Winds of the North: A Viking Age RPG and Gamebook Hybrid
Begin a solo RPG adventure in the Viking Age as spring begins for a new character with Winds of the North.
There are dozens of unplayed board games, solo RPGs, gamebooks, and practically anything else in the realm of tabletop games I want to get to. Yet I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to playtest Winds of the North! The premise sounded intriguing and I didn’t need to spend a lot of time learning something new. So, onto this adventure!
I’m part of the playtest! Note that this means that nothing is finalized yet. I’ve included some samples of the PDF with the designer’s permission. If you would like to learn more or sign up for playtesting, visit Thomas King’s website!
This is an interesting mix of solo RPG and gamebook mechanics. There are choices to make and paragraphs to read, yet the core element is 1d8 to resolve randomness. Over the course of weeks, months, seasons, and years, a single character must learn to survive and thrive.
Preparing to Play
We all know what it’s like to get something new to the table. There’s unpacking, setting up components, reading the rules, and a whole process that takes time!
Some are easier than others, like RPGs or gamebooks that can begin with very little preparation. This isn’t always the case, yet it’s usually clear how much time is needed.
In this case, I could dive right in! Character creation is simple with minimal decisions and quick steps.
Granted, I decided to play almost exclusively digitally and made documents for myself. So… I made it harder. Ha ha!
I don’t know what it is, but if you put seasons and weather in front of me, I usually can’t look away! They’re simple concepts that can add a lot to various types of games.
Weeks and months pass to indicate the seasons. A new roll for weekly weather provides possible setbacks and dangers out in the wilderness. Rain is no joke!
Activities differ slightly by season with primary and secondary options. But only 2 may be chosen each week.
This is mainly what the system consists of. It’s simple but provides the basis for a rich narrative. More on that soon!
Maybe I can be roped in by seasons and weather tables, yet there’s one more aspect that I always enjoy. Randomness! And this combination of RPG and gamebook has it all.
Not everything requires a roll, of course, because that could get tedious. Yet in certain instances, something unexpected happens and a roll determines the outcome.
This example shows how an animal might wander off. A simple roll plus modifier provides the basis for the story.
Watch out for the other option with no animal! But this is it. Or is it? Let’s move to the story of the first spring!
Wiser than most and rugged from surviving when none expected her to, Vigdis is fiercely independent and resourceful. She keeps her feet rooted to the ground and rarely ventures near the sea. There are stories told of her years spent alone, seemingly lost to the wilds. Yet Vigdis survived against all odds and returned with the wisdom that will carry her. She fears only that which she does not know. Despite her knowledge, Vigdis is still learning.
Original Image Credited to Artbreeder User americanoneko146
Inheriting the Family Farm
When Vigdis found her way home, she enjoyed a bittersweet reunion with her family. A poorly planned summer raid left her father with a fatal wound. He passed the farm to her, knowing the rest of the family could not handle the responsibility. Vigdis spent last autumn and winter ensuring everyone lived. And that she did. But now, in her first spring at home, she must work not to survive, but grow and thrive. Death is never far away.
Original Image Credited to Artbreeder User dontknowwhatimdoing
A Tale of Early Spring
Fair weather opened up an opportunity for Vigdis to take in her surroundings and explore. A local lord was constructing a hall not far from the farm. He was rather impressed with her wisdom and strength as she helped guide a wooden column into place. Food and wood were plentiful, though an extra servant was politely refused. The farm was full.
The market proved quite useful, although Vigdis foolishly spent most of the silver rather quickly. Still, a goat and seeds were necessary. As was the ale for the monthly celebration! Happiness was not something to neglect. That first month of spring had very little rain and resulted in fields of barley and peas, along with a healthy wood supply.
Vigdis moved into the second month in a good position. She was quite successful on the farm, meager as it was. Alas, branching out into mining and fishing was far from lucrative and she wasted weeks for very little reward. Most important was her decision to start construction on a smokehouse to be prepared for winter well ahead of time.
A fine hunt rewarded the family with delicious meat that would be added to another feast to celebrate. The only trouble was how the farm was still barely able to sustain the family. Vigdis saw them living from week to week, scrambling to gather enough resources. In a terrible bit of luck, wild horses roamed nearby and she failed to capture a new mount.
Forward to a Late Spring Disaster
The latter part of the spring season came with unpredictable rain and storms. Vigdis avoided any risky activities and often stuck to crafting or milking the goats. It was simple and rather mundane work, yet the farm’s food and meat supplies continued to grow. She also made her own bow and shield, mainly to be prepared for hunting.
Yet in the second week of that final month, trouble found Vigdis. She heard talk of a troll-born warrior who was a threat to all. If the rumors were true, it would be wise to wait and see if he ever appeared. Alas, she approached his den and engaged in the most lopsided combat possible. An early hit boosted her confidence a little too much against her enemy.
Vigdis suffered a searing wound that threw her off balance and caused her to hurt herself. There was nothing for it: She fell, on the brink of sudden death. By sheer luck (I rolled an 8!) she lived to tell the tale but had to flee the battle. Rumors of her hubris and foolishness made the family avoid the village for the rest of the month to hide their shame.
After resting to slightly heal her wounds, Vigdis had to ensure there was enough food and resources to last into the summer heat. The goats were a joy to be around and took her mind off the battle with the troll-born warrior. It would still take weeks to get back her strength. At least the household completed the smokehouse before summer!
An Ancient Hex Kit Map
With everything else customized, I knew just what I wanted to do about tracking discoveries on the map! This is a map created with Hex Kit using an older map style.
Accurate for mapmaking during the Viking Age? I have no idea, but it gave me the right sort of feeling!
There are 3 columns of sea spaces, 2 columns of coastal spaces, the farm, and 5 columns of land spaces. The blue pin indicates where the single discovery was made.
I also have the ability to add notes to hexes in a separate little module, so I can keep everything neatly organized.
The Little Details
Upon closer inspection, it should be clear that there are small differences, even in the seemingly identical hexes.
Building a coastline takes some patience with layers, but this was very simple. I wonder what secrets lie in this bay. Might that jutting piece of land harbor a sunken ship?
Larger maps often lead to more interesting stories and possibilities, yet there’s nothing lacking here! I hope Vigdis will find much more in her journey.
Just no more troll-born warriors, please! The option to flee is going to be a top option next time. Ha ha!
Continue the Conversation
Are you currently playtesting Winds of the North? What sorts of events have befallen your character? There are elements that may feel repetitive, but I love how I don’t have to build a world and spend a lot of time thinking about it. Sometimes that’s fun, though! Vigdis already nearly died so I’m hoping that summer is a little more… Restful. Ha ha!