[Let’s Study: Yggdrasill] Part 1a: The Setting Introduction, Myths and Religion

Posted: July 30, 2012 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Let's Study, Roleplaying Games, Yggdrasill

I have to admit that I may have jumped the gun when I said that the first part of this Let’s Study articles would be about the setting. Mostly because it’s a huge chunk of the book. So today we’re talking about the first  half of the Setting Chapters, the ones with the introduction and the Myths and Religon.

First off, I’d like to tip my hat off to the authors who were very up front about what they wanted to do with the game. Almost immediately after some rather interesting in-game fiction, we get a note that the authors were working with historical documents and sagas from ancient Scandia, from the 4th to 6th centuries for the setting of their game.

It’s a tricky sort of time period considering that there were apparently no native writings of the period, and most of the records that exist were from oral traditions and various outside sources.

So they found it necessary to fill in the blanks themselves, drawing from other sources that were outside of the standard range that they chose from. I’m perfectly willing to forgive this given that I don’t know enough to be any sort of authority, but it’s nice of them to come out and say it.

I think Shortymonster will get a kick out of the fact that they call out the fact that “Viking” was a term of abuse, and wasn’t meant to mean a particular group of people. There’s also talk of horned helmets and the fact that the Norsemen never wore them, given the impracticalities of having heavy and destabilizing things on their heads. No drinking from human skulls either. Fancy that. Seriously though I never thought that people believed this. Was this a popular thing in viking pop-culture lore? As for one rather obscure bit, there’s also mention that the Drakkar are not ships. The word itself is a 19th century invention and means nothing in the Scantian Context.

It’s a neat way to wipe the slate clean, and make sure that nobody comes into the game with such misconceptions.

The authors even go on to discuss the nature of three very important concepts for the Norse culture: The role of Fate, the concept of Mannhelg (or “personal inviolability”) and the importance of Clan and family.

Right, now we’ve got some of the basics out of the way, Yggdrasill continues with the information, moving on to a chapter dedicated to the Myths and Religion of the Norsemen.

It’s an interesting and informative chapter, giving a basic rundown of the Norse creation myth. The two families of the gods (the Aesir and Vanir) are also mentioned, and the structure of Yggdrasill, the World-Tree is lovingly illustrated and explained, with each of the realms given a short write up.

The Gods themselves are also given their own biographies, complete with a rundown of their abilities, their belongings, and legends associated with them. It’s all very interesting, and I’d actually go so far as to say that I wouldn’t mind handing this to a child as his first foray into Norse Myth.

After dealing with the gods, there’s also a writeup discussing the Religion of the Norsemen which takes the form of various rites and practices including some very interesting ones like sacred oaths.

Yggdrasill is turning out to be quite the work of research. Given that they had to tear down misconceptions and set the tone for adventures in this setting.

Given that so many of us know so little (or have been horribly misinformed, it seems) breaking things down first and then reintroducing the myths seems like a perfectly sensible place to start. After all, the legends and stories of the Norse myth are some of the most interesting out there, and it will help set the tone for the rest of the book.

I’m a big fan of culture in general and it seemed to be a perfectly good place to start studying the nature and outlook of the Norse by studying their stories, their religion and their gods.

Tomorrow we continue with the Setting chapters, looking at the Three Kingdoms of Scandia, and the Daily Life of the Norsemen.

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Comments
  1. Nice! Looks like they’ve been deep into the poetic Edda, the closest thing there is to written source on viking myths. And even that was written a century or two after the fact by a Christian monk.

    I like that they’re spending some time to dispel a few myths that have absolutely no grounds in real life, and i wonder if they make mention of the ‘bloody eagle’? It’s one thing that scholars still can’t get a definite answer on.

    As for helmets, this kind of thing is what most would wear when off viking. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d4/Sutton_hoo_helmet_room_1_no_flashbrightness_ajusted.JPG/220px-Sutton_hoo_helmet_room_1_no_flashbrightness_ajusted.JPG

    • Hey there Shortymonster,

      They did mention the Bloody Eagle as a rite, and the fact that it was particularly sadistic. They also mentioned that it was growing increasingly rare at the time, and has mostly fallen into disuse.

      • It’s something that is never mentioned in contemporary sources, for obvious reasons, and only really gets described in detail some time later in the sagas. There’s just enough speculative evidence to keep the argument going, but nowhere near enough for anyone to win it.

        Still, it is pretty gruesome, so fun to use in games I suppose.

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