Two posts in as many days?  I’m on a roll!  This post will explore the one feature the really sets Nordsaga apart from its Year Zero parents: Careers.  In Forbidden Lands, characters choose a Profession, which is handled similarly to a Class in the most famous RPG of all.  Nordsaga instead will provide a large number of Careers, with the intention that players move between them during the course of a campaign.

Before I discuss Careers in more detail, I would like to state my design aims for Careers, to give a bit of an idea on the direction I am going with them.  These aims are to address some of the issues I have with Careers in the various games I’ve experienced, and are subject to change as Nordsaga is playtested.

  1. The first starting Career shall only require a small amount of experience to “finish” it.
  2. Upgrades to each Career shall be structured, providing a clear path to finishing each one.
  3. “Adventuring” Careers shall be harder to attain than “Basic” Careers, ideally needing at least two finished Basic Careers.

Character Background

At character creation, players make a couple of decisions which will give them a choice of two starting Careers.

The first decision is Background.  Players roll a single D8 to determine where their character grew up, then use the following stats to continue building the character.

D8 Aelfar Dvergar Human Jotnar Nissar
1 Wilderness Rural Rural Rural Rural
2 Wilderness Rural Rural Wilderness Rural
3 Wilderness Wilderness Rural Wilderness Rural
4 Wilderness Wilderness Rural Wilderness Rural
5 Urban Wilderness Wilderness Wilderness Wilderness
6 Urban Urban Urban Urban Wilderness
7 Nobility Urban Urban Urban Urban
8 Nobility Nobility Nobility Nobility Urban

Rural: Like the majority of the population, you were born in the countryside to a family with humble means.  Gain +1 to STRENGTH to reflect a physically active life starting at a young age.

Wilderness: You were born to a family who make their living on the outskirts of society.  Gain +1 to AGILITY to reflect your keen perception and deftness of hand that comes with starting life in the wild corners of the world.

Urban: You were born into the sprawl of a large town or city, just another body in the teeming throng.  Gain +1 to WITS to reflect a constant need to think on your feet in order to survive in a cutthroat urban environment.

Nobility: You may or may not have been born with noble blood, but you were born or raised in the household of a noble family.  Gain +1 to EMPATHY to reflect the constant need to socially maneuver among the rich and powerful.

Character Upbringing

With the Background determined, players then determine their character’s Upbringing.  A single D8 is rolled to determine the character’s Upbringing – their place (or their parents’ place) in society.

D8 Aelfar Dvergar Human Jotnar Nissar
1 Common Common Common Common Common
2 Common Common Common Common Common
3 Common Criminal Common Criminal Criminal
4 Criminal Criminal Criminal Martial Criminal
5 Martial Martial Criminal Martial Criminal
6 Martial Martial Martial Martial Criminal
7 Academic Academic Martial Martial Martial
8 Academic Academic Academic Academic Academic

Common: Regardless or whether you are a peasant, labourer or thrall, Commoners do the vast majority of manual work.  Gain +1 to STRENGTH to reflect the physical toil you are subjected to on a daily basis.

Criminal: While organised crime is generally confined to the cities, criminals can still be found wherever they have naive or vulnerable people to prey upon.  Gain +1 to EMPATHY to reflect the ability to quickly talk your way out of trouble, a trait every criminal needs to survive.

Martial: Drawn to stories of heroism and adventure as a child, you never avoided fights and sought every opportunity to hone your body into that of a warrior.  Gain +1 to AGILITY to reflect the time spent learning to fight and avoid attacks.

Academic: Academics have had the good fortune to pursue knowledge, and are often valued for their ability to advise the uneducated or those in power.  Gain +1 to WITS to reflect the intellect which sets you apart from the majority of the population.

The Starting Career

Now that a Background and Upbringing are determined for each character, two Basic Careers are made available for each combination, resulting in a total of 32 possibilities.

Background Upbringing Option 1 Option 2
Rural Common Shepherd Blacksmith
Rural Criminal Talespinner Body Snatcher
Rural Martial Milita Hunter
Rural Academic Peacemaker Neophyte
Wilderness Common Sailor Miner
Wilderness Criminal Vagabond Outlaw
Wilderness Martial Marine Ranger
Wilderness Academic Cartographer Hedgewise
Urban Common Entertainer Rat Catcher
Urban Criminal Ruffian Thief
Urban Martial Pit Fighter Mercenary
Urban Academic Apothecary Channeler
Nobility Common Servant Exiled Noble
Nobility Criminal Smuggler Dilettante
Nobility Martial Squire Bravo
Nobility Academic Physician Deputy

There is scope to add many, many more careers to this list, but each one requires no small amount of work in coming up with unique talents.  As such, this will be the starting number for the first playtest version of Nordsaga.

Adventuring Careers

In a game all about adventuring, one of the many things to aspire towards is gaining an Adventuring Career.  These are advanced careers which each have requirements to be met before they can be gained.  They will also have much deeper upgrade paths than the Basic Careers, meaning that PCs will stay in the Adventuring Careers longer.

There are two tiers of Adventuring Careers.  The second tier is effectively a follow-on path for each of the Adventuring Careers, but is not necessarily required to be followed once the first tier Career is complete.  Example: a PC who finishes the Alchemist Career may decide to pursue the Assassin Career (assuming they meet the requirements), instead of moving up to Poisoner.  After completing the Assassin Career, the PC could then pursue either Poisoner or Executioner (or something else entirely).

  • Alchemist – a dangerous chemist
    • Poisoner – a master alchemist
  • Assassin – a murderous infiltrator
    • Executioner – a master assassin
  • Berserker – an enraged fighter
    • Psycho / Maniac / Screamer (not sure which) – a master berserker
  • Burglar – a thieving specialist
    • Raider – a master burglar
  • Cleric – an influential priest / priestess
    • Gothi / Gythja – a master priest / priestess
  • Demagogue – a scheming bastard
    • Firebrand – a master demagogue
  • Explorer – a curious adventurer
    • Discoverer – a master explorer
  • Mauler – a devious fighter
    • Bruiser – a master mauler
  • Monster Hunter – a beast tracker
    • Slayer – a master monster hunter
  • Rover – a cunning ambusher
    • Marauder – a master rover
  • Sorceror / Sorceress – a powerful sorceror / sorceress
    • Seidman / Vala – a master sorceror / sorceress
  • Warrior – a versatile fighter
    • Champion – a master warrior

The plan is to only have the first tier of Adventuring Careers finished in the first playtest version of Nordsaga.

Changing Careers

This is something I am currently working on, but I am inclined to take a similar approach to WFRP 3rd edition.

Each Career will have a number of keywords (let’s say 4 for the sake of argument), and the cost of changing careers would be 4 AP (Advance Points) minus the number of keywords which align between your current and future Career (to a minimum of 1 AP).

There would still be additional requirements for each Career that would need to be met (gear, stats, etc).

For example, the Basic Career “Rat Catcher” might have the keywords “Urban”, “Common”, “Husbandry” and “Basic”.  The Rat Catcher PC decides that she wants to move into the “Burglar” Advanced Career, which has the keywords “Urban”, “Criminal”, “Stealth”, “Advanced”.  The PC meets all other requirements for the Burglar, and so the cost to make the change would be 4 – 1 = 3 AP, since the only shared keyword is “Urban”.  If 3 or 4 of the keywords had matched, the PC would only need to spend 1 AP to advance.

The idea here is that Careers which have shared traits should be easier / cheaper to change between.  However it is still possible to change to any other career, just at a higher cost.  This is something that WFRP 3 does quite well, in my opinion.

*Also, note that “Advance Points” and the values are not finalised, and are only used here to help illustrate this example.


I’ve tried to go with Careers that could work for any race, while also fitting in with the setting conceit – a Norse/Viking empire ruling over Europe for centuries, eventually becoming influenced by the customs of the occupied lands.  In other words, “Viking-Flavoured Middle Ages”.

Anyway, I’d really love to hear some feedback on these Careers.

2 Replies to “NORDSAGA – CAREERS”

  1. So after looking this over. I wonder why you don’t build this using Zweihander as opposed to the year 0 engine. It seems way more suited to that. They are opening it up to SRD/OSR soon. The community is great. I mean I own both systems and like them both quite a bit but it just “feels” way more Zweihander than MY0.

    1. I Kickstarted and own one of the limited edition versions of Zweihänder. It’s a great WFRP clone. However, in the two groups I GM, I have players who hate percentile systems (one of them has gone as far as to refuse to play them).

      So this whole project started out as a way to emulate a WFRP experience, but using a different dice mechanic, and ideally simplifying things while I’m at it. For all its strengths, Zweihänder is still quite a crunchy system.

      It also helps that I’m a huge “Year Zero” fan and believe it can do this without problems.

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