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Thule Revisited


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A while ago I downloaded the new version of Merrie England (truly excellent material ;t)), and

soon afterwards I had an opportunity to read most of the Pendragon game supplements again.

Together these books brought my old Thule setting back to my mind, which had been designed

by me but unfortunately was never played because of my move from Augsburg to Sonthofen.

When I took a look at the material I had written for this setting I decided to change the back-

ground history in order to become able to use more ideas from Merrie England and to add some

of the interesting ideas from Pendragon:

Thule Revisited

The background history of the setting begins when an English monk of the Benedictine order

is sent from Rome to the abbey of Gardar on Thule as the abbey's new abbot and the colony's

new bishop. What he at first considered as a great reward soon turns out to be more like a pu-

nishment when he realizes that his abbey and the entire colony are in a sad state and moving

towards a slow and painful death.

The reasons for this steady decline are obvious. The colonists still continue the way of life of

their Norwegian ancestors and stubbornly refuse to adapt their culture to the harsh environ-

ment of Thule or to learn useful survival skills from their hated native pagan neighbours. All

the spirit of the pioneers who founded the colony has been lost long ago, and when the wea-

ther became colder and a new and more warlike tribe of natives arrived from the North and

overran the northern one of the colony's two settlements the already very vulnerable colony

began to fall apart.

The new abbot-bishop is unwilling to spend his remaining years as a witness of the colony's

failure, but he does not have the means to rebuild and revive the abbey and the colony. His or-

der might send him a few energetic younger brethren and a little money for his abbey, but he

would need a lot more to save the colony: A ship with a skilled crew to renew the colony's tra-

de, experienced fighting men to reconquer the northern settlement and to protect the colony,

craftsmen and their tools to replace the all too vulnerable lonely farmsteads with more defen-

sible fortified hamlets, boatwrights to improve the colony's outdated fishing fleet, more hardy

breeds of sheep and other livestock – and money, lots of money, to finance all the projects ne-

cessary to buy the colony a second chance.

Unfortunately there are not many people the abbot can ask for help. The church is unwilling

to invest in questionable worldly projects on a remote and almost forgotten island, the king of

Norway is weak and poor and barely able to keep a throne surrounded by power hungry jarls.

Among the abbot's many desperate letters is one to his uncle, a wealthy banneret in southern

England, but the abbot does not really expect an answer from a man he has not seen since his


The abbot is wrong. The banneret has both money to invest and younger sons to take care of,

and he thinks that Thule might provide better opportunities with less competition for his sur-

plus sons than the common way to dispose of them, by sending them on a crusade in the Holy

Land. While the banneret is not rich enough to provide all the help his nephew asked for, he

knows a number of other minor nobles who share his family problems, and might also be wil-

ling to use some of their wealth to buy their surplus children a future on Thule.

An exchange of letters convinces the banneret that his nephew the abbot-bishop can indeed

guarantee to hold up his side of what he sees as a bargain, land and rights on Thule in return

for the help required to rebuild the colony, and so he invites some of his friends to his manor

to discuss his Thule plan. Many of his guests refuse to take part in or to support what in their

view is a most foolish undertaking, but enough others are willing to take the risk and share

the burden.

A few months after the meeting one of the banneret's household knights arrives on Thule to ta-

ke a look at the conditions there for his liege and also to inform the abbot that a small group of

young English knights will land on the island in next year's spring and will bring with them the

men and means the abbot had asked for. They and their squires and followers are already out-

fitting and preparing for their adventure as the Knights of Thule.

The player characters will initially not be among those Knights of Thule. As squires in the house-

hold of the banneret they will be sent on missions to support the Thule plan, for example to ac-

company the banneret's emissary to Bergen and Nidaros in Norway for negotiations with the Ger-

man merchants of Bergen and in the courts of the Norwegian king and the archbishop at Nidaros,

or to Islay in Scotland for negotiations with the Lord of the Isles. Only later on the characters

will be sent to Thule, where the project has run into troubles because of conflicts between the

Norse colonists and the newcomers and because the campaign against the warlike natives is not

going as well as planned.

Edited by rust

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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I did think that a lot of Merrie England could be applied to Thule.

If you have a number of sons of different nobility, then having some of the PCs as squires to different nobles might introduce some roleplaying fun.

Also, letting the squires do their own thing while the nobles are playing politics might be good as well.

Simon Phipp - Caldmore Chameleon - Wallowing in my elitism since 1982. Many Systems, One Family. Just a fanboy. 


Jonstown Compendium author. Find my contributions here

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If you have a number of sons of different nobility, then having some of the PCs as squires to different nobles might introduce some roleplaying fun.

Indeed, especially because not all of the knights will get along with the other knights

very well, while the tasks the squires will be given will force the player characters to

cooperate well despite the conflicts between their knights. I think there will be some

situations where it will depend on the cooperation of the squires whether the entire

project will succeed despite the knight's quarrels.

Also, letting the squires do their own thing while the nobles are playing politics might be good as well.

As I see it now (which may change), the player characters' time as squires will be a

kind of "learning the ropes of the setting" time, leading up to a point of mild (?) frus-

tration where they have "all the knowledge, but none of the power" and (hopefully)

think something like "If I were the knight, I could do much better, I would ..." - and

being knighted should then enable them to carry out all the plans they made as mo-

re or less powerless squires.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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Meanwhile I finally managed to download the Mythic Iceland PDF from Chaosium's

website. I think I will use the description of the Icelandic society plus the notes

on Greenland as the base for my setting's Norse settlers on Thule. While my Thule

is more than a century later than Mythic Iceland, the description would fit well for

an almost isolated, very traditional and somewhat backwards looking Norse colony,

I think. The only important differences I will introduce are that my setting's Norse

colonists on Thule are Christians, and that my maps of their settlement regions are

rather different from the two Greenland maps in Mythic Iceland. Fortunately Mythic

Iceland also includes some good material on the natives of what is the Forest Coast

(modern Labrador) in my setting - all in all a very useful addition to my collection of

material for the setting.

Another BRP supplement I intend to use is Crusaders of the Amber Coast. The Baltic

region and the knightly orders active there had a very prominent role in the first ver-

sion of the setting, but I think they will also have an important role in a later phase

of this version, when the Knights of Thule will feel the need to recruit (or purchase)

additional hands for their expansion of the colony without "stealing" some powerful

noble's villagers. But this is still several years in the setting's future, and until now

only a very vague idea.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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I consider it an important part of the work on a setting to find some

instrumental music which has the right "feel" for the setting, these

are the ones I decided to use for the Thule setting:

And for the "Nordic" touch of the Thule colony I intend to use these

two songs:

Edited by rust

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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