- Peter(Astinex)United States
IllinoisYou'll get over it.
**Disclaimer** - I’m a long time role-player. Almost 30 years of experience. Examples and references below are based on my personal experiences and average responses of the people I’ve played with. This review assumes you have familiarized yourself with the publicly available information about the material discussed. (i.e. Advertised descriptions, RPGG game information entry, Possible publicly available rules, etc.) If you’re concerned about spoilers do not read this review. I try to limit details in my reviews, but some things have to be mentioned to give readers an idea of what is being discussed.
RPG AND/OR ITEM: Vikings and Valkyrs
Overall Quality: -
Component(s) - We have here a self published RPG. Vikings and Valkyrs is a two volume core rule set. The RPG has a very old school feel to it, which makes sense seeing as it was published in the mid 80’s. The game is designed to bring players into the setting of Norse Mythology and the Viking Age. Players may emulate famous heroes from medieval Scandinavia.
The books are printed on standard copy paper with low end cardstock used for covers. The books are bound with plastic comb binders, and protected with durable, transparent plastic sheets. The overall quality of the publishing is on par with the early releases of Original Dungeons and Dragons. The art is nice but varies a bit and is reminiscent of the earliest editions of D&D.
Volume I - Character Classes, Skills, and Magic is 126-pages and covers much of what players need to know about the game. But it is not a complete system by itself, as Volume II will be required to be able to play.
Volume II does not have a specific title, but is listed in RPGGeek as “Combat, Runes, Songs of Power”. This volume is targeted more for the GM, but includes information the players will need as well. And is 76-pages.
The writing is clear but is a tad dry. Much of the narrative deals specifically with the rules. There are also several typos in the books but considering how many typos can be found in high end, big publications by large publishers, I can certainly forgive this.
Layout – The layout is pretty standard for this era of RPG. The character creation is mainly in the beginning of the first book, though equipment is placed in the middle of character creation as opposed to after. This appears to be due to the fact that equipment plays a big part about how a character is made. The type of weapon(s) and armor chosen speaks a lot to the type of character the player will be playing.
Towards the end of Character generation are the Spells available in the game. This is followed by a few core concepts to the background of the game, and the core mechanic of the game dealing with action resolution.
The second book starts off with the combat rules. But then follows with Runes (another form of magic), and Songs of Power, (a third type of magic). After this there are some miscellaneous rules regarding some non-combat elements in the game. It just seems like the Runes and Songs probably should have been included in the same book as the Spells, and the core mechanics in Volume I brought into Volume II. During character creation we found the books being passed back and forth during character creation between both players and the GM who was finishing up a few pre-session things. Not a big deal, but was commented on by players.
Comprehension – The rules overall are not too complex, (at least not more complex then the THAC0 system). The main mechanic works using 2d6. The result being added to whatever attribute might be rolled. Difficulty is determined by the level of the challenge being faced. This portion is pretty easily understood. Some of the rules may be confusing until seen in play, but no more so than any other RPG.
The only concern with comprehension was the various special maneuvers which may be used in combat, and the special actions that may be used with certain weapons. You’ll need the books close-by to reference these often as committing them all to memory will take time & repetition and not confusing some of them will take practice.
Possible Issues – There are a few stick vs carrot mechanics included in the game. By this I mean there are mechanics which may be used to “punish” players by the GM or other players. Notably the Berserker Class may earn XP by “stealing” it from other players. In effect by insulting the character in-game the Berserker earn the XP which is subtracted from the victim. This can lead to immature players acting out and meek personalities getting their feelings hurt.
Another possible issue is with the Berserker special ability to Berserk. While Berserk, with no enemies around, Berserkers may attack allies. Not a big deal as this is a common drawback to this ability in RPGs. But there is a possibility the Berserker may go Berserk involuntarily which is bound to happen at a very inopportune time resulting in the possibility of an adventure ruining drawback.
The Skald Class' requirement that players are required to “act out” their warrior poems, though benefits the flavor of the class, scares off players who might not feel they have the ability to play this well. This can be disappointing to players who want to play a Skald, but lack real life poetic ability.
Character Creation / Options – Character creation is pretty straight forward, though also very old school. Everything is random, except class choice, and the possibility of getting “hopeless” characters exists.
Though some other races exist in the game, players will all be playing Vikings so human is the only PC race choice. As with D&D the class choice is driven by the stats that are rolled. The designers' caution players against choosing one class, The Skald. Skalds are expected to role-play out their warrior poems in game in order to gain the maximum benefit from their class.
What Characters (er… Players) Do – Characters will slay legendary monsters and compete in physical challenges of great renown. The average Viking will have a code they follow and will work to earn great fame and respect from their fellow Vikings based on the deeds they accomplish. Warrior poets will recount Their achievements and they can celebrate with their fellows over drinks.
Combat is the bread and butter of this RPG and is designed to include the use of special maneuvers. In addition characters will take advantage of a weapon’s strong points while compensating for the weaknesses that a particular weapon has. There are opportunities to play out the drama faced by Vikings in the political dealings of the land as well, though less guidance is given on how to do this in-game.
This system will allow players to pull off some interesting, even occasionally amazing, maneuvers and combat scenarios. These epic possibilities can bring about some very memorable stories.
Session Planning – GMs will be expected to be familiar with at least some of the great Viking Sagas that have been passed down over the centuries. To help, the author has included the titles of several works which will be of assist in getting GMs new to V&V up to speed.
When running the game I noted quite a bit of prep was needed. There is no bestiary so all monsters and any NPCs, which might be involved in combat, need to be designed and prepared pre-session. The noted works were helpful in getting my mind into the spirit of the game, and helped with an overall story for adventures, but a lot of detail work was needed to ensure the players could get the most out of the story.
Ambiance – This RPG has mechanics and story designed to bring forth the feel of the Viking life. Yet much of the books are dedicated to the mechanics of the game. Much of the story of the RPG is implied or referenced to other historical and/or fictional works. In some cases familiarity with these other works might be necessary for some players to better understand the feel of this RPG.
The mechanics though do allow for players to recreate the distinct style of fighting and mysticism attributed to Vikings and Norse Barbarians.
Roadblocks – The biggest roadblock I found was the shear number of combat maneuvers and special uses of the weapons. Trying to keep track of these and having to reference them, whenever a player wanted to pull off a creative use of the ability, slowed down combat quite a bit. I’ll admit, when they worked, some cool results could be generated for memorable combat action. But more often than not the session dragged during combat.
I’m not a huge fan of the Viking Era. I enjoy playing a good boisterous and boastful Viking just as much as the next person. But the exacting focus on this specific genre was not for my taste. A player in our group is a history buff and got a real kick out of this game.
If you enjoy “old school” gaming and are a fan of Vikings this RPG could very well be a great fit for you. For people looking for a versatile mutli-genre system V&V isn’t for you.
Thank you for reading my review. It makes the effort worthwhile.
- [+] Dice rolls