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Actual Play (sort of): the Annales Salisburgienses (484)


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Anno CDLXXXIV:  Uterpendragon rex Loegriae, videns quod Octa, filius Hengisti, atque Eosa, cognatus suus, aquilonaria regna invadebant, perrexit cum exercitu ad illas partes Britanniae.  Quod cum Saxones percepissent, Britannos insidiaverunt et in fugam propulerunt.  Uterpendragon cum militibus superstitibus ad montem Damen cessit ibique iunxit se ad Gorlois ducem, qui nuper supervenerat.  Gorlois hortante, Uterpendragon castra Saxonum petivit et in ipsos irruit.  Britanni, victores existentes, paganos ad milia interfecerunt.

In his proeliis ambobus, Gerontius atque Godefridus milites ambo quoque viriliter pugnaverunt; nam cum Uterpendragon rex cum Octa Eosaque primum proeliaretur, fuerunt inter illos, a quibus via vi facta est ut Rodericus comes effugeret.  Deinde, cum Britanni iterum cum Saxonibus certarent, Gerontius Godefridusque acriter intenderunt et nonnullos equites hostium fugarunt.

“The entry in AS for 484 marks the first appearance of a curious stylistic change towards greater elaboration in what is generally agreed to be the oldest component of the text, the record of events in Logres with a particular focus, in this section, on the doings of the king.  These more elaborate passages of the first strand of material (as distinct from the second and more “literary” strand) are intermittently present in AS thereafter.(1)

There has been much debate about whether this represents occasional interventions into the older sections by the same person or persons (presumably associated in some way, real or fictitious, with the knights of Salisbury whose activities dominate the added material) who were responsible for the expansion of the AS, or whether we must postulate a third intervention into the text at some point.  The evidence does not seem to allow for firm conclusions, although the Latinity of these elaborated sections of Logres material still seems at least somewhat different from the more affected and classicizing Latin of the Salisbury strand.”

 

As usual, the first paragraph consists of the canon material from the Book of Uther, and could be used in any campaign that was following that version, with one exception.  

There is a fairly significant departure from the BoU here: following Geoffrey, I had Gorlois, not Merlin, urge Uther to attack and take the Saxons by surprise after the disastrous Battle of York. 

To make the section BoU canon (with a little extra revision for style), the third and fourth sentences should read, Britanni superstites ad montem Damen cesserunt.  Merlino hortante, Uterpendragon castra Saxonum petivit et in ipsos irruit. 

(1) I.e, I could steal stuff from Geoffrey here, and I was not going to pass up that opportunity.

Edited by Voord 99
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1 hour ago, Voord 99 said:

There is a fairly significant departure from the BoU here: following Geoffrey, I had Gorlois, not Merlin, urge Uther to attack and take the Saxons by surprise after the disastrous Battle of York. 

Brief explanation to those who might be surprised that we strayed from HRB:

The events in GPC from 485 - 490 or so are not present in HRB (nor the previous 481-483). Instead, Gorlois is Uther's loyal Duke of Cornwall and present at Mt. Damen, urging Uther to attack. The battle is a smashing success and both Octa and Eosa are captured. This is followed by Uther visiting Alclud in the North. After he has returned to Logres, Uther sees Duchess Ygraine at his Easter court, which then sets the stage for the rebellion of Gorlois.

I assume Greg wanted to have Excalibur's Peace and thus set Gorlois and Uther antagonistic from the first, and hence Merlin is the one who appears to advice Uther at Mt. Damen. This is also why Octa and Eosa manage to escape Mt. Damen, so that Gorlois can assist Uther in defeating them in the Battle of Lincoln later on, and hence set the stage for Uther laying his eyes on Ygraine.

There is similar 'padding' in GPC in comparison to HRB, which doesn't even have Arthur's kidnapping nor an Anarchy. Instead, Arthur is 15 when Uther dies, and gets elected King straightaway. He then goes to defeat Colgrin at York, which happens like 20 years after St. Albans in GPC timeline. Then again, HRB sees Medraut rebelling while Arthur is fighting the Romans, so that cuts like 30 years from the end of the GPC too.

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There’s also the consideration that in the GPC Gorlois has missed “every muster,” and it would be another detail for the GM to remember to change if one didn’t rewrite it. Also, there’d be a case for injecting Merlin at this point to prepare the PKs for Sword Lake in two years time.

I didn’t change it back to Geoffrey’s version out of pure antiquarianism. It emerged from how the game had developed, and there were a couple of things that pointed in that direction.

1) For some reason, my players really latched onto the Cornwall narrative during the Book of Sires, and we decided on Cornish in-laws during the course of creating the family histories. They’ve ended up arranging a Cornish marriage, rescuing Igraine, witnessing Morgan’s birth, acquiring a manor in Cornwall, etc. If in doubt, they want to come up with a reason to go to Cornwall. So unsurprisingly Gorlois is a major character that they’ve met twice in play, plus they were at Salisbury in 480 when he saved the day.

2) I moved a version of Sword Lake to the invasion of Somerset, which I had happen in 483. So (a) they’ve just met Merlin in the previous session, and there’s no need to introduce him, and (b) having him help Uther now would raise the whole question of why he hasn’t given him the sword yet.

That being said, it’s not actually that radical a change. Gorlois arrived after the battle of York, so Uther still blames him for turning up late, and resents him for the fact that Gorlois is perceived as having saved the day. When one uses the Book of Sires, which makes Ambrosius a real presence in the players’ minds, it’s not hard to suggest plausibly that, fundamentally, the source of tension here is that Gorlois was Ambrosius’ close friend and supporter, and that Uther is always going to be the younger brother and lesser successor of a much more impressive king.

So I think I’ll be able to get away with using Excalibur’s Peace. I’m not 100% sure that I will, but it’s mostly because I might want to save the heartwrenching moment of having to fight Gorlois for later, rather than have a false start. Although the relief of having to do so and then not having to do so after all might be good set-up in its own way.

EDIT: Was looking at 485 in the GPC to prep for next year, and happened to notice that it’s a plot point there that Merlin helped at Mount Damen, as it explains why he’s not around court.  Probably not the main reason to have replace Gorlois, but it’s sensible, as players are likely to ask about him, and one might want to make sure that he’s kept back for the big reveal in 486.  

Plus it suggests a motivation for Merlin getting Excalibur when he does: he helps Uther in what would otherwise be a catastrophic defeat for Britain and then has to spend a year recovering, during which he can’t do anything to stop the Saxons invading Essex.   Naturally, the first thing Merlin does when he’s recovered is get something to help Uther unite Britain against the Saxons.

Edited by Voord 99
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