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Great Pendragon Campaign GM Discussion - 489 AD (SPOILERS)


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Welcome back to my irregular series on running the GPC, year by year. We've come to a year of skirmishes and listening to NPCs talk! Let's get started!

This is one of the most underdeveloped GPC years in this period, so if you'd like to run a side adventure or spend some time working with your characters, this would be a good year to plan for it.

First, it might be good to look over the Uther period timeline, to add another layer to the action. Uther chooses this year to go to Cornwall rather than to rescue Malahaut, which sets up a number of other story elements, including the marriages of Ygraine's daughters, the Supreme Collegium vote, etc., later on. GPC as written is a little unclear on what's going on here, so this might serve as a useful framework.

The main incident this year is a scene straight out of Excalibur - and I can say I'm not fond of it. Greg suggests that setting this up like a battle at the beginning is a good idea, and I'd also intersperse some other actions that the PCs can take while the encounter is going on. Also, in a game in which the Duke of Cornwall only controls part of that region, "all the land from here to the sea" is an odd take. Fortunately, the exchange is relatively short.

I usually try to expand upon the festivities that night. It might be a good chance to bring the characters face to face with a prominent Cornish knight - Brastias (if you've taken Book of Uther's suggestion to keep him Cornish), or Cador, who they can encounter at Terrabil or during Anarchy.

The session rounds out with the skirmishes at Lindsey. Depending on how combat-intensive your group is, you might find the unmounted but numerous Saxons to be a serious challenge for the knights. It's certainly a good time to re-familiarize yourself with the skirmish rules, if they haven't come up lately.

How did you run 489 AD in your Pendragon campaign?

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In one of my groups, the Knights of the Sword (ie, those who got the Sword with Merlin) accompanied their Count to battle.  Very close to what was in Excalibur, but that is because my knights tended, at this stage in the campaign, to swing first and ask questions later. A second group, more friendly to Ulfius, cautioned for peace.  One of them criticalled an orate skill, so got a Truce meeting before the battle and peace was made there. Of course, when that happened, the other scene in Excalibur happened where Uther saw Ygraine here, and not in 490.  The request came for the Duke Gorlois to attend the King at the Great Victory Feast in London was a bit more forceful.

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3 hours ago, SaxBasilisk said:

 

Also, in a game in which the Duke of Cornwall only controls part of that region, "all the land from here to the sea" is an odd take.

I agree that it seems less suited to "Pendragon", with its carefully designed maps, in contrast to the movie "Excalibur" where the geography is far more vague.

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1 hour ago, merlyn said:

I agree that it seems less suited to "Pendragon", with its carefully designed maps, in contrast to the movie "Excalibur" where the geography is far more vague.

Rather, it works fine enough in GPC, but less fine in post-BotW/BoU world. However, it can be made to fit that, if Uther is basically telling Gorlois that he can be the overlord of all of the Duchy of Cornwall, i.e. not just the Duke but the liege lord as well, as long as he acknowledges Uther as his King. Making him the equivalent of the territorially concentrated Duke that he was in GPC... Given that by that time, Uther has probably confiscated Gorlois' holdings in the rest of Logres and Gorlois is pretty much in open rebellion and has the support of the nobles in his Duchy, this is more of a face-saving compromise on both sides.

But yes, that is a rationalization on my part.

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On 2/22/2021 at 4:14 AM, SaxBasilisk said:

Also, in a game in which the Duke of Cornwall only controls part of that region, "all the land from here to the sea" is an odd take.

At one point I briefly thought that Uther might be suggesting he'll work with Gorlois to conquer the Kingdom of Cornwall (after a round of Saxon-bashing) and add it to the duchy. Uther and Gorlois talk further after the scene, so there's plenty of time for him to confirm this to Gorlois and set at least the main points of a deal. It doesn't really fit with Uther as presented in GPC or BoU -- he wouldn't want to make Gorlois more powerful, plus it'd upset most of the other dukes -- but maybe at this point in time he wants Gorlois's Collegium vote that badly.

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I think it’s not that much of a stretch in the GPC minus the BoU, as Merlin is fairly clearly the only reason why Uther is so generous, and in the GPC I don’t think that Uther has ever been shown going against Merlin’s advice up to that point.  But once you bring in the BoU, it does get a bit difficult to reconcile with that Uther.

As far as upsetting the other dukes, though, I think one can counterbalance that with the likelihood that the great lords in general are perhaps not entirely happy to see the king crack down on any one of them.   Indeed, some of them may well have been discreetly pleased that Gorlois has not been turning up when he’s supposed to — it sends a useful message to the king, and the great thing is that they aren’t the ones sending it.  So Uther ending up having to reward Gorlois might not bother them too much, especially if it prompts the king to be appropriately generous to them for their loyalty.

The BoU helps on this point, because it fleshes out the picture and makes it clear that Gorlois has plausible and defensible (in my campaign, genuine) reasons for not turning up in each instance.  Also makes it clear that Gorlois saved the kingdom from disaster as recently as 480 (and that then Uther was a [expletive deleted] about it, which probably did not endear the new king to at least some of his nobles).

Edited by Voord 99
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