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Some scattered thoughts and considerations for a campaign beginning later - around the 13th century maybe

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So I've been thinking a bit about this recently and I'd like to know if you fellas have suggestions, but mostly I think better by writing stuff down and bouncing it from others.

Firstly, I'm really not a big fan of how the Saxons are basically low-tech vikings and the whole vibe of fending off these foreign invaders. I've GMed a couple of campaigns to different groups of players and in all of them, battle against the Saxon Invader was always the weakest theme and the one everyone was the least interested in.

As it happens, I've been reading T.H. White's The Once and Future King, and that one takes place in the 13th century. T.H. White says that Uther lived around 200 years and that the other monarchs from the period were mythical - which also sounds like something Terry Pratchett would have said, "the chroniclers made up a line of kings because they were embarrassed that they wouldn't be taken seriously because the king just didn't die."

T.H. White emphasizes the "racial" (in his words) conflict between the native Saxons and Gaels against the Anglo-Norman nobility, which isn't something I'd particularly love to emphasize, but this idea that Arthur has a vision of a better tomorrow and his existential threats are mainly angry barons and people that refuse to change is quite appealing to me, so I'd like to focus on that.

So, thinking in terms of the GPC, some of the biggest events that would probably need to change or remain, at first glance:

  • Badon and that whole business - Not a huge fan of Colgrin and the other saxons that show up a couple years before Badon. I would probably switch this for the business with Accolon and Morgaine, perhaps give the players a golden chance of not separating Arthur from his scabbard and really mess up the timeline. Maybe drag some of the events from the Conquest to happen earlier and age Arthur up a bit to 18 or 21.
  • Anglia Uprising and the invasion of the Irish and Picts - This can easily be swapped by these barons revolting, respectively. Would be even better if it's put a bit earlier because it can be part of the turmoil of Lot's coalition of disgruntled vassals. The suppression of the Irish in this period can be a bit of... poor taste, so to speak, and I wouldn't want for a parallel to be drawn between Arthur and Cromwell, so maybe forget a bit about that.
  • Galeholt / Galehaut - I don't like Mallory's treatment of Galehaut, I'll just say this. But what would he be king of? I think the Chivalricness of it all should be embraced and just say that there's a bunch of islands somewhere around Britain, and that's where he hails from. Or perhaps he's not from an island at all and rather he's Scandinavian, hence the "half giant" thing.
  • Arthur conquers the French, the Romans, and becomes king of the world and president of the USA - I do like the globetrotting you get to do during this part of the campaign, and there were quite a few spats between France and the then-Angevin Empire if we're going with 13th century, but I suppose it's probably easier to switch this for a Crusade like Paladin does. Maybe the Albigensian Crusade? There are Historians who believe the whole thing was a sham and a power grab, so Arthur speaking up for freedom of religion - or at least against potential genocide - seems fitting for the current characterisation. Or perhaps diplomatic missions as Arthur tries to make friends around the world. That's closer to Charlemagne but whatever lol my players don't much care for old Charlie
  • Afterwards - After the Conquest Period the game returns to Britain and there isn't much that needs to change there. What's up with Lancelot being king of France, though? I'm not sure I can solve that one. Perhaps he's actually a duke instead? Gotta think more on that.
  • Evolution of equipment - It' pretty cool that you start the campaign and better and better equipment presents itself slowly, but idk, I wouldn't really mind staying roughly on the same anachronistic tech for the duration of the thing. I'd probably make it real anachronistic, like Dolmenwood, and put in pocket watches, maybe even coats and stuff like that. I worry about the tik tik boom of these later periods though, every long fight I've had where the guys keep hitting one another, landing, but not doing actual damage have been frustrating. Maybe incorporate Paladin's weapon / armour degradation? Or something like Worlds Without Number's Shock, where every hit does a little bit of damage even if the armour protects you? Gotta think more on that.

That's about what I have for now. Anything else I should consider, some thoughts?

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Follow-up that I somehow forgot to mention: I was reading this AskHistorians thread right before writing all of this, arguing for the continuity of power between the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans. I'm not sure about the connection, perhaps something to do with Uther? Arthur's father doesn't really need to be called Uther, him being called, idk, "Henry" doesn't change things that much. Not to me, at least.

Another thing: noble houses. I'd love to put in a bit more on bloodlines and houses instead of disparate clans like the De Ganis, De Gales, and the Orkneys. I don't think that would need to be systemised at all, it just comes down to narrative focus.

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3 minutes ago, Squaredeal Sten said:

Just one suggestion. Minor in comparison to tbe time and setting changes you have already planned: Run it to the 16th century and make matchlock muskets available.  🙂

There's definitely mechanical precedent for that, but I'm afraid that would change warfare quite a bit.

Or maybe not! I'm really not a military history guy so I have no idea how close warfare in the 1500's was to warfare in the 1200's / 1300's lol

That said I did have in mind that instead of new tech being, like, plate armour, it would be something more like "by the way Arthur was patron of this guy and he just invented the printing press real quick."

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Posted (edited)

It would be relatively simple to recast the Roman War as simply the Hundred Years' War, albeit more successful and faster.

Roman envoys demanding tribute = French envoys demanding that Arthur does homage over Guyenne / Aquitaine
Arthur refuses and claims overlordship over most of France, based on not only the Plantagenet bloodline, but also his mother's inheritance as the senior royal branch.
Big battlefield wins later, Arthur finalizes the Treaty of Bretigny equivalent and annexes roughly a quarter of France (although I would be tempted to go full Angevin empire on this one). Or you can go for Henry V and claim the French crown for himself, too.

So rather than 1200s (which was pretty bad for England, on the whole, what with John I and Henry III and Simon de Montfort's rebellion, until future Edward I salvaged the crown), it would be more like mid-1300s with Arthur as Edward III.

It is doable, especially if you don't mind telescoping some things, like taking Simon de Montfort's rebellion as a stand-in for Lot & rebel kings against Arthur. But you are definitely needing to do a lot of adapting if you wish to run your version of the GPC. On the other hand, if all you want is some chivalric adventures, then the setting matters much less, and Romance & Tournament are already more or less high/late medieval, with Saxons mostly out of sight (except in Anglia, but you can recast that as a Peasants' Revolt against a tyrannical Duke).

Edited by Morien
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