This is a literary-style analysis of the Vinland campaign. After forty sessions of play, the game has built up a complex storyline and set of characters. While there are extensive session-by-session summaries, these details likely mean little to those outside the game. I would like to review the campaign as a whole, and perhaps give some insight of the methods and approaches we have used.
One of the central features of the campaign is the importance of family life. As I emphasized from the start, the PCs are not adventurers. They are participating members of their family, homestead, and community. This has been even more true than I had originally envisioned. For example, all five of the current PCs have arranged marriages during the campaign. A central organizing feature of this is the family trees. There are eight family trees which provide a guide of who's who. I have arranged these onto a single sheet for easy reference during play.
An important part of Vinland play was how it communicated another time and culture, and how attitudes changed as a result of that. This was a communal effort among all the players, although as GM I was usually the final authority. I would commonly defer to Liz or more rarely to Jim on historical matters about Iceland and Scandanavia -- but I could in principle trump this by saying that things are different in Vinland. If a point is controversial for some reason, I would usually open it up to group decision. There is never a formal vote, but people will all have their say.
An example of this was in session 36, when Jim played a Wyrd Card named "Ominous Omen". He suggested that it be an eclipse, which would be pretty darn major and he openly said he wasn't sure if that was going too far. I was ambivalent about accepting that, partly just because of its momentous nature and also because of the cultural question of how well they predicted eclipses. I turned the question over to the group, though. We talked about it, and Heather said "I just went to the land of the dead! I think we can handle an eclipse". Everyone agreed with that. I thought it was a little unfair, since her travelling to the land of the dead to outward appearances just meant that she went into a trance and came out a while later to report on what her dead grandmother said. An eclipse is actually much more overt and major.
Another vital part of the culture play is the relationships. All of the original PCs started out related in some way, and they married over the course of the campaign. There is a big web of relationships which connects everyone. This is something which has developed over the course of the game. I think it really gains momentum: one solid relationship suggests another, which when played out suggests another, etc. Originally the campaign was more of an action/adventure genre, but by the midpoint it was much closer to soap opera.
A particular point which I have blatantly tried to hammer home is the idea that there is no privacy. The Vinlanders all live in a big open house with all their relatives, with servants frequently around. This is important for play, because it means that most discussions with NPCs are open season for rumor to pass on, and the PCs inevitably see that rumor come back to them. Whenever they speak to an NPC, it is always public unless unusual steps are taken (which themselves will draw comment). Upon reflection, I think this is important for PCs behavior, because they take things like honor seriously since they are being judged on it, and since they judge others based on it.
NPCs are important, but they need to be established through action and relations. I have several NPCs who I think I know pretty well, but they've never taken off in play. Just chatting with an NPC gets nothing, I find. There really needs to be substantial issues to interacting with that NPC.