Any man who stands between a father and his vengeance asks for death!
~ Rickard Karstark

Lord Rickard Karstark is a character in a A Song of Ice and Fire and its TV series Game of Thrones. Rickard Karstark is the Lord of Karhold and the head of House Karstark, a cadent branch of House Stark. He is a close ally distant relative to the Starks, in the War of the Five Kings. He has three sons, Harrion, Eddard, Torrhen, and one daughter Alys. He was named after Rickard Stark and fought for Eddard Stark against the Mad King during Robert's Rebellion. He's gaunt and large, and was always known to be a brooding man.

In the TV series, Rickard has also another son, Harald, who's introduced in season 6 as the current Lord of Karhold.

He's played by Steven Blount in season 1, and by John Stahl in season 2 and 3.

A Game of Thrones

Lord Karstark brings his men and his three sons to Winterfell joins with Robb in his march to the south. Later the northern host splits at the Twins, with Roose Bolton commanding the host against Tywin Lannister at the Green Fork. Rickard stays with Robb and takes part in the battle of the Whispering Wood, where Jaime Lannister is taken captive along with many other highborn hostages from the westerlands. During this battle two of his sons Eddard and Torrhen, die in battle, both killed by Ser Jaime. His eldest son Harrion is captured at the Battle of the Green Fork, along with many other northmen. Right after these two battles he fight again with Robb in the Battle of the Camps, where they smash the Lannister army who was besieging Riverrun, and free Ser Edmure Tully and many hostages from the riverlands. Right after the battle Ned Stark is executed by King Joffrey I At Riverrun he is in the Great Hall, taking part in the debate between Robb Stark, Jonos Bracken and Greatjon Umber with the northmen and the riverlords about whether they should join forces with Renly or Stannis Baratheon. When the Greatjon names Robb as the King in the North and lays his sword at his feet, Karstark is the second to join him followed by Theon Greyjoy and Maege Mormont.

A Clash of Kings

Rickard Karstark storms out of the Great Hall of Riverrun when Robb Stark explains his terms for peace with the Iron Throne, wanting to avenge the death of the northmen who died during the war, his two sons included. Later he goes in the westerlands among King Robb's host, which includes Brynden Tully, Greatjon Umber, Maege Mormont, Galbart Glover, Stevron Frey, and many other lords and knights from the North and the riverlands. Lord Karstark fights beside Robb at the Battle of Oxcross, in which he personally kills Ser Stafford Lannister. In the TV version Karstark's youngest son Torrhen Karstark survives the early battles, but is later killed by Jaime Lannister like in the books during an escape attempt. After Jaime's recapture, Lord Rickard demands Jaime's execution in revenge for the murder of his son, but Catelyn Stark speaks for his life. In the show Lord Rickard also dismisses Talisa Maegyr as a "foreign bitch". Rickard the raids along the western coast while the Greatjon captures the gold mines at Castamere, Nunn's Deep and the Pendric Hills, and Maege captures thousands of cattle in the westerlands to drive them towards the riverlands.

After receiving news of King Balon Greyjoy invading the North and the taking of Winterfell by Prince Theon, Catelyn is grieving over the "deaths" of his two youngest sons, Bran and Rickon (who are actually not truly dead). She frees Jaime and sends him to King's Landing with her sworn sword Brienne of Tarth to exchange him for her captive daughters. He is furious that she has denied him his vengeance, saying that he personally would happily exchange his life for those of his deceased children, even if it meant captivity for them. Robb Stark was overcome with grief as well, which led him to have a sexual intercourse with a girl from the Crag who was tending his battle wounds, Jeyne Westerling, daughter of Lord Gawen Westerling who's captive in Riverrun. To preserve her honor, Robb weds her immediately thereafter. The Frey host that had accompanied Robb into the west are furious and withdraw their support.

A Storm of Swords

There's malcontent in the northern host: despite the fact they never lost a single battle, and even liberated Harrenhal, there's no true positive outcome from their rebellion. The Lannister won't give Sansa back, nor they will make peace with the North. Stannis Baratheon was defeated during the recent Battle of the Blackwater, removing any hope of Joffrey and the Lannisters being finally defeated (Stannis promised to Catelyn that he would free Sansa and Arya, though he also said to her that he would have killed Robb after dealing with Renly and Joffrey). With the North invaded by the ironmen, the northern lords feel they don't have a true purpose anymore in fighting the Lannisters, and only want to return to their homeland and free their lands from the ironborn. Rickard's faith in Robb continues to deteriorate as he see the negative result of the war in the riverlands, who are mostly destroyed and still occupied by the Lannister army. He's disillusioned by the fact that Jaime is still being chased.

He manifests his disapproval of the march back to Riverrun. He lost faith in the northern cause and believes Robb lost the war the day he he married another woman who was not meant to marry, a slight that Lord Walder Frey is not likely to forgive or ignore. While Hoster Tully is now dying, Edmure Tully is acting Lord Paramount of the Trident. At Riverrun Robb and the Blackfish scold him for his tactical failure in battle: Edmure met Tywin Lannister's army as they attempted to cross the Red Fork at a ford near Riverrun and threw them back. While this prevented Tywin's force from approaching Robb's from the rear, Robb's plan had been to entangle the army in a chase while Stannis Baratheon marched on King's Landing. Being thrown back at Riverrun allowed Tywin's force to turn around and arrive at King's Landing in time for the Battle of the Blackwater, which turned the tide of the battle, and indeed the war, in the Lannister's favor. This false victory in battle makes Lord Edmure responsible for the escape of the Mountain, and indirect responsible for the defeat of King Stannis, and the victory of the war of House Lannister.  At this point Robb and Catelyn earn the enmity of Lord Karstark, who's not loyal to the King in the North anymore.

Overcome with grief and anger Rickard Karstark and his men murder Willem Lannister, son of Kevan, and Tion Frey, son of Tywin's sister Genna Lannister (in the TV series replaced by Kevan's son Martyn, while he's been released in the books), in the dungeons of Riverrun and sends his men to track down the Kingslayer, promising his daughter Alys to anyone who recovers Jaime for him. He openly insults the King in the North and claims the war is a lost cause. Robb then declares Rickard a traitor and sentences him to die, carrying out the sentence himself, ignoring the advise of Edmure and Catelyn to hold Karstark hostage and send him to the Night's Watch after the war, on the basis that the Karstarks form a significant portion of Robb's army, and they will abandon Robb if he executes their lord. With his last breath Rickard curses Robb, denounces him as his king, and calls him a kinslayer due to the blood ties between Stark and Karstark. Rickard is succeeded by his sole surviving son, Harrion, who's still captive of the Iron Throne. As a result, the Karstark forces abandon Robb and return home, while Robb frees Martyn Lannister in exchange of Robett Glover.

After Rickard's death, his uncle Arnolf Karstark plots to gain control of Karhold.