Another cold night in the north. I wander into the village mead hall. Everyone looks up, scowls and turns back to their stew or mead. I take my usual seat, farthest from the hearth, and motion for a meal and drink. Ignored the first time I use an orison to illustrate it would be better to just serve me and be done with it.

Munin is back from his hunt, we nod politely to one another. I healed one of his hunting hounds last season. Since then he’s been positively friendly, in comparison with most at least.

Gabi is entertaining her friends with the usual feats of strength. I wonder if that claw mark from her bear hunt provided an appropriately gruesome scar. I heard the bear ran from her ferocity in the end.

Good folk in general, I’m content to serve my role even if it is only grudgingly acknowledged.

The hall door opens and an extremely large figure steps in. “I need volunteers”, he snarls. It’s a trollborn. What in all the gods names would a trollborn be doing in Skumasbjurk? The room is quiet, the tension is obvious.

Munin steps up, “What kind of volunteers would you be looking for?”

The trollborn, two hands or more taller than Munin, scowls (or was that a grin?), “The kind needed to clear dirt and stone away from ruins to the west.”

“What’s it pay?” Munin doesn’t appear moved by the trollborn’s request.

“Nothing, we’ve been sent to take laborers and thought asking might make things simpler.” Yes, that was definitely a grin.

“Let’s step outside and discuss this proposal of yours” Munin’s hand rests on his ax. That’s never a good sign.

Feeling like I need to give him some kind of encouragement I slip over to him as they leave the hall and grant a quick blessing from Stehl. Now at least he’s not dwarfed by the would be slaver.

Outside the hall, there are four more warriors waiting. Uneven odds but Munin gives a mighty war cry and strikes one down. Doesn’t take long to knock him unconscious and they begin hauling people out of their homes and the mead hall. I’m no match for them so, I run. Cowardice? Maybe, but if I can follow them maybe I can work out a way to free them.

I trail the forced march back to the west. They’re headed to the great mountain in the hills. I can see torches and campfires at the foot of the mountain. A great camp full of warriors and laborers. There seems to be some exposed ruins and much effort is being focused on what appears to be a great gateway.

Suddenly, a huldre appears right next to me. I nearly jump out of my skin!

“What in Fingulf’s name are you doing?” he seems, unaware, of how quiet he moves and just shrugs. Before he can respond further a great sound, like thunder but deep below the roots of the mountain erupts from the camp. After the dust settles it seems like the ancient gate has been broken.

Ignoring the huldre for now I focus on the activity. He seems just as interested. Good, he’s not here to eat me.

A large group of warriors, surrounding an obviously important figure approach the broken gate. The large warrior enters and everything goes quiet as if everyone is holding their breath at the same time.

After a few moments, another great rumble erupts from deep within the ruins. Then a scream turns to a shriek and goes silent again. After a few more heart beats the warrior emerges but changed. His form seems larger and appears to be enshrouded in a liquid metal. The iron moves over his body solidifying into very heavy looking plate mail.

“By all the gods, that has to be the Iron King!” mouth agape I see Munin leaving the camp and some other captives making a break for freedom. The huldre and I move to intercept the group. Last thing I saw of the camp was all the warriors kneeling before the Iron King.

Riding for what seemed forever we stop to catch our breath and figure out our destination. Those of us from Skumasbjurk press to ride for the village. Familiarity, supplies and maybe a place to lay low. The lady, a child and their man servant seem determined to make their way south or to Vil’Chiev. The child keeps mumbling about a foretelling and how we’re all connected and must stay together.

Howls in the distance, pursuit. We have a lead but we’re losing it quickly. While we’re discussing strategy the Lady turns and rides toward the howls. Madness, surely Kar Ternan has stricken this woman. You don’t face a pack on their terms.

Munin, the huldre and I head for the frozen river and make it across. The pack appears, lead by a great Winter Wolf. I’ve heard of the beasts but never witnessed the terror myself.

I call on Magdish’s favor and ready my trusty sling. It’s not much but we have a river between us. A few shots from the Lady, the huldre and myself knock the Mordwynn from the Winter Wolf’s back. More of the foul creatures trail the pack. The lady, child and manservant manage to cross the river and we engage the beasts.

As the Winter Wolf falls Munin manages to shatter the river ice dropping the pack and himself into the freezing river. He retrieves the Winter Wolf carcass and swims ashore.

Now we’re on the south side of the river. Looks like Vil’Chiev it is. The Munin and the huldre start skinning the winter wolf. Meat for the trip and quite a pelt for a trophy.

The Lady insists we must speak with the Queen. She’s dressed in some well appointed traveling clothes and wields a very strange looking crossbow.

The child is in robes of some southern order and always talking about signs and portents of the end times; the King of Kings.

Their man servant, well, he’s an odd nut. Dressed in cold gear of southern origin but bearing no obvious weapon I wonder at his usefulness in the wilderness.

The huldre is apparently a warrior sent to investigate the strange alliance of wildmen and alfar.

I’m an odd bird in a strange land even though I was born to this village. My mother was a raid bride from the south. My father was a typical Ros-man looking to earn glory and wealth through strength and blood as a raider.

My mother, too frail for the frigid northern climate, died the winter after my birth. The following spring my father fell during a raid never to return. With no family this left me to be raised by the village. The shaman provided me with shelter and guidance. My childhood was mostly punctuated by beatings at the hands of other children and barely contained scorn from nearly every adult.

You see, I stood a full hand shorter than the other boys my age, my skin and hair were darker, I never excelled at battle and none of the pretty girls ever chose me to dance on festival days. I did seem to have a knack for outsmarting people, even most of the adults. This earned me more than a few beatings as making someone look like a fool, while satisfying in the moment, tends to bite you in the arse later.

Deep in the night on my eighteenth season something happened. Voices, barely heard, as if in another room, mumbling, murmuring and finally disturbing enough to wake me. It wasn’t a dream, the voices were real. They sounded angry, almost like a mead hall brawl. Then I heard my name, as if they suddenly noticed I was in the room. It became more urgent as if all of them wanted my attention at once. Then, as I began to scream, small items from shelves and tables started to fall to the floor almost like someone were nudging them off their perches. The voices got louder.

When the shaman burst into the room with a candle; silence. He looked bewildered at the mess in my room and the fright that was obvious on my face. We stayed up till dawn, prayed for guidance and discussed the events. It seems I was to become an Oracle. The voices were apparently of people long past that wanted to send messages to their loved ones. With time and much patience I started to chronicle some of the voices and stories. I tried to pass one of the messages along but the family accused me to trying to hex them and set their dogs on my heels.

The visitors made quite the mess as they exhausted their patience attempting to get their messages to me. I decided that perhaps it would be better to isolate myself to keep the damage to a minimum and save myself the hex wards every time someone happened to glance my way. I found myself living in a fairly well appointed abandoned wolf den just outside of town. Ok, it was a hollow log with the barest of amenities, but it was mine.

Some times the voices became apparitions and we would sit and discuss their life and how they died. Some were from the village but most were just Tey Ros spirits drawn by my strange ability to see and hear them. There were a few outlanders but many of them didn’t seem to realize they were dead.

As my abilities grew the shaman taught me how to cast spells. Another skill at which I apparently excelled. He told me that perhaps the celestial events during my birth were a foretelling instead of a curse. Too bad that revelation couldn’t have come sooner.

Many, many years ago one of our game masters created his own fantasy setting based on the Open Gaming License 3rd Ed D&D material and then update it to the Pathfinder 1st Ed rules.

Lynnyr is a broad, sweeping fantasy setting with no obvious baggage from established campaign settings. We have adventured across this setting several times since its inception with mixed results and many memories.

We are once again setting out in Lynnyr. This time we’re coming out of the frigid Cold Lands north of the more civilized kingdoms. Thus far we have an oracle, a barbarian, a slayer, a fighter, an inquisitor and a monk. All but the last two are natives of the Cold Lands with the fighter being an Ice Alfar (elf). Everyone else is some flavor of human.

I set out on the journey as Artair Aerodan, a Battle Oracle. I’m trying to model his personality after Floki from the Vikings series on the History channel.

We reached second level and I decided to toss in a level of Sorcerer (Boreal). These two classes track the same primary ability, charisma, so the benefits of arcane and divine spell casting seemed obvious. After forecasting up to 10th level (4th level per class plus two levels of Mystic Theurge) the benefits stack up nicely.

Character background sums up as: Child of a raid bride, mother dies, father killed on subsequent raid so now an orphan. Grows up as an outcast living just outside the village, bullied by native children for being weaker, shorter and darker skinned. His oracle powers emerge along with the associated haunted curse making him even more strange and avoided. Artair was eventually taken under the village shaman’s tutelage to learn more about his life path as an oracle.

Artair is devoted to the Cold Pantheon and asserts divine signs and portents in everyday life and events. He is also fiercely loyal to the people of his village even though they would not show him the same loyalty. This loyalty extends more broadly to the Tey Ros people of the Cold Lands.

Artair knows the barbarian and slayer as they’re from the same village. They’re not great friends but are aware of each other’s existence. The Ice Alfar is an unknown but seems just as confused and bewildered as the rest. The Inquisitor and Monk are outlanders with unknown goals, different beliefs and intolerant of the frigid conditions of the Cold Lands.

It happens in nearly every game system. You’re generating a character that’s just a little wonky to better fit your play style or vision of the character and the mechanics get in the way generating Mechanic-Lock.

For GMs it happens at the most in opportune time during a game session when everything should be running smoothly someone pulls an obscure action out of their hat and the game skids to a halt while rules are referenced and interpreted thus destroying the momentum.

Starfinder being a relatively new game system breaks down when emphasis is placed on their starship mechanics. They’re not easily built, priced or upgraded because the game states quite specifically that ships are not the focus… of a space-based game; ships are not the focus. There are other methods of traversing the universe, of course, but the thrill of stealing, owning and customizing a party asset like a ship is inevitably one of the many focuses of the game.

Pathfinder 2.0 has addressed some of the things that drastically imbalanced the game but introduced a rather clunky mechanic for character generation. Generate your abilities, choose an Ancestry (Race), Class and a Background. Now, as you advance, your character gains benefits not only from their Class but also their Ancestry (Race). Now you level up as a Human as well as a Fighter. Sure it allows some customization so not every Human or Goblin is just a template but it seems like more complication for the sake of breaking a mold that has worked just fine for the last 35-ish years.

We recently returned to 2nd Ed AD&D for a few games and it was quite refreshing to shed all the feats and tweaks that came with D&D 3.0 and just got more ridiculous with Pathfinder. Looking at Pathfinder 2.0 the Backgrounds feel alot like the 2nd Ed Secondary Non-Weapon Proficiency system lending a ‘career’ skill to building the character’s background before they were an adventurer. Funny how some mechanics get recycled.

Here we are in June, around 10 sessions under our belts and the journey continues. I’ve opted for a more narrative level progression loosely tied to actual earned XP. The sketchiest part of the game, thus far, has been currency and converting loot into liquid assets.

Players have been hijacking the plot as expected so all systems normal there. The group managed to progress to sixth level on average. We’ve added a new player who decided to play another Lashunta Envoy.

The players constructed a robot that interfaces with their significantly upgraded starship providing more Dark Matter style to the game. I provide hooks, they seize on a minor detail and run with it. It’s amusing and exhausting.

They’ve encountered alien life forms, violent and peaceful. They’ve negotiated lucrative employment opportunities with various larger organizations to keep the engines burning.

At this point it’s a definite mercenary crew. Morals are flexible when credits are involved. If they don’t catch you, it’s not wrong/illegal.