Game comparison

As many of you know — because I haven’t exactly hidden it — Midnight Never Come grew out of a role-playing game I ran in 2006. But what precisely does that mean?

WARNING: the following contains thorough-going spoilers for the novel. Read onward at your peril, if you haven’t read the book.

The points of correspondence between game and novel are scattered, in part because the game had its own metaplot going on that is nowhere in the books, and in part because it contained much less plot: the “Midnight Never Come” segment of the game ran for about three and a half evening sessions, which doesn’t translate to much on the page. But here, in as coherent form as I can give them (and some attempt at chronological order), are the related elements:


1 — Suspiria. In the game, her crime took place in 1399, not the misty dawn of time, and it had a different (and Changeling-specific) form. Likewise the curse, which was a) different and b) leveled upon her by a tribunal of faerie judges, not a heartbroken young mortal man. But the notion that she did something wrong and had to atone for it was the same, as was the detail that her punishment involved her aging and dying.

2 — Francis Merriman. The game featured a faerie-blooded family whose members helped the player-characters throughout the centuries, so the search for Francis had a rather different cast in the game. But he met and fell in love with Suspiria in the first half of the sixteenth century.

3 — The Goodemeades. Likewise part of a larger family, and technically — courtesy of the political structure used in the game, which I jettisoned for the novel — Rosamund was a baroness in the Onyx Court. But they were more or less the same nice, sweet, unexpectedly savvy sisters you know from the book.

4 — The Onyx Hall. Its creation involved Suspiria, Francis, the Goodemeades, and various other people, and the idea was that it would lift Suspiria’s curse. Which, in both iterations, it was a good step towards, but not sufficient on its own.

5 — Invidiana. Francis’ vision of the apple (which was the thematic image this segment of the game was organized around: immortal youth and beauty), plus Suspiria’s bitterness over her continued suffering, equalled a pact with Hell, wherein she sold her heart in exchange for immortality. (And thus became the cold-hearted bitch I was never able to play well enough to satisfy myself, though I scared my players decently.)

6 — Tiresias. Francis duly went mad (in ways that were, courtesy of game mechanics, rather more horrifying), forgot who he was, and became Invidiana’s tortured pet.

7 — Random assorted characters. I already had a bunch of people placed in the Onyx Court. Most of them did little to nothing in the game — remember, we had only a few nights to play it — but they were in my head, so I just used them again. These included Valentin Aspell, Ifarren Vidar, the Nellts, Amadea, Broderick Bobbin, Carline, and others I’ve forgotten. Also Achilles, Orpheus, and Eurydice.

8 — The general situation. I said in the game that the Onyx Court interfered with mortal politics, but time constraints meant that was basically just an unfounded assertion on my part; one of the things I wanted to do in the novel was actually explore that idea.

(Point of divergence: Would you believe that original assertion included the notion that Walsingham was friends with some faeries? This was before I knew he was a Puritan. Notice how he had nothing to do with them in the book.)

So far this is all background stuff. That was about 90% of the reason I wanted to write the book — because Francis and Suspiria wouldn’t leave my head. There were, however, a few distinct plot-points from the game that showed up in the novel.

9 — Francis’/Tiresias’ death. The ban upon him was slightly more specific — it had to do with his vision, which he was supposed to tell to the player-characters, ‘cept he was too crazy to recognize them when they showed up — but, as in the book, he died upon telling one of the protagonists about it.

(Point of divergence: and then I had some evil ghosts rip his ghost to pieces. Because I wanted the characters to cope without a Merriman to help them. I killed a lot of the Merrimans along the way, but he was the only one in 650 years to be completely obliterated.)

10 — John Dee. In both iterations, his involvement was pretty much the inevitable consequence of deciding Suspiria made a pact with Hell. How better to address that than with angels, and the guy who claimed to talk with them? His involvement was different, but in the end, it came down to him summoning an angel to help the characters.

11 — Anael. I chose this angel because of its associations with love. It kissed one of the player-characters and told her to bear that kiss to the one she loved.

12 — A prisoner in the Onyx Hall. The prisoner in question was a redcap, and he’d been stuck there since the beginning of that segment of the game, rather than being a new capture, but the purpose of the kiss was to free him.

13 — The attack from outside. In the game it was the entire regional contingent of House Scathach instead of the Wild Hunt, but the idea was still to distract Invidiana so the player-characters could get in.

(Point of divergence: It succeeded, but not enough. Invidiana was waiting inside with another small army. But from a metaplot perspective, that was okay, because the way for the player-characters to break her pact with Hell involved them all dying. No, really. [Remember, they reincarnated, so it was okay.] All four of them, plus the guy they came to rescue and a good half of that army, died in the throne room of the Onyx Hall, in what was probably the most epic battle in ten and a half months of play. And Invidiana destroyed the Hall trying to fight them. Which meant she was left alone, cursed, and standing in the ruins, grieving with her newly-restored heart for the unforgivable things she’d done to Francis — who was dead beyond the possibility of reconciliation.)

From there, the game chronology went on through 1651, 1759, 1828, 1916, and 2006, and bits and pieces of the consequences to those events played out along the way, but I pulled those threads in to make a more compact story. The player-characters didn’t finish dealing with Invidiana until 2006, when they discovered one of the fae around them was her current incarnation — whereupon she tried to murder them, almost died, was made a prisoner, got her four hundred plus years of bitterness and pain over what she’d done to Francis healed enough for her to function, and was left with the renewed chance to lift her curse. She never did get rid of it in game; I figured that was her story, and not something the players needed to take care of.

There are also other scattered details; the rose-hidden room beneath the Goodemeade’s house was originally elsewhere in London, but I relocated it. And the Wild Hunt was originally a (very different) part of the 1651 segment of the game, before I repurposed them as a threat in this era. Probably other things I’ve forgotten, too. But this is the gist of it: a lot of background, and a few key points of present-day plot, with the Changeling-specific details filed off and a metric ton of new material and narrative twists added.

The thing that’s oddest about all of this, for my money, is the way it affected my relationship with the characters. The four PCs of the game have been replaced by Lune and Deven (though they each have a brief, unnamed cameo), but other characters are there, and those? Were the ones I was playing. As the game-master, I had to be the side characters: the Goodemeades, and Tiresias, and above all Invidiana. (Though not John Dee, who was a guest-star appearance by my husband.) I’ve been inside their heads, to a much greater extent than the characters who started out on the page, because I spoke their dialogue, mimicked their mannerisms, physically inhabited their roles.

It’s an odd thing, to bring that role-playing experience into the world of my novel-writing.

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed this tour behind the scenes of the adaptation process.