I have recently completed a short campaign of Sagas of the Icelanders. I wrote a tiny bit about this, in question form, over here earlier (our early sessions had a couple of duels, so that was the topic I was asking about - something the game doesn’t give you much guidance on):
(I know @AviatrixCat was interested in the discussion, so I’ll tag her here just in case she wants to follow along.)
We played online, in short sessions of an hour to two and a half hours, and played over the course of about a dozen sessions.
At the beginning of the game, some of the players expressed concern over the lack of overt conflict in our setup (there were simmering tensions but no clear danger). I think they worried that nothing interesting would happen, and some of the playbooks reinforced this idea (following the advice in the book, we picked The Man - using @AviatrixCat’s alternative playbook - and the Woman as our focal characters, and the playbooks pinpoint their issues as primarily domestic).
I’m not exactly sure why the players felt this way, as we’re not averse to slice-of-life gaming, but, in any case, this turned out to be a vain fear. As you will see, our game, in the end did not lack in conflict - quite the contrary!
We played in a highly collaborative style, and all contributed details and scenes to the developing fiction. I was the MC, but I regularly relegated MC duties to other players when it seemed appropriate (and, on a few occasions, even played “my character” while someone else MCed).
To flesh out the relationship map (and as a way to familiarize myself with the rules), I used all the basic playbooks to create NPCs. This inspired a variety of interesting characters, and served me really well in a genre and setting I was entirely unaware of before playing. I think we all ended up doing some real research and learning a lot about the Sagas and medieval Iceland. Fascinating stuff! I highly encourage anyone who wants to read up on this truly unique time and place in history.
Our game escalated very nicely from its demure beginnings to turn into a bloody and horrible saga worth telling. Here’s an excerpt from a scene Hildrig (the Woman) found herself in: she was kidnapped by Brother Caolan, a Christian monk who had been the sole survivor of a shipwreck, and taken to Haki’s homestead in the middle of the night. I had to type this up to present her with her choices before our penultimate session, so I’ll share it with you here: it will give you an idea of where our game ended up.
Hildrig takes another step forward, unsure. Behind her lies the circle of standing stones, casting long flickering shadows as the light of the burning house tinges their black stone faces.
Short trees, their backs bent by decades of biting wind, form a wall around the stones. Within the circle, the wind cannot be felt, the roar of the fire seems to fade into the distance, and time itself seems to stand still.
The ground is covered in blood; here lies one of Haki’s men, torn apart. There lies the dark and beautiful thrall-girl, Anessa, her lungs torn out of her own rib cage and spread around her body in a gruesome imitation of an eagle’s wings. Where Hilgrid thinks Fjalla’s grave may have been, the ground is torn and thrown about.
The gentle cries of the baby on the black stone slab at the centre of it all breaks the uncertain silence. Brother Caolan, shaking, trying to keep himself from vomiting, steps forward and gently picks up the babe. He does not know that this is Haki’s surviving heir, but he can sense the importance of the child keenly, and his hands cradle it like the precious and fragile soul he knows it to be. Did they really intend to sacrifice this child this night? To what end? What kind of place is this, that people are capable of such cruelty?
In front of Hildrig, a wild path of disturbed snow and blood heads into the darkness, away from the Hildigunarsson homestead. If Brynjolf is anywhere to be found, it must be at the end of this path.
What followed was a truly dark and tragic finale, with few survivors.
A lifelong grudge held by one woman against another turned out to have been the driving force behind all these tragic events, and, in the end, she watched her rival kill her own son (a young boy) in self-defense.
I can share more details about the fiction and the story; if anyone is curious, please ask away! Meanwhile, I’ll be back with some questions about the rules.