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The Great Pendragon Campaign, 498

498 opened with some of the knights taking a more proactive approach: Sir Nerovens and Sir Harvis paid Sir Lycus of Llud’s Hall a visit, asking if he was going to be at Countess Ellen’s Pentecost feast, and if he was going to pay her homage. Sir Lycus rather awkwardly refused both, and then tried to change the subject with wine. ‘We’re going to get poisoned,’ said Harvis, but there was no poison, just an attempt to smother uncomfortable subjects with hospitality. Savvy Nerovens noticed that Sir Lycus had hired a whole lot of mercenaries, many of them Galish or Picts.

Sir Gherard, following up a random family event from 497’s winter, learned that his mother had been cursed by a witch. Upon further investigation, he discovered that the witch was the local herbalist and wise woman, and his mother’s curse was a severe rash. He consulted with his father-in-law, who said that he would do whatever Sir Gherard advised. Gherard said he had to think about it.

Learning of war in Norgales, Sir Harvis sent his relatives Sir Morris and Sir Bryant to see if King Pellinore needed aid.

At Pentecost court, Gherard consulted many people regarding his problem: one source suggested ‘thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,’ and that the woman be burnt at the stake. Sir Charles, the resident heretic and mystic said he could devise a charm to protect Gherard’s mother, but he would need a vial of her blood to make it. Gherard refused, to Charles’s ambivalence. Father Tewi told Gherard that his mother should turn to prayer, because a witch has no power over a pious woman. Bishop Roger suggested she might find solace at the Amesbury Priory. Gherard, a Roman Christian, took this advice with some skepticism. Sir Harvis suggested Gherard try to consult with Merlin, and found out that Sir Charles might know where Merlin was, and to visit him later that season.

Meanwhile, news from the Saxons- several holdings on the southern edge of Salisbury had been raided by Saxons, but none of the player knights. More alarmingly, several holdings near the eastern borders had been raided by knights from Silchester! When Prince Cynric of Wessex was confronted over failing to provide protection, he said they only agreed to provide protection from Invasions, which a raid was not, but perhaps Salisbury would swear fealty, and receive a greater level of protection…

In addition to Prince Cynric of Wessex, there were messengers from Sussex and Essex, both demanding tribute. Countess Ellen (with some advice from the player characters) decided to continue to pay tribute to Wessex, especially since Wessex had been pretty successful at invading the lands of those who refused to pay, but not pay Essex or Sussex. Futhermore, she would send messengers to neighboring lords, to try to form alliances.

Also at Pentecost was Lady Rhonwen, Countess of Rydychan. Rhonwen had arrived in Salisbury, and was now staying as a guest of the Countess. Sir Gherard got a chat with her and learned that the three brothers had usurped the county. The pound signs in his eyes were visible- if she were married and her lands retaken, that would be quite the wealth for the taking.

After the feast, Countess Ellen had a mission she gave to Sir Hermel: travel through Jagent County to Cornwall, and meet with Sir Cador of Cornwall, and escort him and his party to Amesbury Abbey in Salisbury. There was also a message to be delivered to Count Angor of Jagent. Details of what to expect were somewhat slim. Dutiously, Hermel gathered his friends and they set off.

They met with some Jagent knights, and were escorted to Count Angor’s castle. The Jagent knights seemed to have a hard time keeping a straight face- they found something very funny. When they arrived at the castle, the source of their amusement was clear- Count Angor, ‘in accordance with ancient tradition’ required all guests to sing for their supper- literally. One by one, all the knights failed their Singing checks, and were escorted to the stables, where they were served meager provisions. Sir Hermel’s squire turned out to have a lovely singing voice, critically succeeding in his Singing roll, and returned later to describe the sumptuous feast. Everyone agreed that the hospitality left something to be desired.

The knights pressed on to the border with Cornwall, and met Sir Cador, leading four other Cornwall knights, and a horsedrawn wheelhouse. Sir Cador was very protective of whatever/whoever was in the wheelhouse, not letting anyone get near. Sir Harvis remembered that Cador was the nephew of Queen Ygraine, and was immediately suspicious of him.

Followers of this campaign may recall that Sir Harvis was the younger brother of famed Sir Bersules, who like King Uther, fell tragically in love with Queen Ygraine, and found it to be his undoing. After the death of Uther, Bersules seduced the Queen (or more truly, it was she who seduced him), and was stabbed to death by her, as vengeance for his slaying of Duke Gorlois. As a result, Sir Harvis had a Hate passion for Ygraine and her family.

It was not long on the road before it was discovered that the passengers in the wheelhouse were Queen Ygraine and her handmaidens, attempting to travel incognito. It was learned that King Idres of Cornwall (not to be confused with the Duchy of Cornwall) had laid siege to the Castles of Terrabil and Tintagel, and once Terrabil fell, Queen Ygraine surrendered Castle Tintagel on the condition that she and her followers be spared. King Idres offered to let her stay in Cornwall, but she decided she was better off fleeing elsewhere.

Traveling back through Jagent was largely uneventful, they stopped at a few manors, though after Queen Ygraine was advised of Count Jagent’s strange customs, they decided not to stay the night there (though they did stop to receive Angor’s reply to Countess Ellen’s message). Pressing on into Salisbury, Sir Gherard was rather offended that the Cornish knights insisted in riding fully armored- he protested, citing that Salisbury was surely safe. However the other knights decided the prudent thing to do would be to armor themselves as well, following Sir Cador’s example.

Sir Gherard remained in riding leathers, and scouted ahead, and it was wise he did, for he soon discovered a Saxon raiding party, 20 strong, let by several Heorthgenants. He quickly returned, and was able (with the help of his squire) to fully don his armor in time.

Tactics were discussed- Sir Nerovens and others wanted to organize a lance charge, which would be devastating against the unmounted Saxons, but Sir Cador insisted on staying near the wheelhouse in case there were other threats. Deciding that mixed tactics, such as half the knights doing a lance charge and half staying back would be disastrous, the knights decided to stand firm with the Cornish knights.

This was our first real combat of the Campaign, and had several modifiers in place: the on horse vs. foot bonus, splitting skill due to multiple opponents. Ulysses, Nerovens and Harvis all invoked their Hatred of Saxons, and to good effect; Hermel and Gherard were taken out quickly- Hermel by a fearsome Heorthgenant, and Gherard by a Saxon warrior with a lucky crit. Ulysses also faced a Heorthgenant and defeated it, but not before he was dealt many fearsome blows himself.

At Castle Vagon, they injured knights received Chiurgery from the monks (much to Sir Ulysses’s protests). Of course one of the monks botched a surgery on Hermel, only feeding into Ulysses’s suspicions. Now further into Salisbury territory, Hermel and Gherard chose to stay and recuperate, but Ulysses pressed on, hoping to find a healer that wasn’t a British Christian surgeon. Hermel found a sympathetic damosel to nurse him back to health.

They made it to Amesbury Abbey without incident.

Gherard, along with Ulysses and Nervovens went then to his estate to investigate the wise woman. Sir Ulysses asked her to heal him- I rolled a d20 for her skill, and got a 3, so her attempt naturally failed. She covered his wound in a strange poultice, which itched severely and gave him quite the rash. Sir Nerovens, a pagan, interviewed her, and deduced she was no witch, but rather a fellow pagan and a simple herbalist. Her mother had been the village herbalist and she was trying to follow in her footsteps, but had not developed the skill yet. Gherard decided that no crime had been done, and allowed the woman to follow her practice.

Ulysses stayed another week to recuperate, and the woman- now given a name, Bronwen- rolled a 1! Her methods worked, and he was healed.

(Reviewing the rules for Deterioration and Aggravation, I see that I was much more generous than what the rules present- I halved healing rates for those Knights who were traveling, when the Aggravation rules would assign 1 or 2 damage per day of travel. Also, I was only rolling a d3 instead of a d6 for Deterioration, thinking that it was the same as First Aid.)

Meanwhile, Harvis and Hermel paid a visit to Sir Charles, to discover that he was hosting Merlin! Merlin revealed that he was going to go on a great journey, visiting Gaul, and Rome, and perhaps sites further still, waiting for the right time to return to Britain. He revealed that the Forest Sauvage was not harmful, and was likely to be around for some time. He offered the knights a boon: Harvis asked about the status of his sister Violet: Merlin revealed that she was still alive, and perhaps fate would see them reunited. Hermel asked for help for his sickly child, to which Merlin said he knew someone who might be able to help.

(There was a possibility of a short scenario to be ran here, of escorting Merlin to London, but it was quite late in the evening by this point, and the knights were scattered and wounded. However I think the year was plenty adventurous.)

In Winter, everyone had been raided by Saxons. Some knights managed to make their Stewardship rolls to mitigate the damage. Between the raid and paying tribute, most of the knights had to drop to a Poor standard of living, and those who maintained an Ordinary one (Nerovens and Ulysses, I believe) did so by dipping into their savings. Belts were tightened and Saxons were cursed.

Then some random events were had- my favorite part of the Winter phase. Ulysses’s bastard brother Owain had a strange child, and Hermel’s half-brother Arnold married upwards (possibly a minor heiress, if he was an unlanded knight, otherwise a younger daughter with a limited dowry, in any case, a boon to the family.) One of Gherard’s bastard children died, and there was a wild rumor that his aunt had poisoned it. Best of all, Sir Bryant returned from Norgales in disgrace- he had been caught attempting to steal some hill ponies! Clearly he had been spending too much time around Sir Dyfed.

It is a cold and dreary winter, and the knights look forward to spring…

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The Great Pendragon Campaign, 497

I started out this session by distributing some rumor cards. I haven’t used this technique before in the Great Pendragon Campaign, but I’ve done it in other games. Write a bunch of rumors down on some index cards, and hand everyone one at random at the start of each session. In this case, the rumors were pieces of news from different parts of the world: they found out that King Idres was marching north in Cornwall (of interest to many Salisbury and Silchester knights, who had gotten land in Cornwall after Uther’s invasion), the mysterious appearance of the Forest Sauvage, the Supreme Collegium’s failure to name Ulfias (or anyone else) High King, King Clovis of the Franks getting baptised, and King Lot having a son and heir born.

One of the key techniques here is to come up with more rumors than there are players. The remaining rumors will get shuffled into the next batch, which in this case simulates the fact that news spreads unreliably, that we are in the Dark Ages after all, and means that I don’t know in advance which tidbits of information the players will get and which they won’t. Some of these are plothooks, some are foreshadowing, and some are just rumors, with little immediate consequence for the players.

Then we started play with the year’s Pentecost feast, another chance to make contacts, flirt with eligible ladies, and decide what to do for the year. In this case, the knights noticed that some of the knights who had stayed home last year (like Sir Bandelaire) were present but others (like Sir Lycus, more on him later), were not.

Sir Hywel and Sir Ulysses tried to get more information about the Forest Sauvage, and talked to Sir Cicero, a knight with a reputation for being a notorious rumormonger, who gave him some theories on the origin of the forest, most of them contradictory. Sir Hywel also felt that they needed to do a better job training more knights, which Marshall Sir Elan (son of beloved Sir Elad) enthusiastically agreed, and he charged right outside to do it, getting him an Enthusiastic check.

Sir Hermel spent his time flirting with the ladies of the court, particularly wealthy heiress Lady Elfrida, the richest heiress in the county, and Lady Jenna. He also thought about hosting a friendly competition, with jousts and board games, some sort of proto-tournament. That sounds like a great idea, and also really expensive. I told him his Steward would look into the pricing and get back to him (in other words, the GM needs to research what you want to do.) I doubt that Sir Hermel can afford this on his own, but perhaps with a wealthy patroness…

Sir Gherard was a bit of a wallflower, but Sir Hywel tried to play matchmaker, socializing with his sister-in-law Lady Indeg (widow of former player-character famous knight Sir Bersules), hoping to set Cath, her youngest daughter up with him. Sir Gherard proposed a hawking expedition, and it turned out that Indeg and Cath were avid falconers.

Of course, it’s going to take more than a couple of flirting, courtesy, and falconry rolls to court and marry a wealthy Lady- however most of the player knights have gotten the attention of the ladies of the court.

The biggest decision of the court was what to do about the Saxons: representatives from Essex, as well as King Cerdic’s kingdom of Wessex were both here to demand tribute: 100 head of cattle and 100 pounds of silver. Countess Ellen let it be known that she was going to ‘consult with her advisors,’ which savvy Nerovens figured out meant ‘figure out what her knights will support’- if she wants to keep her seat for herself and her son, she needs to keep the loyalty of these knights!

Nerovens reasoned it was best to pay Cerdic’s tribute- they had paid Essex last year, and it was farther away, so the risk of being raided seemed somewhat less. His grand hope was to get the Saxons fighting each other- perhaps by calling to Cerdic for assistance against the eventual raids. A bold move.

Anyway, Pendragon doesn’t really have a skill for convincing people- what I’ve used in the past, and what I did here, is ask the player to choose a Trait or Passion that they are embodying/hoping to instill in the target. In this case, Nerovens gave a big speech, and angled for Energetic- let’s all band together and support the County! He got a Critical Success, and there was much agreement from the assembled knights.

He was able to talk to Countess Ellen later, and she let him know that she’d like him to talk to some of the knights in the region that had either not affirmed their loyalty or did not owe her homage. The subtext was that she was talking about Sir Lycus.

Sir Lycus holds Llud’s Hall, an important castle in eastern Salisbury, which is notable for being a royal holding: whoever holds it does so directly in the name of the King, in the name of the count- so he is not a vassal of the Count. (Of course, there’s no ‘top-level’ ruler in the Anarchy Period, making his holding an independent fief.) Llud’s Hall is only ever gifted, which means it reverts to the King upon death of the holder.

The previous holder, Sir Llywel, died at the Infamous Feast, and Sir Lycus took control of the castle, claiming right as Sir Llywel’s brother. Does he have the right to do this? Probably not. Is anyone going to stop him? That remains to be seen. (Also somewhat important in this- the previous holder before Sir Llywel? Nerovens’s father.)

After all of this, I told the players that it was up to them to figure out what they wanted to do for the year- that this would have a lot more freedom than the Age of Uther, with fewer scripted events that demand, or heavily suggest participation. There were two frontrunners that people were interested in: do some raiding in Saxon lands, or go see what the deal with the Forest Sauvage was.

The most direct way seemed to be through Silchester, then to Rydychan county, then to the Forest. Riding into Silchester, they encountered a patrol of knights from Levcomagus, led by Sir Alvin. A herardly check later revealed that Alvin was the son of Sir Arvel, who was hung for theft by Count Roderick in one of the first few adventures. Sir Alvin was here to defend the borders of Silchester, complete with a Hate: Salisbury knights passion.

He challenged the knights about their business, and they said that they were seeking to travel through, and go to the Forest Sauvage. He said he’d been given no direction to let anyone through. One of the knights (I don’t recall who), offered a joust of honor, to which Sir Alvin accepted, eager for a chance to best a Salisbury knight. It was Sir Harvel who represented the players.

Both knights inflamed by Passion, in the first two passes Sir Alvin struck true, doing damage to Sir Harvel, who made his Horsemanship rolls to stay seated. On the third tilt, Sir Harvel (pulling his blow to do less harm, but inflicting the same knockback- note that Sir Alvin was most certainly not doing this), struck Alvin’s shield, and Alvin proceeded to botch his horsemanship roll, flying from the saddle in a particularly ignominious fashion.

(Consulting the Border Challenge entry in GPC after the fact, it looks like what Sir Alvin should have done was escort the knights to Levcomagus, and let his lord, Steward Cadwallon decide what to do, which might have result on them being allowed passage with an escort, being turned away, or even being captured and held for ransom! Perhaps Alvin’s youth and defeat made him overconfident, something the more pragmatic and callous Cadwallon will be unlikely to tolerate in the future.)

They made their way to Rydychan without incident. Looking over the list of named NPCs I had provided, they note that Lady Rhonwen (I couldn’t find a name for her, other than Rydychan in GPC, so I made one up), is supposed to be a very wealthy widow- is she in need of a husband, perhaps?

Another border challenge, this time by some Rydychan knights, these guys mostly told the knights to go about their business, but to stay on the main road and go straight to their destination. “In the name of the Lords of Rydychan.”

(Again, probably should have done a full border challenge here. I was trying to save time and get straight to the forest, but it all works out because…)

The knights decide they should pay a visit to the local lord. They head to the local castle, just off the main road, and encounter ten knights, led by Sir Basile, who’s shield depicts three black wolves on a white field. He demands they state their business, and is very Suspicious- when they say they go to the Forest, he challenges them, asking them to prove they are not spies. Those players who are trying to make overtures, I have them make Trait rolls- Ulysses rolls one and fails, someone gets a success (I’m going for more successes than failures here), and then Hervel gets a critical success on an Energetic roll, about how eager they are to go on a Quest.

Sir Basile nods- he went on a few adventurous quests as a younger knight, and perhaps driven by nostalgia, gives them leave to travel through these lands. He sends a knight to travel with them.

They try to ask a few questions of their escort- what’s the deal with this Sir Basile guy? Where is Countess Rhonwen? Their escort is uneasy, and doesn’t answer, and Gherard observes that maybe they shouldn’t ask so many questions if the locals are worried about them being spies.

They get to the Forest, after spending a night in a local village, and enter one of the paths. They learn that even experienced hunters have gotten lost inside, and that animals have gone missing. The Forest Sauvage is difficult to travel, even on what now passes for a path: it requires a Hunting roll at -15. Hervel, the best hunter (trained by King Pellinore himself) has a Hunt 15, so cannot succeed.

They get lost in the woods for a week, ending up at a peasant farmstead. This family of peasants is happy to aid the knights, and just happy in general (suspiciously happy, according to Nerovens. Gherard makes the Stewardship roll and figures out that they aren’t having to pay taxes to anyone, so get to keep all of their harvest.) The peasants offer their house to the knights, who graciously refuse, and camp out in the field. The peasants give the knights directions, saying the village is only an hour or so to the south.

During the night, strange lights are seen in the distance. Someone with a lantern, perhaps? Nerovens, getting Reckless, goes into the forest to follow them- so, given the forest, and the darkness, has to roll Hunting at a hefty penalty. He critically fails, and ends up taking a tumble down a ditch. It ends up being a major wound, and he loses a point of con and cracks some ribs for his trouble, and falls unconscious.

He wakes up the next morning, and the rest of the party is able to head out and regroup with him. They head south back to the village, and indeed, it’s only an hour of travel. They’re right where they were, a week of travel ago.

I gave everyone some glory for Entering the Forest Sauvage, and some to Nerovens for Chasing a Will-o-Wisp- a misadventure is still an adventure!

They go to the village priest, and I roll a d20 for his Chirurgery skill- a 5! He fails, and tells them he can’t do much for Nerovens’s wounds right now. (Ulysses, who is Suspicous of British Christians, AND of physicians, scoffs.)

The knights make their way to Oxford, which as a larger town with large monastery, might have a better healer. On the way there, Nerovens gets his weekly healing, but also suffers 1d6 damage for deterioration. I roll a 2- he doesn’t get any worse or better. I believe his hp were low enough that a 6 could have killed him!

At Oxford, they meet Sir Beleus, who is rather jolly and hospitable, much more so than his older brother Basile. He is compassionate to Nerovens’s plight, and makes the monastery (and the markets of Oxford) available to them. I assign the Chirurgeon here a skill of 15… and he botches. Sir Nerovens’s condition actually gets worse. Ulysses struggles not to say I told you so.

There’s nothing to do but to wait a week for the monk to try again. Another deterioration roll- Nerovens still manages to stay alive. The next try, the monk makes the roll. Nerovens will live to fight another day.

Clearly unequipped to face the trails of the Forest Sauvage, and one of their number injured, they return home to Salisbury, wondering what’s going on with Countess Rhonwen. Perhaps they will soon find out…

The Great Pendragon Campaign, 496

After a four month hiatus, the Great Pendragon Campaign is back.

Since I’m running as part of a larger gaming group, a significant part of the session was just people getting their table assignments: a raffle system, where everyone gets a raffle ticket, and when your number comes up, you can join up into a game. This time we had eight games, each with room for five players. Even in the first session, I found running for five much more comfortable than running for six (or for seven, as I had for the first few sessions of the Uther phase!). From looking around the room, it seemed like most of the games were full, but several still had room in them, which seemed nice if we had new people joining in the middle of a campaign.

Out of the five players, we had two returning, the player of famous Sir Bersules, and the player of almost as famous Sir Hewgon the Sheeprider (and others). Of the three new players, one had played before, and two were new to it.

For this character creation, I used information from The Book of Sires. I found the tables within to be much more interesting than the basic tables in Pendragon 5.2, especially since they expand to contain the years 486-495, and each individual year has its own entry, instead of grouping some years together. The bad news is that adding that many more entries took more time, and each year had additional handling time. I think we spent most of the session rolling on those tables, with me reading from the book and telling people their results. I did like how much detail Book of Sires went into regarding the period of Vortigern’s rule. I suspect the next time I do this, I’ll make my own tables inspired by Book of Sires, and pick twenty or so key years, rather than rolling for every year.

After that, I had a packet with a step by step walkthrough for making a character. Over the course of the rest of that session, and the first hour or so of the next, we came up with our knights:

Sir Harvis- played by Sir Bersules’s returning player. Harvis is Bersules’s former squire, who squired for King Pellinore(!) and has now returned to Salisbury. The player asked if he could get some glory for having squired for a king- I’m leery of handing out glory for pre-play events, but this one was established through play of his previous character, so I gave him 25 glory. Harvis is famously Energetic, and broad shouldered. Through his experience with King Pellinore, he had the opportunity to roll for a Passion Love: Hunt, and ended up with a 4. It turns out that hunting is really a lot of bother, when you get down to it.

Sir Ulysses- played by Hewgon’s player, who rolled up a new family history and dynasty. Ulysses is Merciful (and rather humble, as we will see in play.) He’s the one player who made Appearance his clear dump stat, with a lisp and the tip of his nose missing. His family’s bloodline skill is Dancing, which is a bit humorous for the homely knight.

Sir Harmel the Fourth, an Indulgent knight, with sea blue eyes and dimples. So far Harmel seems to be pretty full of himself, but you’d be too if you had a number after your name. I think Harmel ended up with a 15 or 20 Recognize due to a family bloodline trait- he’s got a keen eye for faces.

Sir Gherard, another Energetic knight, Bright Eyed, with a Patrician Nose.

Sir Nerovens, a Just knight, with regal stature and dark mysterious eyes. From the random tables of The Book of Sires, his father did many great deeds in battle against Vortigern, and was rewarded by Uther with a gift of a large Estate. Nerovens has grown up rich, and thanks to his bloodline has an Intrigue of 20. This player has expressed an interest in being a plotter- I’m eager to see what he will come up with.

The other stumbling block in character creation was rolling up people’s families. I found a sheet that had spots for 20 family members, and rolling a d20 to see who ends up with a random event (instead of rolling a random family relationship.) A lot of the families needed fudging, since the number of young knights generated was higher than the number of siblings, for example, but we got some interesting starts at a family tree, and I told people it would be fine if they filled in 10 or more of the list.

Our game opened with Pentecost Court in 496. Lady Ellen, Countess of Salisbury, is Regent, her son Count Robert being but four years old. However, his older sister and heir, Lady Jenna, is now sixteen, and this Pentecost doubled as something as a coming out party for her. Many nobles arrived with gifts, including Sir Brastias the wandering knight, and Sir Cadwallon the Younger, the new Steward of Levcomagus.

Some simple die rolls were made to get the game going and start earning the players those checkmarks: a Stewardship roll (of which only Gherard made) to identify that almost 120 knights are supposed to be sworn to Lady Ellen (or technically, her son Robert), and only half that had attended. He also realized, with a crit, that while some of those knighthoods were unfilled, there were many who purposely did not attend, a snub to their liege. A Recognize roll was made for a few people- Nerovens and Ulysses both fumbled their rolls to recognize Sir Brastias- they know him, and mistakenly believe a rumor that he was a traitor, and in league with Sir Jorddans, the Mad Knight who poisoned the King and the Lords of the Realm!

Sir Charles (now an NPC) arrived with a bag full of captured Saxon idols he sacked, a gift for the Countess and her daughter. The rumors were aplenty about Sir Charles: that he was a heretic and a sorcerer, utterly without honor, treasonous, and cavorts with witches. Nerovens got a crit and knew that only most of that was true (like the cavorting with witches- Charles was romantically involved with Nimue, a Lady of the Lake!). I felt these expositionary rolls were helpful in getting the new players up to date about what was going on.

Many of the knights attempted to dance with one or more of the ladies at the feast, for many eligible heiresses and widows were present. Gherard was perhaps the most charming of them all, and danced with many ladies, including Lady Jenna herself. Meanwhile Nerovens botched his dancing roll, and stumbled backwards into a certain Sir Bryce.

Those from the previous game know Sir Bryce as a Levcomagus knight with a large mustache and a short temper. While dining at Levcomagus, he pulled a dagger and threatened to stab a player knight, and at Castle Terrabil, angrily jousted with Bersules and took the loss out on his own squire- Gruffen, who then ran away, squired for Bersules, and was presently squiring for Harvis! I imagined that squire Gruffen was doing his best to avoid being seen, and that any failed squire roll on his part would result in his being spotted by Bryce.

Nerovens tried (badly) to diffuse the situation with humor, but things only escalated, with the Levcomagus knights all standing up ready to back Bryce in a fight, and then the Salisbury knights all getting up… and then a long tense moment. None of the players seemed to want to be the one to throw the first punch (and no one was particularly Reckless or Proud), so it turned out that it was Cadwallon, who shouted for his men to sit down, and for Bryce to shut up. A humiliating moment for Sir Bryce, one he will not soon forget…

Later in the evening, a horn was sounded, and the Marshall of Salisbury, Sir Elan, an experienced knight but inexperienced commander, commanded his knights to get arms and secure the battlements. They gathered up whatever they could, and rushed to see what threatened the city of Sarum.

By the last rays of the sunset, they were able to make out a group of riders- 20 to 25, Saxon Heorthgenants (!), mounted (!!), waving a flag of truce (!!!). Their leader dismounted and approached, saying he had a message for Countess Ellen. Sir Elan offered to convey the message, but the Saxon said he was sworn to deliver it personally.

Sir Nerovens, with his famously high hatred of Saxons, felt compelled to do something, so he went downstairs and insulted the messenger to his face, calling him Swine. The Saxon seemed unmoved, perhaps amused by this, and continued, alone with no escort, to Ellen’s throne room.

There he introduced himself as Prince Aescwine, son of the Saxon King Aethelwine, of Essex, with an offer that the Countess pay a tribute of 100 head of cattle and 100 pounds of silver, and in return they would have protection and would be safe from raids.

I have to say, I really appreciate the boldness of Prince Aescwine, strolling right into the court of a Christian ruler and demanding tribute. As a Prince, he’d be worth a fair ransom, if an unscrupulous host was willing to violate hospitality. Also interesting to me that Essex isn’t really convenient for raiding into Salisbury- there’s much easier targets nearby, and one would have to ride through at the minimum Rydychan or Silchester.

At any length, the Countess responded that she would discuss it with her advisors and get back to him. He left, and there was much hubbub about this, whether it was right or not, or even a good idea or not to pay this tribute.

We jumped forward a few weeks, with the knights on garrison duty, patrolling the borders. They had learned that the Countess had decided to pay the Tribute, and decreed that every manor contribute one cow and 100 pounds of silver. There was some idle talk about giving their worst cattle, or trying to send lesser coinage, but even after grumbling, everyone agreed that they would follow the edict and contribute their portion. Opportunities for Trait checks were gained, based on one’s attitudes- Just, Selfish, Loyalty-Lord, or Prudent were common ticks.

I was going to go right to the refugees encounter, but the players decided they wanted to call upon one of the knights who had refused to attend Pentecost court. So I came up with one Sir Bandelaire, who they called upon. The not very hospitable knight welcomed them into his home “stay as long as you like… just don’t empty my larder”, which several hospitality minded knights found rather insulting.

Insinuating that Bandelaire had perhaps been ill, Nerovens led the questioning as to why the knight had not attended Pentecost. His answer was that he did not want to serve a woman or a small boy, and that the realm needed ‘strong men of action.’ Pretty much everyone took exception to that, and took turns telling Bandelaire how wrong he was. Several arguments were made, about the realm needing to stand together against the Saxons, but it was clear that Bandelaire was not going to budge. A few knights brazenly insulted him and I docked them a point of hospitality (even if he isn’t a very good host, openly insulting him in his own manor is kind of a dick move.) Nerovens rolled an Intrigue to see if there was anything more behind this, and learned that there was something of a faction of knights who did not see Lady Ellen as worthy of their service, however this faction did not have a strong leader to rally around yet.

Moving on, they encountered some refugees from Hantonne to the south- another Saxon fleet had landed! (Is there no end to them?) The knights split, some that were Reckless and Energetic riding south to learn more of this, those that were more Prudent riding north to inform Lady Ellen. The advance group encountered more refugees, who said that Saxons had taken the port of Hantonne.

They spotted a small village, that was strangely not-on-fire. They asked the local peasants, and it turned out a group of Saxons had arrived and paid a visit to the local knight. Since the manor was not-on-fire either, they went forth to meet these Saxons. It turned out that they were tendering a message: the knight could swear fealty and homage to King Cerdic and keep his lands, or resist and die.

Several of the knights realized that this King Cerdic was the half Saxon, half Cymric son of Vortigern! Our rolling up family history, because the players immediately recognized the name, and decided they definitely did not like this Cerdic guy. The knights had reunited, and were considering fighting these Saxons, but Prudence prevailed and they parted ways bloodlessly. They called on the lord of the manor, a Sir Ysgarren (not to be confused with the Cornish Sir Ysgarren once met during the Battle of Castle Terrabil), who was seriously considering this offer. They suggested instead that he come north to Salisbury, where Lady Ellen would be sure to accept his service.

We got through our first winter phase, a tough one, with the knights having to pay tribute. I taxed each of the knights two pounds, which in retrospect seems like a bit much, since the price of a cow is half a pound. I also taxed their earned glory by 2 points, since their income is lowered, but in retrospect I think they should get the full glory award, since the still earned that much, they just had to spend some of it. We also got to try the new random family event table I made- Sir Harmel IV had a cousin who was thought dead return home, Gherard’s uncle was being blackmailed into not paying his tribute, Neroven’s brother, a household knight, fought off some raiders and was rewarded with a manor, Ulysses’s uncle made a social blunder, and to the surprise of no one, one of Harvis’s uncles was accused of adultery. Some grist there for the next session!

The Great Pendragon Campaign, 495

This year took place over two sessions- about four hours of play, give or take, with our sessions being about three hours each. I estimated correctly that it would be too much for one session, and chose a likely break point, which you’ll see below. This left us with two short sessions. I find myself, in retrospect, wondering if I could have added more ‘side content’, or if it just would have felt like padding, or if I could have managed to cram it all into one session (which would have been miserable had I just fallen short.) But things happened as they did, for good or ill…

A great Saxon army had gathered in the north, given free passage by the traitorous King Malahaut, and ravaged the lands of Lindsay. Duke Lindsay had pulled his people and hid behind the walls of his castle, rather than give battle. As the Saxon army marches south, King Uther gathers his forces, ready to meet them at the city of St. Alban’s.

When the army arrives at St. Albans, they find it already sacked by the Saxons, and strangely deserted- not a single survivor, nor any sign of the Saxon army. Several scouting parties are sent in, led by brave knights. Leoric, Tathan, and Charles go to investigate the Abbey, and Sir Martin goes to investigate another site (the keep, perhaps, my notes are unclear.) Meanwhile Sir Morian and Bersules ride the perimeter of the city, and find the great ladders the Saxons must have used to scale the walls. Ever wary as to the threat of ambush from the woods, Morian and Bersules remove the ladders.

But the ambush was from within, not from without! As knights explore the empty city, a hue and cry is raised, and Saxon warriors pour forth from the Abbey and Keep, and other hiding spots. A volley of arrows blankets the city, taking many knights and soldiers unaware. The knights within the city make battle, but soon find themselves out numbered: a skirmish started, and more and more Saxon reinforcements kept arriving. Soon it was made clear: to stand and fight was suicide. Rolls were made to escape the melee. Leoric and Charles managed to escape, Tathan and Martin were not so lucky- being struck, and failing horsemanship rolls, they were pulled from their horses, then hacked to bits by treacherous Saxon warriors.

Almost all of the scouting party is killed by Saxons- Leoric and Charles and scant few others escape. Uther’s army pulls back, intending to dig in for a siege rather than assault the city and suffer more losses.

It is an uneasy night. And at the very break of dawn, the Saxon warriors charge out of the city, to make battle with Uther. This marks the end of the first of the two sessions.

Our second portion opens with the great battle. As the Saxons attack from Ambush, our knights must make Squire rolls to be ready- Sir Leoric I recall started unarmored. As the Saxon warriors charge forth, the knights gird themselves and invoke their passions. All of our knights succeed, and Sir Leoric crits his Passion roll. The +20 bonus certainly saves him in the first round of combat, as going into battle unarmored against a Saxon warrior is most often a death sentence.

What follows is an eight round battle, which to me felt mostly like an exercise in dice rolling, and consulting with my players, was perhaps the weakest battle of the campaign. I’m told that battles are certainly more interesting from the player side, since they are the best way to gain glory, and oddly seem safer than a melee, since you’re likely to use a passion and get an increase to your skill. I don’t entirely like passions lasting for an entire battle, it seems like something that should be saved for a climactic fight against a special enemy. On the other hand, this might be the game working as intended. It’s certainly something I intend to ponder further.  (Addendum: as clarified in the Book of Battle, any given passion can only be used once, and lasts for a single combat round.)

There were some scrapes and bruises, but no serious damage to any of the knights. Many of the knights were getting crits every round, and only a crit from their enemy would result in a tie, with many Saxon axes broken upon Breton swords. The most notable thing that happened was that Sir Charles was unhorsed, and fighting with a dagger, gave a nasty scar to a Saxon opponent, who must have survived the fight. Sometime around round six or seven Duke Lindsay arrived with reinforcements, which turned the tide in favor of Uther’s army, but really, who needs Duke Lindsay when you have seven fully impassioned player knights getting critical hits every round?

I was really hoping I’d kill at least one player knight during that fight.

Afterwards, what remains of the Saxon army is routed, and there is much looting to be done. There is great glory for everyone- seriously, this battle was worth thousands of glory for most of the participants.

The keep of St. Alban’s being retaken, a great victory feast is held. The rank and file knights and soldiers have a great feast of their own in the bailey, but in the great hall, Uther and his great lords are assembled, as are knights who distinguished themselves greatly in battle- certainly all of our player knights. At this point, pretty much noble of consequence is here, unless they were gravely wounded (like Duke Ulfias and Sir Brastias, who are both in the hospital area).

There are many opportunities for entertainment here: dancing, signing, playing of instruments, making toasts, and the like. Those who were particularly glorious are called up to pour wine for the King, a great honor. As the evening draws to a close, Sir Jorddans, the Mad Knight arrives. He gives a toast to King Uther and the lords of the realm, commending them on their great wisdom and leadership. Those who make an Intrigue or Suspicious roll detect that he is being sarcastic, twisting his words to subtly insult Uther, Morganor, and all the other assembled lords. As he finishes his toast, he raises his glass… then tips it over and lets the wine spill onto the floor.

Now come the Temperance rolls. In the module as written, a character needs to critically succeed on their roll, which gives them a 1 in 20 chance, regardless of skill, unless their Temperance is somehow over 21. I thought this was a bit too punishing and capricious- wherever possible I have eliminated rolls that require a critical success. Instead characters roll Temperance at -10: still punishing, but those who are famously Temperate have a fighting chance.

Leoric critically fails, and was the one to drink the most wine of all, and begins to vomit. Others begin to follow suit, and all those who drank the poisoned wine uncontrollably retch, until they vomit up blood, turn purple, and die. Only those who did not drink the wine survive, and out of the assembled knights and lords, there are but three: Sir Bersules, and Sir Charles. And of course, Sir Jorddans.

Around them there is chaos: the high lords of the realm are dead, as are the most esteemed knights they know. Sir Jorddans attempts to flee, Sir Bersules and Charles pursue. Bersules catches up with him, grabs him, and tries to reason with him. Sir Jorddans stabs Bersules in the stomach, but it’s not enough to kill the hardy knight, who draws his sword, and quite rightly impassioned, slays the traitor knight.

Charles leads the effort in finding what healers and chirurgeons, seeing if anyone can be saved, but it is no use: the poison is most deadly. Not even Lady Nimue is able to cure it. Nimue goes to Uther and bundles up Excalibur. She tells Charles that she must take the magic blade and hide it away until it is ready to be wielded again. Charles agrees, they kiss, and the Lady of the Lake leaves.

Many funerals are held in Salisbury- for Morganor, for Uther, for the player knights who fell. At Morganor’s funeral, Countess Ellen is seen with her two young boys. She is now regent, and the future of Salisbury depends on her.

At Uther’s funeral, Lady Ygraine wears mourning once more. Sir Bersules, still mad with lust, finally can approach her without it violating his duty. He and Ygraine retire elsewhere to comfort each other.

“I’ll bet she’s the one who kills me,” says Bersules’s player. “Do you think that would be a fitting end for your character?” I ask. And so it is, decided by mutual out-of-character fiat: after a night of lovemaking, Lady Ygraine stabs Sir Bersules, getting vengeance for Gorlois at last.

Out of the player knights who fought at the battle of St. Albans, only Sir Charles remains. And so ends the Time of Uther, and so begins the Time of Anarchy.

The Great Pendragon Campaign, 484

The diplomatic mission to Malahaut seeming to have failed, King Uther looks for other allies- King Canan of Estregales, the most powerful of the Kings of Gales, whom to other Kings in that region owe tribute. King Canan would make a powerful ally, and all but assure victory against the Saxons and deliver unto Uther the votes he needs to be formally anointed High King. To this end he sends one of his most capable ambassadors, Steward Morganor of Salisbury, who will be accompanied by a cadre of his knights.

Along the road, the knights encountered Sir Jorddans, the Mad Knight, who lampooned many of the player knights with songs mocking them, perhaps intending to provoke one of them into a fight. However the knights all kept their composure, and rode on, and Sir Jorddans, having failed to rile them, tired and went home.

As they traveled through Gales, they encountered a number of places and people; these were essentially narrated events for some local color. They traveled through the Duchy of Glouchester, an independent fiefdom, where they meet the old Duke and his sons, the Twin Bannerets, identical twins who seem to quite hate each other, one who dresses in all red (the Red Banneret) and one who dresses in all green (the Green Banneret). Red & Green’s proper names are not given by the text. The Twin Bannerets escort them to the border of Escavalon.

In Escavalon, they are met by Sir Alain, who served at Castle Terrabil in his position as envoy to King Uther. Knowing the knights, he showed them around the city of Carlion and introduced them to King Nantlerod of Escavalon. Alain tried to ask about the whole Merlin business without being too impolite; he was probably a bit too impolite but his curiosity was finally answered. King Nantlerod was quite gregarious, and had an odd habit of putting each knight on the spot and asking them some question, often about a point of knighthood or an opinion on honor. As the King held court he would regularly do so, forcing everyone present to speak up at one point or another and voice some opinion. A truly eccentric King, indeed. Continuing to travel through Escavalon, they went through Cardiff, Newcastle in the Nain Forest, and Kynke Kynedonne, none of which are described in the text.

Then they get to Estregales, traveling through Carmarthen and onto Pembroke Castle. At Pembroke, they finally meet King Canan, along with his two sons, Sir Drac, a young prince, recently knighted, and his younger brother, Lak, his squire, along with King Canan’s seneschal, Sir Orcas. (Several jokes about D&D’s Orcus ensue, and whether someone named after him can be trusted.) King Canan and Steward Morganor are in closed negotiations for several days. In the mean time, Sir Drac asks the knights if they will accompany him and his brother on a hunting expedition.

Setting out, they travel through the woods to prime hunting grounds. Drac and Lak have never been out of Estregales, and are eager for any tales the knights would share with them. Eventually boar tracks are found. Sir Drac is eager to go fight the beast, and asks the experienced hunters how many people should attack it at once. (The answer, according to those who have faced boars in the past, is as many as possible.) Roughly four knights on horse can stab at the boar with spears or lances at once, but even cornered, the Boar is a ferocious foe. Before it is defeated, it maimed Sir Morian’s horse, and killed the horse of Sir Drac. Along their way back, they stopped at a small village, where a roughly dressed man offered to race his pony against the knights on horse. It turned out that knighty steeds were not suited towards this terrain, and the man’s hill pony easily beat all those who raced him, and Sir Leoric lost 5 pounds in a mighty wager. After the races it was revealed that the man was Ystrad Tyi, Chieftan of the Hill People. Bersules was quite impressed with the hill ponies, and purchased one for himself, and another for Morian.

Upon returning to Pembroke, they learned that King Canan and Steward Morganor had gone to Castle Tenby. King Canan prefers to make a quick progress through his realm, visiting his lords as often as possible. Sir Drac was more than happy to accompany the knights on their way.

They stopped in Carmarthen, where Sir Drac told them it was the birthplace of Merlin, who was born longer ago than anyone could remember, but he was once a young man, son of a maiden woman and the devil. He showed them the chapel where Merlin was baptized, the shack where Merlin lived, and the fountain where Merlin performed healing magics, and finally, Merlin’s tree, with a raven perched on it.

Sir Morian decided he wanted to sleep out in the woods by Merlin’s tree, hoping to gain some wisdom from it. The other knights agreed, though some were suspicious of the raven. Some Faerie Lore rolls were made- it was learned it was indeed a magic tree (though at the time I didn’t know the legend of Merlin’s tree, so I didn’t give out any more information than that), and Tathan, getting a critical success, learned that the raven was Merlin’s familiar. Sir Leoric botched, and I asked the player to determine what wrong thing Leoric believed. The player came up with two that she could not choose between: one, that Leoric believed that Leander was completely wrong about everything, and that Merlin was a great and holy man, or that Leoric believed that Leander had been completely right, and that Merlin was a wicked sorcerer who deserved to die. She decided to roll a die, and Leoric saw the light and realized that Leander had been right all along, that all this magic business was wicked and sinful. “Please forgive me for my sins, and the sins I will do in the future,” Leoric said, not entirely understanding the point.

Leoric decided that this tree was bad business, and hatched a plan. During the middle of the night, when he was on watch, he took an axe to the tree, hoping to chop it down. Tathan and others woke up; Morian bopped Leoric on the head with the blunt end of a spear, and another knight tried to grapple him, but ultimately it was Tathan, who stood fast against the tree and told Leoric that he would have to go through him to get to the tree. (This was a crit on a Dex roll to interpose himself.) At that point Leoric stood down. Many trait checks were earned by all present.

(Addendum:  The legend of Merlin’s tree says that when the tree falls, so will the village of Carmarthen, probably by flood.)

They finally caught up with King Canan at Castle Tenby, where he announced that he was glad to form an alliance with King Uther. He proposed a toast, and his son Sir Drac brought him a goblet, and he drank it down… and began to turn blue, and blood ran forth from his mouth, eyes, and other facial extremities. The King had been poisoned! Sir Orcas proclaimed that Sir Drac had done it and called for his arrest.

However Sir Bersules had seen that it was Sir Orcas who had given Sir Drac the poisonous chalice, and knew that this was Sir Orcas’s doing. Who knew that someone named Orcas could be a villain? Sir Bersules called out Sir Orcas, who responded with demanding a challenge. Space was cleared out in the dining hall, and Sir Orcas and Bersules returned, clad in armor with their weapons, Orcas wielding an axe.

I wanted Orcas to be tough, so I gave him the famous knight stat bloc, as befits a high officer of a kingdom, and swapped out his Sword skill of Axe to make him a little more memorable. Sir Bersules was inspired by his Honor, and had a higher skill to start with, but the dice favored Sir Orcas, who got a critical hit on Sir Bersules, incapacitating him. Sir Orcas was prepared to go in for the kill, when many knights arose to stop him. However Sir Orcas was the winner, and as such, the Lord of Tenby Castle proclaimed him the victor and (regretfully), innocent of any accusations. Sir Drac, still confused as to what was going on, was taken away to the dungeon. Steward Morganor decided this would be a good time for all the knights to leave, just in case Sir Orcas decided to have some unusual ideas about hospitality.

They traveled out back the way they came, and stopped in a hamlet to get medical care for Bersules. His healer was none other than Lady Nimue, who was traveling to Logres to heal King Uther from his sickness. Bersules questioned her and found out that she too was a Lady of the Lake, the magical sisterhood that Lady Nineve was a member of.

Along the road, Sir Charles flirted with Lady Nimue, who found him quite charming. He critted either a Flirting or a Romance roll, and the Lady of the Lake became quite taken with him.

Returning to Logres, bad news was had: the Saxons pillaged the Duchy of Lindsay, and Duke Lindsay, rather than meet them in the field, had his knights hole up in the castles. King Ossa of the Saxons had returned, and was preparing for a great battle.

The Great Pendragon Campaign, 493

There was a new player this week, Tom, who picked up a prefilled character sheet, Sir Martin, which Brendan had previously played after Sir Jorddans’ foray with madness. This Sir Martin hasn’t aged, so he’s clearly a different but similar Sir Martin. Note to self: fill out more pregen sheets. Also introduced was Sir Leoric, the younger brother of Sir Leander, with a love of gambling, a high Selfish Trait, and the Passion of Love: Money. Readers may recall that when Leoric was younger and squired for Leander, he foolishly gambled away his charger to Sir Jerren, who remitted the steed for Leoric to serve as his squire for several years.

We started with our knights still garrisoning Castle Terrabil in Cornwall, and now being relieved of those stations as the garrison is taken over by Sir Cadwallon the Younger, (son of Sir Cadwallon the Elder, who is the Steward of Levcomagus and Cornwall, and generally antagonistic to the characters.) Sir Bryce, knight of Levcomagus, mustache enthusiast, and all around thorn in the player’s side showed up, and demanded of Sir Martin where Sir Oban was. Sir Martin (and Tom) having no idea who the heck Sir Oban was, Sir Morian helpfully showed up and informed Sir Bryce that Sir Oban died several years before, fighting in Gaul. Sir Bryce seemed upset at this news, as if he had some unfinished business with Sir Oban.

When helping to oversee the changeover of the garrison, Sir Bersules and Sir Bryce could not help but lob some barbs at each other, Sir Bersules insulting Sir Bryce’s mustache, Bryce insulting Bersules’s beard, various veiled insinuations of treason and dishonor, etc. Looking over Sir Bersules’s sheet for relevant Traits (Pride, Vengeful, perhaps), nothing was high enough that merited a trait check- you can easily let this go, I told him. So of course he didn’t, and challenged Sir Bryce to a joust of honor.

Sir Bryce was a passingly good jouster (Lance 18), but knew Bersules was quite better (Lance 22!), so accepted for honor, but choose not to offer any kind of wager. They tilted… and Sir Bryce botched his Lance roll. Bersules didn’t do enough damage with his lance to unhorse him, but Bryce’s saddle was improperly placed, and he fell. Much wroth, Sir Bryce beat his squire severely. Bersules managed to get Bryce to stop the assault, and called for all young men to make sure they attended to their duties. When leaving the castle, the squire, young Gruffen, revealed that he had been released from his service by Sir Bryce, and asked leave of Sir Bersules to serve as his squire. And thus, Sir Bersules acquired a second squire.

493 does not have many scripted events in the GPC- there is an option to act as envoys to Malahaut, which is pretty bare bones. So instead I followed up a plot hook from the previous adventure, Sir Bersules’s vow to find the errant King Pellinore.

This manifested as a message from Bersules’s wife, Lady Indeg, that a dragon had been seen in her lands, and the peasants were refusing to work! Bersules made haste there, along with the other player knights, eager to prove themselves. They were also joined by Indeg’s stern brothers, Geriant the Younger and Gwern, also interested in the situation. With some legwork and questioning peasants, a description of the ‘dragon’ was had, and it was determined that this was no dragon at all, but the legendary Questing Beast!

Here Sir Geriant & Gwern offered a wager to the knights, that they divide into two groups, and that they and their dear brother-in-law Sir Bersules could find the beast before the others. Sir Leoric gladly accepted the wager. Suspicious, Sir Morian figured out their aim, to get themselves alone with Sir Bersules so they could arrange a ‘hunting accident’. Sir Morian insisted on accompanying Sir Bersules to make things fair, since Bersules was not a great hunter, and they hired Lady Indeg’s huntsman, and now the hapless brothers had two extra witnesses to deal with. They were not happy about this turn of events, but couldn’t really say anything about it.

The two groups set out, having supplied themselves with hunting supplies and hounds, and bringing armor along if needed, since Camelot Forest is known to be quite dangerous. The first group was Bersules, Morian, Geriant, Gwern, and huntsman Robert, the second Sirs Tathan, Leoric, Charles, and Martin.

The group led by Sir Tathan set out into Camelot Forest, and after a few hours, found a large tree in a clearing, which looked particularly restful. All those present had to make Energetic rolls, and those who failed (Tathan and Leoric) felt compelled to go up to the tree and take a nap. Sir Charles and Martin were left trying to figure out how to wake them up- shaking, yelling, and even kicking them didn’t work. They also found another knight resting against the tree on the opposite side, with heavily grown beard and heraldry neither of them recognized. After several failed attempts (each characterized by a failed skill or trait roll), Sir Martin tried trickery, using Deceptive to shout out that the horses were being stolen, and managed to rouse the knights. Here they discovered that the sleeping knight was none other than King Pellinore, who had been following the trail of the Questing Beast, and stopped at this particularly restful tree for a nap, but then ended up falling asleep for several weeks.

Meanwhile, Sir Geriant and Gwern found the tracks of a boar, and tried to encourage Sir Bersules to hunt it. (This was their original plan: find a boar, get Bersules to fight it, then if he wasn’t killed by the boar, do him in themselves with spears and blame it on the boar. A classic, really.) Bersules used Courtesy to insist that as he was their guest, they get the honor of the first shot, and they unenthusiastically tracked the boar, eventually letting it go. After wasting several hours on this, this group made camp, and during the night, Sir Moriant had his squire, Dyfed, the alleged horse-thief, spook Geriant & Gwern’s horses and chase them off into the forest. The next morning, the brothers were horseless. Bersules and Morian lent them some riding horses, and sent them back to the manor, and continued on with huntsman Robert.

It was Tathan’s group who found the Questing Beast first. They agreed that they would sneak towards it to try to catch it. Sir Martin got the closest before it was alerted, and the beast, truly quick, darted off before he could get any closer, but a glorious attempt it was. Sir Charles tried to shoot it, but his arrow went wide.

They met up, exchanged tales, and returned, King Pellinore in tow. He accepted Bersules’s hospitality for a few days (as far as Bersules was concerned, King Pellinore could stay as long as he liked.) Given the news that his kingdom was in chaos, Pellinore was reluctant to leave the hunt behind, but vowed that he would do his duty. Before leaving, Bersules asked if Pellinore would do him the honor of making his brother Harwel his squire. Pellinore agreed, and later returned to his homeland of Gomeret, along with a new squire.

One last event that occurred during the Winter Phase. Sir Bersules, being a bit shy of a 1000 glory milestone, spent 107 pounds libra on a feast, giving him a like amount of glory for conspicuous consumption. Truly, one of the greatest feasts in Salisbury in living memory.

The Great Pendragon Campaign, 492

I wasn’t sure how by the book I was going to run this year, because it’s a total railroad. Indeed, the text admits as much.

“Do the knights feel railroaded? They deserve to for they were.”

I couldn’t come up with anything better, so I ran it as is.

This year saw the introduction of three new player knights: Sir Tathan, the youngest brother of Sir Hewgon, Sir Charles, the brother of Sir Calus, and Sir Morian, the brother of Sir Morganor. Morganor, now Steward of Salisbury, asked his good friend Sir Bersules to keep an eye on these knights and keep them out of trouble. This did not happen.

Sir Moriel is a former knight errant, now landed. Mature for a starting knight (27 or 28, I think), he used most of his training points to start out as a Chivalrous Knight, famous for being Energetic, Generous, Just, and Valorous. He has red hair and heterochromatic eyes.

Sir Tathan is known for Mercy, a contrast with Sir Hewgon. He keeps his head shaven.

Sir Charles is a Worldly Heretic. He thinks of himself as a Luther-like reformer, but has a very low religion skill, so his ideas and complaints are based on a poor misunderstanding of church doctrine. Unlike Calus, who had a famously low appearance, Charles is quite beautiful, with ‘entrancing eyes.’ He hates those responsible for his brother’s death, Sir Jerren and Sir Brastias.

The year opened with a triple wedding. Three northern Kings came to Castle Tintagel to wed Queen Ygraine’s daughters: King Lot married Margause, King Nentres married Elaine, and King Uriens married Morgan. After the wedding, during the celebrations, Lady Morgan confronted Sir Bersules, (one of her father’s killers) and told him she ‘knew a secret’ that he would not live to see the next century. Bersules learned from Merlin some more information about Lady Nineve- she is a woman of an order of magicians known as the Ladies of the Lake, and he noticed that when the ladies left with their northern husbands, Lady Nineve went in the entourage of Lady Morgan.
Sir Charles got up to make a toast during the wedding, during which he made some veiled insults against the King. Steward Morganor gestured for his brother Sir Moriel to get Charles out of the feasthall. He did so, and then they got into an argument over whether or not Charles was allowed to honor his family.

Those with a skill for intrigue overheard the gossip that Queen Ygraine’s newborn son had not been conceived in wedlock. Indeed, the timing was such that it could even be Gorlois’s, or sired by Uther not long after his death…

Some weeks after the wedding, the knights were on patrol, garrison duty near Castle Terrabil. They came across Merlin, who was quite fascinated with an oak tree. Upon noticing the knights, he said he needed them to provide a service for the realm. Answering few of their questions, he led them along several unknown paths, heading in the direction of Castle Tintagel. Upon reaching a clearing, he said he had an important duty to attend to, and that he would need protection when he returned, and that they must remain ready. Sir Leander was not ready to swear to do a duty that he knew nothing about, and confronted Merlin for details, who said only “I cannot say all that I know, but I swear you would find my cause just.” This was not enough information for Sir Leander, who mistrusted Merlin, but enough of the other knights did trust the Great Druid that he decided he would stay with them, for no other reason to protect them from whatever trouble they would soon face.

A few hours later, Merlin returned, carrying a small bundle, a thick fog rising up behind him. Those who made their Awareness checks could tell that there were signs of pursuit, men on horseback having trouble exploring the forest in the fog. “Delay them,” was all he said to the knights, before continuing on with his wizardly business.

They prepared themselves, not knowing what they would face. Soon, a party of knights, led by Sir Brastias, with the brothers known as the Three Drakes. Brastias shouted after Merlin, and demanded of the knights if they had seen them.

And attempt to delay them they did: Bersules, Tathan and Leander tried to engage them in conversation, lying about what had occurred. Sir Moriel went off in a false direction, saying Merlin had went this way. Sir Charles found a place to hide (having failed to climb a tree) with his bow (!) and was ready to shoot. Negotiations broke down, and Sir Tathan faced his opposite, Tathan the Drake, in a short clash of arms, and Charles shot an arrow at Tathan the Drake. Bersules bodily blocked Brastias, (a series of opposed Dex rolls) under pretext of ‘protecting him’ from the archers in the woods. Eventually Brastias demanded they all stand down or prepare to fight, and further violence was averted. The player knights, led by Sir Charles’s hunting skills, managed to make it back to Castle Terrabil and avoid spending the night out in the wilderness.

The knights speculated as to what they had done and what the consequences might be. A few days later, Sir Brastias and a small force of men arrived at Castle Terrabil, and a messenger went to Sir Thebert, the garrison commander, who went to Sir Bersules: a warrant had been put out for him, Sir Leander, Sir Charles, and ‘two other knights’ who had aided Merlin, and they were accused of Treason, for aiding Merlin in kidnapping King Uther’s infant son. The warrant was signed by King Uther himself. They had to choose: turn themselves in, or risk further conflict. Sir Tathan thought he might be able to get out of it, since he was not named in the warrant, but Sir Thebert said he knew Tathan was the man referred to.

All but Sir Leander turned themselves in. For a long time, Sir Leander had been disillusioned with King Uther: his conduct after the Battle of Lindsay, his obvious lust for Ygraine, the shameful Casus Belli against Duke Gorlois and the pointless carnage after the Battle of Terrabil. Coupled with his grief after the death of his wife, Sir Leander could take it no more. After a successful Horsemanship roll to evade the men sent to arrest him, he rode off and fled to a monastery, where he gave up his knighthood and took holy vows.

Those knights who did turn themselves in were escorted to Castle Tintagel, where they were placed in quarters, not a dungeon, and told not to leave. Just for being accused to Treason, they lost a point of honor each, since even if exonerated, they would have the stigma of the charges hanging over them. Sir Moriel had sent his Squire (Dyfed, the horse thief) to Salisbury to summon Morganor. Morganor arrived with Bishop Roger as soon as possible, and aided the knights as best as able, and prepared a legal defense. The knights learned that another party of knights was under investigation as well.

A strange monk, Father Dewi came to meet them, a Roman Christian. He was asked who he was working for, and only replied that he was here to discover the truth of the matter, and asked them some questions, about what had happened and their relationship with Merlin.

Then came the trial, overseen by King Uther himself, with his advisors Duke Ulfias, Sir Brastias, and Bishop Dubricus. Queen Ygraine was in morning black, and vocally encouraged Uther to kill them.

Brastias presented his charges, that they had conspired with Merlin to kidnap Uther’s son. The knights testified that they were not aware of what Merlin had done. Steward Morganor spoke to support them, reminding King Uther that skilled knights were needed in these troubling times.

And then the surprise witness arrives: Father Dewi, who stated that all the knights had been ensorcelled by Merlin, and were not responsible for their actions, and that it was the duty of King Uther to rebuke the son of the devil, and purge his court of such influences.

Ygraine still wishes the knights executed, but Bishop Dubricus is quite swayed by Father Dewi and urges Uther to heed his words. Uther, convinced, announces that the knights are innocent of the charges against them, and that Merlin is responsible, declares the wizard a traitor to the realm.

Again, it’s a railroad. There’s nothing the players can say or do in their defense that impacts the outcome. An NPC shows up, gives a speech, and they are declared innocent. It’s certainly a change of pace, and makes the players involved in a key moment (Arthur’s kidnapping by Merlin). I’m reminded of the courtroom scene in Chrono Trigger, which has a similarly forseen outcome, but feels like your choices have an impact, since it calls back to your previous actions in the game. (Your actions, both before and during, do determine how many jurors vote in your favor.) As is, it’s basically another cutscene. Was it fun? I don’t know.

Before the close of the year, a messenger comes from the Kingdom of Norgales. The kingdom has been missing its lord, King Pellinore for many years. Has he been seen in Logres? Sir Bersules, who has met King Pellinore and heard of his chase for the Questing Beast, vows that he will find the errant King.

The Great Pendragon Campaign, 491, Part II

Sometimes, you run an rpg session, and everything goes exactly like you had expected it to.

This was not one of those times.

Duke Gorlois being dead, and Duchess Ygraine having surrendered, King Uther had taken over the rebellious Duchy of Cornwall. Lots of Cornish knights (and not Cornish knights) had perished, and the claims of all Cornish knights were ‘under review,’ meaning that the fiefs of the dead knights were going to get redistributed, and maybe some of those of knights still living. Earl Roderick was installed as Steward of Cornwall to oversee things, and the player knights all received a gift of a Cornish manor, to keep and maintain as long as they live.

News had come also that the Saxons had sacked the city of Pevensey, burning it to the ground and putting every inhabitant to the sword. Victory had been achieved in the west, but at what price?

First things first, bury the dead. Sir Hewgon was buried, and a royal funeral was held for Prince Madoc near Stonehenge. Sir Calus did not attend, owing to his Worldly nature.

Then, weddings. Calus and Leander had been ordered by Roderick to marry, and try as they might, neither of them was able to weasel out of it- in fact, they botched their rolls to try to do so. Calus was wed to Lady Venora, known for being Generous and Proud. Leander’s fiancee was Lady Derwen, known for being Pious and Modest, a fellow Roman Christian. She had been contemplating the life of a nun, when Roderick arranged the match.

They were super perfect for each other. Leander was torn between his duty to God (Chastity/Piety) and duty to his Lord (Loyalty/Justice), and his desire to do right by Derwen. He contemplated taking her to the nunnery and suffering whatever consequence Earl Roderick would choose. She was largely suffering the same conflict, along with the desire to please her potential husband and not make waves. After much agonizing over the right thing to do, Leander rolled his Justice vs. Chastity. Justice won, so he agreed and married Lady Derwen.

They returned to Cornwall, to help garrison and repair Castle Terrabil. They met some other knights, Sir Thebert, the Garrison Commander, strange Sir Verius, from the land of the Dobunni, and Sir Alain de Carlion, a vassel of King Nantlerod, here as a favor to King Uther. In some discussion, Sir Morganor learned that Sir Thebert had been part of the small force that had taken Castle Tintagel. Thebert revealed that Merlin had disguised Uther and a small troop of men as Gorlois and Cornish knights, and they had been let in by a postern gate. They killed the troops manning the main gate and let in the army to take the castle. Not even Gorlois’s own wife could have known it was Uther!

Sir Leander asked of his fellow knights how to please his wife, and what women truly wanted. The other knights had various perspectives on this, which only served to confuse Leander further.

A royal wedding was held at Tintagel for Uther and Ygraine. Sir Bersules, wary of his lust, choose to stay behind, and served as Garrison Commander while Sir Thebert attended the ceremony. It was a most lavish ceremony. Afterwards, Margause, the eldest of Ygraine’s daughters struck up a conversation with Morganor, where she asked some very needling questions to try to understand Sir Morganor, who managed to comport himself very politely. She seems like she’ll be a troublemaker someday.

At the wedding, Calus sought out Lady Nineve, the handmaiden of Lady Ygraine rumored to be a sorceress. He put the following thing to her: he wanted to be absolved of his marriage to Lady Venora, and the only way he saw to do that, was to kill Earl Roderick. After some back and forth, in which Lady Nineve revealed that Earl Roderick ‘would not live long past the Battle of St. Albans’ Calus said that that was not soon enough. She told him to come back later, and when he returned, she gave him a twisted blade known as the Dagger of Endings, which would kill anyone who the wielder truly hated. Calus botched his Faerie Lore roll to know if there was any sort of curse or drawback to the blade, so he thought it would only help him get away with the deed.

Some time later, after the wedding guests had gone home, Calus skulked about the castle, looking for a moment where he could get Earl Roderick alone. He found it, when the Earl was using the privy. He kicked the door down (a strength check), and then stabbed at the Earl. The Earl was at minus 15 to his own dagger roll for his pants being around his ankles. Calus was inspired by his hate, and stabbed the Earl to death.

Just in time for Sir Jerren to show up. Sir Jerren called for the guards, drew his sword, and fought Calus. Calus was no longer inspired at this point (his goal having been completed), and was much outmatched with just a dagger, and unarmored. Jerren made a doleful stroke that would have killed most anyone else, and Calus fumbled, losing the Dagger of Endings. With Calus on the ground and Jerren’s blade at his throat, Calus made an impassioned plea (using his Love Passion). On the success, Jerren said that he understood Calus’s behavior, but did not condone it. So instead of killing him on the spot, Calus was thrown in the dungeon, and executed three days later.

Also during the winter, Sir Bersules was driven by his Lust to pay a visit to Tintagel, and see Lady Ygraine. However he critically succeeded his Courtesy roll, and managed to not say or do anything that would offend King Uther.

Sir Morganor was offered the position of Steward of Salisbury, and married Countess Ellen. That winter she had a son- before Roderick died, he finally accomplished his goal of siring an heir. Becoming a powerful noble, Steward Morganor is now ‘out of play,’ having effectively ‘won’ Pendragon.

The death of Earl Roderick is our first major swerve from the official Pendragon timeline. However Nineve’s prophecy says he already had a fated demise. What ripples will this change have?

Also during the winter, Lady Derwen, Leander’s wife, gave him a son. And died in childbirth. Much angst was had.

Next session we’ll have THREE new player knights, replacements for Hewgon, Morganor, and Calus. I’m sure that one will go as expected.

The Great Pendragon Campaign, 491 Part I

Last winter, Duke Gorlois and his wife, the Duchess Ygraine, had fled the King’s castle without leave, a breach of hospitality, killing a few guards to make their escape. In retaliation for this act, the King has declared war on Duke Gorlois. While the pretext of the war is Gorlois’s dishonor, astute observers know the true reason: the King is obsessed with Lady Ygraine and lusts for her. Sir Morganor, who got a critical hit for Intrigue, learned that the attack was unpopular with many of his advisers, including his son Prince Madoc, and the two of them had fought bitterly over it.

Before the muster, in the courts of Sarum, Sir Jorddans, recently recovered from his stint of madness (and now an NPC) sang a song to all about a seemingly noble knight who refused to fight for his lady wife, leading to her death. While it didn’t name any names, it’s clearly about Sir Morganor. Sir Morganor invited Sir Jorddans to his manors to play that song in front of Morganor and his family. Jorddans accepted the invitation.

Each knight personally had a visit with each of the knights to discuss their marriage status. For Sir Morganor, who’s bride Lady Gwionna had recently died, he said he would arrange a marriage when he was done mourning.

For the brave Sir Hewgon, recently cursed, who had vowed to remain a bachelor, he offered the hand of Lady Elaine, a widow and heiress who’s previous husband had been killed by her baseborn lover (who was subsequently hanged.) Hewgon was skeptical, but said he would talk to the lady and see if it was an amenable match.

To Sir Calus, who had taken a Frankish woman for his wife after the siege of Bayeux, the Earl said he needed to ‘set his concubine aside’ and take a proper wife, that the Earl would find for him. Calus was quite angered by this, and demanded the right to choose his own wife. I asked him what Trait he wanted to use to persuade the Earl, and he wanted to roll Justice, for his rights. We talked about it, and I observed that it’s actually a very modern attitude, and in fact, insisting on it could be seen as Arbitrary. He ended up rolling Proud, and failed. The Earl said the matter was not settled, and an arranged marriage would go further.

To Sir Leander, he said similarly, your piety is beyond reproach, but you have a duty to your family to leave an heir. Leander again asked for leave to remain a bachelor (rolling I think Chaste), and also failed. The Earl again was quite frustrated, and said again that he would arrange a marriage, and rather callously said, “you only have to do it with her once, you know!” Leander was quite flustered.

He also asked everyone if they knew anything about Gorlois’s and Ygraine’s escape the previous winter. Leander and Bersules (who both did have some information, and Bersules had actually personally aided the escape) lied about what they knew, and picked up Deceitful checks.

With the looming threat of Saxons to the south, both Earl Roderick and Duke Ulfias left their foot troops at home, taking only their Knights for the muster. King Uther, not willing to wait for Duke Lindsey to arrive with the rest of his army, set forth early, heading west.

Upon reaching the borders of Cornwall, advance scouts reported the following: Duke Gorlois and most of his army were fortified in Castle Terrabil, and his family and treasury were both in Castle Tintagel, a fortress of Roman make, one of the greatest in Logres, said to be unassailable. After consultation with his war council, it was announced that Uther, supported by Merlin, would begin laying siege to Castle Tintagel, and Prince Madoc, with the bulk of the army, would lay siege of Castle Terrabil.

There once had been a village around Castle Terrabil, but now the peasants were all in the bailey, and had taken everything they could carry with them. Madoc’s army rolled in and set up camp, looting anything else for supplies, and beginning to construct siege weaponry. We did a series of brief camp scenes- Leander seeking advice from a camp chaplain, and being disgusted at the priest’s pragmatism, Morganor trying to make an impression on Sir Hywel, a wealthy Banneret with many holdings an an unmarried daughter, and fumbling his Courtesy roll, forever spoiling that possibility, Sir Calus trying to go for a refreshing swim and failing his swimming roll and having to be fished out by his brother, which got him an Energetic check and some fun poked at his expense.

A few nights into the siege, the knights were awakened by the sound of fighting. The camp was under attack! They had little time to prepare. They had a choice to make: they could grab a weapon and try to fight (a bad idea), get their squire to armor them up (the best idea, as it would turn out), or get their squire to get a horse ready (a middling idea.) It would be a Squire roll to get one’s armor or horse ready. Sir Calus, who recently had a squire graduate, did not trust entirely in his new squire of 12 years, and chose instead to don Leather armor, which would not require a roll. Sir Morganor and Bersules donned armor, and Hewgon and Leander got on their horses.

This next part is a bit of a dick move on the part of the adventure: the next round it says that the sound of fighting is nearer, and asks the players again: will they charge into the fight with what they have, or attempt to finish gearing themselves? It’s a dick move because the enemy knights charge into their camp, and anyone who was trying to get ready is at a minus 5 for the round.

Thus begins a rather dangerous Battle, and a bit different than others I had run, because there aren’t really any Units in this one; each knight is mostly just trying to defend against the Cornish attackers. I also assign a minus 5 penalty to everyone for night combat. Where previously, they had mostly fought Saxons on foot, these are fully armed and mounted Knights, who get the height bonus against the players who are on foot. At least they aren’t on the receiving end of a lance charge.

I roll Young Knights for the quality of the first batch of knights, which is good for the players. Very few enemy knights are unhorsed, but they don’t deal many wounds either.

Bersules and Morganor make their Squire rolls, and are now both armored and mounted. Calus fails his, and his squire and horse are nowhere to be seen. Leander and Hewgon have horses, but no armor. Calus invokes a passion: Loyalty, Lord and fails, falling into melancholy.

Calus and Leander are soon disabled. Without the benefit of armor, even moderately strong blows can be incapacitating to a knight. Leander failed a horsemanship roll and got max falling damage, 6 on a 1d6, so he fell into a campfire, which singed him terribly. They both spend the rest of the battle seeking first aid. Melancholic Calus and Prudent Leander see no reason to return to the front lines.

Prince Madoc can be seen by the battle banner, calling for knights to rally to him. After a few rounds, Duke Gorlois and his men crash into the banner area. Gorlois and Madoc fight, and Madoc is killed. The knights still in the fight, Bersules, Morganor, and Hewgon all charge in. They get a free attack since Gorlois’s sword is fully stuck in Madoc’s chest and he is switching to his mace. The next round though, is a bloody fight: Gorlois, inspired by passion, has a current Sword skill of 33. However, fighting 3 knights is no good for him: he has to split to 11, then the darkness modifier brings his skill down to 6 against each of the three knights. Despite this, he gets a strike in on Hewgon, and without armor, Sir Hewgon the Sheep-Rider is laid low. Sir Bersules and Morganor kill the rebel Duke.

Bersules and Morganor now find themselves surrounded by Gorlois’s bodyguards, who are themselves surrounded by a ring of men loyal to Uther (and there’s probably more Cornish knights out there.) These guys are elite Cornish knights, not likely to go down easily. Bersules makes a Recognize check and has met one of them before (Sir Ysgarran), and urges him to make peace, but battle continues. Bersules and Morganor hold their own. With news of Duke Gorlois’s death, the remaining Cornish troops begin to rout. Sir Ysgarran retreats, and Bersules lets him go, getting a Merciful check.

After the battle, as the sun rises, it is a terrible sight to be sure. War dead from both sides, the castle itself partially in flames, the land turned to blood-stained mud.

They bury their dead, and say a few words for Sir Hewgon. Word is soon brought: by means of an incredibly cunning strategem, King Uther has taken Castle Tintagel! Lady Ygraine has officially surrendered Cornwall, and Uther has pledged that she and her daughters are under his protection.

The Great Pendragon Campaign, 490, Part II

Many of his knights not yet returned for the muster, Earl Roderick sends Sir Morganor out to find his questing knights. And Sir Morganor does so, finding those knights as they return from Glastonbury Abbey. They relate the events of their trip, which Sir Morganor responds to in typical Worldly fashion, decrying the habits of monks, and also skeptically dismissing their claims of a curse. However they still have a few days before the muster, and the assembled knights insist on going to the Tower of Ravens. Sir Morganor sighs and accompanies them, for after all, you never know what trouble they will get into.

They travel to the Tower of Ravens, in the Ravenwood, in Lady Gwiona’s lands. The woods are creepy and filled with cawing ravens. There they find a single solitary tower, with planks protruding from it, and on each plank is a gibbet, with a dead knight in armor, being fed upon by ravens. Outside the tower is a knight’s pavilion, with a dwarf outside, attired as a squire. (Little person, not fantasy creature.) As they approach, the dwarf went into the tower, and a knight clad in black mail emerged, with a shield painted entirely black, with no heraldic device.

Those who make their Heraldry rolls know that such a shield is used when a knight does not wish to fight under his own name or be known to others for some reason. “What knavery is this?” shouts Sir Bersules.

The Black Knight introduces himself as the champion of the Lady of Ravens, and tells the knights that if they wish to enter the Tower of Ravens, one of them must best him in single combat to first blood, weapons to be determined by the challenger. He is courteous at all times, and bids them turnaround and leave, because nothing but sorrow will await them from within the tower. When asked if he defeated the knights in the gibbets, he says that he did not, that they were defeated by trials within the tower.

What are the protocols for a challenge such as this? We determine that the highest glory has the first right of challenge, which is Sir Morganor. Sir Morganor, even though it is his Lady’s wellbeing that is at stake, passes the challenge, and Sir Bersules makes the challenge, demanding a joust. The dwarf retrieves the Black Knight’s horse, which is a majestic black charger. They tilt, and Sir Bersules is unhorsed, and dealt a heavy blow – not a major wound, but certainly enough that will hurt. The Black Knight dismounts and asks if any other will challenge him.

Sir Jorddans, driven wroth by his love for Lady Gwiona, draws upon his passion for her… and botches his roll. A fumble on a passion test leads to madness. The rules here are intentionally vague on whether the madness happens immediately or after the current test – I allow him to fight as if melancholy, at minus 5, and he loses, and then goes stark raving mad, believing himself to be turned into a raven. He runs off, his squire chasing after him. When this happens, the character is out of play – again, for a period to be determined by the gamemaster, but usually at least the rest of the session. I give him some filled out pregens, and so he decides to be a still-living knight trapped in one of the gibbets, and he cries out for the knights to leave, and save themselves.

Sir Hewgon, failing a Valorous Roll and succeeding on a Cowardly check, wants nothing to do with this.  So now, Sir Calus, the resident badass, steps up and challenges the Black Knight to a contest of spears, thinking that the foe may be less skilled in this weapon. The first clash of arms sees the Black Knight successful, but he does not deal enough damage to get through Sir Calus’s armor. The next clash of arms sees Sir Calus victorious. The Black Knight bows, and says he shall block their way no more, but repeats his warning that only sorrow awaits inside.

Hewgon and Calus are the first to enter. In the first floor of the Tower of Ravens awaits a sumptuous feast- putting even the generosity of King Cadwy to shame, with copious pies, pitchers of wines, and diverse meats and desserts. A Temperance roll is called for, and Calus fails, succumbing to the deliciousness of the awaiting feast. Hewgon shakes his head and climbs the stairs upwards, to see what challenges await.

Meanwhile, Sir Morganor and Leander put their heads together and devise a way to get a rope and a dagger up to the caged Sir Martin, so that he might free himself from his cage. He does so and manages to climb down, where he thanks his rescuers profusely. He is armed with spare weapons from Sir Morganor, and warns them of the trials of the Tower. He says that the first challenge is a sumptuous feast, and the second is a cadre of lusty damsels, and he failed to resist their charms. At the words ‘lusty damsels,’ Sir Bersules decides he must see the interior of this tower, and making his Temperance roll, resists the lure of the feast to climb to the second level.

Sir Hewgon is accosted by many lusty damsels, who ask him to spend the night with them, and cast many desirous looks at him. He relies upon his Chastity, and manages to resist their beguiling, and push through to the third level. Following not far behind, Sir Bersules emerges, and amazingly manages to make his Chaste roll. He too resists them, and presses on into the tower.

Sir Leander enters the tower, and quite unexpectedly fails his Temperance roll. Like Calus, he gives in to the delicious feast.

Making their way to the third level, Sir Hewgon and Bersules see a room filled with diverse treasures, fantastic goblets, jewels, chests bursting with coins, truly a king’s ransom and more. However after Generous rolls, they are unmoved by this display of gross material wealth, and press onward and upward.

The final level of the Tower of Ravens is a throne room, with a great black throne, long flowing black curtains, two giant braziers, and various perches on which ravens roost. On the throne is the Lady of Ravens, wearing a long black gown and wearing a black mask. She asks the knights why they have intruded upon her abode, and they demand that she lift the curse on Lady Gwiona.

She says that the cursed is justly deserved- that she was flying about in raven form, and when she chanced to fly near a human dwelling, a young woman chased her away with a broom. Therefore, she cursed that young woman to know nothing but sorrow, and that all her loved ones would die. Surely, they would admit this is only fair. (They did not.) Then she asked them what they would offer in exchange for her lifting the curse.

A bit stumped for what the Lady of Ravens might want, she made a few suggestions- perhaps one of them might serve as her champion (Sir Hewgon was prepared to serve for a year and a day, but she wanted indefinite service, which he refused), or to deliver Lady Gwiona’s firstborn unto her (again, refused), and finally that one of them might take the curse upon themselves. Sir Hewgon agreed, and the curse was transferred from Lady Gwiona to himself. He swore Sir Bersules to secrecy regarding the details of what transpired inside the tower. Before leaving, Sir Bersules invited the Lady of Raven to visit him in his own manor, an invitation I am sure he will have no cause to regret. They also, with Temperance rolls, managed to shake Sir Leander and Calus from their spell, and allow them to leave the Tower safely.

Sir Hewgon told Sir Morganor that “the curse would trouble Lady Gwiona no more,” to which Sir Morganor scoffed, insisting there was no curse.

The knights managed to make it back to Sarum in time for the muster, and then joined up with the King’s army, to march north to Lindsey, where the entire army of Logres assembled to fight the Saxon hordes.

In our previous battle, I had gotten the sense that players had too few choices to make things interesting, and not enough meaningful decisions to make, that battle was essentially a series of high-stakes dice rolls: potentially rewarding, but fundamentally boring. I added a few rules from Book of Battle (which on first read seemed to go way too far the other way into too much detail, but I might revisit it), to try to give the players a little more agency.

The lines were drawn up, with King Uther leading the center (including the player knights), Duke Gorlois leading the left flank, and Duke Ulfias leading the right. With his Battle skill of 20, the players select Calus as their unit commander.

This is a massive battle, consisting of eight rounds of combat. (Mearcred Creek, at the start of the campaign, was five rounds.) Each round represents roughly an hour of skirmishing and fighting, with a single roll resolving a spotlight moment. As far as RPG battle systems go, I quite like it, save for the aforementioned lack of decision making.

Prior to the first charge, pretty much everyone invokes a Passion: Sir Hewgon starts with Hatred of Saxons, and others follow up with various Loyalties. I was probably too generous here, allowing Loyalty: Roderick- I should have insisted on the more directly appropriate Hate: Saxons or Loyalty: Uther. Reviewing the combat skills, I was too generous in letting it apply to ALL combat skills (for example, Lance and Sword) when it should only have been for one skill. I’m still not sure if it should have lasted for the whole battle, or just one battle round- the rules say “for the task at hand.” Hard to say if a battle counts as a single task.  (Addendum: It doesn’t.)

All but Sir Calus made their Passion rolls (and I think Hewgon critted his), leaving Calus weary and Melancholic, at minus five to all rolls. Through the first seven grueling rounds of battle, they fought valiantly, whether against sturdy Heorthgeneats or against hordes of armed peasants. Between the +10 passion bonus and the +5 mounted bonus against most enemies, the Saxons didn’t really stand a chance. The enemies got very few hits in, and when they did, they were crits: Sir Martin and Sir Calus were both disabled about halfway through. When Sir Calus went down, Sir Morganor took command (despite Sir Leander having a better battle skill.)

During round seven, Duke Gorlois defeated one of the Saxon leaders, and the Saxon right flank began to route. (A scripted event) This meant that during the eighth and final round, the remaining knights had a choice: as the Saxon army routed, they could go after the Saxon warbanner (guarded by Heorthgeneats), or after the Saxon King Octa and his bodyguards (mounted Heorthgeneats). Sir Morganor called for the knights to capture the banner with him, and Leander and Bersules followed, but Reckless Sir Hewgon sped after King Octa.

It was a dangerous battle for the three knights against four Saxons, but they soon evened the numbers and captured the war banner. Sir Hewgon did not fare as well- two of King Octa’s body guards blocked his path and unhorsed him after a few rounds of combat, and then retreated with their King.

After the battle there was much plunder to be had by all, except for Sir Calus, who wandered about in a melancholic stupor, missing the great feast and the next few scenes. In addition, those who participated in the capture of the battle-standard were greatly rewarded by King Uther- they were each granted a fine new Charger, and additional gold.

At the great victory feast, there was diverse entertainment, and King Uther and Duke Gorlois toasted each other often. During the feast, Gorlois brought in Lady Ygraine and her handmaidens, who performed a coordinated dance. All who looked upon Ygraine had to make a Lustful roll, and those who succeeded gained extra lust towards Ygraine based on the margin. For example, if someone had a Lustful of 10 and rolled an 8, they would have +2 Lust towards Ygraine, but if they rolled a 1 they would have +9. Most of the knights picked up a few points, but Sir Bersules, already known for his great lust, critted his roll. With no specific ruling in place, I decided that he had +20 Lustful towards Ygraine. (There’s also no specific suggestion for what I should do to make this knight’s life interesting and miserable.)

Those who succeeded their rolls (I believe Morganor and Leander) were able to make awareness checks, and deduce that Uther (and Bersules) were quite entranced by Ygraine.

Most of the knights (not Calus, still melancholy) went for a procession with Uther, where he was welcomed into Malahaut by the Centurion King, and met with several kings of the northern lands: King Eurain of Rheged, King Uriens of Gorre, King Nentres of Garloth, and King Lot of Lothian. Excalibur is shown off, and vows of mutual support against Saxons are made. Some small glory is gained. For time constraints, this was mostly summarized.

At Christmas Court, King Uther is attended by all his nobles, so he celebrate them. After a few weeks, he gives most of his vassals leave to return to their own lands- save Earl Roderick and Duke Gorlois. Every day Duke Gorlois asks for leave to return to his lands, and every day he is refused, the King saying he depends on the Duke’s good counsel. Most everyone is aware that what the King really wants is to gaze upon Ygraine.

Sir Bersules is approached by one of Ygraine’s handmaidens, who introduces herself as Lady Nineve. She tells Sir Bersules that Lady Ygraine suffers, and that Bersules’s help is needed. He must make a Lust roll to resist. He uses his Passion of his Love for his Wife to inspire his Chastity, which lowers his Lust (technically Passions are only supposed to inspire Skills, but I allow it.) He makes his Lust roll, which is a success… but at least it’s not a Critical Success. He is compelled to be sympathetic to Ygraine, but isn’t wrapped around her finger (yet). Nineve asks him to help distract some of the gate guards. Bersules goes and gambles with them, and gets them drunk.

While returning from the chapel that night, Sir Leander catches a glimpse of the courtyard, where it seems like a large group of people is outfitting themselves for a journey. Not being seen, he makes haste back to his quarters, determining that silence is the prudent course of action.

The next day it is revealed that Duke Gorlois and Lady Ygraine fled during the night. The King makes great wroth. Due to the weather, none can follow them.

This was a big year for glory, mostly because of the rewards of the Battle. Due to being a huge battle, plus most of the characters getting crits every round, (a multiplier), plus glory for the Heorthgeneats they defeated, plus the modifier for a decisive victory – most characters raked in around two thousand glory. Sir Calus was the odd man out, missing about half the battle. By this point everyone has at least 3000 glory, with Sir Morganor and Bersules both over 6000.

During winter, Lady Gwiona died during childbirth. A random event, but it stinks of the influence of the Lady of Ravens.

We’re losing a knight (Sir Jorddans), due to the player needing more time during the holidays. In terms of the time set aside for the game, we’re now halfway through, and well on schedule to finish the Uther Period by the end of the year. Really looking forward to seeing what happens next.

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