Avenging Grudges for Fun and Profit

Beren by Jordan Whorley

Hello friends!

I know it’s been a while since my last update. Everyone at BWHQ has been in a frenzy working on Torchbearer 2nd Edition and getting Bridge of the Damned ready for press. We’re still going at it hammer and tongs, but the writing is done. It’s all editing and proofing now.

That means I’ve got a bit more bandwidth to work on some new content. I can’t commit to weekly updates here just yet, but I do hope to post more regularly.

Today I want to take a closer look at dwarves, or dvergar, from Middarmark–specifically their Avenging Grudges nature descriptor.

Never Forgive, Never Forget

Dwarves live a long time, often in close quarters, and they are a vengeful folk. Grievances, petty and otherwise, arise frequently. Rather than allow such resentments to fester and spread to consume whole clans and holds, the dvergar have adopted a system of formalized grudges that require the aggrieved to air their complaints publicly and vow before their ancestors and the longbeards and matriarchs of their clan to set things right.

If the ancestors, longbeards and matriarchs accept the grudge, they enter it formerly into the clan’s chronicles. Thereafter, the dwarf’s actions taken in pursuit of the vow are considered legal among one’s kin. They are honor-bound to support the dwarf against dvergar of other clans should that clan seek vengeance for actions taken by the dwarf in pursuit of avenging the grudge. Vendettas pursued without formally declaring a grudge offer no such protection and bring shame to one’s kin.

Avenging Grudges

Among the dvergar, grudges are formal affairs, sacred vows to right a personal wrong or settle a personal grievance. Traditionally such a vow is made before the longbeards and matriarchs of one’s clan that it may be recorded in the chronicles, though outcasts do as they must: Grudges that are not declared before and accepted by the longbeards and matriarchs are often held suspect. Typically outcasts resort to announcing their grudges to other dwarves (preferably) or a large gathering of people (a full tavern will do in a pinch) in the hope that the grudge and their deeds in pursuit of avenging it will be acknowledged by their erstwhile clan and recorded in the chronicles despite the outcast’s lowly status.

Holding aloft a vessel of nog or other strong drink, dvergar initiate the declaration of a grudge with a recitation of one’s lineage, great deeds and past grudges successfully avenged. The dwarf then lists the grievances committed by the subject of the grudge—the longer and more exact the list of grievances, no matter how petty, the more seemly the grudge is considered by other dwarves. The declaration ends with a vow stating what the dwarf will do to avenge the grudge. Typically the vow involves killing, humiliating or ruining the target of the grudge, though forcing an apology and impressive remuneration would be considered acceptable.

Once formally announced and accepted, a dwarf is expected to pursue vengeance above all things. The dwarf’s actions in pursuit of avenging the grudge are considered legal among the dvergar. The dwarf may not declare another grudge until the grudge in question has been avenged. Likewise, if the dwarf abandons or forgives the grudge without completing the oath, they are deemed oathbreakers and cast out of their clan.

An outcast’s grudge is not considered legal in the same way unless entered into the chronicles. Nor can they be outcast again if they abandon a grudge, though doing so would still be cause for great shame.

It should be noted that the longbeards and matriarchs will never accept a grudge declared against a member of one’s own clan. Such things are not done (except in the sagas, where such dishonorable things occur frequently and bring tragedy to all concerned). Any dwarf that does so brings shame upon themselves and their kin.

Avenging Rules

To declare a grudge, test Oratory (or Avenging Grudges nature) using the following factors:

Avenging Factors

Circumstances of declaration

  • Before dwarves at your Ancestral Vault (1)
  • A formal gathering of your clan (2)
  • A gathering of dwarves (3)
  • A gathering of people (4)

+ Vow

  • To kill (1)
  • To ruin (reputation or financially) (2)
  • To humiliate (3)
  • To force an apology and remuneration (4)

If successful, regardless of whether the grudge has been formally accepted or not,  replace your current goal with your vow. Until the grudge is avenged (and as long as you don’t change your goal), all tests made in pursuit of your vow are considered to be within your character’s nature. If you avenge your grudge and live to tell the tale, gain +1D or +2D to Circles in the place where you made the vow based on the enormity of the task.

Suggestions for Failure

Failure to avenge a grudge should be commensurate with the magnitude of the grudge and location in which the grudge was declared. Failing to avenge a grudge declared and accepted formally before your ancestors at your Ancestral Vault will result in being outcast and shunned. Failing to avenge a grudge drunkenly declared before a bunch of humans will get you ridiculed. The game master should choose a failure result appropriate to the situation or invent one that fits better.

  • You have made a new enemy who insults you until you leave. No further effects.
  • You are laughed out of this location and may not return during this town phase. No further effects.
  • Suffer a factor in all tests in the town where you declared the grudge until you perform the deed you pledged to perform (pursuit of the goal is no longer considered to be within your character’s nature).
  • Your shame prevents you from declaring another grudge until you perform the deed you pledged to perform (pursuit of the goal is no longer considered to be within your character’s nature). Your shame is clear to any dwarf who looks upon you and you are not welcome in any dwarven hall. 

You’re a Gestir

Hello friends!  (crossposted from latest Sagas of Rimholm update)

The Middarmark Gazetteer has all sorts of information about the organization of society. In my view, one of the more fascinating things happening in the Middarmark involves the monarchs and other individuals with political power attempting to displace the existing order with a feudal one. That’s all well and good, you might be thinking, but what does that matter to my Torchbearer games?

The answer is that adventurers who choose to cozy up to power actually play a pivotal role in helping to enforce the new order. Conflict and strife create opportunities after all.

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Talking Heads

Hello friends!

The Sagas of Rimholm Kickstarter is well underway! In fact, as this post goes live there’s a little bit less than two days left in the campaign. I hope you’ll consider backing it if you haven’t already. It’s a zine, but also more than a zine! We zoom into a whole region of the Middarmark, from the Sakki Downs to the Temple of Black Skulls, and give you all the details and background for dozens of adventure sites. The hub of this region is Rimholm, and from any direction your adventuring party travels, there are rewards and dangers everywhere they go.

As an example of what we’ve been working on, I want to share a little bit about ghost fences.

When Koch first came to me to propose this project, he noted that he was particularly taken by a passing reference to “ghost fences” in the Middarmark Gazetteer. Could I write more about them?

I’m not sure, but I think I first stumbled across the concept in an issue of Mark Smylie’s Artesia comic, where the titular warrior-priestess character and her war band are caught out-of-doors on the night of the Wild Hunt after a battle. She makes a ghost fence from the heads of her defeated enemies to hide her warriors from the Wild Hunt.

I’ve read some suggestions that the Celts made such things, but there doesn’t seem to be much real evidence.

Anyway, the image was striking to me and I’ve borrowed it for the Sakki people.I should note that while the Bjornings would have you believe the Sakki are evil incarnate, and the practice of chaining ghosts to their severed heads is horrific, I don’t think the Sakki are any more or less evil than any of the other folk of the Middarmark. The cycle of violence and reprisal in the Middarmark is terrible and never-ending.Here are some rules for ghost fences and using them in your games. Enjoy!

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The Saxalings

Atilla and his Hordes Overrun Italy and the Arts (detail), between 1843 and 1847, Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix

(xposted with Bridge of the Damned update)

Hello friends!

In a past series of posts, we looked at two Middarmark clans, the Ageirings and the Tualings, along with their ættir.

I’ve been working on The Bridge of the Damned adventure and figured I would give the clans involved in that adventure a similar treatment. This week we’re taking a look at the Saxalings, whom we previously learned a little about in Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part VIII) and Life in a Ruined Village.

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The Tualingsaga: Castle Valborg

Hello friends! It’s been a few months since we touched on the Ageirings and the Tualings, the warring Bjorning and Græling clans that occupy the uplands of Sudstrond near the Gull Pass in the Middarmark. If you play In the Shadow of the Horns, the adventure included in the Middarmark Gazetteer, Jarl Stigand of Castle Valborg will have a vested interest in control of the hidden Græling armory that is Svana Goldnose’s ultimate objective.

To catch you up on previous entries in this series:

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The Bridge of the Damned: Under the Bridge

Hello friends! Happy Torchbearer Thursday! This post has been cross-posted with my Bridge of the Damned Kickstarter project. Please back it if you’re interested in seeing the finished project!

The amazingly talented Kurt Komoda sent me some concept sketches of the Bridge of the Damned cover yesterday and I wanted to share them with you.

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Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part VIII)

Atilla and his Hordes Overrun Italy and the Arts (detail), between 1843 and 1847, Ferdinand-Victor-Eugène Delacroix

Hello friends! Today’s Torchbearer Thursday post is a couple days early (we’ll actually probably have another post on Thursday). It has been cross-posted with my Bridge of the Damned Kickstarter project. Please back it if you’re interested in seeing the finished project!

You can catch up on the project here:

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Adventure Design: Robber’s Bridge (Part VII)

Aerial view of the remains of the Viking ring fortress of Trelleborg, near Slagelse in Denmark, by Thue C. Leibrandt

Hello friends! Today’s Torchbearer Thursday has been cross-posted with my Bridge of the Damned Kickstarter project. Please back it if you’re interested in seeing the finished project!

You can catch up on the project here:

Continue reading