Character CreationCharacter creation follows a familiar (if a little obfuscated) set of stepping stones. The first step is to choose your Birthright and your Legend. Birthright is your background. It can either be Godly type or a bog-standard human. Both types get different bonuses and are equally worthwhile. Like all good systems, the choices you make throughout character creation really sets out the kind of character you are. The Legend (like class) determines the types of skills you get and as such suggests a sort of specialisation. Legends include Berserker, Chieftan and Trickster.
Next, you select your God Runes. God Runes are a generalised type of statistics. Rather than split things up between Strength, Intelligence and other ethereal measurements, he's gone native and chosen traits that are associated with the setting - each one representing the rune of a God. Freyja is concerned with living things and the natural world, including your constitution. Thor is about hairy-chested manly things: strength and machines. Odin is all about lobbing spells hither and thither. Heimdall is for the talky-types and pacifists and Tyr is about repeatedly mashing anyone who gets in the way. Probably the first thing you thought when you saw Vikings mentioned. You start with two points in each rune, 4 in the rune that your own special god is associated with (from the Bithright, remember?). You get 14 points to pump up your runes, with a maximum boost of 4 in any given one. Enough room for customisation.
Step three is where you work out your Qualities. Qualities are derived from your runes. They cover all those things that are difficult to pin down in an RPG - such as how much health you have or resistance to things. You add together a couple of runes and compare with a table for each result. It's all pleasantly explained.
Skills are based on your Legend (your class) and your gender (oooh, controversial). Of course, gender stereotyping worries should be cast aside to allow for a gentle lean toward historical accuracy (without inequality in history, there would be no feminists - discuss). The skill increase system is steeply non-linear, the first level costing one point but the rise from 3 to 4 costing a whopping 8! There are good range of aptly named and well described skills from Berserker (Clerks, anyone?) to Navigation (the art of not stopping to ask directions when you're lost). Some are a little weak and might be open to abuse; Luck being described as:
This skill can be used whenever you want a lucky break. Its effects are varied and often minor.
You might think that's ok but if you are blessed with a group of swap-their-grandmothers-for-a-snickers-rules-fascists like me, you'll not be able to hear yourself think with the sound of clattering Luck skill checks. Of course, the wording suggests that the GM should retort a fail with: "Oh, a fail, shame. You're not lucky. Your arm falls off and... my goodness, that is bad luck, it's the one you wank with." That can turn any RPG into a sub-genre of "Who can be the biggest git". There are a couple of skills like this that send the spine tingling with cold sweat GM fear. A bit of tightening or house rules would be advisable for those.
Stuffs (a non-word I can't help but to use for equipment, weapons and armour) is dealt with on a what-is-reasonable standing. A lasse-faire approach which suits some but I prefer a little guidance. What is too much? What is too little? The characters are heroes, so bollocks to encumbrance and the limiting penalties they incur.
Gift Runes are where the real action is at. These are special heroic powers that you can purchase to allow a huge array of feats. There's lots to read and plenty of hidden rules inside but as each character only has a few, they're worth pouring over.
MechanicsThe system appears quite involved due to the Midgard lexicon. However, it is quite simple and works for just about any action. A dice roll is called a Cast as you are simulating drawing runes from a bag. Therefore, the dice become runes. You're given a handy cast sheet with five stones on it: Tyr, Frejya, Heimdall, Merkstave and the special Cast Runes stone. The Cast Runes stone is a pool from which you can distribute between other stones.
For any given action, you pick a skill that matches it. You get a Cast Rune token for each rank you have in that skill. You can add Wyrd (naturalistic magical power) to that if you like. Then roll the same number of d8s for the associated God rune (that you chose right at the start of character creation in your Birthright). For each 6,7 or 8 you roll, you add a token onto the Cast Rune stone. For scores 3 to 5, you add tokens on different stones. Rolls of 1 give you a token on the Merkstave rune stone. You then distribute whatever you have on the Cast Rune stone around on the other runes depending on what you're trying to achieve.
For example, I want to beat someone's face in. I've got a skill of rank 3 in Axes (a Tyr skill, he being the god of making faces concave). Therefore, I start with 3 tokens on my cast stone. I'm no magical fellow, so no Wyrd for me. During character creation, I selected my God Rune as Tyr (naturally) and I've pumped him to be my
The 6 and 7 give me two tokens on my cast stone, now up to 5. The 1 gives me a Merkstave stone. This is bad, we'll come back to it. The 3 adds a token on a Heimdall stone. The 4 gives me a token on Frejya's stone. The 5 gives me a token on my Tyr stone. That's more like it. Now, as I'm just giving some poor Saxon some more fashionable face slots, I only need Tyr, so I take the 5 Cast Rune stone (think of it as a pool) tokens and put them on Tyr, giving me 6. Which is compared against the difficulty table. The difficulty was 5, so I manage to give the Northumbrian an incurable case of axe-face.
Merkstave Rune stone effects are for the GM to do nasties to the outcome, by slowing time down, making a failure critical and so on. Letting the GM be foul and cruel, a nice touch. There are other complexities, where one stone or another does not count for certain actions but that's pretty much the whole system. Combat has a few additions (initiative, wounding and the like) but you're still casting, which is all rather neat. The language might seem a bit daunting at first but you'll get over it, as I did.
Other sectionsA reasonable bestiary is included with some additional information for GMs before a fabulous character sheet. I'm something of a nut when it comes character sheets. I can often be found perching on a rock in the high street babbling on about the horror of character sheets that look like spreadsheets. The Midgard one does not. A little rough around the edges but exceptionally well thought and laid out.
I don't normally put in big images but just take a look at this corker of a character sheet!