Thursday, March 31, 2016

Gærstfeld: An imagi-nation.

Imagi-nation:  A historically themed fictional culture and/or political region.

Galen recently posted two articles covering his nation of Odálagaard, which can be found here and here.  This article covers the nation that I am working on to provide an opposing faction in our games of Hail Caesar by Warlord Games.

Gærstfeld is based on the Anglo-Saxon era of England.  It is a country consisting mostly of open, rolling plains run through with rivers and dotted with forests.  It is an idyllic countryside; ripe for farming and rich with resources such as wood from the forests, minerals from the mountains, and a long coastline with ample fisheries.

About a thousand years ago, Gærstfeld was a sparsely populated frontier with only a few small settlements.  During the great migration, however, many clans from the South and West came to this region in search of an opportunity at a better life.  The lush and fertile countryside, fed by several river systems running from the Westhealf mountains to the coast, provided ample opportunity for the migrating clans to settle and start anew.

The people of Gærstfeld are mostly common workers such as farmers, fishermen, woodsmen, and craftsmen.  The common folk are free, working for the betterment of their local villages, towns, and their families.  Communities generally share the produce of their efforts, and any surplus is traded to nearby settlements.  A certain taxation is in effect to the extent that the lord, or thegn, of each hold receives a portion of said produce and trade income so that he may use these to re-invest into his lands and ensure the stability of his holdings.

Each thegn may be in charge of a small village or rural region, or possibly just a small collection of farms or a mill.  There are thousands of thegns in Gærstfeld, and although these landowners are more wealthy than the common folk, or ceorls, they are by no means above working with their people.  A thegn may assert some level of local authority of law, but for the most part has no say beyond his small hold.

Above the rank of thegn is the bregu, or chief, a title left over from the old days of the nomadic clans.  The bregu may lord over ten or twenty thegns, who owe loyalty to their chief usually more from ties of kinship than any political agreement.  The bregu is in charge of maintaining the safety of the holds under his control and passing judgement over any disagreements or law breakers, and to serve this function may maintain an organized militia.  The bregu usually is also the chief authority in most minor trading towns, and the thegns under his dominion usually oversee smaller settlements that trade with the bregu's town.

The bregu, in turn, owe loyalty to an ealdorman.  Each ealdorman is in charge of what is the lowest official political region, the ealde.  Each ealdorman may maintain a fortified keep and a standing garrison.  Around these usually there has developed larger towns or small cities.  The ealdorman will also be the governing figure in these settlements.  The ealdorman is answerable to his cyning, or king, and is responsible not only for maintaining order in his own ealde, but may be called upon to raise and lead a military force when the cyning summons him.

Each cyning inherited his role from ancestral high chiefs who conquered, settled, or otherwise came to control vast swathes of land.  Each of these demarcations is called a folde, and to this day operates mostly independently.  Two foldes may come to blows over a disagreement, but the conflict must be kept brief and the loss of life to a minimum, lest the high king, or cynehláford, become involved.  The foldes of Gærstfeld each used to be its own kingdom, but over two hundred years ago they were united by Bældon The Wise, the first high king.  Since then, each cyning still rules his folde and maintains his own standing army, but owes allegiance to the high king.  

There are seven foldes in Gærstfeld:  Pearroc, Dunland, Eteland, Gelenda, Bocland, Stródland, and Eardland.  Pearroc is sparsely populated and is characterized by harsh winters.  Dunland is a land of rocky foothills near the Westhealf mountains and is the main producer of mineral resources.  Eteland is, like Pearroc, not very heavily populated and consists mostly of coastal farming and fishing settlements.  Gelenda is one of the more prosperous of the foldes, and is known for it's abundantly rich farmlands.  Bocland is the seat of the cynehláford, or high king, and the center of government for the region.  It also boasts bountiful farmland and prosperous stone quarries near the plains of Eardland.  Eardland itself is the least populated and organized of the foldes, still consisting mostly of the old clan structures and not holding to the typical governmental structures as the other foldes.  There are few ealdormen here, mostly in the lands closer to Bocland, and through most of the folde the bregu is the chief authority.  The people of Eardland are known as expert horsemen.  Stródland is a region of thick marshy forests run through with three rivers.  There is not much farmland here, but the hunters and trappers of Stródland are without peer and many expert bowmen reside here.

The military of Gærstfeld is relatively small, as far as standing armies go.  Each king may have only a few hundred professional soldiers, and the ealdorman usually much less, closer to fifty.  The militia of the bregu may be full time or part time soldiers, usually the latter, and may number as few as a dozen men.  Each thegn, however, is required to maintain mail, helm, shield, sword, and spear for himself and to ensure that all able bodied men under his authority are armed with a shield and spear or javelins.  By doing this, the actual military might of Gærstfeld may be measured in the number of adult men who are fit enough to fight.  All men are trained to fight in the shield wall, a formation of interlocking shields which creates a defensive bulwark of humanity bristling with spear points.  Each man may not be a highly skilled warrior, but with hundreds of men side by side behind their shields, they must only stand their ground.

Thus concludes our brief overview of the geography, history, politics, and military of Gærstfeld.  This is just the beginning, however, and I anticipate developing this project further.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Aetts of Odálegaard

I wrote "Introduction to Odálegaard", a couple of weeks ago discussing my Imagi-Nation of Odálegaard. I briefly mentioned the Nine Aetts of Odálegaard, which serve as providences or states in the greater kingdom. The shields will each be unique to the warrior, but using the same colours of their clan. This post mostly serves as a reference guide, and I will be making a separate page for the kingdoms.

The Theodulfings are the "royal" family or house. The patriarch is King Saemund Sinfjoltison and the matriarch is Queen Jorunn Asgaardottir. Their capital is the town of Skalhalla. The clan colours are red and black.
The Gaedalings make their capital at Jokullgar. The heads of the Gaedalings are, Jarl Enjar Rolloson and his wife Jarlkona Elena. Their colours are blue and light blue.
The Eydisungs are a strange clan, as they are ruled by Jarl Josefin Stelladottir, a shieldmaiden. Their capital is Kalda. Their clan colours are green and black.

The Hallgrimings are ruled by Jarl Vargstor Snake-Eater, and Jarlkona Ashilda Aslaugdottir. Their capital is Helgafjall. Their colours are brown and green.

The Hrafnungs are lead by Jarl Raindolf Eerikson and Jarlkona Freygerd Gætirdottir. Their Capital is Fljotenby, and their colours are gold and blue.

The heads of the Ornulfings are Jarl Kamik Alpison and Jarlkona Asny Svendottir. Their capital is Norholt. Their colours are grey and teal.

The Gundmundungs are lead by Jarl Teodor Halfshield and his wife, Jarlkona Aldis Sigewulfdottir. Their Capital is Reykjadalr. Their colours are black and blue.

The Waltheofungs are lead by Jarl Urho Nardson and Jarlkona Ragnfrid Ottardottir. Their capital is Hafrsdalr. Their colours are white and red.

The Folkmarungs are lead by Velnar Gustavson and Jarlkona Yngvild Finndottir. Their capital is Jotunnmar. Their colours are brown and red.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Galen's Thoughts: Reaper Bones Miniatures

So in the past few years Reaper Miniatuers has kickstarted their newest line of miniatures, "Bones". They are plastic minis that come in a white colour, hence the name. Their three Kick-starters have been wildly successful, and for good reason. The Bones Miniatures are incredibly cheap and numerous.  I've backed two of the three Kick-starters and haven't regretted it. But I do have a few complaints.

The miniatures are of a soft plastic which is somewhat similar (based on my own opinions) to the pre-painted models that Wizards puts out. They are easily bent and very easy to cut up, making them great for conversions. But what I don't like is how hard it can be to get the miniatures to straighten, even with the tried and true: heat and chill method. (For those unfamiliar with the method, here is an article). For me, who is currently working on a massive commission of Bones, it can be a pain to do hundreds of minis; and some just won't stay in the position I placed them in.

Now, since I've been painting literally hundreds of the things, here is my biggest complaint. The models have an immense variety of sculpt quality! Oh the lamentations! Some like the Pathfinder RPG models, are beautiful! and I can't explain how nice they look when painted. But then there are some where I have trouble distinguishing where certain details begin and end. I'd like to think I'm a somewhat decent painter with good eyesight, but I hate having to fabricate details on a mini.

Another problem I have with them is the annoyance that is removing mold lines. I have many variations of files to clean mold lines off models. They work fantastically with the Metal, Hard Plastic, and Resin models that I have painted; but due to the soft plastic of the Bones, it doesn't work so well. The recommended method is using a hobby knife or Exact-o to clear the mold lines. Again the soft plastic is easily cut and you need a steady hand to do this. It's also very time consuming.  So with my commission I've opted to not clean mold lines. Ive told the customer that due to the vast number and variation of the models, they aren't going to be winning any painting contests. They are painted to a table top standard; which is perfectly okay.

In summation, I like the Bones models. Do I prefer them? No. But I see them as a way to get a bunch of minis for a low price, which is great for beginner GMs and painters. I've used Bones to practice new techniques with out messing up on a more expensive model.  So I don't hate the Bones miniature line. I just would much rather paint and model with other mediums.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Introduction to Odálegaard

So creating your own world is a mainstay of Tabletop Roleplaying games since their conception. As someone who has shelves full of RPG books and am working on finishing my first book; I'm very familiar with the concept. The idea never really crossed my mind in another one of my hobbies, Wargaming, until I read an article titled, "Imagi-Nations" in Issue 340 of Wargames Illustrated. The article's author, Charles S. Grant takes us through the story of how he fought conflicts against his father using the nations 'Lorraine", and 'Vereinigte Freie Städe' or 'VFS' for short.

I'm a big fan of World Building so, this article sparked my imagination. I had never even considered coming up with my own Nation to wargame with. Thus I took to the internet to learn more about these "Imagi-Nations".

Much to my disappointment, I found that most "Imagi-Nations" existed in the Horse and Musket/Napoleonic Era. I'm not a huge fan of the period, favoring the WWII Era and the Dark Ages above all else.

Now, recently I've been building up my forces for Warlord Games' "Hail Caesar". Our group is small so far (literally me an one other person), with me pushing Bolt Action (Another Warlord game) heavily opposed to Hail Caesar. I mentioned this article to the other player and suggested that we come up with our own Imagi-Nations for our Dark Age battles. He agreed and thus began the creation of Odálegaard.

Odálegaard draws inspiration from the Viking clans and Kingdoms during the Dark Ages. The name itself is derived from Icelandic 'ódauðlegur', meaning 'immortal', and 'gardur' meaning 'garden'; so "Garden of Immortals. I came up with the name based on a song by Manowar called "Army of the Immortals". Being a big Manowar fan, it seemed appropriate.

I sketched up a map that's based on the coastlines of Norway and Dennmark, which displays major settlements, mountains and Rivers. From there I named my monarchs, King Saemund Sinfjoltison and Queen Jorunn Asgaardottir, and named the town, Skalhalla as the capital.

Now that I had a ruler I needed to come up with states, provinces, or regions of my budding nation. I decided to use the Nordic idea of Aetts or clans. I divided up my lands based on the major major settlements and came up with the Nine Aetts of Odálegaard. With this each aett needs a jarl, so I gave names to these people.

For my actual models I decided to have individual shield designs to distinguish the various clans. So each aett would have their basic colour scheme (the Jarl's family would have the same design), with each warrior having his own design.

That's the extent of my creative efforts so far, but I for certain will be coming up with more information as my army grows.