The Savage North! An Intermittent Runequest Shared World Blog!

Clint Staples

So a while back, my wife and I were discussing Runequest and my Brightwater Campaign. Yes, I am one of the lucky ones who has a significant other who games - Penny has gamed for as long as I have known her [over thirty years now]. I may even have had a hand in turning her to the dark side originally - I think I was playing in the very first games she joined. She has been one of my most continuous, reliable and enjoyable players ever since.

But I am not writing to tell you how lucky I am, though it is true that I am. Nor am I writing to tell you how many games I have run that have been made better by her presence [though that would be true too]. That would be unfair to the other players I have been fortunate enough to have shared time with around the table. So let's get back to the subject at hand.

When time permits, I sometimes run solo campaigns for the two of us. Schedules don't always facilitate getting a larger group together, so we game occasionally, just the two of us.

Having owned The Savage North, by John Ossoway and Newt Newport, for the Openquest d100 system for a while now, I thought my most recent offering for Penny to play in would be this gem of a Sword and Sorcery setting from d101 Games.

The Savage North is a tight 124 pages, packed with setting info, rules for the setting itself, a sizable campaign that looks likely to provide us with at least a dozen or two sessions [not to mention whatever I come up with to throw in],and a handful of pregenerated PCs, which can easily work as NPCs too.

The setting is a rough and tumble collection of barbarian kingdoms north of the Empire of Gatan. The authors acknowledge the influence of Robert E. Howard's work, and Bogdan and Drakkar of The Savage North certainly bring to mind the lands of Cimmeria, Vanaheim and Asgard in the Hyboria of Conan. That had been enough to sell me. So I pitched it to my player and she was enthusiastically in.

So we generated a player character, Aquilla, who I will post in good time. Aquilla is young lady of Imperial parentage, born in the North, but sent south as a child during a rebellion of the Drakkar against their new masters. At the start of the campaign she is returning to the north and her birthright. Tutored in riding and the fighting arts, Aquilla was also given instruction in history and languages, as befits a young scion of the Empire, and personally instructed by her eccentric Aunt Hortencia to control her sorcery. All this, to prepare her for the journey the girl has yearned for, and dreaded, for more than a dozen years - to return to the place of her birth and see what remains of her family. 

Equipped with an heirloom set of armor belonging to a deceased uncle and gifted with a fine steed, her head filled with a great deal of information and little practical experience, Aquilla took ship on the 'Argenta' from Gatan, her ultimate goal a city that had grown in the span of her life from a military camp to a vibrant trading and administrative center - Newcastle. As a passenger of good birth, she was treated well by captain and crew, but kept away from everyday life aboard ship. Aquilla's dreams of adventure seemed very far away, as she was restricted to her cabin, borne from her home, around the Horn, then northward into little known and potentially hostile waters.

It was here that adventure found the young woman. Longships, sheltering in a scattering of islands and shoals, fell upon her ship with alarming swiftness. Of course Aquilla was escorted below almost as soon as she appeared on deck, allowing the captain and crew to decide her fate along with their own as they bent every effort to increasing their speed. As she descended the stairs, Aquilla's surreptitious summons of a bound sylph filled the mainsail, and the ship leapt forward like a restless horse from its stall.

But the northern ships were as swift, and by the time an unknown knight stepped up from below onto the main deck, the first raider arrows were striking the sides. The knight's armor was fine, and masked any recognizable feature. But there were none with time to give heed to the white dragon on the surcoat, or the sheen of embossed leather or polished iron. It was only when the raiders drew nearer, and another ship appeared before the bow of the beleaguered 'Argenta', and the knight strode to the bow hurling lightning from a gauntleted hand, that the crew became aware.

Crossbows traded bolts for northern arrows, and the outnumbered Argentas lost on the exchange. But arrow after arrow rang from the knight's helm or pauldron, and another lightning strike saw the sail of the raider tear free to spill its wind and fall rapidly away as the 'Argenta' struggled free of the trap. Another pair of lightning bolts discouraged a pursuit that seemed less and less likely to bear reward. The relieved crew thanked Aquilla for their deliverance as the raiders fell away aft.

Several days of coasting brought Argenta, her crew, and her passenger into sight of Newcastle, a gleaming city, walled in limestone, on a rugged island near enough to the mainland to be joined by an impressive stone bridge. [NOTE: The Newcastle of the setting is actually ON the mainland, but I did not know that at the time and could not find the map I had printed out in timely enough fashion. Hence the bridge and placement of the city. So for our game, Newcastle is built upon the more southerly of the two islands in the bay marked as The Enclave. This is what happens when you don't read your source material carefully enough ;) ].

After disembarking and riding up to the small urban estate of her family, Aquilla endured a rather too formal welcome by the household and her mother, whom she barely remembered. She was introduced to two younger half-siblings, was fed and shown to her rooms. At dinner when she offered to make herself useful, and described her training and interest in 'seeing' the north, her mother asked her if she might be willing to investigate the disappearance of a household caravan.

As any good player character would, Aquilla said YES!


And that was where we wrapped the first session.

But before I sign off, I wanted to mention that, in talking about the game and setting, we have decided that we will share the setting. With my wife GMing on occasion, and me playing. I am THRILLED! Penny has GMed before, and I always enjoy her games.

I am writing up a character even now. I'll post him in future too.


Art is by John Hodgson, from The Savage North cover.