Monthly Archives: July 2019

The Great Pendragon Campaign, 500, Part I

I started off the session getting Sir Neroven’s player back up to speed, since he had missed the last half of 499. He had gotten married to Lady Cath, one of the daughters of Lady Indeg, who came with a sizeable dowry (20 libra and 2 manors.) Like everyone else, his lands were raided. Thanks to the dowry money, he’s starting to build a Bailey for his manor, but these things take time. One of his events for the 499 winter was that Lady Cath had a questionable birth- upon questioning, it was revealed that yes, before they were married she had relations with another man (that’s the problem with lustful wives.) The question then came up, what to do with the child? One of the double standards of the medieval era is that a man siring a bastard is no problem (and even expected), but a woman who has a child outside of marriage has committed a crime, even more so if she was an adulteress. Sir Nerovens, as a pagan, is more relaxed about these things, but society expects him to produce an heir. He had a number of options here- recognize it as his own, foist it off on a church or temple, but choose to accept the bastard into his family. I think I gave him checks on Honest and Modest for this- acknowledging an uncomfortable truth, and putting the needs of others before his own reputation.

Pentecost brought news that Cornwall had continued to expand, conquering county by county, having now taken over Jagent, where Count Madog (not to be confused with King Madog of the Forest Sauvage), who had insisted on singing for one’s supper had surrendered. No word on whether or not he had asked Prince Mark to sing. Lady Jenna had been married to Sir Ulfian, one of the sons of Duke Ulfias, and as a dowry had some land that had been contested with Levcomagus. Those who were intrigue-savvy learned that Prince Mark’s squire had brought a secret message to the castle in the dead of night, and apparently went away unhappy with the response. And Sir Salador arrived, and was recognized as rightful holder of his lands by Lady Ellen, and swore to serve her.

Other news: the Saxons of Kent and Essex were fighting each other, and looking to hire mercenaries. And fortunately, no one was here to demand tribute. Unfortunately, news came that one of the border castles was under assault by an army led by Prince Cynric of Wessex! The knights were mobilized and set out.

For this I used the rules from the Book of Battle. On the surface, they seem pretty simple, and I thought I had them down, but in practice they tended to be more complicated than they looked, with little details and modifiers here and there. Book of Battle introduces options for the unit leader to pick a maneuver (it reminded me a lot of the scripted combat from Burning Empires or Mouse Guard), and an Intensity system to represent the ebb and flow of battle, and also allow for a battle that the player’s actions can impact the victory. (The base system in the KAP rules involves a scripted victory- after a certain number of rounds, the battle ends, and the events is about what happens to the PCs and how much glory they could gain.)

Going into the battle, I did not know which way it was going to go, whether it would be a victory for the Saxons or not, I was going to let the dice fall where they may- it’s the Anarchy period, and anything can happen!

Once we got into the battle, it went really slowly- I was less familiar with the new rules than I thought I was, and something I discovered quickly was that the Tides of Battle make a much bigger difference.

Tides of Battle is a 3d6 -10 roll, resulting in a number somewhere from -7 to +8, which is a modifier to Battle rolls (and in the base rules, I think, combat rolls.) In the base battle rules, this lasts just for the round; it determines how well your army is doing right now. In Book of Battle, it is cumulative, and adds to Intensity (your army’s score, high is bad.) Every Tide of Battle roll I got was at least a 14, which is incredibly bad for the players. The first round they got a triumph (I think I interpreted the rules wrong), the best result, and modified their Intensity by -2, but increased it by +4. It got much worse from there.

We didn’t really get to see any of the scripting stuff, because the results of the battle meant that the players were forced into a certain maneuver each turn, due to Intensity scoring a critical hit, which meant they were fighting two Saxon units each round. Book of Battle has two tables for Saxons, one for a basic, scrappy Saxon army, and one for a more experienced Saxon army. For the first few rounds, I used the experienced table, but even though the players were emerging overall victorious, they were having a hard time of it, a few of them suffering major wounds. I probably should have leaned on the basic chart, given that this was the first battle of this segment, and the real experienced characters all died at St. Albans– it makes sense that the experienced Saxons would have died off too.

Anyway, after three rounds I called it for the Saxons. The players got a pittance of glory due to the defeat (like 25 each), which I’m going to go back and double. Sir Hermel got his major wound from a blue cloaked Saxon, some sort of aging badass. Those knights who didn’t yet have Hatred of Saxon picked up the passion.

After losing the battle and retreating to tend their wounds, the knights decided that they would rally Lady Elfrida’s knights, and armed with cold iron (which is really just a fancy name for iron), return to her castle to free it from the goblin horde. They made their preparations, ready to return to the Forest of Gloom.

The Great Pendragon Campaign, 499, Part II

Two of our knights were needed elsewhere- clearly Sir Nerovens had wedding preparations to attend to- so it was Sir Gherard, Sir Harvis, and Sir Hermel who ventured north, escorting Lady Nineve and her handmaidens into the Forest Sauvage.

Sir Gherard was quite vexed by the logistics of traveling with women, who seemed to want to stop constantly for all sorts of trivial reasons, and found himself quite restless and scouting ahead. However Sir Harvis and Sir Hermel were quite taken by the luxurious provisions Lady Nineve had brought along, eating quite well and looking forward to their next meals.

They crossed over into Glouchester, a land now divided between old Duke Eldol’s many relatives. They stopped at Castle Marlborough, where young Lord Eldwyn, no more than eight or nine years old held the castle. He did not seem to have a Regent, but rather ruled with the advice of a Christian monk. He granted the knights hospitality, and was the most gracious host they had met so far.

They avoided the main roads, and were able to avoid any banditry or challenges by hostile knights, and made it to the Forest Sauvage. Lady Nineve seemed to know the hidden paths to take, and led the knights forward.

They met a strange Squire, named Llewellyn, who was unusually cold, and asked the knights for a cloak. When Sir Gherard gave him one, they found that it did not fit him, covering barely a shoulder. Sir Harvis gave his as well, but it seemed quite small on the squire’s frame. Sir Hermel gave his cloak up only reluctantly, after being chided by Lady Nineve. (Sir Gherard and Harvis got Generous checks, Hermel got a Selfish check.)

Squire Llewellyn led them to the Castle of the Falcon, a small keep and nearby village surrounded by the local forest. The only knight present was the owner, Sir Ector, and the castle had clearly seen better days. He explained that he believed Llewellyn was a ‘spiritual giant,’ as if that explained anything. Without any servants to attend to him, Ector had his two sons, boys of about ten and eight, named Kay and Art, attend to the knights.

Sir Ector showed them the mews and the falcons (Merlins, as it happened), and the knights went falconing. Sir Harvis exchanged news with Sir Ector, and asked Ector if he had ever met Merlin- Ector said he hadn’t, but Harvis could tell the knight was lying. He did not press him on this mystery, since Ector had otherwise been a gracious host.

They continued onward through the forest, and encountered a pavilion of ladies, led by one Lady Blanche de Blanche, who told the knights she and her ladies were discussing morality, and wanted to know what made them good men. Sir Hermel said that it was because he took care of his family and provided for them. Sir Gherard said that he strove to be just in all things, and Sir Harvis that he was brave in battle. (Sir Hermel was clearly reaching for a generous check, after getting one for selfish; he got checks in Honor and Love: Family. Gherard got checks for Just and Modest, and Harvis for Proud and Valorous.)

They encountered a field of poppies, that made everyone who crossed through want to fall asleep, but the vigorous knights were able to carry out the squires and ladies who fell asleep.

Finally, they reached Lady Nineve’s destination, the home of an old friend of hers. This woman was near the end of her life, and was in pain, and asked Nineve to brew her a potion that would end her life. Lady Nineve was somewhat taken back by this. Sir Hermel told her she had to be true to herself, which comforted Nineve. After her original shock, she had no problem brewing the potion. She gave Sir Hermel the root he would need to cure his sickly child, and told the knights she and her handmaidens would be continuing north, to Gorre, to their mistress, Queen Morgan. She told the knights to go back the way they came, but also mentioned that if they sought adventure they might seek King Madog, the King of the Forest at the heart of the Forest Sauvage.

They ventured back to the Castle of the Falcon, where the younger page (clearly a reliable source of information), told them that it was rumored that anyone who passed three trials would be granted a boon by King Madog. Going deeper into the forest (now finding a clear path further in), they encountered a bridge guarded by Sir Joust, who wanted a friendly joust with the knights. Each jousted in turn, and he unhorsed each of them, however did so so skillfully that they were unharmed. Afterwards, he led them to the Castle of Ease.

At the Castle of Ease, they were feasted and granted warm beds, private chambers, and even a bath! Sir Harvis found his long lost sister Violet, who had married a knight and had two children. After staying the night, they found the castle most welcome… so welcome in fact, that they felt that if they stayed another night, they might want to stay another, then another. The three energetic knights took their leave of the Lord of the Castle of Ease, and continued on their journey.

After traveling through another village, where everything was unusually clean (including the pigs and the dogs and the peasants), they stopped at the Castle of the Race, where the Lord, Sir Yves, insisted on racing one of them. The track didn’t look so hard on foot, so all three knights agreed to race him. However once they set off, they found that the course was quite confusing, and Sir Hermel and Harvis found themselves hopelessly lost in the forest. Only Sir Gherard actually finished the race, with Sir Yves waiting at the finish line for him. He ventured forth into the forest to find his fellow knights, and found himself lost with them.

They traveled through the forest for several days (weeks?) getting no closer to Castle Sauvage. They first encountered Sir Bryan of Tribuit, who offered to show them the way out, and warned them that the forest was a dangerous, cursed place. Still, they ventured forward. Next, they encountered an old hag, who scoffed at them and told them if they had any sense they would leave. Still, they ventured forward. Next, they encountered a remote shrine, and the hermit who kept it, who pointed the way out, and told them no good would come to them if they stayed. Still, they ventured forward. Finally, they encountered a talking bear, who roared at them to leave. They figured this was a pretty good sign, and took the bear’s advice, and exited the forest, miles and miles away from where they entered.

They made it back home, to a scene of devastation. The Saxons of Wessex had raided their lands, so heavily that it would take years to recover. (In addition to the 3 points of raiding that had happened before, there were 2 points of ‘permanent’ damage, that reduced the value of their lands. Some of the knights, through good stewardship were able to mend the damage, and those who were married were also able to have their wives aid them, but it was a hard year all around, and most of the knights were forced to adopt poor lifestyle.)

The Great Pendragon Campaign, 499, Part I

In many ways, 499 is a watershed moment for the campaign. A few of these reasons are certainly in-character: King Idres of Cornwall is going to war with Jagent, which means that if successful, Salisbury will now border the Cornish juggernaut. So far the Saxons have mostly been posturing and raiding, but this is also the start of serious military action. However 499 has an incredibly short writeup in GPC- the only year to date that has been shorter was 493, which was still a great session, but it meant doing an improvised scenario, rather one from the book- which may very well be part of why it was a success.

But more importantly, it was when I figured out that with the number of sessions available (the games are run in four month blocks), I simply can’t get through the Anarchy in a single block without rushing things… so I might as well run this over an eight month period (December is bad for gaming anyway), and give more attention to each individual year. If the players want to spend an hour of each session going over the events at Pentecost Court, why not? It also gives more freedom to dig in and follow events in more detail, rather than trying to resolve everything in broad strokes, which I think would really do the period a disservice.

Anyway, there’s not much for the GM to latch on to in 499- some updates to the current events, the Saxons of Wessex wanting extra tribute, Prince Mark showing up. Technically the knights have been free to do as they will in any year, but this is the first year that did not have an obvious hook to latch into that demanded the knights’ attention, making it a sort of inflection point: this is where the rails fall away, and the notes in GPC become increasingly about what is happening elsewhere. Somewhat appropriate as the characters look on to the new century (technically the century doesn’t start until 501, but who’s counting.) And maybe this doesn’t matter to anyone but me, but I tend to overthink these things.

So we opened by picking up with Sir Hermel IV and his new wife. I finally put together my random wife table, and everyone watched with baited breath as the player rolled up Hermel’s new wife. He got a lucky roll and generated an heiress, and then got lucky again and it turned out she was a widow- extra glory, and she has some assets from her first marriage. (Also, she was originally 15, but being a widow added 2d6 to that. And then she was an ‘old maid’ for another 1d6.) Lady Efa is Energetic and Merciful and Lustful (good for Pagans), and skilled in Falconry, First Aid, Stewardship, and the art of Recognize. Quite the catch!

(Also Sir Ulysses has a nephew that is a Changeling. He doesn’t seem very concerned.)

There were several high profile visitors at Pentecost: Prince Mark from Cornwall, Prince Cynric of Wessex, and Sir Ulfian of Silchester, son of the Duke.

Prince Mark came seeking an alliance with Salisbury, and was hiring mercenaries for “the usual rate.” I could not find the rate for hiring a knight as a mercenary- a mounted sergeant is one pound a month, so I doubled that to two pounds, a tempting offer for many of the recently impoverished knights. Sir Gherard attempted to converse with Prince Mark and judge his intentions, and tried to make an Awareness roll (with a penalty)- it turns out that Prince Mark is a really hard guy to read. After a failed Suspicious test, Sir Harvis came away with the impression that Prince Mark was a great guy and super trustworthy- after all, he had been taking lands from Ygraine. What could possibly go wrong?

Prince Cynric wanted double tribute, and promised protection from the other Saxons.

The single knights of course engaged in some courtship/conversation with ladies: Gherard talked with Lady Rhonwen of Rydychan, who lamented if only some brave knight would help her retake her lands. Gherard, not having a plan to fight against sixty knights, was noncommittal. Sir Harvis found out from Lady Elfrida, a wealthy landowner, that her Castle had been sucked up by the Forest of Gloom, and invaded by Goblins! Modest Ulysses courted Lady Jenna, and heard her lament that she was not married yet- unfortunately he’s likely too low on the totem pole to catch her notice. Sir Nerovens identified Lady Cath as a reasonably available wife- not needing to rid a castle of goblins or a county of usurpers. To marry Lady Cath of course, he would have to get in good with her mother, Lady Indeg (thrice widowed, most recently to famed Sir Bersules). He critted his Flirting roll, leaving Lady Indeg with a very good impression, and she invited him to visit them later in the year.

There was some discussion over here about what to do next, but Goblins certainly stood out as the most interesting. They went to Lady Elfrida’s lands, got a hunter guide, and went into the Forest of Gloom, which has been expanding at a large rate, not unlike the Forest Sauvage to the north. Traveling through a village that had been overtaken completely by nature, the knights were ambushed by six goblins. A botched Awareness roll left Sir Gherard unable to act in the first round, and due to their hideous looks, a Valorous roll was required by all the knights, which Sir Gherard botched once more. The creatures killed the guide, but where largely ineffective against the knights, only doing a single point of damage to Ulysses. Gherard ran from the goblins, and had to be reassured to rejoin the group, and picked up a Fear: Goblins passion.

They met two large Goblins, named Bug and Gug at the gates to the castle, who engaged them in conversation. The Goblins seemed a bit daft, and had some odd opinions about things, but related that the castle belonged to their Lord Djejj, they had come with the forest from “over there,” and they weren’t leaving. They asked if they could speak to Lord Djejj, and after some debate between the Goblins, Bug and Gug offered Hospitality.

Here Sir Gherard failed (or rather succeeded- success is bad in this case, meaning he must act within the passion) a Fear: Goblins roll, and was understandably quite reluctant to enter a keep full of goblins. Being a generous GM and not wanting him Out of the Story, I told him he could enter as long as he steeled himself by making some precaution. After mulling it over, he decided he would draw his weapons, and claim it was a sign of respect. The gullible Goblins believed him. Sir Hermel followed suit, reasoning a good tactic. They both got a check on Deceitful for their troubles, and lost a point of Hospitality.

Entering, they found the keep overgrown with plants, and swarming with goblins. In the main hall, which was completely trashed, they encountered Lord Djejj (“the J is silent!”), who Sir Ulysses correctly identified as a Spriggan, a size-changing creature. Valorous rolls were successful by all, and they were able to stand firm and converse with the Spriggan. Lord Djejj was a little bit more informative about Over There, but still clearly thought about things in a non-human way. He refused to leave the keep, stating that it was his now, but smiling, very magnanimously said he would allow Lady Elfrida to return.

“But at what price?” asked Gherard, getting him some glory for asking the all important question.

“Why, her hand in marriage, of course.”

The knights exited the castle, and told Lady Elfrida what they had seen.

A few scenes here and there with knights attending to personal business. Sir Nerovens paid Lady Indeg and Lady Cath a visit. What is important to understand is that Lady Indeg is both notably Lustful and Indulgent; she and Sir Bersules essentially had an open marriage. (Her brothers didn’t approve, but they died at the Infamous Feast.) Lady Indeg set a condition for Sir Nerovens- he had to give her a roll in the hay first. (Perhaps to make sure he could take care of her daughter?) Sir Nerovens went through with it, costing him a point of Honor (having sex with your betrothed-to-be-betrothed’s mother is weird.) Oh, and one more condition. She wanted a Christian wedding. This seemed like more of a dealbreaker for Pagan Nerovens, but upon learning he wasn’t required or expected to convert, he relented. Preparations were to be made for the wedding later that year.

Sir Hermel, returning to his wife (and his bastard children, and her three children from her first marriage), met a strange woman- Lady Nineve, who claimed to have been sent by Merlin to look after his sickly child. She promised to cure him, but asked for Sir Hermel to do a service for her- she needed some brave knights to escort her on a journey through the Forest Sauvage. (Fortunately, she said, she knew certain secret paths that would aid their travel in the Forest.)

Gathering up his fellow knights, they set out, deciding to take the route through Glouchester, rather than Salisbury/Levcomagus like they had on their previous foray. Looking at the Salisbury map, we saw that they were passing through independent Swans Hundred. One of the things to remember is that each county is divided into twenty-ish subdivisions called Hundreds, and that because of feudalism, who owns what is patchwork and messy sometimes- Count Robert may own most of Salisbury, but certainly not all of it. And because the rightful holder may be dead, or a hundred miles away, or no one knows who it is, or the rightful holder is the king (and there isn’t a king), these things can get messy. This is why things like Adverse Possession came into be- the land is there, someone ought to use it, and if no one shows up to own it, maybe that person should own it.

Anyway. They encountered a Sir Salador, who held the hundred for Lord Thornwood, who is dead, with no clear heir. (I screwed up the details here- in Book of the Warlord, Sir Salador is supposed to be Lord Thornwood’s son and heir, but I presented him as a Castellan with a dubious claim. That’s who he is now, I guess.) Sir Salador was fortifying the town, in the process of building a castle. He was fairly amiable to the knights, and they asked him if he would attend next year’s Pentecost feast. This was pretty much the best reception they’d had with a foreign knight. Then they set off, ready to travel into Glouchester.