So with the WFRP in hiatus for the holiday season, my old friend Bill took to the GM's chair Sunday last.With a wide selection of d20 products to choose from, Bill eventually decided to run FFG's Midnight.
The Midnight RPG is set in a world best described as Middle Earth after the victory of Sauron. This is a setting which takes all the familiar themes of fantasy roleplaying and turns them upside down. Pretty much everything which defines PC's in a regular fantasy RPG are grounds for summary execution in Midnight's land of Aryth: magical powers, weapons, armour, unusual abilities, literacy, knowledge; you name it, if you've got it in Ayrth, it marks you out from the multitude, and that's a Very Bad Thing.
In case you think I'm exaggerating how bad life is in the land of Midnight, I phoned round last week to rustle up the usual suspects for the game. Brian and I got to talking about what we were to be playing. Brian expressed his delight at getting another chance to play in Midnight. I told him that I'd already got my PC made up. Brian asked what I was playing. A mage I said. Good luck then was his immediate reply!
And so there our 4 PC's were
- Erik the blacksmith (me): whose terrible secret isthat he's a fire mage
- Barak (Tony): a local boatman, cousin to Aldric
- Otto (Andy): another boatman, who works with Barak, and who just happens to be a member of the local rebel network
- Aldric (Brian): a woodsman with 2 young siblings to take care of.
On the fateful day that would change their lives forever our 4 PC's were lined up with their fellow villagers in the main street of Grimholt, a riverside village nestling amid the ruins of what had once been a town in Erenland. It was taxday, and everyone was waiting for the local Legate. Legate Morgos duly arrived, accompanied by his entourage of orcs, goblin wolfriders, and a wagon-train, with a slave-train to boot.
Legate Morgos- known to be benevolent by the standards of Ayrth under the rule of the Lord Izrador- had a surprise for the people of Grimholt that day: he was moving on to a new appointment, and there was to be a new Legate. Morgos' successor was promptly introduced, and turned out to be a strikingly beautiful woman with pale skin and long black hair. She went by the name of Laetitia, and was accompanied by a vicious looking big black dog.
Introductions over, Morgos went down the lines collecting taxes and asking everyone the kind of blandly double-edged questions all too easy to imagine. Everyone gave the stammering replies with vouchsafes of loyalty to be expected of the oppressed when they can feel their overlord's breath on their cheek.
Laetitia was keeping herself busy throughout this, walking up and down the assembled lines inspecting her new charges, pausing now and then to sniff at them (peculiar, I'll warrant, but none of the PC's felt like cracking a smile at this I can assure you!). A particularly tense moment came when Laetitia stopped to sniff at Erik. Her evil looking hound joined in, fixing Erik with a glare that spoke of a strange intelligence. There followed another brief exchange of question and answer, which ended with Laetitia ominously noting that she'd have to keep an eye on Erik. Exempt from taxes by virtue of being blacksmith and confident- after more than 10 years of subterfuge- in his ability to hide his magical powers, Erik was suddenly not feeling so sanguine about his future.
The leving of taxes over, confession followed. Morgos and Laetitia installed themselves in the local inn, and one by one the entire village had to present themselves for interview. There they were invited to confess their sins over the past year, and to offer up any information of disloyal doings that had come to their notice.
Otto had a particularly fraught time as Morgos and Laetitia pressed him for information about any strangers seen on his river travels. They were particularly interested in anything Otto could tell them about 'The Mark of Four'. The nervous Otto briefly considered informing at random on some hapless stranger from faraway. In any event, somehow or other Otto managed to pass muster during confession, and escaped to face another day.
Confession passed in a similar vein for the other PC's, except for Erik. He again attracted special attention from Laetitia and her hound, and his bad feelings about the creature being more than a mere animal grew ever stronger.
And so, with the worst over for another year, our PC's retired to spend a nervous night at home. Their fitful sleep was broken in the middle of the night by the sounds of battle from the direction of the orc camp. The sound of human voices could be heard above the din of the clash of arms, and they were voices raised in anger, not the anguish of mere suffering. A rebel attack! The uproar continued for some time. Our PC's wisely decided that this was no time to venture out into the streets of Grimholt.