The Great Pendragon Campaign Recap 484-488

Welcome to the third installment of my Great Pendragon Campaign Recaps. Previous recaps have covered 480-481 and 482-483. This time we’ll push the timeline ahead quite a bit. I tweaked my style a bit with these writeups, going for a bit of a pseudo-Malory writing style. After these recaps, I’ll dive into my opinions and thoughts as the campaign progressed.

Year 484 – Chapter V – Of the Saxon Invasion

King Uther did hold his Easter court in the White Tower of Thamesmouth. And there did the cries of the people reach the court, telling tales of a Saxon invasion. So spoke Uther, “Our Royal Brother, the King of Malahaut, has requested Our help against the Saxons. The full might of Logres will muster at Linden Pool.” While the great king did want to protect his people, so too was his blood boiled and looking forward to battle, ignoring the council of Dyke Corneus that they should allow the Saxon horde to exhaust itself first fighting Malahaut.” The druid Merlin was still nowhere to be found.

The battle went poorly for Uther and his host. Sir Adric led a coterie of knights – Boudica, Arthen, and Mag – as well levies within this host. Both Mag and Adric fell in the battle, Adric to a giant fighting with the Saxons. Left for dead, they were healed by Merlin, returned at last to give the king his council. As the defeated army regrouped, he advised a night attack on the celebrating Saxons. In this battle, Boudica took a role in leading the coterie, this time to victory. In the aftermath, Uther let word that he was prepared to knight all those eligible as soon as possible, for his ranks of knights had been greatly diminished.

Year 484-485 Winter

  • Boudica’s daughter, aged 3, was healthy.
  • Adric’s wife gave birth to twins, two girls (one died) Children –
    • Twins, boy and girl, born 482-483
    • Boy, born 483-484
    • Twin daughters, born 484-485. Alas, one did not survive the winter.
  • Arthen and husband adopted another pair of twin daughters. Children –
    • Boy, born 482-483
    • Twin daughters, born 483-484
    • Twin daughters, born 484-485
  • Of concern, still no heir for Mag
  • Arthen, Adric, and Boudica all had marriages taking place while there was a death in Mag’s family

Year 485 – Chapter VI – Of the Battle of Mearcred Creek and Sir Leonard’s False Accusation

At Court in Leicester, King Uther declared his vassals to prepare for battle against the Saxon horde. Earl Roderick instructed his knights to make ready for the summer battles and assemble at the city of Salisbury.

Before they could depart to make their preparations, Sir Leonard, the bastard half-brother of Lady Boudica, came forth with an accusation against Sir Wulfric, husband of Sir Arthen. Their steward had recently gone missing. Sir Leonard claimed to have captured him trying to bring news of Uther’s plans to the Saxons on Wulfric’s orders. Sir Arthen protested as Wulfric’s family had always shown loyalty to Uther and Aurelius before him. Lady Boudica was filled with rage, for she had often felt her half-brother’s ambitions for land and the treachery he was prepared to use to get that land. Despite their sharing a father, she pledged willingness to battle Sir Leonard to prove the truth of Sirs Arthen and Wulfric. However, Lord Brastias investigated the manner and found no merit to Sir Leonard’s claims. Sir Leonard left angry, swearing an oath he would not forget his sister’s treachery.

That summer the knights did assemble at Salisbury, ready to march against the Saxons. Merlin was nowhere to be seen, still exhausted from the magics he had performed the previous year. They marched against the Saxon King Aelle, though the forces of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall were nowhere to be seen.

The battle went poorly for Uther’s troops, though Earl Roderick’s knights fought well. Sir Elad, who had taught the knights Adric, Arthen, Boudica, and Mag, led Earl Roderick’s forces. Alas, Elad fell in battle. Adric tried to do battle with King Aelle, even landing some blows, but the vile Saxon lord did escape as the two armies separated, neither being able to claim a true victory.

Year 485-486 Winter

  • Boudica’s daughter, aged 4, was healthy.
  • Adric’s wife died in childbirth, along with the baby. He began courting again (+2 courtesy bonus for next year’s marriage roll) Children –
    • Twins, boy and girl, born 482-483 (3)
    • Boy, born 483-484 (2)
    • Girl, born 484-485. (1) (Twin sister had died the previous winter).
  • Arthen –
    • Boy, born 482-483 (3)
    • Twin daughters, born 483-484 (2)
    • Twin daughters, born 484-485 (1)
  • Of concern, still no heir for Mag
  • Marriage in Mag’s family.
  • A scandalous rumor that Adric’s aunt is a horse thief. Perhaps some truth to that as one of his rouncies died that winter.
  • Arthen also lost a warhorse and a sumpter.

Year 486 – Chapter VII – Of the Finding of Excalibur

At court in Windsor, Prince Madoc announced his intent to take a force to harry the Saxons around Colchester. Adric, Arthen, Boudica, and Mag were all anxious to participate in the raiding but, to their dismay, Earl Roderick assigned them to sentry duty.

Sentry duty was boring. Their greatest challenge was a priest who spread ill words about their Prince Madoc. Adric proved unusually merciful towards him, letting him go with a stern warning.

During one of their patrols they met an old man dressed in tatters. He begged help from the brave knights, for his large, black goat had run up a hill where he could not follow. Showing kindness to the man, they led their horses up the hill to some ancient ruins where they found the goat – it was indeed a large goat – larger than any goat they had ever seen. “Hark,” said Mag. “Methinks this is not a normal goat!”

The goat tried to run off but was grabbed by a mighty three-eyed giant. Seeing the knights pursuing, the giant releases the goat and swung a mighty tree at Adric, crushing his skull and leaving him for dead. His squire picked up his master’s sword and fought bravely, as did the other knights. They finally triumphed when Mag cut the straps holding the giant’s armor in place, allowing them to strike it freely, felling him,

The old man appeared before them, wiping away his disguise and revealing himself as Merlin, the mighty wizard and protector of Britain. Using his mighty magics, he restored Adric to health. Merlin indicated he was pleased with their valor and might and he needed their assistance on an urgent mission for their king.

Merlin led them into the woods, telling them to leave their horses. He reached a lake and took a barge into the lake, instructing the knights they had to protect him. No sooner had he said that did a green warrior on a green horse come upon them, wielding two swords. The warrior was fearsome – but it did not seem human – nor did the horse seem to be a horse. Rather they seemed to be one being, made up of a greenish slime. It fought well, grievously injuring Mag, Boudica, and Adric. Merlin, reaching the center of the lake, called out to them, telling them they must persevere if they loved their lord. Inspired, Boudica managed to land a killing blow.

On the lake, Merlin was communing with a being beneath the surface. An arm clutching a beautiful sword emerged, passing the sword to Merlin.

Merlin congratulated the knights on their valor, telling them Britain was in their debt. Earl Roderick was confused by his knights’ tale but impressed that they had rendered the mighty Merlin a service.

Year 486-487 Winter

  • Boudica’s daughter, aged 5, was healthy. She also had a second child, a boy, though rumor had it the child was a bastard.
  • Adric married again, wedding the daughter of an esquire. No new children that winter. Children –
    • Twins, boy and girl, born 482-483 (4)
    • Boy, born 483-484 (3)
    • Girl, born 484-485, died at the age of two.
  • Arthen –
    • Boy, born 482-483 (4)
    • Twin daughters, born 483-484 (3)
    • Twin daughters, born 484-485 (2)
    • Two newborn sons. One died. Born 486-487 (0).
  • Of concern, still no heir for Mag
  • There were deaths in both Adric and Boudica’s families. The death of her bastard brother Leonard while raiding Saxons was of some relief to Boudica, given his attempts at gaining her title.
  • Arthen and Adric both had family members go missing.
  • Eclipsing 2000 glory, Adric, Boudica, and Mag used the advantages of that to gain back a point of Strength they lost from their wounds in the adventure at the lake.

Year 487 – Chapter VIII – The Great Sword Feast

Before the start of 487, Uther gathered his court in Sarum. There was much feasting and sharing of gifts for the holy day of Christmas. As the gift-giving reached its end, Merlin, Guardian of Britain approached.

“Gold and silver, clothing from far distant lands; these are surely gifts worthy of a king. Yet you, Uther, deserve more, for surely no one in the world has ever sat as high as you, not even the emperors of Rome.” Uther was clearly flattered. “Yet, even you lack one thing.” The king frowned, the room murmured. “Such a great man deserves nothing but the best, and he who would bring peace to the whole of our great land deserves all that would help him to obtain it. And so I, your humble servant, am pleased to offer you, from my weak hands, this.”

And he pulled from beneath his robes a gleaming sword whose own internal light caused everyone to gasp in delight and wonder.

Even the king was surprised and stood up. Merlin took the sword by its point, his hands covered by his robe so as not to tarnish the blade, and extended the pommel to the king. “For the High King,” said Merlin, and with a loud triumphant statement, “Excalibur, the Sword of Victory!”

Everyone in the room gasped aloud, and when the king took the sword they broke into applause and cheer. It was clear that the king was highly pleased. “Surely, now,” he said, “no one can stand before me.”

“All you need do,” said Merlin, “is to remain just.”

Our heroic knights became quite renowned as tales of their valor in acquiring Excalibur quickly spread. They were asked to recount their adventure which Sir Adric did to much praise.

The following spring the knights, now held in greater esteem, were given a choice by Earl Roderick. They could accompany him and Uther to negotiate with Duke of Lindsey to secure his vote for High King, or accompany Prince Madoc on naval raids. They traveled to the Duke of Lindsey.

At Lincoln, the party was greeted by the Duke of Lindsey – greeted rather stiffly, but properly. However, tales of the sword roused his fervor for Uther and he finally committed himself after a song by Sir Mag.

With this success Uther asked the knights to travel on to Malahaut, home of the Centurion King to parlay with him. This did not go as well – the Centurion King was away from Eburacum, fighting Saxons. His steward treated them coldly. They went off in pursuit of him, joining the battle. Though they helped him triumph over the Saxon host, all he would commit to was that he would visit Uther when he had leisure time. Nevertheless, having secured at least one more vote for High King, Uther’s spirits were much improved.

Year 487-488 Winter

  • Boudica had a third child, a girl, who died of illness.
    • Girl, Calliope, born 481-482 (6)
    • Boy (bastard), born 486-487 (1). Sick but survives.
    • Girl, born 487-488 (0). Dies of illness.
  • Adric
    • Twins, boy and girl, born 482-483 (5)
    • Boy, born 483-484 (4)
  • Arthen – newborn son
    • Boy, born 482-483 (5)
    • Twin daughters, born 483-484 (4)
    • Twin daughters, born 484-485 (3). Sick.
    • Son. Born 486-487 (1). Sick.
    • Son. Born 487-488 (0). Sick.
  • Of concern, still no heir for Mag. However, a nephew was born, making a potential heir…
  • Arthen’s brother married.
  • Niece in Adric’s family.

Year 488 – Chapter IX – The Invasion of Frankland

While King Uther kept the peace at home, Adric, Arthen, Boudica, and Mag traveled with Prince Madoc as part of an army invading Frankland, assisting Praetor Syagrius – though Madoc’s commitment was uncertain, as they heard him declaring to his lieutenants “four weeks or one city, no more”.

The four of them spent some time escorting the Praetor as he rode through his old lands, rallying troops to drive out the evil Franks,. They did battle with Franks seeking to kill the rightful ruler of the land.

That one city turned out to be a siege of Bayeaux. They held their distance until troops began opening the gates, then Boudica, perhaps a little foolishly, rode full on to stop the defenders from closing the gates again. She endured a storm of arrows and was assisted by Adric, Arthen, and Mag against a giant of a man trying to seal the gates.

The city was sacked and looted, giving the knights great wealth. However, Prince Madoc refused to continue assisting the Praetor, claiming there were enemies at home that needed tending to. At the next tide, the forces of Madoc departed, leaving Syagrius to his own devices.

Earl Roderick sympathized when Adric questioned these actions but said it was not their place to question their leaders, no matter how iniquitous they may seem…

Year 488-489 Winter

  • 75 glory from the expedition
  • Boudica had another child, a girl, born stillborn
    • Girl, Calliope, born 481-482 (7)
    • Boy (bastard), born 486-487 (2). Sick but survives.
    • Girl, born 488-489 (0). Stillborn.
  • Adric
    • Twins, boy and girl, born 482-483 (6)
    • Boy, born 483-484 (5)
    • Girl, born 488-489 (0)
  • Arthen – newborn son
    • Boy, born 482-483 (6)
    • Twin daughters, born 483-484 (5)
    • Twin daughters, born 484-485 (4).
    • Son. Born 486-487 (2). Sick.
    • Son. Born 487-488 (1). Sick.
    • Son. Born 488-489 (0).
  • Mag – At last has a legitimate child, a daughter as well as a bastard from Bayeaux.
    • Girl, born 488-489 (0)
    • Boy (bastard), born 488-489 (0)
  • Arthen’s sister goes missing
  • Boudica’s sister marries.

Commentary

This recap takes us a bit deeper into the Uther phase – and at the time of this writing, we’re about to reach the Battle of Tintagel.

Now that I’ve got over ten sessions of Pendragon played (two more beyond what’s written here) I’ve learned a few lessons. First, it’s important to make the game your own. Part of this has to do with the tone. We’re a bit more “woke” with regards to the player knights and I’m glad we went ahead with our own take on the Arthurian legend and didn’t stick to what it “should” be. No, the original legends lacked lady knights and knights in same-sex relationships. But we’re playing in a game in the 21st century.

Another aspect of making the game your own is recognizing what you want. I’ve realized that a massive battle isn’t always for us – so I’ve learned to adapt scenarios in The Great Pendragon Campaign – sometimes trimming battles down or only zooming in for aspects of them. Even with that, the Uther period is a particularly brutal one – I see Uther as another warlord, albeit perhaps preferable to his rivals. For a while, I worried the game was going to get lost in the tedium of battle after battle. Were I to do it again I’ve had used a start date of 485 instead of 480  to lessen the feel of battle after battle

I did notice something changed as the characters helped Merlin retrieve Excalibur – after that event, it felt like the characters were protagonists in our own legend. The following year saw them getting celebrated for the finding of the sword. The legend might be of Uther – and later, Arthur – but in our stories, the player character knights are the most important people to the tales. Most important doesn’t mean in charge – they are subservient to Earl Roderick and to Uther. Luke Skywalker was never the leader of the Star Wars stories, but he was very much a focal point for attention. So to have our Pendragon knights.

There are a few things I do wish I’d done – or would start doing – differently. I’ve done a horrible job adjudicating the economic circumstances of our winter phases – I’ve been pretty abstract for those matters. I also really need to invest in some time to diagram some family trees for our protagonist knights. One bit of advice I received early on was to reduce the chances of child mortality to one in twenty instead of one in ten (which it is in the core rules). I found that a useful suggestion – a one in ten chance of death every year gave any child only about a 20% chance of making it to adulthood which is a bit too low, even by medieval standards. There have been a number of lost children even with the improved odds – and some of the kids are about to become pages.

When I started the game my best hope was actually making it the end of the Uther period and I wasn’t certain we’d pull that off. It looks like that might indeed be achievable, after which we’ll need to give some thoughts as to our next steps. I look at all the children the knights have been having and in my mind’s eye see them taking up their parents’ swords and going on their own quests and having their own children – who in turn will pick up the quests…

Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough but you’re uncle wouldn’t allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damn fool idealistic crusade like your father did.

If you’d like to purchase either King Arthur Pendragon or The Great Pendragon Campaign, you can do so at DriveThruRPG – or direct from Chaosium. Obviously, the core book is essential and The Great Pendragon Campaign has enough material for years of gaming..

~ Dan Stack

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