Free Traders Setup Part 4: Uppsala

Posted: 19 April 2013 in Settings
Tags: , ,

Skipping about the map as inspiration takes me, I come to Uppsala next.

The location – one hesitates to call it a city, even today the total population is less than 150,000 – has always been important as a religious centre; it’s also a port and later became an academic centre. I also note from Uppsala’s location that it’s a bit chilly, in case I decide to do full Stars Without Number stats for it.

At the time we’re interested in, it’s most famous for the large gold-adorned temple where statues of three gods sit on a triple throne; Thor, flanked by Odin and Freyr. According to Adam of Bremen, there was a priest who offered sacrifices – to Thor for relief from plague or famine, to Odin for victory in war, and to Freyr to celebrate marriages. These could include sacrifices of humans and animals, whose blood placated the gods. Non-believers were allowed to buy themselves out of the ceremonies. Opinion is divided on how much of all this Adam of Bremen made up.

However, it’ll do for gaming purposes, and I select these tags:

Tags: Theocracy, Unbraked AI.

This builds on input from VirgoBrown at the Savage Worlds forum, who suggested the gods could be supercomputers. In this case, the three primary Norse gods are a single mad AI with a split personality, which thinks it is all three gods, and has enough Weird Science tricks to make local people believe it. That suggests to me that the local tech level is a bit below par. ZeroMostel on the forum suggested Loki should be a viral AI that hops from ship to ship, and that’s too good not to use. Loki and Thor did not play well together, as I recall, but Loki was Odin’s blood brother so Thor couldn’t just smash his face in with Mjollnir.

Hmm. I can’t very well put "Unbraked AI" on the player handout, can I? I’ll just have to remember it. In the real world, Scandinavia had converted to Christianity by this point, and maybe Uppsala’s neighbours have a more normal religion too.


Meanwhile, I’ve decided to shorten "Varangian", which is what people at the Byzantium end of the trade route called all the Norse, to "Varan", likewise Varangian Guard is truncated to Varan Guard (and I’m toying with the idea of making their axes symbolic of a general fascism in the Celestial Empire). Since I want a political power to counterbalance the Empire, I extend this into the Varan Federation.

Vikings governed themselves by a loose hierarchy of councils called Things, which each community being self-governing; although they did have Jarls and Kings, these were almost a parallel structure to the Thing, and it’s not clear to me whether either hierarchy had any control over the other. We would probably consider this a kind of democracy today, so Federation seems a good name for it; and in SF, the traditional counterweight to an Empire is a Federation.

  1. David says:

    Loki is beginning to sound a little like “Virus” from MegaTraveller. I must admit, having read a lot of Iain Banks’ Culture novels (with governing collectives of AIs), that your write-up for Uppsala makes more sense than the original “Virus”. Uppsala might be a declining society and the mad AI could be a relic from a more technologically advanced past period. If the Uppsalan society had become sufficiently divorced from the technology that sustained them, they may have reach a point that when it failed, there were insufficient people with technical knowledge to restore the failed systems and the damaged AI central control system eventually went mad.

    The symbol/unit patch for the Varan Guards might be crossed axes and the players might first encounter them at a ceremonial changing of the guard which might also include actual axes or fasces which are passed from guard team to guard team.

    Sounds like fun!

  2. raikenclw says:

    “although they did have Jarls and Kings, these were almost a parallel structure to the Thing, and it’s not clear to me whether either hierarchy had any control over the other.”

    From what I’ve read, Thing for each area elected that area’s Jarl (usually from among the sons of the previous one) and a national Thing did the same for each King . . . when the local Things in question could agree on whether or not they all belonged to the same realm, that is. These positions were something like a combination of war chief and supreme judge; (theoritically) supreme in military matters and the final court of appeal in legal matters, but only “first among equals” in other ways. BTW, the one who got elected was usually the one who gave the biggest “gifts” to the more important voters . . . 🙂

  3. steelbrok says:

    It’s starting to look lot like Fading Suns with the Varan as the Vuldrok, might be worth mining the setting fir ideas

    • andyslack says:

      Thanks Steelbrok – I don’t know Fading Suns, maybe I should check it out!

      • raikenclw says:

        The Fading Suns setting is waaayyyyy cool! I’ve never actually played the game, but I’ve got a LOT of the supplements. It’s essentially a riff on the very early Renaissance/Reformation era. The main conflict is between magic (faith + psionics) and science, but there are myriad splinter groups on both sides, with the nobility busy trying to play each off against the others. Add in lots of different Ancient Aliens, about which very little is known (even by said AA’s modern descendants) and it all gets extremely complex. And that’s even without the (optional) complication of Whatever is causing the suns to fade. In a word, much goodness available for mining! 🙂

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