The Varl are a race of powerful, horned and bearded giants, having twice the height and girth of Humans. They are warlike but also have a fondness for mead and brawling. Only male, Varl are unable to reproduce and increase their numbers.
In The Banner Saga, Varl characters appear as Heroes (combat units), NPCs and enemies (rarely).
|The Varl are a cross-breed of man and animal, created by an impatient god who wove together a twisted version of the original Loom-mother’s creations. Varl are horned giants who are strong and aggressive and have the reputation of being impeccable fighters. Respected as warriors, they can live to be a few hundred years old if their lives are not cut short by a fall in battle. Despite their warlike culture, they too cultivate families and are not without emotions, similar to their human counterparts, and tend to do a better job of sticking together than the humans. Their attitude towards their human allies is somewhat condescending, believing that they are the superior beings, particularly when it comes to strength and fighting.|
- For notable Varl characters, refer to the Lore article.
The Dredge are their ancient rivals and are instantly hostile on-sight. They warred against them during the Second Great War and allied with humans against them.
Their relationship with humans has been complicated, ranging from friendship to often hostility. The varls and humans fought against each other during the First Great War, but united against the newly emerged threat of the Dredge.
The Varl usually live in small communities, spaced from each other, or alone. For this reason, they are prone to develop a restlessness when living in proximity of other varl or humans. However, they are known to gather in large cities or in armies, especially during times of War. In these cases, they are ruled by a king, who is typically publicly accepted (or 'elected') after displaying surpassing valor. The Kings of the Varl are:
Varl who are close-knit enough to be family refer to each other as kendr, which can be considered equivalent to the term "blood brother", but is also applied to an older varl who might be considered like a parent by a younger varl. Being kendr to a varl King is the equivalent of being an heir in historic hereditary monarchies.
- A common joke that Varl themselves acknowledge is that their race shares common attributes with the Yox: They are large, slow, stubborn and horned!
- Varl are strangely afraid of fire, supposedly because fire was involved in their 'making' process, which was apparently unpleasant.
Many of the varl are killed during the invasion of the northern lands by the Dredge with their strongholds and fortresses sacked. Hakon becomes the Varl king after the death of Vognir at Vedrfell and Jorundr at Einartoft. Some of the remaining Varl are led to safety in Arberrang by him and the Hero of Skogr.
The Classes currently available for Varl units are:
- Warrior → Warhawk, Warleader, Warmaster.
- Shieldbanger → Provoker, Strongarm, Shieldmaster.
- Berserker* → Only available to Bolverk, one of the lead (POV) characters of the second part of The Banner Saga.
In the multi-player game, Factions, players are limited to fielding up to two Varl in their team, regardless of class; no such restriction applies to the single-player game.
Bolverk (early concept art)