The Game: Edge of Midnight
The Publisher: Edge of Midnight Press with Studio 2 Publishing
Degree of Familiarity: Yet another of those games that I bought for inspiration, and possibly to review.
Books Required: Just the corebook.
Edge of Midnight is a game that I started liking after flicking through the nine pages of reccommended reading and viewing. Some people were turned off after reading by the Big Secret, but not me. I just don't care. Allow me to digress for a moment.
No matter how much I hate the term "trad game", it's undeniably useful to denote games with a separate list of Attributes and Skills that sits firmly in the GM+Players model and ultimately aims to define characters in terms of their capabilities. For a trad game, Edge of Midnight is focused like a fucking laser. It knows what its going for, and it hits every single note. It's noir of all kinds, everything from Raymond Chandler to Brian Azarrello1, from Reservoir Dogs to Seven to Batman Begins. It can't be as focused as a dedicated game; Greg Stolze's A Dirty World has a greater focus on genre emulation from what I've seen, but it veers outside the realm of traditional games with constantly shifting traits. But Edge of Midnight is certainly getting there.
Edge of Midnight does two things that some people might think odd: It eliminates sexism and racism, and introduces magic. Yet it retains that perfect focus by tying each into the genre.
In the setting, magic exists. People who study hard enough can apply the laws of physics in strange and unpredictable ways. Some people claim that magical research is harmless, but after the cataclysm of the last war (analogous to the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) has left most magicians untrusted. Rather than feeling overt prejudice, they're often the subject of scares and propaganda; a more effective form of hate in the long run. In this case, sorcerers run close to Communists during the McCarthy era, constantly hunted but constantly hidden, ramping up the paranoia. Racism and sexism are handled by Gaunts, a species of humanoid creature that absorbs magic, and has the physical strength and toughness to do all the crappy jobs. Because of the hideous casulaties of the last war, men and women of all colours and creeds can hold whatever jobs they like, but Gaunts still have their own nightclubs, bars, schools, and streetcars. Some people look past their prejudice, but they're the exception, rather than the rule.
These fantastical elements blend nicely into a setting that's 1950's America via Dark City, and they never get in the way of classic noir storytelling. The system's odd (Skill and Attribute are rolled on separate dice), and I'm not sure how well that plays out, but it's an interesting quirk that I've not seen in action.
1. Character Concept
Randall Hopkirk2 may not be the sharpest tool in the box, but he makes up for what he lacks with pure gut instincts. He watned to be a cop, but six years on the streets of Gateway City knocked his idealism out of him. He'd took the badge out of some misguided idea that he could help people, rather than using them to line his own pockets. It all came to a head when Mandragora, a crimelord of some repute, offered Randall "a position on his staff". Officer Hopkirk gave up his badge rather than be the one straight cop in a bent precinct. He set up as a PI, though his cases frequently draw attention from the police he once worked alongside.
The section provides a number of useful questions to help flesh out a concept, so I'll run down and answer those I've missed: Randy's fairly tall, but you wouldn't know it on account of him stooping all the time. His once brown hair is now shot through with grey, and his suits ain't been pressed in living memory. Other people drink to drown their sorrows, but he prefers nothing more than a cigar—booze took both his father and his brother, and he won't touch a drop. He never really switches off, but he does try to keep within range of a radio when there's a baseball game on.
While magic is technically illegal without a license, he's mistrusting rather than fearful. His ex-wife was a warlock, and their divorce burned him bad. Unlike most people, he thinks he has no trouble with gaunts, though his patronising tend to "throw them a bone" is really just a different kind of prejudice. It probably helps that he never fought in the war, as that was when he was in the police academy and on the streets. He regrets not sticking with the force, not trying to change things—he's sure that there's still some good cops in the blue, and he hates himself for not helping them out. Secretly, he longs for the day that he can lock his office and go home to a family again (his two sons live with his ex-wife), but he knows that ain't going to happen any time soon. He has a few rules that help him deal with a world where nobody's fully trustable: he never takes a dime he didn't earn, and he won't put someone in the ground if they weren't gonna do the same to him.
2. Attribute Scores
30 points to spend on Attributes. I know I want a high Gut (covering Intuition) and physicals wouldn't go amiss. 4 is human average, so I spread that around to start. That leaves me with six points. I put three of those into Gut, two into Build, and one into Moxie. I drop Brains to 3, and increase Brawn by one. That leaves me with Brains 3, Brawn 5, Build 6, Gut 8, Moxie 5, Smoothness 4.
Thirty-five points to spend, and skill max is 5. Four points go into Firearms, four into Perception, and four into Streetwise first off. Basic stuff for any PI. Bureaucracy from being an ex-cop, Fast Talk as a means of browbeating suspects, Pick Lock for getting at clues, Puzzles for working stuff out, and Stealth for following suspects. I put three points in each of those skills, and follow up with three in Lore: Baseball. Finally, two points in Brawl and three in Evasion round the character out.
Three background choices. Since I'm not making a Gaunt or a Warlock, I've fewer things to choose from. Alert fits the concept, ignoring the drawbacks of all partial successes on Perception rolls. Mean Streets on account of growing up in a bad part of town, and that gives me nice skill bonuses. Finally, Wise covers his incredible instincts.
I get one Profession at Rank 1 as a starting character. Thing is, only a few have Income listed. Looks like Randall's living case to case. The Investigator Profession gets a really nice bonus (automatically discovering one fact about a suspect per session per level).
$60 starting cash, no savings. That sucks. Then again, it's due to a complete lack of income listed for Investigators. For the purposes of starting out, let's splurge all of it on a small revolver, so he's got something for when the trouble starts.
Randall speaks English as a native, and nothing else.
What do you know, that's me done.
Name: Randall Hopkirk
Fast Talk 3
Lore (Baseball) 3
Pick Lock 3
0: And other overly poetic flounces
1: Seriously. 100 Bullets is perfect: a man you don't know gives you incontrovertible evidence proving that someone fucked your life up, and a gun with one hundred untraceable bullets. It's the perfect setup for a noir game.
2: You may commence groaning