Internæsjonal Flair


Cover by David M. Wright

Do you like Archipelago III, improv techniques, freeform, card-based systems, German Expressionist movies of the 20s, the mythology of the Philippines, Russian sci-fi or just, y’know, the Nørwegian-gone-rogue tabletop game Itras By?

Then Itras By: The Menagerie may be the collection of supplements for you! 294 pages, 40 collaborators from 10 countries.

More info (and free samples) at the publisher’s site.



20.000 Little Islands

“I have, with no exaggeration, lost track of Archipelago. There are now hacks and translations that I only find out about by chance, and I don’t remember all the stuff that’s been done with it.

All is as it should be. The game is officially out of my hands. Who would have thought it.”

–        Matthijs Holter

Archipelago is a story/role-playing game where each player controls a major character. Players take turns directing and playing out a part of their character’s story, leading them towards their selected point of destiny, while other players interact with and influence that story. The latest edition also utilizes fate and resolution cards, as well as the ritual phrases.

(The majority of the games and downloadable documents linked below are for free download, as usual here on Nørwegian Style):


In other languages

Hacks, expansions, adaptions


It’s hard to know with these things.

Put together, the Archipelago II and III main landing pages have gotten 19.650 page views since 2009. Dropbox doesn’t provide download statistics, which would be even more “proof of the pudding”. Many sites link directly to the Dropbox documents, so we just have no way of knowing the exact # of downloads over the past seven years.

If we missed your favorite hack, adaption or translation, please let us know in comments.

Cover photo: Høgåsen, Hidra/Hanne Feyling/Visit Sørlandet (CC BY-ND 2.0).




Shrine Master


Itsukushima shrine, torii gate. Photo: Joe deSousa/Flickr (CC0 1.0)

Of course he knew the Empire was built on airy, at times vulgar, symbolism. He was, after all, an educated man. He knew how to interpret the Laws of the Elders. Could equally well listen to the speech of the stars as kiss one of his concubines below. He believed neither in ghosts, nor in symbols as anything other than representations.

Still, a part of him; one might say the child, believed firmly in the virtues:

1. Fidelity to the large and the small family. Even when the decisions of the concubines or the Emperor seemed enigmatic.
2. Friendliness and good will towards strangers.
3 . Ritualized blasphemy by the altars along the roads, at night.
4. That you will reap as you sow.

Now he was standing by one of the altars, on the road to the Imperial City. The sunset painted the sky in shades of gold, pink, violet and orange. But not red, that color had been forbidden by the Emperor.

Soon the star-song would begin.

The altar was a scrawny, ancient spike of stone. The little roof that was supposed to protect the sacrificial gifts; fire, incense, beautiful stones, blood, flowers and perfume, against wind and weather would probably break down completely in a few hundred years.

He left a small, twelve-sided die for the enjoyment of the altar-eaters. Said a silent prayer to The Guardian of the Road that the ghosts he didn’t believe in would leave him alone this night.

On the long way home.

Shrine Master is about building those wayside shrines. It uses the Soft System.

The Soft System

Character set-up
Relations (max 3)
Twists/ story seeds/ complications/ intrigue magnets

Skill/ability check results

On a modified roll of 1d12:

12. Critical hit
11. Yes, and
10. Yes, and
9. Yes, but
8. Yes, but
7. Yes, but
6. No, but
5. No, but
4. No, but
3. No, and
2. No, and
1. Conflict escalates

With a table you can add modifications to die roll results. E.g: you have a relevant ability = +1, bigger chance of yes-roll. Very difficult task = -1, etc.

The results are interpreted by another player (one who’s character is not attempting the action. Everyone can make suggestions.)


At the beginning of each session, the players get one Whimsy card each (draw two cards, keep your favorite). They can be played at any time during the game, the player interprets the result. Inspiration can be used to buy more whimsy cards, at the rate of 1 Inspiration point = 1 card.

Original whimsy cards:

Inspiration points

Any player or the GM may award one (1) inspiration points to another player during a session. These can be spent [in interesting ways] to hack the narrative, setting or outcome of die rolls.

They are awarded when:

– A player does or says something unspeakably cool.
– A player acts in accordance with Goal or Problem.
– A player complicates matters in interesting ways.

The inspiration points are awarded immediately.

Inspiration points are dialed back to zero at the start of every new session.

Can be used to make small additions to the GM’s descriptions, add detail to the setting (the GM forgot to mention), auto success, introduce (useful) NPCs, buy a new whimsy card, etc.


Give others a chance to speak. Hear what they say. See how you can build or act on the information they impart to the story.

Accept, and add
If something is stated or established in the fiction, it’s probably true. Characters and ghosts may lie, and you may forget details. But try to stay with what has been said. Add your own details as they come to you. Don’t try too hard. Say the first thing you think of. Reincorporate elements that have come up previously.

Decline, but offer
It’s perfectly fine for your character to refuse a suggestion, but try to come up with a counteroffer. Don’t block or stall the game. If you get stuck in discussion-paralysis; act. Make up something, like an accusation. Do something stupid.

Just pause. And breathe.

Before you add a new element, consider: what has already been established? Can I re-introduce it into play? Will it create contrast, or shed new light this time around?


The home village. Photo: dynamosquito/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Stay fluid
Be willing to discard your plan, or even better; don’t plan for a certain outcome. Pick up on the creative “balls” others throw out for you to play with. Go along with ideas. This is key to having fun in this game.

Let the story emerge
There are no true secrets here. There isn’t a prewritten plot to discover. This story will emerge during play, and you will see the totality in the end. Relax. Give your character and the ghosts time to play their hand, say their piece. Watch what the others do. Listen.

You don’t have to be funny or smart. Let the words come to you at their own pace.

Your little village needs a new wayside Shrine, the last one was torn down by the forces of nature. You play the Shrine Master and her henchmen. They will gather holy materials for the shrine, and build it where the last one stood.

Random story table (d12)

1. Another Shrine Master, searching for the same material as your group.
2. Sex in the City: your materials are located in a brothel in the Imperial City.
3. Sacrifice Emotion: you must recall and reenact a childhood memory to empower the Shrine.
4. An Infidel Demon tries to usurp your shrine. You must battle it with your wits.
5. Consumption: shrine building proves costly. You must get day jobs. It’s terrible after a life spent adventuring on the road.
6. Enabler: you meet a wrinkled old crone who offers to make shrine building easier if you make a sacrifice.
7. Tallest tower: an essential shrine component is located in the top of a near-inaccessible tower. It symbolizes our vain efforts.
8. Priestess: you must also recruit a priestess to cater to the shrinal needs. She must be a virgin, and very hideous.
9. A special kind of stone is required for the shrine. You must establish a quarry and safely transport the stone to your home village.
10. The Shrine Master’s concubines approach her for a favor, interrupting the quest.
11. Harmonious ritual: the group must create a ritual to empower the shrine.
12. Personal demons: the entourage have to confront and battle their personal, manifest demons in order to complete the shrine.

Game master instructions

Because all new indie games must be AW hacks:

Thunderous roar: Give brief, short descriptions that relate to the setting. “The crystal shines like crimson terror. It’s cold and hard to the touch. Electric fragrance in the air.”
Address the characters, not the players.
Show, don’t tell.
Abrupt change: every time your attention strafes something you own: a secondary character, an object, organization or relationship: consider killing, destroying or altering it for good.
Name everything, make everything human: create a list of names before the game. Give the secondary characters simple, understandable, human motivations.
Ask questions, build on the answers: “when did you first understand you’d be building a shrine? Why do you want to build the shrine? What does the new location look like?”
Give them what they want, reveal the consequence.
Be a fan of the characters: give them what they fight for, let them build their shrine… but only at the very end.

Support wheels

To be used if there is inaction or you’re stuck. Choose something from this list that will fit what has already come to pass. Shake things up, good:

Separate them.
Take a prisoner.
Give them a dilemma/tough choice: you can save one friend, not both.
Announce future threat: a great, big column of black smoke on the horizon. A nasty noise in the bushes. A rumor spreading.
An eye for an eye: hit them the way they hit your secondary characters.
Reveal your hand: state what you plan to do, execute.
Take away their stuff (except what truly defines them)
Activate their flaws.
Explain possible consequences and ask if they still want to go through with the plan.
Offer an opportunity that comes with a price.
Always ask: “what do you do?”

Other tips
Maps, handouts.
Ask follow-up questions: «yeah, tell me; what does it look like on the road? What will the shrine look like in the end?”
Digression and detail, sometimes.
Go around the table, give everyone spotlight.
Take breaks. Take your time.


The game ends when the shrine components are assembled, and it’s erected by the road near the character’s home village.

Go around the table. Ask the players what their character added to the shrine, and how it looks in the end. Go in great detail, this was the goal after all.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Cat Wizard

C_W“You press “go”. Three other avatars start blinking dully on the screen. Looking up, you see three other faces peering over their bus seats. Looking around, trying to identify the other wizards. Your eyes connect. Finally one of you, a woman in her late twenties with a snake pattern tattooed on her neck, gets up from her seat. Approaches you, waves at the others. She leans in, smelling of cigarettes. “Are you ready to do this fucking thing”?

Cat Wizard is a roleplaying game about a renegade app and its maverick users. The app is banned from app stores in its current incarnation, but is still downloaded and put to use by those who want to affect change in themselves and the world. (…)”

Download the game here (PDF).

Cat Wizard won the competition Båtsj today. It had a setup similar to Game Chef: make a playable roleplaying game in a week.

As one of the authors, together with Trond Ivar Hansen, I must admit I don’t really think we delivered that. But it’s a nice concept sketch, with some good ideas we might develop further someday.

It’s the first time in a couple of years we’ve had a competition like this locally. Michael Stensen Sollien ran the R.I.S.K competition for about ten years, the last time was in 2013. It resulted in some of the earlier games you find on this blog, and created a good creative buzz in our tiny community of game designers.

Båtsj, this year’s new competition, was hosted by Christine Vean and the Facebook group 6 games were delivered by the deadline. By way of comparison, the recent international #Threeforged contest had 102 contributions. And the annual international Game Chef now runs parallel competitions in several languages.

For Båtsj, the games could be written in any of the Scandinavian languages or English. The winner, Cat Wizard, happened to be one of two English contributions. The other one was Bunker 13 by Wilhelm Person. The experienced Swedish game designer has promised he’ll develop the concept further in the coming months. Check out his contribution here.

It was fun and frustrating to try out this kind of challenge again, and I really liked the buzz it created in our teeny tiny scene. Just like the good old days.

Tales by the Fire

A game for 3-5 players, the stone and the fire.

You are hunters. It is 30.000 years ago. You have walked all day without spotting prey. You are tired and worried. You must tell tales by the fire. 

Prehistoric cave painting at the  Petta kere cave in the Leang-leang Prehistoric Park (Maros regency in South Sulawesi, Indonesia).  These hand stencils belong to the Mesolithic  Toalean ( Tolian) culture (6000BC to 500AD). Photo:  Sanjay P. K. (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Prehistoric cave painting at the Petta kere cave in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. These hand stencils belong to the Mesolithic Toalean (Tolian) culture (6000BC to 500AD). Photo: Sanjay P. K. (Flickr/Creative Commons).

The fire can be represented by a simple candle. If you are outside in the woods, you can build a fire (if the season and local laws permits). 

If you need food during the game: no processed foods. Fruit, berries, dried meat, nuts. There is no cheese or bread. If you need drink, there’s water in a stream nearby.

Give each other names. Names foreign to your own tongue. When you are given a name, explain what it means.

You are hunters. Far from home. Back there, those who cannot hunt and those who have other responsibilities wait. This winter, they depend on your safe return. They are all the other human beings you know of.

Language is new, it has great power. Be careful what you say, which words you choose for the tale. It’s better to wait for the right words than to babble like a stream. Words create ripples, like a stone cast in a lake. They conjure images. Bind spirits. Wake powers.

There is taboo. There is the sacred. Be careful, but brave.

If someone uses the wrong words, make sounds. Hiss. Grunt. Maybe you have to shout or roar, to drive the badness off.

If the right words are used, nod and smile. Say “mm”, “oo”, “aa”.

Pick up a stone from the ground. Whoever holds the stone has entered the tale. This takes great courage. You are the hunters. You are brave. The stoneholder keeps her eyes closed while telling the others what she sees. But the others are not passive. They make sounds. Ask questions.

The stone is passed on to the next hunter when the time is right. Take your time telling. This is important.

Remember you have walked all day, and not spotted prey. Remember there is terrible darkness on the horizon. Remember that the whole of human society depends on you.

Nude Woman (Venus of Willendorf), c. 28,000-25,000 B.C.E., Limestone, 4 1/4" high (Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna), photo: Steven Zucker  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Nude Woman (Venus of Willendorf), c. 28,000-25,000 B.C.E., Limestone, 4 1/4″ high (Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna), photo: Steven Zucker
(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The hunter holding the stone closes her eyes. You begin humming together, to let the stoneholder enter the tale. Finding the same frequency. Adding sounds. Using vowels. Humming. Then the song dies down.

All tales begin by asking the stoneholder: “what do you see?” She need not answer at once. Maybe the question has to be repeated by you all. In one voice. Imploring, begging. The tale is important. It will help the hunt.

As the stoneholder relates, the other hunters may ask questions. “Where are you?” “Why did…?” “Who enters?” “What does it say?”. The stoneholder may or may not answer, taking her time telling.

The stone is passed to the next hunter when the time is right.

During Tales by the Fire, beings and spirits from the tale have been known to escape, and enter a hunter who holds no stone. It is rare, but it happens. The entity will speak with the hunter’s tongue. Grin with his mouth. Stare with his eyes.

These beings have great power. It is important to listen and treat them with respect. Until they have said their piece and are ready to leave.

Tales by the Fire is dangerous, but important to the hunt. It is something we must do.

The tale is over when the fire burns out, or when one of you decides it’s time to put out the fire.

Inspired by: What is a Roleplaying Game by Epidiah Ravachol and recent conversations.

Thanks to Torgny, Vivian and others for feedback.

Photo:  Craig Kohtz (Flickr/Creative Commons).

Photo: Craig Kohtz (Flickr/Creative Commons).

“Don’t Read the Comments!” (A new game).

A while ago, there were all these comments on Twitter about the different stretch goals for James Wallis’ “Alas Vegas” kickstarter. On a random impulse (both because I love James Wallis & his games, and because I like to make fun of all these Kickstarter campaigns that are everywhere), I wrote:

“If the KS for @JamesWallis‘ ALAS VEGAS reaches £20K, I write a completely unrelated mini game just for the hell of it and put it on the net.”

And it did.

So I did.


Oh no… you went and did it again. You’re sitting there reading the comments. The news article itself was actually pretty interesting… so why the hell didn’t you just leave it? Why did you enter this realm of trolling, strawmen, false dichotomies, badly concealed agendas, and ideological sewage?

It’s too late now. You feel yourself being drawn into it. Into the comment itself. That one, on the screen, there.

It’s not just somebody’s warped, malicious, imbecilic and ignorant idea anymore.

Now it’s reality. And you’re inside it.

Luckily, you brought your friends.


Read it here! (And feel free to comment, too!)


Øivind Stengrundet, designer of “Wanderer” (it’s in the Nørwegian Style book), has gone forth and designed this game – “L.A.R.S.”

L.A.R.S. is a universal roleplaying system designed to be fast and easy to use. The rules are few and flexible, making them perfect if you’re just out to play a quick adventure. But, they can also be used for campaigning, and examples are given on how to adapt the system to your own setting.

Download the rules here!