Oh wow guys, that's an amazing set of answers- thanks very much! Ok so just to comment on a few points you all raised there:
- Morien, that Jeff link looks great; seeing how someone has handled the practicalities will be invaluable. I'll check it out in full soon, but just looking at the summary thoughtfully provided confirms some of the things I was considering. Definitely I am pondering some Lady-centric stories based around their skill sets, and my Lady is the sort of player who will really appreciate a story that's not combat based. The important thing for me is to maintain player agency- more on that below. I pondered the idea of inter-player romance/marriage but I doubt it would work out well in my group! It would be hilarious but more trouble than it's worth.
- Atgxtg (am I pronouncing that right?), sorry, I don;t know if I misread that last bit- was that an offer at the end to take a quick look at the cards in my behalf? That's an above-and-beyond response if so, but in any case that's another really helpful answer. I think a lot of them could be easily gender inverted, but I might rattle my brains to think of some distinct Lady-situations too. The Book of Feasts is just a great product in general, great for giving the game a bit of a change in pace and it was immediately obvious it was perfect for situations where Ladies could play alongside Knights in the same story with no issues, so it was the supplement closest to being bang on the kind of thing I needed- hence I am keen to get the deck working for everyone.
Indeed, the literature sources are to blame here and I am not literally criticising Pendragon- especially the main rules set- for not making this any sort of priority. My RPing philosophy when working with source material is always to show a tremendous respect for that material, but at the same time to recognise that these things were never meant to be fossilised and so there is a delicate balance to be found of how to put your own stamp on something whilst not undermining its basis. In the end, it is still going to be a campaign with knights at its heart and the Lady player understands this, but I think narratively there is some space to push the boundaries a bit to get some very meaningful Lady stories in there. I think she could play a powerful and meaningful role even at a supporting level, and heck, you never know where these stories go until you run them. Ultimately, it will be good roleplaying if done right, and that's the best reason of all!
I'd been pondering the heiress thing. If I am going to be pushing at the boundaries, then dealing with the possibilities of unwanted marriage is thematically very strong, giving the player a chance both to show some personality as they are not slaves to the system, but also needing some intelligence to deal with the problem in a way that doesn't completely undermine her place in society. The player involved already helped me with an experimental run through the Book of Sires which gave us a suggested background that might play very well into that kind of idea, though it's not all fully formed yet.
- Morien the Second, the group size is an interesting question. It can be up to 7 but one of the meta-things we have to work with these days is what with jobs, families and other real life issues we rarely have a reliable long-term run of all of us there at once. We try to write stories with that in mind, and this is actually anther reason I thought Pendragon might work well, as the campaign structure seems very flexible. If some quests are done with various different groups of knights, it's no disaster; solo adventures allow for catch ups (I can even do some stuff via email between sessions), I can focus on different things at different times and my group won't mind a little variation in power levels if one player is more consistent than others. Related, avoiding the Lady-boredom thing was indeed on my mind! I had pondered three different solutions. First, I can prioritise running combat-heavy stories when she's not there (it's particularly easy to explain her absence, after all- one advantage of a Lady!). Second, I can prioritise less-combat heavy stories when she IS there (like that murder mystery one in one of the supplements). Thirdly, every so often I think it's ok to put her in a position of great peril where she will be dependant on the other players. No-one likes to be a fish out of water all the time but as an occasional thing it;s a good RPing challenge. By the same logic, I expect some of the knights to feel pretty useless in some of the Lady-based stories I may write!
The thing about not running the GPC from the start strikes me as the sort of eminently sensible advice that I may end up not taking, even though I am sure you are right that it will be less work. The way I am writing things right now is that I am starting with a mini-campaign set in the 480-484 period, with pre-generated characters of reasonable power (including one Lady) and some set motivations. I'll run this like a standard RP game without any of the big Pendragon complications like running your household/family etc, and it will give the players a chance to get used to the system and the setting, whilst I introduce early versions of some of my planned plot elements. The pregens will be written out (one way or another!) at 484 and then the players roll up for their characters for the campaign after that, with a good idea of what might be useful for their characters. After that I can start dropping in the wider Pendragon systems. The prequel setup I had in mind works better if it dovetails into 485. It will quickly become a godawful time to be a Lady indeed, but I might be able to take that head-on. The advice about running Ladies in a later period is all appreciated though, because that means I can do a complete change of pace for the early life of her descendants (assuming the player elects to keep playing as Lady, which I suspect she will).
Making direct connections between the Lady and some of the players sounds like an excellent idea. For sure, the player here will absolutely love being the one to come up with more intellectual solutions to problems that the knights will often just charge their biggest lance at. Whilst I am not planning magic characters, I am definitely planning a magic-heavy plotline, which work well alongside a thinky approach.
Jeffjerwin (and also a bit of Morien above)- I find the idea of making the Lady actually part of some of the quest backgrounds, or even generating the quests, a fascinating one. Did I read around here somewhere that one of the possible ideas for the upcoming magic rules was for the magic player to be some from of quest giver sometimes? I don't plan to run magic players in my game but it's a great concept that could work with Ladies. I shall have to think on this more- thanks!
You've all helped me a heck of a lot already. Great community guys- I'll keep paying attention here and see what I can work out!