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This idea was inspired by the Roman War thread, but I thought it would be a useful thread on its own - a collection of alternate ideas on how to play the GPC. As written, the GPC draws from two major, modern influences - Rosemary Sutcliffe and T.H. White, with a bit of John Boorman's "Excalibur" thrown in. While this isn't too surprising - between "The Sword in the Stone" and "Camelot" White's version is probably the most well known take on Arthur that doesn't have the king kill a rabbit with a hand grenade, while Sutcliffe's attempt to provide a historical Arthur looms large in Arthurian fictions, even as many of her conclusions, like the depiction of the Picts, become increasingly dated. But this needn't be the only way to do things. I've come up with a few potential variants:

  • Dark Age GPC: Obviously a way to have a shorter GPC would be to choose your preferred theory and run through that. The "knights" would be milites following Arthur through the 13 battles, possibly fighting on the continent. Passions wouldn't be used since they are very much a Romantic idea, and Picts, rather than being based off an increasingly outdated concept, would have the same mechanics as Cymri. There would be no tech advancement - everyone would stick with the Uther period tech (and even that might be too advanced).
  • Welsh GPC: This one takes from the Mabinogion and similar tales. Passions would be used, but they'd be interpreted differently. This is different from Dark Age GPC above as where that would emphasize "knight" as warrior, this would emphasize "knight" as adventurer - the crux would be going on larger than life adventures, dealing with giants, witches, and eldritch beings, and generally being classically heroic - the characters would probably have supernatural gifts similar to Gwalchmai's ability to run faster than any man alive or Cei's ability to grow to giant-size. Actually, this wouldn't really be a GPC at all, but a way to have a series of semi-related adventures without worrying about a larger plot - Camlann will still happen, but not at any set point.

Note that if you want to be truly accurate, in neither of the above should stand-ins for the Grail Quest or Guinevere's adultery show up. While the prior did take on elements from Welsh tales later on, in both cases literary historiography has consensus that they were invented by Chretien de Troyes.

  • Galfridian GPC: This is the big and most obvious one, in my opinion. What if the GPC more closely matched Geoffrey of Monmouth's tale. This goes back to knight as warrior - this is very much a war campaign from Ambrosius's death on. This is shorter than the main GPC - it ends at 542 with Arthur's death - since it focuses on the wars against the Saxons and Irish, then Arthur's conquests of the surrounding lands, then the Roman War, and finally Modred's rebellion.
  • Romantic GPC: Like the Welsh variant, this would be more of a series of semi-related adventures that happen to have Camlann as a Sword of Damocles than a true campaign, for this is the Arthur of Chretien de Troyes and his peers - the Arthur whose greatest knights were Lancelot, Gawain, and Erec, the Arthur who first lived at Camelot, the Arthur who witnessed Tristram and Isolde. In fact, if you want to just play the game as intended but ignore the GPC (in other words, how things were presented in prior editions), this is probably the way to do it.
  • Prose-Vulgate-Malorian GPC: I'm listing these three together since it needs to be remembered that Malory presented his work as merely an abridged version of the "French Book" (a compilation of Prose Tristan, the Vulgate Cycle, and the Post-Vulgate). This is the one closest to the actual GPC, but probably use older versions like the Boy King as a base, where the campaign starts in the Anarchy or with the drawing of the Sword in the Stone and Uther is a figure of memory. Likewise, don't bring in information of other sources - there are no Saxons, Arthur merely fights the King of Denmark for ... some reason ... during Lot's Rebellion. The Grail Quest is front and center in this version.

I may go into greater detail on how I personally would do these, but I'd like to here other's opinions first.

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From my own campaign, I have one comment regarding the GPC.

If your players are not *really* into the Arthurian mythos - they may well not even know you're changing the story arc.

I threw in some stuff from the Vulgate Merlin, and my players had no idea that it was not part of the standard GPC.

So - when you go to change the GPC - remember that it is possible that the only person who will know that the GPC was changed - will be you - the changer.

For Arthor!

Sir Ukpyr

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2 hours ago, jmberry1s said:

Dark Age GPC: Obviously a way to have a shorter GPC would be to choose your preferred theory and run through that. The "knights" would be milites following Arthur through the 13 battles, possibly fighting on the continent. Passions wouldn't be used since they are very much a Romantic idea, and Picts, rather than being based off an increasingly outdated concept, would have the same mechanics as Cymri. There would be no tech advancement - everyone would stick with the Uther period tech (and even that might be too advanced).

Most likely this would not even have a fully unified Briton kingdom, but a loose coalition of petty kingdoms just as likely to backstab one another than fight the Saxons, with Arthur as a unifying commander needing to cajole, charm and intimidate the various petty kings to keep them in line. No heavy cavalry charges with lances. And yes, technology would be a chainmail byrnie for 8 points and a shield or just the shield and helmet (2+6) for the rank and file spearmen. The Warlord Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell would be the inspiration here, I am thinking. Forget about the continent, unless you are ditching Arthur and instead have Riothamus.

2 hours ago, jmberry1s said:

Romantic GPC: Like the Welsh variant, this would be more of a series of semi-related adventures that happen to have Camlann as a Sword of Damocles than a true campaign, for this is the Arthur of Chretien de Troyes and his peers - the Arthur whose greatest knights were Lancelot, Gawain, and Erec, the Arthur who first lived at Camelot, the Arthur who witnessed Tristram and Isolde. In fact, if you want to just play the game as intended but ignore the GPC (in other words, how things were presented in prior editions), this is probably the way to do it.

Yep. Just get 4th edition (AD531 start), various regional and adventure books for adventures, and just have fun.

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1 hour ago, SirUkpyr said:

If your players are not *really* into the Arthurian mythos - they may well not even know you're changing the story arc.

Yep. Especially once you go outside of Merlin, Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot.

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17 hours ago, jmberry1s said:

 As written, the GPC draws from two major, modern influences - Rosemary Sutcliffe and T.H. White, with a bit of John Boorman's "Excalibur" thrown in.

I think Sutcliff’s indirect influence on Pendragon is enormous, as the writer of the first significant postwar “historical” Arthur novel.  It’s an interesting question how much direct influence she has had, though — Mr. Stafford, as far as I can tell, never mentions Sword at Sunset anywhere in an actual Pendragon publication, whereas he draws attention to Mary Stewart in all three editions.  (Also Marion Zimmer Bradley, and I’d imagine that other Arthurian historical fantasy like Bradshaw’s Hawk of May might be in the mix.)    3e/4e also recommends (with a warning about historical accuracy) John Morris, who was essentially writing historical fiction (and judged from that standpoint was very successful :)).

It seems to me that in an important way Pendragon as written is unsympathetic to Sutcliff.  Her Artorius is very much a Roman Arthur cast in the mode of “last defender of Roman civilization against the barbarians,” and SaS is obviously a sequel of sorts to her Roman Britain children’s books, with their themes of Romans and Britons earning each other’s friendship and respect and intermarrying to produce a hybrid culture.  Whereas Pendragon does not want a Roman Arthur, and casts Romans as somewhat dislikable alien presences in an essentially “Celtic” Britain, with a rigid divide between “Cymric” and “Roman” identities.

I adored Sutcliff when I was a child, but I never read The Shining Company, or at least I don’t remember ever doing so.  It’s occurred to me that if you wanted to extend the GPC, you could do worse than do a Hen Ogledd campaign that put Y Gododdin and the Battle of Catraeth at its center.  But you’d need a narrative framework, and I think The Shining Company might be a good place to look for one. 

 

17 hours ago, jmberry1s said:

Welsh GPC: This one takes from the Mabinogion and similar tales. Passions would be used, but they'd be interpreted differently. This is different from Dark Age GPC above as where that would emphasize "knight" as warrior, this would emphasize "knight" as adventurer - the crux would be going on larger than life adventures, dealing with giants, witches, and eldritch beings, and generally being classically heroic - the characters would probably have supernatural gifts similar to Gwalchmai's ability to run faster than any man alive or Cei's ability to grow to giant-size. 

 This is one where I think you need fairly radical mechanical changes to Pendragon to replicate the stories.  In fact, I’m not sure that Pendragon is the ideal chassis to start with.  Not saying you can’t do it — but if you were starting from scratch with the goal of doing a Welsh legend game, I think you might build the system a little differently, more in the direction of narrative mechanics.  

Pendragon arguably does not always do even the larger-than-life aspects of Arthurian romance well.  (Not a problem for me,  as I feel that Pendragon is not so much about exact genre emulation as about the conflict between medieval romance knighthood and a more historical view of medieval knighthood.)

17 hours ago, jmberry1s said:

Galfridian GPC: This is the big and most obvious one, in my opinion. What if the GPC more closely matched Geoffrey of Monmouth's tale. This goes back to knight as warrior - this is very much a war campaign from Ambrosius's death on. This is shorter than the main GPC - it ends at 542 with Arthur's death - since it focuses on the wars against the Saxons and Irish, then Arthur's conquests of the surrounding lands, then the Roman War, and finally Modred's rebellion.

The thing about a Galfridian GPC is, I don’t think it would be best to do it as a GPC.  It appears to be something of a cliché of modern Geoffrey studies that the Arthur section needs to be kept in perspective and seen in the context of the sweep of the whole thing, and that seems to me (as a layperson in the area) to be very sensible.  Start with Brutus.  Hell, start with De excidio Troiae, of which Geoffrey’s DGB (as the cool kids call it nowadays) is a continuation.

Incidentally, the recent Companion to Geoffrey of Monmouth is open-access, and well worth a look.

Edited by Voord 99
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I think every GM should alter the GPC to match his personal tastes. For example, I use the Vulgate and Chrétien of Troyes as my main sources, not Malory. 

In practice, it is not much different ^^ The Rome campaign is at the same time, for example, but there is the episode of the Cat of Lausanne, very interesting that we can launch to spice up those years. I wrote a little adventure about this, but in french, alas.

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My French is in decent enough shape for reading purposes...

Also, foregrounding Chrétien is very much to my personal tastes, and I’d be interested to hear some of the specifics there.

My own biggest change so far is that I’m using Gawain’s origin from De ortu Walwanii.

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34 minutes ago, Voord 99 said:

My French is in decent enough shape for reading purposes...

Alas, I wrote it a few years ago with a pencil  ^^. The Cat of Lausanne is basically a retelling of the Cat of Paulag from the welsh tale, about a devilish monstruous giant cat eating people, except it's Arthur who slayed the beast during his campaign of Rome.

The fun fact is there is no local tale in Lausanne (in modern Switzerland) about this Cat. But, in the Lake of Bourget, west of Lausanne (in modern France), there is a local legend about a devilish Cat. Its Lair was the Dent du Chat (Cat's tooth), a mount close to the lake.

Basically, during the passage of the Alps, the players heard about the Cat of Lausanne and its depravations. If they decide to travel to Lausanne to kill the Beast, they will find that there is no giant cat here. To make things worse, the lord of Lausanne was courteous, but a vassal of Lucius ^^.

So there will be another travel in the mountains to rally Bourget, and then to find the Cat. The Cat is of course fond of ambush. Who is the hunter and who is the prey? 

Edited by Tizun Thane
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