The Great Pendragon Campaign: 485, Part II
We picked up where we left off, the next morning. One of the players, Hewgon, was going to be absent, which was just great, because Hewgon is known for his recklessness, so I narrated him charging off in search of the bear on his own.
A few of the players were running behind, so we started without them. Gracian, Morganor, and Bersules went on the hunt, with Old Garr and a bunch of peasants with dogs. Gracian led the hunt, making his hunting roll.
At some point Oliver showed up, and his recklessness also made him set off on his own. He made his own hunting roll, which succeeded, but not as good as Gracian’s so Gracian found the bear first. Also Leander showed up, so he was with the main group.
In the sample first adventure, there’s this whole progress marker thing of making checks and filling in progress bubbles, and you have a limited number of checks based on the number of hours of sunlight remaining, which is interesting, but I much prefer single-roll resolution whenever possible.
The bear was found and the hunting party ambushed it, and killed it really easy. Being targeted by multiple attackers is really bad, because you have to split your skill. This was a particularly tough bear, with a Claws skill of 15, but being attacked by four people at a time meant I split my skill in four parts. I chose to split it 2/2/2/9, so I could mostly focus on one person. The bear got in a few good claw swipes, but went down pretty quick. Oliver managed to arrive in the third round to join in the fray, to replace Gracian who had been wounded and wanted to back off. Through combined arms, the squires took out the bear.
There was some first-aiding, and Old Garr fumbled his First Aid on Morganor, making his wounds much worse. Probably won’t do much for Morganor’s view of priests.
And then Hewgon showed up after all! He arrived just in time to see his companions taking out the bear.
On the way back, they began to hear a strange sound- an eerie baying of hounds, getting louder, with the clopping of hooves, and everyone needed to make a Valorous roll. All of the peasants fled in terror, along with Old Garr. Oliver fumbled his, so fled along with them, and Hewgon failed and decided they had the right idea. (Oliver’s behavior was dictated by the fumble, but I told Hewgon only that he was very uneasy and reluctant to investigate.)
Gracian took the lead in investigating, and saw a strange six-hooved beast, with the stripes and spots, a the neck and head of a snake, and a yellow belly that looked like it had black wolf heads trying to press against the skin from the outside. The beast was gently drinking at a pond. Gracian decided he was going to kill it, since it was clearly an abomination against god, and drew his sword and tried to sneak up on it, but at the last second the beast perked its ears up and ran away.
And not long after, a knight in armor came crashing along, asking if the squires had seen a strange beast come through. The scenario calls for Recognize rolls at +5 to identify the knight- on a success, they know he is from Gales, and only know his identity (King Pellinore) on a Critical success. One of the players actually called out ‘Pellinore’ before I had to inform him his success wasn’t good enough.
There was some interaction back and forth. Pellinore was pretty much only interested in the beast, and where it had went, and wouldn’t even give his name when asked (“a knight of some excellence.”). Upon learning what he wanted, he rode off, but Leander followed him someways, demanding answers, to which Pellinore told him not to worry about it and focus on doing his duty.
It was pretty fun watching the reactions of the different players during this scene- the veterans knew what was going on and were pretty pleased just to be there, but Leander’s player had no idea what was going on, so her reaction to the Questing Beast (because that’s what it was), and that King Pellinore was an arrogant jerk (because I guess he kind of was that too) were quite reasonably what a young knight’s might be.
They got back to the village of Imber, and there was a celebration- opportunities for everyone to make a Dancing, Singing, Play or Orate check, making Indulgent/Temperate checks or Lustful/Chaste. (Bersules and Oliver chose to go for rolls in the hay with peasant girls.) Morganor stayed out because he was wounded, which might have gotten him Prudent instead for one of those. At the end of the celebration, they were presented with the bear pelt as a gift from the villagers.
On the way back to Vagon castle, they met some bandits, with daggers and bows, beating up a peasant and taking his cows. This was another combat scene, where the young squires completely smashed the opposition. Having a horse when your opponent doesn’t is a really big deal- you get a +5 bonus, and they get a +5 penalty. Some of the bandits were killed, others were taken captive.
After this I realized I had written up a reference guide for the combat rules that I was going to give the players before the bear fight, but didn’t. Oh well, their first two fights went pretty well for the player knights.
We skipped to a month later, at court in Sarum. Sir Elad told Earl Roderick of their deeds, and they met Prince Madoc, who told Earl Roderick that King Uther is mustering all the armies of the realm to fight the Saxons. They had a bit of a chance to either gossip or flirt. Many of them- Bersules, Gracian, and Olvier tried to get the attention of various heiresses, but all failed their flirting rolls, and couldn’t get their attention with handsome Prince Madoc nearby. Others focused on Intrigue and learned that while the young knights were eager for battle, the old knights weren’t so convinced of an upcoming victory.
Calus’s player showed up just in time for the knighting ceremony. The knights-to-be were to stay awake in the chapel all night on vigil. Morganor and Calus were both particularly Worldly, so had to make Worldly checks. Morganor choose to stay present, but not praying. Calus critically succeeded his, so had to do something incredibly worldly. We discussed what that might be, and he decided to storm out of the chapel, saying he’d see everyone else in the morning. (Earl Roderick didn’t mention it, but it was clear during the knighting ceremony that he was not pleased.) Everyone else had to make an Energetic check, to see if they stayed awake through the whole night. Leander fumbled, and fell asleep almost immediately.
After that was the knighting ceremony itself. I had printed off the words for the official ceremony, and had Gracian’s player perform his side of the script with me. After that, we passed the script around if anyone wanted to see what the words of knighting were. Then there was the Leap, just a fun Dex roll for a few extra glory, to see if the newly minted knight could leap into the saddle.
We still had about an hour left, so we went ahead and did the last event of the year: the Battle of Meadow Creek. It was a little clumsy. I had set aside time to go over the battle rules. It looks like a combat with some macro elements, but it’s really the reverse, a macro with combat elements. Each round the knight gets a randomly generated enemy, and makes an opposed combat check, and the loser takes damage. And then the chaos of battle separates you and you move on. It does really feel like a chaotic battle, where its moving all around you and you have no idea what is going on, however if you’re doing well you don’t have a lot of options. Sir Gracian made all of his combat rolls and got baseline experience, and didn’t really have any real choices. Sir Leander was unhorsed early, and spent the rest of the battle behind the lines failing to first aid himself and looking for a horse. The first round enemies were Saxon footmen, but after that I pretty much just rolled Heothgeneats as the enemy, mounted and well trained warriors, easily the knights’ equals.
(Fun fact: I realized afterwards that the entry in the Great Pendragon Campaign specifically says that the Saxons in this battle don’t have horses… which would have made this all much easier for the player knights, since they would have gotten the mounted vs. afoot bonus. Whoops. So I guess I took the training wheels off a bit earlier than expected.)
Most of the knights got knocked around- Oliver, with his size of 6 took a blow that was 1 point shy of knocking him unconscious, (the minimum is supposed to be 8 size, so I’m going to check with him next week that he calculated his stats right). Morganor took a Major Wound and ended up losing a point of Size, and Sir Calus took a critical hit that would have killed almost anyone else, and instead left him down a point of Appearance, at Appearance 4.
(After this, Calus’s player asked, ‘so if you die, do you just wait to get resurrected?’ and we explained that there is no such thing in this game, you play a brother or a cousin, or if you’ve done well enough, your son.)
The battle was 5 rounds, just enough for it to end when people were starting to sweat. It was a tie, with neither side decisively winning, so the survivors regrouped with their wounded, to fight another year. I feel like the battle was the weakest part of the game right now, so I’m going to be looking into ways to make sure there is more player agency, and that it’s not just a game of trading dice rolls.
We had about fifteen minutes left in the session, so I decided to forgo the Winter phase until the next session. So that’s where we’ll pick up: with death and taxes.