Monday, January 18, 2010

[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.

Also, I'm quite happy with the amount of Glory I've been handing out. Past campaigns were a bit too Glory-heavy for my taste. Right now, Sir Herringdale stands at about 2,500 Glory. That's enough to rate him a "Respected" knight, meaning that he's gained the notice of his lord and other power watchers in the immediate area, and that his name is probably well-known in courts around his home county, but he's not much remarked on outside that immediate circle. The next milestone is 4,000 Glory, which would make Herringdale a "Notable" knight, known throughout his home kingdom.

At any rate, with basic routines of a vassal knight now well-established, we joined the story in media res, with Herringdale at Sarum Castle, having responded to a summons from Earl Roderick. It seemed that the Earl had received his own summons from King Uther, a call for troops, and that the Earl had a bit of a decision before him.

The Roman Praetor Syagrius, last defender of the Empire, had been making the rounds in courts of Britain for the previous couple years trying to drum up support for a military expedition to help him win back his lands in Soissons, recently lost to the pagan Frankish hordes. Uther had finally consented to help, but with the caveat that he could only afford to send half his available troops, what with so many threats lurking at home and all. And so it fell to Earl Roderick to decide whether to commit his own muster to the foreign adventure or remain behind as part of the Home Guard.

Sir Herringdale was honored to be part of such high-level discussions. Along with him were Bar, Lycus, and Leo; it seemed that the Adventure of Sword Lake had bought them all access to such things. As the youngest and newest members of court, the four knights were called upon first to give their opinions to the Earl. Herringdale spoke first and spoke in favor of remaining at home.

"Let nobles from counties further inland, farther from the Saxon threat, send troops to fight in Europe. We are too close to King Aelle and his barbarian hordes for my comfort, particularly after that raid last year!"

Sir Lycus, hot-headed as always, spoke in favor of venturing to the Continent to win Glory. Other knights and nobles then spoke out, some supporting Lycus, others Herringdale. At last, the Earl's most senior advisers, led by Sir Elad, spoke in favor of Herringdale, settling the matter. The Earl announced he would be sending his decision to the King on the morrow.

There was still service owed by the Earl, of course, and shortly he departed with a large contingent of troops to follow the King on a diplomatic mission to the nearby county of Somerset to meet with King Cadwy of Bath. Sir Herringdale was given the great honor of acting as Marshal of the county in Sir Elad's absence. This meant he was in charge of leading patrols around the county for the two weeks that the Earl and his retinue would be away.

The fortnight passed relatively uneventfully until one day, when riding patrol in the Bourne Valley with 15 other young knights, Sir Herringdale heard a report from an itinerant peasant: Saxons were raiding a village nearby! Spurring his horse on and coursing over hedge and field, Herringdale rushed to the scene, only to find not Saxons but fellow knights rampaging through a manor and its village. Oh the shame of it! A couple outbuildings were in flames and several villagers lay motionless in the lanes. Leveling his lance, Herringdale led the charge.

In the skirmishing that followed, Herringdale managed to knock his opponent off his horse and take him captive; his fellows didn't fare quite as well, but neither did the raiders. It was a draw (both Herringdale and the enemy leader failed their Battle rolls), and Herringdale let the surviving raiders escape. As they rode off, he noticed that the whole affair had been observed by a mysterious knight seated atop a black horse standing on a small hillock fifty yards away.

Looking uncannily like Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the knight wheeled his horse about and followed the fleeing raiders. Herringdale, though deciding to let him go, made his Heraldry roll. The knight in black was none other than Sir Blaines, Steward of Levcomagus, a castle on the border near Salisbury under the vassalage of Ulfius, Duke of Silchester!

Strange goings-on indeed, particularly in light of how far the raid had penetrated--the Bourne runs not a half-day's ride east of Sarum itself. Herringdale was of a mind to get to the bottom of things. He attempted to rough up the captive knight, slapping him around a bit, but his Merciful kicked in again and Herringdale decided it best to let the bounder stew in the donjon for a few days and wait for the Earl's justice, just as with the rapist he'd rounded up during his first-ever patrol. (Herringdale is noted for his Mercy--i.e., his Merciful trait is 16 or above. While this does earn him some annual Glory, it also means that he must make a Merciful roll whenever an appropriate situation arises. Poor Des, continually thwarted in her attempts to rough up captives.)

A couple days later, the Earl returned from his service with Uther and Herringdale gave his report. Roderick's features darkened, especially at the mention of Sir Blaines, but the Earl would say no more. Fortunately, Sir Herringdale was able to make an Intrigue roll later that day and get the details out of Lady Gwiona (who bore him no ill will for passing her up; she was currently being courted by Sir Jaradan, another Respected knight). As the Countess's handmaiden, Gwiona was privy to certain information, which she now gladly shared (so much for Loyalty). It seemed that in her maidenhood, Countess Ellen was courted by both Roderick and Blaines. When she chose Roderick, an enmity was born between the two men that had festered to this day. Herringdale surmised that with his lord Ulfius, Sir Elad, and Earl Roderick off with the King, Blaines had decided it was time to raise some havoc in his enemy's lands. He obviously didn't figure on running into a knight of such competence as Herringdale, but he has likewise now undoubtedly marked the young knight out as another enemy.

As Broughton manor is on the border with Silchester, and also in light of the previous year's raid, Herringdale resolved to invest in some defensive works for his home that winter.

And so Sir Herringdale returned home. His time of service to his lord had gone well, yet he was still vaguely unsatisfied. Thoughts of Sir Jordans, the strangely intense knight of Lindsey, continued to burble up unbidden, leaving Sir Herringdale unsettled for reasons he couldn't put his finger on...

That winter, a moat was dug around Broughton Hall, Herringdale bought a new charger to replace the one that died the year before (at the dear cost of 20 libra!), and rebuilt his apiary after it burned down in a lightning storm (ah, the Misfortune Table, how I love thee). He also entertained a visit from his bastard half-brother, a household knight in the service of the Earl of Marlboro who had gone to fight on the Continent. He related the tale of the expedition, how they had put Bayeaux to the torch, taken some loot, killed a few Franks, and then turned back when Prince Madoc decided they'd fulfilled their promise, much to Praetor Syagrius's obvious disgust and outrage. Herringdale's brother also speculated that troubled times lay ahead for Gorlas*, Duke of Cornwall, who had yet again failed to answer a summons from the King to send troops for the expedition.

(*Throughout the campaign I'll be using alternate spellings for some characters as the whim strikes me. In this case, I prefer "Gorlas" because I never liked pronouncing "Gorlois" for some reason.)

On another note, Des's "backup character" Lady Obilot was married; there's a Family Event table to roll on every Winter Phase and I got "Sister Married"--Herringdale has another younger sister, but Des decided it was time Obilot got hitched. I told her I'd figure out who the groom was after the session. Boy did I. I'll write more on this at the end of my next post.
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