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The Forest Sauvage, Sir Ector, and Superheroic Knighthood


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Hi! I've been gone off the forums for a while. I used to post a lot about HeroQuest/RuneQuest, and then I stopped because the game I was running fell apart due to real life issues causing three quarters of the players to stop being able to play regularly, then my remaining player's wife got her dream job and they didn't have time to game, what with suddenly having to pick up and move and be a full-time house-husband until things got settled. 

So that fizzled out. In the meantime I've been a player in a few other games, mostly FATE core or World of Darkness stuff. Now, almost a year later, the stars have aligned and the old HQ group can start playing again, but they're not interested in Glorantha. I pitched a Pendragon game, and they all agreed it'd be fun to try. So I bought the 5th edition core book (finally) and the GPC book, and some PDFs for the Book of Sires. I kind of want to run as much of the Great Pendragon Campaign as I can, but I don't want to start from the very beginning because I'm pretty sure with our schedules being as hectic as they are we won't be able to get very far and just doing a few years of Uther's jackassery and then a few years of the doldrums of the Anarchy before we have to call it quits, especially given how we durdle aroudn not advancing the story a lot of the time. 

So I had an idea: start our GPC during the Anarchy, just a few years before Arthur arrives. That gave me another idea. When polling the players on what they like or don't like about Arthurian fiction, these were the main Arthurian media pieces that everyone consistently agreed on as among their favorites: 

  • The Once and Future King by T.H. Lawrence and Disney adaptation The Sword in the Stone
  • The Mists of Avalon, by Davina Porter
  • The epic 1981 classic that is Excalibur with Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, and Nicol Williamson
  • The so-bad-it's-good 2004 movie King Arthur with Clive Owen, Mads Mikkelsen, and Kiera Knightley
  • The so-bad-it's-goddamn-awesome 2017 movie King Arthur: Legend of the Sword with Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Honsou
  • 2021's The Green Knight with Dev Patel
  • And of course, Monty Python and the Holy Grail

So like...that paints a picture to me. The players think of King Arthur and think of zany, madcap fantasy, noble knights on weird, magical quests, superheroes in plate-mail with shining blades and gonzo medieval weirdness, faeries and giants and weird creatures and destiny and honor and MELODRAMA everywhere. One of my players, a huge anime fan and as it happens someone who studied Arthurian legends in college, said "Arthurian myths almost read like medieval Dragonball Z." 

And like. I want that. I want to run that.

SO. The point to all that rambling is that I like using the idea that Sir Ector, Arthur's adopted dad, is a minor lordly night who's domain is smack-dab in the middle of the Forest Sauvage. I want the player-knights to be in Ector's service (either as "forgotten" fellow adopted children alongside Kay and Arthur or not, which is something I've considered), having weird magical adventures in the forest for a few years before the tournament in London. I think I'll further steal Merlin being Arthur's tutor from T.H. Lawrence (but make his character closer to Nicol Williamson's epically operatic scenery-chewing in Excalibur), include some ancient Celtic mythology and tribal politics from Mists of Avalon and the 2004 King Arthur, and then really ramp up the knightly superheroics if/when I can.

Hell, apparently Sir Kay could get so angry he could light people on fire with his hands according to ancient Welsh legend, so there's some precedent, right?

Anyway, back to the subject at hand, Is there any officially published Pendragon material that has any information on Sir Ector, his character, his lands, etc., that I can use to adapt into this? Anything else beyond the material in the GPC on the Forest Sauvage, or Merlin's....Merlinry?

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In KAP canon, Sir Ector is in Pennlyn, a small kingdom in the northern Cambria. You can download The Great Hunt adventure for free, where the climax happens in (one of) Sir Ector's holdings. However, that is nothing more than a location, nothing else is said. But you do have stats for (an older) Sir Ector there.

As for the estate, you are probably better off coming up with your own ideas, especially since you are setting it in Forest Sauvage.

Also, the Sir Ector of The Sword in the Stone is rather... ahem... different from the much more calm Sir Ector of Malory.

I say, go with your own ideas, make it as wacky and preposterous as you want, and godspeed!

Your Pendragon Will Vary was Greg's favorite answer to these types of questions. 🙂

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I like the idea of Ector being a calm, paternal figure. Not the blustering jackass from The Sword in the Stone, as hilarious as that performance is. His lands are surrounded by a magical, haunted forest that popped up overnight when Uther died. A brash man who's hot-tempered like that wouldn't survive very long to be knight of anyone. I do love the idea that he's friends with King Pellinore, since it makes sense that the wandering, insane king might end up lost in Sauvage and come by from time to time for some dinner and a bath. 

I'll definitely look up the The Great Hunt adventure and get his stats from there. I like the idea that Ector's got small properties all over Britain from various inheritances or his first marriage that he can't friggin' get to because of all the monsters and haunted woods in the way. 

The main question I'd have would be whether or not it'd be fictionally appropriate for a non-titled knight like Ector to have other non-titled knights as his servants/vassals, or if it'd be more appropriate to make him the Lord of Tribuit before it vanished under the trees?

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27 minutes ago, ZedAlpha said:

The main question I'd have would be whether or not it'd be fictionally appropriate for a non-titled knight like Ector to have other non-titled knights as his servants/vassals, or if it'd be more appropriate to make him the Lord of Tribuit before it vanished under the trees?

Absolutely not a problem for Ector to have household knights, if his estate is big enough to support them. Actual vassals is a bit more problematic unless you wish to up his power level... I would be more inclined to make those neighbors, instead. Still, it is possible to be a Lord Knight (i.e. a knight with other knights as vassal), without a higher title.

One nice advantage of playing household knights... you do what the boss tells you to do. Makes it much easier for new players, and keeps the estate management time down.

EDIT:
And of course you can introduce heiresses in need of rescue, or even having their fathers or older brothers die suddenly, and they get to inherit a manor. Or better yet, you can have Arthur rewarding them with lands in 513 or something like that.

Edited by Morien
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Yeah, that's what I was thinking, re: Arthur rewarding them with lands. The way the campaign is planned, Arthur will grow up with these yahoos in his house and probably grow to love them if they play their cards right, so that's on the table. 

So household knights works! After talking a bit more with the other players over my lunch break today, they all like the idea that they (along with Kay and Arthur) are all orphans who have been more-or-less adopted by Sir Ector at one point or another. One of the players suggested that Merlin just keeps bringing orphans to Sir Ector's doorstep every few years and the old man just doesn't know how to effectively convince the wizard to stop. I think I might go with that. It makes sense why they're all in the middle of the Forest Sauvage, serving as household knights to an impoverished old warhorse like Ector: they don't have anywhere to go. 

I'll start the campaign in the 490s somewhere to give the players some time to adventure in the Forest before the tournament in London, I think. Maybe don't have them run into many Saxons, but faerie creatures, dragons, monsters, and bandits in the wood preying on the few human settlements that still exist in the trees.

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If you really like the idea of Merlin bringing along orphans, you might want to think about WHY he is doing so. Is Ector the only one? If so, then again, why?  Might come up with a fantastic scenario by following up that thought...

Just my two denarii.

Glad to hear it is going well.

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15 minutes ago, Hzark10 said:

If you really like the idea of Merlin bringing along orphans, you might want to think about WHY he is doing so. Is Ector the only one? If so, then again, why?  Might come up with a fantastic scenario by following up that thought...

Just my two denarii.

Glad to hear it is going well.

ooh, I love that. The first thing that comes to mind is "Backup Arthurs." 

Like, maybe he backwards-remembers/prophesies/however you want to say it that these knights and/or their descendants will have a BIG part to play in the coming reunification and (hopefully) utopificiation of Mythic Britain. Maybe he knows that there's a 95% chance Arthur will either die horribly or end up a crappy high king like his daddy was, and a few spare potential mythic hero-kings (or queens) of the Britons waiting offstage would be handy to have around. 

And as for why Sir Ector? I mean, if Ector is A: reliable, 2) likely to give the kids a surprisingly good upbringing for Dark Ages Mythic Britain, and on the gripping hand hidden in the Forest Sauvage where it'd be hard for people to get at the kids with special destinies, it kind of makes sense. I could see him binding Ector with the ancient-Welsh equivalent of a geas to safeguard any orphan brought to his door, in exchange for...I don't know, some big magical boon, or promises of fortune and glory when the kids grow up to adulthood. Right now he sees it as being tricked, but when Arthur takes the throne? HOO BOY.

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So I had a brief conversation with one of our players, who I'll call G (short for Grognard, he's the oldest among us and the biggest stickler for Gloranthan lore I've ever met), and he went ahead and made his character ahead of time using The Book of Sires. He rolled up a hell of a Pictish knight, calling him Sir Angus An Ceathram ("Angus the Fourth"). His great-granddad was a famous Jagent Pictish Dissident who fought tirelessly against Vortigern and got killed under the flag of truce. His grandfather likewise won great glory fighting for Aurelius Ambrosius, then his dad unceremoniously got offed shortly after having him in a fight with some Saxons shortly into Uther's reign. 

G's decided that our new Angus is thirsty to prove himself every bit the legend that his grandfather and great-grandfather were. He still likes the idea of being another orphan taken in by Ector at Merlin's urging. Angus is an Animist (heathen) Pictish knight, whose three highest personality traits are (in order) Proud, Energetic, and Reckless. I'm letting the PKs switch out their Sword skill with another weapon if they want, and G is having Angus be very good with a spear--specifically his great-grandfather's spear that was hurled at Vortigern at the Battle of Lincoln.

We decided that his relationship with Ector is not that great. Ector sees him as a wayward son, and Angus sees Ector as a brooding landlord who stifles him; kind of a Luke vs. Uncle Owen dynamic. Angus wants to go out into the Forest and win some glory hunting monsters and rescuing maidens from faeries, but Ector needs him here, minding the swineherds! Hopefully being fully knighted will let him gallivant around seeking the Glory he craves. 

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3 hours ago, ZedAlpha said:


G's decided that our new Angus is thirsty to prove himself every bit the legend that his grandfather and great-grandfather were.

Very nice. 🙂

7 hours ago, ZedAlpha said:

It makes sense why they're all in the middle of the Forest Sauvage, serving as household knights to an impoverished old warhorse like Ector: they don't have anywhere to go. 

Well, impoverished might be a bit of a stretch, if he can support up to half a dozen knights. That puts him very much in the 1% bracket. 🙂

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This is a clever campaign concept (that could also be good for a short Pendragon campaign that ended with Arthur’s coronation.)

One minor detail that I’ll throw in (that you may already know, of course) is that 3e’s The Boy King had a character in the Forest Sauvage called the Lost Knight of the Red Feather who was eliminated (not sure why, perhaps just space) in the GPC.   A character like that, a friendly knight who is condemned to wander the Forest Sauvage endlessly, might be a good thing to have in this game, IMO — he can turn up at random when you need him to put the PKs on the trail of an adventure, or if they need an extra sword at some point.

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15 hours ago, Morien said:

In KAP canon, Sir Ector is in Pennlyn, a small kingdom in the northern Cambria. You can download The Great Hunt adventure for free, where the climax happens in (one of) Sir Ector's holdings. However, that is nothing more than a location, nothing else is said. But you do have stats for (an older) Sir Ector there.

Malory states that Ector "had great livelihood about London" (I.5), so there's some precedent for moving him around. 

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9 hours ago, SaxBasilisk said:

Malory states that Ector "had great livelihood about London" (I.5), so there's some precedent for moving him around. 

I was thinking he probably inherited a few well-to-do London properties from his late wife, but can rarely get that far south to manage them because, y'know

 

Forest Sauvage.

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And we've got the rest of our characters tonight! I discussed more of what I think the setting would be like, and we established some ground rules for the campaign: 

  • Women knights are a-OK, societal acceptance of them is based on how Romanized the person is. Given that the Romans pretty categorically treated women like subhuman property in a lot of cases, the Romano-side of the Romano-British often see female knights as weird and possibly devilish. The native Brythonics and Celts and invading Germans are a-OK with them. 
  • There will be a lot of weird magical stuff going around, magical items and treasures to be won, and each knight eventually will have their own sort of "superpower" like a lot of the other famous Knights of the Round Table do in many of the older stories. 
  • The campaign starts about 10 years before the Sword is pullled from the Stone, I want to end it shortly after Arthur is crowned High King and finally kicks the Saxons out of Britain. 

The other characters that were made tonight were: 

  • Dame Gwenna (a Cymric British Christian), played by T (for Trickster, they played the Trickster in the old Heroquest campaign), whose parents were driven out of Kent by the invading Saxons and settled in Tribuit. Then the Forest Sauvage happened, and they died shortly after that. She was found by Merlin wandering the woods, supposedly having been raised by badgers. Despite refusing to abide by proper table manners and other courtly etiquette, Gwenna is one of Ector's most trusted youngn knights. She's an expert huntress, a crack shot with a bow and a deadly knife-fighter. I let T know that neither one of those skills are particularly knightly per se...T responded with "Well, neither is my knight," and we left it at that. 
     
  • Sir Rodard, (a Breton Roman Catholic), played by H (for Himbo, for the general type of big, beefy, well-meaning dumbasses he likes to play). He is, surprise surprise, a big, beefy, well-meaning idiot. If you think Captain Carrot from Discworld and mix him with how bloodthirsty John Cleese played Lancelot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you wouldn't be far off. He ended up with Sir Ector after his parents died during Uther's fatal feast. His father apparently helped smuggle the infant Arthur away from Uther's failing regime, and Merlin returned the favor. H describes Rodard as sort of like a loyal guard dog for Ector and his family, often overenthusiastically so.
     
  • Dame Angharad (Cymric Pagan), played by W (for Weeaboo, she's a huge anime fan, and she studied British literature in college, among other things--she's the resident lorehound), who's much more suited to the quiet life at court tabulating a fiefdom's budget than she is out doing errantry. Merlin found her wandering the woods at an early age and brought her to Ector--her family are wealthy knights with property somewhere to the North, but her parents were lost in the Forest Sauvage when they were attempting to take her with them on pilgrimage to Stonehenge. Angharad is grateful for Ector's care, and wants to return the favor, but doesn't see him as her parent. More than anything, she wants to get out of the dang forest. 

We didn't actually get to any roleplaying beyond making the characters, but we're all feeling good about it. I'll write up the first adventure, which I'll mostly take from the core book, in my blog next week.

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(Principate) Romans were actually relatively decent about women, compared to many other cultures, for example (wealthy) Athenians, who cloistered theirs. Roman women were able to own property, inherit, divorce, sue people and speak on their own behalf, and even be without male guardians.

I think it would be very easy to argue that a noblewoman would be better off in the Principate than in the High Middle Ages.

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2 minutes ago, ZedAlpha said:

Fir enough, but that's how we're interpreting it for this campaign

Which is totally fair since the Christian Cymric/Romano British society of Logres is medieval, not classical/pagan Roman. I was just making the point that the classical Romans were actually pretty good about women's rights, for an ancient culture.

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One of the amusing things here is that in the 19th century (a Roman woman in the 2nd century AD had more freedom in law than an English woman in 1820 in significant respects) a standard cliché was that the Romans had given too much freedom to their women, and this was sure proof of their horrible decadence.

Interestingly, if you turn the perspective away from women warriors, which for obvious reasons tend to interest roleplaying games, to legal position (control of property, etc. — not exactly what fun RPG sessions tend to be about), the “Celts” (it’s a bit of a problematic term) start to look less enlightened than the Romans.  Cultures are complicated and full of tensions, and are always being pulled in different competing directions.

That being said, medieval noblewomen could exercise a *lot* of power and independence, of course.  Arguably, for the same reason as Roman women — in both periods, status trumped gender, and what mattered about a wealthy aristocratic woman was that she was wealthy and aristocratic. I always feel that one of the ironies of medieval romance is that it doesn’t have as many interesting strong female personalities as actual medieval history, which is full of them.

None of this is to say that ZedAlpha shouldn’t do what they and their group like, of course.  Especially if The Mists of Avalon is an influence and replicating the tropes of modern Celtic historical fantasy is part of the goal.

Edited by Voord 99
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I did bring up a lot of this with my group and a minor argument broke out about gender essentialism, gender roles in the Middle Ages vs. the 20th-21st centuries, and late antiquity, etc.  G and T and W got really  heated about it, so we ended up settling on the level I mentioned. I agree with both of you, lol. I read up on all of this before even considering Pendragon.

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  • 4 weeks later...

So I'm going to post the stuff about this game here because for whatever reason my chromebook really doesn't like the blog page. 

it's been several weeks since we finished up the characters and weren't able to actually play as planned until yesterday evening after I got off work. First session recap incoming.

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Make An Early Knight Of It

We started actually playing Pendragon last night, and I think it went well for a new game system and setting. This Pendragon campaign starts about 10 years before Arthur pulls the Sword from the Stone. Britain is in chaos--King Uther and his most important knights have fallen by vile treachery, the Saxons are consolidating their hold on the East, and more and more local warlords become tyrants or bandit kings. Meanwhile, Faerie has bled into the center of Logres, and the Forest Sauvage has taken over the landscape almost overnight. Deep in the magical, haunted woodds, Sir Ector of Caer y Gwiberod has found himself in charge of six foundlings at the behest of the Archdruid Merlin. The old wizard has bade Ector keep the children as his own...and now, four of them are of age to be knighted!

Our group's characters are: 

-Gwenna, played by T: a hotheaded young woman apparently raised by badgers. She's a crack shot with her hunting bow and deadly in a knife-fight, but absolute crap at courtly etiquette or anything needing expertise with the written word. She's basically Sir Ector's loyal attack dog, and hopes to inherit his estates when he dies.

-Angus, played by G: the fourth Angus to be knighted in his family, he's a proud, somewhat hyperactive young Pict who's murderous with his ancestral spear and eager to prove himself. He grew up on tales of his now-dead family, and chafes under Ector's tight leash--he wants adventure! Glory! A horizon that has fewer trees in it!

-Rodard, played by H: a young man built like a brick garderobe, with the intelligence to match. Despite this, his strength is as the strength of ten because his heart is pure, and he's loyal as the day is long. His parents helped smuggle the infant Arthur Pendragon away from his father. When they died from the High King's vengeance, Merlin returned the favor. 

and last but not least, 
 
-Angharad, played by W: orphaned at a very early age within the Forest itself, Angharad is the only one of the orphaned Knights who actually remembers her birth family. She's quiet, pious, and scholarly. Arguably, Angharad is better with numbers and letters than with the sword. However, she doesn't back down from a challenge and dutifully performs her functions when required. 


We began the session proper at Caer y Gwiberod, Ector's crumbling manor in the middle of the Forest Sauvage. Sir Ector rules over a half dozen small settlements dotting the Forest, supposedly a half-day's ride from each other at most, or a day and a half's walk. I say "supposedly" because, well, this is the Forest Sauvage. Nothing is as it seems here--if you stray from (or simply lose) the path, who knows where you might end up. Even if you keep on the true roads, the clinging mists and grasping branches might still lead you astray into the clutches of whatever faerie might be waiting just off the trail. 
    Sir Ector is getting on in years, and he knows it. He's got his hands full raising the scrawny young Arthur and his other adopted son Kay, who's turned into a bullying jerk of an insufferable teenager. Now that his other four wards are of age, he needs help keeping his vassals safe from the horrors of the forest. And so we come to our player-knights knighting ceremony. The players played through reciting the oaths of knighthood, each one taking special note of how Ector's old castle is quietly falling to bits around them. It's an echoing, empty, crumbling old manor dating back to before even the Romans came. It can't even keep out a draft. They arose as knights, and each one tried to outdo each other in the Leap--all except Angharad, who calmly mounted her horse and sat there, enjoying the spectacle. 
    Gwenna and Angus raced each other to see who could Leap first; I had them roll off as a contested roll, and Angus juuuust beat out Gwenna by a few moments. Meanwhile, Rodard misunderstood the assignment and jumped over his horse (he got a critical success on his DEX roll to Leap, and narrated the reset), landing a perfect frontflip on the other side, grinning like a madman.
    
Ector rubbed his forehead with his palm and muttered something about God testing him. Angharad, a Pagan, overheard this, and muttered back, "Which one?" 

"I have no idea, lass. All of them?"

It was then that Ector got the group's attention and gave them their first knightly task: proceed through Ector's estates, both around his castle and to the villages outside it, and present themselves to the villagers.

"You are my eyes, my ears, and my hands. Perform what tasks are needful, defend those who need defending, slay those who need slaughter. Mete out justice and judgement in my name, and, oh, come back with some meat for the table, aye?" he said, not able to hide a smile at his new knights. The Player-Knights accepted this, their first Quest, with great satisfaction and turned to leave...but not before Arthur (about five years old at this point) and Kay (about ten years old) came screaming out of their chambers.

Arthur was running from Kay, who had a stick.

Kay was yelling his head off about "The Wart" going through his things like a sneak-thief. Arthur was just screaming in terror. 

Quick as a fox, Gwenna was off her horse. She deftly tripped up Kay and disarmed the lad of his stick, getting the young man to back down with a stern look. Ector sighed heavily (something I played him as doing alot) and got the story out of the two boys: Kay accuses Arthur of stealing a silver crucifix given to him by his late mother. Arthur states he was "trying to catch the big black bird" that was in Kay's chambers on the windowsill. Kay calls Arthur a liar and tries to go for the stick in Gwenna's hands, Gwenna pushes Kay down on his butt into the mudd, Kay starts crying, Arthur starts crying, Ector groans...It's a big mess. He takes his two errant sons into the hall to deal with them, and gestures for his new knights to continue on about their tasks. 
    Now, I as the GM meant that to just be a brief scene to introduce Arthur and Kay, who will go on to be important NPCs in the campaign. My players took that as a plot hook, and decided to try and find Kay's crucifix...and if possible, the "big, black bird." I like saying "yes, and" to my players, so I had them each pick a skill they feel would be appropriate and roll for it to try and figure out what had happened and track down the errant objects. Gwenna rolled Hunting to track the bird (who she correctly thinks saw something shiny in Kay's chamber and stole it); Rodard rolled Strength to climb up the crumbling walls to Kay's second-story window; Angus tried rolling Intrigue to get more out of Kay, Arthur, and Ector about it without angering his guardian; meanwhile on a hunch, Angharad rolled Faerie Lore. 
    Gwenna's success let her know that a murder of big ravens do in fact haunt the Caer's northeast tower, just across the courtyard from Kay's chamber. They've been known to mob anyone going through the courtyard in nesting season, and in fact have stolen many shiny objects from the castle. Rodard's climb gets him into Kay's chambers the hard way, but he does find a few black feathers around a small chest that Kay uses to hide his most precious belongings. Angharad rolled a critical success on her Faerie Lore, and remembered that ravens are often oracles or psychopomps--and then I let her roll a Religion (Pagan) check, which she just barely got. Bran the Blessed, protector-god of the Cymri, often took the form of a raven. 
    Angharad got a bad feeling about ravens in a faerie forest stealing symbols of Christianity. She was on the side of the ravens, of course, the new god was doing its damnedest to wipe out her gods and she didn't like it, but strife at home was always hard to dodge. 
    Meanwhile, Angus critically failed his Intrigue and in fact made things worse. So much worse that Kay struck Arthur on the face (just above the wart that gave him his nickname), and Arthur, having had enough, launched himself on top of Kay and started beating his adoptive brother across the head and neck with a wooden trencher. Ector physically separated the two youths, bellowed them to their chambers, slapped Angus across the face, and ordered him to go see to the villages. I had Angus roll for Proud. He failed, and G LOUDLY thanked God for that. He then (barely) succeeded on a Humble check. Thoroughly cowed, Angus crept back to his fellows, burning with embarrassment. 
  
The four new knights were in a huddle in the stables, wondering what to do. Gwenna and Rodard mentioned the ravens of the Northeast tower--Angharad intimated something about the birds being magical. Angus insisted they get on the road, but the other three of his companions convinced him (with a successful Just roll from Rodard) to see this through and mend the schism between their brothers. The four knights approached the tower, their GM feverishly trying to come up with what they'd find there.
    I told the players that the tower had been abandoned decades ago by the Caer's prior occupants. It was too ill-maintained for anything to even be stored in it like the other towers in the manor. Ector had ordered his children and the few servants he had to stay away from it, and stay away from it they did. Which meant that it was now filled with wildlife. The place was crawling with all manner of bugs, small furry things...and ravens.
    
    Lots and lots of ravens. 
    An unsettling amount of black-furred, beady-eyed, feather-rustling, screaming ravens. 
    I had everyone there make a Valorous check. Gwenna and Angus backed away from the door, but Rodard continued on, merely commenting on how much he liked ravens. "Gorgeous birds, really," he said, happily pulling forth a small pouch of seeds from who-knows-where. This made everyone laugh uproariously, so I had H make a Generous roll for Rodard, which he critically succeeded on. (I swear, that player can pull crits--successes or failures--out of his butt whenever he wants, no matter the system!). He was soon flocked by hungry birds who insistently yet gently mobbed him for treats. They whispered bits of prophecy into his ear, chattering in their bird-language. In game terms, I gave the overwhelmed Breton knight three "prophecy points" for the rest of the adventure--he can spend a point to reroll any one die roll, or force any character to do so.
    Meanwhile, with the ravens distracted, Angharad crept up the crumbling, guano-slick stairs to the top of the tower. This took a DEX check that she failed at first, threatening to spill down the stairs--but by then, Angus had managed to get over his fears (read: I went over how to use Passions to try and get Inspiration, and Angus managed to successfully Inpsire himself with Love (Family) to get over his fear and rush to Angharad's aid), sprang up the stairs as light as a deer, and pulled Angharad up from the ledge. Together, the two of them ascended to the top of the tower. 
    Where the largest raven either of them had ever seen perched atop a cobweb-strewn bed. The top of the tower was a bedchamber that hadn't been used in decades. The raven wasn't the only bird there--they came through the empty doorframe as it was apparently deep in conversation with a tiny, bedraggled-looking brown-and-gray falcon. The two of them heard the last snatches of a sentence: 
    "--it is doomed, young many-man, though try ye might. You are doomed too, shall ye tie your wyrd to the boy's," quoth the raven. 
    "Doomed I am, yet doomed are we all. I wrote my own long hence. Quiet, now, we have interlopers!" replied the falcon, turning to fix the knights with a piercing gaze. 
    Angharad entered and knelt before the bird. Angus followed suit after a moment. Angharad offered a prayer to Bran the Blessed, and the raven laughed, a harsh choking noise. "A strip of a girl remembers the old ways," it said, "And yet I see her purpose plain. A return of the ornament that brings our end. Why, girl-knight?" 
    Angharad bristled and promptly succeeded at a Proud roll that gave her a BIG penalty to her Religion (Pagan) roll. She snarked at the raven, saying that thieves are unworthy to be companions of Bran the Blessed, which made both birds squawk in shock and anger. The raven loomed before her, its wings stretching to fill the room, dark as night. 
    "And who are you to deem me worthy or unworthy, girl?!" 
    About now, Angus spoke up. With some quick thinking, I let G roll for Falconry of all skills to try and wrestle the giant bird into submission. I let him go for it, and he managed to just barely squeak out a success. Mid-threatening croak, as the enraged faerie-raven was about to weave a spell over Angharad, Angus caught it by the wings and the feet, binding it and holding it so that it couldn't peck. The falcon flew away, laughing, and the raven, struggle though it might, couldn't get away. 
    Angus threatened it with a stew if it didn't give back the boy's crucifix and tell them what it wanted here. 
    "You dare cook the messenger of a god?!" demanded the raven. 
    "Sooth, you aren't my god," said Angus, grimly, "And if you were, I'd find a better one. Crucifix now, or we'll all be eating crow tonight." 
    The raven relented, and gestured for Angharad to find its stash in a hollow in the wall. She recovered Kay's crucifix, but as thanks left an offering of her own: a silver inkwell gifted to her by Sir Ector on her last birthday, one of her own prized possessions. The raven rumbled something about the trade being acceptable. When Angus let go, he ruffled his feathers and croaked: 
    "Change comes and the mists will fade, whether any god wills it or no. The old ways will become new, and with them comes a new world a-borning. None can stop it, but they can guide it as a skilled rider guides a newly-broken horse. Seek ye the red feather and the falcon-scribe. Find the Seven, fight the Twenty. Should ye live, ye shall guide the Dragon to his rightful place." 
    With that, the raven vanished in a puff of feathers and croaking laughter. 
    Meanwhile, on the ground floor, Rodard was busy holding forth a conversation with the ravens about the finer points of courtly etiquette and horse husbandry. When the two other knights descended the stairs, his new feathery friends left in an explosion of beating wings and caws. Rodard waved goodbye to his "new friends," and Gwenna called him an addle-pated simpleton. 
    "Simpleton I may be," replied Rodard, "But which one of us just made friends with the birds? Eh?"
    "Oh, shut-up, feather-breath..." grumbled Gwenna, unable or unwilling to come up with a comeback. 
    We ended the session a bit early due to one of the players having to go see to their spouse in an emergency. We wrapped up with Angharad handing Kay back his crucifix and warning him to not take the Old Powers lightly.
    
    Next week, we'll begin their first quest in earnest, but everyone had a grand time getting used to the basic rules. 

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The Knight Shift

Session 2 of our campaign finally started the adventure proper. I'm running a modified version of The Hunt from the core rulebook, mixed with bits of the Forest Sauvage mini-campaign from the GPC book and other encounters. We ended last session with Our Heroes recovering Kay's crucifix from the lair of one of Bran the Blessed's divine ravens, called there to pronounce a prophecy of some sort to a mysterious falcon who was overlooking Sir Ector's manor. 

The session opened with some housekeeping from the last one: I parceled out some Glory for becoming knights, with some additional Glory won by Angharad, Angus, and Rodard--none for Gwenna, because she largely stayed out of the whole thing. Angharad returned Kay's silver crucifix to him. At her prodding, he grudgingly apologized to Arthur, who grudgingly apologized right back. The brothers hugged it out, and Ector thanked his adopted daughter for her aid. Then he insisted they actually leave the manor and take up their knightly duties. 
    The Player-Knights had been tasked by Sir Ector with making a tour of Ector's vassals in the settlements surrounding his crumbling manor, Caer y Gwiberod. The Forest Sauvage is a dangerous place, full of all manner of mundane and mystical threats. What few settlements still exist within its haunted boughs face a hardscrabble existence, and need a knight's protection. The player-knights first visited Caer Town, a small village that sprung up outside the castle's walls. Sir Ector's manor sat in the center of a wide clearing about a mile across in the middle of the Forest Sauvage. Almost all the peasantry living under his direct protection raise pigs or hold small farms for him--the rest "beat the borders" and work to keep the ever-encroaching woods back. 
     They meet with the village's unofficial headman, who's also its smith. Smith mentions that they were expecting a shipment of iron a few weeks back. Without it, his forge won't be able to maintain Sir Ector (and the other knights) equipment properly, to say nothing of all the other needs a busy smithy has. According to Smith, a few courageous (or just plain greedy) merchants still brave the wild trails of the Forest Sauvage, peddling their wares between the remaining villages at extortionate rates. Smith has petitioned Sir Ector many times to get the merchants to lower their prices, but to no avail. 

The Knights agreed to keep an eye out for the iron if they could on their travels. Next, they headed for the tiny village of Grantham, known for its carpentry. I had the Knights all make a Hunting check at -15 (per the GPC guide on the Forest Sauvage), since this was their first time heading out without Sir Ector to guide them. Only Gwenna succeeded, leading the other three Knights to stumble off the path. 
     The Knights wandered aimlessly through seemingly endless, winding paths of undergrowth and grasping branches. As the day waned on, a clinging mist rose up from the forest floor, blanketing everything in ghostly fog, through which ghostly shapes could be seen. Dame Angharad found herself following a strange light in the fog (critically failing her Prudent roll AND her Faerie Lore roll), hoping that it was a torch held by one of her companions. Angus found himself leading his horse on foot through thick bracken, in wide circles. Rodard realized (succeeding at his Prudent check) that the best thing to do would be to stay put and call out for his comrades. So he did. 
     T made the very smart choice to tie up Dame Gwenna's horse on the path near a handy landmark, and try to find her friends. I let Gwenna make another hunting roll. She failed, but then Sir Rodard let her use one of his prophecy re-rolls he got from befriending the ravens in the last session--a critical success! I allowed Dame Gwenna to pick which knight she found first. She chose Rodard, who helped her (thanks to some inspiration from his Love (Family) passion) find Sir Angus. By that point, Angus's horse had run off and he was still tromping in circles trying to get it. About then, they heard a scream. 
    
    
During all this, Dame Angharad followed the witch-light to a mist-shrouded clearing. As the mist parted, she caught short glimpses of moss-covered bones. The place stank with the rot of death and decay. Angharad drew her sword--and there was an earsplitting shriek! Angharad failed her Horsemanship roll to get control of her mount and was thrown off, taking a little bit of damage and losing grip on her blade. She searched for it through the boneyard on her hands and knees--and about then, she saw the source of the noise: a pack of vile goblins approaching her brandishing stone weapons. In the back of the clearing, a little man about two feet tall was being menaced by a larger-than-average goblin. 
     I didn't even make Angharad roll to recognize him as a brownie. He caught her eye and begged for help. Angharad handily made her Valorous roll to keep her head. She picked up her sword, and screamed defiance at the onrushing faeries!
     About then, we started the fight. I had Angharad fight alone for the first two rounds before her allies came in to reinforce her. The first round went fairly well for her--she swung her sword wildly at the nearest goblin, damn near decapitating the thing. The goblins recoiled from her wroth, flailing ineffectually at her mail. The second round went a bit harder for her; Angharad felled another goblin--he was knocked down and decided to stay down--but three of the flesh-eating little bastards surrounded her and started beating and hacking at her. Her armor took the brunt of the damage, but things weren't looking good--she was knocked down herself under the constant assault.
     Then help arrived! Rodard charged across the clearing on his horse and slew a goblin from horseback. Angus leapt into the fray shortly thereafter, standing over his fallen comrade and skewered two more goblins with a critical success. Gwenna stayed back in the trees and provided covering fire with her bow--not dropping any goblins, but wounding them. 
     At this point, the goblins fled, swearing vengeance on the knights. Angus helped up Angharad, and Rodard helped up the Brownie, who bowed low and swore up and down to serve the heroic knights who came to his aid for this day's work. Rodard tried to politely decline before Angharad reached up and clapped a hand over his mouth, not wanting to insult the faerie for refusing his gratitude. The brownie bowed again and introduced himself as Huckleberry--he whistled, and his wife Gooseberry and their son Blackberry appeared from their hiding place in the clearing. They were traveling to see family, explained Huckleberry, when they were lost in the fog and lured to this clearing by a goblin-lantern. The goblins were about to gut Huckleberry and his family when the knights showed up and saved them. 

Blackberry and Gooseberry swiftly recovered the knights' horses from the forest and led the assembled knights back to the path. Huckleberry said he'd meet Angharad at her home when she was there next, and bade them farewell. The party continued on their travels to Grantham. 
    As the day wound to a close, the company made camp in a clearing in view of the camp. Gwenna mentioned how the forest had grown more....well...Sauvage in recent years. Even reliable paths were twisting this way and that, as though some force was overtaking them. Rodard kissed his rosary and said that the purifying light of Christ would no doubt lift the mists from these paths...which earned eyerolls and groans from the non-Christians in the company. About then, they caught eyes...red eyes, glowing in the dark, at the edge of campfire. Deep, guttural growls, like rabid animals in pain, sounded through the trees. The knights drew their weapons--and were set upon by four cow-sized, burning-eyed, razor-toothed black dogs!
     This fight was harder than the last. Gwenna was cornered up a tree, and the melee was too confusing for her to get off a clear shot. Rodard found himself fighting back-to-back with Angus, and Angharad was cornered as well on the other side of the campfire. Angharad took a nasty wound from a dog's jaws, but managed to skewer the beast in turn (surprising everyone, Angharad's the smallest and least-damaging knight on paper!), buying time for Angus to kick hot coals from the campfire into the face of his own assailant (a dishonorable tactic normally, but I allowed it with no penalty), then leap over the snorting, howling hound to Angharad's side. Together, the two of them slew their assailant. Rodard, meanwhile, lost the grip on his sword when he was knocked down by a dog and decided to grapple his foe. 
     He actually did really well! The dog rolled like *crap*, and let Rodard get it into a position where Gwenna could get a pair of arrows into its thick hide. Thus wounded, Rodard threw the beast into the fire, which went out. Now, their fight was only lit by the stinking blaze of a burning faerie-hound. Unfortunately, about then, Gwenna's black dog leapt up and dragged her out of the tree, injuring her on the way down. 
     Fortunately, Angharad jumped on the thing's back and split its head in two with its sword. 
     The fight was over, and everyone was more-or-less okay. They quickly took the bodies of the hounds deeper into the woods, lit the fire, and dressed their now more considerable wounds. Grantham would be reached tomorrow, and they'd have discharged part of their duties.

The next morning, the knights' horses were miraculously still there. They'd found their armor cleaned and their swords sharpened, probably thanks to Huckleberry and family. Angharad left out a portion of their breakfast to the faeries in payment, and they continued on. 
    They were waylaid by ghosts a little further down the path to Grantham. Swirling apparitions of men clad in furs, daubed in whorls of blue paint, appeared from the mist and howled "THIS IS NOT FOR YOU! TURN BACK! RETURN WHAT WAS STOLEN AND TURN BACK!"
    The heroes paused, and then H asked if he could have Sir Rodard make a Pious check to try and turn the undead spirits from their path. I let him try at a -10 penalty because this isn't Dungeons & Dragons and it doesn't work like that, but he still made the roll by about 2 points, the lucky bastard. Rodard calmly rode forward towards the phantoms, intoning the Lord's Prayer. Turned aside by his faith in God Almighty, the ancient ghosts could do little else but shriek at the knights as they took the fork in the path towards Grantham. Along the way, they passed a great hill...a burial mound of ancient days. The brush around the base of the mound looked disturbed, revealing an old, overgrown rocky path up the side of the hill. Gwenna (correctly) predicted that someone had most likely done a little bit of grave robbing, which had stirred up the spirits of those interred in the mound. 
    "Then we'd best find the robbers and put them to rights," said Rodard, consigning the company to yet another side quest. The others agreed, and rode on to Grantham. Grantham was a small village in a wide clearing, at the foot of the burial mound. The peasants there made a decent living through charcoal burning and woodworking, and each one was a devout adherent to the Old Ways of paganism. They gratefully accepted the knights at a fine, yet rustic banquet. During the meal, the village elder regaled the Player-Knights with tales of woe: bandits had crept from the forests of late, robbing what few travelers come across the path and extorting the villagers under threat of violence. Lately, the bandit chieftain (a huge man called the "Stag Knight") had taken to forcing the villagers to dig up the nearby burial mound. This desecration has filled the wood nearby with angry ghosts, who became even more enraged after the Stag Knight stole every scrap of silver and gold he could from the mound and left it open to whatever scavengers would come in after him. 
    We ended the session after that, with the Knights agreeing that they'd keep an eye out for the bandits. Dames Angharad and Gwenna were already formulating a plan to root out and end the bandit threat once and for all.

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