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Voord 99

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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. 🙂
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. I’m not sure if Chaosium would feel that it conflicted too much with their “real” Greek myth game, but I personally would love to see a Matter of Troy that was about the medieval understanding of what were originally Greek myths but came to the Middle Ages overwhelmingly through Latin sources and were then lensed through a very different medieval set of narrative conventions and values. It could actually be done as a Pendragon/Paladin supplement rather than a standalone game. Since both the Franks (originally) and the Britons (shamelessly copying the Franks) are Trojan descendants, you could even do it as a prequel to a normal Pendragon or Paladin campaign, flash-forwarding to the great-great-great-[insert many more greats]-grandchildren of the first PKs. I imagine that the Greek-myth one will, like Pendragon, have a pseudohistorical, or rather pseudoprehistorical, setting, based on the Mycenaeans. If so, a game covering the Near Eastern Bronze Age that could be played either by itself or alongside the Greek one would seem like an obvious fit. There are a great many non-Western possibilities, obviously. That being said, Pendragon is designed for a comparatively high level of realism — you could adapt it for traditions where the heroes are on a more astonishing scale, but it’s maybe not the best fit. Close to home, it arguably doesn’t do Welsh or Irish myth all that well. One nice thing would be a toolkit for creating a noncanonical chivalric-romance world like that of Amadis de Gaula or Tirant lo Blanc. There were an awful lot of successful romances that weren’t based on a specific pre-existing set of stories, just set in a notional “long ago” time, where one might fall in love with the Queen of Scotland, but it wasn’t any Queen of Scotland who had existed before the composition of this particular romance. Might be fun for experienced Pendragon players to have a game where you say, “All the chivalry and courtly love and tournaments and stuff works just the way that you know. But this is all about you. In this world, you’re Lancelot.”
  7. I don’t really think that Pendragon’s model of a small number of monolithic cultures is a good one for a game set in modern times.* On the whole, I’d think a better way to do this would be to start with a BRP variant** like Call of Cthulhu that already is designed for modern characters in a North American setting and has support for creating such characters across your period from the 19th century to today. (If CoC, one might change the emphasis on occupation in favor of a more flexible “background,” that might highlight race, ethnicity, region, nationality, class, assigned gender, occupation, education, interests, experiences, etc., etc. to suit what the player wanted to be most formative about their character.) Add a modernized list of Traits and Passions. The main thing that you’re taking from Pendragon is the multidecade experience, but that’s not a mechanical thing, and could be done in any system. If you want it to pay homage to Pendragon, take your final BRP variant and divide all the numbers by 5. 🙂 *Before someone points it out, it’s probably not all that adequate for C5th-C6th Britain, either. But that matters less, as Pendragon’s setting is more distant and to a significant degree fictional. **Keeping it Chaosium-friendly! There are obviously many modern-oriented or modern-friendly systems.
  8. I have to admit, I find “Priest Town Castle” to be one of the most “Well, that doesn’t work at all” moments in the new naming system…
  9. Checking back, I’d misremembered — all there was, was a statement that Salisbury would be one of the areas where people were more open to female knights. Nothing specific about why that was.
  10. Canonical origin for Boadicea’s Daughters in Knights Adventurous was “a few years” after the Angle invasion of 500. (They start as British refugees from what was being called Iceniland or Icenia at that point.) Some vagueness about exactly when the Earl of Wuerensis gave them Kenilworth Castle, but at some point between then and 531. But it would be relatively easy to move Boadicea’s Daughters back in time and keep broadly the same origin. One would just need to substitute Sussex for Anglia to have them exist in 479. You only lose one thing, although it’s a big thing — the connection with Boudica through the Iceni. But Colomb Not-A-Lady (the founder) could easily have been from the Iceni and married to someone among the Regnenses. 6e is going to have a major order of female knights in default Salisbury. I forget how many details have been announced, but it’s possible that some of this earlier Boadicea’s Daughters material is being adapted (and relocated). If so, presumably the origin will be moved back to before the reign of Uther. But this is all very speculative, of course.
  11. I happened to be visiting Dundrum Castle in Co. Down yesterday, and it occurred to me that one thing that there isn’t in the GPC, or — at least as far as I can remember — any of the other published adventures, is a fight on one of those very narrow medieval spiral staircases that, being clockwise, are designed to make it hard for a right-handed attacker going up the stairs to fight a defender above them. It seems to me that you’d give the defender the standard +5/-5 reflexive modifier for height, but that you’d want to jazz it up a little beyond that to make it a special experience. Maybe give the attacker also a -1d6 to damage? Thoughts?
  12. Also, back in 3e/4e, Kenilworth Castle (in Wuerensis, see 7dot62mm’s post) was the home of Boadicea’s Daughters, the most prominent order of female knights (Knights Adventurous).
  13. Which is the point of those sorts of Fair Unknown and adjacent stories — they were about cementing the idea that people with noble blood were inherently morally better than other people and that was why they deserved to be who they were, socially, as a matter of birth. Sir Tor is one of my favorite examples for how different the mentality is: the fact that he’s sired when Pellinore commits a horrific sexual assault (from a modern perspective) on a commoner means nothing, and the focus is on how, thanks to his real father having been a great knight and a king, Tor is innately knightly in character. One of the things that interests me about Pendragon is what it keeps and doesn’t keep from medieval thinking. (This is not a criticism, just an observation.) There’s a lot of attention to taking a more modern perspective on gender; on the other hand, one is expected to keep strictly to the sources’ perspective on class for the most part, minus the more obviously offensive things like Pellinore’s sexual assault. Modern schlocky and not very good — but culturally interesting — televisual Arthuriana often goes out of its way not to take the same line on class as the sources. Both First Knight and the BBC’s Merlin chose to make Lancelot more relatable to modern audiences by making him not aristocratic and someone who achieves equal stature with nobles by means of talent and hard work. Which speaks to our modern myths of meritocracy as justifying the way things are. Wouldn’t be appropriate for my current game, but it’d be an interesting Pendragon variant that relaxed medieval reality in that direction and had Arthur’s reign be “unhistorically” egalitarian, and had Mordred be the leader of an aristocratic backlash against Arthur’s promotion of talented commoners.
  14. Yvain/Ywain/Uwaine is really important in earlier versions, but tends to fade in stature in Malory, some of which is probably because he’s closely attached to Gawain. Most importantly, Yvain is the main character of one of Chrétien’s most famous and most admired poems (and my personal favorite, in fact). That’s definitely where I’d start reading. There’s an important variant of the same story (Owain or The Lady of the Fountain) in the Mabinogion, also well worth reading. That Yvain is probably not so suitable for being a PK — he has a very specific trajectory that explores the tension between the demands of married love on the one hand and the pull of chivalrous society on the other that, while it’s thematically inspiring for Pendragon (at least for me), couldn’t be imposed point-for-point on a player without colossal railroading. Also, that Yvain is liable to seem overpowered compared to other PKs, both in the sense of being an amazing fighter (with his own lion), and, socially, in that he’s one of the most central and important members of Arthur’s court and has a superclose personal relationship with Gawain. One interesting detail, though, is that in the Vulgate there are two Yvains, the main one and his half-brother, Yvain the Bastard (who has a rather different origin story than your PK — he has the same father, but different mother). (All IIRC! My copy is on the other side of the Atlantic.) So what the hell, why not three Yvains? 🙂
  15. Happened to be reading Robin Frame Colonial Ireland: 1169-1369, 2nd ed., Dublin 2012, pp. 92-3, and came across something that could be used in a game. Geoffrey de Geneville, as lord of Trim, had the following rules about spoils taken in combat. These seem to apply to his household knights and other soldiers that Geoffrey maintains (“those who are maintained wholly at their lord’s expense”; “they who are at his costs.”) if they capture horses or other animals, they get half and Geoffrey gets half “..unless they overthrow anyone from his horse by the stroke of a lance; and if they overthrow anyone by stroke of lance, they shall have all the horses from which they have overthrown the riders.” All prisoners are Geoffrey’s If Geoffrey or his seneschal are present in person, “then they shall have nothing, unless the lord shall give it to them of his grace.” The most promising detail here is the bit about getting more for unhorsing. In the confusion of combat, people could be genuinely uncertain about that, and of course rivals and enemies might claim that it was not the case when it happened. Or for that matter, one can imagine a Deceitful pair of knights agreeing to tell the lord that one of the two had unhorsed an opponent when they had not.
  16. This came up in the Discord, but as developed by Wace and Layamon, the Saxon who disguises himself as a monk to poison Aurelius (Eopa/Eappas/Appas*) is a very formidable and capable character. So as piersb suggests, he probably would not give up, although admittedly his motive was a reward that Paschent promised him, and Paschent is now dead. But suppose that he swore to do it, and even if there’s no reward, Appas always keeps his oaths. Who’s to say if he disguises himself as a monk next time? I’m sure that he has more than one string to his bow. Alternatively, though, I think a lot of the GPC can be kept on track as long as Aurelius dies no later than 484. Off the top of my head: Aurelius dies heroically in the first battle in 484, and Uther rallies the army and attacks the Saxons in camp, pretty much as written. No Bedegraine campaign until 485, but it plays out pretty much as in 481 (which is arguably a good thing, as 485 is a bit anticlimactic after the BoU) Relations with Somerset/Summerland are harmonious and peaceful, which is to say that you can later on play 488 as written, without the BoU’s retcon, although you could probably transfer some of the 482 material to flesh it out a bit. 483 can stay the same — Madoc doesn’t need to be the immediate heir for that story to work. Essentially, you need your own adventure material in 481 and 482, but that’s about it. I would play up the Uther-Gorlois tensions a lot, to prepare for the rapid breakdown of relations after Uther’s accession. * I’d personally go with Layamon’s “Appas,” simply to keep him sounding distinct from Eosa.
  17. I’m thinking of having the bonus for the winner be possible for some special reason at some point, to enliven things. But I do a lot of feasts, and I have only two players, so it’s not something that I think will work as a routine thing. It’s also a little too minigamey for my personal tastes. In the social reality of the world within the game, there would not necessarily be some single individual who stood out above everyone else as the winner, every single time. It would be more fluid and contestable than that. Some feasts might have someone whom courtly consensus judged the best, but others might have more than one, and in others people might disagree and no consensus would form. When and if I do have a winner, there will be an intradiegetic element that it represents, with Guinevere or somebody similarly authoritative making an announcement that Character X — who might not be a PK! — was the exemplar of courtesy. This might become a routine practice at one royal feast a year, assuming that there was a threshold level of Geniality required to be in contention — the “only PKs can win” is probably the single biggest problem with using the BoF often. (If it does become routine, this formal contest to be the winner will definitely become poisonous in some way during the Twilight period.) I really do find in my game that I just don’t need “winning” — the players seem to look forward to and enjoy feasts fine without it. It probably helps that I have a lot of politics, secrets, and intrigue — I often comment that the autocheck for Intrigue in the Your Own Land Solo is redundant in this game, because it’s really odd if the PKs don’t already have a check in that by the end of the year. But mostly, I think it’s the cards: the big success of the Book of Feasts is the cards, which are so varied and fun.
  18. A while back, I disappeared down a rabbit-hole doing a lot of exploration with different ways to house-rule the Book of Feasts. To recap, the problems, for me, basically come down to two. The glory award for “winning the feast” is very high, and compares favorably to other things. Also, it is always a PK who gets it — no matter who else is at the feast. This is, I understand, because Mr. Larkins intended the feast rules to see very occasional use, and if so, it’s not a problem. But I think it’s helpful to have a version of the rules which can see routine use. There are several scripted feasts in the GPC and feasts are useful things for plot purposes, plus they were also a major part of medieval culture. Also, there are a lot of fun cards, and a lot of them won’t come up if you have feasts only a handful of times in the campaign. These problems will increase if you have fewer players. (I have two.) This is less important, but as far as I can tell, the APP roll for where you sit steamrollers entirely over how things were supposed to work, which is that people sat in the appropriate place for their rank in society. This is purely a historical-accuracy point, and so does not matter as much, but it’s still bothersome to me that one of the great lords of the realm can end up sitting below a poor mercenary knight if the APP rolls go that way. So this is what I ended up using, and having played through quite a lot of feasts at this point, I think it’s worked well. I’ve eliminated the concept of “winning the feast” entirely. There is no Glory award for accumulating the most Geniality. Instead, PCs get their Geniality as Glory at the end of the feast (x2 for royal feasts or other situations where famous people are observing, on the usual principle). But they can also acquire Glory for things like performances during the feast. This is in the Book of Feasts (p. 9: “In addition to other benefits listed on the card, Glory from successful Skill rolls is awarded as normal”)— spotting this is one of the things that persuaded me that trying to preserve the “winning the feast” concept was unhelpful, as there are plenty of opportunities to win Glory without it, and if a GM is giving out Glory for successful skill rolls on top of allowing someone to win the feast, the amount of glory at a royal feast could be stratospheric. The APP roll does not affect your seating. You sit where you sit: knights sit with knights, as they are supposed to. If you’re seated wrongly, that’s a matter of a failed (or more likely, fumbled) Stewardship roll of the person organizing the feast. However, mechanically, the APP roll has the same effect as in the BoF, by giving you a bonus on Geniality or, if unfortunate a minus. It represents, not where you sit, but whether or not people are paying attention to you admiringly in the context of where you sit. The only difference is that, unless you are sitting at high table (because that’s where you should sit), you can draw cards, and if you are sitting at high table, you have an automatic +1 on top of this. The APP roll is APP modified by Glory, which makes criticals a bit more common, but as there’s no “winning the feast,” the main effect is that it makes other rolls easier, if they’re modified by Geniality. It makes a difference e.g. if you’re trying to loosen tongues to make an Intrigue roll to find out some plot-important information late in the feast — it’s not terribly important in itself, although in a five round royal feast a critical APP is a not too shabby 20 Glory, all other things being equal. Being able to draw multiple cards is not based on Glory, but on APP modified by Glory. (The basic idea here was suggested by Tizun Thane.) This is divided by 10 (with rounding). This might seem a little stingy, but the rationale is as follows. One of the goals of the “winning the feast” idea is to incentivize APP, and I think that’s a good idea. As I’ve eliminated “winning the feast,” bringing APP in here seemed like a way to compensate. At the same time, I don’t want to eliminate Glory entirely — it both makes sense, and is desirable in game terms. So the threshold for 2 cards is 15, so that if you have mediocre APP you need to be really distinguished to get the choice between two cards; but a player who wants, can get that from the beginning of the game, or near it, without sinking too many points into APP. 13 APP means that you only have to wait for 2000 Glory, for instance. 3 cards will probably never come up, but I’m OK with that, as it speeds things up. The 100 extra glory for attending any royal feast is gone, as is the 100 Glory for sitting Above the Salt. Of course, there are scripted GPC feasts that come with Glory awards for witnessing something important, and that sort of thing still applies. I wouldn’t recommend exactly this for every campaign, but if you’re going to have feasts often, I think something like this is probably a good idea. I find that the combination of the varied incidents on the cards and having specific things that the PKs are interested in finding out through Intrigue, along with various pre-planned events and challenges, do a good job of keeping players motivated without the Glory awards needing to be very large.
  19. I’m planning to take the Beowulf stories from Land of Giants, set them in Britain, and when my players twig, which won‘t take long, say that a later lying Anglo-Saxon poet stole it and attributed it to his ancestral national hero. 🙂 I have my specific weird idiosyncratic problems with the basic decisions made for Pagan Shore, which I think were fundamentally not the way to approach Ireland in the Arthurian world — and I’ve ranted here about that at probably excessive length already.* But as regards usefulness, it has the added problem that it’s an uneasy compromise. It’s got decent support for Irish myth from a society-and-customs point of view, but because it has to make it compatible with Arthuriana, it’s too low-powered to reflect the ridiculous things that Irish heroes are supposed to be able to do. So even if you wanted to use it as the basis for adapting Pendragon for an Irish setting, you’d find that it leaves undone quite a lot of what you would probably want it to do. It’s not enough like Arthurian romance to make for a decent alternative Pendragon setting; it’s not enough like Irish myth to ditch the Pendragon setting and play in the world of the Ulster Cycle or the Fianna stories. To be fair to some of these “alternative settings” sourcebooks, they don’t give less campaign support than some GURPS sourcebooks that cover things like all of Chinese history. *Although I am absolutely fascinated with it as an Irish nationalist subversion of Pendragon.
  20. It’s not at all a thing you need to run the game, especially not if you’re planning on the default knights from Salisbury. But if you want a more pseudohistorical game, Book of Sires is useful — and it’s also just enormous fun (at least if you’re me). It’s a very in-depth, year-by-year, thing where one rolls through one’s family history for two generations. Like the random family history in the corebook, but much, much more detailed (and with a broad geographical scope). The main reason why I think it’s especially good for a more historical game, is that for such a game it’s helpful to have the politics and intrigue spelled out in detail, and BoS gives you a ready-made set of choices that different families can have made in the past, to side with this or that faction, which can echo down to the present day. Plus it’s fun. Did I mention that? It’s a game in itself.
  21. The Book of Uther would be, for me, the next most practically useful thing after the GPC. It extends the GPC backward by 5 years, and also contains a lot of other useful material. The campaign extension can be bought as a standalone thing if you don’t want the other material. If one gets the BoU, I think one should make sure to combine it with the free Marriage of Count Roderick (recommended in Morien’s thread). One can combine the courtly challenges table from MoCR with the random court adventures tables from BoU to give one a very large number of things to happen in any courtly setting.
  22. Previously titled: Not the Great Pendragon Campaign: Would Merlin have voted for Brexit? Don’t answer the question! That’s a joke. No fights! What’s prompting it is the issue of what Merlin’s motivation is supposed to be in the GPC. The clearest ongoing strand is that he does say “Britain” rather a lot, suggesting that he’s basically all about the British nationalism. This is probably especially (not exclusively) a reflection of Mary Stewart, who is named in 1e as the source of Mr. Stafford’s favorite interpretation of Merlin. In other words, we’re in historical-Arthur-land, with Merlin’s motivation being to drive out the invading Saxons. So the GPC does not take its cue from Malory here. But then, that would be hard to do. One of Malory’s most interesting moves is how his Merlin doesn’t really have motivation. We hear an awful lot about what Merlin does, very little about why Merlin does it. This is a striking intervention, because in the Vulgate, Merlin is very strongly framed as a Christian figure and he has clear overall Christian motives. You get a little hint of this Merlin in Malory, when Merlin brings up Christ in the Sword in the Stone passage, but other than that, I think it’s absent — Malory secularizes the Vulgate Merlin. Malory gives us a bit more of what was probably overall the most prominent medieval Merlin, which is the prophet. This aspect tends not to come up in the GPC as much, no doubt in part because to modern sensibilities, an Arthur who has been helpfully been told details of the plot in advance and doesn’t act on that knowledge is a bit of an idiot. So, the usual rule that I try to follow in these Not the Great Pendragon Campaign threads is that I ignore modern retellings — this is about asking what value one might find through consciously choosing to adapt for a campaign the things that the GPC doesn’t use from strictly medieval and maybe early modern literature. But I’ll break that for a moment here, because there’s an appealing modern Merlin that I’d like to mention, which is T. H. White’s — the Merlin (well, Merlyn) who wants to bring about a just and good king.* This one is rather easy to incorporate into the GPC as written. Honestly, it’s the motivation of the Merlin in the game that I’m running at the moment, although he’s such an arrogant $#%^ — taking my cue from the Vulgate there 🙂 — that it’s not at all obvious that he’s essentially about trying to bring about a just kingdom in which everyone is treated decently and isn’t particularly invested in defeating the Saxons except as a means to that end. If we hold true to our principles, though, what are some Merlins we could have in place of the GPC’s? Merlin the Prophet. This one is really important. Prophecy is what’s most important about Merlin in Geoffrey, and in fact, despite the enormous popularity and influence of Geoffrey’s history in the Middle Ages, his prophecies of Merlin seem to have been even more popular (quite separately from any connection between Merlin and Arthur). Aside from the post-Geoffrey fascination with Merlin’s prophecies, the Welsh Myrddin that Geoffrey appears to have adapted was also a prophetic figure. But prophecy is hard to use in a roleplaying game. One can confine Merlin’s prophecies to the overall broad narrative of Arthur’s rise and fall, but even then, if you tell PKs stuff, they’ll act on it. Or you can leave them vague enough that you can bring them about in different ways (which is what I do with prophetic dreams in my game). But it’s still not an easy option. Vulgate Merlin! The devils respond to Christ descending into hell by deciding to make their own person, in horribly misogynist ways, but don’t worry, thanks to Christian guilt, it’s all OK when Merlin is baptized, and so saved, whereupon God grants him knowledge of the future to match the knowledge of the past that the devils have given him. This one is probably a hard sell to most modern audiences, unless your players are really interested in trying to get into that medieval mindset. Let’s say that it would be less jarring on the players if they came to Pendragon from Paladin. 🙂 The Welsh Myrddin. There are a lot of complications here, and to be honest, it’s not material that I know well. But a Merlin who was a bard who went mad when his lord died in battle — it’s certainly a different take. This one I think one could use, with sufficient surgery on the overall GPC plot, a wild, unkempt, crazed man of the woods who emerges at random or at any rate inexplicable times to intervene in the plot. *There are hints at this Merlin in KAP, such as when the BoU suggests that maybe Merlin is responsible for poisoning everyone at St. Albans because Uther just won’t cut it as king. But generally, although we have an Arthur who is solidly a Good King, it’s not really suggested that this is because of Merlin’s influence or anything like that.
  23. Anno CDXCII: Dei gratia, Uterpendragon rex Loegriae et Igerna regina filium genuerunt, qui rex post Uterpendragon futurus fuisset. Sed Merlinus, quem omnes amicum regis esse putaverat, hunc infantem abstulit. Itaque ius erat ut Merlinus, de alta proditione attinctus, morte damnaretur. Quod sine mora factum est, sed ille nullo modo inveniri potest. Quae cum acciderent, hoc quoque accidit. Merlinus, dum illum famosum Arthurum qui tum temporis parvulus erat, summa cum sollertia aufert ut salvaretur, in Silva Salvagia forte (ut videbatur) in obviam fuit Godefrido cum Aemilio, qui miles gregarius Sarisburiensis et frater Gerontii erat. Nam Godefridus Aemiliusque Rodericum comitem ad curiam regis apud Legecestriam comitati erant. Qui cum advenissent, Pelinoro obviaverunt, qui nunc rex factus erat in Cambria, et cum eo Silvam Salvagiam venaturus introierant. Ibi bestiam quandam mirabilem viderant, cuius cupidine Pelinorus adeo captus erat ut eam temerarie persequeretur. Sed Godefridus Aemiliusque diu in Silva erraverant, dum tandem viam invenirent qua egrederentur. Prius quam exirent, pica ab eis visa atque audita erat quae eis dixerat se milites spectare iussu Salvagii regis. Itaque, Godefridus Aemiliusque, cum egressi essent, Merlino obviam ierunt. Eos Merlinus iussit se defendere atque viros, qui sequerentur, impedire. Quo audito, Aemilius eos sine mora adortus erat et a Brastia milite, qui eis praerat, vulneratus et de equo deiectus est. Postea non solum Aemilius sed etiam Godefridus de proditione inculpati sunt. Sed, ad petitionem Tathei sancti quae fecerant dimissa sunt; nam creditur quod milites ambo a Merlino fascinati essent. Sed Gerontius atque Aemilius Tatheo in cura commissi sunt; itaque reliquam partem anni manserunt in eo monasterio quod vir sanctissimus apud Venta fundaverat Eo anno Robertus, Roderici comitis filius et Helenae, natus est. Interesting year for this exercise, because there would be a case for the PKs being mentioned in the ostensibly earlier “Logres” section. But what happened to player knights as a sideshow to the big Merlin story arguably might be left out as relatively unimportant, so this is another one where there’s canon GPC material (first paragraph, last paragraph), and material specific to my PKs (everything else).
  24. At the time, there was no British Christianity — Celtic Christians are described differently and more positively than Roman Christians (with Grail Christians then described still more positively), but the list of Christian virtues remained the same for all in 3e/4e (the same as the later Roman Christian ones). So implicitly, they probably would have had the same Trait adjustments back then. My sense is that, with the development of British Christianity as the most common and “better” form of Christianity for PKs in the game, the idea of Grail Christians tended to fade. You can see some of the same concerns that are reflected in the creation of Grail Christianity (not a thing in the source material, obviously) in the sidebar ”What about Pagans?” on p.168 of the GPC.
  25. This is a bit of medieval business that can be thrown into an adventure when the situation comes up. The knights are outside of Logres. (This is on the principle that Logres=England). A commoner accuses one of them of something serious and seeks trial by combat. It’s probably best if the knight is comparatively young and inexperienced, so the combat is not a pushover. Courtesy roll. Fumble: Absolutely, trial by combat it is. On equal terms, and it would be cowardly not to do this right now. Failure: I don’t know whether that’s possible or not. Success: Absolutely not. A knight need only accept a challenge from someone else of noble birth. Everyone knows that. Critical: In Logres (=England), that’s true — trial by combat is only possible between peers. But in [foreign place where they are] (=Anjou, historically) a commoner can challenge a noble to trial by combat. However, and this is important, the knight is on horse and the commoner is on foot. They only fight on equal terms if the knight is lowering himself to challenge the commoner. (There was a similar custom in Artois where whether the knight wore armour or not was based on who was challenging whom.) Courtesy check, 5 Glory for displaying exceptional knowledge of knightly behavior. As long as they don’t Fumble and rush into something that compromises their knightly honor, they don’t embarrass themselves. If they don’t know this, someone will probably fill them in soon enough. The commoner in question, or his/her champion (if champions are allowed) turns out to be a veteran footsoldier — enough to make this a bit more challenging than knight vs. unmounted opponent would usually be. I found the information that sparked this in Ariella Elema’s 2015 Toronto dissertation on the history of trial by combat in England and France in the Middle Ages, which has lots of other good stuff and is open-access: https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/67806/3/elema_ariella_m_201211_PhD_thesis.pdf
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