The Great Pendragon Campaign (485)

I've started up yet another Pendragon campaign, this time using the Book of Manors, Book of Knights and Ladies, Book of Armies, and Book of Battle supplments that Greg Stafford has released for the 5th edition. While White Wolf is no longer publishing, Greg seems to have struck up an arrangement with a group called Nocturnal to continue putting out material. Check out http://www.gspendragon.com/ for more info.

We had two players for the game, Graham and Jeremy, and used the new creation rules in The Book of Knights and Ladies (BoKL). I went random where possible, which resulted in two interesting and extreme knights.

Sir Cyric (Jeremy) is British Christian and a giant of a man (SIZ 17), but nimble for his size (DEX 16). He's the son of the Castellan of Tilshead*, sadly dead in the battle of Mt. Damen. He inherits the Manor Broughton and some other rights and incomes to bring him to £9 annual income. His special gift is a sword belt that keeps him from being Knockdowned in melee, and his family is known as book readers.

*Opted for Tilshead, since it notes in the rules that Sir Amig is the new castellan of Tilshead and I figured that'd be a good fit.

Sir Bledsi (Graham) is a Pagan, son of an Esquire (though court gossip has it that he's the son of a real knight, and the product of adultery) raised to knighthood by the gaps in the ranks after the battles of the previous year. A man of strong personality, he is both proud and generous to extremes (19 in both!). He starts the campaign as a household knight in the service of Earl Roderick of Salisbury. His special gift is a magic housecat, bringing an extra £1 income to the Earl (at the moment), and his family is full of keen-eyes.

Having started many Pendragon campaigns, I decided to fast-forward over a lot of the initial scenario stuff. The two knights had an initial melee with wooden swords, to introduce Jeremy to the combat system. I followed that with some lance example, and Graham and I took some time to explain the wound and healing system. Since the hunt for the bear has become something of a joke, we skipped that part (time enough for a hunt in 486).

A short scene was held in court, where the situation with the Saxons was laid out and some intrigue was performed. After that, it was off to the Battle of Mearcred Creek using the new rules laid out in the Book of Battle (BoB). Unfortunately, I hadn't had a chance to fully read the rules over and over again, so some mistakes were made. I used the Defending Saxon Army (weak) list from Book of Armies (BoA) for the opponents.

The hero knights were placed in a squadron with Sir Amig, and the battle began. King Uther failed the initial Battle roll, so no bonus for the first charge existed. I described this as the Saxons having established their battle line near the creek, which forced the charge to slow just before impact. Their first target was some Archers (heorthgneats)*, and this is where the first of my mistakes happened. I had the archers both fire missiles and melee … having re-read the rules, I realize now that they should have just gone into melee with our heroes.

In subsequent rounds, the heroes pushed into the 2nd rank** of the Saxons, running down some ceorls, elite heorthgneats, and even some frothing mad warriors. I made a few more mistakes here, having our heroes face multiple opponents when they should have faced just one, but another mistake (letting the heroes inspire themselves every round) worked to counter the worst damage of that mistake. I also had them rolling damage each round, which they should have skipped, and forgot the squire rolls. In any case, the end of the battle came right on schedule in round 5, and the Saxon army retreated due to Battlefield intensity. Our heroes survived, a bit battered but with no major wounds and good amount of Glory.

* I really like the way the Book of Armies list uses symbols to indicate things like ransoms, attack types and passion abilities. It made it really easy to, at a glance, run the fight.

** Also really like the ranks and the zones of battle, which gave a better sense of the fight and helped with the narrative description of the fight. I was able to give a sense of the chaos caused by their punching into the back lines, as well as convey their danger.

We wrapped up with a quick Winter Phase, skipping much of the details in The Book of Manors (BoM) due to time. We'll fill in some of those details next time we play.



Back to Basics

Last night, a few of us (Dale, Graham and I) got together and dug up the old D&D Cyclopedia and Basic/Expert books to play a bit of the old school D&D. Despite the offer of Dale the DM to allow for some relaxed character creation, Graham and I decided to go hard core – 3d6 in order, no re-rolls. G ended up with an obnoxious yet nimble and bright Elf, while I ended up with a Thief with little strength, but some agility and wits. There were only the two of us to start, but we figure to make up the difference with some hirelings and retainers fairly soon.

Graham took Detect Magic for his first spell, and started with very little equipment. I had a bit more cash, but boy getting Thieves Tools sure takes a big chunk of change. We were done creation in about 30 minutes, and jumped into play. DM Dale quickly sketched out a situation for us – wooden fort called Stronghold in the wilderness of the Shield Lands, a recently claimed land by my PC's uncle. My thief had been sent to help out his uncle, and after a roll on a table of random reasons for the party to be together, we discovered that Graham's elf had been drawn to me by some kind of psychic bond. A bond, we decided, that only grew stronger the more coins we could find together.

The Uncle sent us off to collect taxes from one of the local hamlets. Arriving, we discovered the hamlet paying their taxes in decidedly more coin of orc and elf mintage than they should. There was also a strange goblin-crafted wagon, a bit of a party going on, and pretty much evidence something unusual was going on. Our explorations turned up references to something buried in the forest outside by drunken villagers, so off we went to explore the woods.

We found signs of a battle, but more scarily, two scaley finned humanoids who smelled bad and seemed unhappy to see us. After a short, running fight through the dark woods, we managed to kill one of the creatures and the other ran off. Not finding any sign of any buried treasure, we returned to the hamlet and took the taxes back to my PC's uncle.

What was nice, from my perspective, was that much of the night's play was taken up with Graham and I interacting with each other In Character, rather than just referencing rules. In the process, we determined that Graham's Elf is haughty, cocky, overly cautious and dismissive of human society. My Thief is cheerful, a little suspicious of other's success, and definitely on the make for quick cash.

Back at Stronghold, Uncle was happy to get the taxes, and immediately sent us back out to deal with a different problem – a missing female blacksmith. We ended the night's session about to descend into a likely cave, most likely where the smith had been taken.

It did bring back a lot of fond memories, playing old school. We dug up hex paper and started making our own map of the area… a simple pleasure I'd forgotten, but also a hand-crafted record of the game so far. It reminded me why you dungeon-mapped, too. Not just to have a map, but also to act as a record of events and progress, and a tool for decision-making. Something lost in the current trend of 'combat arena' maps, I think.

Fun stuff, and we'll see where it goes from here.