Ragnarok: Age of Wolves Bonus Material - Optional Rules!

Clint Staples

One of the things that I use Ragnarok: Age of Wolves for around here is to fight out RPG battles that are too big to manage using a Roleplaying Game engine. I am currently running a playtest and research campaign or two set in my RPG, Ragnarok: The Great Winter. Perhaps it will come as no great surprise that it shares the same setting, themes and characters as those on display in Ragnarok: Age of Wolves. This makes it an ideal for transferring characters to and from R:AW to R:GW and back again. Indeed, the two systems are designed to mesh easily, the better to facilitate this very thing.

But this weekend, I played in a R:AW scenario based on action from the ongoing shared campaign I co-GM: The Savage North from D101 Games. In this session, one of my player characters, Donnan, who has settled down as the chieftain of a frontier settlement called Griffondal, leads an investigation/ assault to destroy a lingering threat to the region - The Great Maw of Crawral! If you read the original scenario that I wrote a few months back (a complete Runequest Scenario that you can download and run for you players), you will know that the Great Maw is a potent spirit servant of the Cannibal Blood-God Crawral, that has infested a Font of Power, drawing madmen from hundreds of miles around to corrupt into a cult of its god.

Well, the Player Characters (Tova, Atuan, and Ingaborg, who you will find in the comments on the Caverns of the Charnel Cult page) spoiled that by killing all the cultists. But none of them had the magical prowess to do anything about the Maw! That is (sort of) where Donnan comes into the story. The original team of characters are based in and around Griffondal, and they took the issue to the chieftain, who called on some local sorcerers he knew who had the juice to deal with the Great Maw once and for all - at least that is what Donnan was hoping. Of course, getting to Starving Mountain in the middle of winter was a serious trek in itself, and Donnan had the manpower to take a force large enough to deal with other eventualities - like the possible clutch of Serpentfolk that might still be there, possibly reinforced through the Magic Portal they had set up in the caves to facilitate trade with the cannibals.

So now we have a skirmish scenario for R:AW based on an RPG scenario for Runequest. In the original scenario, I GMed the Runequest characters investigation and clearance of enough of the caves to kill the cultists and rescue the sorcerer who had been imprisoned by the cannibal cult, and who was slowly being consumed by them as they stripped him of his flesh, his magic and his sanity. Now the sorcerer, Ioran, would be going back into this cavern of horrors with Donnan, Demetrius Archimagus, the aforementioned Ingaborg, and a band of warriors to destroy the Great Maw once and for all!

To do all this, I had to write up some new characters in R:AW terms. In so doing, I came up with some optional rules that can help adapt a character from an RPG to Ragnarok: Age of Wolves. Here they are for you benefit:

Variable Ranks: In R:AW, characters, followers and monsters are rated by Rank, which denotes their power level. Levy is the lowest Rank, and inflicts a -1 Rank penalty on most things a Levy attempts in game. Ranks progress upward to Hero (Rank 3) which adds 3 to most attempts in game. In a skirmish game it is usually perfectly fine to assume that a character is consistent throughout most endeavors. To reflect an RPG, sometimes we want more variation. A Character might be a powerful warrior, but much less potent as a mage. Such is the case with Donnan, who came to learn sorcery as an adult and is significantly less advanced as a magician than he is as a warrior. So we can make Donnan a Hero (Rank 3) but only a Rank 2 or Rank 1 Mage. He gains the normal benefits of Hero Rank for non-magical things, but his lower Magical Rank means fewer spells and reduced ability in the magical world. Another character, Gerhard, is a more accomplished mage, but with very limited exposure to the rest of the world. So I made him a Rank 3 sorcerer, but only a Veteran (Rank 1) in all other ways. So in a fight, his Defense and Attack rolls would be lower, and he has the Health of a Veteran, but when it came to spell-slinging, he has all the spells and magic power of Rank 3. There is no reason (other than simplicity) that this could not be applied to any character you wish to create.


Playing on a Grid: Not long ago, I purchased a couple of great gaming mats, and I have been waiting anxiously to try them out. Since one of them is a cavern floor (even filthy and bloodspattered in places as you would expect the Caverns of the Charnel Cult to be) it was perfect for this. We made up the game area using grey foam "hills" as cave walls and passages and were set to go. But R:AW as written, is a tabletop skirmish game that works without a gaming grid of 1 inch squares, so understanding a few things that change because of the grid became necessary.

On the R:AW tabletop, models engage when there is one square separating them. This looks a bit odd when using a grid at first, because we are used to the way a lot of RPGs assume "engagement" when two figures are adjacent. In R:AW, we have figures stop with 1" separating them so that we know it is the first turn of contact, and because a lot of weapons reach across a 5 foot (1" in scale) gap in real life. This works in game to represent the turn of first contact. Attacks still happen across the gap, but they happen in order of highest Weapon Class (essentially the "reach" of the weapon) to lowest. On the following turn in an ongoing engagement, on the wargame table, the figures involved shift in toward each other, and the order of attacks shifts (Lower Weapon Class to Highest) to reflect shorter axes and knives getting "past" the reach of longer weapons.

This is fine on a gridless surface, but on a grid the rule has to allow for one side to shift first, or the grid gets ignored as both sides shift in toward the center between them, straddling the lines and corners of squares. So, on a grid, the Phasing player gets to decide who will shift in, and moves his, or the opponent's model into contact. This give the player with Initiative in the turn a slight advantage, allowing her to decide whether to advance slightly, or maintain a position.


Order of Action in the Magic and Missiles Phase: Normally, this is the phase of the arrow storm, but also the one in which lightning bolts flash, elementals are summoned, and other sundry spell-casting is done. In game, it is understood that all attacks in this phase happen simultaneously. So no one is counted out before they get to shoot or cast, and damage that occurs happens AFTER all attacks are made - which means that no one is killed or wounded before anyone else in this phase. This is done for a good reason. In a turn-based game, the side that gets to shoot first could wipe out a tremendous number of enemy who, in real time, are shooting simultaneously. Because of the 'I Go, then You Go" turn construct, they would be dead before they get to act. So in R:AW, the sorcerer and the archer, and the half-troll stone thrower all get to make their actions in the Magic and Missiles Phase, THEN the damage is actually inflicted.

But very rarely, a situation comes up where this is not satisfactory. As it did during this session, in which a serpentfolk priestess wanted to pick up a scenario objective and then transform using the spell: Cloak fo Feathers, in order to escape. She was right next to the item (a magical egg that she had invested with tremendous power) at the start of the Movement Phase, so she could legally pick up the egg. But during the Magic and Missiles Phase, in which all the shooting and spellcasting normally happens simultaneously - does she get away? If not, do all attack directed against her get to roll to hit and damage before she does? Neither of these felt like good options.

I have two possible solutions in such a case:

1 - The Phasing Player goes first: Each turn, the player who goes first (whether they won the initiative and chose to act first, or were made to go first because they lost the Initiative) is the Phasing Player. In this case, the rule would be that the Magic and Missiles of the Phasing Player happen first - but only as required to work through the situation at hand. So in the above case, any attack directed at the Mage hoping to escape would occur "Phasing Player first". So if the Mage's player is the Phasing Player, she would get to cast Cloak of Feathers, attain spirit form, and be immune to attack while she maintains that form. If, on the other hand, her opponent were the Phasing Player (as was the case this time), then she would be subject to any spells and missiles directed at her BEFORE she cast her spell and escaped.

2 - a More graduated approach, which I did not think of until after the game, would be to allow any models involved (the serpentfolk priestess and any models attacking her) to roll in a Rank Contest: Any rolls lower than hers are too slow. Any equal to, or higher than hers, are quick enough that she much survive them before she completes her spell. I think this one is more realistic and adds more tension, but it also adds more dice rolls.


New Spells and Abilities:

One of the characters, Demetrius, is an Archmage. We made him an archmage in the skirmish game because he is an archmage in the RPG, and to reflect the epic nature of trying to destroy a cannibalistic demigod and cleanse a font of power that has existed in the world for tens of thousands of years. So I came up with a couple of rules for Archmages:

Rank 4 Mage: Archmages count as Rank 4 for Magic, though they cannot be higher than Rank 3 (Hero) otherwise. Archmages add 4 to their Magic rolls for spellcasting, and for Rank Contests in which magic plays a part. They get 4 spells, and an Archmage ability. This ability might be unique to the archmage and would be a good way to personalize each one. Archmages are incredibly rare, and so each one SHOULD be unique. I gave Demetrius the Archmage ability:

Twin Casting: If you do nothing else in the melee phase and are not engaged, you may cast a spell, even if you have cast one in the Magic and Missiles Phase.

Note: In the heat of play, I forgot that the Archmage had Twin Casting, and so did not get an opportunity to playtest it. Be warned that it does need playtesting.


Spells: If you have been following this column (and Will Thrasher's fine posts on R:AW), you may know that we have been writing new spells for the game as we continue to develop for it. here are a couple more:

Range: 4" per Rank
Magic Skill TN: 12
Add your Rank to the Defense of the Target against all elemental damage. If you cast no spell in the next and following Turns, your can maintain the spell through these turns. You may cease maintaining the spell at the beginning of any Magic and Missiles Phase, and then cast another spell normally.


Summon Fulminar
Magic Skill TN: 14
Summon a spirit composed of the fury of the storm into your service. If there is a shrine to Thor, or similar focus of air or storm magic on the battlefield then you may summon it up to 4” per Mage Rank distant from that place. Otherwise, the elemental must appear within 4” of your  location. It can move immediately on being summoned, and may attack in the Magic & Missiles and/or Melee Phases if able, otherwise acting in all ways like a corporeal fighter on the battlefield. See the rules for summoning elementals in R:AW Core.


New Monster: Fulminar

A Fulminar is a storm of furious wind wreathed in lightning, sometimes adopting a humanoid form for a moment before lapsing back into a whirlwind, and may be found in places where there are constant winds, such as mountain passes, the upper atmosphere, and storms. They may also be summoned to the battlefield by Mages.

Move: Teleport 3d6” (No Charge)

Defense: 14

Health: 2


 • Lightning as the spell, except the Fulminar has no chance of spell catastrophe.

+3 to 8”, +1 to 16”, OK 16.

Hurl Lightning at a foe. You do an Outright Kill on a roll of 16 or higher. If you roll a Wyrd Match of 2 or higher then you can direct a fork of your lightning to another target within 4” of the first and roll again.


• Teleport: In a flash of lightning, you disappear from one spot an appear anywhere within Line of Sight, up to 3d6” away. You are unaffected by intervening elevation, terrain or models. You may adjust your facing when you land.

• Whirling Winds: Any archery from or to a point within 2” or the elemental is at a further -1 to hit.