Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Great Pendragon Campaign: Epic Play-through Year 485

Our group is attempting a complete run of the GreatPendragon Campaign. We’re using 5th edition Pendragon rules, and we’re trying to play it by the book if possible. A few tweaks and add-ons are being used, some tables that can be found online, specifically for feast and courtactivities.
Players are Matt, Mark, and Lilith. I am the GM. This narrative will go over our experience with the game year by year and I’ll call out areas where we had trouble or made some adjustments for our group comfort (generally with rules).

Year 485

This is the start of the Campaign book. Uther Pendragon is the king of Britain. The campaign focuses on the county of Salisbury, and we did standard startup based on the book. All of our knights are landed knights from Salisbury, in charge of a manor.

We had a bit of discussion regarding gender in the game, since Lilith wanted to play a female knight. The rules discourage this a bit, but there is a section on creating women knights. We decided that succession rules in our fantasy Britain favor male heirs, but a woman can inherit if no male heirs are available. Also, female knights are not unheard of. They are somewhat unusual, but are generally accepted, especially in families with no male issue or a tradition of the practice. Lilith also expressed some concern about her character dying in childbirth on a single winter phase roll, and so we ruled that player characters are exempt from childbirth mortality.

Our final roster of characters:
  •          Sir Florentina of Dinton, played by Lilith.
  •          Sir Galmwr of Burcombe, played by Matt.
  •          Sir Aeron of Pitton, played by Mark.

The big event of 485 is the Battle of Mearcread Creek. King Uther calls up his knights to fight the Saxons of Sussex and the freshly knighted player characters follow their lord, Earl Roderick, to the battle. We were still learning how things work in Pendragon, and the reason the rules advise you to create a backup character along with your first quickly becomes obvious.

The players all tried to invoke their Hatred of Saxons to gain an advantage in this battle. Passions, when successfully rolled, allow a major bonus to skill rolls. There is a danger in failure, however, and Matt fumbled his Hatred: Saxons roll. On a passion fumble, the character goes mad from their lack of conviction, and run off to the woods. Since the roll occurred at the beginning of the battle, we decided to let Matt play through the fight and then run off mad. Once a character succumbs to madness, it is entirely up to the GM when they return.

The battle was joined and we got a taste of Pendragon lethality. Sir Florentina was hit with a critical from a Saxon axeman, and was killed outright. It was kind of shocking to lose a player character literally in the first session, but we all rolled with it. She had a backup character, Sir Eleanor, Sir Florentina’s twin sister.

The Battle of Mearcread Creek ends indecisively, neither a side a clear winner. Big picture politics: Franks have capture Soissons on the continent, a large Saxon expeditionary army has landed in Colchester and defeated the Britons there. More battles against Saxon loom for certain.

Our tally on player characters as winter phase begins is one mad, one dead, and one survivor. Pretty grim for a first session! We run through our first winter maintenance phase. Sir Aeron, our survivor, gets married. Matt decides he’d like to leave Sir Galmwr’s fate mysterious for a bit and brings in his backup character Sir Conmorl.