Sunday, February 15, 2015

[Pendragon] The Great Pendragon Campaign: Year 529 - The Third Disclosure

What happens when you dig up the head of a dead god? The PCs (and the rest of Arthur's subjects) get to find out this year...


Dave S.
And…Edie the Dog

The campaign's wiki can be found here.


  1. Obssessive stalker fans cannot access the forums on Obsidian Portal. Only players in your campaign can. It's possible there's some setting in forums or subforums that would allow it, but I've never really investigated it.

    I feel like this battle is another example of why people are naturally going to hate Lancelot, because it's robbed the players of agency in this battle again. I'm assuming that the rampage was another scripted event, and it not only single-handedly routs the battle but does so completely independently of the players. A scene where they have to ride to support this brave madman would have been appreciated, but the mention that he's explicitly also killing knights would forestall that. Then he goes into the castle and single-handedly ends the siege again without player involvement, so although their actions netted them some glory it still means that the sacrifice and loss is sort of irrelevant.

    I do like the idea of Agravaine and Edern both still hating each other, but post-joust getting together over a mug of ale and discovering that they both feature a mutual dislike of Guinevere. Given Edern's specific line of questioning I bet he'd even zero in on the obvious flaw in her Rules of Love right away, too.

    1. Preserved for public posterity, here's Edern's ode to Sir Morien:

      A Ballad of Love Eternal
      music & lyrics by Sir Edern

      Seasons come and seasons go,
      stag doth fall ‘pon grass to grow.
      Snows may freeze, the sun may set,
      but not all is diminish’ed.
      For once did brave knight and chaste maiden draw breath,
      bound close by a love beyond life or death.

      Sir Morien of far-off lands,
      who earned knighthood by Arthur’s hands,
      did find one day a lady of praise,
      worthy of beloved gaze.

      For not just any maid would do,
      no simple lady would suffice –
      for a heart most noble, intent most true,
      only real love could truly entice.

      Lady Branwyn ignited many a flame,
      smiles did spread but at her name –
      yet only one was meant for her heart,
      that could not be won, nor sold, nor bartered.

      Both knew at first of their bond, fated,
      of champion and damsel, elated.
      A glance cast, a ribbon exchanged,
      simple gestures of all the joy life contains.

      But not all forces blessed this match
      (Who could disrupt true love supreme?)
      The eagle’s claws did seek to snatch
      And steal beauty by any means.

      So maid beyond fair, under moon’s glow,
      did beckon on final night of sorrow.
      For how could such pain be borne, to part?
      Thus loving hands found lover’s heart.

      In first and final embrace, did knife
      But see a sweetheart’s promise kept –
      To have and to hold, end sorrow and strife –
      And as they waned, both smiled, not wept.

      We see them now in nature fine;
      in stars alight, in boughs entwined.
      They’re with us, o’er land and foam,
      wind lifting whispers to dear ones, home.
      And so we draw a closing breath
      on a tale of love eternal, in life and death.

  2. So, hearing you guys talking about food all the time (okay, not all the time) makes me wonder: you've got the rpg and miniatures blogs, but is there a corresponding food blog out there somewhere? Because I'd read that one.

    Anyway, what you say in the session about nobody liking Earl Robert brings up the one ing I'm starting to dislike about the GPC, which is that it tends to make the Uther period into the "good ol' days." It's a safe period when you can accumulate a lot of glory, Earl Roderick is watching out for you, Merlin treats you like you're special, Uther is generous and Madoc adventurous. There's some bad stuff happening, but Uther is generally victorious, and the game never seems to focus on his tragic flaws the way that it does on Arthur's. So I feel like a lot of the stuff which happens later, which should be more glorious and more likable, ends up being less so. I feel like Robert is a casualty of that (and, with regards to Jake's comment above, so is Lancelot).

    1. I always liked Robert, and I'm still more upset that Malvis doesn't seem to react more violently when people smacktalk him around her. He's her closest living relative! Also, what exactly happened with Malvis? Is she now a confirmed bachelorette? Who's raising her child while she's questing? What's her child's name? So many questions!

      I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this episode today (my job got money well spent I'm sure), and I feel similarly to Max, but more in the sense that since the Boy King phase came along a lot of the adventuring has felt somewhat hollow. Edern has been racking up massive glory fighting in tournaments, and there have been bizarre and mundane threats, but it hasn't felt as meaningful as in days past. Britain is ostensibly united, the good King reigns on the throne, there are still battles but there's nothing on the scale of what was faced before.

      Now we have tournaments where you fight against each other in a show of non-lethal arms unless Jade is involved. High adventure when wooing a lady just got replaced with a form of standardized testing. You conquer an entire empire and then let it go just to prove a point. You earn glory and accolades, but it never seems to really amount to anything. Unless you're Cynrain in which case you're clearly awesome.

      Regarding Lancelot I think his implementation as a character in an RPG is poor, but I do think this is a very interesting take on his character. Most interpretations I've seen has him as King Arthur and everyone's friend, but now he's an aloof loner who goes around accomplishing incredible feats before disappearing into the knight. He is the greatest of all the Knights of the land, but he's also very clearly not the best of them. He's following the letter of Arthur's code with no respect for the most important part of the spirit that's made clear over time and through the game which is that the rules of chivalry are meant to foster a brotherhood of knights. Lancelot may be inspiring people, but he's inspiring a series of rash, glory-driven escapades that again are accomplished for their own sake rather than a true sense of unity. Loyalty to Arthur is being replaced with admiration of Lancelot, and those may or may not be the seeds of what we all know is going to blossom later on.

      Or I might just be overthinking this and he gets to do all these things because of course Lancelot survives long enough to screw everything up. It still makes him way more interesting than Gawain. Screw that guy.

    2. Max: A food blog's not a bad idea! I'd have to put that on Des, since she's the food maven. But maybe it'll happen!

      Jake: Before the session, Jen did some dice rolling for Malvis. Amazingly, she successfully rolled her Chaste (a mere 4!), and then beat her Fealty (Gaille) with her Honor. In other words, we figured Malvis feels like it would be a breach of her personal honor to complicate her oath of service to Gaille with any deeper personal connection, despite their obvious affection for each other. The dice gods have spoken.

      And as for her weird little offspring, well, details are being worked out as we speak. ;)

      As for both of your observations regarding "the good old days" and how things stand now: I'm actually quite pleased to read that that's coming across, because that's exactly what the GPC and I are aiming for!

      The good old days are passing into memory, and it's only going to get increasingly hollow and decadent as knights chase after something their grandfathers had that their scions can never experience. This is, ultimately, a tragic arc, let's not forget, and the pathos and ennui is starting to settle in. It's only just starting to become evident with a few disgruntled grumbles, but as the years go on it will become ever more openly discussed in-game. Edern's leading the way among the PCs, and Agravaine will soon find like-minded fellows as well.

      "There's some bad stuff happening, but Uther is generally victorious, and the game never seems to focus on his tragic flaws the way that it does on Arthur's."

      Regarding that: I can't say much, as I'm under an NDA, but one of the manuscripts I'm currently editing significantly expands the background on the Uther period and provides a lot of material for really bringing out just what kind of an asshole Uther really is; I wish I'd had it for my own campaign.

    3. I know that the GPC is aiming for a "good ol' days" feel, but I think it's the early part of Arthur's reign that is supposed to be the good ol' days. I don't think you're supposed to be looking back on the Anarchy and thinking, "Man, things were great before Arthur showed up." It should be the fantastic glory and victory of Arthur's early conquests and the salvation of Britain through the defeat of the Saxons that are "the good ol' days." But instead, the Uther Period and Anarchy are the parts where the Player Knights get to rise through the ranks to become important people, while the Boy King and Conquest Periods are likely to see them die or be reduced in standing next to rising stars like Lancelot and the other named knights.

      I guess my point is that I think the decadence and discontent start to early. I don't think it should be this generation of knights complaining about Arthur - look how fantastically they've done by him - but rather their sons, who can never hope to accomplish what they did.

    4. I have a different feeling. Although I've pointed out the Anarchy days were actually the safest period in terms of player mortality, there was the sense that it was everyone pretending that things were going to work out okay and that Nanteliod was going to take the Uther route to rise and unite everyone. Then he died, and it was only the convenient arrival of Arthur that united everyone after a minor civil war or two.

      The thing is there are still some very apparently fascinating and heroic things happening elsewhere (thanks again Lancelot), but it's almost as if the game is acknowledging right now that the hollowness is building towards the events everyone is familiar with: Guinevere and Lancelot's affair, the rise of Mordred and the downfall of everything.

      I do really like that reading into the next generation feeling thwarted. After all, their fathers even conquered all of Europe only to let it go because it wasn't worth holding onto. Between their jadedness and their fathers still forgetting that you earn glory for great deeds not for endlessly placing second to Cynrain's family in tournaments.

      That NDA is an intriguing bit of information. It's always possible that if Cormac ever comes back he has a dark tale to tell from his absences hunting the Questing Beast where he had to do something for Uther that drove him from court.

    5. That's a fair point, Max. I think part of the problem is that for the players, it's hard to beat the good old days of Anarchy because it combined high player agency with a political sandbox-type situation leavened with healthy doses of paranoiac tension. Not something the characters would particularly care for, but dynamite stuff from a gaming perspective. Honestly, I could run the Anarchy over and over again just to watch how differently it would no doubt play out each time.

      Speaking of the characters' experiences, though, logically they would be looking back on the Boy King period as the glory days. Indeed, they really were "Glory" days in the sense of all those battles providing so much Glory for everyone, not just the bloke who wins the Pentecost Tournament. ;)

      As for the discontent starting too early, I don't think it does. It's quite minor now compared to how things get later on. Right now, anyone who is bitching about the king and/or queen is an outlier. The discontent, such as there is, is more centered around some of the old salts saying, "I don't like where this is going. I miss the wars." Etc.

      IME, it's a slow decline, so it's best to start early-ish--Badon was definitely the high water mark, and after the Roman War and the beginning of the "Pax Arthur" (and the disinterment of Bran's head) is really the best time to note the gathering clouds way out on the horizon.

    6. I agree with what you say on the Anarchy; that's essentially what I'm trying to say. The Uther Period and (especially) the Anarchy are very developed and interesting from the player perspective, while the Boy King and Conquest periods are, I think, some of the weaker bits of the campaign, and that creates a bit of dissonance between the players and their characters. I almost feel like it would work well to split the campaign in two, with one campaign reaching from the normal start date through Badon Hill (so, ending with the defeat of the Saxons and the death of many or most of the PKs), and the other going from somewhere in the early 500's through Camlann. So, one ends with the triumph of Arthur, and the other basically begins with it.

    7. Joining this a little late, because I only finished listening to the episode today...

      It's surely obvious that the reason why the Anarchy is such a golden period in this particular campaign is because that was when Salisbury flourished under the wise and benevolent guidance of Sir Blains.

      More seriously: I hate to repeat my own observations.* But this campaign, being pretty light-hearted in general, had a pretty light-hearted Anarchy.

      One can imagine a version that really played up the feeling of "hard choices - all options are bad - and even if you pick the least terrible, you're only delaying the inevitable as each year the Saxons gobble up someone else."

      But it wasn't this Anarchy - there were times that our heroes had to do something humiliating, but there was never a time where they actively had to compromise basic morality to survive, and there never was a time when Salisbury seemed doomed to suffer the fate of Hampshire or Anglia within a few years. Given that the group's other go-to game seems to be Call of Cthulhu, it makes sense to dial down the angst a bit when they play another game.

      I agree with David that it's the Boy King era that's *meant* to be the good old days. That's an artifact of the fact that battle gets more glory than anything else. Which is actually a little odd, because adventure is more prominent as a test of awesomeness in the sources.

      Jake: I think the thing with Pendragon Lancelot is that his biography is modeled on the Vulgate and on Malory, but he doesn't inhabit that world. The idea of Arthur creating chivalry to knit together a brotherhood of knights is Stafford's invention (with a heavy dose of T. H. White), and I think it would be quite foreign to actual medieval romance. (That's not saying there's something wrong with it. We're entitled to our own Arthurian myths.) But in the stories that this Lancelot is modeled on, he's radically superior to Arthur as a representative of chivalry and knighthood in a way that he can't be in a world in which Arthur invented the whole bloody idea.

      *This is a lie.

    8. "Given that the group's other go-to game seems to be Call of Cthulhu, it makes sense to dial down the angst a bit when they play another game."

      That's a really interesting observation, and I think you're quite right. Looking back at the campaigns preceding Pendragon, we played Cthulhu by Gaslight, Deadlands, Zombi, and World of Darkness! That Deadlands campaign, in particular, was strangely enervating despite its pulpy overtones. I think maybe here I've been trying to keep things lighter so that we didn't end up with another Deadlands.

      That being said, I'm kind of relishing laying it on thick during the final 20 years or so of the GPC. And we're all itching to get back to horror gaming after this. This has been a nice break, though, for sure.