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Basic Information

The ulfhednar were a Nordic mystical warrior society, similar to the berserkers but with a lupine rather than an ursine aspect to their battle madness. As with the berserkers they were said to go into battle unarmoured - possibly even naked apart from the wolfskin cloak - and fight in a frenzy, heedless of danger or of wounds and biting on their shields when there were no enemy at hand to attack. Like other such societies they were said to be particularly dedicated to the worship of Odin.

Obviously a legend that involves gaining supernatural powers by wearing a wolfskin immediately calls up associations with lycanthropy - whether in actual transformation or merely by possession by a spirit1 dwelling in the skin (which would therefore serve as a fetish). For those GMs and worldbuilders who want to discriminate between ulfhednar and berserkers, perhaps the wolf-spirit men work better as pursuit and skirmish troops2, as opposed to the mighty, raging bear-men who serve purely as shock infantry.

Thus, dependent on setting, ulfhednar could be anything from religious fanatics to all-out werewolves. Of course, this spectrum could apply within the cult - initiates remain frenzy prone humans, either yet to be awarded a totem or newly introduced and still bonding with the spirit whilst the truly accomplished have merged with their totem spirit so well that it can transform them into a terrible wolf-man hybrid. Perhaps the Odin-cult uses theurgy (or merely seidr) to bind the wolf spirit to the initiate … who may have had to earn his initiation by capturing an appropriate wolf alive for sacrifice and binding.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Wolves being what they are, you could have whole tribes of people with a heritable talent who are known for joining the Ulfhednar.
  • Something similar might be expected amongst the Romans - they were big on wolf motifs (after Romulus and Remus' foster mother) and the Polybian Era their young men were known to go into battle in wolfskin cloaks with the mask still attached (velites for those keeping score). And then there was the lupercalia where a mystery cult of young men, dressed in wolfskins thrashing people with thongs of freshly cut goatskin…
  • For class-and-level-systems, consider this sort of thing as a prestige class, adding powers as the level increases.
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