Saturday, December 30, 2017

Deeper Readings Into Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition's PC Class The Rune Gravers

Before the hill's high altar bowed,
The trees are Druids, weird and white,
Facing the vision of the light
With ancient lips to silence vowed.

No certain sound the woods aver,
Nor motion save of formless wings—
Filled with phantasmal flutterings,
With thronging gloom and shadow-stir.

Unseen, unheard, amid the dell
Lie all the winds that mantic trees
Have lulled with crystal warlockries
And bound about with Merlin-spell.

Twilight on the Snow  (1922)  by Clark Ashton Smith

The snows here in Connecitcut have been off & on today. I'm taking a moment to dip into Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition hard back to take a quick look at one of the new PC classes of the game. The Clark Ashton Smith poem reminds me of the Runegraver a new clerical subclass in AS&SH.

So I got an email asking how would I handle the Runegraver PC class from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition. What are they?Their a clerical sub class with some really interesting overtones "Runegraver: a mystic warrior who carves runic spells on bone, metal, stone, and wood"  So using a combination of will power, magick, their own blood, & the will of the gods the Runegraver adds a rune encrusted  potent mix to a party of adventurers. But there is a cost & a dark side to these warriors of the gods.

Del Teigeler did an amazing job illustrating the RUNEGRAVER


If begin looking into the background of the PC class we quickly see that these are not the run of the mill cleric. During the Kickstarter for AS&SH second edition we got further previews,
"The runegraver possesses many interesting abilities, such as the "ale rune", turning water to a healing ale; "casting lots" which allows the runegraver to make predictions; and "nithing pole" which allows the rungraver to create a special device that lays a curse."
Part clerical pagan warrior priest & part seer with more then a hint of the dark blood magick that one finds throughout the classic mythological Icelandic sagas of Egill Skallagrímsson
Infact I'd use those sagas as possible inspiration for some of the background for an AS&SH player character. They've got Norse flavor for miles. The Runegraver is a character class with some dark secrets though.

Runegravers often serve the dark gods Ymir & by using their own brand of rune magick must expand hit points in order to achieve their spells. This is straight in keeping with the Norse sagas themselves. Hyperborea is a world bound by seemingly eternal Winter lasting years & the Runegraver's abilities to act as a seer are going to be a key to survival. But these are a wily bunch at best & at worst a group of clerics with abilities that complement the struggle on Hyperborea beyond simple survival. To turn this on its ear, Runegravers are going to see others as competition for the power structure within tribal or village life. This means that adventuring Runegravers are those whom the tribal Runegravers have turned loose into the world to seek their own fortunes.

The world of the PC Runegraver is one of the spiritual  journey for fortune, power, & ultimately divine & tribal security of their own.

Essentially those Runegravers who follow Yimir are following a dead god whose flesh went on to form the Earth. Odin & his brothers killed Ymir at the beginning of Creation. Yet, Ymir's children the ice giants walk the arctic wastelands of Hyerborea. How is this possible?

Ymir gets himself killed by Odin and his brothers.
By Lorenz Frølich (1820-1908).

Its heavily implied but not stated in AS&SH's background material that 'the Ragnarok'  or twilight of the gods has taken place before the formation of Hyperborea. This gives a very different spin on the cosmology of the Runegravers. They're interactions with ice giants might be a very critical and possibly life threatening once in a life time event. Why? Because of their association with the god of berserk's Ullr.

Battle of the Doomed Gods (by Friedrich Wilhelm Heine, 1882)

Ullr was originally a god of archery,warriors, skiers, skaters, & duels. He was the son of Sif & step son of Thor himself.
"In chapter 31 of Gylfaginning in the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, Ullr is referred to as a son of Sif (with a father unrecorded in surviving sources) and as a stepson of Sif's husband; the major Germanic god Thor:

Ullr heitir einn, sonr Sifjar, stjúpsonr Þórs. Hann er bogmaðr svá góðr ok skíðfœrr svá at engi má við hann keppask. Hann er ok fagr álitum ok hefir hermanns atgervi. Á hann er ok gott at heita í einvígi.[2]
Ullr, Sif's son and Thór's stepson, is one [too]. He is such a good archer and ski-runner that no one can rival him. He is beautiful to look at as well and he has all the characteristics of a warrior. It is also good to call on him in duels.– Young's translation

In Skáldskaparmál, the second part of the Prose Edda, Snorri mentions Ullr again in a discussion of kennings. Snorri informs his readers that Ullr can be called ski-god, bow-god, hunting-god and shield-god. In turn a shield can be called Ullr's ship. Despite these tantalising tidbits Snorri relates no myths about Ullr. It seems likely that he didn't know any, the god having faded from memory."
So how did he become the god of beserkers? The violence & war of 'the Ragnarok'

twisted him unto this new god because he's one of the only gods who survived. He continues on his father's ways but runegravers know of what happened during Fall of the Gods. They dare not speak of it openly.
The Ice Jotunns of Hyperborea are wily, dangerous, and infinity cunning as well as completely evil. They also happen to be able to trace their linage back to Ymir. Ymir is also central to the formation of the dwarfs of Hyperborea.
"In Gylfaginning High explains the origin of the dwarfs. High says that after Asgard had been built, and the gods assembled on their thrones and held their things. There they "discussed where the dwarfs had been generated from in the soil and down in the earth like maggots in flesh. The dwarfs had taken shape first and acquired life in the flesh of Ymir and were then maggots, but by decision of the gods they became conscious with intelligence and had the shape of men though they live in the earth and in rocks". Stanzas from Völuspá consisting of dwarf names are then provided to show the lineage of the dwarfs."
The Dwarven race of Hyperborea are dangerous, evil, & highly linked to Underborea. This gives the Runegraver a very heavy burden to live with should he or she cross into the dwarven domains & kingdoms. This might be something that these warrior priests want to avoid at all costs for where did they learn the craft of runes?! Perhaps it was taught to them by the children of Ymir himself.

For my own Old Earth setting
'the Ragnarok' happened & millions were killed. The aftermath is still being felt hundreds of years later. Runegravers wander the Earth doing what they can, teaching their craft to the worthy, & putting down 'the hates of old' where & when they find they find them.

Then the Awful Fight Began (depiction by George Wright, 1908)

Runegravers are warrior priests who are walking in the shadows of the gods while trying to keep themselves from slipping into the clutches of the dangerous razor's edge of the evil & uncaring alien supernatural.
Playing one of these PC types could be very rewarding old school rpg experience. Hope all of your dice rolls are twenties!
More to come folks!

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