Fate of the Norns

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The following is a review of the game in demo form taken from It was created by Andrew Valkauskas at the turn of the millenium.

So here is the review by John Macey:

It's very hard to find a good Viking/Norse RPG. I know there are a few out there, but none have ever captured my group's attention. Over the last two years we've been trying out some home grown RPGs we've found on the web, and this is where Pendelhaven's first title came to our attention.

I downloaded the free demo "Fate of the Norns" from their web site ( which was a bit confusing, since their old web page ( site was still up. The free demo download is supposed to be a mini version of the game, showing off the low level goodies while keeping the higher level goodies out fo our reach unless we send them some cash.

OK, so lets get to the meat. I opened up the PDF file which was 80 pages long and dove into the world. My first impression was that the presentation was a bit like a technical manual. The game system was presented very clearly but the presentation lacked at bit in color. All in all, as me and my group made our "dwellers" (characters) we fell into the Fate of the Norns world.

The first thing you get to choose is the spiritual animal which is bonded to your soul. You get the choice between the classical Norse animals of power: Bear, Raven, Wolf. The game could have had Boar as well, but their 9 attribute system probably would have gotten skewed. Anyways, the animal choice sets your niche in the world, are you a big brute, a quite book-worm or a lanky prankster type.

Then you get into some dweller creation text for advanced players which we skipped over. This brought us to our choices in the divine conflict between gods and giants. Fate of the Norns makes a very unique choice of adding Alfar (elves), Dvergar (dwarves), Goblyns (wights) and Svart Alfs (dark elves) as divine races humans worship. In the base game we only get the choice of god or giant.

You then choose a god which makes a small difference to your attributes as well as influences your behaviour through a code of conduct. The selection of a deity also limits your occupation choices later on. I do not like this since the class or occupation I enjoy choosing first, but the author opted to order the dweller creation chronologically (what you choose first from time of birth onwards). In the basic game you get 21 gods to choose from (14 gods and 7 giants). In the full version where the other divine races are written up, the choice must be huge.

You then get to the most fun part of the process, choosing your occupation. The occupations really stand out from one another unlike any other game I've played. You have a few fighter types as well as a few magic user types (14 in all). No two are alike. For example, the classical crazed Berserker has a complete different role playing style than the blood thirsty Son of Fenrir or the Stalo, master of controlled warfare. But besides the style, their abilities and powers greatly differ. So much so, that they do not duplicate in abilities at all, and yet they are all fighter types.

The mages of the game each come with their own magic system, making them really stand out. There are some locked occupations which I'll explain how to unlock later. You then get to your skill slection. You have some general skills which everyone has access to, as well as at least one unique skill given to you by your occupation which no other occupation may access. These should not even be called skills, but ability groups, since they have at least 50 rankings (levels) in which you gain powers.

The cleric is the one exception to the bunch. Fate of the Norns clerics follow a similar recipe to D&D 2nd edition. Depending on your god, you cleric has different abilities. So we found some clerics to be as great a fighter as a Berserker or as great a magician as a runecaster. No two clerics are alike either, and with 21 god choices to start with, your effective occupation selection swells to 34!

Sometimes too much choice is a bad thing, so the author has placed restrictions on some choices during creation until you unlock them later. Again, I'll explain the unlocking later.

So this brings us to the final stages of creation, the calculation of your characteristics (a little too much math for us) and setting things like you quirks, age, sex, Valour and Malice. This is where the game gets really cool!

Valour and Malice (numerical values starting at 0 and going up) are used as both alignment, experience points and your chance at getting into heaven (Valhalla if you're good or Glasisvellir if you're bad). If you worship the gods you want valour points and wish to avoid getting malice. If you worship the giants, it's the opposite. My character worships Thrym (a Rime Giant), so I'll use him to demonstrate: It's simple, you do something good, you get valour, you do something bad you get malice. My dweller wants malice and lots of it! If I do something inadvertantly against my deity's wishes I get valour, crap! What this represents is your conscience and translates to a penalty to all my rolls. To get rid of valour I need to atone. The more malice I have, the greater standing I have in my god's eyes. But this becomes a ballancing trick since I need to spend my malice to raise my skills and attributes. If you spend it all, you'll never go to heaven? Why go to heaven you ask? Well Pendelhaven Games actually managed to capture the essence of the Viking spirit that it is the greatest honor to die and be called up by the gods.

So when your dweller dies, you consult your malice rating (in my case because I'm evil) to see if the gods call me up (random roll with many modifiers). If I do, the dweller is retired and I gain the status of a player who has gotten a dweller to heaven, and the game rewards me by unlocking some extra choices during dweller creation that no one else has access to! A very cool concept! Also the more dwellers I get into the heavens the greater my reward for my next dweller! Very high marks for this!

OK, now onto the game system. It is based on percentile rolls so all you will need are d10's. The game system is also designed to accomodate many different gaming styles. For example, if you like playing with minitaures there is a whole rules section for that. Combat is a big part of the Viking setting and Fate of the Norns delivers in spades. You get to choose from two combat models: turn based and segment based. Turn based is easier to manage, but segment based (it took a while for us to understand it) is much more realistic and gives a much deeper sense of combatant involvement. Throughout the rules section are advanced rules blurbs which are all optional. Add as many of those rules as you want.

There are scores and scores of items and weapons classified under local and foreign sections. So unless your campaign brings you to foreign lands your selections are limited to what the Norse, Swedes and Finns made in 700-1200 AD.

It shows that the author did a lot of research on the history, mythology and setting of the ancient Viking world. Granted the presentation of the material is pretty sterile, if you get past that fact you will find a gem of an RPG.

The web site has a monster compendium which I guess the creators used when making the game since it is just an Excel spreadsheet. And there is one adventure which we downloaded but didn't end up using since our Norn (DM/GM) has done a lot of reading in the Norse mythology genre and actually created some nifty adventures for us to play using the Fate of the Norns RPG.

We all pitched in to get the full version of the game since it has really captivated our gaming group.

I don't know how much more Fate of the Norns material will be published online by Pendelhaven Games, since it seems they are onto other RPG projects. Perhaps they will open the game up to the gamer community to add more to this excellent gaming system. If the game does indeed get published, it will correct the one big shortcoming of the game, the presentation.


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