Thousand Year Old Vampire: Session Report
The Tale of Iri Thorgrimsson
By MARK WILSON
Thousand Year Old Vampire is a solo RPG intended for mature audiences. The maturity comes largely from dealing with heavy issues such as seeing the world change in strange ways, memory loss, the loss of loved ones, despair, rage and other dark emotions that can take hold of a life as it twists and turns. It is not intended to shock, but rather to inspire introspection amidst the darker realms of storytelling.
The game plays out over a series of prompts, and you jump forward and backward between them via dice rolls (d10 result minus d6 result). If you land on the same page twice, you go to a second or third prompt on the page that builds off of the first.
There are a few basic stats, mostly that track skills, NPCs and resources. But it’s very rules-lite.
RELATED: Thousand Year Old Vampire Review
Content Warning: this story contains references to murder and unjust violence. It is intended for mature audiences.
I reference a handful of historical locations, people and inventions, but I was not aiming for anything resembling historical accuracy. Much of the story takes place during the Danish invasions of the British Isles between the years of 850-900. It is a backdrop only, and not intended to be presented in any technical accuracy.
Light edits have been made to the narrative to make it flow more easily for a public audience.
I am Iri, son of Thorgrim, born a Dane in the Christian year 850. My people are warriors and hunters. Owing to a limp earned near birth when an illness took hold of me and stunted my growth, I am denied the glory of the hunt. Instead, I tend the village and take up farming, becoming skilled at it despite my impediment.
During a year of famine in my youth, I make a point of praying daily through my pendant of Thor. It provides me strength and the harvest is better than expected. Many in the village notice, and I am assumed to have some connection to the gods.
Seeing my devout nature, Skelt, the village seer, takes me under her wing and teaches me all the tales of the gods and mortals who have interacted with them. I begin weaving tales of Valhalla over dinner and soon become a regular storyteller for the clan. Halla Arondottir, a young woman who joined our village, sees strength in me and knows of my knowledge of the gods. She aligns herself to me, sensing a strong future for herself and her eventual family.
Guthlaf Eskilsson, chieftain of a neighboring clan, raids our village for supplies. With our warriors gone on a hunt, I attempt to defend the village. I am unsuccessful, but left alive, and find myself with strange powers following the raid. Soon after, I learn what this means. My father comes to me in an attempt to save me. Instead, I take his life. He locks eyes with me in horror as I drain him. In my bloodlust, I deny him entrance into Valhalla, failing to place a weapon in his hand as he breathes his last.
A Father’s Curse, A Family’s Fate
Atta (sister) discovers the truth of the murder of my father. She lashes out and tells the Elders, but relents when I appeal to her love of family. She is harder and more serious than I remember in our youth. She accepts my new form grudgingly, out of practicality.
Halla contemplates killing Atta, but I talk her out of it.
Other than Halla, I gain no friends. All fear me, and I begin to resent my new life. I take on with a ship headed for England, wishing to start anew. Seeing my family age and die will not be to my liking, and I have much I can now accomplish. Halla joins me, being similarly ostracized, and I learn to maneuver on the waves as a skilled sailor. The ocean speaks to me of new lands and fresh kills.
Our boats land in an area they call Northumbria. We are immediately attacked as invaders, and many of my kin are slaughtered. I take it upon myself to eradicate the warriors who perpetuated this. Their flesh is sweeter than that of my countrymen, and I determine not to kill a Dane unless I must. This vow lasts for a few decades, until Halla is old in age. Her senility threatens my security, and I am forced to put a stop to her wagging tongue. Her family continues to thrive, though, for which I am grateful.
In Northumbria, my father comes to me in a dream. He is barred from Valhalla and curses my name. He vows that I will not enter Valhalla without his consent, which he will never give.
I return to my homeland to avenge my father’s death and make amends for how I ended his life, I hope to take steps to grant him access to Valhalla. Instead, I find a starving village and my sister Atta, who recognizes me and curses me further still. I am beset with attackers and must fight to save myself. My bloodlust takes over and when I come back to sanity, I find my childhood village is naught but corpses, including Atta. Her hands are locked around my pendant of Thor, and I make no motion to pry it from her.
Life in England & Invasion of the Heathen Army
Returning to Northumbria, I find the land much changed by war between the Danes and English. After some years, I am brought a gift, but it is a dark one. Thor’s pendant, and the bearer is Erik, Atta’s son. I am enraged, and do not wish to be reminded of this. Pooling my resources, I drive Erik off and regain the pendant as a memento of this trial.
Determining that this is not enough, and that my enemies must be taught a lesson, in mere days, Erik’s head is attached to a spike outside my dwelling. This inflames those nearby, allies to us both, to band against me. I am forced to flee under a new name: Skard. I head south and east to East Anglia, where my people are pushing against English rule. Our losses are considerable, but it is easy for one such as me to get lost in the carnage. Feeding is easy.
I throw myself into battle, and it is sweet. I am feared by even my allies. Even the fiercest Danes learn to give the limping man a wide berth. Forgetting my past life, I throw myself into the death.
In time, though, the killing bores me. It lacks purpose. It is for this kingdom or that one, this cause or some imagined slight. Their concerns are petty and ephemeral.
I retreat to the outskirts of Nottingham and establish a citadel to call my own. I will await the resolution of this nonsense or devise my own schemes.
Attended by Ravens
A holy man, Bruun, attended by ravens calls upon me in my citadel. I sense that he walks with Odin’s blessing. The man tells me Odin wishes for my head if I will not repent and right my wrongs. I imprison the man. The ravens stay, and are never far from my sight. If I kill them, more appear.
Rowland and Emma, two missionaries, are revealed to be spies and free Bruun while under my protection. They flee, causing as much chaos and destruction as they can in their wake. The ravens leave as well…from my presence, at least, though not my mind. Valhalla seems a distant thing to me now.
The group of Bruun, Rowland and Emma entreat Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, to come after me. He does, fearing what I might mean for his burgeoning empire. He establishes a dark sect devoted to the eradication of my kind. I am made an enemy of their god. I retreat to seclusion.
The Beginnings of Madness
I abhor the solitude and take a bride, Ingirid. There is no formal wedding, but she is strong and understanding. Though it may be my imagination, I see ravens in the woods near our home.
One day I fall asleep and, just like that, 200 years pass. I know not why. If my wife leaves notes for me, they are destroyed by the time I wake.
I awaken to a new world, and one without anyone I have known. There is a small sadness to this, but also freshness.
In a nearby village, I meet Elinor, an obvious descendent of Ingirid. It seems my wife had a life after her time with me. This is as it should be.
It is here that I piece together my late wife’s final years. Elinor seems uneasy with my many questions, and I am not welcome after a brief stay in the village.
I continue to see ravens, and see a seer to ask for guidance. The seer is clearly scared of me but does as I ask. He interprets the ravens as Odin’s blessing, and I fashion the cross of Odin to wear. Clearly I have been too hard on myself, and have misremembered the dream of my father, who surely looks upon me with favor. His son has lived for centuries. How could he not be proud?
Elinor confronts me, having learned my true nature from her ancestors’ tales. She claims to know of my curse. I kill her for her hubris. The seer has confirmed it: I am a chosen of the gods, an immortal made in their likeness. What could she, a mere mortal, know of me?
I take her family as well, so that the truth shall not be obscured again. They meet a swift end.
Raiding, Learning and Planning
I take up a ship and crew, and though my now centuries-old sailing techniques seem odd to the crew, we carve out a name for ourselves in defiance of all mortals who would dare challenge us. Skard’s raiders last for generations, and are told about in whispers throughout the land.
My wounds from battle begin to remain. But neither do I tire or feel pain. The numerous scars across my face create an awesome and terrifying visage.
The return to battle, under the banner of my family, clan and people also clarifies my memory and purpose. I remember everything clearly now. It was not Atta who was incensed at me, but rather the traitorous witch Skelt who had impersonated her. Skelt slew my family, including my father and sister, and I was created as a holy avenger in the likeness of the gods to make up for that grievous act. In my naive youth, I mixed the stories together and felt guilt over my father’s death. Instead, I should feel pride that I avenge him daily.
My success leads to riches and glory. But my mannerisms do not meet with the times, and I adjust accordingly. I have no need of acceptance by mortals, but if I am to rule them or command them, I must be understood.
I learn etiquette of the times to be able to mix with nobility. New railways are being created which speed our travel. I am able to move about the land as never before. I establish a network of agents across the land, in anticipation of a plan, one that shall see me installed as ruler over this backward land of mortals.
I catch up quickly on the latest technologies. I am taught of electrical and steam power, and the newest war implementations. The time draws nigh for my conquest. I had only to wait.
A Failed Insurrection and Eternity of Oblivion
A pendant of Thor has returned to me, triggering memories of my youth and the glory I have brought to my household. It is a sign. I shall be victorious, and now is the time to act.
My agents act as one, using the latest in telegraph technology and travel methods. Throughout the land, the uprising is started.
I head to London and work my way into the capitol, to overthrow those who would subjugate even higher, divine beings such as myself. This day will be my greatest victory.
Alfred’s ghost must be smiling, for his forces, the descendants of that holy sect that hunted me those centuries earlier, are there in hiding. Not only are they ready for my attack, but they come prepared to deal with me permanently.
A bloody battle ensues, and I am struck down with holy weapons. I awaken, and find myself in a stone and metal tomb, encased in a manner in which I cannot escape. The last words I hear are that I will never be able to escape, and my resting place will be unknown to all.
And after that, darkness and silence.
I know not why I have been forsaken. In this dark place, in these final years, or decades, or centuries, or millennia (who can tell?), I feel my mind slipping into oblivion. With my last thoughts, I offer a prayer to Thor, and Odin, and all the gods. Surely this is not the plan they had for me. Surely I shall be spared.
If the prayers are heard, I receive no indication. The eternal silence, and the creeping madness that accompanies it, are my only, and final companions.
This story wasn’t as singularly poignant as my previous session report (link here), but was interesting nonetheless.
I found myself intimidated by the historical elements, but the good news is that the game’s prompts generally focus on your character. History is just the backdrop; you only need to provide historical details if you wish. Otherwise, generalities will suffice. I had some passing familiarity with this time period due to some media I’ve consumed in recent years, but it ended up not mattering a whole lot. King Alfred’s brief appearance in the tale was fun, but otherwise everything outside geographic locations was invented for the story.
I would have liked to delve into the cultural elements a bit more. That’s what I was trying to do with the ravens, for example. It didn’t manifest as wholly as I might have liked, but I also wasn’t dissatisfied with the story.
Theme and Lessons
It’s hard to know what the dominant theme will be when you begin. Here, it was self-deception. Iri sublimates his shame and curse, and convinces himself of the opposite, that he is in the gods’ favor and even created in their likeness.
Crafting a narrative that is appealing to ourselves is a temptation we all face. Being honest with oneself, even if it means being brutally honest about one’s shortcomings, is necessary to avoid such delusion.