Saga of the Northlands
Wardstones are a composite major item, nine protective items working together to create a nearly impenetrable ward. Wardstones are always created in groups of nine, one wardstone for each of the eight compass points and one central wardstone serving as a lynchpin.
The magic used in the creation of wardstones is an ancient and obscure one. Where “modern” runic magic extrapolates different magical effects from the layered metaphors of single Elder Futhark characters and runestones use the mystical resonance between two such characters, wardstones use two much more complex base runes: the ægishjálmur and the vegvísir.
Ægishjálmur (literally meaning “irresistible”) is a runic construct that inspires awe in both the wearer and the viewer, and is most often used in the creation of magical shields and helms. To the viewer, it overwhelms the senses and conveys the power of the wearer, so that the viewer is weakened and distracted; to the wearer, it reinforces his connection to the gods and makes him proof against fear and cowardice.
Vegvísir (literally meaning “sign-post”) is a runic construct of both literal and metaphysical guidance, and is most often used to magically enhance ships and structures. On a literal level, the runic construct prevents getting lost and guides the bearer through rough weather and around other obstacles; on a metaphysical level, it reveals hidden truths and cuts through glamours intended to confuse and deceive.
When combined, and mystically reinforced by the numerology of nine wardstones, they form a selective but extremely powerful ward. As mentioned, the original knowledge of the runic constructs is lost, and only the knowledge of wardstones remains; many goði have attempted to draw upon other known runic constructs in combination to make similarly-powerful magic items of other sorts, but the means of doing so remain stubbornly resistant to discovery.
The Wardstones Themselves
A wardstone generally takes the form of a large, vaguely-trapezoidal, irregularly-shaped rock weighing roughly 4 stone that is completely covered in very intricate runes. Other forms are possible, such as cylindrical columns, or rectangular tablets like those used to make Stonehenge, as long as all of the outer wardstones are roughly identical and the central wardstone is radially symmetric and as similar to the outer wardstones as possible.
Similarly to the workings of a Circle of Nine used to create artificial conjunctions, the nine wardstones to be used together must maintain a special connection. They must be constructed of the same materials, by the same creators, concurrently, and must be attuned at the same time. If this is not done, or if one of the wardstones is later destroyed, the ward will be severely weakened and can fail, with catastrophic results; see Destroying Wardstones, below.
A group of wardstones must be placed along some kind of geographical, physical, or political boundary, such as around the borders of a clan’s territory, along a wall, or around a lake. They must also be placed such that the northeast wardstone is the northeasternmost-wardstone and placed between the north and east wardstones, and so forth for the other outer wardstones, with the central wardstone placed as close to the center as possible. At least half of each wardstone must be exposed to the elements and not hidden in any way (so they could not be buried several feet underground and still function, for instance). Otherwise, they may be arranged as desired and do not need to form a perfect circle, though they are most powerful when so placed.
The maximum area protected by a wardstone is 185,000 square miles (roughly the area of Svenska and its surrounding waters), or a circle with a diameter of 243 miles. The ward extends as a sphere (or an appropriate shape, if the wardstones aren’t arranged in a circle) into the sky above and into the ground below. It is possible for multiple groups of wardstones to protect an area, but the wardstone circles cannot intersect: one group can be placed entirely around another group, and the wards do not overlap, only the outermost protection applies to a given location.
Physically, a wardstone is quite durable, having 250 HP and hardness 10. They’re protected magically as well by the ward they generate, so it’s even harder for those affected by the ward to harm a wardstone. Nevertheless, it is possible to destroy one, and if that happens there are two consequences. First, the ward is weakened with each wardstone lost (see the section below for the exact effects) and the creature attuned to it knows immediately that it was destroyed, but not how or by whom. Second, destroying a wardstone is highly dangerous, releasing uncontrolled runic energy into the surrounding area and cursing any surviving destroyers, so most who wish to undermine such a ward merely remove the wardstones instead of trying to destroy them.
Replacing a destroyed wardstone is possible, but the ward will be forever weaker, always taking the Wardstone Destroyed protection factor penalty (see below) even after the replacement is constructed and attuned; most crafters faced with replacing one wardstone simply dismantle the whole group to make an entire new set, accepting the temporary vulnerability while the wardstones are gone in exchange for a stronger end result.
Associated Wyrd: Nobility, Guile
Breadth of Protection
The ward generated by a group of wardstones can be tuned to be as selective or as general as desired. Upon being attuned, those to whom the wardstones are attuned collectively will the group to protect against a certain kind of threat as follows:
|Threat Kind||Description||Example (Creature)||Example (Weather)|
|Very specific||A ward against a single creature or a very particular threat||“Pontifex Benedictus, Pope of the Roman Catholics”||“blizzards arriving at night in December from the southeast”|
|Specific||A ward against a small group of creatures or a particular kind of threat||“the leaders of the Greenland settlement of Clan Skjolsung”||“blizzards in December”|
|General||A ward against a large group of creatures or a general kind of threat||“Clan Kletterung of the Norse”||“blizzards”|
|Broad||A ward against a kind of creature or a very general kind of threat||“Moors”||“storms”|
|Very broad||A ward against several kinds of creatures or a very vague threat||“Humans”||“bad weather”|
|All-encompassing||A ward against anything harmful||“anyone who means us harm”||“natural hazards”|
The more broad a ward is, the less powerful its protection, so being as specific as possible is generally best. Other factors can also impact the level of protection granted by the ward, specifically wardstone placement and the area protected, and the general level of protection is given by a number called the protection factor. Start with the protection factor given by the breadth of the ward’s protection, then apply the factors in the table below (all are cumulative):
|Ward Type||Base Protection Factor|
|Ward Factors||Protection Factor Modifier|
|Central wardstone not near the center of the outer wardstones||-2|
|Wardstones placed in a perfect circle and aligned to the compass points||+1|
|Wardstones placed in a different shape (e.g. a square)||-1|
|Wardstones form a concave polygon (one outer wardstone “within” the polygon)||-2|
|Wardstones form a complex polygon (imaginary lines formed by pairs of wardstones cross)||-2|
|Outer circle diameter less than 20 feet||+2|
|Outer circle diameter less than 65 feet||+1|
|Outer circle diameter less than 195 feet||+1|
|Outer circle diameter less than 585 feet||+1|
|Outer circle diameter less than 1760 feet||+1|
|Outer circle diameter greater than 1 mile||-1|
|Outer circle diameter greater than 3 miles||-1|
|Outer circle diameter greater than 9 miles||-1|
|Outer circle diameter greater than 27 miles||-1|
|Outer circle diameter greater than 81 miles||-2|
|A given creature is attuned to more than one wardstone in the group||+2 (2 wardstones) or +4 (3 wardstones) each|
|Wardstone moved beyond the 243 mile maximum diameter||-1 each|
|Wardstone de-attuned||-2 each|
|Wardstone destroyed||-2 each|
For instance, a ward against “Alfar” (Very broad, base 12) with the wardstones placed in a perfect circle (+1) with the central wardstone off to one side (-2), a diameter of 500 feet (less than 585 feet, +1; less than 1000 feet, +1), and attuned to 8 people (1 person attuned to 2 wardstones, +2) would have a protection factor of 15.
If the protection factor is reduced to exactly 0, the ward is suppressed but the wardstones will remain functional if the protection factor later increases; reducing the protection factor of the wardstones below 0 destroys the ward and disenchants all the wardstones.
The following table gives the effects of the ward based on the protection factor:
The entries are cumulative with previous rows, so for instance a protection factor of 13 Penalizes direct attacks and Prohibits indirect passage, direct passage, harm, and obscurity. The wardstones themselves count as being in the warded area even though they’re partially outside it, so a protection factor of 13 or higher interferes with any attempts to move, alter, or destroy the wardstones by the threats against which it wards.
An entry of penalizes means that a threat is reduced by 1 step or takes a -5 penalty, however that may be applicable; attack rolls take a -5 penalty, spell DCs are reduced by -5, wind strength is one step weaker, freezing temperature is one temperature band higher, and so forth. An entry of partial means that a given threat has a 1 / [2*number of intact wardstones + 2] chance of succeeding, and if so is penalized as above, otherwise it is prevented. An entry of prohibited means that a given threat is entirely prevented.
All ward effects apply to creatures and effects going into or occurring within the warded area; creatures and effects leaving the area are unaffected.
Obscurity: Threats are not directly blocked, but a creature attuned to any of the wardstones and in physical contact with any of them knows when a thread attempts to circumvent the wards and in what manner.
Harm: Threats can enter the warded area, but each instance of overt harm a threat would cause, such as a creature attacking someone or a storm blowing over a house, is blocked (penalized, partially warded, or prevented, as appropriate).
Direct Passage: Threats cannot physically enter the warded area themselves, but they may be able to circumvent the ward somehow, such as by attacking through the ward with a long spear or washing debris into the warded area.
Indirect Passage: Threats cannot circumvent the ward or enter under false pretenses, such as disguising themselves, lying about their purpose for entrance, polymorphing into a non-warded form, or entering via conjunction.
Direct Attacks: Threats cannot use anything else to cause harm with one degree of separation, such as a creature attacking with a weapon or spell or a storm blowing a fallen tree into the area.
Indirect Attacks: Threats cannot use anything else to indirectly cause harm with two degrees of separation, such as sending a beckoned or ensorcelled creature into the warded area or setting up a complex trap to dislodge a boulder which would then enter the warded area.
Wyrd: Any uses of Wyrd or Fortune is blocked when used against the warded area or its inhabitants, including Wyrd magic such as laying curses, Legendary Deeds such as using I Came Prepared against inhabitants of the warded area or Divine Inspiration to ask a question about the warded area, or Fortune abilities such as generating additional negative Events relating to the warded area.
Dvergar Creations: Even a legendary creation of the dvergar smiths such as the great hammer Mjolnir or the divine boar Gullenbursti cannot enter or affect the warded area if the ward applies to them.
Lesser Gods: Even the power of a godlike being such as a Queen of the Alfar, a Norn, a daughter of Ægir, a spirit of the deep oceans, or the like cannot enter or affect the warded area if the ward applies to them.
Changing the Ward
The breadth of a ward and the threat(s) it wards against can be changed, but doing so is no simple feat. First, changing the ward requires essentially re-attuning the wardstones, so those creatures attuned to them must stay in relatively close proximity to them for a full week, during which time the ward’s protection factor is lowered by -9, as if the wardstones were partially de-attuned. Second, the alteration can only occur at a time of symbolic change, meaning on a day when one tiding changes to another. Third, the creatures attuned to the wardstones must collectively spend 3 Honor or 3 Guile Wyrd tokens to effect the alteration.
Finally, the old and new ward threats must be somewhat closely related to one another; one couldn’t simply change a ward against linnorms to a ward against floods, for instance, but would need to change the ward against linnorms to e.g. one against Muspelheim Beasts (changing the breadth of the threat), then to one against Niflheim Beasts (changing the world whose inhabitants are warded against), then to one against winter storms (changing from one hazard of Niflheim to another), then to one against floods (changing to another kind of harsh weather); multiple such alterations can be done in sequence, as long as there are no breaks between them and the first alteration is begun on a day of change.
Considering the time required to change a ward and the weakness of the ward during the process, crafting a second set of wardstones to place inside or outside of the existing set is usually faster and safer than drastically altering an existing ward.
In extreme cases, wards can be used as traps instead of protections. A set of wardstones can be crafted with an inverted ward, or changed to use one with the normal ward-changing process described above. An inverted ward functions in all ways as a normal ward except that threats are prevented from leaving the warded area instead of entering it.
Though a true ward cannot be created without multiple wardstones working together, a single wardstone on its own is not entirely useless. A wardstone that was created by itself or was formerly part of a group with other wardstones that were all destroyed, can be attuned as its own major item and used as a focus for the Craft Runestone Legendary Deed, as long as the effect created is protective in nature.
When this is done, the effects of the deed cover the maximum area for the maximum duration for the number of Wyrd tokens spent, instead of covering a small area for a long duration or a large area for a short duration:
|Tokens Spent||Area Protected||Duration|
|1||Colossal size (128 feet in largest dimension)||Until the next new moon|
|2||Colossal++ size (512 feet in the largest dimension)||Until the next solstice or equinox|
|3||Colossal++++ (2048 feet in the largest dimension)||Until the next Walpurgis Night|
The ward created in this way cannot overlap with any other ward created by another use of Craft Runestone or a group of wardstones, the Wyrd points spent on the deed are “locked” and unavailable until the duration lapses or the creator ends the effect early to recover his tokens, and if the wardstone is ever moved from its location or de-attuned the effect immediately ends.