Land of Fire & Ice: Updating and fixing the Toframanna Saga

[color=red][WARNING! SPOILERS!]

I'm currently preparing to run the Toframanna Saga from the Land of Fire & Ice supplement. Given this supplement was written for 4th Edition, there will be some rough spots while converting it to 5th Edition. Also some of the written things are just not gonna work with my troupe, and I also want to put in a lot of historic material to fill the gaps. The tensions between Norway and Iceland and the resulting civil war are just too interesting to pass on. I figured a public thread might be a useful endeavor since others might run into the same problems one day.

Going into it, the most obvious concerns are the changed rules for magic resistance and penetration which will require rethinking the function of hedge traditions in the saga as well as restatting some of the major players. Also relevant are the changes to magic beings which will become relevant in the course of the saga - currently I'm mostly inclined to ignore the 5th edition ruling on that, since it's what I'd tend to do if the matter ever came up in my games anyway. And then there's small bits and pieces.

Since my two players are currently in the process of building characters, I'd like to focus on the mechanical bits relevant to this part first.

The character concepts so far are a Perdo/Intellego Vim expert of the Lineage of Pralix (maybe with Diedne Magic thrown in for good measure) and a giant-blooded and martially inclined Muto Corpus/Terram expert of House Tytalus (with a Diabolic Past relating to my Ver Novum saga).

Icelandic and Norwegian are obviously dialects of West Norse, and Swedish and Danish of East Norse. Both work with the runic and the Latin alphabet. So far so good, but it gets confusing when I'm trying to figure out the relations to other languages. East Norse is covered in the appendix of Guardians of the Forest (p.138, erroneously as "West" Norse), covering its relation to High and Low German (as well as those languages' relationship to English, which will also be relevant). West Norse is mentioned in Contested Isle (p.21), but the book unfortunately fails to provide relative modifiers for its languages. Heirs to Merlin comes up completely empty on the topic of English Norse, while Ultima Thule (p.68) tells us that speakers of West and East Norse can understand each other at half their ability score (rounded down) - something that's not gonna fly in 5th Edition obviously.

So what modifiers would you put on the following:

  • East vs. West Norse: -1? -2 as High vs. Low German?
  • English vs. East/West Norse: -2? -3? Should East and West Norse be treated differently towards English, with one being closer than the other?
  • Low German vs. West Norse: -3 as for East Norse? Is Saxon also closer to this, justifying a reduction to -2?
  • High German vs. West Norse: -4 as for East Norse?

Also, there's Jotunn (or Jotnar as of Hedge Magic Revised) which supposedly is closely related to Pictish as a magic language, which is why there's only a -1 modifier between those two. Should Jotnar be related to West or East Norse?

Area Lores
I tend to treat these quite flexibly anyway, giving more specific information the narrower the focus of the lore ability is. But I don't think Iceland Lore leaves any room for more focus. Other than that, Scandinavia Lore might be an adequate ability, given that Norway will be quite important politically as well.

Starting Area
LoF&I assumes Wormhout as the starting covenant of the characters. It's situated in Flanders in the Normandy Tribunal which has since then been covered more extensively. I'm inclined to simply use the Spider's Palace (Lion and the Lily, p.98) instead, given that there's only one resident magus there and sending the guest magi on a paid quest would thus make sense. In this scenario I'll assume that Florum was conceived by Vindolanda (two decades before its official founding date in The Lion and the Lily, and even though Florum was then located in the newly established Lotharingian Tribunal), thus building the foundation for the former alliance treaty that the adventure hook hinges on.

Problems arise later in the campaign, when Vindolanda is reestablished. Its main site was originally situated in the Britannian Tribunal (now on the border of the Stonehenge and Loch Leglean Tribunal) with the sancta of the magi being off-site (with the exception of the Icelandic one all in the Stonehenge Tribunal). While the book suggests Iain's house in De Panne (Flanders, Normandy Tribunal) as new covenant site, this might lead to some confusion at the next tribunal gathering. The only presentable surviving member of Vindolanda would be Iain (and I'm not even sure I want to keep him) who would most likely rise to prominence once his real age becomes apparent. If on the other hand no surviving member is presentable, it raises the issue of why an old covenant should be reestablished by rather young magi without any connection to the former members and so far off from its original site. Establishing the covenant on its original site is not an option as it's a.) an important adventure location later on, and b.) infested by a powerful demon. Situating the main covenant site on Iceland itself, outside of any established tribunal, would make things easier, but make Hermetic interaction far more troublesome. I guess this dilemma is interesting enough to present it to the player characters themselves, making them chose which tribunal to associate themselves with - on the other hand it makes preparing the saga a lot harder. :confused: Any thoughts on this?

I'd say no more than -1 for West to East Norse - to this day Norwegians, Danes and Swedes can understand each other fairly easily. They just seem to have a funny accent to each other.

I'd say (and am not a linguist)

East vs. West Norse: -1
English vs. East/West Norse: -3
Low German vs. West Norse: -3
High German vs. West Norse: -4

I wouldn't get too caught up on this this kind of thing personally. Chances are the characters will all be from the same tribunal with the same shared mundane language. If they're from the Normandy tribunal, chances are they won't have any of these languages anyway. (?)

I agree with your thoughts on area lores.

What will be your PC's base tribunal? I think that might affect what they try to do and can give you something to steer their thoughts with. You can do Normandy as you've suggested, but really there's nothing stopping you from using Hibernia, Loch Leagen, StoneHenge , Provence or the Rhine Tribunal.

Have a look at this: .
In ArM5 it is customary to drop 'Old' prefixes before languages - though they are used by scholars. And Old East Norse and Old West Norse are just dialects of Old Norse, so need not be different languages in ArM5 at all. You can keep it simple and real, if your 13th century ArM5 Swede speaks Norse (Eastern) 5 and your Icelander Norse (Western) 5.


GotF has Danish as a valid specialty of West Norse (p. 138).
For whatever that's worth.

The languages have only recently been splitting up enough to separate them. When investigating them a little while ago I had considered having East Norse, West Norse, and Gutnish be dialects of an Old Norse language, but ArM5 separated them further. You could alter this, but the way ArM5 has it, East Norse and West Norse are two different languages, each with several dialects. Dialects are at -1 to each other. So that would make Faroese , Greenlandic, Icelandic, Norn, and Norwegian all at -1 to each other. Similarly, Danish, Scanian, and Swedish would be at -1 to each other. Different but close languages are at -2 to each other. That would put East Norse and West Norse at -2 to each other, as well as to Gutnish.

As for other things, I have generally placed all the Old Norse languages the same distance from the other Germanic languages, at -3. The exceptions from/interpolated from the books:

  • High German vs. any Old Norse: -4
  • Low German (Saxon) vs. East Norse: -2

And then there's one that was more guess-work than anything else because there is so little to go with:

  • Crimean Gothic vs. any Anglo-Saxon or Old Norse: -4

I haven't gotten around to dealing with Pictish yet. Sorry.

That's an error. I pointed it out a while ago to David and it was confirmed, so it should be among the errata now.

This is because modern Norwegian is based more on East Norse (Danish to be more specific) than on West Norse after the Norwegian union with Denmark from the late 14th century onward. The traditional Norwegian based on West Norse is only spoken in rural dialects nowadays. A modern Scandinavian trying to understand a modern Icelander would be a more appropriate comparison.

Language barriers will be one of the main problems in this campaign. The two characters are quite unlikely to be from the same tribunal (Tytalus from the Rhine, Ex Misc probably from Stonehenge), and either way they'll end up in Iceland right at the start of the adventure and have to establish themselves there.

I've read that as well as several other articles. But in linguistics "dialects" are not necessarily what we commonly refer to, so I think splitting the abilities works well enough. The German Wikipedia goes into more detail on this, mentioning that from the 12th century onward the separation might actually be more like South Norse (Danish) and North Norse (Norwegian, Icelandic, Swedish) as Danish moved even further away. But I think gamewise the distinction works better as West and East Norse, anachronistic as that may be.

I mentioned this in my opening post - and thankfully it's in the errata, don't worry. :wink:

Another language I noticed might become relevant: Gaelic (Highlands). How would that interact with the other languages? Haven't looked into the relations yet and have to leave the house soon. Any input on this is welcome.

Not even closely related as far as I know. There is information on Gaelic in The Contested Isle, which I have not yet put into my big chart for languages in and around Mythic Europe. I haven't had much chance to edit it since I posted it here a while ago: Languages in/around Mythic Europe

Just stumbled upon this little piece and had a chance to talk to a friend who's writing her dissertation on Icelandic sagas. According to her, there's a saga which tells that once upon a time Norsemen - that is Norwegians and Icelanders - and Englishmen were once able to understand each other, even though it seems doubtful to her. Still, if it's in a saga, it's good enough for Ars Magica.

So for the time being I think I'll treat it like this:

  • West vs. East Norse: -2
  • West Norse vs. English: -3
  • East Norse vs. English: -4
  • Low and High German vs. West Norse: -4

Gonna check out Gaelic later...

In the specific case of Old Norse, both historical sources and research, as referenced in the English and the German wiki, tend to call it a single language. For the more thorough German entry see :

It is your game and you decide, where to introduce complexities to it.


Nice. I'll have to compare what I've written for ArM5 to that. At quick glance it looks like I have agreement. It seems odd that Greenlandic Norse is missing from that site, or did I just miss it?

That's why I'd originally placed it as one language, making dialects of East Norse, West Norse, and Gutnish. But the separation was happening right about the time of ArM5 sagas, and since the sagas move forward in time, that makes the separation grow during games instead of getting smaller. Thus the canon ArM5 separation is not unreasonable, either. For sake of consistency I split things as ArM5 canon does: East Norse, West Norse, and Gutnish being separate languages, not separate dialects.

Well, Snorri Sturluson is busy writing from 1220 or so, and he sees Norse as one language. So you would prepare your terminology for several decades ahead.


I just looked around at the Funbo runes - thanks for that. Yes, the East Norse and West Norse do seem like just dialects of the same language, not very different at all. Of course, at a quick estimate this was 150 to 200 years prior to ArM5. That is consistent with other things I've read that they only started to become distinct enough to qualify them as different languages around the 13th century. So we're still stuck with a time where we could go either way. But a long-running ArM5 saga starting in 1220 would end up in the time when they're definitely separated as different languages. I suspect the ArM5 authors were looking at these options for East Norse vs. West Norse:

  • At saga start they are probably dialects of the same language but by saga end they are definitely different languages.
  • At saga start they might be different languages and by saga end they are definitely different languages.
    When looking at those two choices, the latter seems more consistent between sagas and history and so is probably the better choice for ArM5 canon.

Cool. Didn't know about him.

However, I find the statement of "several decades" questionable. Snorri certainly didn't write for more than about two decades after the standard saga begins. Most of his life experience is from prior to when sagas begin, though right as sagas begin is a time when he was abroad. I would also note that he seemed to be mostly in Iceland or Norway, both of which would be West Norse - and ArM5 canon classifies Norwegian and Icelandic as the same language. I have to say I haven't read enough about him to know how familiar he was with East Norse or Gutnish to gain any more clarity, though.

So, as I've said. From what I'd read I was originally putting East Norse and West Norse together as dialects of Norse. But I switched to be consistent with ArM5 canon, and I still haven't seen anything that says ArM5 canon isn't the better of the two choices considering the time frame we're looking at (1220+ potentially many decades, maybe even to 1400 or later). Now, if you were playing a saga starting in 1120 instead of 1220, I would say you definitely want to go the direction of East Norse and West Norse being dialects of the same language.

The Heimskringla is (see p. 380 of Das Mittelalter in Daten, editor Joachim Heinzle, Munich, C. H. Beck 1993) dated around 1230. From the Heimskringla the quotes in the German wiki about a "danska tungu" (literally: Danish tongue) and "norrœnt mál" are taken. He is clearly a major witness, how knowledgeable speakers of the time felt about their language.


That would be 1 decade, which is why I said I found "several decades" questionable.

Cool. So that establishes connection with Danish and thus East Norse (assuming the literal actually matches up with the translation). Does it say when he was there as a major witness?

Still, given the time frame involved for ArM5 sagas, I have yet to see anything saying the ArM5 canon choice is a poor one if a single choice is going to be made for simplicity for sagas running from 1220 to 1300 or maybe even 1400.

Don't forget that Snorri Thurlson is almost certainly related to Thord Thurlson (I am also adapting this campaign but I totally reskinned the beginning)


Thord Sturluson, elder brother of Snorri, is an NPC with Stats in LoF&I (p. 141f), and Snorri and the Sturlungar are also covered in the history section (p. 15ff) of that book. Snorri's work as a skald and historian (Prose Edda is not mentioned in LoF&I however, and neither are his education and his excellent connections in Norway and Sweden.


Yeah, I know about Contested Isle. Like I mentioned in the OP, it doesn't contain any information about relative modifiers though. Big shortcoming in my eyes, since this is one of the most important bits of information I'm looking for when I pick up a regional book.

So basically Gaelic speaking Scots and English speaking Englishmen couldn't understand each other at all? This might become relevant, as the old Vindolanda covenant site is situated on Hadrian's Wall.