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SaxBasilisk

Great Pendragon Campaign GM Discussion - 484 AD (Book of Uther) (SPOILERS)

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Here we are, at the last year of the Book of Uther expansion for the GPC. Let's get into some commentary...

Gossip: I had no idea that the founder and head of the revived Druidic order was a Christian. Is the speaker an idiot? Is Merlin's role a secret? Did Greg write different things at different times? No matter - I'm flagging it here.

The Battle of Eburacum:  First, I'm interpreting the modifiers per round to Battle rolls to replace the Melee Events table in the Battle series (III.B.), even though it's not being explicitly given anywhere.

My own experience of the battle (mostly using the battle rules in the rulebook, with armies from the Book of Armies and a few small modifications adopted from the Book of Battle) was that it was quite difficult, with most of the knight ending up captured or unconscious. I don't know what others' experiences have been, but I can easily see a group losing some PKs here.

The GM might want to think about what occurs after the battle.  Are the survivors with their unit? If not, how do they find their way back to the army? (I had them separated and then run into Merlin in the night, who led them back to the army.) What might happen to those who are captured?

The Battle of Mt. Damen: You might decide whether any captured yet conscious PKs get a share of the plunder.  I gave it to mine.

Eburacum: You're back in Eburacum! I suppose the players might want to investigate that ambush from last year, if you ran "Marriage" and they still remember.

Christmas Court: By this time, the PK's squires are probably getting close to age 21, and many would jump at the chance to become a household knight. You might ask the players if they each wish to release their squires from service, and why, with an appropriate check given to a passion or trait for their decision.

The Marriage of Count Roderick: The count's daughter Jenna is born this year.

Uther Sucks: I wasn't sure where to work this in to the series,  so we'll do it here.

It seems that people are fairly sympathetic to Uther on the forums, but in the GPC+BoU as written, he's pretty terrible. Let's set aside the business with Ygraine, the prerogatives of the king (especially regarding Ire), and the dereliction of Gorlois' duties. Uther is still the guy who gets mad all the time, gets his army ambushed twice, bullies others, gets his son killed, and needs the help of Merlin, a sign from the heavens, or the PKs to do anything worthwhile or intelligent.  If you do want to make Uther worthy of respect or sympathy, you might want to seek out opportunities to do so.

Edited by SaxBasilisk

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32 minutes ago, SaxBasilisk said:

Gossip: I had no idea that the founder and head of the revived Druidic order was a Christian. Is the speaker an idiot? Is Merlin's role a secret? Did Greg write different things at different times? No matter - I'm flagging it here.

This is a reference to the story of Merlin's origins as a potential antichrist (child of an incubus and a princess), only foiled by the quick actions of Blaise, who baptized the infant right after birth. See p. 40.

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45 minutes ago, SaxBasilisk said:

The GM might want to think about what occurs after the battle.  Are the survivors with their unit? If not, how do they find their way back to the army? (I had them separated and then run into Merlin in the night, who led them back to the army.) What might happen to those who are captured?

If they manage to break away from the battle, they can rally to Uther's standard. Those who are captured are stripped of weapons and armor and tied up, to be enslaved by the victorious Saxons. Only to be rescued after Uther attacks the Saxon camp.

45 minutes ago, SaxBasilisk said:

The Battle of Mt. Damen: You might decide whether any captured yet conscious PKs get a share of the plunder.  I gave it to mine.

You shouldn't. The huge loot of Mt. Damen is exactly because there are so few knights vs. so many Saxons. Besides, if you don't fight, you don't get to share. I would think being rescued and given their horses and armor and weapons back would be a reward enough.

EDIT: Now, if the other PKs wish to share their loot with their less fortunate compatriots (especially if they have Loyalty [group] or Generous 16+), that is their prerogative. But good luck convincing the other knights to give maybe half or more or their loot away to the rescued prisoners.

Edited by Morien
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1 hour ago, Morien said:

This is a reference to the story of Merlin's origins as a potential antichrist (child of an incubus and a princess), only foiled by the quick actions of Blaise, who baptized the infant right after birth. See p. 40.

Oh yes - but in a setting that has a good number of pagans, even if the faith is dying out in Logres, "pagan" is just a weird leap from "half-demon potential Antichrist," compounded by the nonsensical response that he's not pagan when he clearly is.  Perhaps a GM should use that information on page 40 instead. 

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2 hours ago, SaxBasilisk said:

Uther Sucks: I wasn't sure where to work this in to the series,  so we'll do it here.

It seems that people are fairly sympathetic to Uther on the forums, but in the GPC+BoU as written, he's pretty terrible. Let's set aside the business with Ygraine, the prerogatives of the king (especially regarding Ire), and the dereliction of Gorlois' duties. Uther is still the guy who gets mad all the time, gets his army ambushed twice, bullies others, gets his son killed, and needs the help of Merlin, a sign from the heavens, or the PKs to do anything worthwhile or intelligent.  If you do want to make Uther worthy of respect or sympathy, you might want to seek out opportunities to do so.

This is true, I definitely think they overplay their hand a bit regarding Uther's flaws as a person and a king, and I  know at least some people here agree. Though I will say I think Uther serves a narrative purpose better by being, if not a terrible king, not a terribly just or fair one. It helps highlight Arthur's devotion to being Just if Uther took advantage of his kingly prerogatives to be very Arbitrary, focusing mostly on the advancement of himself and his favorites over actually serving the best interests of his subjects as a whole... But that only works if Uther is also portrayed convincingly as a mighty warrior and warlord who protects Britain from threats no one else can handle as well, and the number of times he needs Merlin or someone else to hold his hand makes it harder to buy that.

Which is also my issue with a lot of Arthur's victories in the Boy King period, actually; it's hard to feel like Arthur is really coming into his own, growing into his role as a king and leader, and triumphing over incredible odds when at every turn Merlin is openly and repeatedly pulling out miracles left and right to make it all happen. But that's getting into a different topic.

Moving back to Uther, I have this personal thing where I like to think the portrayals of the reigns of Uther and his brothers are reflective of how Arthur's been portrayed by various story-telling traditions, with Constans drawing from the French tradition where Arthur is good-natured but largely ineffectual (le roi fainéant), Aurelius Ambrosius drawing from Geoffrey of Monmouth's portrayal of Arthur as sort of a last gasp for Rome and empire, and Uther drawing from the Welsh tradition of a mighty warrior and war-chief before all else, who often quarrels with the church and treats his own court/warband as synonymous with Britain itself.

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1 hour ago, SaxBasilisk said:

Oh yes - but in a setting that has a good number of pagans, even if the faith is dying out in Logres, "pagan" is just a weird leap from "half-demon potential Antichrist," compounded by the nonsensical response that he's not pagan when he clearly is.  Perhaps a GM should use that information on page 40 instead. 

I think the gossip column, especially in 484, is a pretty clear case of people saying what comes to mind. It is clear that the other speaker considers Merlin to be a dyed-in-the-woad Pagan, while the other one has heard some story of Merlin having been baptized, and ergo, Merlin MUST be a Christian. People can be stupid and the gossip column is VERY unreliable narrator. Anyway, my point is that you cannot take anything in the gossip column as 'The TruthTM', unless it is collaborated elsewhere. I mean, in 480, one of the gossipers predicts that another dozen bastards of Uther will step forward as soon as Madoc is acknowledged. None ever do, in default GPC, not even during Anarchy. (But YPWV...)

Now, we know from Merlin's character sheet that he is actually a "British Pagan Christian". In short, Merlin has a very syncretic view of religion and magic, and would eschew such a blinkered view that he must choose to be just one. :) Of course, YPWV.

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31 minutes ago, Leingod said:

Which is also my issue with a lot of Arthur's victories in the Boy King period, actually; it's hard to feel like Arthur is really coming into his own, growing into his role as a king and leader, and triumphing over incredible odds when at every turn Merlin is openly and repeatedly pulling out miracles left and right to make it all happen. But that's getting into a different topic.

Arthur has no business winning any of his early battles against Lot WITHOUT a lot of miracles and backup from Merlin. Lot has literally a lifetime of experience in warfare while Arthur is still a beardless boy. He does do without Merlin in the Saxon Wars, though, and especially during the Roman War.

3 hours ago, SaxBasilisk said:

Uther is still the guy who gets mad all the time, gets his army ambushed twice, bullies others, gets his son killed, and needs the help of Merlin, a sign from the heavens, or the PKs to do anything worthwhile or intelligent. 

As for Uther getting surprised from time to time (I think he just gets ambushed once: he was not present in Terrabil EDIT oh do you mean the start of St Albans?), Arthur gets surprised by a night attack in 516 and he pretty much manages to luck his way to victory by stumbling into the enemy commanders. I think it is also unfair to blame him for the death of Madoc. Madoc was the commander of that army, and it is Madoc who lets himself be surprised by Gorlois' sally. Madoc by this time is a knight in his thirties and has led armies; it is on him, not on Uther.

Uther has a list of impressive victories from 470 onwards, including 480 Menevia, 485 Mt. Damen, 490 Lindsey and 495 St. Albans. Which battles does he lose, where he is personally in command? One, Battle of Eburacum, which he swiftly avenges at Mt. Damen. Merlin doesn't show up in Menevia, Lindsey nor St. Albans at all, nor does Uther need (nor would accept) any prodding from the PKs to win those battles or masterminding the renovation of Aurelius' navy to stage the Naval Raids to cripple Saxons' navies.

Ask any Cymri living in Logres during the Anarchy if they would like to have Uther back...

Edited by Morien

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45 minutes ago, Morien said:

Arthur has no business winning any of his early battles against Lot WITHOUT a lot of miracles and backup from Merlin. Lot has literally a lifetime of experience in warfare while Arthur is still a beardless boy. He does do without Merlin in the Saxon Wars, though, and especially during the Roman War.

I'm not saying I want Arthur to just suddenly become a better warrior and/or general than Lot out of the blue and win because of that, to clarify. I mean I'd like more stuff along the lines of when Arthur fights Pellinore and then befriends him, which leads directly to Pellinore coming to his aid and killing Lot. Arthur still had outside help both in fighting Pellinore and then in battling Lot, but it all still came about as a result of Arthur's own actions and character.

Edited by Leingod

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7 hours ago, Morien said:

I think the gossip column, especially in 484, is a pretty clear case of people saying what comes to mind. It is clear that the other speaker considers Merlin to be a dyed-in-the-woad Pagan, while the other one has heard some story of Merlin having been baptized, and ergo, Merlin MUST be a Christian. People can be stupid and the gossip column is VERY unreliable narrator. Anyway, my point is that you cannot take anything in the gossip column as 'The TruthTM', unless it is collaborated elsewhere. I mean, in 480, one of the gossipers predicts that another dozen bastards of Uther will step forward as soon as Madoc is acknowledged. None ever do, in default GPC, not even during Anarchy. (But YPWV...)

 

Now, we know from Merlin's character sheet that he is actually a "British Pagan Christian". In short, Merlin has a very syncretic view of religion and magic, and would eschew such a blinkered view that he must choose to be just one. :) Of course, YPWV.

The gossip section is definitely unreliable - but for me, there's a line where it jumps the line from questionable to conspiracy theory, and declaring that the head of the Druids isn't at least partially pagan falls into that category for me.  I think I'd be more comfortable swapping out "demon" for "pagan" when presenting that information to the players. 

7 hours ago, Morien said:

 I think it is also unfair to blame him for the death of Madoc. Madoc was the commander of that army, and it is Madoc who lets himself be surprised by Gorlois' sally. Madoc by this time is a knight in his thirties and has led armies; it is on him, not on Uther.

Tactically, it may be on Madoc - but Uther was the one who took Madoc to Cornwall and then left him guarding the camp while he was off in disguise.

(I'm willing to give him leeway for most of the Ygraine affair, but as far as I can tell, Madoc's death was a GPC elaboration.)

7 hours ago, Morien said:

Uther has a list of impressive victories from 470 onwards, including 480 Menevia, 485 Mt. Damen, 490 Lindsey and 495 St. Albans. Which battles does he lose, where he is personally in command? One, Battle of Eburacum, which he swiftly avenges at Mt. Damen. Merlin doesn't show up in Menevia, Lindsey nor St. Albans at all, nor does Uther need (nor would accept) any prodding from the PKs to win those battles or masterminding the renovation of Aurelius' navy to stage the Naval Raids to cripple Saxons' navies.

Menevia is why I added the "sign from the heavens" to my list. Mount Damen is made possible due to Merlin's magical refreshment, Lindsey leaves the fate of Octa in the PK's hands, and the St. Albans victory comes about after the initial debacle.

Sure, he's got victories - I'd expect that from a guy who's got a Battle score of 20 and whose forces are superior in quality to his opponents. Yet his impulsiveness puts his troops in harm's way.

 

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11 hours ago, SaxBasilisk said:

Here we are, at the last year of the Book of Uther expansion for the GPC. Let's get into some commentary...

Gossip: I had no idea that the founder and head of the revived Druidic order was a Christian. Is the speaker an idiot? Is Merlin's role a secret? Did Greg write different things at different times? No matter - I'm flagging it here.

Actually Greg did write differnt things at different times, and, so did the old writers. Depending upon which version of Pendragon you use Merlin is either a Pagan Archdriud, or a Christian ArchDriud, or a Grail Christian Archdrud. And as Morien points out, his parentage is suspect, depending upon which origin story you go with.

And even if Merlin is a Christian, he isn't necessarily a good Christian. 

 

 

 

11 hours ago, SaxBasilisk said:

The Battle of Eburacum:  First, I'm interpreting the modifiers per round to Battle rolls to replace the Melee Events table in the Battle series (III.B.), even though it's not being explicitly given anywhere.

Yes, esenntially with a scripted batle the modfies are predetermined in order to give the scripted results.

11 hours ago, SaxBasilisk said:

My own experience of the battle (mostly using the battle rules in the rulebook, with armies from the Book of Armies and a few small modifications adopted from the Book of Battle) was that it was quite difficult, with most of the knight ending up captured or unconscious. I don't know what others' experiences have been, but I can easily see a group losing some PKs here.

If you use the Book of Battle with instead of the Battle System in the core rules, you will want to reverse the modifiers, and apply them to intensity,  as lower intensity is better for the PKs. 

 

 

11 hours ago, SaxBasilisk said:

Uther Sucks: I wasn't sure where to work this in to the series,  so we'll do it here.

It seems that people are fairly sympathetic to Uther on the forums,

 

but in the GPC+BoU as written, he's pretty terrible.

Yes he is.  I think in the GPC Greg modeled Uther heavily off of the version from the film Excalibur, and BoU makes him even worse. I think he was made that way to contrast him with Arthur, the "good king." 

IMO though, I think they made him too terrible. He comes off as only marginally better that Vortigern. His only redeeming features are that he is a brave warlord, and that his is loyal to his trusted friends -as long as they don't have pretty wives. 

I do think the "Merlin Abducted My Baby" thing was a sham to draw attention to Merlin, who flees Britain, and away from where Arthur was being raised by Sir Ector.. In most sources Uther is quite aware that Ector is raising the lad. 

 

 

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8 hours ago, Leingod said:

This is true, I definitely think they overplay their hand a bit regarding Uther's flaws as a person and a king, and I  know at least some people here agree. Though I will say I think Uther serves a narrative purpose better by being, if not a terrible king, not a terribly just or fair one. It helps highlight Arthur's devotion to being Just if Uther took advantage of his kingly prerogatives to be very Arbitrary, focusing mostly on the advancement of himself and his favorites over actually serving the best interests of his subjects as a whole... But that only works if Uther is also portrayed convincingly as a mighty warrior and warlord who protects Britain from threats no one else can handle as well, and the number of times he needs Merlin or someone else to hold his hand makes it harder to buy that.

Which is also my issue with a lot of Arthur's victories in the Boy King period, actually; it's hard to feel like Arthur is really coming into his own, growing into his role as a king and leader, and triumphing over incredible odds when at every turn Merlin is openly and repeatedly pulling out miracles left and right to make it all happen. But that's getting into a different topic.

He's not a great leader or reponsible for his victory as first. That's the point. . Part of the narrative of the sources is that Arthur is in way over his head and doesn't have the ability to win those battles. Arthur's early victory have little to do with Arthur (who is mostly ineffective or messes up when he does act-for instance he almost gets killed by Pellinore and only survive because Merlin puts Pellinore to sleep). 

Badon is really where Arthur starts to get his act together and the Conquest Period is when he comes into his own as a leader. But prior to Badon, Arthur wins only because someone better steps in and helps him. Which kinda makes sense. A 15 year old squire is hardly going to have the skills required to win multiple battles and run a kingdom. 

 

 

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On 2/29/2020 at 11:03 PM, Atgxtg said:

He's not a great leader or reponsible for his victory as first. That's the point. . Part of the narrative of the sources is that Arthur is in way over his head and doesn't have the ability to win those battles. Arthur's early victory have little to do with Arthur (who is mostly ineffective or messes up when he does act-for instance he almost gets killed by Pellinore and only survive because Merlin puts Pellinore to sleep). 

Badon is really where Arthur starts to get his act together and the Conquest Period is when he comes into his own as a leader. But prior to Badon, Arthur wins only because someone better steps in and helps him. Which kinda makes sense. A 15 year old squire is hardly going to have the skills required to win multiple battles and run a kingdom. 

 

 

You'll note that Badon is also Arthur's first great crisis without Merlin, who disappeared only a year or so prior. He _has_ to step up, and maybe Merlin's retirement/death is a deliberate decision by the wizard.

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1 hour ago, jeffjerwin said:

You'll note that Badon is also Arthur's first great crisis without Merlin, who disappeared only a year or so prior. He _has_ to step up, and maybe Merlin's retirement/death is a deliberate decision by the wizard.

Yup., much like in Excalibur when Merlin tells Arthur that he is leaving and "now you must be king". I think the idea in Malory is that Arthur is in way over his head, and get propped up by Merlin, Ulfius, Leodegrance, Ban and Bors, until both his Kingship is accepted by the British Lords, and he has learned enough to tackle the job. But he seems very much a fish out of water at first. 

I suspect that was partially to add to his appeal with the commoners. Being raised as the son of an ordinary knight put him about a low on the pecking order as someone could be and still be accepted as a King.  

Edited by Atgxtg

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