An important part of any RPG character’s life is their equipment, and in BEOWULF: Age of Heroes, this is a place where we can really show off some important aspects of the setting.
At a first glance, the list of weapons and armour for BEOWULF is slightly shorter than you might be used to. It is very much derived from the historical period of Beowulf. Because it’s a mythic, story-based world – meaning that the action is meant to take place in a half-remembered fireside tale about heroic ancestors, rather than any kind of “real” Europe – we can include things from a span of about 500 years while keeping the right feel. But the kinds of equipment used in those times also gives combat a real focus.
At the heart of Anglo-Saxon warfare is the shield. And we’ve given the shield a bit more love than it gets in standard 5e. Most shields will give a bigger boost to AC than you might be used to.
Which in turn means it’s possible to forego the time it would take to pull on your mail, and enter the fray with just a shield. Indeed, poorer warriors who lack armour are still challenging foes if they own a shield. And let’s be honest – anyone planning to fight owns a shield.
It also means that some weapons are favourable because they are designed to either circumvent shields – like the winged spear, with its lugs designed to pull down a foe’s shield, or an axe that can smash its way through a warboard, or an iron-hafted Angon, the javelin designed to piece a shield, then bend, rendering that shield impossible to use.
Break your opponent’s shield and you stand a good chance of breaking them. Indeed, using some of the special new rules found in BEOWULF: Age of Heroes many an opponent will gain the defeated condition when their shield is broken.
In a regular 5e game, it’d be awfully boring if everyone was using weapons with special rules for these things, and combat would be painfully slowed down. But this is where BEOWULF can capitalise on duet play. With just one player, having a few more tactical options derived from a limited set of weaponry and armour makes for a lot of fun!
Combine your era-specific weapons with the thematic abilities of your Followers, and you can start to create some marvellous “saga combat” moments as your Followers come to your aid in the heat of battle! Such steadfastness deserves rewards from the Hero.
The lands around the Whale Road, where BEOWULF: Age of Heroes takes place, is largely a gift-giving economy. Remain loyal to the local ruler, and he or she will provide for you. And a good host will provide ample hospitality. Day to day expenses we might recognise in our modern world are not of concern to a Hero!
And yet money still exists. In BEOWULF: Age of Heroes, wealth is measured in pounds of silver – a measurement of wealth that might be obliquely familiar to the Brits reading this: Pounds of sterling silver, Shillings and Pence all date back to the Anglo-Saxon world!
The upkeep of a ship, and maintaining the loyalty and good humour of one’s warband of followers is where a Hero’s money goes! And any Hero will frequently have need to set out in search of further “adventure” (silver) after all of one’s Followers are rewarded for their loyalty, and everything is mended aboard ship. Did we mention every Hero has a ship? Every Hero has a ship!
As part of our upcoming Kickstarter campaign for BEOWULF: Age of Heroes we have some marvelous accessories on offer. These both level up your BEOWULF game, and will prove useful in other games. None of these are essential to play the game, (we don’t believe in that kind of thing!) but we think they’re things you’ll find useful and beautiful to own.
One of the very first products we made at Handiwork Games was dice trays! Partnering with our friends at All Rolled Up, we’ve brought a wide range of different dice trays to market.
All Rolled Up make fantastic trays that simply clip together at the corners. When unclipped you can fold or roll them very easily for transportation.
For this Kickstarter we’re offering an exclusive new design! Here’s the mock up:
These are GORGEOUS. We went to town on these, with our friends at Campaign Coins. A set of 5 weighty metal coins, in an antique gold finish featuring beautiful BEOWULF designs by Paul Bourne, inset with gems. Ok the gems aren’t real gems. But they look amazing!
These token can of course be used for any 5e game, or indeed any game at all that requires meaty, gorgeous, knot-whorled coins worthy of HEROES!
And you can play BEOWULF: Age of Heroes without any kind of special token. Just use coins, beads, the skulls of the giant worms you slew before you dove into the mere. But for the special BEOWULF game nights we’ve played? It was worth going the extra mile.
The tokens are 39mm across, and 4mm deep. They each weigh 25 grams. They come in a set of 5. Which gives you 4 for the Inspiration Pool and 1 spare in case your character wins Inspiration seperately.
The work on these is complete, we have the first coins on hand. All that remains is to find out how many we’re making.
Beowulf Compass Rose
Ok, let me break character a little bit here. When I first saw the very first metal one of these, I cried a little bit. It’s absolutely beautiful. The team who made it, and the motto on it mean a great deal.
Sorry, back in character. Ahem
So every journey needs a way-finder. Keep your battle maps pinned down, and North at the top with this absolutely STUNNING, unique Compass Rose.
Designed by Paul Bourne, and made by the geniuses at Campaign Coins, this is something to truly treasure, and is a worthy souvenir of the campaign. Measuring 50mm in diameter, and weighing in at 40g, this is a beautiful chunk of metal. I can safely guarantee this will be the one reward that we will hear about for years to come, especially from people who didn’t get one.
It is finely worked with interlaced hounds, the central rondel features a dragon, and the outer rim reads: “Sea cliffs shining/Steep high hills/Heathlands broad/Their haven was found”, taken from the Beowulf poem, where Beowulf and his crew arrive safely in Denmark having made the crossing from their home in Geatland.
The same design appears on both sides. There is no flat, boring side.
The design and tooling work is all done for this amazing piece of treasure. We just need to know how many we’re making.
Inspiration Pool Mat
This is a bit of a luxury. As part of the BEOWULF: Age of Heroes ruleset, each Hero has access to a pool of Inspiration. These are divided into tokens they can use for their Followers, Tokens they can use any way they like, and there is also a deadly pool of dread GM tokens.
How the pool is divided up is determined by the Portent at the outset of the adventure.
To track the Pool you can use chits of any kind – coins, beads, ancient Dirrams from old Baghdad you found buried in an Anglo-Saxon pot in your garden… and three bowls, or three spaces drawn on a piece of paper.
OR, since you’ll be able to run the same scenario for everyone you know, one on one, you can indulge yourselves and get this Inspiration Pool Mat. With graphics by Paul Bourne, expertly printed by Patriot Games on 3mm neoprene, with whip stitched edges, (Not shown in the image above, which is a prototype) this is the perfect setting for your Inspiration Tokens. Trust us, it’s worth it!
The work on the Inspiration Pool Mat is all done. We just need to know how many we’re making!
We also have a set of miniatures. We’ve covered these separately, and you can find out more here.
Alys, a princess
Born of royal blood, but fostered to a far away land across the sea, Alys found she did not fit in with the other princesses. More interested in learning to read and write, and the wonders these skills revealed, she spurned the traditional crafts of hospitality and needlepoint and the wifely duties expected of her.
Teaching herself to fight with a sword, she escaped the Nunnery where she had felt so trapped. Now she wanders the world, seeking to help others and uncover the mysteries of this ‘middle earth'.
Alys is a neither follower of the Church, nor a follower of the Old Ways.
Blaedswith - A Karelian Witch
Born into a community of witches from the East, and wise in the ways of copper amulets, charms and talismans, and the speech of animals and ways of medicine, the beliefs of her people were changed by coming of the new faith. Blaedswith viewed this as a grave mistake on the part of the newly converted, as a great deal of old wisdom was scattered and forgotten.
The copper mines and smithies now make crosses bearing the outstretched arms of the new god, which hold no magic against monsters. Abandoning her home in disgust, she has set sail in search of a more useful life.
Blaedswith knows that there is no lasting victory against the darkness, and in the great weave of time, the age of people will suffer a great and permanent defeat before oblivion. It can only be held back, but that is her Wyrd, and the fates demand that as the last of her witch clan she continue the fight against the old horrors that will inevitably eat the world.
Her youth and training in magic make her a both charming and powerful follower of the Old Ways.
Cwenhild The Widow-Matron of the House
When her husband was slain, Cwenhild mourned for a year and then set about putting the affairs of her hall to rights. Ruling wisely and cautiously, she waited for her three sons to come of age and rule her lost husband’s kingdom. Yet, one by one they were taken: as they flowered into men so they were cut down by war or taken away by creatures left over from ancient times. Now she is alone, with no one else to fight the growing abundance of monsters that herald the end of days and the snuffing out of all good things.
But no straw-death for Cwenhil. No longer the spinning wheel nor the pots of the hearth for her. She has bade broken open the barrow and taken up her husband’s mail and his spear. Too long has she spent weeping and awaiting tidings at the edge of the battlefield. Now she will be the bringer of bad tidings to those who take sons and husbands.
Cwenhild is a traditionalist of the old ways. The evidence of the inevitable end of the world is all around her.
Bald Eadig, Wrestling Hero
There are a great many dark places in the world, and the Book teaches that the faithful should bring the light, and with it burn out evil wherever it may be found. Blessed with the barrel-chested strength that comes with middle-age, a distinct lack of hair, and a devotion to the word of the Book, Bald Eadig means to carry the news of the saviour far and wide, and in doing so battle the forces of darkness as an example to all. Where he can’t bring the benefits of writing and contemplation, he will bring his big stick.
Possessed of a simple knowledge and an earthy goodness, Bald Eadig is a fearsome enemy of the darkness. He has helped build priory walls, defended pilgrims, and guarded monks. Now he is setting out on the swan road to find the greatest enemies of the Church - the very devils of hell and the sons of Cain.
Ibn Uthman, The Wandering Warrior-poet of Baghdad
Once a trader and writer, Ibn Uthman was exiled from the lands of his birth for using his prodigious ability with words most unwisely: a tangled financial dispute with a Northern King means that returning to Baghdad and his old life is no longer an option for Ibn Uthman. Resolved to explore the North, Ibn Uthman has found himself far from home.
Telling a tale or two seemed to please the people of these freezing Northlands, and they enjoy his melodious, strange-sounding voice, and his songs from afar. His ability to spin a story has grown with the miles he’s travelled.
Uthman is faithful to the One God, though his version seems somewhat different to those of the Northerners.
Waelfwulf - Doomed Monster-Fighter
When Waelwulf drinks a door is opened in his mind and Tiw, the god of war steps in.
One baleful night, when Waelwulf was barely out of boyhood, roving bandits visited the hall. These false guests demanded the hospitality of the house, and called for drink. As some men will, these fellows commanded all present to keep them company in their cups. Waelwulf did his best to refuse the mead and ale, but as a beardless boy he could not stand up to these men. Not when he was sober at least.
But when he was drunk? Many died. Friend and foe alike fell to his axe. And when his axe broke he used a sword. And when his sword broke he used a knife. And when his knife broke he used his hands.
Cast out by his frightened kin, along with two of the cowed brigands who survived that dreadful night, his secret wish is to die. But it seems he is yet to find a worthy foe capable of doing the deed. It seems he is doomed to battle monsters until at last one overcomes him.
Múthbona the Eater
A hulking brute, with corded muscles bulging under a pale, leathery hide. Its face is flat, with beady red eyes, and great broken tusks protruding from its blood-stained mouth.
Across its back and shoulders can be seen dozens of broken spears, javelins and arrows.
During the long ages spent slumbering in its cave, the troll’s skin has lost all colour, and its flesh is now bleached bone white. This presents a terrifying apparition by torchlight. Despite its size it moves almost silently, looming out of the dark like a hulking blood-mouthed ghost. The Monster primarily wants to feed, after centuries of hungry sleep.
BEOWULF All Rolled Up
To keep your game-gear safe you need an All Rolled Up! These unique and wonderful dice bag/card holder/pen holder, dice tray holders were designed by Fil of All Rolled Up, and once you’ve used one it’s hard to imagine not owning one. When Fil saw our BEOWULF art, she immediately suggested making All Rolled Ups with some really attractive matching fabric.
BEOWULF: Age of Heroes is a new setting for one player and one GM for 5e. In this article we take a look at one of the changes we’ve made to base 5e- alignment.
Beowulf the poem is a study in contrasts when it comes to religion. Its visions of meadhalls, monsters, sea creatures and dragons remind us of pagan legends and make us think of great adventure novels. But Beowulf is given to thanking the Christian God for his good fortune and the poet tells us that Grendel (and his mother) are the kindred of Cain. So the poem blends both the Church and the Old Ways into a seamless whole.
Every Hero in BEOWULF: Age of Heroes is human, from somewhere among the many lands that surround the Whale Road. They may be from nearby, Baltic-born and stern as the sea. They may be from strange lands to the south, with strange speech and tales no one has ever heard before. Each Hero comes to a life of adventure by a different path. Their background represents both their lineage and their life experience.
First and foremost, every Hero has access to the same Ability bonuses as any other. Adding such modifiers allows you to customise your character but is not dependent on where they were born or what they look like. Similarly, you can roll on a table (or pick) a special quirk (benefit) that is personal to you. You make some other choices, such as your age, alignment and languages and every Hero gets to start with a Feat. You then choose a background, and start building a story of how your Hero came to be. We posit the existence of a Trader’s Tongue that the folk of the North Sea and Baltic use when making deals that has loan words from a variety of languages, so that everyone can understand one another.
BEOWULF: Age of Heroes is designed primarily as a duet game, with one gamemaster and one player. Thus when it came time to design the classes, we quickly resolved that the idea of class roles was something that wouldn’t quite work. It was okay for a player to choose a focus for their Hero’s class, because Followers (non-player characters that accompany the character and are able to temporarily aid them) can help support the player in weak areas. But every character needed to have a certain measure of toughness and some ability at combat. We decided to create just a single class, the Hero class, and use 5e’s subclasses to allow a player to choose a focus for their Hero. We ended up with six different subclasses. Each based around an Ability score.
BEOWULF: Age of Heroes is a roleplaying game inspired by the ancient epic poem Beowulf.
As gamers and designers reading and enjoying the poem, we quickly realised it focused on Beowulf’s struggles against the various Monsters he faced and his relationships with the folk that he met, such as Unferth, who was at first critical of the hero but then gave him his magical sword to hunt Grendel’s mother, and Wiglaf, his loyal follower.