My Take on Super Heroes During the Black Death

A while back, I sat down with my regular gaming group, and we brainstormed ideas for a campaign for Fate Core. After bouncing a few things around, we came up with doing Super Heroes in Medieval Europe. The group wanted the main oppositions to be the Black Death and the Inquisition.

I've been researching a bit about this, and have decided the place the game in England in the winter of 1348 and into spring of 1349. This sort of detail isn't something that I would normally care to be so specific on, but the epidemic known as the Black Plague really only spanned from 1347 to 1351. There were a few other outbreaks of the bubonic plague in history, but none as dramatic.

The inquisition in those days wasn't quite in the full force witch hunt that it got to in later centuries. The inquisition was more concerned with heresy in the early days. There doesn't seem to be a ton of information on the inquisition during the 14th century, but they were certainly around. Plus, I'm sure that if someone during the time of the Black Plague went around showing off super powers, they would be quite quickly persecuted as a witch.

England in the 14th Century also had it's share of wars. The 100 years war with France is well under way. In fact, the battle of Crécy is only 2 years prior to when I'm setting the game. (Crécy is interesting because that's when England first used the longbow and changed warfare. If you want to know more, check out the graphic novel by Warren Ellis.) The second war of Scottish independence is also winding down at the time of the campaign. The final battle was fought in 1346, but the treaty wasn't signed until 1357.

What all this leads to is a war torn England in the middle of the worst plague in history. Spirits are pretty low in general. One of the Aspects (Fate Core term) that I'll have in play is "Mood of Morbidity". This will lead to people living for the moment. There are several ways that this will come about in gameplay. In addition to things that you would normally associate with a Live for the Moment attitude, the group may be randomly attacked by wild men, and there will be some extra persecution of minorities going on.


One of the other things I found really fascinating about England in 1348 is the state of the Church. The Church of England is still part of the Catholic Church at this point. The man in charge is the Archbishop of Canterbury (which is still true in today's Church of England).  In 1348 the current Archbishop, John de Stratford, died of the Black Plague. The canons of the chapter elected Thomas Bradwardine to replace him, but the king overruled them and chose John de Ufford. John de Ufford was appointed the job by a papal bull. John de Ufford died several months later, and Thomas Bradwardine was put in the position.

To me, John de Ufford sounds like a great arch villain for my campaign. Maybe, he too had super powers. Maybe he had some way to manipulate people, and got the king to put him into the job. It'll be up to the players to remove him.

I still have some details to work out, but I have a lot of the structure for this game put together. When I'm done, I'll probably format it nicely into a single PDF and put it out there for public use.

*pretty much all of my sources for this are wikipedia.