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Morien

Childbirth and Child Survival: Morien's recommended Quick Fix

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One aspect that I really recommend you houserule is the childbirth and child survival tables. As you have already noticed, the childbirth is murderous for the (non-PK) women, ensuring that most of them die in childbirth within a decade. Combined with the child survival that kills 4 out of 5 children, this means that it is very difficult to get surviving children, and since the dynastic gameplay is one of Pendragon's primary strengths, this is a big problem, IMHO.

My own houserules are a bit too long to include here, but here are two quick suggestions (assuming you use KAP 5.2; ESTATE already fixes the child survival with Family Survival):
1) Childbirth: Change the mother and child die in childbirth to a simple no pregnancy result. Then change the 'child survives, mother dies' into a 1d6 roll: 1-2 child dies, 3-4 both die, 5-6 mother dies. This lowers the death chance to 3.33% per year, which is still very very high, but at least gives a woman 50/50 chance of making it through 20 years of childbirth.
2) Child survival: Change the table so that 1 = death, and stop rolling once they reach 7 years of age. This gives about 70% survival rate, which is roughly historical.

Naturally, with those changes, you don't need to apply any bonuses from higher Grade of Maintenance (or penalties for the low one... even at Poor, the knight's family is still eating much better than the peasants, they are not starving!). Instead, I would use any excess spending as Conspicuous Consumption: 10 Glory per £1 extra used, so someone living as Rich (£9) would get extra 30 Glory.

Edited by Morien
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I've been toying with the hoserule of letting the wife survive if she makes a CON roll, but treating it as if she survived a mortal injury (3 rolls on the aging table, maybe only one on a critical CON roll). I like it because:

  1. It is easy to implement
  2. Doesn't require chanigng any of the existing tables
  3. Makes CON a useful stat for female characters
  4. Automatically makes childbirth more risky as the wife gets older and her CON goes down.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

It is easy to implement

The only problem is that I would have to keep track of the NPC wife's CON and Aging, too, and since I am a LazyGM, I don't wanna be doing that. :P I only need to change the table once and I am done.

Since I don't kill female PKs off at childbirth anyway, I have just been giving them a Major Wound on the death in childbirth result. Having them roll CON and take a Mortal Wound (3 major wounds) on a failure could be an option, and sailing through on a CON crit. Since it is a PK in this case, the player is already keeping track of CON & Aging, so I don't have to worry about it. On the other hand, it is a bit of 'piling on' in the case of Female Knights, who already risk life and limb same as the Male Knights.

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53 minutes ago, Morien said:

The only problem is that I would have to keep track of the NPC wife's CON and Aging, too, and since I am a LazyGM, I don't wanna be doing that. :P I only need to change the table once and I am done.

I just use the average cultural CON for genetic Non-player wives. 

53 minutes ago, Morien said:

Since I don't kill female PKs off at childbirth anyway, I have just been giving them a Major Wound on the death in childbirth result. Having them roll CON and take a Mortal Wound (3 major wounds) on a failure could be an option, and sailing through on a CON crit. Since it is a PK in this case, the player is already keeping track of CON & Aging, so I don't have to worry about it. On the other hand, it is a bit of 'piling on' in the case of Female Knights, who already risk life and limb same as the Male Knights.

Yeah, it a tough call, in part because the role of the female knight is not as clearly defined. Still, since they are supposed to  get glory for childbirth at least the risk is rewarded. I could see replacing the childbirth table with CON rolls for the parents. Two success = child. One and a critical = twins. If the wife fumbles her CON roll then she risks death in childbirth. 

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47 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

Still, since they are supposed to  get glory for childbirth at least the risk is rewarded.

I do not give Glory for childbirth to female knights. They are knights, they get glory for martial deeds, not woman stuff. Same reason why I don't give them extra 1000 marriage Glory that I give to lady characters: the female knights already got the 1000 knighting glory.

47 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

I could see replacing the childbirth table with CON rolls for the parents.

Interesting suggestion, although I have two complaints from realism perspective:

1) The male's CON doesn't seem to matter all that much: men stay fertile even to advanced age.

2) I am not sure that the Aging table would cause the woman's CON to drop as steeply as the pregnancy probability does in real life. But this would be easy to fix by simply adding an Age modifier, say -1 to CON past 35 for childbirth purposes. Since you pretty much should add something similar to the current childbirth table anyway.

It actually would work relatively well to just roll Woman's CON to see if she becomes pregnant. -10 if she gave birth last year, -1 per year past 35. Bad stuff happening on a fumble (another CON roll to survive), twins on a crit. I admit that I am warming up to the idea, especially as you said, one could just use the average cultural CON for NPC wives. (And roll a CON for follower wives, since you are keeping track of their skills anyway at that point...)

Edited by Morien

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5 hours ago, Morien said:

I do not give Glory for childbirth to female knights. They are knights, they get glory for martial deeds, not woman stuff. Same reason why I don't give them extra 1000 marriage Glory that I give to lady characters: the female knights already got the 1000 knighting glory.

Interesting suggestion, although I have two complaints from realism perspective:

1) The male's CON doesn't seem to matter all that much: men stay fertile even to advanced age.

True

5 hours ago, Morien said:

 

2) I am not sure that the Aging table would cause the woman's CON to drop as steeply as the pregnancy probability does in real life. But this would be easy to fix by simply adding an Age modifier, say -1 to CON past 35 for childbirth purposes. Since you pretty much should add something similar to the current childbirth table anyway.

It actually would work relatively well to just roll Woman's CON to see if she becomes pregnant. -10 if she gave birth last year, -1 per year past 35. Bad stuff happening on a fumble (another CON roll to survive), twins on a crit. I admit that I am warming up to the idea, especially as you said, one could just use the average cultural CON for NPC wives. (And roll a CON for follower wives, since you are keeping track of their skills anyway at that point...)

Do we have any idea of chance for conception in Middle Ages?  The we could adjust the math.

 

From what I've read the mortality rate in Pendragon is about ten times this historical rate. I suspect one of the reasons why childbirth was one of the leading causing of death was because people had larger families back then. So a 1-2% mortality rate, and a family of ten, and 10-20% of women will die in childbirth. 

 

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On 9/2/2019 at 7:09 PM, Atgxtg said:

I've been toying with the hoserule of letting the wife survive if she makes a CON roll, but treating it as if she survived a mortal injury (3 rolls on the aging table, maybe only one on a critical CON roll). I like it because:

  1. It is easy to implement
  2. Doesn't require chanigng any of the existing tables
  3. Makes CON a useful stat for female characters
  4. Automatically makes childbirth more risky as the wife gets older and her CON goes down.

Same, more or less. The normal Table with every result "mother dies" treated as a Con roll to survive. It's very easy to remember the Con of the mother (or improvise it on the spot). I call it the "good hips" rule.

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1 hour ago, Tizun Thane said:

Same, more or less. The normal Table with every result "mother dies" treated as a Con roll to survive. It's very easy to remember the Con of the mother (or improvise it on the spot). I call it the "good hips" rule.

Yes, for most women it could be treated as a 13 or 14 ,the average CON for a Cymric character. That reduces the mortality rate to something like 3%. 

 

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Men stay fertile throughout their years because the biological energy effort required is so much lower than that required to maintain the environment for gestation.

I like the idea of hinging conception on the mother's CON, and dropping effective CON by 1 per year once aging rolls kick in (35). That means you get a floor of a 5% chance for conception in "old age", which is reasonable within the system (I don't have real-world statistics to fall back on at the moment). 

You also have a fumble chance to represent a complicated pregnancy. These are things such as endoscopic implantation that are generally going to be fatal. I'm not sure you want a 5% chance of fatality on conception, however, so maybe a major or mortal wound applied to CON and a loss of the child?

 

You have a few chance points:

1. The conception. (Twins, yes, no, complication)

2. The birth. (Easy, normal, bad, complication)

3.  Mother's survival. (Perfect, normal, wounded, no.)

4. Child's survival. (Perfect, normal, wounded, no.)

I'm literally throwing things against the wall in this contribution effort, but take as you wish.

 

But by leveraging CON for conception you gain the benefits of making a normal stat roll and applying modifiers, such as perhaps from a Folklore roll to adjust chances (up and down). The table can be ditched and the results determined on a per-woman basis.

 

--Khanwulf

 

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3 minutes ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

ugh this is why women like to play glorantha more than pendragon

Would you care to expand on that? The discussion of the childbirth and its complications is distressing, or the possibility of a player-character dying in childbirth (which, by the way, is something that most of us are not advocating)?

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2 minutes ago, Morien said:

Would you care to expand on that? The discussion of the childbirth and its complications is distressing, or the possibility of a player-character dying in childbirth (which, by the way, is something that most of us are not advocating)?

the roles of women in the game plus death in childbirth thing. it's super not inspiring. playing female knights is a hack and playing non-lethal childbirth for players is also a hack

it's weird because it's Arthurian fantasy but also has this "hard grimdark" flavour added

Edited by Qizilbashwoman

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27 minutes ago, Khanwulf said:

But by leveraging CON for conception you gain the benefits of making a normal stat roll and applying modifiers, such as perhaps from a Folklore roll to adjust chances (up and down). The table can be ditched and the results determined on a per-woman basis.

Since I use Folk Lore more as the interaction skill with peasants rather than knowledge of herbalism, I would not use it. I would allow a Chirurgery roll to reduce the chances, but not improve them. A CON roll is already a pretty good chance to go from.

As for the system, here is my suggestion:

1. Childbirth roll: Roll the Woman's CON. Modifiers: -10 if a child was born last year, -1 per year past 35. Critical: Twins born (roll 1d6 for the gender of each, and if the 1d6s are the same, they are identical twins). Success: A healthy child born. Failure: no conception. Fumble: Tragedy. Go to the next chapter.

2. Tragedy: Roll the Woman's CON again. Critical: Unhealthy child born. Success: Take a Major Wound, unhealthy child born. Failure: NPC women die, PC women take mortal wound (3 major wounds). Fumble: Mortal wound, barren for life (which can be good for future survival). Also, with NPC women, I'd just have -1 CON per major wound, since their other stats are not tracked.

This would result about 1.7%* death chance per Cymric Woman per year, which means about 30%* of them might die during a 20-year period of fertility from childbirth. That might still be a bit high, but tons better than the current one. (* depends a bit if you use CON 13 or CON 14, but close enough.)

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1 minute ago, Morien said:

This would result about 1.7%* death chance per Cymric Woman per year

that is historically about accurate for the era for childbirth reasons: 1.5%

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16 minutes ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

the roles of women in the game plus death in childbirth thing. it's super not inspiring. playing female knights is a hack and playing non-lethal childbirth for players is also a hack

it's weird because it's Arthurian fantasy but also has this "hard grimdark" flavour added

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

As for the roles for women, it is explicitly stated in p. 34 that if you want the women knights to be fully equal in your version of KAP, you can and are encouraged to do that. Also, you can just remove the death by childbirth totally from the game if you want to do that, as well as all child / family survival* stuff.

The reason KAP has these rules and most other games do not is that KAP has been designed to be a generational campaign. Other games are not, and generally do not even have rules for families.

* Just quickly noting here that in Family Survival, the males have higher death chances in raids and battles than women do. So it evens out with respect to the childbirth deaths: it is realistic for medieval times and hence dark from our modern perspective, but I would not, personally, call it grimdark. Now, if you use the tables in KAP5.2 with 10% yearly chance of death by childbirth & 4 out of 5 kids dying as children, then I totally agree with you, that is not realistic, that is grimdark!

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5 minutes ago, Morien said:

The reason KAP has these rules and most other games do not is that KAP has been designed to be a generational campaign.

I just think it's a little funny because it's about an Arthurian setting but it's got Dark Ages stamped on it. it's a weird mashup of modern and 19th CE mythologies.

I know what you mean, it's a game of inheritance and succession: you are not succeeding as an individual, no matter how much glory you bring, but as a family/clan.

I should add I don't have a copy of the rules.

Edited by Qizilbashwoman

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3 minutes ago, Morien said:

* Just quickly noting here that in Family Survival, the males have higher death chances in raids and battles than women do. So it evens out with respect to the childbirth deaths: it is realistic for medieval times and hence dark from our modern perspective, but I would not, personally, call it grimdark. Now, if you use the tables in KAP5.2 with 10% yearly chance of death by childbirth & 4 out of 5 kids dying as children, then I totally agree with you, that is not realistic, that is grimdark!

I just remembered my mom (the product of a now gone age) had about 12 pregnancies and I only have 2 siblings... Miscarriages use to be a thing and that number is not high for the mid 20th century. Thankfully the late 20th century has help to turn that ship in a better direction.

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6 minutes ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

that is historically about accurate for the era for childbirth reasons: 1.5%

I actually made a little mistake in my calculations above, since only a failure in the Tragedy roll results in death, and fumble causes barrenness.

Hence, for CON 13, you have a 5% fumble chance and if fumbled, 30% chance of failure = 1.5% chance of death in childbirth per year. 69% survival rate for 25 years.*

For CON 14, the chance of CON failure is 25%, so the death by childbirth would go down to 1.25% per year. 73% survival rate for 25 years.*

* The 0.25% barrenness chance per year would also extend the 'lucky' women's lifespans, as they would no longer have the risks of childbirth. I ignored this chance for simplicity in the above survival calculations. 6% of the women would roll the double fumble at some point during the 25 years, but this ignores those who would have already died at some point prior to that. So guestimate about 4%, added to the above survival rates. Too lazy to model this accurately.

 

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5 minutes ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

I just think it's a little funny because it's about an Arthurian setting but it's got Dark Ages stamped on it. it's a weird mashup of modern and 19th CE mythologies.

Well, more of a medieval Arthurian romances, with some Victorian & modern stuff added in. Greg went pretty hard for the historical Norman England as a backdrop for Uther Period in the Book(s) of Estate/Warlord/Uther. Book of Sires is a mix of (mainly) Historia Regum Britanniae, real history, Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, and stuff invented to make the stories flow better and fill in the years of family history with something.

10 minutes ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

I should add I don't have a copy of the rules.

Ah, that might explain things. If you had a GM who insisted that you can only play a wife character, and then has 10% chance per year to have your character die in childbirth... and if the child survives, only having 20% chance of living until adulthood... I wouldn't be so eager to play Pendragon, either! 

It depends what you want to do. In our current campaign, we have 3 lady knights, thanks to the luck of the dice when it came to the gender of the surviving kids. Not a big issue, since we didn't make it one; if you want to play a female knight, go for it. If you prefer playing a lady character, you can do that too, but since most of the published adventures are written with knights in mind, it is not as much fun (see Jeff's campaign below, though).

In the first GPC playthrough I GMed, we had one female player play lady knights in two first generations, and then switching to a lady character for the last 2 or so generations. I think she was about 50 at the end of the campaign, still going strong thanks to amazing luck at Aging rolls, and pretty much pulling the strings of the other PKs, many of them her cousins or nephews or in-laws by that point, telling them what to do. She become Agravaine's mistress after the death of her husband, which actually led to the Orkneys breaking up with Guinever (they had been her loyal supporters until then, since a barren queen meant that Gawaine would have inherited, all good from their point of view), when Guinever disapproved of this 'scandal'.

There is also Jeff's campaign that he summarizes here:

 

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1 hour ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

I just think it's a little funny because it's about an Arthurian setting but it's got Dark Ages stamped on it. it's a weird mashup of modern and 19th CE mythologies.

That's because each generation remade Arthur to fit their own  views, and today we are stuck with a hodgepodge. 

 

Quote

I know what you mean, it's a game of inheritance and succession: you are not succeeding as an individual, no matter how much glory you bring, but as a family/clan.

I should add I don't have a copy of the rules.

It's worth a look. The restricted roles for women stem from the game primarily using Mallory and the HRB as the primary sources, with everything else being tacked on.  But a GM can run a different version of the Arthur Legend if they desired, or expand the core version a little to including female warriors (which did exist historically in the post Roman period) or even female knights (who also existed historically, but in rare numbers). 

I think the only real problems with female knights in the game are that of inheritance and succession. Would land pass down to the eldest son or daughter of a female knight? Or maybe just to the eldest child? A Gm would need to work that out. 

 

Oh, and a few people here are working on trying to make playing Lady characters more interesting and significant. THey can be run now, but it really takes a good GM and players to make it work in a rewarding fashion. 

 

Edited by Atgxtg

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6 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

That's because each generation remade Arthur to fit their own  views, and today we are stuck with a hodgepodge.

I'm a fan of pre-Arthurian Mabinogion stuff crossed with post-Roman Britain, probably because I've got two Middle Welsh primers (one is available online) and prefer the madness of the Mabinogion and the setting of Roman and post-Roman Britain more. Christian Celts speaking heavily-latinised Brittonic (i.e. early Welsh) living in the ruins of buildings they've lost the ability to repair that have magical things like indoor plumbing and heated baths! Pagan Jutes! and so forth.

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34 minutes ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

I'm a fan of pre-Arthurian Mabinogion stuff crossed with post-Roman Britain, probably because I've got two Middle Welsh primers (one is available online) and prefer the madness of the Mabinogion and the setting of Roman and post-Roman Britain more. Christian Celts speaking heavily-latinised Brittonic (i.e. early Welsh) living in the ruins of buildings they've lost the ability to repair that have magical things like indoor plumbing and heated baths! Pagan Jutes! and so forth.

The four branches of the Mabinogion are some of my favourite reads. 

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On 9/5/2019 at 8:49 PM, Qizilbashwoman said:

I'm a fan of pre-Arthurian Mabinogion stuff crossed with post-Roman Britain, probably because I've got two Middle Welsh primers (one is available online) and prefer the madness of the Mabinogion and the setting of Roman and post-Roman Britain more.

You might enjoy Book of Sires more than GPC in that case. Although admittedly you still don't have more than 30 years or so of events (but in several different regions, having different events at times!) before Aurelius comes back and starts to install feudalism. Alas, you still have the unifying figure of the High King, Vortigern, even though there are rebellions against him. So it isn't quite as gritty and dark and splintered as the historical reality likely was, with tiny little kingdoms and kings with armies of a couple of hundred ruling as far as they could see from their hilltop. Now that is grimdark. :P

I think Atgxtg has his own prequel campaign starting from 410 (or 415?) so that would add another about 30 years to the saga.

Have you checked out Age of Arthur? I don't own it myself, but from what I gather, it is both a bit more historical (more splintered kingdoms/Roman remnants) and also fantastical (the Fae). Here's a review: https://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/16/16043.phtml

Edited by Morien

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2 hours ago, Qizilbashwoman said:

I'm a fan of pre-Arthurian Mabinogion stuff crossed with post-Roman Britain, probably because I've got two Middle Welsh primers (one is available online) and prefer the madness of the Mabinogion and the setting of Roman and post-Roman Britain more. Christian Celts speaking heavily-latinised Brittonic (i.e. early Welsh) living in the ruins of buildings they've lost the ability to repair that have magical things like indoor plumbing and heated baths! Pagan Jutes! and so forth.

I know the feeling.Originally the game was a bit more open as to which version of Arthur to use, but as the game has evolved it has generally drawn closer to Mallory's version.  I've been saying that Pendragon could do with a book of alternate versions. A Welsh version where all the heroes are warriors with special powers (almost superheroes), a post Roman version where Arthur leads the last remnants of the Roman military. I think that stuff all has possibilities, both as their own settings and to add to the core setting. 

 

In my current campaign, I started it back in 410 and have played up the decline and loss of technology with the Romans. At the start of the campaign I had a handful of engineers who could work stone in the old Roman fashion, but as they died out the people lost the ability to build stone fortications - until the rise of Arthur. 

 

 

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7 hours ago, Bill the barbarian said:

The four branches of the Mabinogion are some of my favourite reads. 

Just so everyone knows, Mabinogion is a mistake; I believe Lady Guest thought that was the plural because of mistakes by earlier editors. The name is 'the Four Branches of the Mabinogi'. The Mabinogi contains direct references to 11th-12th century history so the stories seem to be substantially altered from the oral tradition, if they can be trusted at all as accurate renditions of Welsh folklore about the Plant Llyr and Plant Don. In this way they resemble the distorted legends we have of the Aos Si and other peoples of Ireland in the Book of Invasions, which are mediated through Irish Christianity and sources like Isidore of Seville.

A prime example is the conflation of Bran fab Llyr/Bendigeitfran with Brian Boru, clear from the Irish geography preserved in the Mabinogi. Tolstoy suggests the Mabinogi was a work of political propaganda directed against enemies of the dynasty of Rhodri Mawr.

Arthur does not appear in the Four Branches proper, but stories about him are often in the same compilations. These stories can be firmly dated to the early-mid 12th century (or in the cases of the romances like Geriant ac Enid, c.1250+), and are hence contemporary with Geoffrey of Monmouth or the Vulgate. Culhwch ac Olwen is somewhat older, but still no earlier than 1075 or so. 

There has been some suggestion by critics that CaO is in fact a parody, working from lost material that closely resembled the Irish Fenian sagas. Thus the original stories were presumably more serious and less ridiculous, with superhuman heroes, but not quite so bizarre a style.

Much more Arthurian and semi-Arthurian material survives in fragmentary form in the Welsh Triads. Bromwich's edition is the best for non-Welsh speakers.

Hence a 'Welsh' King Arthur is just as much an anachronistic figure rooted in the hopes and fears of the 11-12th century as the French Arthur and later English Arthur. A 'Fenian' Arthur however has some possibility of being original (that is, contemporary with Nennius at least), but would have to be reconstructed from Irish parallels and hints from the Triads and poetry. (Though Arthur appears as 'leader of the Feni of Britain' in some Fenian stories, though if he was a contemporary with Finn, who (even though he is clearly mythological) is placed in the First /Second Century, he would be fighting Romans, not Saxons). Such a figure is more likely to be a war chief than a king.

 

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