A Midsummer Night's Story: Synopsis and background

A Midsummer Night's Story
by Martin Svendsen

For: 1 gamemaster and 4 players.
Contents: 5 scenes, adding up to a total of 90 minutes' play.
System: Systemless scenario using extras roleplaying and storytelling roleplaying. <note: This contradicts the statement below that it uses a combo of extras and regular tabletop roleplaying?>
Setting: Mootland, the halfling province of the Warhammer Empire.

The old Moot Ranger, Kornelius Talker (usually just called Talker), sits by the fire with four young rangers. They ask him to tell a story, and a story they will get. Talker will tell the story of the most mysterious murder riddle he ever encountered.

Talker's story takes place years ago, when a feast werewas to be held in Mootland. A midsummer night's feast called Brügger's Feast. At this feast, the young Miss Mirriam would choose her groom to be from three admirers:

• The reputable master brewer and councilman's son, Jarn
• The seductive and influential king of fools, Thalias
• The youthful and widely travelled adventurer, Maximilliam

Prior to the feast, the four main characters prepared by making plans for the feast together with their nearest (played as extras by the players). Plans for achieving their goals in the best possible way.

Mirriam prepared with her mother, her sister and a town priestess. Jarn discussed with his prospective father-in-law, his banker and the town's alderman. Thalias laid out plans with the old king of fools, the court jester and a fortune teller. Maximilliam met with his fellow adventurers: the old mercenary, the graverobber and the professor.

Their plans would unfold during that evening's feast. After the feast, one of the participants was found murdered. Talker asks the four young rangers who they think was murdered, and not least: Who committed the crime?

The scenario
The scenario contains five scenes: Four preparatory scenes where plans are made for the evening's feast, and a fifth scene which is the feast itself, where the plans made in the first four scenes unfold more or less according to plan.

In each of the first four scenes, one main character and three extras participate, while all characters may participate in the final scene. Let the players mix main characters and extras freely, jumping between characters if they wish. The first four scenes should last about 15 minutes each, while the final scene can last 30 minutes, adding up to about 90 minutes of play as a rule of thumb. But feel free to adjust playing times if it feels right.

As gamemaster, you take on the role of Talker, the old ranger, and set the scope of play by introducing the story. As Talker, you will also round off each of the five scenes and introduce the next, framing the scenario as Talker's retelling of the story to the four rangers.

The scenario is played using a combination of extras roleplaying (where players play extras related to the main characters) and regular tabletop roleplaying (where the players play their main characters). It is part free storytelling (where players improvise events within the scope of the story), part traditional plot driven story (where there is a set storyline).

The atmosphere of this scenario should be cozy, comfortable and homely (without turning it into a farce by overdoing it). Draw inspiration from The Shire in The Lord of the Rings and the rural British mysteries depicted in TV shows like Midsomer Murders or Murder She Wrote. Having Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in mind is alright, too.

If possible, print the extras on separate pieces of cardboard or the like. That way, players can hold up their extras when they play them, avoiding confusion as to who is playing whom at the moment. :)

Have a good time!
Martin Svendsen

A little background (the plot)
In The Moot, in the place where the old apple grove now grows, a sacred grove lay many, many years ago. It is lost in the past to which religion and which gods the grove belonged, but one thing is certain: The grove has a very strong association with nature, the mystical arts and what is hidden.

Today, the apple grove is the life nerve of the small halfling community. It is a big, oblong grove. From one end, an avenue of apple trees lead to the centre, where a small stone platform is encircled by three old, crumbling standing stones bearing almost illegible inscriptions. In the other end of the grove, the apple trees stand close together, and at the farthest end, well hidden, there is a small lake, surrounded by reeds and rushes and overgrown by water lilies. Insects hum happily around the lake, putting the visitor in a trance. It is not uncommon to hear tales of encounters with fairies or woodland spirits here.

In ancient days, when the Empire was young and populated by primitive tribes, the grove served as setting for the coronation of the tribal chief, the anointed one. The priests and guardians of the sacred grove led the chosen one into the grove, where spirits, nymphs, fairies and dryads watched over the crystal crown that demonstrated the chief’s power. The crown is a beautiful, very valuable crown made of what is best described as living crystal. The chosen one was then crowned by the guardian and blessed by the spirits. The blessing meant that the chief could count on a good harvest, decent weather, and that not too many youngsters were lured into oblivion in the woods. However, the blessing had to be kept powerful by sacrifice, made by throwing treasures into the lake.

When the age of the old grove had passed, it was forgotten until Ludwig the Fat in the Age of Three Emperors gave the area to the halflings as thanks for services rendered in the Empire’s kitchens. The halflings started to tend to the grove and make apple cider from its apple trees. And another tradition was introduced. Young maidens would choose their grooms at the annual Brügger’s Feast where the young couples were crowned with flowers, completing their engagement. These rituals have awakened the grove. The trees, spirits and nymphs of the grove believe that the master brewer (who tends to the grove, talks to the trees and honors the spirits) is its guardian, and that the choice of groom and subsequent coronation is the selection of the tribal chief.

This is the set story of the scenario. During the feast (scene 5), the grove awakens. The spirits, nymphs and fairies will begin to show themselves and contact the players. The guardian (Jarn, one of the main characters) will be led to the crystal crown, which is hidden in a secret cavity in the grove’s central stone platform. The spirits want the guardian to find the crown and perform the coronation. What actually happens is described under scene 5.

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