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Midgard Monday: Getting the warband together, part 2

Midgard Monday: Getting the warband together, part 2

It’s Midgard Monday! Each week, we visit a corner of the wide world of Midgard. Look for standalone content you can drop into your campaign—whether it’s in Midgard or your own homebrew. Find new inspiration each Midgard Monday!

Conflict between the Seven Cities and the occupied territory of Rumela isn’t just a war story—it’s an opportunity to partake in the ceremony of the Season of War.

Prior to delving into this ceremony, GMs and players should familiarize themselves with the chapters on the Dragon Empire (Chapter 5) and the Seven Cities (Chapter 7) in the Midgard Worldbook. A refresher can help you represent the wider battlefield and the key factions. The first Warlock Grimoire and the Kobold Press blog has additional content about the Seven Cities and the Mharoti that are linked in these articles.

Safety Tools
A war campaign has a good chance of involving potentially troubling elements, or even elements players didn’t realize could trouble them until they appear during play.

The beginning of a war campaign is a good time to discuss how eventful and descriptively intense the players want it, what safety tools may be necessary, and what level of detail everyone is comfortable describing. Some have no needs and charge headlong into the atrocities of war, while others might prefer to often fade to black. Consider having this conversation a couple of times depending on the session results.

Toe the Company Line

This campaign draws together PCs as members of a free company, similar to the dark fantasy of Glen Cook’s Black Company series. Using this article series, GMs and players can create a war campaign.

A free company is a group of people who sign a charter binding them to a military company with a set of rules and a leadership structure—sometimes no more than a captain and a patron. Just as important as this charter, every member has their own reasons for seeking out life on the battlefield.

Expanding Backgrounds

While character backgrounds might explain why the PC joined at a free company, you should ask the players to fill in their characters’ flaws and ideals. This helps to establish boundaries the PCs won’t cross, situations which may spur them to irrational or illogical action, and things which leave them struggling to act out of doubt, fear, or disgust.

Drawing inspiration from the characters of the novels of The Black Company, these details should be the characters own secrets—private reasons known only to them and the GM until they decide to disclose them to their fellow PCs.

Creating the Company

To make the company more of a presence in the game during play and to allow the players the up-front ability to have input into the nature of the company, ask your players these questions to help define the company.

  • What is the free company’s name?
  • Who is the captain? What is their leadership style?
  • Who is officially your patron? Do you think you have a secret patron? Why?
  • What is the general composition of the free company?
  • What tools of war do they favor?
  • What is one thing that you knew about the free company that caused you to join?
  • What is one thing that you didn’t know about the free company that troubles you?

Identify one or more rival companies at the upcoming Mustering that the players did not join. Ask some of these questions as well to establish a rivalry.

  • What is the name of the rival company?
  • What is the general composition of the rival company?
  • Who is their patron? What conflict exists between your mutual patrons?  
  • Why did you almost join their company?
  • If they offered you membership, why did you decline?
  • If not, why do you think they chose not to offer you membership?

Mustering the Company

The Mustering is a public ceremony, where members all sign the charter that is subsequently blessed by an appropriate priest.

The situation is delicate at these initial activities, as any leaks of battle plans likely arouse the ire and armies of Glauvistus the Scourge, occupied Rumela’s draconic ruler (or morza). Some potential stories about those first days might include:

  • Believing spies to have infiltrated the ranks of the free companies at the muster, the captain directs the PCs to detain several people for further questioning. Some are members of other free companies accidentally or wrongfully suspected, while others are clumsy spies caught at their poor tradecraft.

    Yet more are traitorous members of a fifth column, planted to betray any Septime efforts in a long game that appears ready to pay off. The exact number of spies should be unclear, and the opportunities to embarrass, offend, or even just accidentally start a brawl with other units should be numerous. These incidents inform the PCs’ interactions in later adventures.
  • While captains negotiate fees and terms with potential patrons and their representatives, Mharoti agents seek to sabotage siege engines, poison supplies, and infect cavalry mounts with the black strangles by selling tainted tack at reduced prices.

    Because the agents use hats of disguise, the PCs must use magic and their own relentless sleuthing. Should an agent frame the party, they’ll need to work quickly to ensure they don’t end up in a crows’ cage—especially if the tables turn and another free company is tasked with detaining the seemingly traitorous PCs.
  • Having thwarted the nefarious plans of the Imperial saboteur and flushed their identity out into the open, the dragonfolk’s spy has no choice but to flee the Muster for the Morza lands. Thus begins a race to capture the culprit before word of the impending campaign gets back to Glauvistus. Unless the PCs can better navigate the roads and countryside than their quarry, the spy will escape with the help of monstrous ambushes, cunning double-crosses, and duped townsfolk.

Having set the stage for the coming war, use these plot hooks and narrative threads as the companies plunge into Rumela and take the fight to the dragons.

Get into Midgard with the Midgard Worldbook! This acclaimed campaign setting is rich and deep, with a decade of support from Kobold Press.

Want a more focused start? Try the Zobeck Clockwork City Collector’s Edition! This detailed sourcebook
gives players plenty of room to run, and includes adventures within the Clockwork City itself!

about Ben McFarland

Ben lived on a desert island for two years while serving as an officer in the US Air Force. He likes sushi, worldbuilding, and magic systems, and spends way too much time at a pool. He’s been freelancing, playtesting, and editing RPGs since 2005. While D&D’s a first love, Ars Magica is his greatest love and Cthulhutech his secret mistress.

4 thoughts on “Midgard Monday: Getting the warband together, part 2”

  1. This seven cities vs mharoti campaign looks very interesting. I could see a lot of different ways to play this out, including a Band of Blades style ruleset? Can’t wait for more Midgard Lore!

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