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British vs Arthurian Geography


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Pendragon and the GPC are very much based in Britain (with excursions overseas), with an emphasis on journey and travel through various real-world locales.

On the other hand, the more I dive into the source material, the more knights seem to walk out of Camelot and end up in the mythical Red Land or something, unmoored from geography.

There might be some places that are better suited for such adventures - Cambria, Cumbria, the Forest Sauvage - but I'm still trying to wrap my head around how this might work in terms of adventures. How strictly do you adhere to real-world geography in your campaigns?

As a side note, I'm also curious as to where people have placed some "floating locations" such as Uther's Shame and Dolorous Garde. I'd like to place them in advance, so players can run into them before they become famous.

How have you handled this?

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23 minutes ago, SaxBasilisk said:

There might be some places that are better suited for such adventures - Cambria, Cumbria, the Forest Sauvage - but I'm still trying to wrap my head around how this might work in terms of adventures. How strictly do you adhere to real-world geography in your campaigns?

Pretty strictly. On the other hand, my players have access to 'fast travel' and 'skip cutscene' buttons when it comes to traveling. If I want them to get to the Kingdom of the Circle of Gold quickly so that I can GM the darn adventure, I am not spending time on random encounters of detailing each day of travel. Instead, it is "Two Weeks Later" followed by the start of the adventure.

Now if the journey itself is the adventure (such as what I did with Morgan's Wedding), then yeah, I am having encounters along the way for the PKs to deal with.

23 minutes ago, SaxBasilisk said:

As a side note, I'm also curious as to where people have placed some "floating locations" such as Uther's Shame and Dolorous Garde. I'd like to place them in advance, so players can run into them before they become famous.

Uther's Shame is pretty much famous from the get-go, since it gets built as the consequence of the duel with Uther. I thought it already has a place set in BoU? Ah, I see it has been left open. However, "Red Tower" is Kenilworth in p. 133, so "Red Tower Bridge" might be something close to it. Maybe a bridge crossing River Avon, just south of Lambor, along Fosse Way.

As for Dolorous Garde, it is pinpointed in GPC, I am pretty sure. Yep. map on p. 182.

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I think it depends on how you handle your game year. My groups always did 1 session = 1 year, and usually about 4 hours of play per session. So, we tended to not spend time on the journey to our destinations, unless the journey was the destination, as it were. We'd play "travel music" and one player had coconut shells to simulate horse galloping sounds. It lasted about 20 seconds and then we were at our destination. 🙂

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My plan is to include lots of gossip and local color that gets distributed during the Winter Phase when everybody is at home, listening to the troubadours and traveling tinkers. It'll include things like: "Aye, sir, I saw a Black Dog when I was passing the ruins of Elbreth Manor! Sure as the sun is in the sky! Now, how about I sell you a pot?" Or: "I heard Sir Goofus was going to a tryst in the Sagramore Wood and a Giant snatched him up and ate him!" "Serves him right, the lout! He never spoke to me after our wonderful night together!" In this way, I plan to distribute information the player knights can use the following session to direct me where they want to go. Maybe they feel they can get more glory fighting Giants than jousting at a crossroads.

Edited by AlHazred
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ROLAND VOLZ

Running: nothing | Playing: Battletech Hero, CoC 7th Edition, Blades in the Dark | Planning: D&D 5E Home Game, Operation: Sprechenhaltestelle, HeroQuest 1E Sartarite Campaign

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16 hours ago, SaxBasilisk said:

Just as clarification - I have no trouble in handwaving travel times and the like. I'm just curious as to how the geography is handled for some of the more unusual encounters.

Depends on the encounter.

Faerie (including enchanted forests) is nice, since you can get away with plenty of geographic shenanigans there. Our Kingdom of the Circle of Gold is somewhere in Arden Forest, and there is a strong implication that it is bigger on the inside. That is to say, you could probably ride around its circumference on the outside in a day, but traveling through the place is more like 3 days. I have condensed it a bit since the original travel time of about a week to travel to the city was a bit too much, IMHO... you can travel pretty much the length of Logres in a week.

Listeneisse is another place where normal geographic rules need not apply.

Other than those two, though, places exist in our Pendragon world and are geographically consistent. Sure, you can get lost in a forest, but if you suddenly find yourself in another kingdom within a day's ride of Camelot, you can be pretty sure that either someone cast some magical portal spell on you or you slipped into Faerie by mistake.

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I’m vague — there are no maps for players to consult, and we can explicitly fit an infinite number of kingdoms in Wales and northern England/southern Scotland.  Inevitably, though, I end up saying things like, “Rydychan’s basically Oxfordshire,” and because I am very definitely *not* worrying about the annoying official map of invented counties, my implied picture probably ends up closer to the real historical counties than the official map.

I have some sympathy with Mr. Stafford’s attempt to rename everything, although I would have preferred more romantic names than have almost everything have a transparent meaning in English.  Where I think it doesn’t work is that it’s still pegged to the real-world geography, so that one is endlessly looking up what the hell X is in the back of the books.  If it had been combined with a shift to the vague and fantastic geography of the sources, I think it would work better for me personally — although that would be quite a radical change to the game, and one out of tune with the tendency towards “quasi-realistic simulation of actual later medieval England.”

I am definitely intending to have story-driven geography once we hit the Tournament/Romance periods.  The moment everything is about Adventure, not war, I think it makes for sense normal concepts of distance and whether or not there are mountains, etc., to go out the window.  If I need to justify it, “Umm, Enchantment of Britain, [mumble mumble].”

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am a bit of a stickler for geography in my own campaign. I constantly consult several maps and maintain a few for me to keep track of landholdings and points of interest. For the most part this is just to keep things straight within my own head as I plan into the future and try to connect things - abstracted locations don't work for my brain unfortunately. For weird places, I am fine with just saying "in the woods/fae", but for most places I try to maintain a static location. Basically I try to do a few things:

  1. I try to adhere to travel restrictions if its appropriate.
    1. If the adventure or task at hand is time sensitive, I try to account for travel times and distances between locations. For example, getting word that Salisbury is under attack while you are off around London means that whoever is attacking Salisbury has had a good deal of time to ransack the county before you can ride there. It takes time to react to these events, and rewards planning in advance. In the same vein, mustering an army to fight someone who's arrived on your doorstep also takes time.
    2. If the time doesn't matter though, I ignore it. Oh you travel to Levcomagus? Yeah some time goes by and your there. You send messages to contacts to round up a few extra knights for an adventure? Sure, soon enough they arrive at your doorstep ready to fight. Unless there is a reason to bring attention to the travel times, I ignore it.
  2. I try to make armies react to the existing geography and fortifications in their campaign.
    1. This I haven't has as much opportunity to really play with in my campaign, but for the most part I try to have armies make decisions that account for local terrain and settlements. Specific areas of Logres boast much better forts than other areas, and for future army campaigns, I plan to incorporate them into the adventure rather than have them be ignored. Going around a fort is always viable (good thing forts dont move!), but you risk their garrison harassing you. Assaulting them is also very costly of course. I want to draw attention to specific places rather than generic areas, and forts make natural focal points for combat and such. Reading through Book of Warlord showed just how many cool and important places there are that are ignored in GPC adventures/battles as written. If there is a massive DV26 fort in the way between your army and your goal, it has got to impact your military campaign at least somewhat - maybe the battle takes place near there instead, maybe forces need to be sacrificed to maintain a siege?
  3. I maintain my own maps that I can edit and revise as the campaign progresses.
    1. This helps keep a handy reference for where things are and I can easily consult them to decide if the geography will matter for the adventure. If an adventure describes a new location that isn't on my map, I add it. If it doesn't say where it is in relation to other places, I usually just put it somewhere that's a bit empty on the map and try to account for the local geography in my descriptions of it. If its an explicitly fae or weird location, I'll just say its in the forest and the player's need to make a few checks to see how easily they track it down each time they try to visit. To me, the fae is in its own dimension - it doesnt follow the rules I apply for the rest of the geography, it is a realm subject to the whims of my own creativity (or laziness haha!)
    2. This map is explicitly not an in-universe resource. Its just there for me and my PKs to reference and get a better OOC idea of the world their characters inhabit. So I can frequently adjust things without worrying about tearing the world apart and can add new locations as required by the narrative.
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On 3/11/2022 at 6:24 AM, SaxBasilisk said:

There might be some places that are better suited for such adventures - Cambria, Cumbria, the Forest Sauvage - but I'm still trying to wrap my head around how this might work in terms of adventures. How strictly do you adhere to real-world geography in your campaigns?

Do not get too hung-up over it SB.  Everyone knows that Arthur's reign is one where the faeries interfere in the world, and they play havoc with human perceptions of place etc.  Knights are challenged by faerie knights, and often geography takes on a misty unreal nature where bizarre things occur.  Maps are needed when knights start marching armies or need to get to a specific place, but they can be abducted away to faerie at any time.  The difference with Knights and your average Missing 411 is that knights are well armed, and they know faeries exist, and the knights come armed with strong and indomitable spirits as well.

When dealing with matters historical, political, and economic, maps are very important.  When dealing with adventures, maps can be important, but the narrative is always key, and if the characters can't find their way back afterwards, well, it must have been faeries.

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