Alison Cybe is the lead developer and author of the Shield Maidens GM Book and Players Guide, published by Mongoose Publishing.
During the creation of this game, Alison created history and geography for 9 worlds, invented the game’s core ruleset including combat and powers, detailed character creation, made gear/items for your characters, and authored the game’s how-to-play, expanded rules, safety mechanics, and the game’s many antagonist/adversaries.
During production, Alison also created Factions for the Shield Maidens; sub-culture groups in which the Shield Maidens band together to pursue their own respective interests and explore their shared goals. The various Factions round out the diverse range of the Shield Maidens, but did not make it into the game’s final print version.
You can place your Shield Maiden PC into a Faction at any point; during character creation or in downtime. Each Faction grants the Shield Maiden a unique bonus, as listed below. In addition, as culture changes and new needs rise, so to do new Factions. Players and GMs are encouraged to create their own Factions.
Each Shield Maiden is unique and individual, but they may share many things in common with their fellow sisters. Some may have distinct interests or outlooks on life, or may come from similar backgrounds. As much as each Shield Maiden prizes their individuality, they also understand and respect the need to share common interests with their fellows. As a result, certain in-groups started to form early among the Shield Maiden’s history. Over time, these groups evolved into factions.
Membership in a faction is not mandatory. Shield Maidens possess a very liberal and utilitarian viewpoint towards the factions in their mists; they are seen as a good way for like minds to think alike, presenting a boon to the overall mission as a whole. However some view factions as divisive, and choose to stand apart from them. There is little to no stigma for doing so; similarly, a Shield Maiden may become part of one faction at a point in her life, only to leave it and join another without repercussion. It is, after all, all in the name of sharing the resources that the sisters have at their disposal.
In general, the factions so not require membership rituals, do not demand fees, and have little to no secrets or ulterior motives. Instead, they both give and receive from their members in equal measure; their members stand to gain from one another’s experience, skills, and the contacts they have made. This allows each faction to operate as a ‘many hands’ type of a system. In return, the sisters who make up the membership are expected to function the same to their fellows, to pitch in and help one another when the need arises as well. Those who don’t, very quickly find that they gain very little from being part of a faction at all.
There are no set number of factions among the Shield Maidens. New ones are formed when required, any time there is a large enough number of sisters who possess the same motivation and drive. This means that factions come and go as well, and there’s no shortage of factions which have simply died out when the fashion for their particular zeitgeist has moved on.
For the GM, these factions give the opportunity to provide depth to the Shield Maidens and allow the PCs a means to interact with other Shield Maidens. Any character can join a faction as they desire, and gain the benefits of the faction as listed. While the factions don’t include any entry requirements, the respective Shield Maiden should possess a relevant applicable reason and functionality for that faction; if one player’s Shield Maiden has little interest in plant and animal life then there is little reason or benefit for her to join the Verdant Path, for instance. While the Shield Maiden may entreat entry to any faction, it is the GM who ultimately determines if the faction’s sisters find them an appropriate applicant.
When incorporating factions into your game, consider how much weight and screen time you wish to give them. If they are used very sparsely, this will have the effect of keeping a tight spotlight on your Shield Maiden troupe. They may be the only Shield Maidens in the local area, perhaps even the whole of Midgard! This would have the effect of making the Shield Maidens feel very rare, setting them apart from the rest of humanity. Such a tone can actually be quite isolating for the players, driving home the loneliness of standing against the status quo. Alternatively if you heavily focus on the factions and incorporate them as a growing population, you have the effect of creating a wider sense of community. A faction becomes an ‘other family’ to each Shield Maiden at your table, giving them a sense of being a part of a wider group outside of their immediate adventuring party (not that their party isn’t a found family in and of itself, of course!) and meaning that every Shield Maiden has fellows to interact with. While the Shield Maidens are still a minority in the human population, a heavier emphasis on the factions allows a greater sense of diversity and gives your players a sense that their character is part of a far greater community. There is no ‘one way’ to make use of the factions in this game; they are a tool my which the GM can create another aspect of the world and direct a sense of who a Shield Maiden can be.
The Chrome Riders are one of the youngest factions of Shield Maidens, focused heavily on the implementation of technology into what they perceive to be an archaic model of heroism. As far as the Chrome Riders are concerned, the old ways of fighting the good fight have proved inefficient at best and redundant at worst. What worked several hundred years ago no longer holds true; after all, if the Fenrir imperial forces could simply be bested by being struck with an axe repeatedly, they would not still be around in the modern day. Instead, the Chrome Riders assert the best way to handle the on-going conflict to be an emergence into the digital infrastructure. Bleeding edge technology remains the core defining fascination of every member of the Chrome Riders.
Chrome Riders run a wide gamut, from online hackers to scrapyard engineers or cybernetics enthusiasts. Not all pursue the same focus, however; one Shield Maiden may balk at the idea of upgrading her body with cybernetics, while another may leap at the chance to gain yet more advantage against her foes in this way. The core attitude which unites each member is a pragmatic view of the future; Chrome Riders are nothing if not forward-focused.
Naturally, this means Chrome Riders tend to move away from traditions; or at very least, strive to give them a new twist. While many Shield Maidens may tell tales of their exploits through song at the drinking hall, a Chrome Rider may opt to do so by means of a digital performance with an online audience, or augment their telling of the tale with vibrant holograms or 3D recordings of the actual events. This type of attitude also becomes prevalent on the battlefield as well, where a Chrome Rider may charge into battle with heavy firearms integrated into their arms; or perhaps they may rely on her sisters holding down the line while they hack into their enemy tank’s control systems.
Due to their tendency to eschew traditional modes of combat, there are some among the Shield Maidens who consider the Chrome Riders to be intentionally iconoclasts, always attempting to subvert and change their way of life for no other reason than the ongoing flux of change. This leads to a prevailing view that the Chrome Riders are outliers among the Shield Maidens; but nothing could be further from the truth. They are Shield Maidens through and through, and many of their best philosophers believe that if the wheel is to turn again, the means of propelling it must surely lay somewhere in the embrace of a new age, wherever that age may be found.
Due to their unique grasp of technology, the Chrome Riders grew to be untrusted with a considerable burden and honour among their sisters. Although few of their younger recruits know this, the Chrome Riders are entrusted to ensure the safe keeping of the memories of their departed Shield Maidens. When one of the sisters perishes, the Chrome Riders are tasked with ensuring that a copy of her remains, kept in a form of computerised slumber within a secret server known as the Valkrarian System. What remains of one of their sisters within the Valkarian Systems is a subject of much debate; some see it as a mere copy such as a digital ledger, while others see it as a mirror of the departed’s soul. Where the storage for this system exists within the cosmos is known only to the eldest of the Chrome Riders, but it is their sacred duty to seek out and preserve the mind, memories and personality of their fallen whenever possible. This is, naturally, no easy task, but it is an honour the Chrome Riders solemnly bear.
Benefit: Any Shield Maiden who joins the Chrome Riders faction can, once per downtime, gain 1 success on any technological or computer related extended action, regardless of the result of her roll.
There are perhaps no single group of Shield Maidens who are treated by their fellow sisters with quite as much caution and hesitation as the Deathspeakers. While the majority of Shield Maidens live their lives very much in the present, constantly striving to squeeze every moment’s value from their existence, the Deathspeakers seem to move through their days with an almost obsessive fascination with the hereafter. To hear the Deathspeakers tell it, there is no certainly in life aside from that one day everybody will die, and what lays beyond that moment is a mystery. Yet some hints remain which tantalize the Deathspeakers, unpolished clues which may lead to answers which could aid not only the goal of all Shield Maidens but provide answers to the cosmos itself.
The Deathspeakers know that when someone dies, their spirit comes to reside in Hel’s domain of Niflheim; a physical place into which it’s possible for people to travel. In fact, many of the Deathspeakers spend a significant amount of time journeying to this mist-shrouded realm, hoping to find answers to their compelling questions. Others, though, seek that answer on the battlefield; in the moment at which their foe’s physical body perishes. Deathspeakers seek to understand the link between these two seemingly disparate states of being. Even moreso, they wonder of the myriad doorways which sit beneath Hel’s watchful gaze, considering if through one of these portals to an otherworldly afterlife might sit an answer to breathing renewed life back into the cosmos.
This does not mean that all Deathspeakers are grim, morose individuals. Members of this faction run a wide gamut, from wise spiritualists who speak to the dead to ferocious battlefield warriors who thirst for their foe’s dying breaths. Some are studious academics, hurriedly documenting their new findings in paper or computers, while others compose odes to each of their adventures staring down death itself. Others still come to join the faction as a result of the growing threat of the restless dead, striving to act as a bulwark between the hungry risen ghouls and their innocent victims. Others still may act as councillors, bolstering the weighing spirits of their downtrodden fellows by reminding them of the value of their hopes, dreams and the value of their lives. The Deathspeakers are not a cult who worship death, as much as those who have had little experience interacting with them might fear that they are; instead, they are those who value living and understand the greater balance at play in the universe. Theirs is a pursuit of knowledge, and many are quite surprised to find their preconceived notions of what a Deathspeaker might be shattered upon meeting one.
Despite this, the perception of Deathspeakers persists, especially among young and new Shield Maidens who have had little chance to experience any of the faction’s members in person. Deathspeakers tend to, as a result, be treated with some level of fear and trepidation wherever they go, and this certainly leaves its mark upon them. As a result, Deathspeakers tend to grow to be one of the more close-knit factions, often turning inward to confide with other members at the expense of their fellow sisters. This has the unfortunate side-effect of causing the prejudices directed towards the Deathspeakers to become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy; people view them as secretive and untrusting, which forces those of the faction to turn to their own members moreso than others, ensuring that knowledge is shared first and foremost to other Deathspeakers, which furthers the impression left in the eyes of others. While a good number of their members are loud, outspoken and relish the companionship of their sisters, the preconception directed to the Deathspeakers remains
Benefits: Any Shield Maiden who joins the Deathspeakers faction gain 1 success per Rune they possess on any Lore roll to recover information pertaining to information about the dead or the realm of Niflheim.
Every Shield Maiden lives in a universe in which the supernatural exists. Although the presence of the ancient gods, spirits and other divine entities rarely play a part in the lives of the average folk (less so nowadays than ever), the Shield Maidens possess something that most other folk lack; they know the Aesir are real. This revelation opens the eyes of each sister to a world beyond them; one burgeoning with promise of meaning. How she takes this information onboard and facilitates it into her daily life is a very personal path; some loath the so-called Gods who have abandoned humanity. Others feel that they are no greater or lesser than the mortal races themselves, only gifted with a power they do not deserve and didn’t earn.
But this is not the case for all. Many Shield Maidens hear Freya’s call and, confronted with this grand revelation, are shaken to the core. The Piousworn are those who have emerged to find reverence in the divine spark. Typically many among their sisterhood view Freya herself as the central focus of their adoration, for she is the one who grant the Shield Maidens her blessing. Although she may be distant (as are all Aesir), and may have never manifested herself to her children in many centuries, this does little to sway those sworn to her pious worship from their adulations.
A member of the Piousworn may be pledged to Fraya’s service in a number of ways. She may live her life all but identically to her fellow sisters, with no visible difference in her day-to-day life other than her whispered prayers before she sleeps at night or before entering combat. Alternatively, she may forsake all worldly goods aside from her blessed Guardian Shield, refusing armour clothing or other protection from enemies in favour of her fiery belief in Freya’s divine protection. She may dedicate her worship through the means of scholarly pursuits, documenting every sacred text or spiritual sighting that she hears of in a shared database with her other members of the faction. Alternatively she may travel from place to place, speaking fondly and reverentially of Freya’s blessing in the hopes of recruiting new Shield Maidens to the cause. Or she may be a hunter of ancient relics, delving into mysterious ruins and ancestral catacombs in the hope of uncovering long-lost tools of the gods. In many ways, the Piousworn are one of the most diverse factions; and this is not particularly surprising, given the fact that every Shield Maiden on some level believes in the existence of Freya.
That is not, however, to say that all Piousworn are even dedicated to the worship of Freya. Although the majority are, this faction is home to sisters who adulate any member of the divine race. Freya is simply the most common, but some dedicate themselves to Thor or Hel or even Odin; although worship of this celestial patriarch is, understandably, a minority view among the Shield Maidens. The faction’s name is derived from those who have sworn piety to the gods; a single god, or multiple. It matters little which, so long as the oath is sworn with dedication and intent.
The faction’s dedication does place them in good standing with many of their fellow sisters. Some may see their reverential nature as naïve or child-like, and more than a few sisters have grown to find the faction’s more vocal member’s proselytizing to be quite annoying, the faction’s diverse range of skills and wealth of knowledge in various schools of arcana ensures that they are more or less tolerated by Sisters across all nine realms.
Benefits: Any Shield Maiden who joins the Piousworn faction may pledge herself to any of the gods. Once per session she may invoke that god in order to gain a dice roll. If this benefit is not used during the session, it may be used once during the subsequent downtime.
While all Shield Maidens are trained to be capable of combat, regardless of their physical abilities to ensure that each can hold their own against their enemies, the Slayers take the martial focus to a whole new level. For them, the battle is all. They are, after all, at war with the forces of the empire, and the Slayers see no point in disguising that fact. While the typical Shield Maiden pays equal heed to compassion and love, a Slayer places victory above all else.
Many Slayers are people who have lost much in their lives. Fuelled by anger, grief or pain, their emotions drive them to throw themselves into battle again and again. There is, after all, much suffering to go around. But this does not mean that the Slayers are reckless; they count among their number some of the greatest military tacticians in all the history of the nine realms. Each Slayer understands intimately there is no glory in throwing their lives away on a hopeless cause; better, then, to ensure any sacrifice they make serves to ensure their enemies are utterly defeated.
More than any other Shield Maiden, the Slayers understand and emphasize honour above all else. While a few outliers believe the ends may justify the means, most Slayers possess a very strong personal code of ethics. This can be hard for many of their sisters to see, as it is not always the same as their own and may differ from one Slayer to another. Often, however, the Slayer’s sense of honour is derived from an overwhelming drive to crush their enemies; but it is the root of that motivation which matters the most. Some Slayers become positively philosophical about this, contemplating deeply the nature of conflict. A Slayer does not always exist, bathed in blood, in the heat of a battlefield. She may be as contemplative as a monk who meditates on the nature of strife, an outspoken political activist seeking to sway the hearts of the masses, or a calculating tactician directing armies with ruthless efficiency. The one thing that unifies all Slayers is their drive to leave their foes broken on the ash-heap of history.
So, too, is diverse the nature of those who the Slayers battle. While many direct their rage against the forces of the Fenrir Empire, this is not always the case. A sister may target the light elves, the beasts and giants, or even the gods themselves. At times, they do not necessarily direct this bloodlust outwards to their typical enemies, but occasionally turn it inwards, directing it towards fellow human foes; more than a few Slayers have all but sworn contentious oaths against their fellow Shield Maidens following some argumentative slight.
Slayers tend towards pragmatism; they generally all can agree that if besting their foes doesn’t necessarily make the cosmic wheel turn once more then it will, at very least, make the job of rectifying the situation a whole lot easier. This does give rise to something of an issue with some members of the faction who believe that combating their myriad enemies is the end-all and be-all of their existence. To the sisters on the far side of this extreme, the risk of puritanical dogmatism stands becomes a true threat. Only a true extremist among Slayers believes that those of her sisters who cannot fight and slay a foe by her own hand is worthy to carry a Shield; yet some small number do indeed buy into this manner of mindset. Therein lies the risk of ableism and prejudice, “after all, if a sister cannot stand and needs a mobility aid to do so, is she even worthy of Freya’s blessing?” Thankfully, the vast majority of Slayers are less prone to falling for this lapse in reason.
Benefits: Any Shield Maiden who joins the Slayers faction may, in combat, read any 1 rolled on an Attack roll as though she had rolled a 2. This does not prevent a Flare from occurring.
While many Shield Maidens see mortals as leading the way to the new cycle, the Shield Maidens of the Verdant Path see the mortal races as a small part in a far larger cosmos. Instead of focusing on the empires of men, these sisters focus their interests on the natural world. Theirs is the path of the earth, tending to the fauna and flora of the nine realms. They see it as their task to tend to the wilderness; caring for the land itself and all who live upon it. Many of the Verdant Path sees this as their appointed task from Freya herself, conflating the machinations of the empire as sharply detrimental to the natural cycle.
The general perception among the Shield Maidens is that those of the Verdant Path are the tamers and friends of great beasts. This is very common, as many of this faction do excel at forming companionship with animals, and are often seen bringing such wild animals into battle with them to fight aside them. The Verdant Path see themselves as the protector of the wilderness; but this isn’t simply a matter of keeping animals safe. The sisters of this faction remain dedicated to the land itself, striving to reclaim the natural land from the encroaching corruption of the empire’s pollutants. These sisters have also taken ownership of the duty of tending to The Grove, the near-mystical bounty of natural wonder which sits in the heart of the icy caverns of Midgard. Theirs is the road of study of this marvel, and many of their scientists strive to grasp the mystery as to how such a vast cornucopia of natural fauna flourishes within the frozen depths.
As with all sisters, those who join the Verdant Path are diverse and wide. One member may be a ferocious warrior who channels the spirit of the mighty bear in battle to harness its endless strength. Another may form a group with her fellow sisters to lay claim to a territory, protecting that land from interlopers with lethal efficiency. The Verdant Path is also home to a small sub-group who dub themselves the Beastcallers; this group, thought to be quite mad by even the others of the faction, strive to open pathways of communication between humanity and the vast giants, ogres and monsters which assail them. Their core philosophy speaks that, rather than being motivated by sheer primal rage, the monsters truly act in the preservation of the natural order, striking back against an overgrowing and aggressive human species which intrudes upon their homelands. Such attitudes are certainly not common among the Verdant Path, with even their sisters considering this to be little more than wishful thinking. Nevertheless, the beastcallers firmly believe in the potential value that could be attained by finding unity with the mortal race’s greatest predators.
Sisters of the Verdant Path can be found just about anywhere in the nine realms; indeed, there are few who ever travel quite as widely as they do. This plays a strong part in their core philosophy; after all, how can they preserve and protect the natural land if they do not experience the respective ecosystems of each of the nine realms? It isn’t uncommon for members of this faction to undertake missions which could lead them into hazardous terrain, or into enemy territory. Perhaps none epitomize this quite as much as the ruined, toxic realm of Muspelheim. This ruined realm, filled with burbling lakes of acid and fiery atmosphere, has fallen so far from its former state that most Shield Maidens consider it an impossible task to salvage it. Yet the Verdant Path do not only strive to do so, but are ceaseless in their goals to do so. Between this and their beastcaller camp, the Verdant Path’s tendency to pursue lofty and challenging goals has led many Shield Maidens to view them as little more than idealists and dreamers, however. Whether such beliefs ultimately prove to be true or not remains to be seen.
Benefits: Any Shield Maiden who joins the Verdant Path faction may treat the Complexity of any extended action to befriend an animal companion as being one step less, to a minimum of one.