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Author Topic: [Midnight] Children of the Fall  (Read 373 times)

Seanchai

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[Midnight] Children of the Fall
« on: March 27, 2007, 01:51:55 AM »
Well, we're starting up our Midnight campaign again this week. I sent out the recap/refresher/intro for new players:

The Midnight setting is a great palette—you have your evil gods, dark empire, daring heroes, betrayal, love, loss, hope, sacrifice, etc.. But one element always intrigued me: The sealing of Aryth and the trapped extra planar beings. When Izrador fell to Aryth, the world was sealed off from the gods and the planes, stranding whatever extra planar beings were there at the time.
 
That in and of itself is full of GM deliciousness, but I thought: What about the angels? What about the angels? They're not only trapped, but they're cut off from their gods. The second edition rulebook added a new twist: Extra planar beings are now spirits who have to possess someone else to interact with the material world. When they do, they slowly kill that someone and his or her body changes to the planar being's original form. So if the trapped angel wants to do something, it has to possess someone.
 
Think about it. All of a sudden the omnipresent voice of goodness vanishes from the angels' minds. They try to get to heaven, but can't. And they're bodiless. But what's worse, the world has been infected by evil! Evil is slowly, slowly spreading. As I see it, angels are good beyond human capacity. Humans can't really understand how good angels are. But try to imagine yourself as being of pure goodness surrounded by evil. Would you act? How could you not act? But remember, in order to really behave according to your nature, you're going to have to perform an inherently evil act and possess someone....
 
Children of the Fall is a campaigned designed to play around with those ideas and themes. At its root, it's the story of a group of angels dealing with their new reality, trying to adjust, trying to save mankind and trying to get back home. All of what's below is known to the player characters.
 
There are five angels. Each represents a virtue. We have Justice, Strength, Mercy, Wisdom and Truth. They used to live on an island near the coast. They had a shining demesne of white marble set amid rugged cliffs and salty waves. There they fought evil in the name of their creators—this evil was usually a power, local sea demon.
 
Then, unexpectedly, everything they knew was swept away. A comet fell to Aryth. The angels were sealed away from heaven, the comforting and golden presence of their father gone from their minds and souls. They weren't just devastated—they experienced a state I'm not sure we mere mortals can understand.
 
But they had one shining, core element of their past life to cling to: They could fight evil.
 
It was harder now. They either had to try to influence mortals and affairs from a bodiless state or find some conscionable way to take a host. For a time, they did. Things went well. But after looking at some of the official Midnight materials, I decide that for at least this campaign, twelve thousand years had passed since the fall of Izrador. The angels tried to make do for twelve thousand years. Think about it. Think about how long humans have been around, how long we have recorded human history. Over the course of twelve thousand years, the angels had gone a bit astray and faced some set backs.
 
But remember, they can't give up. They literally are fighting evil. It's what they're made of. It's their very being. And so they endure the best they can. And their mistakes and missteps are being to add up...
 
But let's not forget about the sea demon. While the fall of Izrador made the angels weaker, it made him more powerful. He wanted revenge. So he used his new found power to fashion minions to harry his old foes. This being Midnight, they to have their themes. They are the antithesis of the angels. We know that the minion set against Justice was a vampire that, by taking the lives of others to fuel its own, represented Injustice. We know that Lies pursues Truth.
 
The angels endure their state and the state of the world as best they can according to their particular situation and temperment. Things, however, are especially tough on Justice. Of the angels, Justice's namesake virtue is the most active and the least likely to be able to idly while evil is done around it. So it is Justice that is most active and, subsequently, makes the most mistakes.
 
Justice makes one particularly bad mistake, however. One day, he realizes he can kill two birds with one stone. His host dies and instead of seeking someone dying or who will willingly take him, Justice seeks out the vampire who has been hunting him and enters it. A war for the vampiric body begins. Justice loses.
 
Oh, he gains control of the body. But it's not a living body. It doesn't adapt to possession as living bodies do. Normally, the host is slowly transformed into the likeness of the possessor. The vampire's body does metamorphize to a degree, but not fully. Insteady, Justice becomes an amalgam of angel and bloodsucker (he gets the Vampire template).
 
Justice quickly realizes what's happened (suddenly, he feels a great thirst...). By this point, all the angels are more than a little insane—they've been fighting daily battles between their circumstances and inner natures for thousands of years. But Justice goes quite, quite, quite mad for a long time.
 
Although he never fully recovers, he does regain enough sanity to understand his good fortune when he stumbles across an interesting piece of lore: There is a figurine that can reveal truths. Its user must confess to some sin or reveal some lie and, in exchange, the Maid of Stone Tears will reveal something which can heal a spiritual wound. (Remember, this is Midnight. Themes!).
 
Justice realizes his sin is a whopper. He's a fallen angel. What's worse, he has refused to give up his vampiric body and continues to prey upon the living. Oh, he rationalizes his choice, but in his heart of hearts, he knows he is doing evil. But what would the Maid reveal to him? Here's what he wants: A way back into heaven. A way out of the constant state of moral warfare he finds himself in. Surcease from sorrow. He wants to go home.
 
And here's where our story starts. Because Justice finds out where the Maid is located: Steel Hill. The very city the player characters are in. But here's the rub: The cult that possessed the Maid is destroyed. Moreover, possessing an item which could reveal important things, they knew they were going to be destroyed. And so they hid the idol in a safe place, one protected from evil. When Justice discovers this, he is distraught. Although he would never admit it, he knows he is evil and thus he cannot get his hands on the Maid.
 
Hello, player characters. Problem solved. Justice sends his manservant, an older man missing an eye, into the city to find heroes, good people who would help an angel find an idol if asked.
 
This is where the story takes another turn.
 
This circle of angels was created to battle evil as a unit. Each angel has its virtue, it's particular strength which it can lend to the whole. They are in one sense brothers and sisters and, in another, one mutifaceted being. One sunbeam, just split by a prism into different colored aspects, if you will.
 
Thus all the angels have a vague sense that Justice has done something terrible. Over the millennia, they have meet on occasion and have heard Justice's rationalizations for his actions. Of course, they beg and plead with him to abandon his vampiric body. He won't. They don't directly intervene, however (if you have a problem with the actions on a logical or moral basis, recall that they're all crazy as bedbugs).
 
Now the angel that Justice's actions bothers the most is, of course, Truth. And so when Truth learns that Justice plans on using some instrument of truth for some unknown purpose, he is concerned. At the time, Truth is inhabiting the body of a wandering minstrel. He is very, very, very careful not to let the possession progress too far—he merely floats alongside the bard, delicately influencing his subconscious. He gives the mortal dreams of Steel Hill and sets his feet in that direction.
 
So as the player characters begin their hunt for the Maid of Stone Tears, a second angel has entered the city. Truth finds a home among the remnants of the idol cult. (They had a prophetic device and knew that the "Truthbringer" was coming.) The characters meet Truth but are a bit flummoxed by a couple of things.

First, the bard doesn't know he's host to an angel.
 
Second, Truth does have one trick in his arsenal even in a bodiless state. Each angel has, of course, supernatural abilities. Over time, they've changed and mutated (again, we're talking twelve thousand years of possession, death, bodiless existence, etc.). Thus Truth's Penitentiary Gaze, an ability which can damage evil beings (Throne Archon entry, Book of Exalted Deeds, page 162), has become something which can be carried by the bard's music. When the bard plays, those who hear his song are sickened and filled with remorse and regret.
 
Of course, the trail of the Maid leads the player characters directly to the remnants of the cult and Truth. Truth, in the guise of the bard, can do obviously supernatural things, but claims vehemently to have no knowledge of what he is doing.
 
Eventually, the characters discover the whereabouts of the Maid: She's in a chamber in the main mine of Steel Hill. They brave it and, with the help of Justice, manage to get the idol and flee. But Justice is magically blinded in the escape (this was actually just happy coincidence and not DM fiat!). Now he needs the characters to describe what the idol reveals.
 
So the moment comes. Justice, for one moment, thrusts aside his rationalizations and self-lies. He says, "I am fallen." And the idol activates. A single tear rolls down its cheek, across its naked breast and down into the bowl it holds with both hands. The stone "water" of the bowl ripples and images appear...
 
The characters are shown images of the past, of the angels idylic life before the fall of Izrador.
 
They're shown quick images of the other angels where they slumber and toil.
 
They're shown a scepter in a mouldering tomb.
 
They see elves defending a fragment of white mirror. And failing.
 
They see their continent, Eredane, covered with lines of energy and a great nexus where they converge.
 
Finally, they see the once great demense of the angel, now a wave-wracked ruin.
 
The meaning, although not explict, can be felt by those witnessing the images. Gather scepter and mirror, take them to be filled in the nexus, then travel to the angel's spiritual home, their closest point to heaven on Aryth. With the combined might of the angels and the items, one could pierce the Veil that separates the angels from their father and return home if all goes well...
 
After they explain what they have seen, Justice explains (in a halting and mad fashion) his past actions and plans. He entreats the characters to aid him—not only is he blind, but his brothers and sisters will have nothing to do with him while he wears the vampire's body. He tells them that if he could return home, he could wake the heavenly host and set it against the great evil that's befallen Aryth.
 
The characters agree to help.
 
Not knowing what else to do with him, the characters brough Truth with them to meet Justice and turn over the idol. There were consequences. Truth wanted nothing to do with Justice and, in fact, tried to flee. He lost his calm. It was the angel's detatched state that was allowing it to halt the possession process. Agitated, Truth began to take over the bard. He was able to stop himself before too much damage was done, but the fragile balance was broken.
 
At the end of the campaign, the group had struck out east from Steel Hill, seeking the first angel between the towns of Bastion and Barrens. Truth was with them. Justice remained behind, hiding in a cave near Steel Hill, not daring the touch of the sun...
 
Seanchai
"Thus tens of children were left holding the bag. And it was a bag bereft of both Hellscream and allowance money."

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