Beyond the walls


Outside of the mega-metropolis where most humans on Midgard live, snow-born monsters roam the lands. Their most distinguishing trait: an aversion to humanity.

Although Nordic myth certainly has its own creatures list, the way we approach monsters is rooted in 18th century Gothic literature, but it’s really 1818’s Frankenstein by Mary Shelley that managed to make its way into our collective subconsciousness.

We’re first exposed to monsters as young children and as we grow older, these terrifying creatures evolve with us, becoming darker and more existential until we’re teenagers. In Writing Monsters, author Philip Athens identifies some of their most common traits: they feed upon our fears, they are unpredictable, they have a disturbing capacity for violence, they exhibit an ‘otherness’, our imagination makes them scarier, they are amoral, they are beyond our control, they are terrifying in appearance, and they turn us into prey.

In Shield Maidens, there are many monsters. Some of them are humans who lack a decent moral compass and empathy, some of them dwell in one of the other realms, beyond the reach of most humans, but many of them live on Midgard itself, their origins unknown. Most lack common characteristics and this may make them even scarier, as one never knows what they stand to encounter in the endless winter and even their origins are a subject of much debate amongst academics.

‘There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable,’ Mark Twin once noted, and he was right. It’s why roleplaying games often have a chapter, supplement or host of manuals completely dedicated to creatures that might serve as enemies to the Player Characters, and its why Shield Maidens has its own critters – things that don’t only go ‘bump in the night’, but also behind the thick, white blanket of seemingly ever-lasting snow.