Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Gisli's Saga and Boot Hill

I read Gisli's Saga the other day and something about it reminded me of Chocolate Hammer's Boot Hill campaign.  It got me thinking about how one could set up a powderkeg for a saga quite similar to that, but perhaps smaller in number of characters.

Thorkel and Gisli are brothers from Norway who settle in Hawkdale in Iceland, and marry into Hawkdale families.  Gisli marries Auda, the sister of a man named Vestein, while Thorkel marries Asgerda.  It comes out that Asgerda fancied Vestein, leading to suspicions of infidelity and eventually the deaths of about a dozen men.

Asgerda's interest in (already-married) Vestein is a pre-existing fault line in the micro-setting that the player-character-like outsiders Thorkel and Gisli stumble (and then marry) into.  It doesn't seem like it would be too much of a stretch to build a tiny setting of 5-10 extended families with a bunch of such fault lines:

  • a long-simmering dispute over grazing-land or property lines
  • a contentious dividing of property among a man's heirs
  • a father who mislikes his daughter's favored suitor
  • a bastard child whose step-mother hates it
  • a badly-treated thrall
  • a wheel of cheese stolen in a hard winter
  • a good sword borrowed and never returned
  • a badly-given gift
  • a lad whose father was slain, who wants eventual revenge on his killer but can't get it yet
  • an insult in one's cups at the Althing some years back; cooler heads prevented bloodshed then but still it rankles
  • weregeld accepted for a relative slain but some family members still think the slayer should've been made an outlaw instead
  • a suspected cheater at sports or horse-fighting
  • a man envious of another's wealth, desirous of the priesthood / chieftainship
  • a rich man who is miserly to guests and alters deals, gets away with it because he has several strong brothers
  • a skilled duelist who runs roughshod and takes what he pleases, challenges those who object (returns from sea-roving mid-campaign to shake things up, presumably)
  • a suspected sorcerer feared by those outside his family
  • three town gossips poking their noses in everything and spreading news of dubious veracity
  • a skolding wife who urges her husband to unwise deeds
  • a husband who mistreated his wife, causing her to return to her family's house; a dispute over the dowry
  • a hot-headed young man, yet unproven in battle and eager for it (probably about ten of these, really)
  • a cool-headed young man, goaded by his father as unmanly for preferring words to violence
  • a wise man's foreboding prediction
  • an ominous dream

And then let some player characters loose into it to get into trouble over the course of a few years of game-time.

I don't know what system you'd use for such a game - Pendragon, Mythras, and Wolves of God all spring to mind, but they're not quite Boot Hill.  But it's an interesting thought.

... I suppose it would be amusing to hack up Boot Hill's ranged combat system to instead do high-detail, few-combatant, armorless melees of axes, bill-hooks, spears, swords, and shields...  "Grim cut off Skiolld's foot at the ankle-joint, but Helgi thrust him through with his spear, and he got his death there and then" seems like the sort of thing a derivative of Boot Hill's combat system would do well.

1 comment:

  1. I have no idea where I head this but many of the plots of cowboy shows from the 50's were supposed to be derived from the Icelandic Sagas. Perhaps the writers just mined a few of these plot threads to get plot ideas for shows with a short runtime. I can easily see Boot Hill being a good fit.