We interviewed one of the NEOs involved with designing the rules pack and writing battleplans for Coalescence to talk about narrative gaming and his AoS podcast called FjordHammer, a show which focuses on book reviews and interviews with community members.

NEON: Can you introduce yourself?

Alexander: Hey, my name is Alexander Nygård, and I’m a Norwegian hobby enthusiast. I run the Fjordhammer podcast, as well as moderate /r/AgeOfSigmar and TGA.community. I’ve been active in the community since End Times: Nagash, though I’ve been in the hobby for much longer. My allegiance is to Settra, and all other projects are secondary to his will. Which means I’ve got a humongeous Death army, and I’ve done decently with it. As a Norwegian, there’s not a lot of events in my country, so over the last year I’ve travelled a lot to the UK to participate in events there. SCGT and RAW are now staples of my calender! Though I’m a fairly decent player, my main interest is in having fun games of any kind. Narrative gaming is especially enjoyable!

NEON: How did you become a NEO?

Alexander: I’ve always been the sort to fall in love with Warhammer’s setting. My armies always have built-in narratives. My main WHFB army was an Ogre Kingdoms army that I imagined lived in Lustria. As I had loads of Lizardmen bits left over from a previous army, it came quite naturally. In my first period in the hobby, I was too young to organize anything, and in some cases even participate. As many do, I fell out of the hobby for a while. As I got older, I wanted a hobby that wasn’t video games, so I returned to my old passion. This was at the very beginning of the End Times for WHFB, a period of massive upheaval in the setting. I loved it! The stories I knew and loved were changing, moving forward. But as I played Ogres and Lizardmen, I didn’t get to participate in any of it. The structure of narrative gaming back then was simply too restricted. When AoS was released, I saw that it unshackled my narrative from the shackles of rank-and-flank gameplay. Units were more dynamic, objectives could be more interesting and the structure of the game more fluent. Even though I liked the new setting, I decided that I still wanted to play out the End Times, a farewell to the old love. So I created Battletome: The End Times. It took me 8 months, but it’s a total conversion of the 5 campaign books, featuring 49 battleplans! So my desire to become a NEO came from the desire to play all these awesome stories that were being made, but not having the chance to do it. If you want it done, you got to do it yourself! Around the same time, I got a job at a FLGS which let me work with running events. So I began organizing the local community, which was rather dead at the time. It all started with an intro day, out of which came many new regulars to the club. I then began running 6/8 player events, nice and easy for newbies and veterans alike. My first narrative event was actually a 6-month 40k campaign! It was a lot of work, and ended up petering out at the end… But the players enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t really consider myself a NEO until I ran Coalescence though. Until then I’d been to events like RAW, built my SCGT army around a narrative theme etc, but I hadn’t really run an narrative event. Even as part of the group behind Coalescence I didn’t consider myself a NEO until the day! But now the fires are lit, and I feel that Skirmish and Path to Glory will make it even easier to run fun, narrative events.

NEON: How did you become a podcaster?

Alexander: I started Fjordhammer at the start of the year. It was something I had toyed with a bit in the time following SCGT and the End Times release. What pushed me over was being a guest on the Bravery One podcast. I figured if those guys could run a podcast, then it’s proof that literally anyone could! I had tried blogging and the sort a few times earlier, but I just don’t have the interest to write long texts. You’d think as a student of philosophy I’d enjoy writing more, but alas. Podcasting was a great way of getting my ideas, opinions and commentary out there without having to write it down. It’s more free form, as I can pick the topic from episode to episode. I’m in love with AoS as a game, story and community, so that’s what I wanted to focus on. There’s a few really good gaming podcasts, and tons of good all-round ones, so mine had to be different. I decided to focus on the hobby, story and community. This meant a lot of interviews, book reviews and chats about the other aspects of the hobby that you might not get on some podcasts. The goal is to just continue to provide good content and improve on what I do. I genuinely believe in my format, but there’s some places that are ripe for improvement. Within the next year, I’d love to be in a position to be able to launch a patreon. Podcasting takes time and some money, and a little support would go a long way towards making me able to do more with the podcast. I also hope to make some dice and shirts with my logo on them, in case there are any fans out there who’d like a viking ship on their dice!

NEON: Can you tell us about your guests on the show?

I have guests on every episode. It’s something I wanted from the start. Not only does it give people a break from my voice, but it also provides some super interesting content. It’s actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. I usually have an idea about what I’d like to chat about. Maybe there’s some notable event in the community going on, or some general topic I’d like to cover. I then approach the person and ask them if they’d like to be on. Simple as that really. Finding the right person, and the right topic, is the trick. I usually end up asking super enthusiastic people, so sometimes it’s hard to keep the interviews to managable lengths! I’ve even been approached for a topic someone would like to chat about, so I love that people want to be a part of Fjordhammer. Recording-wise, it’s simple. We chat over Skype while I use a program called MP3 Skype Recorder. Sounds super sketchy, but has worked flawlessly for me so far. I heard a lot of horror stories about Skype recording, but I’ve not really had an issue. The one thing I would like to do is feature more local content. As the only Norwegian AOS podcast, there’s surprisingly little content from Norway. This is mostly down to the Norwegian scene being tiny, even compared to medium sized cities in the US. When you consider Norway has a population of barely 5 million, spread over a country larger than Germany, it’s no surprise. The scene also took a hit after the launch of AoS, so there’s just not a lot happening to cover. But I may be able to change that in the near future…

NEON: Why is narrative gaming important to you?

Alexander: Narrative gaming means relaxed, no-stress gaming. I use this hobby to relax, chill out and hang out with friends. While I enjoy competitive games and real tests of mental fortitude, I often find them to be lacking in the “hobby” aspect. Running narrative events allows players and communities to turn some focus to the other aspects of the hobby, even while we’re getting cool games in! It’s easy for competitive people to become the loudest voices in a crowd, and drown out some the other noises. And that drowns out the enjoyment of the rest of the hobby for me. That doesn’t mean I write paragraphs of text for each model or play every game like an RPG. But being able to have a variety of games keeps the hobby fun and fresh. This also encourages more of the sort of community I like to see. As an event organizer, you often end up leading by example. So running narrative events encourages your players to try it out, to do fun stuff and paint up those models that might otherwise not see the light of day. Creating that vibrant and active community that you can enjoy as a hobby is why I do it!
NEON: Do you have any tips to share with other NEOs?

Alexander: My best tip would be to figure out what sort of event you want to make, then stick to it. Design your pack, battleplans and prizes around that. Regardless of whether its a competetive or casual event, narrative or not, figure out what you want it to be. If you just take a pack off the internet, you aren’t setting the bar. You define your event, not the players and not the online community. This might sound a little harsh, but as the organizer you’re the one putting forth the effort. If someone wants to see other styles of events, then they can put in the effort! And don’t be afraid to tell people who go against the spirit of your event that their actions are not OK. Doesn’t mean you have to kick them out, but if you design a casual event pack around sportsmanship points, then the beardy player doesn’t have a leg to stand on if they don’t win! This isn’t specific to Narrative events of course, but it’s extra important for them. In a regular tournament, everyone sort of knows the deal going in. That isn’t necessarily true for a narrative event (even a competetive one!). I’ve had casual events where some players intentionally went against the spirit of it, and that left everyone who played them with a sour taste in their mouth. Not good, and I should have caught it then and there. As a bonus tip, I’d say don’t be afraid to do wierd stuff! Add some Time of War rules to your event, it’s garantueed to create good memories. Or maybe make some wierd battleplans. Just don’t feel beholden to running events straight out of the GHB, there’s a world of possibilities out there.
NEON: Thanks, Alexander!

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