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If you start the campaign in 480... (For GMs)


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Hi all. So this is a bit of a compilation thread of my various musings (although feel free to chime in) about starting the GPC campaign already in 480 rather than 485. You'll need Book of Uther or the standalone GPC Expansion (included in BoU) for this, of course. Also, get The Marriage of Count Roderick. It is a freebie, but adds some events for 480-483 that you can use.

I already made a post about this in the old Nocturnal Forum: http://kapresources.wpengine.com/Pendragon%20Forum%20Archive/index.php/t-2552.html

A lot of what I wrote there (and other people commented on) is still valid, but I have had some other thoughts as well. Also, most of the new players would be in this Forum, not trawling through the old archive. 🙂

 

So, let's start with why I think 480 start is better than 485 (IMHO and all that, of course). It pretty much boils down to having 5 extra years to play with and laying more groundwork:

1) The whole conflict/rivalry with Uther and Gorlois has some additional depth, when the Players can witness it fraying. And you can especially introduce Gorlois as a very nice guy at the Battle of Salisbury and have him knight the PKs personally, which will make this whole Uther-Gorlois thing hit all the harder.

2) Octa and Eosa get some additional depth in 484. Sure, they are defeated, but at least the PKs will have some personal exposure to them and hence perhaps something to prove in 490 and later 495.

3) You have additional sessions to bring the new players up to speed, so once they hit the Sword Lake, they understand better what is going on and why it is such a big deal.

4) Speaking of new players, you can easily keep the PKs' fathers alive for extra 5 years and have them die in 484, and thus delay the manor management stuff until later. (Or, perhaps even easier, as it doesn't require you to mess with the fathers' fate... If the PK father is dead at the game start, then the PK is the second son (AKA the Spare), and the older brother is the current vassal knight. Then the GM can just kill him off, childless and wifeless in 484 to allow the younger brother, the PK, to inherit the manor without problems.)

5) The PKs will have 5 extra years to get married and establish their families. This means that they are very likely to have adult sons by the time Anarchy is ending, just in time to start earning big Glory with Arthur. (This is also why I would allow the PKs to marry whilst still household knights; their fathers/brothers support the wife out of the Discretionary Funds of the Manor, in order to get the family going. Also, No Heiresses, as I commented in the above archived thread.)

6) That extra 5 years of advancement means that the PKs are more able to be the leaders in Salisbury during the Anarchy, being in their late 30s rather than early 30s.

7) Also, those extra 5 years means that the PKs have a better chance of catching Uther's eye at some point and more opportunities to interact with Uther's court. Especially if the GM introduces Madoc as just another squire in 479, which will put the PKs possibly in Madoc's orbit as well, giving them additional exposure to Uther's court. This means that you get some extra use out of all those NPCs in Book of Uther, some of whom are already dying in 490. And Madoc's death will hit that much harder, too.

Edited by Morien
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So how would I actually start the campaign? Here is a quick summary of my thoughts on that:

479 Autumn: Bear of Imber, including the Count's court (using Book of Feasts?), followed by the Winter Phase (no knighting yet).

480 Early Spring: Visiting Baron Gwylon and Lady Ellen (The Marriage of Count Roderick). (As squires still, the PKs would be attending their knights and probably have less opportunity to roll for events during the visit, but I would be tempted to have them roll Courtesy and Intrigue anyway, the first to see if they perform their duties with panache and the second if they pick up any gossip from servants & local squires.)

480 Spring: Spring Court. Pretty much as described in BoU, although see later.

480 Summer: Battle of Salisbury. PKs participating as squires, attending their knights. I would have the knights badly wounded/die in round 6, and have the PKs help them to the rear of the battle (maybe Sword/main weapon rolls, +5/-5 for mounted, to see how well they extract their knights from the battlefield). That puts them in with the Reserves, and Duke Gorlois, all bloodied up, rallies the Reserves and invites 'all men who can hold a lance' to charge with him. PKs join in on a glorious lance charge (+10 for charging against Saxons on foot, who defend with -5, since I would just give them axes or spears, not great spears). After that, it is another round of swordwork at +5/-5 thanks to being mounted, and the battle is won. The PKs are knighted by Duke Gorlois, who would have some personal praise to each of them depending on how well they did, or words of consolation if they didn't do so well. In short, make him a sympathetic, heroic figure that the Players like. (Since I am an EvilGM like that.) (As for the equipment, as the PKs are already at the cusp of knighthood, I would have them in chainmail already; either father's old one (if the father is dead), or the father has already bought a new one in preparation for the PK's knighting. This also makes it less likely that an unlucky hit kills a character outright. As for opponents, regular Saxon warriors would do fine, no need for berserkers this early in the game...)

480 Summer: Aurelius' Funeral, followed later by Uther's Coronation & Feast. Time to use the Book of the Feast. Remember the Intrigue rolls to see how Uther humiliates Gorlois. (I'd be tempted to give this information out even if none of the PKs succeeds in Intrigue, maybe have one of their surviving mentor knights points it out.)

480 Winter: Winter Phase. Remember all the Glory the PKs gained. For the Battle, I probably would not give them glory for the rounds that we 'skipped', but I would give them Glory for the rounds where they actually fought (saving their knights, lance charge, final rout of the Saxons). Again, the Count's Christmas Court might be a good opportunity for the PKs to look for wives, as you want to get them married off quickly and producing heirs sooner rather than later, as I would recommend. (Remember, NO HEIRESSES for freshly knighted PKs, unless you need that to happen as part of bringing a foreign PK into Salisbury, as suggested in Book of Sires.)

 

As for the actual sessions, I am a 'slow' GM. We generally take 3-4 sessions per game year rather than the 1 session per year that is oft quoted. So something like this:

First session: The Bear Hunt intro scenario and Christmas court in Sarum, introducing the Sarum court. By the way, a very nice idea I have seen some people using is including Madoc as 'just another squire' in 479, part of the same group of squires as the player-characters. This will give them instantly a personal connection to Madoc, for good or for ill. His parentage is not known until the next year, so there is no need for the Players to know yet that he is actually a prince... heck, Madoc himself probably doesn't know it, either!

Second session: Visit to Windsor to meet Ellen. Spring Royal Court. Madoc acknowledged. Camaraderie of Aurelius and Gorlois. Talk of the coming battles & the background for the players (possibly delivered by the fathers). Possibly some minor squire adventure depending on time; connected either to Madoc, or Gorlois or even both.

Third session: Battle of Salisbury. As said, I'd gloss over most of the battle, maybe a single sword roll, and then take things to Aurelius' death and make the PKs part of Gorlois' charge. Then the aftermath of being knighted by Gorlois, funerals, coronations, homage. Likely finish off with winter phase.

Of course, it depends a lot on how many players you have (6 for me, which is a lot to handle, to be honest) and how much you hurry along. Given that the assumption is that this is a new group with new players, I would rather take it slow than overwhelm them.

 

Speaking of the Knighting by Gorlois, a question I was asked was 'Why does Gorlois do this rather than the Count'? Well, because I wanna. 😛 But there could be in-game reasons. Perhaps Gorlois, Aurelius' right-hand man and the highest ranking noble present and current commander of the army feels that it is his right to hand out battlefield knightings, in the absence of the king. Perhaps Roderick got badly wounded at the Battle, so he is unconscious at the time and Gorlois decides that the valor the still-squire PKs showed ought not wait to be acknowledged. Which actually might fit to Gorlois' personality as well. He tends to think that he knows best, such as continuing his own war in 473 or protecting his own lands against raiders rather than answer the King's summons in 484. In any case, Roderick's reaction to this is up to the GM, although obviously I would not make him react badly to the PKs themselves, who would still swear their oaths to Roderick as Roderick's household knights (since I want to keep the campaign in Salisbury, not in Cornwall).

Edited by Morien
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Finally, I wanted to comment on the Family History, or rather, when to do it.

Traditionally, you do this thing perhaps even prior to character generation, or at least after it. Now if your players are KAP veterans or are already familiar with Historia Regnum Britanniae (and Le Morte d'Arthur), then they might actually get a kick out of doing BoSires family history as the first thing, and let it inform their character generation. However, when dealing with new players, I am not convinced that this is the best possible idea. IMHO, it becomes very easily a bit of a grind and a long infodump, and stalls the session. This is especially the case with KAP 5.2, where it can very easily happen that one PK's grandfather dies like the second year, while another survives for another decade or two, meaning that the first player is basically just twiddling his thumbs until the father is old enough to start doing the history. Book of Sires is much better in this regard, but it will still take time to run the families through it, especially if they are from different regions.

Instead, I would get the new players playing as soon as possible. One nice thing about 5.2 chargen is that it is quick, you can probably do that in half an hour and then have the rest of the session for the Intro (Bear Hunt). Frankly, I would even allow tweaking their characters a bit after the Intro, if they are unhappy with the choices they made.

As for the background, I would keep it simple. Something along the lines of:

"In your Grandfather's time, Tyrant Vortigern seized the throne and imported Saxon mercenaries. He married a Saxon princess and gifting Cymric lands to the Saxons, favoring them over his own people. The Cymri rebelled, and were betrayed at a peace conference by the Saxons."

"In your Father's time, the true heir, Prince Aurelius, returned from exile with an army and killed Vortigern. Aurelius became the new High King. He defeated the Saxons but was unable to push them off the island completely. Skirmishing and warfare against the Saxons has continued for a decade, with High King Aurelius' brother and heir, Prince Uther, acting as Aurelius' right-hand man. Aurelius' confidant and his best friend is Sir Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall."

I'd then follow up with a quick show of the map of Logres and the Saxon kingdoms (and the surrounding ones), and then information on Salisbury and Count Roderick, including his unmarried status. Then onwards to the Intro adventure.

Naturally, if you allow non-Salisbury backgrounds, things can get more complicated, but the intro pretty much assumes that all the player-characters start as squires in Salisbury. So even if the family is from somewhere else, the player-character has ended up as a squire in Salisbury, whether due to a friendship or a familial connection (like mother's side of the family?). The details can be sorted out later.

 

As for when I would do the Family History from Book of Sires... It depends a bit how the players are feeling after the first year. If they are all fired up to know more about the world and their family background, sure, I could do it then. Alternatively, I would be happy enough to delay it until after the Battle of Eburacum, and basically have the PKs raise their toasts to the victorious dead (their fathers, older brothers) and reminisce about the lives of those who have passed, talking about their families' glories. By then, the players are much more familiar with the world, and better able to follow all the names and places. (As for the Inherited Glory, you can easily just give them 100 Glory at the beginning, and then give the rest when you finally do the Family History.)

Edited by Morien
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  • Morien changed the title to If you start the campaign in 480... (For GMs)

I really like the idea of having the players be squires through the death of King Ambrosius, so that their careers as knights coincide with the reign of Uther as king.

One thing I noticed playing through the BoU before the GPC is that one needs to give some thought to 485, since it is so thoroughly designed as a “training wheels” year.  The Marriage of Count Roderick helps a little, because if you run the Skirmish at Allington in 485 in that context, while it no longer serves its intended function as an introduction to deadly combat with other knights, it works excellently as the opening to Roderick’s Marriage: Act Two — The Vendetta.

But Mearcred Creek/Borderstream probably shouldn’t be the default big event for PKs that year unless you jazz it up in some way, because in the previous year they’ve just gone through two of the most interesting battles in the entire reign of Uther, possibly in the entire campaign.  (I cheated — I made 485 the first year for which I used the full BoB rules, with a PK leading a unit and making the decisions, so that it was still about learning new mechanics and also the first time that the PKs could affect the outcome of a battle.)  It might be worth dispensing with it entirely and give the PKs their own separate adventure, or possibly have them sent to experience the real action in Essex.

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

One thing I noticed playing through the BoU before the GPC is that one needs to give some thought to 485, since it is so thoroughly designed as a “training wheels” year.  The Marriage of Count Roderick helps a little, because if you run the Skirmish at Allington in 485 in that context, while it no longer serves its intended function as an introduction to deadly combat with other knights, it works excellently as the opening to Roderick’s Marriage: Act Two — The Vendetta.

Yes, definitely. Although also see below...

Quote

But Mearcred Creek/Borderstream probably shouldn’t be the default big event for PKs that year unless you jazz it up in some way, because in the previous year they’ve just gone through two of the most interesting battles in the entire reign of Uther, possibly in the entire campaign.  (I cheated — I made 485 the first year for which I used the full BoB rules, with a PK leading a unit and making the decisions, so that it was still about learning new mechanics and also the first time that the PKs could affect the outcome of a battle.)  It might be worth dispensing with it entirely and give the PKs their own separate adventure, or possibly have them sent to experience the real action in Essex.

Totally agreed. Actually, what I would probably do is keep Uther in the North, as he does in HRB after Mt. Damen, which also gives the PKs a possibility to stay there as well, and meet King Lot etc. to start laying down the groundwork for his role later on. Or even have some adventure in the North that they would be likely to miss if they stayed in the South. I would be quite tempted to steal Julian the Immortal from Prince Valiant, the Guardian of the Wall, although he does not work quite as well in KAP environment than in Prince Valiant. Another option would be to move the Adventure of the Horned Boar here. Of course, if the PKs stay in the north, I would move the Skirmish at Allington to another year.

Another option would be to have the 485 be more focused on the landholdings that the PKs are just inheriting. The Skirmish at Allington would work quite nicely here, too, in particular if the PKs manors are close by. Or even have that attack be on one of the PK manors. (I tend to cheat and ensure that they are all in the Eastern Salisbury to ensure that they are first in line vs. Levcomagus and Wessex during Anarchy.)

As for Mearcred Creek, I'd have it as a 'meanwhile', same as Essex, regardless where the PKs are, just to give them a break from all the battles, or even drop it altogether if the PKs are in Salisbury, and use Uther's stay in the North as an excuse why the army is not there to protect Essex.

Anyway, choices, choices. 🙂

Edited by Morien
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9 hours ago, Morien said:

I would be quite tempted to steal Julian the Immortal from Prince Valiant, the Guardian of the Wall, although he does not work quite as well in KAP environment than in Prince Valiant. 🙂

Julian was mentioned in one of the "Pendragon" supplements (I think it was "Perilous Forest", though I'll have to check).

The chronology would certainly need tweaking, since Hal Foster set King Arthur's reign in the 450's (having Val get involved in events from that decade such as the assassinations of Aetius and Valentinian III and the Vandal sack of Rome), far earlier than in the regular "Pendragon" chronology.

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14 minutes ago, merlyn said:

The chronology would certainly need tweaking, since Hal Foster set King Arthur's reign in the 450's

Yes. Also if memory serves, Julian is guarding the wall against the Picts. In KAP he would be guarding against Gorre, mainly. But maybe it is doable. After all, Valiant's Picts are not KAP Picts. I am actually less bothered about the chronology. It is easy enough to add a generation or two without really changing the character. Even better, actually, making him even more 'immortal' when he has been around for almost a century...

You know, now I am wanting to run an adventure of a Roman Ghost Knight of Vindalonda or something like that. 🙂

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12 hours ago, Morien said:

Yes. Also if memory serves, Julian is guarding the wall against the Picts. In KAP he would be guarding against Gorre, mainly. But maybe it is doable. After all, Valiant's Picts are not KAP Picts. I am actually less bothered about the chronology. It is easy enough to add a generation or two without really changing the character. Even better, actually, making him even more 'immortal' when he has been around for almost a century...

You know, now I am wanting to run an adventure of a Roman Ghost Knight of Vindalonda or something like that. 🙂

I hadn't thought of the lands immediately north of Hadrian's Wall in "Pendragon" being northern British kingdoms rather than the Pictish lands, though that's a good point.

I take it that the "Ghost Knight" will be such a left-behind Roman soldier who's flesh and blood after all?  (As I mentioned in another thread, that definitely matches "Prince Valiant"'s atmosphere, with its numerous cases of the seemingly supernatural turning out to have rational explanations; Val was exposing "phony ghosts" long before the meddling kids and their dog....)

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2 hours ago, merlyn said:

I take it that the "Ghost Knight" will be such a left-behind Roman soldier who's flesh and blood after all?

Of course. With a family and a small farm inside the walls of the fort or something.

I probably could even fudge it so that any contradicting information in Beyond the Wall or Perilous Forest would be simply reflecting the situation a couple of generations later, if I were to run this kind of a thing in 485.

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20 hours ago, merlyn said:

Julian was mentioned in one of the "Pendragon" supplements (I think it was "Perilous Forest", though I'll have to check).

On a quick look, Sir Quintus of Camboglanna might be the closest hit in Perilous Forest? Could be that I missed him in a cursory look, though.

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3 hours ago, Morien said:

On a quick look, Sir Quintus of Camboglanna might be the closest hit in Perilous Forest? Could be that I missed him in a cursory look, though.

I found the (probable) reference on page 105 of "Perilous Forest", the "What Cambrians Know" page.  A "Prefect Julius, Lord of the Wall" is listed as the ruler of Hexhamshire.  I assume that Julius' name was intended as an echo of Julian's.

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11 hours ago, Leingod said:

Sir Julian is detailed in The Great Book of Pendragon Treasures, which is a collection of older, unpublished material from the 90s, IIRC.

This one I was aware of, but thanks for the reminder anyway. 🙂

8 hours ago, merlyn said:

I found the (probable) reference on page 105 of "Perilous Forest", the "What Cambrians Know" page.  A "Prefect Julius, Lord of the Wall" is listed as the ruler of Hexhamshire.  I assume that Julius' name was intended as an echo of Julian's.

Ah, no wonder it missed it, since I was scanning the Places and Hexhamshire is just mentioned in the Hexham -entry, with Hexhamshire missing its own entry.

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