So Vikings; cool guys, axes, beards, boats. I love Vikings. They are dudes you don’t want to screw with, right?
So I’ve pontificated a bit on the importance of the heroes in your game being, well, heroic. Traditional heroism, and especially the D&D idea of the hero, is strongly based in medieval chivalry. Those are Christian Chivalric codes, with ideals built in such as “protect the weak” and “respect your betters”.
The problem is, as a pagan people, they have an entirely foreign mindset from what we see represented in the game and it’s historical basis.
The entire Viking Ethos, roughly translated from elder futhark into english, is two phrases.
“Fuck Bitches, Get Money” and “Don’t Start no Shit, Won’t be no Shit”
This leaves us in a bit of a pickle. After all, who among the fantasy archetypes regularly indulges in raiding, taking people crap, and enslaving everybody that survives?
So if orcs are evil, then viking raiders must also be evil, by the metric of behavior. The only real difference in this example is the raider is human and the orc gets to be a green skinned, easily villified “other kind”.
But Vikings are cool, and eventually someone is going to want to play one.
You really have two options. One, is to keep the honorable brute archetype and ditch the raiding. This will suffice if the players is just looking to play a really big fighter type with an axe, and isn’t looking to embody the actual historical precedent.
But what if you want to run an entire Viking game, where the players are all norse (or norse-ish) and fully embrace the history of it?
Are you just running a villains game at that point?
My suggestion actually sort of comes out of left field. You are going to have to ditch the Judeo-Christian medieval prototype entirely, and pull on your Oriental Adventures book.
Oriental Adventures, at least the 3.X version, has a decently robust honor system, because bushido, and tacks it into the normal alignment system.
Ditch the classic alignment system entirely. You are not going to fit on either the good-evil axis OR the chaotic-lawful axis.
See, behaving with a modicum of honor among your peers would be considered lawful behavior. Kicking the crap out of random peasants and burning everything around you would be considered chaotic. The entire axis is borked when it comes to Vikings.
It would take a bit of homebrew, but remember the First Rule of DMing, “If it doesn’t already exist make it up.”
But most importantly, have fun!