian champions, and by the presence of men with the byname berserkr in fourtheenth-century documents. Old Norse literature is related to pre-Viking Age evidence to show that warriors wearing wolfskins existed and can be related to berserkir , thus making it possible to produce models for Viking Age and medieval concepts of berserkir .

The modern view of berserkir is analysed and shows that frenzy is the dominant attribute, despite going berserk not being a useful attribute in Viking Age warfare which relied upon men holding a line steady rather than charging individually.

The thesis concludes that ON berserkr may be best translated as PDE ‘champion’, while PDE ‘berserker’ describes the type of uncontrollable warrior most commonly envisaged when discussing berserkir .

Most illustrations have been removed from the digital version of this thesis for copyright reasons. The references in the captions guide the reader to the original source for those illustrations.

What this means for Viking armies in wargames
In the first instance, it means an end to psycho nutjobs with no clothes and lots of special rules, not that I am the first to have written this. Berserkir were champions and bodyguards. They fought in the same manner as the other warriors in the army, but better. Their defining features such as the howling and shield-biting (or spell-chanting as I have suggested as an alternative interpretation) happened before the battle and were not part of an intrinsic berserk state, despite what popular culture says. To reflect their attributes, they would be the best armed and best armoured troops in the army, and they would be grouped around a leader. How this applies to your games will depend upon the scale of the game.

You might have an entire warband of these guys in a skirmish game, reflecting a lord and his immediate retinue going off to do a bit of plundering, or to rescue a foreign lord from the monster plaguing his hall. Your leader might be a berserkr with a following of local levies and assorted warriors. You might have one or two berserkir with a leader and then a group of levies and assorted warriors. The permutations are as many as the possible scenarios around why a leader is on his own or only accompanied by a couple of his champions.

In a big battle game, the representation will depend upon how you perceive the structure of the army. If you think the best warriors could be spread among the rabble to raise their discipline, then you would simply improve the average quality of many/all units in the army. If you think, as do I, that the berserkir would be gathered around their lord and his standard, then you should use the highest quality troop type in your army for the stands of your leaders/generals. This does not mean picking the highest quality in the army list. I doubt all lords and their retinues were of equal quality, and the number of men in a lord's personal retinue is highly unlikely to be equal to the notional number of men comprising a unit or stand in most big battle games. This means that the effect of the best troops will be diluted, so you might have a unit of veteran huskarls to represent the berserkir and the best troops, instead of automatically representing the unit as elite huskarls.

The actual physical representation of these troops is more difficult. They may have worn bearskins or a bear's mask, but the evidence is not present to state whether these accoutrements were worn, if at all, in battle or only for rituals and ceremonies. I would suggest going for what you find aesthetically pleasing. As long as your berserkir are not naked, you are not leaving yourself open to criticism by pedants like me!

So, that's a few thoughts on berserkir in wargames. They are certainly not complete or comprehensive, but I hope they provide food for thought.