Burning Middarmark

I’m starting a Burning Wheel campaign for the first time in a few years. I wanted to use the Middarmark setting, because it’s great. I’m trying to avoid doing a full set of lifepath settings, while still evoking the setting & time period.

This is a continuation of this reddit thread. There’s some helpful comments there from Thor and others. (I’m really glad these forums are back!)

Cultural Traits
These are a buffed version of cultural traits from BW, trying to reflect the effects of the nature rules in TB a little. In a more complete hack, there could be different Born lifepaths (and a setting) for the Skyrnyr.


  • Boasting - call-on for Oratory when declaring a boast per the Middarmark rules
  • Demanding - character trait
  • Born to Sail/Ride - character trait


  • Feuding - call-on for any skill or stat when pursuing a blood feud belief
  • Lawful - character trait
  • Born to Fish/Farm - character trait


  • Storytelling - call-on for poetry or a poetry-forked social roll if you reference specific deeds of heroes
  • Stargazer - character trait
  • Born to Herd - character trait

New Lifepaths
For now, I’m only looking at lifepaths that my players have expressed interest in. I’m still thinking about how to represent religious lifepaths; I’ll probably add something that’s a mix of Priest and Court Summoner to the non-noble-court settings.

Skald (in Noble Court, based on Chronicler on page 182 of BWG)
10 years, 15 res, +1M, leads to City, Outcast, Village, Servitude
Skills: 6 pts: Patron-wise, Poetry, History, Ettiquette, Oratory
Traits: 2 pts: Prone to Exaggeration, Flatterer, Denouncer, Welcome in Every Hall
Requires: Composer, Custodian, or Young Lady

Welcome in Every Hall (Die trait)
Like the level perk of the same name; +1D to Oratory for Rites of Hospitality

Sorcerer of Svarttårn (in Outcast)
The same as Speaker of Names on page 402 of the Codex, but it has Sworn to Gorm added to the front of the trait list.

Sworn To Gorm (Die trait)
The character has spoken oaths ancient and terrible, and their fate is bound to that of Gorm the Boneless.
Grants a 1D affiliation with the sorcerers of Svarttårn, and a 1D infamous reputation with Graelings as an unlucky sorcerer.
In addition, the character gains a variation of the Corrupted Life rules on page 261 of the Codex.
Failed circles tests bring forth either servants of Gorm with tasks to complete, or enemies of Gorm seeking revenge.
Failed resources tests result in a strange or cursed item that Gorm would surely desire; failure to deliver it unto him would have terrible consequences.


Hi Dan!

A few thoughts:

  1. Rather than Lawful, I think Graelings would have the Litigious trait.
  2. For skalds, I think something based on the Chronicler would be a Court Skald. I’d make the requirement Composer, Minstrel or Young Lady. The Middarmark doesn’t really have a Religious Subsetting (though maybe for characters from Svanland?) so I don’t think Custodian is appropriate. I like Patron-wise. The Court Skald doesn’t need Poetry, as it’s available from previous lifepaths. Perhaps Kennings-wise?

Note that most adventurering skalds would probably be Itinerant Performers (from the Outcast setting).


Litigious sounds a lot more fun than lawful. And kennings-wise sounds like a great way to encourage thematic description.

Our campaign is going to be sworn members of the Jernkloster and of the Queen’s retinue traveling to the Gott border in Vargstrond. Hence the Court Skald and religious stuff. I was thinking of a Jernkloster setting as a version of Religious with most of the lifepaths dropped. A Custodian -> Court Skald could be skald to Grandmaster Ring. I hadn’t thought of making Svanlanders playable! I’m guessing they’re Irish or Frankish like, with low tech versions of the standard BWG lifepaths?

I had looked at Itinerant Performer, but it seemed off; more like someone doing morality plays. Here’s some modified versions:

Wandering Skald (in Outcast, based on Itinerant Performer, pg 195 of BWG)
4 years, 5 res, leads to Peasant, Village, City, Soldier, Court
Skills: 8 points: Cooking, Poetry, Sing, Musical Instrument, Mending, Haggling, Disguise
Traits: 2 points: Wayfaring Stranger, Welcome in Every Hall

Court Skald (in Noble Court, based on Chronicler on page 182 of BWG)
10 years, 15 res, +1M, leads to City, Outcast, Village, Servitude
Skills: 6 pts: Patron-wise, Kennings-wise, History, Ettiquette, Oratory
Traits: 2 pts: as Chronicler
Requires: Composer, Custodian, Young Lady, or Wandering Skald

I think of Jernkloster as something akin to the Jomsvikings. It’s not exactly right, but something along the lines of the Military Order lifepath is probably the closest thing you’d find in the Religious subsetting.

Yes, Svanlanders would be somewhat reminiscent of Salian Franks.

Your Wandering Skald looks great.

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I’ve been thinking about rules for blood feuds.

Declaring a Blood Feud

To declare a blood feud, a Graeling head of household must conduct a ritual with an audience of their family members. This is represented with an Oratory test. The test obstacle is based on the sizes of both the head’s clan and the target clan, with the following factors:

one steading, a few steadings, a wealthy clan with many steadings, a jarl or petty king/queen, The Queen of All Middarmark

So declaring a feud between two steadings is Ob 2 Oratory test. But declaring a feud between your one-steading clan and a wealthy many-steading clan is Ob 4.

The head of household states aloud the first part of a belief which every participating family member must take. Participants may write their own goal on the end of this statement. If the particpating character has the Feuding trait, it provides a 4th belief slot for this purpose. If your 4th slot is taken, or you don’t have the Feuding trait, then you have to give up an existing belief in order to participate in the ritual. In this case, you can hold onto your existing beliefs only by refusing to participate. Participation in the ritual is agreeing to let the family head write part of your belief. A character may be convinced to participate via Duel of Wits, but cannot be coerced. However, the head can’t necessarily control where this is all going to go.


My friend Paul is playing Iskko, my character’s head of household. He succeeds on his Oratory test, and Iskko says aloud during the ritual: “The Ageirings must pay for our dead at Bikkasgard.” Paul says that’s the ethical statement for the participants’ new beliefs. My character, Elsa Iskkosdótter, is a Graeling who kept the Feuding trait. I describe her cheering and backing up Iskko to the others. Surely, we have suffered by their hands long enough! I write in her fourth belief slot: “The Ageirings must pay for our dead at Bikkasgard. I will kill their allies at Ammon’s steading, and take the cattle there.” Iskko (and Paul!) had been hoping to draw Ammon to our side. As a player, I read my new belief aloud; Paul blinks and shakes his head.

Failure Consequences

Here are some possible failure results for the head of household conducting the ritual:

  • Your conduct of the ritual fails spectacularly; a family member challenges you on the spot for your leadership position. No one gets the call-on benefits of the Feuding trait.
  • You stumble or stammer during the ritual. An existing enemy of yours in the family takes over conducting the ritual. It is successful, and the participants get the benefit of the Feuding trait. But your enemy writes the first part of the new belief, and they gain the benefit of the Enmity Clause against you.
  • The ritual is successful, and the participants get the benefits of the Feuding trait. But your ættir considers this feud selfish and petty; she will work to end it peaceably, and plot your downfall within the family.
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Here’s what I’m thinking for some more ‘Jomsvikingy’ Jernkloster lifepaths.

Jernkloster Sub-setting
This setting represents only the sworn brothers and sisters of the Jernkloster, not the village next to the fortress.

Sworn Warrior of Jernkloster
3 years, 7 res, +1 M&P, leads to Any
Skills: 5 pts: Jotnar-wise, Riding, Wrestling, Armor Training, Axe
Traits: 2 pts: Sworn to Jernkloster, Disciplined
requires Squire, Knight, Man-at-Arms, or any Professional Soldier lifepath

Seiðkona/Seiðmann of Jernkloster
7 years, 20 res, +1 M, leads to Any
Skills: 6 pts: Ritual, Dead-Hero-wise, Riding, Shield Training, Axe
Traits: 2 pts: Sworn to Jernkloster, Stoic
requires a lifepath with the Summoning skill

Hired-out Warrior of Jernkloster
3 years, 10 res, +1 M/P, leads to Any
Skills: 4 pts: Ugly Truth, Gott-wise, Haggling
Traits: 1 pt: Conflicted, Deserter, Thousand-Yard Stare
requires a previous Jernkloster lifepath

Jernkloster Officer
5 years, 15 res, +1 M&P, leads to Any
Skills: 5 pts: Holmgang-wise, Command, Feud-wise, Field Dressing, Tactics
Traits: 1 pt: Tired, Young Lord Cultist
requires a previous Jernkloster lifepath


Sworn to Jernkloster (Die trait)
The character is a sworn brother or sister of the Jernkloster. The initiation includes facing a member in ritual combat, and swearing oaths of loyalty. Members are forbidden to speak ill of their bretheren to outsiders, and feuds between members must be mediated by the order.
Brothers and sisters in good standing may conduct rituals while treating the warriors of the Jernkloster as their family, and the dead beneath the Jernkloster as their ancestors. This includes voluntary possession via regalia and relics, and may allow a character to conduct Rites of Hospitality if they otherwise could not.
Sworn brothers and sisters may not leave the order without the express permission of the Grandmaster. If the character takes a lifepath after this one that is outside the Jernkloster setting, they begin the game with the Deserter trait.

Deserter (Die trait)
The character has broken their vows and deserted the order. In addition to losing the benefits of Sworn to Jernkloster, this grants a 1D infamous reputation with members of the Jernkloster, and a +2 ob disadvantage to summoning the sanctified dead of the Jernkloster.

Young Lord Cultist (Die trait)
The character is sworn into the the cult of Sigrun, Sigtyr, or Bjorngrim. This grants a 1D affiliation with the cult in question.


Wrestling - As Boxing/Martial arts.

Holmgang-wise - Intended for the Jernkloster initiation, and potentially resolving disputes between members (maybe while avoiding an actual duel).

I feel like there should be belief-granting trait in there somewhere, but I’m not sure if it should be on Sworn to Jernkloster, Young Lord Cultist, or something of it’s own. I’m also not sure if the Seiðkona lifepath above really fits the setting or not.

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