In a long-forgotten age, a raging war shattered and devastated the worlds of gods and men. Now green life blooms amidst the ruins of the lost worlds. Wondrous and terrible beings roam the Nine Realms. Civilisation stumbles forward, fresh and reaching.
Fate carves the skein anew but there are loose threads, lost long ago in the wars, with no place in the tapestry. These threads must seek the fire within and weave their own path.
Strap on your bearded axe and linden wood shield, delve into the forsaken barrow and cleanse the draugr within. They will overhwhelm you at first so prepare to die. But when you wake up at the bonfire, you'll know what to expect for your next attempt. Parry their attacks, disarm them, and hack them to pieces. Defeat the mad jotunn within and claim the soul remnant they protect.
Death is not the end.
What is Runecairn: Wardensaga?
Runecairn is a Soulslike Norse fantasy RPG by Colin Le Sueur for 1-3 players. Character creation is quick and intuitive, dynamic combat is intense and reactive. Wardensaga combines the Runecairn: Core Rules, introductory dungeon crawl adventure Beneath the Broken Sword, and newly introduced Advanced Rules in an 84-page deluxe hardcover edition with a cover from ground-breaking artist CROM. Runecairn: Wardensaga is published by Exalted Funeral and is available in hardcover and softcover.
Set in a Norse fantasy world some time after Ragnarok
Core gameplay designed for 2 players, one Warden and one Adventurer
Streamlined d20 roll-under rules based on Cairn, Into the Odd, and Knave
Soulslike mechanics such as resurrecting at bonfires, respawning monsters, and dynamic combat
Quickstart dungeon crawl adventure Beneath the Broken Sword, perfect for new players
Runecairn started as the kernel of an idea: could I turn Dark Souls into a TTRPG? After early tests with different systems and approaches, I had a rickety skeleton. I just needed some Norse magic to bring it to life!
Combining Norse fantasy and Dark Souls was the key combination I'd been searching for. Cairn is an efficient and streamlined system built for hacking and it sings with additional mechanics like weapon abilities and item as class. As the game developed, I realised it worked best when played with just two players, to allow the Adventurer to get closer to a Soulslike experience.
The response to Runecairn has been amazing and I'm so proud of how far this little game has come in the last year.
What People Are Saying
Chris McDowall (@Bastionland), designer and creator of Into the Odd and Electric Bastionland:
I absolutely love Runecairn! As soon as I read it I wanted to steal its ideas. It changed the way I think about the type of games that the Into the Odd system can run.
Rich August (@RpgAugust), designer and writer at Steamforged Games (Dark Souls: The Roleplaying Game):
Thank you for such an awesome game - I loved reading Runecairn and it’s on my list of 2022 games to get to the table. And the layout is lovely too.
If you're looking for a moderately crunchy duo TRPG, or if you're a fan of Souls games, or if you want to see a stellar adaptation of video game mechanics to tabletop, I would strongly recommend giving Beneath the Broken Sword (and Runecairn) a shot.
Hello! The flooded passage is only a minor inconvenience unless you’re chasing someone or being chased. Some obstacles are meant to slow you down rather than stop you, or introduce random elements to keep things interesting.
Yup, just roll once per encounter.
I’ve got more adventures planned for Runecairn, along with a series of 1-page dungeons. Keep an eye out for these later this year or early next.
If killed during the first encounter with the Stone Demon, the adventurer respawns at the start, correct. They’ll have to manoeuvre around the demon and escape through the tunnel into the Quiet Respite when they return. The demon doesn’t destroy the tunnel until they escape.
Hi Colin! I know this is a pretty little and condensed game. However, I'm curious about "Beyond Two Players" part. I read it on the summary, then I went to pag. 48. That page seemed a sort of introductory page, to me; I was hoping for a bigger, extended explanation in the following pages.
Indeed, then the book starts to describing the Advanced Classes (pag.50), but the it describes Solo Play (pag.52). I was baffled about the "missing" Beyond Two Players chapter/paragraph.
Is that part actually missing? Should we have a page with suggestions, balancing hints, additional rules etc.?
Thanks for the reply and the update. However I think there's another error and it's for Backstab. Under the Scout it states a failed DEX save results in an attack from the target with damage advantage. Under the equipment skills it says the retaliatory attack is double damage. I'm assuming the backstab entry under the Scout is correct. But wanted to check with you. Thanks again for an amazing game. Cheers.
When delve generating, the instructions say to roll a d12 on the Encounters table, but the tables say d6 on the rows and have 5 column options. How am I supposed to read the d12, and how do I pick a column?
I'm having a blast with this game. It is quickly becoming a favourite of mine and I can't wait to see where the adventures lead beyond the Cave of Echoes for the two co-op groups I've started. Elegant design and truly easy to get into. I did have a question about the Parry skill, though. The Warrior's text states that Parry (reaction, key item) is essentially deflection and riposte for damage advantage on a success; on the other hand, the Equipment skills section text states the same but double damage instead of dmg adv. Is this on purpose, and if so, is the Warrior's Parry skill supposed to be slightly superior or less risky with damage advantage, especially on a failed save? Thank you so much for such a cool game. Cheers all the way from Venezuela.
I'm glad to be of help, my friend. I ran Beneath the Broken Sword again last night while making a couple of adjustments for 3 PCs, just as a test run. I increased the number of monsters and dialed up or down their difficulty and the rewards/charges in relics, etc. because the idea was that each PC would go on their own solo journey after being carried away by the great ravens. This will enable the whole co-op mode with the effigy stone later. I also honed in on the atmosphere and description, evoking some Beowulf-inspired kennings on the way. So, alas, my question is: do you have some additional advice for 2+ PCs? And finally, on a Norse-related note, do you have a favourite Norse myth or saga? Thank you in advance. Cheers, and all the best!
The main complication I ran into with more than one player is around bonfires: what happens if one adventurer dies when fighting an enemy? Does the surviving adventurer keep fighting? Does the dead one respawn and re-join the fight or wait until the fight’s over? One solution is to use the Elden Ring approach, where you sacrifice something to revive your comrade (1 point of Vigour).
As for Norse myth, I love the story of Iðunn and the eagle. I was happy when I realised there was a figure in Norse myth that would help explain the Estus Flask/mead connection for Runecairn.
Hello. I have a question with the inventory. According to the rules I have 10 inventory slots but apart from that my seer character has 7 "free slots". Does that mean that in total I have 17 inventory slots?
"Dual and 2-handed weapons. If attacking with two weapons at the same time or one weapon held in both hands, gain damage advantage. "
Do what mean that bulky weapons like Breaking maul("Heavy two-handed maul with dense iron head fixed to reinforced oak shaft" so mention two-handed) and Hewing spear("Long oak shaft with curved iron blade" not anything about two-handed) can be used one-handed and you use it two-handed if you want the "gain damage advantage" from "Dual and 2-handed weapons" part of the rules? Why I feel I need to ask is that I want to assume that bulky weapons need to be used with 2 hands but if the gives damage advantage automatically and you no choice to but to 2 hand it to use it then "Smash: Bludgeon your opponent with damage advantage; target needs to make Str save or be knocked down (Fatigue)" only the weapon Breaking maul gets then the damage advantage from both 2 hands and from smash seems weird that you always get it 2 time, that to my understanding do nothing extra to having it only 1 time.
"Dual and 2-handed weapons. If attacking with two weapons at the same time or one weapon held in both hands, gain damage advantage. ".
As we are talking about this I can ask about it can I use two Axe, bearded one in each hand to gain damage advantage or is it only meant for Hand axe and Hunting knives.
"Parry (reaction): Deflect an incoming attack and riposte (Str) • Success: Avoid all physical damage and retaliate for double damage • Failure: Retaliatory attack from the target at double damage"
How is this meant to work? Like if you success then you "Avoid all physical damage" and I understand that part, but "retaliate for double damage" part I am not sure how to use. My 2 way to read it is to 1. Get a free attack as part of the parry what will do double damage, or 2. That if you attack with your action on your next turn it will do double damage. So what why is it meant to be or maybe I am completely wrong, then plz tell me how it works.
Then same similar for failure. Is it the attack that is being parry that do double damage or will the attack that is being parry do the damage normally can then "Retaliatory attack from the target at double damage" mean that it gets an other free attack and that will do double damage? So how is all this meant to work when a failure happens when parry.
"Multiple attackers. If multiple attackers target the same foe, roll all damage dice and keep the single highest result (damage advantage)."
This one I have what I think it will do but I am not sure so here I hope you can conform or correct me. I think it works that say 3 monster attack your character then all attack as normally to check how much damage they do, but you only apply the highest. Example: monster A hits for 4 dmg, monster B hits for 3 dmg and monster C hits for 5 dmg, then you are only hit for 5 dmg and that is what you can use your reaction to avoid damage or how you want to defend your self or not. Or have I misunderstand it and it works some other way?
"Roll: Make a Dex save to roll away from an enemy’s attack, avoiding all physical damage (causes Fatigue) • Withdraw: Make a Dex save to disengage from combat and retreat, avoiding all damage; failing the save means you escape but still take damage from the attack"
Can you explain Withdraw here what you mean as it do not seems to causes Fatigue can that seems to make it better then roll in all kind of ways. Like withdraw will "avoiding all damage"(that will also be magic damage I think) instead of roll that says "avoiding all physical damage". So how do you intend withdraw to function so that it will not be a better roll what also don't causes Fatigue.
"While resting, spend 1 soul to permanently increase one of the following attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Wits, Spirit, or Vitality. "
Are there any limits, or can you go as high as you want. Like sure more then 19 won't help you get better rolls, but as you can lose strength that even higher is useful.
And "Parry (reaction)" as far as a can tell have no Fatigue cost making it super strong with high Strength value, making it posable to be near godlike when able to Parry to "Avoid all physical damage".
You can wield non-bulky weapons in two hands but you won’t get damage advantage; this is meant to account for the higher damage output for bigger weapons.
You can use two non-dual weapons, one in each hand, and gain damage advantage but the other weapon takes up an additional slot.
When attempting to parry, if you fail the roll, your target hits you for double damage, since you’ve left yourself open to additional damage.
This is correct. 3 attackers targeting one target all roll their damage dice. The highest result between the three dice is the damage done. However, adventurers need to decide their reaction before the damage dice are rolled, not after.
Withdraw means you abandon all actions and run away from the combat. Monsters may or may not pursue or continue to attack from range. You’d generally do this as a last resort to avoid death as it opens you up to attacks.
Souls and soul remnants are meant to be rare, but in a long enough campaign there are theoretically no limits to how high your stats can go. However, there’s always a 5% chance of failure if you roll a 20, as this is an automatic failure. Parries also don’t block magical damage, so enemies with magical attacks or weapons will still damage you.
thx will help me understand thing better, 4 and 5 helped most. May mod small thing here and there after i played a bit. For i beleve in moding/houseruling, but only then you have after you played and understand rules as writen somethat well atleast to help make better houserules if needed to get what you want out of the systems.
I played the Under the Broken Sword adventure; loved it. Then I ran a Delve, it was a cave, and barely made it out! Lots of fun. However, in my stumbling around in getting the flow of the turns and solo game, I totally forgot about bonfires! Where do I put those in the Delve Generation? I didn't see any notes, so I just figure they occur at the beginning of the Delve and maybe the room just before the final challenge? Your recommendations?
And regarding souls. Since these are this game's XP, do I award one for each adventure or each enemy bested? The Broken Sword notes when a character can earn one but in the solo game/delve generator/bestiary it doesn't mention if there is a potential for a soul. The only indication is that they could be found in secreted areas or awarded for defeating/subduing a demon, dragons or jotunn. I figure I could roll the oracle for this but I'd like your intention. Again, in my solo Delve, I just awarded Alvor one soul for completing the delve. It seemed that if I had given him a soul for each monster beaten, he'd be well on his way to demi-godhood.
I also have a question about monsters. Any tools or tips on making up out own or converting some from other sources?
For bonfires, I usually put one at the start of the delve and then, depending on the size of the delve, one or two more throughout. A good rule of thumb is to roll a die of fate when you want a bonfire; 1-3 means you find one in the next area, 4-6 means you don’t.
Souls are rewarded by defeating great challenges; for solo play, I’d reward one for completion of the delve.
I’m working on a new Runecairn Bestiary as we speak, which includes 100 new monsters and rules on how to create your own and convert from other games. In the meantime, the Cairn SRD has great tips on how to convert monsters; you can adapt this for Runecairn as the principles are the same:
So the abilities actually come from the items you carry. The starting classes just determine what items you start with and what you did in a previous life. As long as you have the item (you can only have one key item at a time), you can use the abilities.
As well, there aren’t levels as such in the game. Advancement takes the form of levelling up an ability or vitality with Souls.
what is the in-game rationale for only having one key item at a time? Is it just a “magic” type reason? I can guess at the game-mechanics basis for the rule, but am at a loss for how I might explain it to my players (some of whom can be a bit picky about such things). Cheers, 98mph.
The in-world explanation can vary from table to table, but one suggestion might be that key items are tied to the skein of fate; adventurers in Runecairn are free to carve their own fate and this is channelled through the key item, which ties them into a new strand of fate.
That’s Vitality’s main function, really, a representation of how hale and hearty you are. Resilience is a combination of Vitality and Vigour. You can improve Vitality with Souls but Vigour remains static and decreases when you die. Hope this helps clarify! Thanks!
Thank you so much for making this fantastic game. I have great fun trying out this game. Look forward to seeing more products in this line.
I have a question about the Resolution step in Delve mode. What do "clue" and "setback" exactly mean? I don't seem to find anything related to these in the encounter tables. For example, do the encounters listed under "Mystery/Mundane/Obstacle" imply any clue or setback? Or do they require saves or just add to the narrative (for journaling)?
Clues are things that help you on your delve, guiding you to your objective, and give a bonus to rolls on the Resolution table.
Setbacks are the opposite, things that get in the way of your objective, and they give a penalty to rolls on the Resolution table.
What shape the clues and setbacks take is up to you as they’re only mechanical abstracts. Depending on what your objective is (say, Explore snowy ruins recently uncovered during a violent storm), a clue might be a hidden path to the next area and a setback might be an influx of new snow that impedes exploration.
You decide what shape the clue or setback takes and how that affects your progress. Hope this helps!
That's all clear and now I can see how the oracle and the encounters work perfectly together! I asked this because the rules seem not very explicit about how to generate clues and setbacks. My first (awkward) reading was I got them only from the Resolution table and not also from the encounters.
Also about bonfire: Does my PC get to rest at a bonfire (automatically?) between adventures?
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Hey, nice game! This is one of the best OSR, In the Odd inspired RPGs I've ever seen! The combats are so simple and fun at the same time! I just got one rule question: When you use a soul to level up, what exactly do you level up and how much does it level up? One point on a stat you wish? Or you level everything at the same time? Shouldn't Resilience get higher too?
I have a question about the solo delve rules. Once you get your dungeon size to 1, you roll for resolution, note the adjustment depending on if you got a clue or a setback. If I understand correctly, from then on you do a resolution check after each new room. So if I get to +4 Setback, it becomes impossible to roll a clue or the objective? Is this intended?
Hiya! I've got a few things after going through a bit of the book (reached the combat example section by time of posting). This is coming from someone who's used to reading TTRPG rules like contracts and "omission =/= permission" interpretations so I'm sorry if some of these are dumb!
Say you've got 5 Resilience and take 6 damage. Does an Omen trigger, or no?
Is the amount of actions an average PC gets per round 1 reaction per enemy, a 40 ft. move, *and* an action (i.e. attack)? Have I missed anything? Wording confused me a bit
The font used for the fields of the form filable character sheet (i.e. your character's name, their stats, etc.) is too small! Can I get some help with that? I use Firefox if that happens to matter
Who acts first in a round, the enemy, or the player? How do you determine turn order when playing with more than one Adventurer? I'm guessing that you simply choose which enemy goes first as the GM but can I get confirmation on that?
As a blanket golden rule, do you round up, or round down?
How do you use skills - do they use your action for the round or no? How do you get weapon skills? Do you always have them?
For confirmation, the Charge and Rage skills need the Beaststone/the Berserkr's key item yes?
Nope, Omens are only triggered if you’re reduced to exactly 0, which should be pretty rare.
That’s right. Reaction, move, action. Or reaction, move, move.
I’ll look into this. A few people have mentioned it but I couldn’t replicate the issue but I’ll dig into Firefox. Thanks!
Adventurers automatically go first unless surprised. All adventurers act simultaneously. If surprised, they need to make a DEX save to act before their opponent. Yeah, the Warden determines which enemy goes first.
Depends on the situation but normally round down (can’t think of too many situations where you’d need to round up or down, honestly).
Using a skill is your action for the round. You get weapon skills by having the weapon. If you no longer have the weapon, you can’t use the skill.
Yup, as above, skills are tied to the items/weapons.
Hiya, thanks for the help! I put these in my notes and tried some solo play, and I've got a few more questions if you don't mind!
Are reactions 1/round, i.e., if you use Parry against 1 enemy's attack can you use it on another in the same round? I Parried all 3 attacks in one round and it felt good but if you can actually do that I'm a little worried about the other classes since they don't seem to have something similar.
Is there a distinction between "soul remnants" and "souls" or are they synonymous?
What does this mean? (p. 25, spending souls)
"Certain spells or relics can also coalesce soul remnants from imbued souls."
I share a common sentiment in that I'd defo appreciate some more enemies to fight. Do you have any guidelines or pointers for homebrewing a new enemy?
I'm not sure if the book has a way to decide what loot you can find (besides the runes) but say you use a rollable table, how would you weigh Rare items on it?
HP -> Resilience Armor -> Defence WIL -> Split between Wits and Spirit, adjusting Wits according to how -cunning/crafty they are and Spirit according to how self-possessed/confident/controlled they are
Critical damage -> Dire Strike (with judgment)
Speed: start with a base of 40 and adjust according to how fast/slow they are
Yochai Gal has some good advice for converting monsters to Cairn from other systems, the principles apply to Runecairn as well, though not in the exact manner.
5. I’d say rare items should have a 5-10% chance if rolling on a random table.
I love this game, and I've played it solo once using the provided adventure. But one thing I'm stuck on is where to place bonfires when using the delve generation mechanics. Do you have a rule of thumb you use (outside the dungeon, then at the midpoint) or is there something obvious I'm missing?
First off, this looks extremely rad and I'm excited to check it out. Secondly, I love the tag icons you have at the top of the page (Solo, Lethal, etc.)—is there a master reference of those available somewhere, or were they created bespoke for this project?
Hey, thanks for making this game. Just looking through it and there are zeros/noughts on the character sheet (back of book and the separate form-fillable PDF) which can't be removed. These are in Resilience, Def, and Inventory. Please let me know if there's any possibility of an updated character sheet PDF. Thanks!