Runequest #42 - A Savage North Chronicle - Donnan Corag - Beginnings!

Clint Staples

In previous Savage North Posts [1 and 2] I introduced you to the characters, all solos, running around the setting as GMed by myself and my wife, Penny.

Aquila - The young Imperial sorcerer knight traveling to and into the North in hopes of finding her destiny. 

Kael - The Isleman pirate prince who finds himself and his home embroiled in the machination of elder sorcery.

Donnan - The halfblood Bogdanan/ Sonderlander who followed his mother's dying wish to her homeland north of Gryphon Pass, to adventure and the defense of her people from the Wodeman invasion. 

Note: I have deviated from the standard understanding of Sorcery 'as written' in The Savage North, largely because my first player wanted to play a sorcerer. As written, sorcery in the Savage North is evil and a product of adherence to the tenets of the Blood Gods, ancient evils from elder era. Our understanding of sorcery is that a choice must be made to devote oneself to the Blood Gods, and that other sorceries exist. Most sorcerer's however, do suffer from misunderstanding and prejudice, even outright attack, in the Savage North, regardless of their affiliation.


I have already given you the datafiles for Kael and his Seaborne friend, Aleid, as well as a brief write-up for the Ice Isles as I will be using them. I can't give you a datafile for Aquila, because I have to pester my player for a digital version. but I do have one for Donnan Corag, my PC. So I can post that, with a bit of background.

On a related note, I want to mention a couple of other things:

- Firstly, I have long lamented that I GM a lot, but don't get to play that often. Well, I have to admit that that has changed in recent months. With Donnan, my character in Savage North, my wizard golem superhero in the [Marvel Superhero Roleplaying Game] Pandaemonium campaign my pal Rick Neal is running, and my mutant beastman Roark in the post-apocalyptic offering of my buddy Tom, the player of Kael], I am suddenly swimming in opportunities to play. So I am going to stop whining about never getting tp play before the GMs who put up with me notice and dock XP.

- Secondly, I have a totally biased and completely irrational hatred for roll-stat character generation - purely because I roll SOOOOO badly on them. I don't insist on playing an uber-powerful character, but it would be nice to not have to work MULTIPLE crap stats into a single character - at least once in a while. Well, I have to stop whining about this too, because Donnan is possibly the the best statted character I have ever played. All his characteristics were average or higher, with some quite impressive [for me at least]. We rolled 2d6+6 [Average 13] for stats for characters for this game. Since they were all going to be solo characters, we wanted to give them a little bit of an edge. The human average would generally be based on 3d6 [Average 10.5]. Technically then, Donnan is below average in a few stats, but I am not complaining.

Note: Donnan has had a few opportunities to go up experience from what he was when he began. His skills and gear reflect that.

All right, enough of that.

For Character Creation in the Savage North, we used the method in the Legend RPG, slightly modified. It provides some great results, can be easily adapted to different settings, and has a nice background system that gives you enough detail to hang cool stuff on,but does not hamstring a player;s creativity in that regard. Here is what I rolled for Donnan's Background:

  • Single parent – Mother, 7 siblings, 2 aunts and uncles on each side
  • Family rep - Average but with a few skeletons in the closet – 1 enemy or rival [Enemy - Cormac]
  • Family has reasonable connections with the community   no rivals, contacts or enemies
  • Suffered a disease or plague as a child
  • On a quest to fulfill a dying request or the actions set forth in a will
  • Roll twice and take both:

- Suffered a major wound as a youth that left a permanent scar      

- Born under a conjunction of stars – Marked for Greatness [Yes, I rolled 'Marked for Greatness']


And here is the Background Write-Up that I provided to the GM:

Donnan was the youngest of his father’s seven living children. Four were had on Drua, Connar’s first wife, who fell sick after the birth of Aife. At this time, Connar bought the lovely Sonder slave woman Yngagerd from a band of Bogdan raiders rather than see her brutalized. He was pleased to learn that she was a seer and hedge-witch, and at first surprised, then overjoyed, to find himself falling in love with her as Drua’s illness finally took her. A year later, on Midsummer’s day, Connar freed Gerd; that night, he leapt the Bonfire with her.

The northern witch, though not universally liked, was beautiful, kind and wise, using her arts to heal, strengthen, and protect Dun Rowan. When plague struck and her own son was one of those affected, any who harbored suspicion gave them up, for Yngagerd worked tirelessly and without favoritism to save all those afflicted. When Donnan recovered, none said it was at the expense of another. 

Still, Connar was aware of his duty to his first wife and her family. He declared publicly that any issue from his second marriage would not be able to claim inheritance, receiving only what he chose to give. Thus he placated the powerful Bruin clan, of which Drua’s father was a chieftain, while still being able to do well by his second wife’s offspring. In the fullness of time, he arranged advantageous marriages for Valtrude and Valtheow, and hoped still to have something of worth for young Donnan when the time came.

Donnan’s childhood was neither hard nor easy. But from his first years, he knew that his older half brother Cormac meant him ill. Few opportunities for secret assaults, or mean tricks were passed by. And Cormac often set his friends on the younger boy. Finally, after enduring years of torment that he could not answer, Donnan found Cormac hunting alone, beat him senseless and then carried him back to camp, dumping him before his friends, who chose not to reply when they saw the felling axe across the young man’s shoulders. Even since, Cormac has been pressuring Connar to exile that ‘bastard’. Connar instead arranged a truce between the two, but there were hard feeling on both sides, and neither man nor boy would accept anything like friendship. Cormac awaited his opportunity.

It was not long in coming. Donnan spend much of his time in the company or service of his grandfather Conchovar, learning the woodsman’s dangerous trade, even as he trained for raids against the Wodemen of the east. While out cutting logs to add to the Dun’s palisade, Donnan was struck from ambush. The arrow took him in the chest and would have been the death of him. But a strange vision appeared to the boy, of a ghostly man withdrawing the arrow from his heart and fading away once more. As he bled to death under the great trees, Donnan saw Cormac approach, peer closely into his vacant features, smile a cruel smile then cast about in puzzlement for the arrow. He found it stuck in a nearby tree, retrieved it, and fled, to allow time and the wolves to finish his work.

It was then that the ghost returned. Donnan felt an otherworldly chill fill his chest, then nothing at all. He awoke to darkness, fully healed but marked where the arrow had pierced him. On finding Conchovar’s house, he recounted his vision, but the old man had little to say that would comfort him.

“You’ve no proof, and he is better placed!” His grandfather told him. “Say nothing. Bide your time. And be careful. When he knows you live, he must try again or live forever with the chance you will make an accusation or attack him as he did you.”

When Donnan consulted his mother, she said much the same, and more.

“A sickness has entered Dun Rowan. I have fought it, as I did in the past, and I have lost. It will take many before it is sated. There is nothing for you here. If the sickness spares you, your half-brother will not. So you must go. Take Griffin Pass to Arnstown. Find Hrothmir Harun’s Son. He will know you, and set you on your path. Great things await you, my son.”

With those words, Gerd gave Donnan the talisman she had always worn, begging that he return it to her people, and wished him well.

The sickness descended upon Dun Rowan with a vengeance, dozens died and the hedge-witch struggled to help until she too was afflicted. Some folk blamed Gerd for the disease, forgetting all those she had banished in the past. They claimed that her daughters being well away from the plague, and her son remaining untouched, was evidence of her perfidy. Many silently cursed her even as she sickened, spat upon her shadow as she passed. Few came to mourn her when she died.

Donnan, seemingly friendless in the ravaged Dun Rowan, helped the sick while the number of the dead grew. Cormac, in the meantime, recovering from the plague, fomented hatred against Donnan, accusing him of serving the Blood Gods in exchange for immunity to its ravages. The young man fled to his grandfather before he could be stoned.

Conchovar was waiting. He provided the boy with food and water, a well-tanned direwolf cloak, and his prized war-axe, a gift from the Cruach of Crom itself. Then he sent him on his way, before Cormac’s cronies could find him.


That is all for now. In future posts, I will recount the deeds of Donnan in 'One Against the Wodemen!'