The snow blows across the shore of the Northern Sea, chilling me to the bone. I can’t believe I let Árndís convince me to follow her here. But she always had that way about her, able to charm the birds from the very trees. Looking around, I laugh. That’d be quite the trick here. No birds or trees to speak of for miles. I hear Rósbjörg and Rökkvi working behind me, laughing. Of course, they’re from the Northlands, they’re used to this.
The ground rumbles.
At first I think it a Destroyer, but the twins’ laughter behind me tells me that’s not the case. Then I see Árndís. She’s facing the sea, right hand stretched out, the glow of it shining in the gloom. My heart quickens. A rune. She never told me. A gout of fire rolls forward, into the sea, boiling and churning the water. The fire burns through the sea, carving a path, a road.
The twins walk past me to stand on either side of her, their hands glowing as well. I knew of their runes, Isa both, and it starts to make sense. The walls of water left by Árndís freeze, the road becoming a path of ice. I stand, moving behind them. My right hand twitches, the rune on my palm itching. I’ve not told them about my rune, felt no need to. Now I know, it’s the luck of Fehu that brought us together.
“You said to trust our instincts, Daðína. This is where I felt called to burn, the others to freeze.” Árndís turns to look at me. “Now, lead on and we’ll see if what we left behind was worth the price.”
With that, we walk the frozen road towards our fate.
Without Home and Hearth
The default assumption of War of Metal and Bone is that a campaign will start in or around a holdfast. This idea was put in place to give players something to latch onto, a place where their answers made them invested in where the game is taking place. However, the idea of a wandering group of adventurers is one that’s entrenched in tabletop RPGs.
If that’s the kind of game you’d like to run, then you can adapt a few different elements of the character setup to accommodate that. Specifically, the holdfast generation questions and the Group Aspect.
When your group generates a holdfast in War of Metal and Bone, it gives them a chance to make a place together. When making a wandering group of adventurers, the focus of the holdfast generation needs to change. The questions themselves don’t need altering, though What changes is the perspective from which the questions are answered.
Rather than answering the questions from the perspective of people who have lived with and deal with the answers, the holdfast generation questions need to be answered from the perspective of outsiders. This might mean that information is presented differently to the outsiders. Maybe the mine is shut down, but only the residents really know why. Yes, the bees aren’t producing honey, but no one wants to admit that… but mead is really expensive.
That shift from insider to outsider can bring a lot of depth to holdfast creation. It gives the GM a little more room to hide secrets, which can be a lot of fun. The holdfast moves from being home to being one stopping point on the journey that the wanderers are taking.
Which brings us to…
Changes to the Group Aspect
The Group Aspect is designed to form an initial connection between the characters, to give quick references to a shared history. Many times, those links end up referencing the answers to the holdfast questions. In the case of a group of wandering adventurers, it’s good to establish how long they’ve been adventuring together. This means the Group Aspect should definitely reference past events, rather than leaning toward the content of the holdfast generation.
As well, the GM should feel free to ask a few more questions about how the group got together. Look to the characters’ Troubles and see what threads you can tease out. Overall, the GM and players need to make sure that the characters have compelling reasons to be adventuring together. The holdfast normally gives characters the common bond of home. Without that, there needs to be another reason or reasons. The Group Aspect is where those reasons will be found.
A More Formal Version Coming
The above information is a quick and dirty set of approaches for handling a group of wandering adventurers. If you’re experienced running War of Metal and Bone, it’s likely all you’d need to get your group rolling. However, that might not be enough in all cases. What happens if your group needs more help than this? Come back next week to see a new set of questions designed with just that answer in mind.
In the meantime, what kinds of experiences have you had doing holdfast generation for War of Metal and Bone? Have you run into snags? Have you seen great successes? How would you handle a group of wanderers? Let me know in the comments.