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To Fimbulwinter, or not to Fimbulwinter

To Fimbulwinter, or not to Fimbulwinter

When I first opened the pages of the Midgard Worldbook, I was immediately captivated. I was plunged into a treasure trove of ideas like Scrooge McDuck’s diving into a vault of gold coins. This book quickly became an essential part of my tabletop RPG collection. 

Kobold Press has crafted the perfect blend of story inspiration and GM freedom with a concept they’ve dubbed “powder kegs.” These tantalizing story elements, often just one-liners, leave me brimming with questions and fuel my creative engine. 

Aptly named, these powder kegs only need a single sentence to explode an idea into a full-blown adventure, encounter, or even campaign. Don’t believe me? I dare you to pick up a Kobold Press product and read more than 20 pages without finding a powder keg that inspires you.

Midgard’s Northlands is jammed full of these powder kegs. It is, without a doubt, my favorite part of Midgard. After reading, it left my mind racing with ideas and unanswered questions: What the heck is happening on the Isle of Loki!? Why are the guardian bees of Björnheim dying off? What nefarious things could the Cult of Ragnarök be plotting? And are the signs of Fimbulwinter real?

Each question dripped with story opportunities. I needed more Northlands! This is how I found my favorite PDF from Kobold Press: Inbar’s Guide to the Northlands. 

This beautifully written companion guide follows Inbar’s personal letters home as she explores and learns the secrets of the Northlands. It’s one of my favorite Kelly Pawlik pieces. It gives you a direct view of the people, lands, and monsters of the region. It was the exact amount of flavor to spark those powder kegs and set off a chain reaction that inspired me as a GM to create an entire Northlands campaign. 

The Campaign

Once I had consumed Inbar’s Guide to the Northlands, my GM plotting began. I wanted answers for all the powder keg ideas and questions that were living rent-free in my brain. I was convinced all these questions could be answered in a single storyline.

So I started with the biggest and most unanswerable question of them all: What is on the Isle of Loki?

If you’ve never heard of Isle of Loki, check out the free online Midgard World Map to understand my infatuation. It’s the big, white, isolated island in the Northwest corner of the Midgard world map. In all my searching of Kobold Press writings and products, I have yet to find a direct answer to this question. It still keeps me awake at night.

The truth is, no one knows what’s on the Isle of Loki, so I had to go for the obvious. The god, Loki, was on the Isle of Loki, trapped there as a prisoner to keep his chaos apart from the world. But we all know where there is a trickster/chaos god, there is always a fanatical cult.

Hard cut to me reading Demon Cults and Secret Societies by Kobold Press. This was the perfect PDF for building out the nefarious Cult of Ragnarök mentioned in the Midgard Worldbook that I had questions about. If Loki is obsessed with Ragnarök, the battle of end the world, then his cult would also be obsessed with it.

But Ragnarök doesn’t just happen. There’s a long series of events that leads to it. We call those precursor events Fimbulwinter. Named for the three successive winters without a summer, said to render the sun useless before innumerable wars breakout. All of these are steps to the final world-ending battle of Ragnarök.

So, if Ragnarök is based on fully mapped events, does that mean the Cult of Ragnarök is sitting around waiting for it to happen? Of course not! Neither Loki nor his cult have time for that. If all it takes to make Ragnarok happen is three consecutive winters and some battles, then Fimbulwinter could be easily faked. Thus, the final puzzle piece fell into place for my campaign. Ideas and answers to my pending questions started to reveal themselves and dots were connecting fast.

If Loki and his cult could fake the events of Fimbulwinter, then the people of the Northlands would believe it. It would kick off the world-ending events of Ragnarök anyway. A fake Fimbulwinter for a real Ragnarök.

This idea became the foundation for the entire campaign. It was perfect. Loki could remain imprisoned on his Isle because his cult is at work on the mainland forcing intense winters, staving off summers, and seeding discontent to start war across the Northlands. Why are the guardian bees of Björnheim disappearing? Because the Cult of Ragnarök poisoned them to weaken city defenses. Intense magical winter storms killing off everything? Powerful Cult of Ragnarök magic. Fighting amongst the Dwarven cities? Cult of Ragnarök. I had everything I needed for a literal “cold war” campaign, except for one thing, the behind-the-scenes NPC for my players. 

Hard cut back to Inbar’s Guide to the Northlands, where the perfect NPC waits for me. Inbar isn’t just a well-traveled guide in this region, she was just like most of my players’ PCs, a foreigner to the Northlands. With a full stat block provided in the PDF, she was there to help my PCs solve the mysteries of Fimbulwinter and guide them through the toughest of situations. I even recorded myself reading Inbar’s letters to give it all a more personal touch. 

My Fimbulwinter campaign is still one of my favorite things I’ve written, so it only makes sense that Inbar’s Guide to the Northlands is my staff pick for the Kobold Press 18th anniversary. Starting today you can get the PDF at 18% off through the end of the month in our Staff Pick Sale on the Kobold Press store. But don’t say I didn’t warn about you how awesome it is!

1 thought on “To Fimbulwinter, or not to Fimbulwinter”

  1. I really enjoyed this article! I love how you fleshed out the Isle of Loki for your campaign. I was inspired to start writing my own campaign set in the Northlands, where the players are part of a reaver village and their adventures gradually escalate from local quests to eventually taking over the leadership of the village. As they increase their reputation they could become jarls or even kings and queens over regions until they face the Jotun and Boreas in their holds to stop the encroachment of winter and the coming of Ragnarok. I’m posting my thoughts about it when I have time on my blog.

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