Aren't runes overpowered?

I mean, Vitki are Gifted-only, so really they should be taking a saga role as, and be roughly as powerful as, the magi of the covenant. And yeah, magic is powerful. Bear in mind that "not restricted by the Code" isn't nearly as relevant in this case as you make it out to be; the same shortage of magi and lack of centralization that would prevent the Order from hunting down problematic Vitki is in equal measure preventing the Order from bearing down on disobedient magi in the same geographic area as those Vitki. So your Vitkir should be capable of causing about as much trouble as your magi, except that they have the added cost of needing loyal soldiers to do it, where magi usually keep their power to themselves.

(I apologize if I butchered the pluralization of Vitkir there, noble's parma.)

So what it really comes down to is treating magi and Vitki the same; they're not really meant to be challenged in a head-on brute-force match with threats lacking supernatural power. They can be taken head-on by supernaturally powerful beings or, far more commonly in many sagas, challenged in indirect or sneaky ways by mundane foes. No matter how subtle the wizard, a dagger between the shoulder blades will really cramp his style, and every wizard with half the brain they ought to have will realize that you shouldn't just go trying to outright attack the guy who has the political power to cut you off from the fellows providing you with your resources.

Hey all! Thanks again for your contribution.

When I wrote about a nation that can count on rune magic I should have been more specific: I don't mean a nation where everybody is under the constant effect of dozens of runes. If you have a country where each large town has one vitki which grants a major bonus to 10 of the most important figures (rulers, crafters, generals, artists...), making them the best in the world, you have an elite of people that can guide that country to greatness. Usually one rune is enough for many of these professions, and it means only 1 warping point each year... that is, one minor flaw after five years and that's probably it. A minor flaw in exchange for being the best at what you do is a fair trade, I think. The mysteries are all about voluntarily taking a flaw in exchange for a new power.
What's in it for the vitki? He's one of the most important people in his country, a hero (lots of groopies!).

But all of you disagree with me, so I'm probably wrong, and I don't want to drag this discussion too much.
One day I'll tell you my experience with a vitkir heavy setting :wink:

I think the biggest difference in assumptions here that's causing everybody to disagree with you is your assumption that there are enough Gifted children around and that they're so easily located that every large town can reliably have a fully-trained Rune Wizard helping them. That's a relatively saga-dependent thing, but it's one that of course has huge implications for the setting, so it's worth considering that that is a big source of differences in expected results.

From my researches there aren't that many large towns in Saxony in 790 a.D. (if you want to call them "large"). Like 20 maybe?

One thing that bears mentioning is that only Gentle Gifted viktir will be accepted by Norse society at all. 'Normally' Gifted viktir are probably tolerated - assuming they live 'over there' and people only deal with them when necessary, much like Gifted hedge wizards. This really cuts down on the amount of magic the Norse raiders have access to, and makes finding (and keeping!) apprentices all the more difficult.

Another large matter that keeps viktir 'weak' is the lack of available study - again, the Gift makes trading knowledge difficult (Teaching scores are penalized and few viktir trust enough to exchange books of runic knowledge), and viktir don't get 4 free seasons (3 if they are Wealthy, 2 otherwise). This really puts the brakes on progression, unless you focus heavily on adventure XP (which is dangerous).

Would these be larger Saxon settlements, or early towns founded by the Carolingians and their missions - like Bremen, Hildesheim and Paderborn? Just list the larger Saxon settlements you know.

Tmk there were 8th century Saxon castles like the Eresburg and the Syburg, but not a single Saxon settlement resembling a town. If you can read German - which helps a lot with researching the Saxon wars beyond reading Osprey books - have a look at this paper ... newald.pdf : many tombs, more or less organized cemeteries, no towns, and even the Saxon settlement preceding the mission at Münster turned out to be a legend.


Sorry One Shot, but I don't speak german :frowning:
I've found the following names: Minden, Braunsberg, Eize, Orhum, Schoningen, Hoheseeburg, Bremen, Treva (which pre-dates Hamburg) and of course Verden and Marklo. I supposed those were saxon settlements or forts, like the ones you see in the Vikings TV series. You think there wasn't any settlement? It seems weird: where were the Jarl ruling from? Their lonely homes in the woods? As for the tombs, didn't the Saxons use to burn their dead?

OK, lets walk through these places.

Hohenseeburg is a misspelling of Hohensyburg, where the Saxon castle of Syburg was located. No town, though. (See ... r.C3.BCnge - only in German.)
Marklo was a place at the Weser where the Saxon Allthing was held. ( is better for the "English only". )

The areas of Bremen, Minden and Verden were settled by Saxons, but the towns were founded as Carolingian bishoprics: Bremen in 787, the others around 800. (See ... Geschichte - no good English article available for Verden.)
Eize is a misspelling of Elze, where Charlemagne established a castle around 800, and whose function as a mission was soon subsumed by Hildesheim.

Treva is the classical name for a settlement roughly in the area of Hamburg, inhabited since the 4th century by Saxons. The importance of this location as a trading place might have persisted in the Saxon era - but no traces of Treva remain. And the first fortification known in the area is the Carolingian Hammaburg built around 810. (See - no English articles.)

Schoningen is first mentioned in 1071, but the area might have been settled by the Chatti before (see ).
Braunsberg and Orhum I cannot locate this evening. Is their spelling correct?

Who tells you that :question: But as far as we know none of these places held Saxon towns in the 8th century.



You aren't wrong at all! Just making some assumptions that allow your setting to shine. Lot of people do that.

  • There aren't many Gifted people, and the Vitkir tradition requires the Gift. No initiating 1 or 2 runes. But if your Vikings have more Gifted people, every village can have a vitkir.

  • Gifted people don't mix well with anyone, so vitkir are not likely to help out people they don't trust (which is everybody) and who are likely to gut them when something goes wrong (which occurs either on the first botch (all stress dice) and certainly after five seasons (everyone who sees Ragnar gets disfiguring facial sores after a year and a day, mark my words)). But if your npc vitkir don't roll dice, and if you ignore the social effects of the Gift, vitkir can provide a huge boost to society.

  • Vitkir have very little time to study, and are not likely to trust each other. But if your vitkir have awesome study materials and somehow exchange knowledge, and find the time, then they can develop high scores in a few runes and make a difference.

Me, I expect Vitkir to explode if they do too much magic, or get lynched, or find themselves on the wrong side of an Arcane Connection, or.... But MMVs.

FWIW, there is a fine tradition of rpgs ignoring the impact of their fumble rules. Perhaps my favorite is GURPS Technomancer, which features vast numbers of semi-skilled spellcasters who can each cast a few spells, after a few tries, but even though they have a pretty good chance of blowing themselves up or summoning a demon, to the point where this statistically happens many times every day in their Texas (never mind everywhere else), spellcasting is considered normal, healthy, productive behavior, and children who show precocity at this sort of thing are encouraged to do more....



Hey, thank you One Shot, great job here!

I don't need to be 100% historically accurate about the specific of each settlement, but I want to get a sense of how the situation was changing, and your links are very helpful in this regard. I'll read them, hoping Google translate doesn't butcher the german articles :wink:

I've found the list of names of "settlements and small towns" in a few maps included in the book The Conquest of Saxony 782-785, but unfortunately I can't paste images here. Anyway:

  • Hohenseeburg is not Syburg (according to one of these maps), but a settlement close to the border between Saxony and Thuringia... It sounds suspiciously similar to Hohensyburg, though :smiley:
  • I think the Allthing is not held in Marklo anymore in 790, since the Franks and the Edhilingui (traitors!) forbade it. I'll have the reberls meet in the Harz mountains instead, near/at the Rosstrappe. I've read somewhere that the Saxons built a fort here and the covenant is in the Harz mountains as well. This area has a really dense forest and there won't be towns for several centuries.
  • Don't know if the spelling of Braunsberg and Orhum are correct, but according to the map, the former is east of Paderborn, just across the Fulda river, while the latter is like 60 Km west of Schoningen.
  • There are a few more settlements mentioned north of Paderborn: Schieder, Detmold, Rehme, Petershagen, Steinfurt. I can't say if this higher density is real or just a consequence of a better description of this important area.
  • About the frankish castles, I'm going with the "moat and bailey" style. I don't think there were stone buildings yet, as also the Paderborn's church was made of wood, back then.

Hey Ken!

My take is that the Gift is more common in the VIII century, in a region where magic auras are much more extensive and the Dominion has just began to creep in. I won't have a magic user in every village, but magic will be certainly more widespread than in 1220. It means more magical resources, but also more magical threats.

Of course my vitkir roll dice. Under normal circumstances, though, there's only 3% of taking 1 WP, and less than 0,1% of going nath-nel. It's not so much, if you consider that runes last years. With just 33 runes, and an average of 1 warping point, you can have 33 people who excel in one thing for a decade.
About the Gift, it is true that it's bad for social relations, but by rising your reputation within your village you can offset the penalties (societates p. 89). Just like the grogs get used to the magi, the villagers get used to the vitkir.

That's true. The vitki player character will be more optimized instead.

I'm trying to be realistic, and that was the point of my original post, in the first place :wink:


Hi! :slight_smile:

Your saga, so your take!

That said, I don't think the OoH would have gotten off the ground so easily in Germania if there were so many vitkir around, and a society that used them so optimally. Parma? Less useful against a vitkir.

"I think you overestimate their chances." This is assuming that these are the only runes they cast, which is totally unreasonable IMO. This is neglecting what happens when villagers start coming home with flaws. It only takes one with a new Paranoid Personality Flaw, never mind a minor flaw of impotence... This is neglecting what happens when there is a bad harvest, when a battle goes the wrong way. Neglecting what happens when people pass through the village. Magi have a far more advantageous situation relative to their covenfolk, who are often on the outskirts of society rather than being society, who work for the magi rather than paying to get Warped. This is neglecting what happens when enruned items are lost, or are stolen by a rival; having lots of vitkir really works against you here, and you are going to have rivals and enemies among the vitkir because vanishingly few will get used to you. Also, how does your vitkir make a living, if once he casts 33 runes, the villagers have no need of him for 10 years?

So it doesn't feel realistic to me.

I expect vitkir to be very careful with their magic, to keep prices high, to keep risk down, to maintain a mystique, to avoid giving rivals power over them. I expect vitkir rivalries to be every bit as intense as among the Amazons, because neither group has any way to mitigate the Gift; the main reason vitkir might cooperate is that rune magic requires intense specialization, but such cooperation is limited because vitkir need to protect their specialization from those other untrustworthy vitkir. I expect vitkir to cater to the most powerful; the chief gets a rune-blessed sword, with dire warnings about how it is to be used sparingly, with pomp and ceremony, etc.

But again, your saga.

Less sure about the realism.

That said, a few small rules changes for your vitkir can change things. After all, maybe the vitkir of 1200 aren't as good as those of 750. So maybe your vitkir have access to virtues like:

Unbound runes: By casting a rune script over the course of a season, it is no longer an Arcane Connection to you, and involves a simple die roll instead of stress. If you have the appropriate craft skills, you can cast the runes in the same season as you craft the item.

Careful with Rune: Choose a single rune. You roll two fewer botch dice when casting that rune, which can eliminate the last die. If a runescript has more than one rune, you must have this virtue for all runes used, and only get the reduction once.

And if magic is so prevalent in your saga, maybe all of your vikings already have virtues that align them to the Magic Realm, and therefore don't get flaws for Warping.



In that case, best start with the .pdf a gave you here : ... newald.pdf . Especially p.9f there, with its general description of the 7th and 8th century settlements found and excavated in Westphalia.

This talk addresses the relation between archeological finds and the well known literature (Einhard ). And neither one nor the other have any large Saxon towns in 790 AD.


Minor quibble: Magic Realm independence from warping requires Transformed or the Gift. I'd have the vitkir you want to learn for this learn a Faerie Mystery to teach their men to give them a Sympathy Trait and allow them to take Faerie Calling warping.


The basic assumption of my saga is that the history of the Order has been "cooked" like it used to happen to the lives of saints and kings. Centuries of retelling and fine tuning have made us believe that the Order success was inevitable and everything ran quite smoothly, despite the major crisis. In my saga, things are much rougher instead, and history is not bound to unravel like we are used to. The infancy of the Order, in particular, is ridden with internal mistrust and rivalry, while external menaces threaten to destroy this fragile project. Magic theory is still incomplete (no Aegis, for instance), the Code can't be easily enforced, and politics are inconclusive, as each House has its own worldview. There's still no shared vision of the future, and the founders are not legendary figures, but just men and women undertaking a very tough task.
So yes, the OoH won't get off the ground so easily in Germania. They'll need to fight hard and to find an understanding between the Houses.

But vitkir won't be a major threat (and there won't be that many of them). They are just committed to save their people and their culture and don't need another enemy beside Charlemagne and the Church. And also the Order will have nastier threats to face: I'm thinking about witches, shapeshifters, dreamwalkers, muspelli and other dark characters... Led by Gyongy (Birna's sworn enemy), Veia (Trianoma's witch sister who stole some of Bonissagus secrects) and Gullvaig (the Jotun of witchcraft and greed). I'm also hoping to get some ideas from the upcoming Dies Irae.

I started this thread because I thought vitkir were overpowered and I wanted to nerf them, but you and the other posters almost convinced me that it's not the case. So thank you for your insight, which I'll put to good use. I hope I will be able to handle the vitki PC as well :slight_smile:



Hmm. I remember it being otherwise: You get Warping, but once you have a Magic Virtue, you stop accumulating Flaws. Could be wrong.




Please note that I do not dispute the goodness or 'legitimacy' of what you want to do. If it's fun, make it so. But you seem to want agreement or discussion about 'realism' such as it is, or plausibility or verisimilitude. And.... I don't see it:

Which leaves me with a problem of realism, since the Rhine was an early center of Hermetic Magic.

Which leaves me with another problem of realism, because your setup totally contradicts this. More magic, more vitkir, more cooperation. Meanwhile, Hermetic Magi are few, and their techniques just beginning to be developed.

And another problem of realism for me. These seem like 21c Vikings to me. I don't expect the real article to think about saving people and culture. (And from what? 8C Vikings were doing just fine, thank you.) Vikings also seem to spend a lot of time fighting other Vikings!

Hermetic Magi? Viking wizards are a Classic Enemy of the Order, at least according to magi. Unless you want to change the setting (which I do strongly recommend!) there will and should be conflict here.


considers Vitkir can be powerful. If one of them somehow manages to stay healthy into his second century, he can become very powerful. Gentle Gift and Not Offended by the Gift are very good for this guy, who can go around (maybe dressed like Odin! :slight_smile: ) to other vitkir, one at a time, and point them in a direction of his choosing. This guy still wouldn't want to leave ACs dangling around. But he can still be very effective and dangerous without equipping the Vikings with D&D-style loot.

But most vitkir will be marginal characters, interesting but not much better off than witches. Literacy is rare in their society, so magical resources are especially rare. They are not powerful enough to rule, so must spend lots of time making ends meet. They have difficulty organizing because their magic offers no way around the Gift (unlike, magi, sahirs, LMs...) Their magic has some very cool effects, but mandatory stress dice and ACs force vitkir to be stingy.

This makes vitkir work well, I think! You can have your very rare exceptional vitkir antagonist (or patron?) but also have quite a few vitkir hedge wizards. And if one vitkir NPC does equip an entire Viking band with +2 swords, +2 armor, etc, the PCs then get to use the ACs against him, maybe with the help of a rival vitkir (who joined rather than died?) thus demonstrating why other vitkir do not do the same.

Thinking of each vitkir selfishly, rather than part of an NPC horde helps. Is casting these runes worth the risk of botching? Do I trust that the item will not reach the hands of my (clearly untrustworthy) rival? Am I better off just waving my hands over the sword and not casting any magic? (Or, mwahaha, cursing the item instead; that'll show Olaf for stealing my girl?)

A few rune effects probably do need adjudicating. A few interesting effects, but I don't think in the same league as Sahirs or Learned Magicians or Gruagachan. (Unless, of course, a trivial rune casting makes them immune to all hostile magic, and another to all aging....)



Or in this case, as he said upthread, PC. PC vitkir are likewise expected to be exceptional magus-level characters - the point of the thread was that he was worrying about how powerful one got.

"I, (the runemaster), am thrice blessed" allows for a vitki to work around the Gift. It's obviously not grant-the-Gentle-Gift perfect in that it only allows the vitki to speak as if he's unGifted, but it means that Gandalfr can usually establish a working rapport with other vitkir if he works at it. (In other words, it's like a Gifted sahir's Storytelling bonus - with the same corollary that a Gently Gifted vitki is going to be an awesome social adept.)

No fear on that score. While it doesn't come with impotence and can be cast quickly, vitkir have the weakest longevity effect this side of Folk Witches. Sahirs they are not.

Just throwing in a few historical musings...

Germany in 790 was very different in size and shape from the Germany of the High Middle Ages presented in AM5, not to speak of the Germany of later times. The differences were profound between the old Roman territories on the proper sides of the Rhine and Danube and the wilder lands across the rivers.

It's very conceivable that Bonisagus and his Hermetics originated and thrived in Frankish-controlled ex-Roman Germany and had an entirely different experience in Saxony and other further territories. I can't remember how this corresponds to the maps placing Durenmar and other early Covenants but I'd feel free to move them around a bit if necessary.

8th Century Saxons were, needless to say, not Vikings. While Rune Magic is certainly appropriate for them, one shouldn't forget that the Saxons were in the process of being invaded and conquered by the Christians while the Scandinavian Vikings were just starting the process of doing the invading for themselves.


1- As Jabir said, Durenmar sits well inside the frankish empire, while Saxony has never been touched by "civilization"... although today both of them are parts of Germany, it was much different back then.
2- Being an early center of Hermetic Magic doesn't mean that it was easy.
3- As I said, I don't strictly follow the canon, as I have a much more troublesome path for the Order to walk.

Yes, more vitkir than in a regular campaign, but not a very lot of them. I'll have many different kinds of magic users, and vitkir are just a part of it.

Again as jabir said, we're not talking about Vikings, we are talking about Saxons (who share mostly the same culture, but are not vikings). Saxons are fighting Charlemagne as the Franks try to conquer their land, and vitkir are fighting alongside their people. So they have their own big war to fight, and don't need another enemy. The player characters may decide to side with the pagans or with the christians or remain neutral... this decision will determine if the vitkir will be friends, enemies or neither.

We'll see how the situation develops, but I am definitely changing some of the classic setting. Here's the introduction to my saga, if you're interested:

Some good ideas here. Thanks Ken :wink: