D&D: vikings with ewers

August 17th, 2010 by paul

Inspired perhaps by Greywulf's badass Thor cleric build from the D&D Essentials cleric preview, I've decided to run our Essentials trial game in the viking/Beowulf milieu. Somehow, I have never actually played in a viking game, although it is so 80's D&D, as illustrated in the following Venn diagram:

With the Essentials Starter Set leaning on the early-D&D nostalgia button (reintroducing the terms "thief" and "backstab", for instance) I think it's time to pump up some Viking metal and prepare to journey from the frozen North.

Speaking of 80s nostalgia and Vikings, take another look at the cover of the D&D Essentials Starter set (which uses the same art as the 80s red box).

D&D Essentials starter set

D&D Essentials starter set

Look at that guy fighting the dragon. Look at his horns. They're like 2 feet long. That guy is a viking. If you're not playing viking D&D, you're Doing It Wrong.

This illustration is so classic 80's D&D that it should really serve as a road map to my Viking adventure. Besides the viking, we have a dragon - a strange-kneed dragon - and the setting is a dungeon floor of tumbled stones, with a vast treasure piled in the rift. Classic!

Take a look at the composition of the treasure though. The predominant treasure type is gold... glittering gold. As it should be. Then there's what looks like a potion... a chest... and no less than three jugs.

click to zoom in

Are they jugs? Pitchers? Vases? Decanters? I think when they're in treasure, they might be called ewers? Anyway, there are an excessive number of ewers in this dragon's hoard.

This is definitely not the only appearance of ewers in iconic D&D treasure. I'm sure they're found in core-rulebook treasure illustrations from every edition, along with gems, ropes of pearls, and glowing swords and scrolls. Given they're so important in the art, it's too bad they're not more widely represented in the game rules. There are a handful of magical ewers, like the Alchemy Jug, and generic rules about jewelry and objets d'art being in any shape you want. Sure, you could throw a ewer into a treasure! But nobody would care!

This must change. I must create a houserule for my Viking campaign where ewers take their rightful place as an key part of any treasure hoard. Come the September release of Essentials, here's the dialogue I want to happen:

DM: In the treasure, you find 1000 gp, an emerald, a +1 sword..... and a ewer.
PLAYERS: Ewer!? (they clank brimming horns of mead) Rock and roll!!

Any ideas for a ewer-heavy campaign?

11 Responses to “D&D: vikings with ewers”

  1. greywulf says:

    Heavy Metal D&D? Where do I sign up??!

    Love this.

    And you’re right. He’s definitely a Viking.

  2. Rory Rory says:

    Maybe I’ll give out ewers as art for the next twenty pieces of art I give out!

  3. Baf says:

    Perhaps they could be linked to some kind of Reputation mechanic. The more ewers you have on display in your mead-hall, the easier it is to gain the cooperation of your fellow vikings. Some guys won’t even talk to you if you don’t have twenty ewers or whatever, and they’re the guys who you really want to talk to.

  4. Posr says:

    Best venn diagram ever. \m/\m/

  5. [...] character. Limits are good. Besides, Essentials seems to have its own flavor, and that flavor is VIKINGS __________________ [...]

  6. Syrsuro says:

    “Look at that guy fighting the dragon. Look at his horns. They’re like 2 feet long. That guy is a viking.”

    Not that reality need have anything to do with iconic imagery, but Viking helmets did not actually have horns, Hollywood to the contrary.

    http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/thevikings/a/histmyths6.htm

  7. Claire Claire says:

    Hooray–that article cites Roberta Frank, who (sort of) taught me Old English!

    The fact that Viking helmets didn’t really have horns was the thesis of a final project this kid presented to our class in 5th grade. We believed him, but you’re still going to put two-foot horns on your picture of an awesome guy fighting an awesome red dragon!

  8. paul paul says:

    Baf, good point. I think I will do something with ewers being a way to cement your reputation – perhaps as hospitality gifts, or prerequisites for recruiting warriors. Your twentieth ewer or drinking horn means the twentieth viking who will drink in your mead hall.

  9. [...] up knowing that red dragons have knees. Also, is it possible that the treasure trove has even more ewers than I had previously [...]

  10. [...] There are no red-dragon knees, sadly, and the dragon seems short of eyes as well. But there are ewers. Lots of ewers. That's what's [...]

  11. [...] esp. a decorative one with a base, an oval body, and a flaring spout.I've mentioned the unnatural overabundance of ewers in D&D treasure, but I didn't support my thesis with excessive evidence. That's not like me, and it changes today. [...]

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