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.