Saturday, February 28, 2015

Progression-report and some loose ideas about LSotN (construction site #1)

Being the end of the month and all, I wanted to write a bit how Lost Songs of the Nibelungs is getting along. I'm still trying to have a beta-version till Easter. I'm also still confident about getting it actually done. But there are many tiny steps and loose thoughts that barely sum up to form a complete and concise post, so there was some silence on the blog this month. Anyway, since it helps me to write those thoughts and ideas down, I might as well write a post about what's haunting me these days (turns out it will be several posts ... ah well).

Hagen killing Siegfried, illustration by Vladimir Tretjakov
for a Russian translation of the Song of the Nibelungs  [source]
Group Dynamics and lineage (Construction Site #1)

I mentioned this way back in January: LSotN will have a subsystem as part of the character creation that allows not only to see how the characters in a group are related to each other, but will also provide a player with a social standing, a family background and a selection of skills, advantages and items he might have as a result of his family tree. So much for the theory.

I toyed a bit with the mechanic to make this happen and still believe it will be an essential part of the character creation as it really gives a player some sense where his character is coming from and how he relates to the other players. And that should really help getting the group together. It will mean that at least for this part of the character creation all players need to sit on the same table. Character creation is a group effort (and always should be, by the way).

More details about how this should work

Basic roll and interpretation: Every player rolls 3d6. The sum is a characters status in the group, with the lowest result being the highest in standing. Each rolled number represents now a facet of the society the character was born in (1 = royal bloodline; 2 = artisan bloodline; 3 = mercantile bloodline; 4 = artistic bloodline; 5 = foreign bloodline; 6 = magical/fairy bloodline).

Dominance of aspects in family trees: Doubles will mean a strong resonance of one aspect in a family tree (which will somehow translate to a bonus or better selection of skills/advantages/items). A triplet would mean a "true lineage", will always be a special case and also gets one advantage others won't have:
  • A triple 1 will mean true royal blood, so that member of the group will not only have the highest status and best equipment, he'll (she'll) also be a direct descendant of a clans leader (advantage: authority).
  • A triple 2 will mean a true craftsman, so maybe it's a character who knows (or has access to) some valuable technique in a craft no one else in a clan is able to reproduce. He'll definitely have good equipment, special skills and an influential family (advantage: versatility).
  • A triple 3 will mean a true tradesman. Those are well informed characters with access to special items and rich parents (advantage: information).
  • A triple 4 will mean a true artist. Here it'll have a selection of exotic skills associated with artists (acrobatics, knife throwing, stuff like that) and entertainment (advantage: showmanship).
  • A triple 5 will mean a true foreigner. This is the lineage of a very different culture, maybe son of an African slave who found his freedom with the fall of Rome and settled among the people of a Germanic tribe or the daughter of an Asian traveler (advantage: diversity).
  • A triple 6 will mean a true fay. This character is a direct descendant of the fay folk and basically a fay himself. Might be a dwarf or even an elf, but most likely something that at least to some extent resembles a human being and has a reason to tag along (advantage: superstition).
So the strength and the aspect of a number is connected to the access a character has to a selection of skills, items and advantages.

Synergy-effects and relations: To see now how the characters are related, the players just need to compare their numbers. If they rolled the same numbers and built pairs, triples or quadruples, they could be somehow related (with pairs being distant cousins, triples being cousins and quadruples being siblings). Each player has to decide the most important relation to another player. As soon as the players have sorted this out, they have to sort out how they relate to the rest (basically answering questions like "If he's my cousin and you are my sister, he must be your cousin too, right?" and stuff like that.

There are always synergy-effects trickling down, so the family of the one with the higher status will provide some additional skill/advantages/items for those of a lower status but related ("You travel with our son, please have this cloak as a token of our appreciation.").

Dynamics and problems

A useful interpretation of those 3d6 and the contents of those skill/advantages/items are the biggest problems with this. Not because it won't work, but because it's lots of fiddly bits that need to be written and brought in line. I need a complete list of skills, which is always a drag and hard to do right, then it needs advantages one might have for any specific family background (like with the triplets above). The items need to fit the time (that is ca. 550 AC) and the social "class", but it needs to leave room for advancement.

And I need a sensible ratio for all this to work. Something like: 1 die in a bloodline means 2 points to buy skills/advantages/items, two dice in a bloodline mean 5 points to buy stuff (one of them related to the dominant bloodline, so it would be an item with a trade related bloodline, etc.), three dice means 9 points (with three to be distributed among skills/items/advantages associated with the true bloodline). Status might give a player additional points (so even if a player doesn't come up with doubles or triplets, he might still have some additional points for high status ...) and lineage might produce additional points.

All in all a player shouldn't have much more than 10 meaningful choices as far as items, skills and advantages go.

It's also something that will most likely take time and happen in the background. For now I'm pretty happy with the result. The 3d6 produce lots of data and I might even put some additional meaning into it (but only if I somehow manage to make this as easy as possible to access, ideally a player rolls and the DM gives him the result and his choices, then they talk about how they are related, make their choices and are ready to go.


  1. So if I rolled a 12, with a one, a five, and a six;

    One: My character is a child of a noble family but born low enough in birth order to have no landed title (and possibly no title at all), or a child of a landless noble (knight of the realm sorta-stuff), or maybe a bastard child of a landed noble (this last one may work well with the 5 & 6).

    Five: My character is vaguely foreign, with subtle features such as hair color, or facial shape that suggest foreign stock, but don't prove it... like a half-Italian child living in the UK.

    Six: My character has a little bit of the fey in them, although like their foreign blood, nothing obvious enough to make them stand out for it, unless somebody is maybe looking for it.

    I would call this a bastard-child of a travelling gypsy fortune-teller, a little fey and certainly foreign, and a landed noble... if the game were centered around travel, I would make the father the noble, and the character was raised by their travelling gypsy mom, but if the game is a localized one, the mother might be the noble, and the child was raised on the estate and groomed into some sort of important but low profile job, like game-keeper, hound-master, gatehouse-master, etc.

    1. Yes, that's exactly it! Great example and your interpretation is completely within the possibilities, thank you for that. Now, any other player coming up with either one of those numbers could build a connection to your character (might be the child of a noble with a higher status and some loose affiliation that decides to take you along, etc.) and with the points you get you can buy skills, items and advantages that support your decisions.

  2. Writing that up, I realized that this is a really useful tool for getting people to think about their character backgrounds in a way that doesn't force them to come up with an elaborate background out of thin air, which I always resent when game systems or GMs expect one to come to the table with a rich character concept.

    1. And that's exactly what I was aiming for. It's supposed to manage three things: it should connect the group in a meaningful way, give the player some idea about his character and connect all of them to the area where they are adventuring. Without slowing the game too much down, I might add (or better yet, as part of the game).

      Thanks again for giving a great example and commenting on it. I realize now it would have gone a long way to do that in the post ...

  3. So.....This is absolutely amazing, makes me want to go drop a cast iron pot on my foot for never thinking of it.

    I rolled double 2 and a 3
    So I am thinking a skilled shipwright, from an old family of skilled shipwrights, nothing extraordinary simply skilled and known for quality work. With that background my family has also earned some skill as merchants, taking in many items as payment for our ship work and using then in turn as trade for the things we need. Sometimes we gain something of true value in our trades, things that might be of use.

    Does that "get the idea"

    Again , if you need a play-tester , hook me up, this is amazing.

    1. Thanks, Mark, I'll definitely take you up on this! Yeah, this is pretty much it. Strong roots in some craft, with some trading to boot. Relies on his skills and some possibilities for what the trading could bring to the family (items, maybe). The rest is a (relatively) high status that gives your family a good name (here could be an advantage to choose)!

      If this keeps going, we'll have an example for a group by next morning ...

      Here's mine:

      Double 1 and a 3

      One of the more important families in the clan with some connections to trading. I'd go and say that there are ties to Mark's family (a double, so a distant cousin), so the trade has something to do with sea-travel. A character that would possibly make a good warrior with some fighting skills and the tool of the trade. There is a loose connection to Nate's character (another double, another distant cousin) that already could connect all of the group's members (with some benefits trickling down on the others because of my rich parents ...). :)

    2. Actually, the connection to Nate's character could even be stronger (with three 1), so it could be an illegitimate cousin and a very good reason to take him along!

  4. OK, I'll bite. 3, 3, 4

    So, strong connections to a trading family, which also means I am probably closely related to Mark (maybe my father's sister married the shipwright who builds our trading ships, and Mark is my cousin?) and also Jens (another aunt married into the nobility? It's possible); also some artistic skill or connections. I think (given the background) that the best think to go for is a wide-travelling poet, plying the sea-ways and collecting (and sharing) travellers' tales, at home in any port and always ready with a song, by turns heroic or mocking... so some kind of (sea-)ranger-cum-bard type would fit the bill there I think.

    1. Very nice :) With the double 3 you could either have a strong relationship to one of the threes (which would result in a cousin) or two more distant connections to both (two doubles, both distant cousins). Alternatively you could have a distant connection to Nate's character ...

      So your first scenario is the most likely (closely related to Mark's character), but tying yourself to a noble could also be beneficial. Either way, you'd have lots of possibilities. You could even just use the 4 to connect to Nate's character and be free to choose your families trade (which would result in more freedom regarding some of the skills/items/advantages) and would still connect you to the noble family (very loosely and mechanically not relevant, but still).

      The choices you make should in the end reflect what you can get for your character, which, in turn, is connected to the relations you form (or not). The bard-type you describe should be very well possible. In Lost Songs you'd still be level 0 with little to none travel experience, but the skills/items/advantages you get to choose will reflect those tendencies and the first sessions would show how the character develops further (so you as a player decide with every level what tendencies are developed further or new ...). The way I imagine it, the stories (songs?) the characters experience should shape how they develop (that's why LSotN won't have classes).

      Thanks for another great example! What I gathered so far is that dominant aspect may define the selections of weaker connections (so if someone with a dominant trade aspect chooses to work with ships, it will have some influence on those related to him ...). The highest status is always the first to choose, those related are affected by that choice.

      I also think it's good to give the players as much freedom as possible in how they choose their relations. If a player wants his character directly connected to three others and can explain how, it should be possible. If a player just wants one connection, it's also okay and will result in more freedom to choose items/skills/advantages. But a player needs to choose at least one connection to the other players (if possible).

  5. Perhaps then I am not so widely-travelled as I might have thought - perhaps I know about the ports around the North Sea (or Baltic, or Mediterranean, wherever we are!) but I haven't actually been to them.

    Perhaps I'm missing something - I can't see how I could be connected to Nate's character. My 3, 3, 4 would link me to yours (1, 1, 3) or Mark's (2, 2, 3) but not Nates (1, 5, 6).

    I see what you mean about using the 3s multiple times, I hadn't realised that taht was how you meant it to work (probably I'm not paying enough attention). So I could in theory connect to your character closely, Mark's closely, or both less-closely.

    On skills and classes - it seems to me that each die should let you pick some skills from a particular set. I'm not sure why multiple rolls should give you bonuses - why should Nate's 1, 5, 6 be 'worse' than my 3, 3, 4? Nate shouldd get the same number of choices as me - but he should get to chose his skills from lists 1, 5 and 6 (noble, foreigner, fey) whereas I get to pick from 3 an 4 (trade - twice - and artist).

    It may be that you could access higher-level skills though for multiple rolls: your 1, 1, 3 might allow you a 'level 1' and a 'level 2' on the 'Noble' skills table, whereas Nate's single 1 would only allow him a 'level 1' Noble skill. My double 3 would allow me access to a 'level 2' Trade skill by the same token, whereas both you and Mark only have access to a 'level 1' skill each. These don't necessarily have to be 'better' though, just unavailable without a lower-order skill. And because we don't have as many bases in our character creation (you, me and Mark all rolled 2-and-1, whereas Nate rolled 1-and-1-and-1) we don't get the same breadth of options. Essentially, I'm getting at the point that Nate's skill range is potentially broad rather than deep, ours are deep rather than broad.

  6. You're right, I thought Mark had also a 4 (I should start and pay more attention, I guess). Sorry! So with him you could only loosely connect via the noble family and that only because of the trade connection. All of your other assumptions about possible distributions are right, too.

    What you describe in the last paragraph is what I had in mind. With doubles and triples you get better access to skills/items/advantages. Levels might be the best way to describe it.

    There are several possible takes on this and I'd have to reflect on them more. Maybe it's a bit of both. If you connect your character to another character with a higher status, you might get a point more to distribute, but your choices are a bit more narrow (like you described, but also with a point more).

    Nate's distribution shouldn't result in a weaker character, but his relatively low status might influence his choices. The connection to the fay could be a huge bonus, though and the "foreigner" aspect should allow for some interesting choices, too. The way I see it, the higher the status, the better the equipment (a horse, for instance or a sword) and maybe the education (learning to read and write, etc.). In the middle it's a lot about information and availability, so the items and the skills should reflect that (haggling, maybe, stuff like that). With a low status you'll have more likely access to some magic or exotic advantages/skills/items, which might be a benefit in and of itself ... If now someone with a low status is somehow connected to someone of a higher status, he might benefit from that (thus, an extra point). A dominant aspect might narrow the choices, but allows for what you call a deeper skill range (thus an extra point). Triples, although rare, would mean an extreme narrow focus, but all in all 3 points more, with one more possible by connecting with someone of a higher status (I guess something like this should only be possible once). In a worst case scenario a character ends up with 7 points, in a best case scenario it'll be 10 (2 points per die, one for a relation with benefit, 1 for a double or 3 for a triple). But that's just from the top of my head (and I've already made two mistakes in the comments ...)

    As I said, have to think a bit more about it. As soon as I get there, I'll post about it. Thanks again for commenting y'all, it really helps developing those ideas further!

    1. I meant Nate, not Mark in the first sentence! Argh!

  7. This is really interesting, especially reading all you guys' examples.

    1. Thanks! And I agree, the comments have been great in showing what the idea can be. Helped me a lot in the process, too.

  8. Conceptually, Jens, what is it you're going for here? Are you attempting to bundle background (class as status), skills (class as profession) and equipment (class as wealth) all together?

    If you are, I'd suggest that there's a way to do that already in the standard D&D mechanic. What you're doing is getting the players to roll a 3d6 and use that to determine access to skills and euipment. Why not turn your system upside down (all D&D 3d6 mechanics are '18 is good'), and say it's the same mechanic as the '3d6 x 10 for GPs' roll?

    In this case (bear with me) 6 = noble (high status); 1 = fey (outsider status). But still allow the players to make choices based on their dice (the relationships you proposed would still stand, but the other way up). And you could have a (conceptual) status stat with the same mechanics as the others.

    The players could decide which die to assign to 'class as profession', which to 'class as wealth' and which to 'class as status'. So if I roll a 1, 3, 6 I could pick Noble (status) Artist (profession) Outsider (wealth) - in other words, an aristocrat with acrobat ( = thief, let's say) skills and 10GP. My Noble status and Artist profession would mean I get some equipment (and good quality too) but I have little cash.

    Or, I could assign the 1 to status (fey, I think a Dwarf), the 3 to wealth (I get 30GP) and the 6 to Noble - I'm a son of Dwarven nobility but that matters little in the human world, though again I get certain good quality gear.

    There are other ways to slice it; and doubles/trebles still work they would before, and the mixes would still work as before. Chosing a particular 'list' would mean skills or equipment (or both), and if you roll 18, you are (no choice) a Noble (fighter skill-set) with Sword, Shield, Helm, Armour (one of these can have a +2 or two can be +1) a horse and 60GP (conceptually, something like this anyway).

    On the other hand, if you roll 3, you get to pick Dwarf, Elf or Halfling (if you're going to have them!), the equipment that goes along with them (Battle-axe, Helm, Chain; Leather, Normal Sword, Long Bow; Staff, Shortword, Sling & Stones); the skills that correspond to those races; and 10 GP.

    In my head, that all works together. I coul be wrong and anyway, it might totally break some other aspect of what you're trying to do. But I thought I'd offer it anyway.

    1. Good questions and great ideas, I must say. You're right when you say it might work as an additional ability score (of sorts) and quoting the 3d6 for gold is, too, a good idea. There are several reasons to not switch to the "18 is good" in this case, though.

      I should have written something about that in the post, I suppose, since I believe that the use of the numbers has, the way they are, another strong meaning outside the terminology D&D has to offer: the decision to associate a result of 666 as something related to the supernatural is a play on the "number of the beast", so to say, while a 111 (although that is an afterthought, but anyway) could in this vein of interpretation hint at the "chosen by god" mentality of nobles from the late Dark Ages on (holy trinity and all that). It was my initial reason to go with the 6 to indicate something supernatural.

      Another reason to stay with "low result = high status" (although a minor one, but nonetheless) is the fact that 111 is a natural end of the line. This is the highest status a character can get. Thinking of it as of an ability score opens up to the idea that there might be something beyond the 18 and I wouldn't invite that.

      Furthermore is this kind of disassociation a welcome side effect, as it helps separating the process from the creation of the qualities and helps focusing on the concept of building connections within the group.

      Finally I might add that it is merely a hint to the "class" a character will be, as such a thing won't exist in LSotN. It's more something like a starter package. Some items/skills/advantages to create a functional character, but level 0, with, as of yet, almost no clue what the future as a hero might hold. This being a pseudo-historical setting I thought this was a nice idea to introduce the kind of advantages, skills and items such a medieval society might regard as useful.

      Another reason to strongly connect this to the family background of a character is to make it easier for a player to understand that the things a character gets are only to some extent what he chose and much more what his status and what his family would expect him to learn. And meaningful choices a player makes in this are the relations he chooses. So if you have a family of artists, some connection to a noble will open up new possibilities to choose from (in fact, very much what you describe).

      In all other regards I want to add that the idea as I describe it has lots of room to change and grow outside of LSotN and it should work well in most other games with ideas like those you describe above (for instance).

      Thank you very much for your feedback! It's great to see other opinions and ideas about a pet project like this, as the answers and arguments I have to find are always helpful in finding out where this is headed and what might have been other possibilities.

    2. I only really play BX D&D so there are only 3-18 stats - the only way you can go higher in my games might be by direct gift of the Gods (though it's not happened yet)! But I entirely see your point - it just didn't occur to me that there could be anything 'beyond' 18.

      I think I might have quite a different idea of what characters should be at the start of adventuring in this setting! I was more or less assuming that if you roll 'triple-noble' you get to start as the equivalent of a 5th-level fighter with a couple of magic items (given that the point of the nobility was essentially to be war-leaders, and strong links to the nobility would mean you get ancient weapons of legend as heirlooms).

      When it occurred to me that some of the skills you were suggesting for the 'Artist' background could maybe be covered by 'Thief', I started mapping the classes (or something like them) back on to your choices. Merchants could have skills like rangers (though perhaps more to do with seamanship than tracking, as well as language skills?) and craftsmen could have some item-making skills (akin to the idea that Magic Users can make scrolls and potions?).

      I think you've developed a really good mechanic. I really like the Noble-Craftsman-Trader-Artist-Foreigner-Fey pattern. I want to go away with it, take it to pieces, put it back together in a way that makes sense to me, and come back to see if anything I've done makes sense to you.

      And you never know, I might even start using it!

    3. Thanks! Please feel free to keep on challenging those ideas and take them apart! It's very productive.

  9. This really is clever, for the simplicity and how so much can grow out of it.

    The 3d6 association also makes me think a similar approach could be used with ability scores. Each score could have six aspects which feed into it through the numbers, and grow stronger with repetition, exactly as here, with the results helping in the same way to explain why the score is what it is, as well as giving more seeds for the character and possible relationships.

    Of course, this could easily become unwieldy for all the scores, and time-consuming enough to have it be best left as an optional extra, but all of that could also be offset by having it be used just for prime requisites, or for one score only otherwise, possibly decided by rolling 1d6.

    1. Thanks, Porky! It's pretty much (well, sort of) what I try to achieve in Lost Songs. It's not the value of a score, but it's composition that is important. So DEX being all about AC will produce the base armor class of a character by using the highest 2 results of the 3d6 as a fixed result. All other ability scores will work like that. The ability score itself needs to be separated from the idea that "high is good" and will be used as a pool with the possibility to enhance performance related to the specific ability score. This way a low score is just a lower potential instead of damning a character to be weak or stupid or what have you.

      I also think this is a chance. D&D has so many mechanics that are more "plugged-in" instead of having grown organically out of what is already there. So I believe you're entirely right that this is a way ability scores could be further utilized!

  10. OK, trying to take on board the idea that none result is 'better' than another, they're just different, so I should stop thinking of either 111 or 666 as better than each other, and also that you want to combine skills, advantages and equipment, I'm going to go back to an idea I was groping towards earlier.

    The 3d6 could be assignable to 3 out of 6 categories (or assignable twice or three times if you roll doubles or triples). Those categories are the Noble-Craftsman-Trader-Artist-Foreigner-Fey categories you already have, but they come in 3 types - Skills, Advantages and Equipment. So there are Noble Skills, Noble Advantages and Noble Equipment; Craftsman Skills, Craftsman Advantages and Craftsman Equipment etc.

    One die needs to be assigned to each type, but it needs to be assigned to the corresponding category. So if you roll 1, 1, 1, you have no 'choice', all your rolls of one need to be assigned to the 'Noble' category. But if you roll 1, 1, 2, you could assign the 1s to Noble Skills & Equipment, Noble Advantages & Equipment, or Noble Skills & Advantages; and your 2 could to Craftsman Advantages, Skills or Equipment as appropriate. On a 1, 2, 5 then the categories are Noble, Craftsman, Foreigner (Outlander is perhaps a better term, I think?) but you can assign the dice to any type - so Foreign Skills, Noble Advantages and Craftsmen Equipment, or Craftsmen Skills, Foreign Advantages and Noble Equipment, or whatever.

    These scores can still function in the way you suggested earlier for the 'group background'. My character was 3, 3, 4 and yours was 1, 1, 3; I'm assigning my 3s to Skills and Equipment but you're assigning your 3 to Advantages - it doesn't matter because we still know each other, while you were down at the wharves talking to my father about the lands over the sea, I was using the welcome distraction to hang out with old Snorri Tale-Weaver who would tell me stories.

    It could even be possible that you get a stronger connection through picking category - if I assigned my 3s to Skills and Equipment, and you assigned your 3 to Skills as well, then we not only have a '3' together, we have 3-Skills together. Perhaps we learned together how to negotiate or to judge the value of an item.

    Looking at these as something like 'classes' there are 108 possible combinations, I think (unless I've made a fundamental mistake with my maths). Is that far enough from 'fixed classes' to be satisfactory, do you think?

    This doesn't necessarily produce the synergy that you're after however, I don't know. You could still build it so that doubles or trebles get extra advantages, if you wished, by writing in bonuses for combinations. So 'any 1, 1, 1 gets a horse in addition to whatever else' or whatever.

    Or am I taking this even further from your concept, while trying at the same time to randomise then straightjacket the character-creation process?

    1. This paragraph is wrong:
      "It could even be possible that you get a stronger connection through picking category - if I assigned my 3s to Skills and Equipment, and you assigned your 3 to Skills as well, then we not only have a '3' together, we have 3-Skills together. Perhaps we learned together how to negotiate or to judge the value of an item."

      I meant to say:
      "It could even be possible that you get a stronger connection through picking the same type - if I assigned my 3s to Skills and Equipment, and you assigned your 3 to Skills as well, then we not only have a '3' together, we have 3-Skills together. Perhaps we learned together how to negotiate or to judge the value of an item."

    2. I'll have to think more about this and will try to give a detailed answer later this week. Here are some initial thoughts:

      The idea to give players the opportunity to learn skills together definitely has legs (and could even extent to combat skills to encourage team work). It's a great idea to create bonds among characters. I'll definitely use this somehow.

      As of yet I have only loose ideas how this is supposed to work in LSotN, but one thing I try to achieve is to give this the feel of a mini-game. This is not to say that luck with the dice should have a huge impact, but those little things like "a double gives an extra point" are important to keep the players interested and engaged.

      Basically it's what you describe, only that the players get the opportunity to explore their results and make decisions between the things they'd like to have, the possibilities that are given and what would work well in the group. In an ideal case it opens a discussions and ends in some stories how those characters are connected. And that's something you only get by offering choice. But not too much choice, just enough to make it relevant. So the roll limits a players choice. rolls of the other players may open up new choices and that extra point might be something the whole group might benefit from ...

      A too strict approach might reduce this to reading the results, though.

      More as soon as I had the time to digest all your thoughts :)

    3. Okay, there's not much to add. It's not a bad idea to just give a special something for doubles and triples. I'm a bit on the fence for this one, because just having more to choose from is just as good (maybe better?).

      I think we agree, all in all. Once I got those lists written we'll see what works best.

      As for outlander instead of foreigner. Outlander is a slightly younger word, but it doesn't matter that much (a few decades, actually), so I'd go with the actual meanings of both words: outlander is. of course, somebody from another land, while foreigner is in it's origin a word that refers to something strange or alien. Check this onlinline etymology lexicon for foreigner:

      Stranger might be a good one, too. Or one could go with the Latin "extraneus" (where the word "strange" actually comes from). For now I prefer foreigner, as i believe it gives the right "feel" (I assume that people in the Dark Ages would rather say someone has strange customs than he's from another land, since they all more or less came from other countries ...).

      Terminology is something that has to be taken care of sooner or later, but is not done yet (it should be a mix of Latin and Germanic vocabulary, that much I know).

  11. Though 'outlander' isn't recorded in English until the 1590s (or whatever), 'utlendisc' (pronounced something like 'ootlendish', more or less how it would be pronounced in modern Nederlands) is recorded as an Old English word meaning 'strange, foreign' (maybe around AD950?). A good German word!

    I was also thinking of this - - but, of course, it's only a suggestion.