Tales of the Spectre Kings
Publisher: Green Knight Publishing
Year Published: 2001
Page Count: 128
Available Formats: PDF and Print
Cost: PDF – $9.99 or Print – Varies from site to site
The premise of Tales of the Spectre Kings is to bring together a mix of Pendragon adventures that focus on otherworldly adventures in Britain. The adventures in this near-exact reprint will place the players in direct contact with otherworldly mysteries and beings that will be sure to pique their interests.
The physical book was used for this review. The book itself is a perfect bound softcover with a color cover and black and white interior. The spine is solid and seems like it would hold up moderately well under repeated use. The layout of the books is finely done and seems to be very logically laid out. The font size and style are easy on the eye. The artwork throughout the book is thematically appropriate, but the color cover is very evocative. It should be noted that this version of the book is a near-exact reprint of the previous edition with once exception. The new publisher removed the Grand Tournament of Logres and inserted The Adventure of the White Horror.
The book contains six adventures of medium length; each of which will require several sessions to complete. At the time of its initial printing, the adventures were all new. Even when Green Knight Publishing reprinted it, the replacement of one scenario for another added an all-new scenario in 2001. The reprinted scenarios did undergo minor editing to correct misspellings and other similar errors from the first edition. All of the adventures contained within are nominally set in the third or fourth phase/cycle of the Pendragon timeline.
The adventures themselves are not all linked and do not form a continuous story. However, several of them can be used in relationship to one another. For example, The Adventure of the White Horror (newly added) is a continuation of The Adventure of the Spectre King adventure. Several of the adventures involve or derive from tournaments as well.
As one might imagine, there is a plethora of historical (factual or Arthurian legend) material included with each of the adventures. This material does a fine job setting the scene and providing some, if albeit legend, context to the time, place and situation in which the adventures takes place.
The Spectre King:
The Adventure of the Spectre King is based on the exploits of Aurelius Ambrosius as outlined in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain. Geoffrey’s tale describes the battle in which Aurelius and his army capture the Saxon King Hengist. Who is then summarily executed by his long-time foe! After the enchantment of Britain, the Saxon King rises from the dead to haunt the lands on which he was killed. This adventure takes place in the third phase or later and it centered around Castle Conisbrough. Player knights, while under the roof of Castle Conisbrough, are told the story of how such a once bold and mighty lord has come to have more than just a handful of knights and fears for his lands. Player knights will not be forced to engage in the story, but instead are given several opportunities to volunteer their services to vanquish ghostly Saxon King.
The Adventure of the Werewolf
The Adventure of the Werewolf is based on the work of Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Mort D’Arthur and centers around the obscure Sir Marrok. Sir Marrok is said to have been turned into a werewolf for seven years by his betraying wife. For you see, she is said to have loved another knight. Marrok is reported to be a knight that can change into wolf form and back again provided he has clothes to change into. His betraying wife is said to have hid the clothes so that he could not change back into human form. This adventure takes place in the third phase or fourth phase on the occasion of Pentecost at Camelot. Player knights find themselves at one of the largest feasts in the land, likely with their liege lord. In short, this adventures places the player knight in the midst of a folktale turned real. Will they learn the clues necessary to piece the mystery together and return Marrok’s clothes to him?
The Adventure of the Ghost Knight
The Adventure of the Ghost Knight is an adventure of mystery and otherworldly involvement. This scenario occurs in Eastern Logres in the lands of Huntington and Hertford. Player knights visiting Anglehearth will have an opportunity to become embroiled in the strange events that rise after Sir Ferran accidentally disturbed ancient powers. Player knights will have to accomplish several tasks that will challenge them. First there is the little matter of the Green Wyrm and then the elimination of a manor ghost, but fear not, there are many a twist to the mystery!
Cambridge is NOT an adventure, but rather a richly detailed location for player knights to engage with. The city is the center of commerce and learning in Britain. Player knights could have the opportunity to attend university and earn bachelor’s degrees.
The Adventure of the Helmed Knight
The Adventure of the Helmed Knight will engross the player knights in the games of love. The Helmed Knight, cursed since birth with ugliness cannot propose to the women he loves and courts the player knights to intercede on his behalf. First a player knight will have to prove to the Helmed Knight that he is no average knight. A knight of equal prowess and skill must represent the knight. Player knights will have many chances to use a wide variety of their skills in this adventure. There are some unique turns and twists in this adventure. The adventure itself can be interjected anywhere and in any phase. The onset of the adventure is generic enough to facilitate this.
The Adventure of the Horned Boar
The Adventure of the Horned Boar is located deep in lands of Cumbria. Player knights seeking adventure in the North Lands might encounter this adventure. Player knights will have to deal with the uprising of a robber baron named Wilfrith who is terrorizing his comparatively defenseless neighbors in the region. Cultural tensions are an ever present and underlying factor in this adventure. Ultimately, the player knights who will be aiding the neighbors will need to seek out magical horns that are reputed to be able to rally forces which can then be used to defeat Wilfrith.
The Adventure of the White Horror
The Adventure of the White Horror centers around the terror caused by the ghost of the Saxon King Horsa. Horsa is the brother of the Hengist, the original spectre King. Both men were equally responsible for the Saxon’s coming to Britain. Horsa was killed in battle, unlike his brother who was killed as a prisoner. This adventure must take place after the Battle of Badon Hill (518 AD) and should happen a few years after the conclusion of The Adventure of the Spectre King. King Horsa’s grave has been desecrated by the building of a church on top of his eternal resting place. Vengeful and proud, Horsa returns to terrorize the living until the church is destroyed or someone can break his spirit and banish him forever.
Unique adventures that will challenge the player knights
Opportunities to engage in the supernatural
Easily integrated into existing campaigns
Designed to work well with other previously released supplemental books
Nice contextual material is presented with each adventure
Rooted firmly in history and/or Arthurian legend
Adventures may seem farfetched to some players
Not appropriate for early phases of the Pendragon campaign/timeline
This book was immensely fun to read! While I admit I have not run any of these adventures, I can see the brilliance in them, but your mileage may indeed vary. They have a time and a place in the timeline and are unique enough to appeal to a wide variety of gamemasters and players. The Cambridge chapter is profoundly different from anything else I have seen thus far and it would make for a very unique player knight experience. I am glad I have acquired this book for my King Arthur Pendragon collection.
PS. Green Knight Publishing appears to have gone out of business in 2001 or 2002. In 2004, they sold the rights to King Arthur Pendragon to White Wolf.