by Benjamin D. Buckner (21 Dec 94-8 Mar 95)
People who don't like the occult or mythology in their games will hate it. People who do will hopefully get some amusement from it and possibly even use it. The protagonists are a bloodline of exclusively female (at least in appearance) arctic/antarctic vampires. They are very much concerned with sorcery and necromancy of the Norse/Viking tradition, with emphasis on shamanic and runic magic. They also brew mead from Vitae to stock their larders and for other activities.
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"Loki had other children besides. There was a giantess Angrbodha, the Ill-Boding, from Jotunheim. Loki had three children with her, the first was Fenris-wolf, the second, Joermungand, the Midgard serpent, and the third, Hel. The gods knew that they were being raised among the giants and learned from prophesies that they would bring great evil. Thus the All-father Odin commanded some of the Aesir to go seize the children and bring them before him. When they came, Odin flung the serpent into the ocean depths where it grew to encircle the entire world of men, biting its own tail."
"Then he cast Hel to Niflheim, giving her authority over nine worlds, so long as she shared her provisions with all who were sent to her, those who die from sickness or age. She has a great keep there, with towering walls and gates. Her hall is Damp-with-Sleet; her plate is Hunger and her knife Famine. Her servants are the Shambling Man and the Lurching Woman. Hel is half black, half flesh-color and she is easily known from this. She looks quite grim."
"Fenris, the gods raised among themselves..."
(Adapted from the Gylfaginning)
Who are they really? Hel's Daughters, the Ice Maidens, the Winter Witches... Those few who know of them wonder, and they will most likely keep wondering, for the Helsdottir are as inscrutable as glaciers and often as inexorable. Of the speculators on their origins, some say they are merely another cursed bloodline, perhaps of Nosferatu, that inspired the myth of Hel, whereas others believe they are the actual Childer of the Lady of Niflheim, asking themselves what relations these "get" of Hel have with their metaphorical Lupine cousins. Still others doubt they are Kindred at all, merely something outwardly similar. It's a compelling topic -- those familiar with Garou lore cannot help but think of the second child, the great serpent, the Wyrm?
Sadly for the cause of knowledge, neither the Wyrm, the Dottir, or the Get are saying much about this strange kinship suggested in the old sagas, although if you ask a Get of Fenris about it, you are certain to get a reply. It's just that you'll never get a chance to tell anyone what it was.
What is commonly known of the Helsdottir is that they are creatures of ice, and snow, and winter. Beings of the rime-frost and arctic blast, shadowy courtiers of death who stand between this world and the next, bridging the twain with abominable sorceries. They are as the draugar, the barrow wights, feeding off the living in the long dark northern nights. They can be hideous. From one side, a beautiful woman, from the other a shrivelled corpse. Even the undead feel too much of the grave about them for comfort. Wraiths shudder before them. The Wyrm-creatures? Don't be silly -- they don't bother the minions of the Wyrm -- they just don't have any good use for them, that's all...
Surprisingly, this is not far from the truth.
Helsdottir obey Odin's proviso: By tradition, the Dottir never turn away those "who are sent to them." Though, the precise meaning of this is often a matter of opinion.
They are rarely found below the 55th parallel. These secretive Kindred mostly dwell in the arctic, although a minority have their abodes in chilly regions near the south pole. A few have established themselves in high mountainous regions where permanent snow caps are at hand. Havens are usually in remote areas, where they spend most of their time, although younger and weaker individuals must exist nearer human habitation for feeding purposes. It is rumored that a small number of elders have achieved Golconda or something like it and have settled in the frozen wastes of Antarctica where they explore vast and incomprehensible magics.
Rituals are a continual preoccupation of the Dottir. Much like the Garou, they have rituals for every occasion, most of which don't really have any specific magical effect. Very often, these rituals are reenactments of mythological and cultic themes, and Dottir will sometimes go to great lengths to prepare some particular aspect of the recreation. Visitors and those seeking favors are often insistently "invited" to portray a particular character which they happen to resemble. On the rare occasion when a Lupine peaceably interacts with them, the creature is asked without fail to take on Hispo form to portray Fenris (though seldom is it informed of the role Frey's sword plays in the myth - ouch!)
All younger Helsdottir usually give their names as "Hel", much to the consternation and confusion of those few who encounter them. For some time after the Embrace, they lack a strong sense of individuality and often are much like apprentices to elder Helsdottir. Only when they get older do they become more independent. At some point, a Helsdottir will receive a personal name, usually after accomplishing some difficult task. This is similar to being considered an Ancilla among the Camarilla. The early decades (or even centuries) are important for learning the bloodline's intricate corpus of ritual, myth, and legend.
The elder members, as in most clans, coordinate any collective actions. When they gather, it is usually for the purpose of conducting rituals. Otherwise, they meet only rarely.
Relations with most clans are minimal. Mostly only Gangrel ever encounter them, usually at a distance. When Nosferatu happen upon them they often display fascination with these half-hideous, half-beautiful creatures. Tremere are naturally curious, and sometimes are brought into contact with them through a mutual interest in the occult, although Dottir guard their knowledge, especially that of rune magic, even more jealously than do the Tremere. The necromantic Giovanni are rather suspicious of their abilities in death magic, but their paths seldom cross.
Only on the rarest occasions may a Helsdottir actually seek an individual of another clan for some purpose. There is one thing which will always draw their attention though. Caine. Even the slightest rumor of him merits at least a cursory examination. There exist certain members of the Dottir who have learned the Obfuscate discipline to more easily move within populated areas to investigate especially promising leads. Such occasions are frequently accompanied by mysteriously unseasonable cold spells.
They do not have any sort of formal recognition of the Masquerade and do not consider themselves part of the Camarilla, but their secretive ways usually don't provoke much publicity. Occasional human kills are usually not discovered until well after spring thaw, when tell-tale evidence of blood loss is long gone or fairly unnoticeable. Death by exposure is hardly unusual during the arctic winter.
As the Dottir dwell far from the Jyhad (some even say that the mythical Hel takes steps to insulate them from it), they sometimes traffic a bit with the Inconnu, who have similar tastes in a remote lifestyle. A few of the eldest Helsdottir are said to be members for all practical purposes.
Garou, whom the Dottir often call "Vargulfar" (Warg-wolves), actually see them more frequently than other Kindred, but are mostly unaware of what they are, frequently mistaking them for spirits of one sort or another. At any rate, the tundra-dwelling Helsdottir are hardly a great driving force of human expansion and so are not generally considered a significant threat by Garou in the know. Get of Fenris that have some idea what the Dottir are will ignore the presence of a Helsdottir as though she weren't there and may become quite annoyed with anyone who troubles to point her out. Oddly, Get are the only Garou in which they show much interest, often observing them motionless at a distance, camouflaged to near invisibility against the snow by their peculiar Discipline and disappearing at the first sign that any take notice.
(It's a tradition, you know)
The Helsdottir worldview is very similar to Norse/Germanic mythology, with a strong emphasis on magic. Magic is somewhere between a religion and an art form for them. They consequently look down upon Tremere blood magic as crude. The Tremere too often see it as a mere tool, they say. Tradition mages are little better: their problems with paradox are no wonder with the slapdash way they attempt to use magic. The essence of magic must be skillfully guided and subtly woven. It's an intricate dance and one who does not follow the music is sure to step on some feet.
An integral part of Norse mythology is the belief in Ragnarok, essentially the end of the world. Some of the details of this event are given in the PLAYING THE DOTTIR section. Unlike most WoD denizens, the Dottir do not imagine their final apocalypse to be imminent, though they do make ritual preparations for it. Hel's role in the Ragnarok is not great, though Fenris and Joermungand both have significant parts. All three fight against the gods in alliance with the giants and assorted monstrous beings. The general belief is that the old gods are so weak in this age that Ragnarok would be rather pointless. Hel, Fenris, and Joermungand all have maintained strong presences in the world and as such do not feel the need to destroy it just yet. Perhaps in the next age though.
They frequently seem to be Scandinavian in origin but are by no means exclusively so. They are occasionally drawn from Inuits, Aleuts, Lapps, and other northern peoples as well, especially in the case of younger Helsdottir. These non-Scandinavian members tend to hold somewhat variant interpretations of their lore based on their native cultures.
Style of dress may depend largely on time and place of embrace, although many prefer minimalism in this respect, wearing little more than a cloak or long shawl, if that. Helsdottir are for all practical purposes immune to the effects of cold and generally don't need to worry about maintaining appearances in their usual territories. Amulets and mystical bric-a-brac are almost de rigueur though. Ritual costumes can be quite elaborate, and heavy concealing winter wear is the rule near mortal habitations. The invention of the ski mask was considered very fortunate among those who find it necessary to operate around civilized areas.
They frequently estivate, that is to undergo a kind of summer equivalent of hibernation, since the "midnight sun" is not particularly salubrious for their complexions. They rule, however, the seemingly interminable winter nights. When the summer nights shorten to a certain point, they simply go into a light sleeplike torpor in a secluded place, often in chambers in the permafrost or in the deep perpetual snows of high mountains. Their metabolisms are such that they do not use blood during this torpid state as would be the case with other vampires. If they emerge from this special torpor prematurely, however, they may not reenter it until the following year. Normal awakening takes place as many days after the solstice as days before which it began.
From the vernal equinox to the autumnal equinox (reversed in the southern hemisphere) they are rather difficult to wake, as if they had one humanity point less than they do. At Humanity of 1, they just don't wake up for anything, unless someone carts them off to the opposite hemisphere.
The Helsdottir pick only women who have died non-violent deaths for the embrace. The Ritual of Embrace is long and complex. When a candidate expires and is buried, a quorum of nine gathers at the next new moon to watch the corpse at the gravesite throughout the next nine nights, whispering invocations to Hel, as the departed, it is believed, journeys to Niflheim to meet the death goddess Hel face to face. On the ninth night the body is exhumed and fed the mixed blood of the eldest and they say "Sister Modhgudh, she who crosses the Gjoell is one with us." After which the body is taken to a secret place in the wilderness and exposed to the light of the moon for the next nine nights. As the vigil goes on, she takes on the characteristic visage, the left side seeming alive and youthful, even so as to grow younger in appearance if she was old at the time of death. The right side conversely begins to wither and decay, more rapidly than it ought.
Finally the initiate awakes, fully transformed, and speaks the ancient formula, spoken by the trickster Loki in his guise as the giantess Thoekk, "Let Hel hold what she has."
Neonates display very little personality or self-will, perhaps the result of having been dead for half a month or more. As they grow older and more powerful, they become more "human," if the term is appropriate.
Only the Ritual allows the blood to work in this manner. They cannot otherwise embrace the long-dead. As one might expect, it is possible for them to embrace the newly dead, but this produces neither Helsdottir nor Caitiff. The disturbance of the powerful mystical resonances carried in their vitae shatters the soul of the improperly embraced and the corpse arises stripped of all reason and Humanity, a frothing Beast, and what's more, a Beast endowed with not only the normal vampiric powers but the powers of the first five levels of the Hel's Will discipline (very dangerous). It becomes a Draugr, a mindless undead beast with a ravenous hunger for human lives.
These misbegotten creatures are not common, but when they have been created through some mishap, the memory of their savage depredations can persist in local lore for centuries after they are dispatched, that is when they are dispatched. One unfortunate case in which a Dottir who had fallen to the Beast embraced a mortal man in this manner was brought to an end by the now-legendary Danish warrior Beowulf, after an extended reign of terror and bloodlust.
The vitae of Helsdottir sometimes betrays a hint of Gangrel in its taste, but there's something not quite right about it. Diablerie works on them but the diabolist will become a bit queasy afterwards. The diabolist's willpower should be rolled. On a botch the diabolist's blood becomes seriously tainted and the ghastly physical transformation of the Dottir takes hold. A failure indicates a crippling illness that persists for a number of days equal to the blood points consumed (the character is incapacitated). Success results in no adverse effect. When a Dottir diablerizes one of another bloodline or clan, a similar roll is made. However, in this case, a botch indicates that the Dottir becomes a Draugr, as after an improper embrace. (See the SECRET OF HEL for an explanation of this.)
Helsdottir maintain some supernatural connection to the moon. The half that appears corpselike varies depending on whether the moon is waxing or waning. The live side corresponds to the bright side of the moon and the dead side, the dark. At the precise moment of the full moon they appear fully human for a brief instant. At the new moon, they predictably become all corpse.
Dottir practice an unusual discipline, termed variously cryurgy, cryomancy, or thermostasis by outsiders, though they themselves usually just call it Hel's Will.
This most basic element of the discipline allows the Dottir to transform her skin into a near-perfect thermal insulator. It becomes completely reflective such that the skin is totally white and smoother surfaces such as the eyes and hair are almost mirrorlike. The eyes still admit sufficient light to see by, particularly when using Auspex or Protean, but night vision is really not as good as in most Kindred in this state, being no better than a mortal's. Tactile sensation is also somewhat hindered and sense of temperature is completely cut off.
In this form their appearance is shocking, to say the least. It makes them totally resistant to cold as well as making them nearly impossible to spot against a snowfield. In addition, it provides limited protection from sunlight and heat sources such as fire, although such things erode the vampiric power which produces the effect so that this protection is no more effective than the Fortitude discipline, providing as many soak dice as the level in the discipline. This heat resistance has come as an unpleasant surprise to those who have simplistically assumed that fire must be a particularly effective weapon against such frigid entities; water boils quicker than ice. Note that it does not provide other Fortitude benefits such as extra soak dice for other types of damage or any protection against aggravated damage. It's not that powerful. An odd side effect that may rarely be significant is that the skin is as effective an electrical insulator as it is a thermal insulator.
However, as they are normally quite cold resistant, even without the discipline, they tend only use it at lower temperatures, such as under -10 Fahrenheit or when other circumstances may make it useful. Temperatures over 50 Fahrenheit tend to be rather uncomfortable to them, so they are likely to use it in such environs as well.
This is a relatively simple ability. The Dottir will never slip on ice or break through it and can walk on the surface of snow without ever sinking in. They can essentially glide effortlessly along all manner of frozen surfaces at the approximate running speed of a mortal, like a ghost.
This power is at the core of their reputation for inscrutability. The Dottir with this level of the discipline becomes supernaturally impassive, unreadable. Mundane uses of subterfuge and perceptive skills will never reveal anything about the emotional state of the Dottir based on tone of voice, expression, posture, or other such cues. Use of abilities of the vampiric Auspex discipline such as Aura Perception can penetrate it if the perceiver has more discipline dots that the perceived. This operates in the same manner as the Obfuscate-Auspex opposition, potentially blocking Spirit Touch and Telepathy as well. It also adds dice to Frenzy and Roetschreck rolls at one die per dot in the discipline. For affect-altering disciplines such as Presence it adds one die per dot to the resistance roll if one is allowed, and actually permits an opposition roll based on the Hel's Will score if no resistance roll is normally possible (e.g. Presence - Possession). Successes on this roll subtract from successes on the aggressor's roll. In short, the more powerful Dottir are practically emotional and spiritual blanks. Note that the mental effects of Dominate are NOT resisted by this ability. On the down side, however, the Dottir cannot use the Empathy skill while in this state. Any action involving the Empathy score will go as if the Empathy rating were 0.
This ability allows the user to extend the benefits of the first three levels of Hel's Will (most definitely not the higher ones) to a group of companions, the number of which is equal to the number of dots in the discipline. It requires the expenditure of a blood point and functions only within the range of sight.
This is the first ability which actually has a direct effect on the Dottir's environment. She gains the ability to summon freezing blast of wind from the wastes of Niflheim. As one might imagine, this is not an easy thing to do and costs a blood point. The gust blows through her immediate vicinity, lowering temperatures by 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Just to make things simple, say that water will freeze if this drops the temperature below 10 F, naturally modified by the quantity. This is one of those "do what seems reasonable for a gust from the land of death" things. It can make things quite chilly on a cold night. It effectively stuns all cold-susceptible creatures (including vampires who will stiffen a bit) for a round and puts them on the road to frostbite, often even leaving a thin layer of frost on exposed surfaces. It's not just cold, it's a deathly chill. The wind may be directed at specific targets using Dexterity + Occult as per combat with firearms.
This awesome (just like Cloak the Gathering) power gives them command over ice and snow. Legend tells of elder Dottir using whole icebergs as conveyances. This may explain occasional evidence of their presence in Antarctica and in temperate areas during particularly severe winters. In addition to pushing floating mountains of ice (albeit slowly) this power may be used to draw ice and snow storms, assuming the weather is suitable, and possibly even to direct them. A roll of Manipulation+Occult is required for this as with the Thaumaturgy path Weather Control. Certain effects such as rain and lightning strikes are not possible through this means, which merely affects frozen forms of water.
Yet another possible use, and by far the most difficult, is the movement of small individual pieces of ice, such as throwing snowballs -- or 4-foot-long icicles. The attack roll for this is based on Occult + Dexterity. The maximum total damage per round is as the Dottir's strength. Difficulties and modifiers are as a melee weapon of similar form to the object (snowballs are difficulty 4 with a -1 damage modifier). The Dottir can manipulate one extra object in this manner for every dot over 5. Thus a 5th Generation Helsdottir might project 3 snowballs, really hard.
A popular trick is to open ice cracks under particularly obnoxious interlopers. This is also useful for concealing oneself, slowly disappearing into the ice in a manner reminiscent of the Protean Earth Meld ability.
Some of these may seem especially powerful, but it should be noted that the majority are totally useless on a warm summer night in Chicago.
"We tried to catch her, Master, but she pelted us with sno-cones!"
The Dottir can spend blood points to instantly freeze something, @ 1 BP per 60 lbs. of water, roughly a cubic foot (7 1/2 gallons or 30 liters.) A man-sized creature would require 2 to 4 blood points to freeze completely, although partial freezing tends to be sufficient to disable or kill mortals. To affect animate beings, Wits + Occult must be rolled vs. the target's Willpower. Success indicates that the target freezes. Kindred may counter every blood point spent by the Dottir with two blood points spent to thaw out, if they think of it. Frozen Garou will remain alive until thawed if they are frozen in a regenerating form, but if in Homid form, they will die.
The power operates within sight and can be directed with some flexibility, to freeze 12 square feet of a pond one inch deep, for instance.
The Dottir envelops herself in a cloak of bitter cold. The area within 5 feet of her drops to -100 Fahrenheit and an icy swirl of wind whips around adding a substantial wind chill factor. All freezable substances within this ring almost instantly freeze, water vapor and carbon dioxide precipitating from the air.
In truth, no known Dottir has ever risen above this niveau, but here's what they might be:
Blizzard conditions, sub-zero temperatures, hundred MPH winds. 10 foot snowfalls in a hundred mile radius. If this is used in an already bitterly cold area, the carbon dioxide starts coming down in flakes.
You don't want to know about this one, so let's just say it makes global warming a moot point.
The other clan disciplines are Protean and Animalism. For Shadow of the Beast (Prot. 4) the wolf form is always snow-white. The alternate form may often be a seal or a raven rather than the usual bat. It is said a few have even learned to take the fearsome form of the polar bear.
Helsdottir frequently apply Animalism and often use ravens or crows, traditionally associated with death (and the god Odin), as spies or minions. They have on rare occasion been known to use a bizarre form of transportation, riding a wolf bridled with live serpents.
"Kvasir is so wise that nobody asks of him a question he is unable to answer. He travelled far and wide to teach men wisdom and came once to feast with some dwarfs, Fjalar and Galar. These called him aside for a word in private and killed him, letting his blood run into two crocks and one kettle. The kettle was called Odhroerir, but the crocks were known as Son and Bodhn. They mixed his blood with honey, and it became the mead which makes whomever drinks of it a poet or scholar."
-- Snorri Sturluson Skaldskaparmal
Helsdottir brew a unique variety of mead with vitae. The ritual involved is moderately complex (2nd level), though any Helsdottir with a personal name will almost certainly know it, as the brewing is usually performed communally. The mead normally has roughly half again the volume of blood used to make it and, unlike most vitae, it maintains its potency indefinitely in storage, if kept in suitable conditions. Kindred may consume it for nourishment without the ill effects usually associated with "normal" beverages, although it does have mild intoxicating properties which will affect them.
The making of the mead requires casks, kettles, and the like, often hidden in subterranean caverns, which tend to remain at the appropriate temperature for fermentation, or occasionally in camouflaged above-ground structures. Sometimes ice-brewing is used, though this involves an extremely long period of fermentation. Of course, a good supply of honey must be on hand. The fermentation takes three to six weeks, depending on the temperature, type of vitae used, and concentration of honey, the greater the longer. Human blood is preferred, but if animal vitae is used, it is sometimes concentrated during the process to reduce its volume. After fermentation, it should be aged at least a year for best flavor, although it is drinkable before then. If the optional palatability roll is used, the difficulty increases by one for every three months less than a full year.
The mead is important in a number of rituals and serves as a medium for a certain type of rune magic (see below). It also allows the Helsdottir to stock up on large quantities of vitae at one time so that frequent hunting trips are unnecessary. These mass brewings seem often to coincide with disastrous avalanches in skiing areas.
Interestingly, the normal brewing process seems to eliminate the potential of the blood bond when used with Kindred vitae. It does however eliminate many of its other peculiar properties as well.
A more advanced ritual can be used to make a special brew that temporarily confers some skills and knowledge of the "donor" to those who consume the beverage. This 5th level ritual absolutely requires the (final) death of the victim and will confer one dot in any Ability, Path, or Discipline possessed by said victim at greater proficiency than the individual who quaffs a drinking horn full of it. The duration of the effect is one day. The statistic affected must be chosen during the brewing process, as different incantations are required for different types. The brewer must roll Occult + Intelligence at standard difficulty and the number of successes indicates how many effective doses are produced (never more than the number of blood points used.) A botch can produce rather disturbing toxic effects.
With either ritual, an optional Intelligence + Zymurgy roll indicates the general palatability of the brew.
Some bad bugs grew in it. The batch is totally ruined and can make imbibers, mortal or otherwise, rather ill.
Vinegary. It tastes like hell, but it still has nutritive value. Toreadors are incapable of drinking it.
"Egill then drew his knife and stabbed the palm of his hand; he took the drinking horn and carved runes on it and rubbed blood on it. He said: We carve a rune on the horn/we redden the spell in blood..."
-- Egill's Saga, ch. 44
It is said that the god Odin obtained the knowledge of the runes by fixing himself to a tree with his spear and hanging there for nine days and nine nights. Helsdottir know this story well, and they know exactly what journey it is that takes nine days and nights. Hel is the goddess of Death, the ultimate keeper of secrets, and it was she that revealed the mystery of the runes to the All-father Odin, they say. It should be no surprise then that Helsdottir are usually well versed in these mysteries, in runes as well as the ancient shamanistic forms of sorcery known as Seidhr and Utiseta.
They are capable of using Rituals like Thaumaturgists and all are taught the Helsdottir Ritual of Embrace (a level 1 ritual). This ability is concomitant with the Hel's Will discipline.
Helsdottir may learn and use Thaumaturgical paths as well but at a higher cost in experience points, namely 6 x level rather than the usual 4 (making them quite expensive). This reflects the alienness of blood magic. This being said, they do have their own Path of Runes which costs the standard 4 x level. Each type of rune inscription must be learned individually from a teacher, as with a ritual, and each has a level based on its power and difficulty.
Of course, a Dottir who manages to acquire the Thaumaturgy discipline somehow would naturally acquire Paths normally. It is perhaps possible that a Thaumaturgist could learn the Path of Runes, but it must be a very rare occasion. Non-Dottir would certainly not be as adept in the use of necromantic runes.
Inscription of a magical rune (or set of them) costs as many blood points as its level for the coloring, as the runes almost seem to thirstily drink the vitae. The actual text of the inscription may be a single rune, though sets of two or three are more common. Stronger magic may involve lengthy inscriptions involving various words of power such as "leek" (laukr) or "ale" (alu) (really!). The most powerful inscriptions always include a formula identifying the runemistress. Frequently the caster identifies herself with an occult pseudonym. She will always use this name with a particular spell, choosing it to be appropriate to the particular magic. E.g. "I, Defender-of-Stones carved these runes." for a spell defending a sacred stone circle. Those with Occult skill may be able to glean information as to the identity of the carver from these, although the difficulty for this tends to be fairly high.
Using the Path of Runes requires the standard Willpower test and the inscription requires a test of Occult+Dexterity. After all, the unseen powers won't know what to do with it if they can't read your chicken scratching. The difficulty of this roll depends on the size, texture, and composition of the medium. E.g.:
Medium Difficulty to carve ------ ---------- -- ----- Flat gold, lead surface 5 Smooth pine board 6 Large Bone (thigh) 6 Small bone (big knuckle) 7 Headstone 7 Thorn 8 Natural Granite Rockface 8 Pebble 9
Failure will often be apparent, although a botch may be a subtle error which is not noticed until the magical properties are called upon. This roll also includes the possibility of misspellings and assorted "typos".
In general, one area in which the Dottir do not freely share information with one another is the knowledge of runes. Magical rune knowledge is jealously guarded, and such knowledge is something of a status symbol among them. Note that it is not possible to learn the magical use of a rune formula from just seeing it. The proper manner of inscription and incantation must be known to empower the runes. Complete rune rituals are seldom written down and must be learned from an informant, although it is not at all unusual to obtain such information via necromancy or from dealings spirits and creatures such as frost giants or dwarfs. As difficult as that sounds, it is usually much easier than prying the secrets from the cold, undead lips of other Dottir.
Rune magic as performed by the Dottir tends to be strongly linked to the moon. Three-fold carvings, all simple 1st and 2nd level formulas last until the next full moon, as do most other types, unless otherwise specified. Runes consumed in a blood mead preparation are effective on the imbiber for the duration of the scene and retain their potency in the mixture until the full moon. Helsdottir do not lightly reveal this lunar time limit to outsiders.
This is a common and well-known rune use, found frequently on the weapons of the ancient Germanic peoples. The rune is inscribed threefold and has the effect of improving the damage done by a melee weapon by one die. It can only add one die to a given weapon -- thus it is not possible to cover a dagger with tyr runes such that it becomes as lethal as a poison-coated flaming chainsaw. The required incantation is simply to invoke the name of Tyr twice. The effects will last until the next full moon. The weapon delivers one aggravated wound to supernatural creatures on a successful hit, but no more than one. It can only be cast successfully on Tuesday, the day sacred to Tyr.
/|\ Also represents the sound 'T'. The name simply means "a god" | although it can also specifically refer to the battle god | Tyr (or Tiu - OE)
Another common one. Like the Tyr rune, it's repeated three-fold. The effect is of general beneficence. In game terms, it tends to produce minor serendipitous effects such as finding a $5 bill on the street and averts minor mishaps. The individual to receive the beneficence must carry the inscribed object.
|/ |/ Feh |
Analogous to the Feh rune, this rune carved three-fold curses an individual. It tends to produce minor mishaps such as losing a $5 bill on the street or tripping in a gopher hole. The target must either somehow be induced to carry the inscribed object, or his name must be used in the inscription (hence it's 2nd level status.)
| |> Thurs |
This rune carved three-fold attracts hailstorms and foul weather. It is often used as a component in more complex curse formulas.
This rune carved three-fold can reduce the ambient temperature in an area by around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It is effective for an area the size of a small room. Multiple carvings have cumulative effects. Like other three-fold runes, its effects last until the next full moon.
This is a short inscription which is carved onto a thorn. Upon sticking someone with this thorn, the rune carver's Occult + Path of Runes is rolled at a difficulty of the targets Willpower. Upon success, the target will fall asleep in a number of turns equal to his Stamina minus the number of successes. Botches usually result in the user pricking herself.
These runes are capable of preventing the dead from wandering. In the old days, its main purpose was to prevent reanimated corpses known as draugar (q.v.) from leaving their tombs, but a more general use of restraining Wraiths and other varieties of restless dead is now much more common. Kindred are somewhat subject to this, but may make a Willpower roll once per day at standard difficulty versus the Occult + Intelligence of the caster. A simple success will break the binding. Runes of draugr binding are permanent until removed or overcome in the case of creatures that are capable of it. In the area of necromantic runes, Helsdottir inscriptions are quite powerful.
Among mortal runemasters such runes were quite common, as were the usual blessings, and curses. Dottir can use them as well, although they rarely have the motivation to do so. It is rumored however that certain higher level versions (perhaps 4th or 5th) of this are capable of making even Kindred or Garou Metis fertile for short periods of time.
Many of these tend to be extended versions of the lower level runes. Various forms of blessings and curses are common, although any formula over 2nd level tends to be especially secret. As always, feel free to invent your own. These more powerful inscriptions tend to be rather individualistic anyway.
These runes carved on an object make it essentially unbreakable. The runes may also be consumed in blood mead as described above to produce a temporary one dot increase in Stamina (lasts one scene). Effects are not cumulative.
When inscribed on a piece of bark which is placed under the tongue of a corpse, these runes enable the corpse to speak and answer questions. If the corpse died a non-violent death (and not at sea, incidentally) it is obligated to answer ANY question posed by a Helsdottir truthfully. Other types of dead have volition in this matter. The corpse must not be too decomposed, at least having a tongue, and will remain talkative until the next full moon or the bark is removed. It is advisable to take care with a fresh corpse, as the vitae the Dottir uses to color the runes might have certain side effects...
Vampires, garou, and other supernatural creatures which can speak are subject to this, although it is rare that they die non-violent deaths.
These runes when carved somewhere around a gravesite causes its occupant to become some form of restless dead, typically a Draugr or Wraith. Unfortunately, it's hard to tell which is going to happen (ST's discretion). The victim is under no constraint to obey the caster and more often than not doesn't even realize what happened. This is typically used as a curse. With Wraiths, the runes act as a fetter. These runes remain effectual until they are destroyed.
The caster carves the runes on a bone of a dead person or animal and with a ghastly invocation of dread chthonic powers creates a sort of walking dead with the same physical form as the bone's owner. This "shambling servant" or Ganglati (see the mythical description of Hel's abode) retains shreds of the knowledge and memories of the deceased, but is not really intelligent and can only follow the verbal instructions of the caster, whom it will obey. It or parts of it will remain animated until the original bone (which is incorporated into the regenerated body) is broken or destroyed, at which time it disintegrates. They ignore wound penalties as do Draugar, although after they reach 0 Health levels, they are little more than piles of flailing parts. These golem-like monstrosities do not regenerate like Draugar. The animating runes remain effective until the next full moon, at which time the Ganglati falls to dust.
By carving the name of an individual with this formula, the caster causes a powerful summons of the named creature. Unlike with the Presence discipline, the summonee is not bound to come or particularly enthralled, but will feel a constant nagging sensation that will cause a one die penalty on all actions after a week. There is no restriction of distance. The subject will start to have dreams and short visions of the location where the runes are. They are dispelled as soon as the subject looks upon them. The duration is indefinite and one caster can only have one set of runes in effect for a particular person, but several casters can join forces to make life rather unpleasant. If the subject chooses to heed the summons, he will have no problem finding the way, finding that he has an instinctive sense for it.
These runes carved on an object may be displayed to ward off Draugar, Wraiths, vampires, and various forms of restless dead as if by True Faith. The effective Faith rating corresponds to the caster's rating in the Path of Runes + Charisma if the caster is present or simply the Path rating if not. They are effective until the next full moon.
These runes are carved and then mixed with blood mead, which is then poured over some mortal remains (anything will do) of a murder victim. the victim will then recorporate, becoming a vengeance-Draugr, an Aptrgongumadhr, bent on the destruction of its killer/s, and it will seek said individuals out until they or it are destroyed. They have the physical characteristics of normal Draugar (5 dots) and the social and mental attributes and abilities they had at the time of death and will use them considerably more often than normal Draugar. They can be quite violent and single-minded, whatever their former dispositions, but they do show some calculation in their actions. For every wound inflicted on a target of revenge, such Draugar gain one health level, even going over the maximum, as they are supernaturally energized by vengeance.
Vengeance-Draugar may be destroyed in the same manner as normal Draugar (q.v.), by fire or decapitation, are immobilized by staking, and have the same curious habit of regenerating at dusk at their gravesites. Once successful, the creature crumbles to dust. They are often created using greater blood mead (from the 5th level ritual) to enhance their abilities.
The creator has no direct control over this creature, though it won't bother her unless she gets in its way or is one of the killers, naturally.
(Now you can all create your _Crow_-inspired characters.)
Similar to the level 3 runes of speech, these permit the same sort of access to the dead but do not require a corpse, only the name of the deceased. The runes are carven on a horse skull which speaks to the caster.
These are said to tap the very essence of the vital spirit of the Earth, perhaps Gaia, and can bestow procreative power on almost anything, including Garou metis and all manner of undead. The runes are mixed in blood mead but have only a short duration of potency, a few hours at most, so the imbiber had better hurry about it. They always produce results... of some sort.
This is a special class of rune formulas that confer protection from malevolent Rituals of Tremere, Garou, or others.
They tend to be lengthier inscriptions and do not have a set text, although there are rules and formulas governing them which must be learned as with specific rune formula types. In order to create effective runes of protection, the caster must be familiar with the ritual to be warded against. Occult + Wits must be rolled to determine the proper runes to outmaneuver the magic of the offending Ritual. The difficulty for this roll depends on the level of familiarity with the Ritual:
Created the Ritual 4 Performed the Ritual 6 Seen the Ritual Performed 8 Heard of the Ritual 9
For instance, if a friend says "I've heard they know a spell that can stake you from a distance," a runemistress of sufficient power can attempt to counter it, but the chances of success are slim, with a 9 difficulty. A botch in this instance would certainly have most distressing results.
The number of successes determines how many times the runes will counter the Ritual before they lose their power.
Once an opposing formula for a particular Ritual has been developed, it can naturally be used again for the same Ritual. Of course, there's no way to know if it works until it's been tested...
The level for a Runes of Protection formula is equal to the level of the Ritual which is being countered. Any attempt by a caster of lower level than this to use the appropriate runes of protection will obviously fail.
Seidhr and Utiseta are essentially ritual frameworks. Seidhr rites are performed on a high platform (a seidhhjallr) while utiseta is always performed in remote areas at special site such as a crossroads, a grave mound, or a prominence. Utiseta literally means "sitting out". Objects frequently used are tall poles, ceremonial spears, and certain plants such as the flax, the leek, and the samphire (or whatever you think "salu" really is). Horses and parts thereof are commonly used in these rituals. Also important is a type of flat metal amulet known as a bracteate, which will typically bear a cultic scene with some runes on one side.
Several forms of this ritual exist; all are difficult. They allow the caster and some companions to travel into the Umbra and the realms of Hel's paradigm, through the Midgard domain.
The first form requires two horses for every traveller. Each pair of horses must be slain simultaneously with the same spear while a rider sits upon one. Their spirits are magically combined in the umbra through the ritual to form an eight-legged spirit horse. Upon their deaths the rider is drawn with them into the umbra and can travel upon its back.
The second form requires a boat or ship of some sort. Helsdottir tend to have a sentimental preference for Viking longships, but any vessel will do. During the ritual, the ship is launched and everyone who is to go along boards it. The ship, which is piled with flammable materials, is then set afire. As it burns it becomes umbral as do its occupants, who are not harmed by the fire, if the ritual is done correctly. Obviously if things don't go exactly right, this can turn into a rather bad situation. Roetschreck is also something of a problem when this is done with Kindred -- sometimes the less courageous must be lashed to the mast. It is however sometimes much more convenient for a large group than sacrificing a small herd of horses, two by two. The looks of umbral garou as a longship full of half-corpse women glides by through the umbra is said to be almost worth the trouble.
The third form is much simpler to execute but tends to leave its subjects rather vulnerable. Each traveller must be impaled on an ash tree with a ceremonial spear and left hanging. His/her spirit is separated and sent to the umbra for exactly nine nights, during which the body is helpless in the physical world, similarly to the Auspex Astral Travel ability. The traveller cannot be recalled earlier and this must be performed in a remote open area as it is an utiseta rite. During this period, the body does not die or degenerate from the spear wound (if a mortal), although upon return the traveller will be in dire need of medical attention without some sort of regenerative ability. If the body is removed from the tree prematurely, the spirit is trapped in the umbra and the normal effects of having been impaled by a spear (often death) commence.
To summarize, none of these Rituals of Transition are particularly easy. Some work has been done to create a ritual in which an automobile is used, by driving it off a cliff for instance, but these efforts have not been successful to date.
Helsdottir almost always have Survival and Occult, with specializations in runology or seidhr magic. Lupine or Spirit Lore is not uncommon as well. In general, they tend to be well-versed in occult mysteries and practices. Also common is the brewing skill, Zymurgy.
This is a sort of Nordic vampire/zombie. Draugar are essentially reanimated corpses which guard their burial places, sometimes catching and devouring mortals who happen by, sometimes even extending the range of their depredations (a wandering Draugr was known as an "aptrgongumadhr," but I won't bother much with the term for obvious reasons.) They are similar to vampires in that they must be destroyed by decapitation or fire, and may be at least be stopped by driving a stake through the heart. However, they cannot embrace new Draugar and have no particular need of human blood to survive; they just seem to like it. They have straight fives for their physical traits. Draugar usually have the mental and social attributes they had in life, but these are deeply submerged by its bestial nature and mostly unused. In most circumstances, Draugar are not functionally very intelligent and should essentially be considered to be in a perpetual state of frenzy. It has been speculated that this is evidence that they are animated purely by the vampiric Beast without the benefit of a counterbalancing influence. They occasionally do display elements of their former personalities and knowledge, but these are usually rather warped displays.
The Draugr is not harmed by sunlight, though it shuns the light of day as a rule. If in its burial place, it regenerates all damage every night at dusk, until it is cremated, decapitated, or staked.
The occurrence of Draugar is extremely rare in this day and age. They only come into being in areas where the gauntlet is particularly low, especially near caerns and nodes. What it is exactly that foments the change from dead body to ambulatory dead body is unknown. Some have opined that the Draugar are sort of a "wild vampire".
Helsdottir can enter the nine worlds of Hel's paradigm (including Hel's own, Niflheim) through certain Rituals of Transition. They most often do this to obtain occult secrets and conduct nefarious dealings with the inhabitants of these realms. The umbral domain of these realms is known as Midgard and to reach any of them requires first travelling to Midgard through the near Umbra. Midgard (and the realms of icy Jotunheim and fiery Muspellheim) was once practically joined to the WoD realm, but the raising of the gauntlet has cut it off almost completely. Some of the more common creatures of these realms:
The old gods, the Aesir and Vanir, are said to be weak and decrepit in these times. They are sometimes encountered in their home worlds (Asgardh and Vanaheim) but are still much superior to mere mortals and most vampires in their power. They are rather hostile to Helsdottir, Get of Fenris, and Wyrm-creatures of any sort. Among them are Odin, Frigg, Frey, Thor, and Loki (who is a bit tied up at the moment). The gods have many powers and are often capable of shapeshifting or changing their appearance.
These creatures, typically 8 to 10 feet in height, are no longer found in this realm, although from time to time one has been known to enter it for a short time from its native world Jotunheim. Frost giants are often quite intelligent and many are gifted sorcerers. Shapeshifting is a very common ability. Their character creation is as with humans only they get an automatic two dot bonus in Strength and an extra health level.
These are similar to the traditional RPG dwarf (being the inspiration for them). They have their own realm like the frost giants, where they hoard wealth and constantly plot and conspire to steal others' treasures through clever and deceitful means. They know many secrets which are to be had for a price.
With supplemental character types such as the Dottir, there is always a question as to whether they should merely be non-player characters or actually playable. I myself, who once invented a sentient photo- synthetic organism with a silicate/silane-based biochemistry for a character, have long believed that such characters can be a positive thing in an RPG. Some will strongly disagree, and I can see reasons why they would. Those individuals can just use Helsdottir as NPCs, if they want to use them at all. I'm sure people will ask "Are these intended as PCs?" Well, yes, if you want to use them that way. It may not be as smooth as established character types, but I tried to provide a power balance, and I think I've succeeded. Looking like some B-movie monster severely limits one's interactions with normals and many of the discipline powers are quite useless in warm weather. These two features should offset the power and flexibility to the point where Helsdottir characters are not overly powerful compared to PCs of other types at the same experience level. In addition, much of the Ritual magic is provided with limitations, most of which were quite natural. The Rituals of Transition are a good example of this. The runes could be a little much, but I should stress that it ought to be very hard to find the formulas; two separate rolls are always required, they require blood points (though not necessarily the caster's), and the Path costs experience to learn.
Although this is intended to go with White Wolf's Vampire: the Masquerade, it refers often to Werewolf: the Apocalypse and mentions a few things from supplements. Much will be unintelligible without knowledge of Werewolf, but the other references are incidental and intended for the masses of people who do know them and are sure to ask things like "Doesn't Helsdottir necromancy infringe on Giovanni territory?"
If the Dottir are to be an integral part of a Chronicle, I would recommend some reading on the mythological and cultural background.
I just had an urge to make up some background that captured the look and feel of Norse mythological world, which in many ways was easily as grim as the World of Darkness; a world that was inhabited by malevolent beasts and wicked giants who fought gods that weren't really much better. A world that would ultimately die in an uninterrupted four-year winter followed by an all-consuming fire, an all-covering flood, and finally a great internecine battle over the charred, drowned earth in which the gods themselves would perish at the hands of the mustered forces of darkness, who would sail upon them in a ship built from the fingernails of corpses. That's darkness.
Anyway, I tried to build some hooks in too. There's the Hospitality ability (Hel's Will 4) so a Helsdottir can provide a good enabler for arctic activity -- for a price of course. The sorcery aspect is always a good one too. Who doesn't need a little magical assistance now and again, especially assistance that can propel one into the Umbra or possibly even temporarily restore the ability to procreate in the human manner?
What practically no one knows is that Hel is not an Antediluvian, nor a Methuselah, nor even an Elder. She is simply not a Cainite at all. Neither are the Helsdottir, exactly. Hel was the first among the Incarna and Celestines of the Germanic pantheon to recognize the inevitability of the Christian threat to their base of worshippers. She knew the Kindred well, being the mistress of the northern underworld and used her considerable mystic connections in her old and by that time mostly neglected aspect as the tripartite Greek moon goddess Selene/Artemis/Hecate. It was most likely her experience with the decline of Classical Greek paganism which convinced her of the necessity to act to preserve her power while she still had it. As Hecate, the goddess of the black art, she also knew rumors which foreshadowed the coming of the static reality.
Hel discovered some of the secrets of Caine, notably the fragment of his avatar which burns in every Cainite. She learned how to replace it and substitute a fragment of her own divine being with a sort of spirit virus. After several dramatically unsuccessful experiments in the days following the fall of the Roman empire, she captured a powerful Gangrel of the fifth generation -- taking a more powerful one might attract undue attention. She warped the hapless creature into her own image to reinforce the magical signature-bond (the Doctrine of Signatures) so that it could accept her avatar and infected it. Amazingly it worked, for the most part. Disappointingly, the new creation had a few problems procreating. The Hel-avatar simply wasn't completely compatible with the Caine-avatar or else some of the mystical restraints on the Beast were compromised in the process. Whatever the case, it was clear that every neonate would require personal attention to stabilize the Embrace, hence the Ritual. The strong resemblance of the Dottir to Hel herself is necessary to prop up this arrangement, the price of "hacking into" Caine's thaumaturgical artifice for her own purposes. All along she has expected to find an angry Caine knocking on the door of Damp-With-Sleet, but he has yet to appear. And she still watches, intently, keeping her brood ever vigilant for him.
But the project succeeded in its main objective -- to provide Hel a power base when her less foresighted peers had shrivelled up and blown away with the winds of change. The Gods were mighty, but the children of Loki and Angrbodha were the ones left standing after all was said and done.
The term "Helsdottir" is really an Anglo-Norse hybrid of my own creation. The actual Old Norse might be "Heljar dottir" (plural "Heljar doetr") or Heldottir (and "Heldoetr") depending on whether the genitive phrase or an actual compound is preferred.
I have represented the "eth" character as "dh." In many English translations this is appears as a "d." The pronunciation is a voiced dental fricative, as the first consonant in "they." Certain words such as "Odin" and "Midgard" appear commonly enough that I decided to use the conventional English spelling. If you have a good browser, the "eth" character is "ð", but since many don't handle this right, I used the "dh" transliteration.
The vowel combination "oe" represents the "o-umlaut", a rounded vowel which does not exist in English. (The same vowel appears in the names of Icelandic pop singer Bjoerk and the German poet Goethe.)
The adaptation from the Gylfaginning ("the Deluding of Gylfi," part of Snorri Sturluson's Prose Edda) contains a few omissions and licenses for dramatic purposes. The essence follows the original. View it as an alternate version of the story preserved in Dottir tradition.
I use a number of allusions to Norse myth, particularly the myth of Baldr's death, which is one of the most important concerning Hel.
The section on rune magic attempts to incorporate as much of the actual pre-Christian magical practices of the ancient Germanic tribes as I could find. There are a few other details I didn't bother searching out and including, such as the restriction to 24 types of things on which runes can be carved from one particular source. I think it's plenty detailed as it is. My primary reference for this area was _Runes_and_Magic_ . It's not a light read, but it's pretty solid.
My vision of Hel as a goddess of sorcery as well as death is slightly extrapolated. The strong personification of Hel as seen in the Prose Edda may be of relatively late origin, perhaps ca. the 10th century, although the concept of the relation between the death and magic is clearly quite old. In Old English we see the word "helruna" ("hel" + "rune") for "sorceress" or "necromancer" and a similar cognate existed in Gothic.
The section on mead brewing was drawn from a little research and a little personal experience. Don't have conniptions if the details aren't exactly right; it's only color, and, besides, the actual details vary enormously from one recipe to the next. I actually have a theory that blood was used as a yeast nutrient at one time, as reflected in the Kvasir myth. Honey is very nitrogen-poor.
Draugar are an authentic and fairly important part of Norse legend. Most of the details about their characteristic and behavior are found in at least some original sources.
The exact relationship among Fenris, Joermungand (the Wyrm), and Hel in the WoD is left vague purposefully. I didn't want to make too many aspects dependent on a particular interpretation, though I do feel that some relationship is necessary for Helsdottir to work. For instance, I have indicated their particular interest in the Get of Fenris and the peculiar reaction to them by the Get. One possible way to view it is as a response to the intrusion of a different reality paradigm into theirs.
I also tried to avoid too many references to the Aesir and certain details of cosmology such as the "nine worlds" and the relations of the various -Gards and -Heims, partly because these vary greatly from source to source and partly because I wanted to leave room for people who might want to do other stuff with it.
 Runes and Magic: Magical Elements in the Older Runic Tradition by Stephen E. Flowers from the American University Studies Series I, Germanic Languages and Literature; Vol. 53, Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York, 1986.
 The Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson translated by Jean I. Young. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 1954.
Quasi-legal remarks which probably wouldn't stand up in court, but it's worth a try:
All uses of trademarks herein should not be considered challenges as to their ownership. The author makes no claims about them and honestly doesn't know what is or isn't a trademark of somebody or other.
Also, certain themes involving ritual magic are explored in this document; these are merely fictional extrapolations from supposed historical practices for use in a role-playing game. The author does not advocate the actual performance of these rituals or claim that they actually have the stated effects. For example, if some idiot goes out and sets his boat on fire in order to enter another dimension, said idiot is the master of his own fate and the author disavows any responsibility for such silly acts. The author also does not care if anyone considers the work "Satanic." -- such people are entitled to their opinions, however wrong they may be.
Finally, the author kindly requests that this work not be plagiarized or sold by a person other than the author or his authorized agents, in the off chance that he ever has any. Not-for-profit reproduction of the work is freely permitted.