Friday, July 24, 2020

Bodil's Gap Playbooks: The Dýrsark

At the forefront of the charging army, a hulking warrior froths at the mouth at the sight of his enemies. Just before the two armies clash, he howls a blood-curdling war cry that sends lesser fighters scattering in fear...

On the deck of a ship, the sea serpent's coils wrap around the creaking mast and the armoured figure of the ship's captain, its fangs snapping inches from her face. Limbs flooding with furious strength, the shield-maiden takes the worm's head in her hands and tears it jaw-from-jaw even as one fang sinks into her arm...

Alone in the snowy forest, a wind-blown traveller is beset by stalking wolves led by one of the Sunchaser's spawn, their teeth snaring his cloak and biting at his arms and legs. The sword drops from his hand as his flesh warps and spasms, the mighty form of a bear overtaking his own as bestial rage fills him...

In the leaping flames of a burning hall, a warrior prowls between blazing pillars and clouds of smoke, seeking her rival. Flames lap at the warrior's skin, but the cold touch of a valkyrie on her shoulder makes her impervious to the fires she stalks through, ruddy light gleaming off her bared blade...

The Dýrsark

Of all the playbooks designed for Bodil's Gap, the Dýrsark is the most martial, embodying the warrior archetype of the berserker. A Dýrsark is a whirling beast on the battlefield, cleaving foes left and right while in the grip of an intense battle rage, and their presence is a powerful demoralizing force for their foes. 

Dýrsark is a warrior playbook first and foremost, but it isn't the simple and straightforward style of combatant best represented by the Fighter playbook. In its approach to combat it embraces a strong supernatural undertone, and even a Dýrsark who chooses wholly mundane moves is distinguished from the Fighter by its bestial fighting style and powerful battle frenzy.

Fight like a Beast

The defining feature of the Dýrsark is its berserker fury. At any moment a Dýrsark can work themselves into an intense rage or battle frenzy, and this altered state allows them to strike harder; shrug off powerful blows; and even ignore fear, exhaustion, or bloody wounds to carry on fighting. This power is not without cost, however, for whenever a Dýrsark emerges from their berserk fit, the strain of their exertions leaves them dazed.

This battle frenzy is not the only hallmark of the Dýrsark, however. To control the well of bloodlust that they carry within, every Dýrsark channels this rage by emulating one of the ferocious beasts of the Gap, adopting either the cunning of a wolf, the strength of a bear, or the viciousness of a wild boar. This almost totemic inspiration so fundamentally alters the way a Dýrsark does battle that it shapes their fighting style both in the grip of their rage and out of it. 

Mechanically, a warrior who becomes a Dýrsark can never again use the normal Hack and Slash move; instead, whenever they engage foes in melee they must use the move associated with their particular bestial inspiration. One who embraces the Wolf's Cunning is adept at fighting alongside their allies, hounding and maneuvering their foes to better employ pack tactics and grant the advantage to their comrades. One who embraces the Bear's Strength is able to bring overwhelming force to bear, shattering their enemy's defenses and weapons and delivering blows of incredible power. And one who embraces the Boar's Viciousness is a force of unbridled aggression whose every blow leaves ragged and debilitating wounds, able to maim and dismember with cruel ease.

The greatest expression of this bestial fervour for battle, however, is demonstrated by the Dýrsark whose fury overcomes even their humanity. Those who sink deep enough into their rage twist and warp, their very flesh changing to suit the unreasoning aggression within. While in the grip of their battle frenzy, these warriors physically transform into the beasts they emulate, taking on the shape of wolf, bear, or boar to run wild and do battle red in tooth and claw.

Win the Favour of the Valkyries

Across Bodil's Gap, the choosers of the slain stalk battlefields and slaughtering grounds wrapped in cloaks woven from the cold flames of the aurora, seeking out the glorious dead for the armies of the gods. Many are those killed at a Dýrsark's hands, and the favour of the valkyries is quickly won by those who continue to provide them such a wealth of slain warriors to choose from.

The benefits of this favour are great. The influence of a valkyrie's attention can dull swords and cool flames that threaten a Dýrsark as they wade into battle, while the touch of a valkyrie's shimmering cloak can render a Dýrsark totally immune to fires of all kinds. In tense moments of confrontation or imminent violence, the whisper of a valkyrie in a Dýrsark's ear can guide them towards their enemy's weakness. And in dire circumstances, the favour of the valkyries can twist the strands of a Dýrsark's fate to bring them the stroke of luck they need to survive.

Those most powerfully blessed by the valkyries can even channel the strength of the einherjar—those warriors ascended to the halls of the gods to fight on eternally—to shout with the force of a gale and the blast of a sounding horn; or to fight even beyond their own deaths, ignoring their own fatal wound so long as foes remain on the battlefield.

Using the Dýrsark

This playbook is intended for mighty warriors guided as much by instinct as by strategy, for those beloved by the gods of battle, and for those of a barbaric or savage bent. If it can be summed up in a single image, that image is Beowulf tearing off Grendel's arm with his bare hands. Use it instead of or alongside playbooks like Fighter or Barbarian to present a warrior right out of the sagas.

Bodil's Gap is currently in playtesting, and the playtesting version of the Dýrsark playbook can be found here. If you have any insight or feedback, leave a comment or send an email to

Up Next

Next week I'll be talking about the Goði playbook, a priestly servant of the gods and leader of the community, dedicated to a particular divine patron and able to call on miracles in their name—at the cost of a sacrifice in blood.

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