The Great Pendragon Campaign

AD 488

Standings:

1. Sir Lug of Winterslow (1615 Glory)
2. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1494 Glory)
3. Sir Nidian of Haxton (1474 Glory)
4. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (1449 Glory)
5. Sir Uwain de Pieds Larges (1169 Glory)

We open AD 488 with a new knight, Sir Uwain! Not to be confused with his player’s previous character, Sir Owain. Totally different.

The Salisbury crew joins Earl Roderick at court at Winchester this Pentecost. Rumor has it that the Saxons will be held just barely at bay, while Uther shores up his support in preparation for a major push — hopefully decisive — in a few years. The immediate problem is that there are a lot of dukes of Britain who have been, if not openly rebellious, then obnoxiously passive about Uther’s claims to the throne of the high king.

One of them is Duke Gorlois of Cornwall. Problem #1: The route to Cornwall is controlled by King Cadwy of Somerset, who is caught between Uther and Gorlois and trying to survive as best he can. Problem #2: Uther has promised Pryaetor Syragius that he will send an army, led by his illegitimate son Madoc, to help the Praetor liberate Rome.

The king has offered Roderick a choice: the Continent, or Cornwall. Roderick asks his knights for council. The Salisbury boys discuss and vote, to a man, for Cornwall. They want to be near the center of the decision making, even if it means less glory.

Off to Somerset. King Cadwy is ambivalent, but he allows that he will will give Uther passage to Cornwall if he takes care of a problem for him. What problem? Well, apparently there have been some water leapers harassing Cadwy’s fishermen. If Uther can send some men to take care of them, then Cadwy will be able to justify (to Gorlois, and more importantly, himself) kowtowing to Uther.

Uther conveys this information to his nobles. The Salisbury knights are standing guard outside Uther’s tent, and cannot resist their impulse to serve their liege lord! They burst into the tent, Howard & Fine & Howard style, and volunteer all over themselves. Uther is please and amused and accepts their offer.

The next day they are out in the marsh in some borrowed boats. They don’t know much about boats, but … Suddenly, a leaper! They look like frogs with foggy wings instead of front legs, and no back legs. And shark teeth! They fly out of the water and grab one of the knights and carry him a overboard the other side. Drowning, sinking into the water. The other knights set spears. One of the knights grabs a rope (fortuitously tied to an oar lock) and rolls off the side to rescue his sinking friend.

Harrowing combat. Leapers going over the boats. Knights ducking and dodging. Someone else gets taken over. CON rolls to hold breath, then CON-5 rolls. The knights roll a bunch of criticals! Leapers fly over the boats only to split slow-motion into pieces in midair, the knights making dramatic Matrix-esque sword poses as the pieces splash into the water. Soon four water leapers are bobbing upside down at the surface. One swims off crookedly into the swamp, trailing blood.

The knights return victoriously to camp. King Cadwy is pleased. King Uther is granted passage. Uther returns to Winchester to winter and celebrate, and prepare for a visit to Gorlois next year.

Rumor is that Madoc went to Frankland, fought some Franks with the Praetor, and then rebuffed the Praetor’s command to follow to Rome. Madoc returned to Britain. If the ties between Britain and Rome were not severed before, they are now.

During the winter phase, Sir Cyfan marries again, and his new wife produces another daughter.

At the end of 488, the standings are:

1. Sir Nidian of Haxton (1791 Glory) (2 ranks)
2. Sir Lug of Winterslow (1769 Glory) (-1 rank)
3. Sir Cyfan of Teffort (1703 Glory) (
1 rank)
4. Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1627 Glory) (-2 ranks)
5. Sir Uwain des Pieds Larges (1307 Glory)

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AD 487

AD 487

Dramatis Personae (in order of Quality):

Sir Owain of Over Wallop (1507 Glory)
Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1333 Glory)
Sir Cyfan of Teffort (1297 Glory)

Absent this session:

Sir Lug of Winterslow (1545 Glory) (absent)
Sir Nidian of Haxton (1454 Glory) (absent)

We part the curtain over Dark Ages Britain with messengers arriving at the knights’ manors — Uther will be holding Christmas court in Sarum this year, and Earl Roderick requests the knights’ presence!

The three knights arrive at Sarum and it is horribly crowded with the retinues and hangers-on of everyone wanting to suck up to Uther. The knights find their places as best they can. They hobnob a little bit with people.

Teryrnor attempts to dig for some juicy gossip! Alas, whenever he walks up to a group of whispering nobles, they change the subject.

Cyfan is a veritable horn-dog, hitting on demoiselles far above his station. Or rather, attempting to approach them and getting intercepted by handmaidens and turned away. He is not dismayed.

Owain, the master harper (Play [Harp] 25) wants to play in front of the many worthies and impress them with his skills. Alas, he does not have the social cachet to get a gig in front of Uther and settles for a lunchtime performance in front of some minor nobles. Perhaps for the best, as he gets a rather mediocre success.

During the Christmas feast itself, there is much gift-giving amidst the ridiculous number of courses. Roderick gives his knights some fine clothing, which was much needed.

The climax of the feast involves Uther receiving gift after gift, none more extravagant than those of his son, Prince Madoc. Uther generously re-gifts much of Madoc’s plunder, including a handful of silver pennies to each of our heroes.

Then Merlin enters. The wily magician flatters the king, but says he lacks one thing — a thing which will bring peace to the land. With a flourish, he draws the sword (which the knights saw him get last year) and presents it to the king: “For the High King,” says Merlin, “Excalibur, the Sword of Victory!” Everyone cheers and applauds wildly.

“Surely now,” Uther says, holding the sword and admiring it, “no one can stand before me.”

“All you need to do,” adds Merlin, “is to remain just.” (Ominous pause.)

Uther remarks that he will pay a visit to some of his “friends,” implying the vacillating lords of Britain who have been coming up with nothing but endless excuses for not support Uther’s wars against the Saxons.

Merlin adds one last thing before the final feast begins. In front of Uther and all his high lords, he turn to Earl Roderick, gestures to Owain, Teryrnor, and Cyfan, and says, “Watch these men well, and give them rein to help Britain.” (Players get 50 Glory for being so recognized!)


Later, as the feast is winding down and the lords are dispersing back to their lands, Roderick approaches the knights. He has been requested to accompany Uther to visit the lords of dubious loyalty. Also, Prince Madoc has mentioned that promising knights of quality are needed to join him in raiding the Saxon-occupied coasts, putting their ships to the torch and generally killing the Saxon pig-dogs. Unusually, Roderick gives them a choice. More glory is certainly found in military endeavors, but the chance to be involved in Uther’s political machinations could expose them to many potential powerful allies and (from Cyfan’s point of view) their highly marriageable daughters.

The knights decide to accompany Roderick (and Uther).

They ride to Lindsey and are called upon to recite the Adventure of Sword Lake. Duke Lindsey is impressed and throws his lot fully behind Uther. Uther is pleased, Roderick is pleased.

Uther needs messages taken out to outlying lords. Perhaps the players would like to volunteer? Of course they would. Riding out to Ebaracum, the lord is out fighting Saxons. The players grab a guide and ride out to look for him.

But … SAXONS! A small Saxon raiding party ambushes them! Luckily the sharp-eyed Sir Teryrnor spots them. The knights charge! Rolling randomly, Sir Owain is up against a berkserker! The berserker is afoot, -5 to his Greataxe skill of 22. Sir Owain gets a +5 for being horsed. Owain rolls a middling success. The berserker rolls a 17. Critical, doubling his 8d6 damage. Sir Owain’s success allows his to get his shield into play. But it doesn’t matter. Almost 50 damage; poor Owain’s head flies across the field as the berserker roars his fury. Teryrnor and Cyfan dispatch their enemies without issue. The berserker, outnumbered, runs off.

A moment of silence for Sir Owain, first of the knights to fall in this campaign. As he was without issue, his player will have to start from scratch with a new knight.

Somberly, the two surviving knights manage to find the King of Ebaracum with news of Uther and the Sword of Victory. Ebaracum is unimpressed, and tells the knights that he will visit Uther when the Saxons stop attacking Ebaracum. The knights ride away. It is a cold and lonely trip back to Salisbury.


During the winter phase, Sir Cyfan manages to find a wife, who immediately graces him with a daughter, but dies in childbirth. The baby lives.


Standings:

Sir Lug of Winterslow (1545 Glory) (absent)
Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (1494 Glory)
Sir Nidian of Haxton (1454 Glory) (absent)
Sir Cyfan of Teffort (1449 Glory)


RIP Sir Owain of Over Wallop, 464-487.

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AD 486

Dramatis Personae (in order of Quality):

Sir Lug of Winterslow (Jeremy) (1401 Glory)
Sir Owain of Over Wallop (Norris) 1362
Sir Nidian of Haxton (John) 1348
Sir Teryrnor of Southcott (Dale) 1220
Sir Cyfan of Teffort (Joshua) (1169 Glory)

Sir Cyfan was a new addition to the Salisbury band.

As spring breaks over Britian, Earl Roderick’s vassals convene at Sarum for Pentecost court. Merlin is there, hobnobbing and scheming as usual. Also present is a guest from the Continent, Praetor Syragius. He is here to make the procession around Logres and beg for help defending Rome against the barbarians. Earl Roderick of Salisbury is under command of Uther to show courtesy to the Praetor, or he would probably be pelted with turnips and laughed out — the current problems with the Saxons are directly related to Rome’s refusal to aid Britain 76 years ago (“look to your own defenses,” the Emperor wrote to the British Collegium).

When last the Salisbury boys took measure of the mood of the nobles, things were grim — 485 was a bad year for the Britons. But now there is rumor of a plan! Prince Madoc wants to take a select group of knights up to Colchester to pick off Saxon raiding groups. Glory! Plunder!

After a few weeks of hanging out at the castle, the Earl summons them in. Madoc is off to the side in the Great Hall and nods at the knights as they enter. “As you know, men,” begins Roderick, “the Prince plans to take a select group of hand-picked knights to Colchester to harry those Saxon dogs, raid their supplies, and put as many of them to the sword as possible.”

The knights smile and shift in anticipation.

“While he does that,” continues the Earl, “I need all of you to perform garrison duty in the west.”

Wah wah waaah waaaaaaaaah.

Well, that is not as glorious, but when your liege says jump ….

The knights pack (i.e., tell their squires to pack everything) and head out to a little manor in the hinterlands. The lord is three years old, his elderly and boring uncle is regent, and there is nothing going on. They ride the borders of the land every day, and mostly nothing happens. Chase a few bandits (they have an infuriating tendency to melt into the population or underbrush), listen to a few peasants complain (they always complain, so they are told to take it up with the Earl).

Then one day, they are helping an old man try to find his pet goat, when suddenly they hear the goat bleat in terror! A giant steps out and roars at the knights! They are somewhat stunned but manage to collect their wits and charge! They ride him down like champions and manage to kill him before he gets a hit in. As they are cleaning up, they hear clapping and cheering. It’s the old man! A strange mist swirls around him — now they can see that it is Merlin!

“Leave your horses and squires, and follow me,” says the magician. He leads them deeper into the forest, which has begun to take on a barely perceptible glamour. The trail forks, one leads into the forest, the other goes down towards the shore of a lake. Merlin points down the forest path. “There! Protect me, knights!” He strides down the lake path and steps onto a small barge. Out of the forest charges a strange being. It is a man astride a horse, but both man and horse are the same slimy dark green color. The man wields a sword in each hand — as the knights gape, other arms grow out of the man’s body, wielding swords and clubs.

Some of the knights gather themselves together [making Valorous checks] and attack. Sir Owain is again reduced to 1hp at the first exchange. Things are going badly for the knights. It is making five attacks per round and beings to mow through our heroes. [As always, I roll everything openly and announce target numbers, so the players know that the danger is real.] I begin to worry about a TPK, but thankfully someone — Sir Teryrnor, I believe? — rolls a masterful stroke and puts the creature down.

Sir Lug binds everyone’s wounds; then they follow Merlin’s trail to see how fares the magus. They see him out on the misty lake, standing on the barge. He kneels. A smooth, feminine arm rises from the water, holding a gleaming sword! Merlin takes the sword, concealing it beneath his robes, and murmurs to the being in the water. The arm disappears beneath the surface and the barge floats, of its own accord, back to the shore.

Merlin steps back onto dry land. “Well done, knights. Britain is in your debt. Let us go now.” He leads them back through the wood to where their squires and horses await. The knights turn to thank him, but he isn’t there! Perplexed, the knights return to the country manor and continue their garrison duty while the severely wounded rest and heal.

They return back to Sarum at the end of the summer, where the Earl is impressed but upbraids them slightly for waiting until the end of the year to tell him about such a portentous event.

During the winter phase, Sir Nidian and Sir Teryrnor have bad harvests. Teryrnor is able to sell a ring and keep himself in his accustomed maintenance, but Nidian lives as badly as his peasants. He refuses to squeeze them, which is admirable but has consequences — most of his best horses die or go lame, and his armor rusts. Luckily the campaign specifies that this year the Earl will replace any steeds lost — so Nidian lucked out.

Sir Lug squeezes his peasants twice, and now they are all hard of hearing whenever he is around. Not insubordinate, technically. Technically.

Sir Nidian, having witnessed the near-massacre of himself and his friends, becomes concerned about his legacy and decides to marry as quickly as possible. He finds a merchant’s daughter; somewhat beneath his station but hopefully fertile. The rest of the knights are trying to maneuver at court and woo a nice nobleman’s daughter or something. They are not terribly successful.

At the end of 486, the standings are:

Sir Lug (1545 Glory)
Sir Owain (1507 Glory)
Sir Nidian (1454 Glory)
Sir Teryrnor (1333 Glory)
Sir Cyfan (1297 Glory)

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AD 485

Marshall Elad of Vagon Castle, where the our heroes are training as squires, continued their training.

(This “adventure” is really just a method to walk them through the basic mechanics. Which is fine, but Squire Nidian remarked that it was very similar to the beginning of CRPGs. This feeling was enhanced when Elad asked them to go check out a rumor of a bear up near Imber. At least no one was asked to clean out a basement full of rats.)

Turns out there was a bear! Nidian, whose family has a proclivity for hunting, quickly outpaced Squire Owain and found the bear! The bear was pretty tough, so Nidian decided to cut and run. He found Owain and they went back together to make short work of the beast. The local priest bound their wounds and got the peasants to clean and dress the bear, giving them its hide as a prize and as proof of their deed.

On the way back they found a pair of bandits beating up a peasant and decided to charge! Unfortunately for Owain, his target rolled a critical and spitted Owain on his spear, taking him to 1 HP. Owain was a mess but they managed to get him back to Vagon.

Back at Castle Vagon, Sir Elad was suitably impressed! Not with Owain getting skewered to within an inch of his life, but with their general leadership and heroism. Owain was bedridden for a few weeks but was eventually able to get up and around — just in time for a messenger to arrive for the Marshall. They’ve been summoned to Sarum by Earl Roderick!

At Sarum they hobnob a little with the castle folk, and then Earl Roderick calls Owain and Nidian up in front of the assembly and knights them! Arise, Sir Owain! Arise, Sir Nidian!

We called it a night there. King Uther has summoned Roderick and his knights to aid in an attack on the Saxons!

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