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Sir Mad Munkee

What to do with wives?

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In 480, their first year after getting their spurs, 3 of my 4 player-knights married. Apart from making sure they understand they won't be getting that much Glory every year, I've been mulling over how I want to deal with their wives...

In most Pendragon games I've played or heard about, wives are basically just an APP stat and Stewardship skill, maybe also First Aid and/or Chirurgery, and that's it. We'll see how much or and my players want to involve the wives in the game, but working on a sheet to keep track of the ladies, I became curious: how have you GMed wives in your games?

Call me a feminist, but I'm considering having tick boxes on the wives' Traits, Passions & Skills, and giving them annual Glory, as if they were actually people. Maybe it'll be a pain in the ass and just stretch out the Winter Phase too long, but I like the idea of wives who might possibly change over time, and not just in that they automatically get better at doing the things their husbands need them to.

Have you dealt with any of this yourself already?

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For the most part wives have been NPCs and background characters. Occassionally they have been NPCs and signficant characters. Very rarely player characters. 

For the most part they just don't have that much to do, or at least what my players find interesting. Most of my players would rather go on a quest to win glory improve skills and traits, and maybe bring home some treasure, and someone making a Fashion roll to find a new pair of shoes just doesn't cut it.

For the most part you're probably going into more detail than you will have a use for. Book of the Entourage puts them in the same league as squires, by tracking a few important skills and glossing over the other details. Unless a wife has the gentlewoman or religious bonus, annual glory will probably be so low as to not really matter. In play the difference between 2247 glory and 2793 isn't important. 

If you want to make more interesting wives, then I suggest you make them more interesting before the PKs marry them. Find something about them that could lead to adventures and story situations and work on that stuff first. Then she can be prominent enough to merit the attention. 

In my campaign I have three such NPCs at the moment. One was a widow who while not the prettiest woman at court, was one of the shrewdest. A PK worked to win her hand (mostly by defending her manor when it got raided) and she occasionally has given ther player good advice for things to do to improve his social status, find good matches for his sons and so forth. Another is a pagan witch who the PKs have interacted with on a few adventures (next year she is bringing them into the Adventure of the White Horse), who can make healing oitments, and regularly goes off to the feast of Gofannon in order to maintain her youth. The third is a Berroc Saxon tomboy who rather wear a coat of mail than a dress who fought alongside the PKs during a siege. I have a forth such character who one of the PKs did marry, but she was too meek to be more than just "a good wife" once married. 

Most of the PK wives though are just background dressing. Don't waste time on them if they are just going to be boring. 

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13 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

If you want to make more interesting wives, then I suggest you make them more interesting before the PKs marry them. Find something about them that could lead to adventures and story situations and work on that stuff first. Then she can be prominent enough to merit the attention.

Too late! 😆3 out of 4 PKs married (random) in our second session.

But otherwise, good advice. 👍

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Something I've been contemplating trying out: use the Lady character generation rules and have the players roll up a background character as another player's wife. They can Winter Phase their character, have some say and autonomy in decisions involving the husband-knight's estate, and even bring the character to the forefront for selected scenarios.

(Idea somewhat inspired by the concept of the Shadow in Wraith, if you're familiar with that game—though hopefully less adversarial!)

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1 hour ago, sirlarkins said:

use the Lady character generation rules and have the players roll up a background character as another player's wife

This is my preferred method, both for wives and squires.  You do not get to be both the PK and an associated character, whether squire or wife.  BUT, another player's is perfectly ok.  Greg also mentioned he would prefer this.

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2 hours ago, Sir Mad Munkee said:

Too late! 😆3 out of 4 PKs married (random) in our second session.

But otherwise, good advice. 👍

Well you can retcon them into more interesting characters, assuming you haven't done much with them yet. 

One of the thing's I've been doing with the wives is using them to find marriage prospects for the children. These can be random rolls on the marriage tables, and/or potential role-play opportunities, which then get sent to the PKS either by handout or email.  

Traits, passions, high skill scores, and magic all can turn a wife into something special, and lead to plot hooks that can make her more than a baby factory. 

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I always have wives and lovers as fully realized characters, played either by me as GM or another player (so long as they're ok with that). It's pretty important thematically for the "Romance Phase" and onwards, at any rate, that love interests have autonomy. Give spouses jobs at Camelot (ladies in waiting, for example), or make them act like the many wayward and strong-minded women of the romances, instead of ciphers.

Random characters can be fleshed out and developed as well... Make sure you know basic facts about who they are: who are their brothers, sisters, parents? These people are also a part of the extended family and can provide adventurous motivations (or problems).

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4 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

If you want to make more interesting wives, then I suggest you make them more interesting before the PKs marry them. Find something about them that could lead to adventures and story situations and work on that stuff first. Then she can be prominent enough to merit the attention. 

This tends to be what happens in our games.

I use my own wife generator to get an idea what kind of personality the wife candidates have, and then go with that. Flirting rolls and other courtship establishes the initial relationship level, and subsequent happenings can change this. For instance, one PK sister made it pretty plain that she wasn't interested in the suitor (another PK), but the PKs decided to have  the marriage go ahead anyway. Needless to say, a rather unhappy, tragic marriage. Another PK sister wasn't too thrilled about the new husband, but lo and behold, a family event happened to turn her head. A third one was threatened by her sister (a female knight) to marry her pal, or get thee into a nunnery. Thankfully, the new husband proved to be a softy, spoiling the new wife with gifts, so she ended up quite happy in the end. So far, none of them have gone as far as to knife or poison their husbands in their sleep...

4 hours ago, sirlarkins said:

Something I've been contemplating trying out: use the Lady character generation rules and have the players roll up a background character as another player's wife. They can Winter Phase their character, have some say and autonomy in decisions involving the husband-knight's estate, and even bring the character to the forefront for selected scenarios.

If you really want to make the wives interesting, this is the way to do it. However, you need to be sure that the players are onboard with it, too, and put aside some more time for the RP.

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41 minutes ago, Morien said:

This tends to be what happens in our games.

I use my own wife generator to get an idea what kind of personality...

I've seen that online. I was thinking that it could be interesting if that were mixed in with Book of Entourage somehow.. 

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5 hours ago, sirlarkins said:

Something I've been contemplating trying out: use the Lady character generation rules and have the players roll up a background character as another player's wife. They can Winter Phase their character, have some say and autonomy in decisions involving the husband-knight's estate, and even bring the character to the forefront for selected scenarios.

The question is what can they do during the Winter Phase besides rolls for aging and skill improvement? I think they would need to be something to cover courtly behavior and some new ways for women to gain glory. Like maybe glory for being best dressed at court (fashion +1 per   £ spent, up to 10), the most courtesy (courtesy) and so forth. 

Feasts help. Perhaps some sort of way to gain favor at court which their husbands could use to their benefit? Like maybe a modifier to rolls when interacting at Court, like Geniality points (Favor Points?) that the wives could build up and that their husbands could spend to their benefit, either to influence rolls at court, marriage prospects and so forth.  Basically I think there needs to be something for the women to do, and a way for that to affect the rest of game somehow. 

I don't know how the Book of the Magician will do it, but the occasional adventure where a wife takes over could add something. In the stories lots of quests are driven by women and it could be a nice card to give women to play. Likewise a lot of the romance revolves around carrying a lady's favor at a tournament, and that could be played up a bit more. 

Also, just how much say could a wife have if a PK wanted to do something?  She might be able to voice her opinion but if the husband says, "I want to build a ...." what can she do about it. 

All in all it's a great idea that long overdue, but it really needs to be fleshed out a lot more to make it worthwhile. In KAP4 several players tried playing wives but they just sort of did nothing most of the time, because the adventures weren't designed for them. 

 

 

Edited by Atgxtg

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Historically, wives of Knights and nobles were often Castellans, they were in charge of the knight's castle and its defence while the knight was away. I can see that working in Pendragon.

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16 hours ago, sirlarkins said:

Something I've been contemplating trying out: use the Lady character generation rules and have the players roll up a background character as another player's wife.

Oh yeah, I like this a lot. :)

I’m sort of hovering between fleshing then out like full-on lady characters like in BoK&L, and the cardboard cut-out skill rolling baby factory default. I don’t think I want full on PC wives, but a _bit_ more than a Stewardship skill also seems more fun.

Here’s my first version of a wife sheet, scaled down from the PK sheet but scaled up from the default.

 

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Looks nice. Suggestion:  Put at least one blank line on the skill section to take into account Family Characteristic or personal choices.

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Pretty much in full agreement with Atgxtg's excellent post. Just to bring up a couple of additional comments:

16 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Feasts help. Perhaps some sort of way to gain favor at court which their husbands could use to their benefit? Like maybe a modifier to rolls when interacting at Court, like Geniality points (Favor Points?) that the wives could build up and that their husbands could spend to their benefit, either to influence rolls at court, marriage prospects and so forth.  Basically I think there needs to be something for the women to do, and a way for that to affect the rest of game somehow.  

Feasts help tremendously, if you allow some skill use and give out Glory for successes.

My homebrew Feast system got started primarily to make things more interested to one Lady character (more of that below).

Some features (nowadays):

1. Spring court generally has a chance to roll 6 or so skills, successes of which bring APP worth of Glory.

2. A critical APP+(Glory/1000) roll gives a chance to have a 'special encounter'. In short, it is something the PKs can use to get a good marriage, etc.

Ladies tend to start with high Glory and also higher courtly skills, in general, than knights, leading to more Glory and chances for special encounters they can use to advance their agenda.

16 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

All in all it's a great idea that long overdue, but it really needs to be fleshed out a lot more to make it worthwhile. In KAP4 several players tried playing wives but they just sort of did nothing most of the time, because the adventures weren't designed for them.  

Very much agreed. The Lady player mentioned above was enjoying the other, non-adventure RP more, since most Adventurers tended to devolve into 'hit the big monster until it stops moving', and afterwards she could roll First Aid and Chirurgery on those who needed it. She ended up going on adventures to 'keep the idiots alive'.

She ended up as a bit of a femme fatale: Agravaine's mistress and the reason why Orkneys turned against Guinever, hence causing the fall of the Round Table. She didn't mean to, mind you. Thanks to being a lady, she survived her youth as the 'tomboyish little sister' to become 'Lady Aunt' to her young nephews, and arguably the most powerful Lady in Salisbury, overseeing not only her own dynasty but that of the other PKs as well.

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5 hours ago, soltakss said:

Historically, wives of Knights and nobles were often Castellans, they were in charge of the knight's castle and its defence while the knight was away. I can see that working in Pendragon.

Yeah except castles are somewhat rare in Pendragon. Yeah wives can defend the manor if it gets attacked but that won't happen all that often, and when it does the usual response is going to be to hole up in the manor and wait for the raiders to go away. Strill it's something fore them to do.

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On 4/2/2019 at 4:11 PM, Atgxtg said:

I've seen that online. I was thinking that it could be interesting if that were mixed in with Book of Entourage somehow.. 

Shout out as well to Ikabodo's wife table, which is sufficiently different in mechanics and results that it deserves a comparing look. 

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56 minutes ago, Khanwulf said:

Shout out as well to Ikabodo's wife table, which is sufficiently different in mechanics and results that it deserves a comparing look. 

And a good laugh. "Childbearing Hips", "Huge Tracts..of Land" , the Ugly Truth. Funny. 

What about some sort of wife card game where the wives score points that they can use to buy favors and influence things at court. Something like building up a pol of points that could saved and then spent as modifiers to court related die rolls ? 

 

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15 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

And a good laugh. "Childbearing Hips", "Huge Tracts..of Land" , the Ugly Truth. Funny. 

What about some sort of wife card game where the wives score points that they can use to buy favors and influence things at court. Something like building up a pol of points that could saved and then spent as modifiers to court related die rolls ? 

 

Let's admit it: we're all thinking Python when it comes to marriage.

Anyway, for a "wife game" you have to account for influence (literally the exercise of power through influence instead of authority) in different domains: household, county court, king's court, family, allies, husband. You could have the wife card game develop these and then depending on husband relationship they could be spent on things that help him (the knight). Or, they could be spent on things that help her if that relationship isn't strong enough (you'd not know which until drawn on).

Hitch here is that activities that increase husband relationship with wife take her time away from building other areas, as well as his time and money. This is expensive.

 

--Khanwulf

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14 minutes ago, Khanwulf said:

Anyway, for a "wife game" you have to account for influence (literally the exercise of power through influence instead of authority) in different domains: household, county court, king's court, family, allies, husband. You could have the wife card game develop these and then depending on husband relationship they could be spent on things that help him (the knight). Or, they could be spent on things that help her if that relationship isn't strong enough (you'd not know which until drawn on).

Hitch here is that activities that increase husband relationship with wife take her time away from building other areas, as well as his time and money. This is expensive.

Yeah, that roughly the idea. If whatever the wives do can affect the rest of the game then it will be significant. Otherwise it just fades tot he background. I 'm thinking some sort of pool of points that the PK can spend when making rolls at court to get permission from the lord for things, to help in getting a desired position or assignment, a modifier on the marriage table (for children), maybe some extra glory,  and so forth. 

The game would represent the wives jocking for position at court, competing with each other and  teaming up against each other to try and accomplish things. 

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1 hour ago, Atgxtg said:

Yeah, that roughly the idea. If whatever the wives do can affect the rest of the game then it will be significant. Otherwise it just fades tot he background. I 'm thinking some sort of pool of points that the PK can spend when making rolls at court to get permission from the lord for things, to help in getting a desired position or assignment, a modifier on the marriage table (for children), maybe some extra glory,  and so forth. 

The game would represent the wives jocking for position at court, competing with each other and  teaming up against each other to try and accomplish things. 

Yes, a kind of bid system, where the wives can intervene and provide supportive bonuses (or penalties--that their husbands may or may not find out about... Intrigue!). 

If another lady counter-bids then you have intrigue in play as well as whatever skill the wife is using, and the possibility of Hate (maybe... "Rival"?) passions developing that can affect later knightly reactions.

"I'd really like to help you but you know how she hates your sister-in-law...."

"Yeah... maybe we ask the Earl if we can host a joint feast at Sarum?"

Ladies in court get Glory for accomplishing these kinds of things as well, which directly translates of course into courtly prestige and bonuses to making other actions.

You could back it all up with a Court Events Deck of matters that can be dealt with by ladies and decided with their influence on knights/men. I mean, sure there's always the opportunity to get brutish and duel your way "out" of trouble, but that can and should only lead to larger issues down the road.

And yes, it can even impact the childbirth table. I mean if you have an excellent relationship with your wife she's going to be more interested in providing heirs versus pursuing other distractions. Or... providing distractions.

 

--Khanwulf

PS. Can we tell I'm fond of deck mechanics? But you could just roll on tables and refer to paragraphs for events as easily, and that would let you segregate events by type (of, say, the six areas mentioned above) if called for.

 

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1 hour ago, Khanwulf said:

Yes, a kind of bid system, where the wives can intervene and provide supportive bonuses (or penalties--that their husbands may or may not find out about... Intrigue!). 

YUp. Although with the way you describred things maybe I would be better if there were specific benefits that the wives could vie for rather than just a generic pool of bonus modifiers? That way they could work deals like "You help my husband become Castellan of Devizes and I'll put in a good word for your son with Lady Gyniss so he can get her two manors".

 

1 hour ago, Khanwulf said:

PS. Can we tell I'm fond of deck mechanics? But you could just roll on tables and refer to paragraphs for events as easily, and that would let you segregate events by type (of, say, the six areas mentioned above) if called for.

I think the decks are both\ easier to use, because you don't have to have the table sour, and the can have the details on the card, plus the cards don't require a certain number of events (It's had to do 22 different things with dice), and can be held from round to round to be used later. 

 

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17 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

would be better if there were specific benefits that the wives could vie for rather than just a generic pool of bonus modifiers?

These could be made more generic to be placed on a card. For example, roll for #####. If successful, gains bonus to one of PK's goals while agreeing that the PK will support NPC Sir/Dame in their goal. 

The idea is the PK gets a bonus, but in return, must support a NPC character in reaching his or her goal as well.  That way, the gm can further plots down the road.

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38 minutes ago, Hzark10 said:

These could be made more generic to be placed on a card. For example, roll for #####. If successful, gains bonus to one of PK's goals while agreeing that the PK will support NPC Sir/Dame in their goal. 

The idea is the PK gets a bonus, but in return, must support a NPC character in reaching his or her goal as well.  That way, the gm can further plots down the road.

Yeah, although it could be between two PKs, and maybe some sort of annual court events table (like the family events table) to see how the PKs/wifes standing is at court that year, reflecting all the intrigue and gossip. Perhaps something like a +/- modifier to court actions?

Perhaps geniality earned at a feast count be spent to shift that. So a knight (or wife) who impressed the liege at a feast could shift their favor a step or so?

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Granted.  But, the gm then needs to make sure the mutual supporting actions furthers the campaign's goals and not get out of hand.

Tying it into Geniality at feasts would be cool, but that requires purchase of the same.  Not everyone will have it, so optional usage rules need to be included.

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2 hours ago, Hzark10 said:

Granted.  But, the gm then needs to make sure the mutual supporting actions furthers the campaign's goals and not get out of hand.

Yup, much like any "add-on". That is unless it's an all wives campaign, if that were possible.. 

2 hours ago, Hzark10 said:

Tying it into Geniality at feasts would be cool, but that requires purchase of the same.  Not everyone will have it, so optional usage rules need to be included.

So that's what two paragraphs? Its' not a hard stat to port over nor does it have very complicated rules. PKs accumulate it, it applies a modifier to courtly skills, and then they get glory from it. So not that hard to include. The reason why I suggested Generality it that it would eliminate the need to track a new stat that is going to do much of the same thing,. It would need to be expanded into some sort of favor system, but I think a wives game would need something like that. 

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