Sunday, October 26, 2014

[Pendragon] The Great Pendragon Campaign: Year 518 - The Battle of Badon Hill

In this special super-sized episode, the greatest of Salisbury's knights march to war under King Arthur's banner against an old, implaccable foe...

"From that time, the citizens were sometimes victorious, sometimes the enemy, in order that the Lord, according to His wont, might try in this nation the Israel of to-day, whether it loves Him or not. This continued up to the year of the siege of Badon Hill, and of almost the last great slaughter inflicted upon the rascally crew." - Gildas



Featuring:

Jade
Renae
Jen
Dave S.
And…Edie the Dog

The campaign's wiki can be found here.

34 comments:

  1. Congratulations on finishing the first half of your campaign everyone! It has been a treat to listen to, and that certainly was a clustermess of a way to cap everything off. Really of all my many, many questions and comments from finally defeating the Saxons once and for all the only question left would be.... What in R'lyeh was up with that encounter table on the last day? It seemed to be either fighting Dave's ever-escalating series of embarrassing encounters to overpowered, never-before seen murdermachines.

    I mourn those whose stories have ended, celebrate those who have come into glory, and shrug bemusedly at Cynrain who proved that even fumbling a roll can't stop him from mowing a screaming horde of enemies down.

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    1. Basically, the murdermachines were the Saxon witches who had brewed up that storm, and their thralls. The Book of Armies has two tables for Day Four of the battle--a table to use if you think a player has been through the mill enough, and a table to use if you want to bring the pain.

      The explicit goal in both the Book of Armies and the GPC is to hit at least a 50 percent casualty rate with Badon, and the murdermachine tables are there to facilitate that if the previous three days haven't done it yet. (And if the players have gotten particularly beaten up, the notes even recommend skipping Day Four entirely.)

      I realized about halfway through the session that with four Round Table knights riding to battle, there was little chance we'd hit that desired casualty rate before Day Four, but I felt like Dave had been punished enough. I liked alternating between the two tables, because it allowed me to leaven the tension with some absurdity.

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    2. You deserve quite a bit of the credit for Arthur's commanding battle leadership. You've been preaching "Charge and Withdraw", and quite a few times it reduced what would've been a Saxon critical to a Logres victory. Also I assume the power level of all the players who aren't cursed by the luck Gods helped with their survival as well.

      I didn't take the first death quite as well as the player in question, mostly because I almost thought it was a joke or Merlin, but then I was just left with sadness. And shock. The second death was perfectly played though.

      Also murdering the wounded, cripples and children isn't much of a reward for being put through the meat grinder. Even the dice indicated her mind was broken!

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    3. Also I've secretly been hoping the death toll would work out this way, as Cynrain's prophecy from way back when is that he would be denied three times by his friends. Let's just count how many members of the Order of the Empty Goblet are still with us to toast the memory of Earl Roderick with Cynrain. One promise when the order is formed to always meet to remember that disastrous day and bam, prophecy fulfilled.

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    4. That is a fantastic idea re: the prophecy--totally stealing it.

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  2. Wow. Until Day 4 hit, I didn't think anyone was really going to go down, but those monsters really took their toll on the knights.

    But what happened to Sir Archade!? Last we heard, he was left unconscious and presumably needing chirurgery. Was he tenderly nursed back to health or did he perish of infection? And on the other side of that, I'm not sure Adwen should have been knocked unconscious - I think you might have to be reduced below your unconscious threshold.

    And it's interesting to see Cynrain back in action. I'd forgotten what a killing machine he was. I imagine Adwen trying to find the unit again, looking over Arthur's banner to the Saxons flying through the air five feet away. "Oh, that must be Sir Cynrain!" That glory is amazing - how does he compare with Arthur?

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    1. My favourite part of this episode was asking whether or not Jade was announcing her attack roll or her damage.

      Of course she was announcing her attack roll. Her damage was even higher than that.

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    2. Max you are indeed correct about the unconscious value. Yet another failure by the rules minion. Though, to be fair, I was suitably disheartened by the end of things and, narratively-speaking, that was a significant-enough series of hits to Adwen's psyche and physiology that unconsciousness definitely made sense from a story perspective.

      If I ever play her again, though, don't expect her character to last long. If memory serves (as her character sheet is not handy atm), she lost 6-8 points from passions this game. That's almost like character death without the death.

      Also I'm pretty sure I missed half a dozen times when a (see:my) character was supposed to go into Shock from failing an impassioned roll. So there's that, too.

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    3. The subject of Shock came up in last session's comment thread and a pseudo-house rule coalesced that I think I'm going to make official: Shock, to me, is sort of a beat stick to use against players who abuse the Passion system. I don't feel like you guys do, so I've never seen the need to roll it out. I think going forward I'll say that Shock is only to be applied as "narratively appropriate." ;)

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    4. It does seem a little redundant, especially in battles. Adwen taking that -5 means she couldn't beat cripples! Actual, literal cripples! One of them was blind!

      I'll be sad if Adwen doesn't get to keep playing, as I've been waiting for her debut for awhile now. I think you're right about the importance of Passions for a player character equalling their survival since we have now reached that prophecised stage of critting almost every round. Still, retirement due to the horrors of Badon Hill wouldn't be that bad an exit.

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    5. Surely being rescued from the horrors of Badon Hill by Arthur's unit and then fighting at his side for four days is worth a big Loyalty (Arthur) passion, right?

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    6. It started at 8. There's no coming back from that.

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    7. Shock is not, at least not to me, a very good way to prevent abuse of passions in any case, because it doesn't distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate uses, and the randomness of the aging roll means that it can be absolutely brutal. This interacts with the fact that the aging system isn't ideal (again, in my opinion) to begin with. (I'd rather something with more gentle effects early on that scale as the character reaches really old age.)

      That being said, I think Shock has dramatic possibilities that aren't without appeal in themselves in a suitably grim, tragic, campaign, and I quite like the idea that it equates to a year off one's life.

      My quick kludge of a rethink: Shock is for genuine tragedy, not just mere failure. E.g., you are inspired to defend your liege, you fail, and he dies. You roll again against your passion, and if you succeed, you suffer shock (but get a check): higher passions are more likely to cause serious trauma.

      Increase your effective age by one year (i.e., if you're below 35, there's no immediate stat loss). There is always some visible change in appearance, which may be as extreme as white hair, or as little as a haunted expression when reminded of the event.

      Critical your passion roll, and you suffer shock *and* madness. (This replaces the official madness rule. A fumble on a passion causes melancholy, and a mere failure only a -5.) At GM's option, if a passion is 16+, any appropriate situation (e.g. your love berating you for being unfaithful, even if there were extenuating circumstances) can force a check and possible shock/madness, even if you were not inspired.

      That's for a grimmer campaign than this one, though, whose tone is mostly lighthearted swashbuckling heroics. David's use of passions in this campaign suits that tone, since it allows the knights to operate at a superheroic level 24/7. My only niggle is that it sometimes comes across that passions aren't functionally different from one another - the question often seems to be "Can I impassion this?" not "Do I have a passion that's important in this situation?"

      But to be contrary, I think Adwen was fine with Honor. Honor is (to me) always relevant to a knight behaving appropriately in battle in the service of their liege, which is at the core of knightly identity. After all, cowardice in battle can cause an Honor loss, and my rule of thumb would be that you can always use Honor to impassion actions if the reverse action would damage Honor.

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    8. "Shock is for genuine tragedy, not just mere failure."

      That's been my line of thinking as well. I could see using it more once Fine Amor becomes a thing--failing an inspired task for one's love could very well bring on Shock.

      "My only niggle is that it sometimes comes across that passions aren't functionally different from one another - the question often seems to be 'Can I impassion this?' not 'Do I have a passion that's important in this situation?'"

      A fair criticism, although I think part of the reason it comes across that way is that the players seem to be very good at self-selecting which Passions are appropriate to the situation. I've played Pendragon with Passion-grubbers before, and that's definitely not something I see going on at this table.

      Having said that, my games do tend more towards the "Prince Valiant" end of the scale of Arthuriana, which I'm fine with.

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  3. Wow what a surreal end on that fourth day.
    It appears Cynrain just will not go down no matter what he faces.

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  4. I have a question:
    When a warlord dies does their heir also become a warlord?

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    1. "When a warlord dies does their heir also become a warlord?"

      It depends entirely on the nature of the title as granted by the king. Most titles are "gifts" rather than "grants", meaning the title reverts to the king upon the warlord's death, and the king is free to give it back to the heir, or not, at his pleasure.

      A timely question, as the issue of succession to a high-ranking noble's title is actually looming on the horizon. I'll say no more for now...

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  5. I have another question!

    What was the first aid situation in that battle? Given that it spanned multiple days, and there were breaks for night, did anyone get first aid applied to them? The players didn't take too many wounds, but they didn't seem to have any medical attention while they were resting. At the least I would've expected any knights chumped on Day 1 should've been healed enough to be fighting wounded on Day 4. It didn't slow the Saxons down

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    1. Hmm, the Saxon were pretty insane though at the end. If you are talking healing wise for Archade then I would assume he will b fine.

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    2. I thought in general, as I don't remember hearing anyone conscious get healing rolls between breaks on Days 1, 2 or 3.

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    3. Indeed, first aid was available via squires during the battle (as usual) or in the rear areas between battle days. No one asked for it, so the subject never came up--I had enough going on without having to worry about reminding the players to heal up their characters. ;)

      As for Archade, his Major Wound would have knocked him out of the battle for the most part, although if Adwen had died we could've seen about a Chirurgery roll to get him back in the saddle, as it were. But yeah, he spent the remainder of the battle in the rear with the gear, getting treated for his injuries, and would've made a full recovery.

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  6. (Must resist pedantry... Must resist... No, it's no use... Giving in...)

    I think the dragons were flipped around.

    Incidentally, do you need a Nitpicking Minion?

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    1. See I was thinking that too, but given that they started referencing Luck Dragons clearly the Arthur Wyrm was meant to be white. Maybe the Saxons summoned a Red one to mock the Pendragon dynasty?

      I call dibs on Continuity Minion.

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    2. Consider both Minion titles granted as appropriate--and gratefully so!

      And yes, I did flip the dragon colors somehow. D'oh! I realized it about halfway through Day Three, but decided to just go with it rather than bothering about it. These things do happen in the heat of battle...

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    3. I was curious myself, but my inherent Dark Tower knowledge kind of made me shut up.

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    4. "Alright, which side was I supposed to dramatically appear before and attack again? I keep hearing things about this new Pendragon heir's side having a powerful magician on their side. I don't see any on those horse people's side... but the barbarians don't strike me as being the sons of Britain though... Hm. They do clearly have witches on their side. Hey, is that King Cerdic? He's definitely British by descent! Alright, I'm on that side. Death to the horse people!"

      "Huh. I thought I was supposed to be on the Saxon side, but now I can clearly see that red jerk is up and murdering the British for them. They promised me an exclusive wyrm contract for this battle! Death to Saxons!"

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    5. Dammit Larkins stop accidentally creating the backstory for the Crimson King!

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  7. Permit me to pester you with one more question, please.

    I believe that, nominally, players of high-ranking characters in Pendragon are required to part-time GM on occasion. If Jade's going back to playing Cynrain, and given that she has GMed for you before, do you have any plans to do that?

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    1. I do indeed! Yes, the GPC mentions drafting players of "warlord" level should GM sessions from time to time, and I have no problem with that. I'll have to give some thought to how to go about doing that, but now that Cynrain survived Badon I've got to give him something to do...

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    2. Perhaps a year where Cynrain leads a counter-offensive against the forces invading Arthur's French allies?

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    3. On the note of knight survival did any other named knights cry their last battle cry on this battle?

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  8. Huh, I just had a weird thought. In that if Merlin ever needed an apprentice the perfect apprentice would indeed be Sir Edern a knight who has had little dealing with Merlin and comes from a highly reputable family. The reason why he would be chosen would be his high faerie lore skill and his deep ties to the fae realm so he is used to mystic strangeness.

    I don't know why I had this thought I just did.

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  9. Re-listening this epic episode, one thing poked at me like a sore thumb. About 1:00 in Archade get's critted and goes down to 5hp after falling. Why you no bodyguard, bro?!? You JUST spent 40£ on bodyguards. And at the end of the round you ask: "Do I need to roll for my followers still?". Oh god, Dave. Why you do this?

    And it's not even the first time.

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