Tuesday, January 26, 2010

[Solo GPC] 490 (Session 1): Triumph...and Tragedy

We're six years into the Great Pendragon Campaign and we've arrived at our first "multi-session" year. My 2006-2008 Pendragon campaign had a lot of these because I was still in DnD mode, thinking that every adventure/year had to have something epic to it. With Pendragon in general, but particularly with the GPC, one is allowed to stretch out a bit. Some years will be brief, as when we covered 488-489 in the span of an afternoon. But then again, some years will be epic. It's the ebb and flow of the game.

This year is proving to be one of those epic ones.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

[Solo GPC] Sir Herringdale, Knight of the Yellow Hand

[I realized I forgot to post a character write-up for Sir Herringdale when the campaign got under way. I'll do this for all further primary characters as they come into play, but for this case we'll just have to make do with a snapshot of Sir Herringdale at the start of A.D. 490, five years into his career as a knight.]

Sir Herringdale, Knight of the Yellow Hand, also called the Giantslayer
Personal Data
Age: 27 
Son Number: 1
Homeland: Salisbury
Culture: Cymric
Religion: Roman Christian
Liege Lord: Earl Roderick of Salisbury
Current Class: Vassal Knight
Current Home: Broughton 

SIZ 10
DEX 10
STR 13
CON 19
APP 13

Damage 4d6
Healing Rate 3
Move Rate 2
Distinctive Features: Piercing Gaze; "Roman style" haircut
Hit Points 29
Unconscious 7

Personality Traits
Chaste/Lustful 13/7*; Energetic/Lazy 12/8; Forgiving/Vengeful 13/7; Generous/Selfish 10/10; Honest/Deceitful 11/9; Just/Arbitrary 11/9; Merciful/Cruel 16/4; Modest/Proud 14/6; Pious/Worldly 10/10; Prudent/Reckless 8/12; Temperate/Indulgent 13/7; Trusting/Suspicious 10/10; Valorous/Cowardly 17/3

 *Directed Trait: Lustful (Men) +5

Chivalry Bonus: YES
Religion Bonus: NO

Loyalty (Lord) 16
Love (Family) 15
Hospitality 15
Honor 17
Hate (Picts) 8
Hate (Saxons) 21
Concern (Commoners) 6
Love (Jordans) 15
Loyalty (Spouse) 12

Skills: Awareness (16); Courtesy (11); Dancing (2); Falconry (4); First Aid (17); Flirting (6); Folklore (2); Gaming (3); Heraldry (10); Hunting (12); Intrigue (12); Orate (6); Play Harp (3); Recognize (10); Religion: Christian (2); Singing (4); Stewardship (2); Swimming (2)

Combat Skills: Battle (13); Siege (2); Horsemanship (15); Sword (18); Spear Expertise (13); Dagger (5)

Equipment: Chainmail armor (10 points); Shield (6 points); Sword; Spear (2); Charger; Rouncey (2): Sumpter; Marvelous Goose

Notes: Herringdale's Family Characteristic is "Natural Healer"--thus his abnormally high First Aid skill. The Marvelous Goose is Herringdale's most treasured possession. It is literally the goose that lays the golden egg! He started play with it, as it was the result Des got from the "Cymric Luck Table" in The Book of Knights and Ladies. Every winter the goose contributes 1 librum of income through its golden eggs and Des rolls a d20; on a 1-3 the goose dies, on a 4-7 it doesn't contribute any income but rather lays a real egg that hatches a new Marvelous Goose. Last winter just such a Marvelous Gosling was born, so now Herringdale has two Marvelous Geese! Be a real shame if certain neighboring lords tried to come and take them away, wouldn't it?

Lastly, a note on appearance. Just like how we like to cast NPCs, we generally cast PCs as well. Our big 2006-2008 campaign featured Selma Blair, Ron Perlman, Benicio Del Toro, Heath Ledger, Lars Ulrich, and even Bill Kaulitz (as a half-fae knight) as PCs.

You'll have noticed Herringdale's distinctive features are "Piercing Gaze" and "Roman hair cut". So early on we cast none other than a young Jake Gyllenhaal as our hero. This was well before the "Brokeback Castle" storyline was even in a glimmer in my eye, mind you, and had nothing to do with its subsequent appearance, I can assure you.

Well, maybe a little bit...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What I Picked Up

Looks like the "Gamers Helping Haiti" coupon drive at DriveThruRPG is a runaway hit. Earlier today their front page said they'd raised $20,000 so far. Just now, logging in to select my downloads from the available list, the total was already up to $33,000. Go go go!

For what it's worth, I picked up over $200 worth of PDFs for my $20 donation. Some of the stuff, like the Castles & Crusades equipment book or "No Dignity in Death", has immediate applicability; other stuff, like the Streets of Mayhem paper terrain or the Savage Worlds books, comprises things I've had my eye on in the past but haven't been able to justify purchasing; the rest, including the two, count 'em, two Wrestling RPGs--no idea how that's supposed to work--falls under the "what the hell, it's now or never" category.

Here's the complete list of what I got:

43 Space Opera Adventure Seeds - Space Opera Support #6
90 Phenomena in the City of Copenhagen
Ápocrypha - Myths of the World
Apocalypse Prevention, Inc.
API Worldwide: Canada
Best of The Rifter
Bits of Darkness: Dungeons
Castles & Crusades Arms and Armor
Chronica Feudalis
Cortex System Role Playing Game
Creatures of the Wastelands: A Menagerie of Mutants and Mutations (Revised Edition)
Creatures of the Wastelands: Habitats
Diana: Warrior Princess
Fantasy Firearms
Full Light, Full Steam
Lady's Rock
MARS: Savage Worlds Edition
No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides
One Shot Adventures! Days of Knights
Open Game Table - The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 1
Piledrivers and Powerbombs: Chokeslam of Darkness Edition
Police Precinct
Privateers and Pirates
Summerland Revised and Expanded Edition
The Book of Dumb Tables
The Squared Circle: Wrestling RPG
Three Sixteen
Thrilling Tales 2nd Edition (Savage Worlds)
Trail of Cthulhu Player's Guide
WorldWorksGames / UrbanMayhem: Streets of Mayhem
Zombie Apocalypse

And one more time, the link to the Gamers Helping Haiti page.

PDF Bundle for Haiti Relief

With "aftershocks" that would normally be considered major earthquakes of their own accord still hitting Haiti, the time has never been better to send some money towards relief (or send some more if you've done so already).

And, for me at least, what's better than a tax write-off for making a charitable donation? How about getting over $1,400 of gaming PDFs in exchange for a $20 donation? With that many products on offer, there's bound to be a few gems that you've been thinking about getting and probably quite a few more you'd never have taken a second look at but that will turn out to be welcome additions to your collection. So go take a look and fork over some dough!

Monday, January 18, 2010

[Solo GPC] 489: Love and Saxons

(This is the second part of a two-part overview of our last Pendragon session.)

This year promised to be a bit more eventful, even though, as with 488, scripted events in the GPC were rather sparse. I knew going in that this year would see a reunion with Sir Jordans, Chamberlain to the Duke of Lindsey and potential love interest for Sir Herringdale and I was curious to see how things would play out. Des had been unsure how to react when the two knights first met, and was still willing to play things by ear, although she'd been playing Herringdale as somewhat intrigued for reasons he didn't fully understand. As it transpired, Herringdale himself would make it perfectly clear how he felt, much to the collective delight of player and GM; what can I say, the dice don't lie.

[Solo GPC] 488: Sewing the Seeds

It's that time of year here on the West Coast: rain, rain, and more rain. What I like to call "gaming weather." In that spirit, Des and I sat down for some more Pendragon yesterday. (And is there any sweeter moment as a GM than when a player asks if you can run another session ahead of schedule?) As I had anticipated, we got through two years in one session; the events laid out for 488 and 489 take up just over three pages in the GPC combined. Of course, as I've found to be the case with most RPGs but Pendragon especially, when things are left that sketchy and wide open for the players, that's when the unexpectedly sublime gaming moments tend to occur. This time was no exception, albeit most of the moments in question will have to wait for the second in this two-part post in which I cover 489. This year was all about sewing seeds of future events, some of which played out the following year.

I've been quite pleased so far with the rate of progression in the campaign. By that, I mean that I feel like over the first five years of game time, Des and I have done a good job of firmly establishing the world and the character's place in it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

[Solo GPC] 487: Not Quite Brokeback Castle

[Between this Great Pendragon Campaign series and my D&D recaps, I've been posting a lot of session summaries lately, haven't I? I know some folks don't care to read these things, but it's just the direction my blogging muse is leading me these days. Apologies to those who don't like to wade through accounts of other people's games.]

I was very much looking forward to running this year. Events laid out in the GPC that on paper were seemingly fairly straightforward had a certain promise of development through role-play. Of course, no plan survives contact with the players (or in this case, player), and this time was no exception...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

When NPCs Save the Party's Bacon

My Wilderlands D&D group finally managed to get together this week. Between the holidays and various people getting variously sick at various times, we had been doing the cancel-reschedule dance for over a month. It's only a good thing that I'm in the habit of writing down loose leads and notes for the next session as soon as the prior session has ended or I probably would have forgotten half the stuff where we last left off! Worse, our time this week was limited due to a couple outside factors (that we knew about going in). Nevertheless, we managed to get through a fun mini-adventure (following up on a lead from last time) and I...nearly killed the party. Let me explain.

As I mentioned in the post linked above, one of the rumors the party picked up was that the Naughty Nannies brothel was offering a 400gp reward for dealing with a pesky basilisk that was terrorizing the staff. Our intrepid adventurers have found themselves stuck in the City-State for a week while they wait for a sage to research a couple questions. So they figured, "Hey, why not?"

I for one could think of one good reason: a party of three 1st-level PCs facing off against a 6-Hit Dice creature that can turn you to stone would make for some pretty impressive odds in Vegas. But hey, it's a sandbox campaign and the party is free to pursue whatever leads it wishes, right?

One thing that's endlessly entertaining for a GM running the City-State is that merely crossing town can turn into a whole adventure unto itself. To whit: the party had to make its way from the Crusty Crab Inn to the Naughty Nannies by way of Hedonist Street and the Plaza of Profuse Pleasures. The dice were actually being pretty kind to the PCs--just a run-in with a roving gang of streetwalkers on Hedonist Street--until they got to the aforementioned Plaza. Then--a "2" on my d20 roll indicated saving throws all around. The Plaza, it seems, it subject to some pretty powerful, little-understood, ancient magics that occasionally afflict visitors with the urge to...dance! But not the happy fun type of dance. More like the "dance til you pass out, puking and sweating, from dancing continuously for 12 hours and even then your legs keep tap-tap-tapping away."

Unfortunately, both Rumple-Wumpkin and Beezle failed their saves. I'm not sure which is more hilarious: the image of a dancing otter doing pirouettes or the image of a blind elf wizard-assassin badass jeté-ing across the Plaza, but there you have it.

For all the laughs, of course, there was the very real problem of the fact that two characters were basically incapacitated. (A local houri informed the group that the condition was known to last for up to six days!) She pointed them towards the School of Bards, telling them that they had someone who could deal with it (I made this decision on the fly since we were short on time).

Of course, the School makes a nice bit of coin off removing this minor affliction, and the party soon found themselves out 400gp, the very amount they had set out to make from basilisk slaying! But the head of the school, Atlark the Hairy, offered the group a chance to recoup their losses. He told them to return the following evening to perform a task for him; in return, he would pay them 300 gold crowns. Not bad, not bad.

(Note to self: must think of task for Atlark to give the group...)

And so it was at last on to the Naughty Nannies. One of the things I do enjoy about running D&D is the opportunity to have fun with anachronisms. There's already a bit of precedence in the City-State book itself, where it describes the City's magistrates as wearing powdered wigs and judicial robes. So naturally I couldn't pass up the opportunity, nay, obligation to describe the staff at Naughty Nannies as looking like tarted-up Mary Poppinses.


The group talked to Madam Omelrantra about the job. She informed them that the basilisk had turned up in their cellar after a minor earthquake the week before. A hapless slave girl had fallen victim to its gaze, and no one on staff had dared venture down there since. Another party of would-be basilisk slayers had descended into the cellar a couple days ago, but had yet to re-emerge. So informed, the party resolved to do what their predecessors had failed to do.

Now, as you may recall from my character sketch post, the party consists of three PCs. There's an additional body on hand, Beezle's faithful, mute half-orc henchman Pagoda (he's mute because we all tended to forget that he was there half the time!). And it is around Pagoda, so often in the background, silent and near-forgotten, that this week's session ultimately revolved.

After doing some research on basilisks (which consisted mostly of asking every random NPC they ran into, "What do you know about basilisks?"), the party determined that they'd need some iron shields polished to a reflective shine, the better to catch the basilisk's own reflection in. A cunning ploy, for certain. Furthermore, Rumple-Wumpkin had very cleverly coated three of her crossbow bolts in poison from a disarmed trap way back in the first session of the campaign, and it was determined that now was the time to use 'em.

So Pagoda was dispatched to pick up some shiny shields for R-W and Pilar, and Beezle agreed to take point, since he's blind and all. Unfortunately, once down in the junk-strewn, many-columned cellar that the basilisk had been inhabiting, they failed to note my subtle clue of where the basilisk was making its lair (as in "there are a bunch of petrified people all staring at the same pile of junk") and walked right past the large junk pile it was hiding in. Which, of course, gave the monster a free attack.

I had decided prior to the game that anyone subject to a basilisk's gaze would get two saving throw opportunites (nice, aren't I?). A Wisdom save would determine if they'd met the thing's gaze, while a Constitution save would determine if they were turned to stone.

Rumple-Wumpkin failed both saves.

Ah, I hear it now--the cries of dozens of voices lamenting the cruel fate I inflicted on everyone's favorite otter ranger. But it gets worse.

Holding the shield ahead of her (and taking a commensurate penalty to hit), Pilar waded in to the junk pile, luring the basilisk out so Beezle could snipe it with the poisoned crossbow bolts (Beezle, although blind, takes a rare desert spice that gives him heightened awareness out to a 30 foot range, equivalent to darkvision). Only one of the three bolts hit, and the basilisk passed its "save or die" poison save. Furthermore, despite being faced with its own reflection every round it was fighting Pilar, the pesky basilisk kept making its Petrification saves!

Then it got a critical hit on Pilar. She went down with exactly 0 hit points and dropped to the ground.

At this point Beezle was faced with a tough choice: continue fighting, or get the hell out and try and find some help. Also at this point I feel I should note we were coming close to our designated wrapping-up point. So I decided I'd give the gang one more shot. The only caveat was that this last chance at pulling victory out of the jaws of defeat would be purchased at the hands of an NPC, and a lowly henchman at that.

As Beezle began to withdraw, Pagoda heroically dashed in to haul Pilar's body out of harm's way. As he did so, he picked up her reflective shield to hide behind. One more set of saving throws for the basilisk then as it was once again faced with its own reflection.

The Wisdom save wasn't the creature's strong suit. I needed a 12 or better, and the basilisk had failed this roll several times already. Sure enough, I rolled an "8" and the basilisk met its own gaze. Ah, but the Constitution save! A 5 or better would do it, and so far, obviously, the basilisk had passed every time. Not this time--the dice came up reading "3".

Unbelievably, the basilisk turned itself to stone at the last minute. Even more happily, Rumple-Wumpkin's share of the experience points was just enough to boost her to 2nd level! Hurray!

Oh wait, she's now a 2nd-level statue. Yeah, about that...

Well, what can I say? It was that hurried sort of "wrapping up so we can all get out of here on schedule" type atmosphere, and I was feeling generous. So in addition to the 400 ducats promised, the Naughty Nannies very kindly provided for a stone to flesh spell to be cast on the intrepid otter. (The hapless slave girl and even more hapless adventuring party that had preceded them weren't so lucky; in my world, basilisks can only digest silicates, which is why they have their petrifying gaze to begin with. The slave girl and adventurers had been nibbled to the point that they wouldn't have survived being made flesh again.)

Furthermore, Madam Omelrantra made the full services of her staff available to the group during their three-day recuperation. Pilar, being both a halfling and a cleric, chose to indulge merely in the gustatory pleasures of the main dining hall, but Beezle, Pagoda, and even Rumple-Wumpkin(!) availed themselves of the establishment's justly famed fleshy pleasures.

Despite the short session and the NPC bailout (which certainly wasn't a sure thing; I mean, it's not like Elmonster showed up with a healing wand or something), this was another really productive adventure. There are now two more leads for the party to consider: first, the job they owe to the bards, and second, where the basilisk came from. Pagoda and Beezle, poking around in the junk pile the basilisk was nesting in, found a small grate leading down into the bowels of the city--presumably that's where the creature emerged from. Dare they follow the trail? And once the week has passed, there will be even more interesting revelations from the sage they hired. Plus I may just have a couple other surprises up my sleeves... I said it before, I'll say it again: I love the City-State!

Oh, one last note: we're going to try out a daring and cheeky plan for our future sessions. Since we all have such unreliable schedules, we decided it would make more sense to actually schedule weekly games rather than bi-weekly. That way, when there's the inevitable cancellation, it only means missing a week rather than a month. Plus, who knows? There might actually be stretches where we manage to get together for two, three, or even four consecutive weeks. Imagine!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

[Solo GPC] 486: Watery Tarts Distributin' Swords

Today Des and I played our second proper session of the Great Pendragon Campaign.

The year 486 found Sir Herringdale fully recovered from the wounds he suffered at the Battle of Mearcred Creek the previous year. In late April he set out for Sarum Castle to provide the mandatory two months' service to his lord, Earl Roderick of Salisbury. There had been word of Saxon atrocities in Caercolun to the east, particularly around Colchester, following Duke Lucius's defeat there the year before. A military expedition was a virtual certainty, and Sir Herringdale was looking forward to a chance for some payback against the hated invaders.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Great News for Pendragon

Via RPG Blog II comes the news that King Arthur Pendragon will soon be back in print!

It's sort of a "new-old" publisher, actually--Stewart Wieck, formerly of White Wolf, has struck out on his own with a new company and brought the Pendragon license (and Greg Stafford) along with him. This is great news indeed, as the most recent edition of Pendragon and its essential Great Pendragon Campaign have been out of print (albeit still available in PDF) for too long now. Furthermore, although Greg Stafford has continued publishing supplements for KAP, they've been strictly a home-spun effort with a correspondingly high price point. Hopefully, Nocturnal will re-release these supplements under its own banner (and finally make them available in PDF form) at a lower price.

And hopefully we'll start seeing some more Pendragon material. Dare we even dream of seeing the pipe dream of a generic KAP-based system being released?

Monday, January 4, 2010

[Save vs. Sketchbook] More Hot Character Sketch Action

I had a late Christmas surprise this past Saturday when I received a tablet PC from an old friend of mine. He had a line on a good deal and thought I'd appreciate one, since he knows I'm artistically inclined. And boy do I appreciate it!

In the wake of my last character sketch post, I continued on to noodling around with the other two characters in the party, but progress was slow as molasses. The digital drawing pad has changed all that, and simultaneously expanded my palette beyond mere pencil and paper.

First up, we have a revamped Rumple Wumpkin:

The digital drawing pad really let me go to town (maybe a little too much...) with adding texture and shadow. Tons of fun!

Next, I had more or less completed a second sketch prior to receiving the tablet, so I just scanned it in and, again, added shading and texture. This is Des's character, Pilar Lubani, a cleric of Alanna, Demi-Goddess of the Moon (pictured with her pet spider monkey, Luna). Pilar is a highland halfling, which are described as semi-nomadic llama herders; I got a real "pre-Columbian" vibe off of the sub-race's description, so I gave Pilar an intricate hair arrangement based on the type Hopi Indian women wore.

Last but not least, we have the third character in the group, a blind Southern Elf wizard/assassin named Beezlebub (the other two PCs refer to him as "Beezle", much to his chagrin; I might point out the questionable wisdom of mocking a wizard-assassin, but hey, they're not my characters...). (Also not pictured: Beezle's half-orc butler, a mute thief named Pagoda.)

This was the first sketch I did from scratch on the digital tablet, and I'm quite pleased with it. Of course, with all three sketches, I can look at them and instantly start picking out things that don't "look right" to me, but that's just part of the process of learning and growing in one's art, right? Right.

I sent the sketches out to everyone in the group and included a little bonus picture where I'd put everyone together for a "group portrait"--the characters are all in scale to each other, so not only is this a fun little larf but it will also allow the players to more clearly imagine themselves and their compatriots.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

[Solo GPC] 485: Baptism By Fire

What can I say, the Great Pendragon Campaign does not fool around when it comes to kicking things off.

The first ten years or so of the GPC are rather heavily scripted. This is intentional, of course. The remainder of the campaign is primarily framework upon which the GM and his players can hang their own activities, but that first decade is pretty insistent on following a set path of (rather foundational) events. This is fine by me, as these activities are quite interesting and challenging--downright deadly at times, in fact!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

[Solo GPC] Campaign Beginnings

So in my last post, I laid out my crazy plans for running the Great Pendragon Campaign with a single player, my partner Desiree. One of the reasons I knew I wanted to go ahead with this plan rather than wait around for a group opportunity to present itself (apart from the fact that I've always kind of liked the idea of single-player Pendragon; knights errant and all that...) is that I feel I'm at a place where I'm never going to be more ready to run my kind of Pendragon campaign than right now.

What I mean by "my kind of Pendragon campaign" is one with all the switches flipped, so to speak. If you've ever played a flight sim, you know what I mean; most (all?) flight sims have an option screen where you can flip a dozen or more switches that determine the realism level of the sim. With all the switches flipped off, you're basically playing Afterburner. With all the switches on, you're practically training for the real thing.

In a similar sense, you can run Pendragon on a spectrum running from genre to generic, as Greg Stafford has coined it. Furthermore, there are layers of detail you can lay in with various rules and sub-systems, either from the current edition or the previous ones (available in PDF form through DriveThruRPG, thankfully).

As fun as my first big Pendragon campaign was, it got away from me very early on. Two of the players were hardcore D&Ders and the campaign very quickly slipped down towards the generic side of the scale; nothing wrong with that per se, but not a direction I'd like to go again. Furthermore, I wasn't familiar with the system or the legendarium, and made a bunch of silly goofs both mechanically and in terms of the setting and NPCs. Nifty little spot rules like the feast tables in Tales of Mystic Tournaments or the wilderness encounter tables in Blood and Lust were uncovered in old supplements and sort of spot-welded in. The prospect of starting off a campaign fresh and "doing it right" as much as possible held tremendous appeal for me as a GM.

(Another thing I wanted to do was play without benefit of a GM screen, making all my rolls out in the open. Funnily enough, when I announced this intention to Des, she met me with a fairly blank expression of indifference. She told me it really didn't matter to her, since she often isn't sure of what the significance is of the dice rolls I'm making anyway! This is strikingly similar to a sentiment expressed by Chgowiz's PrincessWife in their solo D&D campaign. Very interesting, indeed.)

At any rate, I spent an afternoon collating old material from my previous campaign as well as copying all the juicy articles that are posted over at gspendragon.com and putting everything together in a campaign binder. Feast tables (FEAST!), wilderness encounters, alternate jousting rules, an expanded garrison solo, new childbirth tables, lots of good stuff.

Des and I sat down to do character generation earlier this week and this too was to be done "right." This meant going through the whole process laid out in the 5th edition rulebook, including the rather detailed process of generating a family and family history (random tables to determine what happened to Grandpa and Dad!). For some reason, none of our earlier characters in any earlier Pendragon campaign have adventured in their home regions--quite the opposite, they usually found themselves far from home and their families. This is to be a different campaign for certain; the characters' family will be a major facet of NPC interactions, as intended.

Did I say characters plural? I did indeed. Setting aside some rather silly old prejudices about players having multiple characters, I told Des about the suggestion in the Pendragon rulebook that players should generate at least two characters at the start of a campaign. In the case of a solo game, this approach made even more sense. The idea is to have a "backup" character you can bring in to replace your primary character in case of sudden death, capture, long-term incapacitation, or other unplanned hiatus.

Since the idea for the one-shot adventure I referred to in my last post (the one that got me thinking of Pendragon again to begin with) would have involved Des playing a Lady character (for a nice change of pace), she decided to create a Knight as her primary character and a Lady as her backup. Her Knight is a male (having already played a female knight, Dame Vivien, in the last campaign), but we talked about the role of female knights in the campaign world in general. As things start out in the Uther period, a very rough and tumble time with much in common with the days before chivalry when knights were little better than armored thugs, we decided that although we'd "generic" it up a bit by allowing for the presence of female knights, their position would be analogous to an ambitious career woman in the mid-20th century; i.e., possible, but with major impediments and prejudices in place. (Any relation to this metaphor and the fact we've started watching Mad Men is purely coincidental...)

After going through the full character creation process, Des had two characters, twin siblings. Herringdale (whose future coat of arms is displayed at left) is a 22-year-old squire serving Sir Elad, Marshal of Salisbury, at Vagon Castle. His sister, Lady Obilot, is one of the greatest beauties in the kingdom (Des assigned her an APP of 18, then rolled "Pretty: +10 APP" for her Female Gift!) as well as a pagan (unlike her Roman Christian father). What else could that spell but sorceress? For now she simply has a couple Wondrous Substances, mystical potions that can influence the behavior of those who ingest them. She's pursuing further arcane studies while secreted away at Amesbury Abbey.

(This brings up an interesting rules conundrum for me. Fifth edition Pendragon explicitly rejects systematizing magic, an approach I support. Yet what to do with a character who is a "sorceress"? The 4th edition Celtic Magic system does what it sets out to do and does it well, but at the cost of a rather inelegant system in my opinion. Fortunately, Obilot is the secondary character, so I have time to think about this. Right now, I'm sort of sniffing around for a simpler magic system from another RPG that I can sort of bolt on to Pendragon. S. John Ross's Hedge Magic system seems to hold the most promise at the moment, and seems like it would be a sinch to integrate, but I'd also like to find some rules for alchemy and potion brewing. Suggestions are always welcome.)

At any rate, Herringdale is the scion of his family, a Cymric (Celtic) knight with a strong dose of Latin influence in his family heritage most visible in his piercing stare and hair cut in the Roman fashion, as well as his family's (general) adherence to the Roman church over the British Christian faith. His family manor, Broughton Hall, which he stands to inherit this coming year after the tragic death of his father at the Battle of Eburacum the previous year, stands on the very border of the county of Salisbury and is just down the road from a declining old Roman settlement the locals call Camelot.

All the action's west of Broughton, however, in the ancient and storied city of Sarum, once seat to Queen Cordelia, daughter of the legendary and tragic figure of Lear, and currently the residence of Earl Roderick of Salisbury, Herringdale's soon-to-be liege lord. The Earl maintains an active antipathy with Sir Blains, steward of nearby Levcomagus, that goes all the way back to when the Earl won the hand of Countess Ellen out from under Blains. As Broughton manor is less than a day's ride from Levcomagus, I'm hoping to see some nice cross-border raiding action and maybe a little villainous opposition develop between our erstwhile knight and his lord's sworn enemy. We shall see.

In the meantime, Herringdale (along with his sister and his whole family, really) holds a burning, passionate hatred for all things Saxon. Salisbury is hard up against lands recently conquered by invading Saxon barbarians, so anti-Saxon feelings are pretty common in these parts, but Herringdale's hatred is a direct legacy from his Papa, who acquired it after his own father was treacherously slain (along with most of Britain's nobility at the time) in the infamous Night of Long Knives. Des rolled a jaw-dropping Hate (Saxons) passion of 21, so needless to say our good Herringdale will be seeing red and cleaving skulls whenever and wherever there are Saxons to be found. (Interestingly, this is the second character Des has run who has an almost overwhelming hatred of Saxons; Dame Vivien acquired a similar passion after fighting them at Badon Hill. Herringdale--nativist that he is--spices things up by adding an additional Hate passion directed against Picts, but that's rated at a mere 8.) But it would be a real shame if he happened to fall in love with a Saxon beauty, wouldn't it? Again, time will tell.

And so we are set to venture forth into our first year of the Great Pendragon Campaign. The first year kicks off with a bang, a big battle, so we'll see how young Herringdale fares...

Friday, January 1, 2010

How's This For Ambitious?

Ah, here we are in 2010 all of a sudden. Hello and happy New Year everyone!

I ended up taking a bit of an impromptu break from Bloglandia over the last two weeks, but I have returned with an ambitious plan to kick off the first post of the new year. It all started a couple weeks ago when, for reasons I'm still not too clear on, I pulled out the character I ran in Des's Pendragon campaign last summer. There were a couple things I wanted to check on for whatever reason, but I ended up just sort of going over the character sheets and remembering how much fun that campaign was. It was a short one, especially by Pendragon standards, covering only about 10 years of game time in the span of maybe a dozen or so sessions, but even in that short amount of time some great stories were woven, epic moments sprang up, new legends were born. It's really almost alchemical how Pendragon just...generates epic moments, almost like some kind of weird mystical engine clanking and puttering away, randomly dropping out gold nuggets.

Quite subtly, almost imperceptibly, I started thinking about Pendragon again, like a recovering alcoholic contemplating just one more sip of the sweet stuff. "Why not run a little one-shot over the holidays?" I thought to myself. Why not indeed. I came up with a modest little scenario idea, pitched the concept to Des, and we were set to go.

Then Des got sick. Then I got sick. So things got put on hold. While in my sick bed, I broke out the 5th edition Pendragon core rules and the Great Pendragon Campaign and started reading up on sections I've only had time to skim before (I purchased both books after starting my last big Pendragon campaign, so I could only cherry-pick sections out of them and never did have use for the 5th edition basic chargen rules, for example). Oh, and I finished devouring the Book of Battles, of course.

As I was reading through the first third of the GPC, I started thinking about my long-deferred dream to run the whole hog. My big Pendragon campaign spanned the years 515 to about 550; a hefty chunk, to be sure, but only about half of the full 80 year span of the GPC campaign arc in toto. I wanted a crack at the thing, and was thinking about when that might happen. My current group are currently engaged in a D&D campaign that shows every sign of continuing on for a good long while, particularly since it's considered a good month when we can actually manage to keep to our biweekly schedule. And after that there's been much interest expressed in Call of Cthulhu, an interest I'm all too obliged to indulge in. Then there's the fact that the GPC itself estimates that even with weekly play a group will get through the whole thing in about 18 months. With a group that meets as irregularly as ours, that's looking more like a 3+ year campaign! Good grief.

But what are you going to do? Launch a side campaign, just you and your lady? The GPC is tough enough with a group of players--to try and tackle it with a single PC would surely be madness.

So of course by now you know exactly what happened: I made my crazy proposal to Des, she joined me on my Ship of Fools, and we've set off for the unknown horizon of trying to navigate the Great Pendragon Campaign!

What that means to this blog is that I'll be posting periodic actual play updates as we go along, along with various silly musings about my approach to running/playing Pendragon. I can't promise anything even approaching regularity in that regard; Des is a PhD student, and during her academic quarters spare time becomes a precious commodity. So we don't have a regular set game schedule for Pendragon. We may very well play several sessions in a week, then go a month without anything, then settle into a sort of bi-weekly rhythm for a while, and so on...

But, much in the manner of the esteemed Chgowiz and his great "Playing D&D With My Wife" posts, this series will hopefully give some insight into the process of single-player gaming, provide a fun little campaign journal, and just be a generally fun read. That's the intention at least.

Here's hoping. As with anything in life, you set your rudder, raise your sail, and hope for the best.
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