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Voord 99

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    Hapless interstellar conqueror. I’m really not very good at it.

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  1. Story seed: there was a medieval story told about the famous bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitol in Rome — which people did not know was a statue of Marcus Aurelius — in which it was a statue of a Roman called Marcus who defeated an enemy king who was a magician by having his horse trample on him, because the magician could not be killed with weapons. Obviously, though, killing a fellow knight by having your horse trample on them would be, under normal circumstances, unchivalrous behavior. I mean, it’s unchivalrous if you don’t dismount and fight them on foot, let alone if you don’t even allow them to get up and just have your horse stand on them.
  2. Found that: p.91. Alright, that does justify giving the MW score.
  3. Given that being good at a purely knowledge skill is an investment with a significant opportunity cost in Pendragon, I’m pretty generous and let Faerie Lore apply to pretty much anything marvelous about which a story might be told, if it is not obviously connected to the divine. In fact, I often also let Read Latin apply to various kinds of knowledge as well. After all, what is the downside of letting these skills be capacious? They often make life easier for the GM, and it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling that Faerie Lore is too overpowered and letting one character outshine the others. 🙂
  4. Doesn’t “most likely” mean that unconsciousness itself is not automatic? And of course you only know if a Major Wound knocks them unconscious if you also know their HP, or makes them surrender if you also know their Valorous. You can make those up on the fly, but you could also make up the Major Wound on the fly — it’s just a matter of deciding what the typical CON is. So I think this strengthens my original objection, if anything — the MW score by itself is not very useful, and it is odd that it is given for every opponent as if it had a real use. Statted-up versions with the MW alongside other key combat stats would be another matter. I’d be in favor of those, as they would also have a fair bit of usefulness outside battles. But there’s no particular value to having the MW alone for e.g. Grunting Warriors. Even its utility here does not apply to the many opponents who are not ransomable. I can however see a case for having a rule that in battle, MW = automatic unconsciousness, as often opponents would have taken many wounds and slip below Unconsciousness that way. But there’s no way to track that, so compensate by saying all Major Wounds mean unconsciousness.
  5. As it happens, that’s not in itself what defines a High King. Irish kings came in different levels, and there were overkings who had the allegiance of lesser kings but were not themselves High King. In fact, there were overkings who themselves had overkings who were still not High King. (Early on, any noble ruler was a king, there being no other term, although by the time just before the English conquest, many of the very minor kings at the bottom had been reduced to something very like mere vassals of the “real” kings and were as result were no longer called “kings.”) What defines the High King is that he is king of all Ireland (or Scotland), or claims to be, anyway, with no possibility of there being a king over him. So one can imagine a High King of Britain, certainly, and if it helps keep “King of Logres” and “King of Britain” tidy, why not?
  6. Is there a rule somewhere that I missed (there could definitely be such a rule somewhere!) that says that in battle, a Major Wound means an automatic capture?
  7. Well, important point number 1: I don’t actually feel strongly about it at all. That was a joke. It would be as if you cared deeply if someone called the son of some king somewhere “the Dauphin” — I don’t imagine that would bother you at all, it having been some time since there was a Dauphin running around the place in France. But the historical point goes further than soltakks says, in fact. “Britain” never, ever, at any point had a “High King.” (Scotland, yes. See below.) “High King” isn’t a generic term. It’s a specifically Irish term, a literal translation of Ard Rí, for a specifically Irish type of kingship that was exported to Scotland (for the obvious reason). It’s confined to Ireland and Scotland. The idea that Arthur was “High King of the Britons” is, as I am fairly certain at this point, a Victorian invention. It should absolutely 100% not be imposed on Geoffrey of Monmouth as a historical understanding of Geoffrey of Monmouth — he never calls Arthur that, nor is he using Irish and Scottish political concepts to inform his version of a imagined British past. Of course, lots of things that are essentially Victorian end up in KAP. Camelot, for instance, is not in medieval sources fetishized as the Greatest Place Ever as it is in the game. So there’s no particular problem with it if one likes it. That being said, a KAP game that substituted “Emperor” (what the Welsh sources often call Arthur) for “High King” would be fun.
  8. For what it’s worth, there’s a decent alternate-history justification one could use for “sir” being both masculine and feminine. “Sir” is from Old French sire, which is from Latin senior, via *seior. (Seigneur is also from senior, but by its own separate derivation.) Now, no doubt if people in the Middle Ages had addressed women as sire, they would probably have invented a feminine — cf. seigneuresse. But in Latin, senior is both masculine and feminine. (And obviously, what people are “really” speaking in Pendragon is some indefinable mix of Late Latin/Early Romance and Brythonic languages, and they are not “really” speaking English with a lot of borrowings from French. No-one is “really” calling anyone else “Sir Whoever.”) So one can imagine a history in which sire remained both masculine and feminine, was used in Old French as a respectful address for noble women as well as noble men, and in due course English “sir” was used interchangeably for both men and women.
  9. Dame is, as many people here will know (but just in case), the equivalent of “Sir” in the modern British honours system. Which is no doubt why the game has adopted it, but, perversely, to me it has the opposite effect from the desired. I just start thinking of modern people who are Dame This or Dame That. Part of this is no doubt that I have a fairly strong dislike of the honours system, and do not like being reminded of it. (Runs in the family. My grandfather turned down an O.B.E. on principle.) My personal preference would be (a) to abandon, with reluctance, Malory’s practice of consistently referring to every knight as “Sir Whatever” and mostly just refer to them by their names. (b) When it’s necessary, women knights are “The lady or damosel Whatever.” But most of the time one does not worry about it, and just uses her name.
  10. I’ve been using a vague principle of, “If I don’t know what you should roll, roll APP.” APP almost as a luck roll. E.g., if there isn’t an obviously relevant knowledge skill, roll APP — people with higher APP get into more conversations, and if you succeed, you happened to be chatting with someone once who knew about this. Also, I’m a big fan of the “spotlight rule” that was posted on the old Nocturnal forums. Roll APP (modified by Glory) to have a chance to use a courtly skill or otherwise get someone’s attention. It can easily be bolted onto the courtly challenges from the Marriage of Count Roderick — in a courtly setting, all knights get to roll APP, and in return they have a courtly challenge of their choice. (They will naturally pick their best courtly skill, of course.) But I use this a lot in general in social settings, and highly recommend it. The Glory modifier gives it a nice rhythm in which APP is really important for young knights whom nobody knows, giving them opportunities that they would never have had otherwise, and bringing them to the attention of the powerful. Tizun Thane suggested making the card draw in BoF dependent on APP, not Glory, and I do that. Specifically, it’s APP modified by Glory, then divided by 10, because I think a choice between two or (for the truly exceptional) three cards is enough and more than that would slow our game too much. But you could divide by a different number to bring it closer to the BoF as written. Also, if you’re playing with the “winning the Feast” concept (I’m not), then there would be a case for throwing in an APP roll to get all of that Glory, which is (as has often been discussed here) extremely high. One thing that I need to remember to do more is use APP to backstop courtly skills. OK, you failed — but how much did you embarrass yourself? Roll APP: if you succeed, the court is forgiving; if you fail…. If one wanted to do a fair bit of work, there could be a standard APP roll in the Winter Phase. If you make it, something good happens to you — someone does you a favor, an unexpected opportunity comes your way, etc. If you fail it, something bad happens to you. Like the personal events in the Book of Solos (but my personal preference would be not to dictate what the character does, as those tend to do). This involves taking the time to come up with tables of good and bad events, of course. One thing that’s easy to implement is to design various courtly rolls as automatically accompanied by an APP roll. Don’t just roll Intrigue to pick up a rumor. Roll APP and Intrigue — success at both gives you two rumors, or more detail, the equivalent of a critical at either one. Fumble/success: some truth, some falsehood, etc. This is simple, and produces varied and more interesting results than yes/no, like more recent systems often do. This is another one that I have to remember to do more often myself.
  11. That’s an interesting thought, that one could extend Uther’s illness. I tend to think that most readers would assume that the sequence of events is fairly short: Uther is ill, his enemies do a single great battle upon his men, Merlin tells him to get moving. The reader would probably assume that the enemies are responding to Uther’s illness, and especially that Merlin is responding to the battle. But these causal links are certainly not explicitly stated. I don’t know that Malory is really worried about thinking of the decade-plus time when Arthur is growing up as “real” — I’m not sure that narrative time in Malory is really all that closely moored to a precise intradiegetic chronology. This is a place where it’s interesting how much difference reading this in a text without Caxton’s chapter breaks makes, at least for me. The break and chapter heading right before this sentence inserts a marked pause, and without it, this seems to follow much more immediately from the preceding account of Uther’s death, including his statement that Arthur is to be king. Note the repeated “And thenne…Thenne…Thenne…” (if one follows the punctuation in the Norton Critical Edition) with this sentence as the middle of the three, not, as Caxton makes it seem, the introduction to something new. It doesn’t actually have to be Brittany even in Geoffrey. (Nitpick: I don’t think we should impose what appears to be the essentially modern concept of a “High King of Britain” on Geoffrey — speaking as someone from Ireland, I resent very strongly this act of cultural appropriation. 🙂.) In Pendragon, I think you can make a case that the king of Vannetais should be raised as a possibility, as Aldroenus’ heir and, at least in the BoS, the last known living descendant of Macsen Wledig (a change from Geoffrey). In my game, which is much less “historical” Arthur than canon KAP and is a world in which one has to deal with the question, “OK, who is Uther’s legitimate heir if we follow the normal law of succession?” I’m going with the story of the evil king Rivoldus and St. Melor. Melor should be the rightful king (if Arthur weren’t there), but Rivoldus has cut off his hand and foot, and the Britons refuse to accept Rivoldus, because, well, he’s the sort of person who cuts off his nephew’s hand and foot. (The BoS implies that King Meliau is a tyrant, which is a bit unfair to a figure whose only defining trait is that he’s really saintly and nice :)) Oh, no question. The idea here is that the players have already played through a campaign with the standard elements. In some ways, I think it would be most fun precisely to gun for those things, like the incest and Lancelot’s adultery, that are most pervasive in modern versions — especially in “historical” Arthur fiction that purports to depict a possible post-Roman Arthur, despite us knowing for an absolute fact that they are later additions. Put together a Pendragon history that’s reflects genuine medieval conceptions of Arthur, just not the ones that are current as modern myth. Let’s have a Mordred who’s Arthur’s nephew. There would probably be no Morgause, since she exists essentially to replace Anna. The incest is arguably difficult in Pendragon as it is, or rather the May Babies, an incident that doesn’t really suit the way that Pendragon’s Arthur is the Arthur that, as you have pointed out, is essentially modern and not even Malory: the central character of the story who is the ideal king. Players can have difficulty with it, too. I remember in 1e when I first played KAP that one of my players (actually, he is now again one of my players, with both of us being much older) was reading ahead in Malory and got to that bit, and, rather worried, said that he couldn’t see how his (religious-knight) character would be able to be loyal to a King Herod. If you want the incest, though, the way to keep it would be magic, I think.
  12. The Anarchy. It’s one of the most iconic things about King Arthur Pendragon, the game. It’s the time when the training wheels go off the knights, and they have real agency for the first time — and in a way that they’re not going to have again after this phase is over. Everyone loves it. And it is almost entirely Mr. Stafford’s invention. Here’s the Anarchy in Malory: ”Then stood the realm in great jeopardy long while, for every lord that was mighty of men made him strong, and many weened to have been king.” That’s it. The Anarchy corresponds to one sentence in Malory. Now, Malory does, if you add up the numbers of years, assume that this period lasted about as long as it does in the GPC. But it’s also evident that Malory has very little interest in that period. It has no narrative weight whatsoever. The Anarchy as a thing that has real presence in the narrative, in which events happen, that one experiences — I think it’s fair to say that’s Mr. Stafford’s own contribution to the story, one that’s been there since 1e. It’s as if he took a cut between scenes and stuck an entire film in there. What’s more, even Malory’s gesture in the direction of what became the Anarchy in the GPC appears to be Malory’s invention. The period corresponding to the Anarchy in the Vulgate lasts about a month and a half. This doesn’t mean that the GPC Anarchy is put to together out of whole cloth, of course. But it’s telling that the most important source is an entirely non-Arthurian one, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle — whose version of early English history is one that Geoffrey of Monmouth appears to have been consciously rejecting.(1) What’s more, there’s also a lot here that’s essentially original. The biggest thing is probably the Infamous Feast, the event that kicks everything off and does so much to shape the form that the Anarchy takes and the default Salisbury PKs’ role in it. Almost entirely Mr. Stafford’s original contribution, riffing on the basic idea of the Saxons poisoning Uther that’s in Geoffrey and elsewhere (but with very different details). I might add some vague thoughts to that in another post exploring the possibility of variant Anarchies. But this post is for raising the possibility of making the big change — what if one were to go back to the overwhelmingly dominant view in the medieval source material, which is that there is no significant gap in time between Uther’s death and Arthur’s accession? OK, to recap: the idea in these Not the Great Pendragon Campaign posts is to explore possible alternatives for groups that have already played through the GPC, by drawing on things in the source material that the GPC rejects. Also to excavate a little what might be the consequences and, to an extent, significance of the choices that the GPC makes in adopting this element from this source, and ignoring that element from that source. I.e., none of this is meant to suggest that the Anarchy is not justly regarded as one of the GPC’s triumphs. But, exploring the alternatives for people who already know the GPC and are expecting the Anarchy… There are basically two ways this can go. 1) The first is the Vulgate version, in which Arthur is raised by Ector (well, Antor). You have a continued reign of Uther while Arthur is growing up. Then Uther dies, and Arthur is revealed. This option strikes me as by far the less interesting of the two. It’s easy to see how one would do it: move the key events (first defeat of Octa and Eosa; war with Gorlois) to as early as possible in the reign of Uther, so that one would have material from early in the GPC’s Uther period to draw on to help cover the long stretch of years while Arthur is growing up in secret. You would probably want to play up the Italian idea of the “Old” Round Table under Uther, or at least draw on some of that to flesh things out, building on the Book of Uther (although good luck accessing that if you don’t read Italian well, aren’t fabulously wealthy, or have a good library nearby). This option doesn’t do very much. One can see why Malory improved things here by moving the part where the narrative glosses over several years to the period after Uther dies. It maybe does one thing, though — the civil war *after* Arthur accedes would feel very different, as being the first period of chaos in the campaign. 2) So I think the more radical option, as usual, would be more interesting. In Geoffrey, and across most of the tradition, Arthur grows up at Uther’s court as one would expect. The PKs get to meet him, interact him, see him develop into the person he’s going to be. Maybe even influence him. Particularly good if you have a “player squires” period. One thing that’s a bit tricky about the GPC Anarchy is that it’s not impossible that the most logical player characters will be squires who are the children of dead first-generation player knights, but it’s not a time in which playing squires is suited to exploit the available possibilities. You need the players to be playing local movers-and-shakers to get the full value of it. (That, indeed, is the most obvious reason to have the mass wipe-out of the Infamous Feast, to make the PKs the decision-makers in Salisbury.) But with a certain amount of unlikely but narratively appropriate serendipity, young squires can run into a curious and headstrong young heir to the throne and get into trouble, at least once. And once they have Arthur’s favor, well, that’s the excuse to keep them interacting. You’d probably want to give Arthur his younger sister Anna. There’s a specific point of contact here with an earlier Not the GPC post, the one on Gawain, because this version lends itself to having the young Lot be friends with Arthur and, in due course, marry Anna — that being Gawain’s origin in Geoffrey and in a lot of other places. This version makes Gawain straightforwardly Arthur’s heir. That lends itself obviously to the “positive Gawain” alternative, and indeed the switch to making Gawain Arthur’s maternal half-sister’s child is part of downgrading him. But one could have some fun with a Gawain who was the villainous dishonorable Gawain *and* Arthur’s indisputable heir… More generally, though, what an Arthur growing up at Uther’s court, with a younger sister who represents a possible alternative line of descent, offers, is a lot of intrigue while the heir is a child. The PKs can foil assassination and kidnapping attempts, get involved in the maneuverings when Arthur falls ill and everyone suddenly focuses on Anna, and so on. You can also throw in some Tavola Vecchia stuff here. Maybe really play up Arthur’s rejection of the tough violent ways of the star knights of his father’s era. (1) See Rebecca Thomas, “Geoffrey of Monmouth and the English Past,” in Henley & Smith (eds.), A Companion to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Brill: Leiden & Boston, 2020. (This book is open-access, and has lots of interesting contributions. Well worth a look.)
  13. Interesting news in rediscovered Arthurian material: https://phys.org/news/2021-09-bristol-manuscript-fragments-famous-merlin.html Although I am not personally sure that I want *more* detail in the battle narratives from that part of the Vulgate. 🙂
  14. It is, admittedly, a big deal to lose the possibility of a better chance of Knockdown with a SIZ loss, so perhaps one might just want to roll as normal and say that damage and unconsciousness threshold, for speed, are never affected, and only effects that require simple subtraction apply.
  15. Even using BoB2, I don’t find the MW information particularly useful. If it’s a major named character, I’ll probably zoom in and do that as normal melee anyway, and otherwise — who really cares if this particular Grunting Warrior is taken out of the battle or not? Just to second Morien, though — in normal melee, the unconsciousness and Valorous rolls are important, as otherwise enemies will be much more deadly for your PKs. Also, the attribute losses can be fun under certain circumstances. I’ve had the situation where a CON loss due to Major Wound meant that later on, an opponent fell unconscious when they wouldn’t have if they hadn’t suffered the Major Wound. One possible way to streamline the attribute loss: roll 1d6 and another die. 1-5 on the d6 and odd on the other die = -1 DEX; 1-5 on the d6 and even on the other die = -1 extra hp (= -1 CON, handwave recalculating Unconscious threshold). This is if you don’t care to recalculate damage on the fly — assume that it never affects STR or SIZ.
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