Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Stuff of Future Memory

It has begun...

'The Lion and The Sea'

The Coat of Arms and Personal Symbols of the Player Characters;
Right to Left Top: Sir Basil of Rathmoor, Freydis The Mariner Knight, Aiden The Celt,
Sir Henry of Basker Village
Bottom: Malecai The Magnificent

This past Saturday we held the first session of our new campaign, 'The Lion and The Sea', a campaign of Pendragon, The Role Playing Game of Chivalry, Magic and King Arthur's Britain. And it rocked!

For those unfamiliar with the game, I highly recommend checking it out and reading the following internet references:

Pendragon Role Playing Game Wikipedia Entry
Pendragon Retrospective by Grognardia
Pendragon Analysis By The Silver Key - Why it isn't more popular and why it should be.

Oh, and this guy knows a thing or two about the game as well...

Greg Stafford's Pendragon Site

Yes, that last link is to a very helpful and obviously heart felt website belonging to the creator of the Pendragon RPG, Greg Stafford. This game was and is a definite labor of love for the man and I would personally like to thank him for all his hard work and creativity. Thank you Mr. Stafford. Amazing job.

I should probably also apologize to him, since this post is not just about a Pendragon campaign I am running but a Barking Alien Pendragon game for my particular group of players. I am fairly certain we are already playing it very, very wrong.

That said...

We had an absolute blast and the players really got into their characters (For the most part. Continue reading). They also adapted fairly well to the setting, even though the characters they created were not all what you would normally expect.

See, my players seem slightly allergic to the act of getting behind and into a genre and playing it. If you say your going to run Circle: The RPG, where everyone plays some kind of Circle in Circular World, my players will ask if there are options to play squares and trapezoids. They will be very discouraged if the answer is no, even to the point of losing enthusiasm and interest in the game.

Did I mention we all agreed to play Circle: The RPG when I suggested it and explained what it was about? We did. And still...trapezoids.

Now some of this comes from a strong streak of creativity and individuality that many of my players have. I like to encourage that and certainly don't want to discourage it, so I will hear any crazy idea out before giving my opinion of it. In the recent past, I have been almost too flexible, resulting in games that did not feel right to me or flow the way I wanted them to. Here, with Pendragon, I tried to be a little firmer about what was a fitting character and what wasn't and largely this resulted in characters who fit the milieu even if they are not exactly traditional Arthurian characters.

He's who we have:

Sir Basil of Rathmoor (Andy)

Sir Basil is by far the most classically Arthurian of all the PCs. He is a Knight of a once noble family that has fallen on difficult times, largely due to a curse on the family blood.

Legend has it that an ancestor of Sir Basil's, perhaps two or three generations back, spurned the love of a Faerie Princess who doomed his line to hardship and misery. Some say it is even worse than that. Only Sir Basil knows for certain.

Basil is a Roman descended Briton and a Christian. He is the eldest son of the Lord of Rathmoor, a small, decrepit fortress overrun with moss, vines and all manner of mushrooms. It sits just outside the faerie wood known as the Nain Forest. It lies in the center of the distance between Carlion and Cardiff. His keep and land, such as it is, is in the nation of Escavalon.

Basil is skilled with Lance and Sword and quite the Jouster. He is Valorous, Suspicious of non-Romans and Saxons (but tempers the former well). Basil's knowledge of Folklore and Faeries far surpasses most of the others. He reads and speaks Latin and is knowledgeable about the world beyond Britain to some extent.

Sir Henry of Basker Village, Knight Forester of Dartmoor at Devon (Ray)

Sir Henry is the next most traditional Knight, though in many ways he is less Knight and more Ranger. Sir Henry owes his style and skill to Aragorn as much or more than to Gawaine or Percival.

Sir Henry's father was a Knight Forester (yes, that was a real thing) who owed his allegiance to the former King of Cornwall and now to Prince Geriant of Devon. The current King of Cornwall, King Mark, is a greedy, lazy man of little Honor and pays little attention to the small village of Baskers, a tiny settlement in the vicinity of Dartmoor. Prince Geriant quietly sides with Arthur and lends him Sir Henry's skill as a Forester himself to lead the troupe of Knights north through the wilds of the Cambrian countryside.

Henry is a Cymric and a Christian. He rides with his faithful companion, an Irish Wolfhound/English Mastiff of great size and dark black/gray fur. The dogs appearance disquiets many as it is often mistaken for a supernatural Black Dog or Grim. Henry's main skills are with the most un-Knightly weapon of a Long Bow and in Hunting, Awareness of his surroundings and other abilities common to woodsman.

Someday, Sir Henry hopes to slay a dragon. It's nothing personal. It's just something he's always wanted to do.

The 'Lady' Freydis, In Some Future Time, 'The Mariner Knight' (Will)

(Will wanted to play a female character. That seems to be a trend from my two newest players, Will and Hans. I normally can't stand when men play women and vice versa because, a) it usually sucks and b) it often prevents romantic subplots as the awkward feeling some experience over this type of play is only increased by the dynamic of both players being heterosexual  members of the same sex but their characters being different genders.

Now, I will say that Will and Hans both handle this very well. Will is an especially good role-player and both fellows are big Anime/Manga fans, a medium where complex and strong female characters are not as rare as they are in the West. I look forward to seeing how this plays out in Pendragon, but as you might imagine, it made for a somewhat tricky approach to campaign design in this setting.)

Freydis is the daughter of a former warrior of the North who, when his brothers and allies entered into combat with the dreaded Whale Devourer, sailed to safe shores as fast as his little boat could carry him. While he saved his remaining family (himself, his wife, Freydis and her younger sister), he was labeled a coward in his homeland and could not return.

Sailing on for sometime unable to find safe harbor, Freydis' family and a number of other desperate Danes eventually landed/crashed into the western beaches of Cambria in England, across the sea from Ireland.

A tall, strong and fiercely spirited young woman, Freydis is the most capable and able-bodied individual among the half dozen tiny fishing villages the Danish were able to establish. Saxon raiders hidden in the nearby woods, mountains and a wilderness bramble called 'The Wirral', constantly nab men from the village to add to their ranks.

Our story actually begins with King Arthur contacting the lord of Estragales and telling him by letter (likely written and advised on by Merlin) that he has learned of a young woman living in a fishing village of the shores between Gomeret and Chesire who, according to heresay, slew a Sea Monster with a single throw of a spear. Arthur asks King Lak of Estragales to send some Knights to check out this folk tale.

King Lak sends Sir Edwen of Carmarthen and Sir Dougherty of Pembroke (NPCs) to locate Sir Basil and Sir Henry and commands that all four go to find this young lady on behalf of King Arthur.

Freydis is a Danish Pagan, following a Wotannic religion. Hers is a dark but just god of Drowning and Beer. Pretty metal no? Her weapon of choice is the hand held harpoon.

Aiden The Celt (Hans)

(Hans' character is female, a young Irish woman named Andaste, but this is unknown to the party except for Freydis who, being a woman herself, took notice of things men are quite oblivious to.)

On the way north, the troupe of Knights, Sirs Edwen, Dougherty, Henry and Basil, came upon a wagon and its driver on a little used path through the Arroy Forest. The driver appeared to be a slim, young man, dressed as a warrior and was likely a bandit or a mercenary. The young 'man' saw the troupe first and asked them to identify themselves. They, being Knights, insisted he do the same. Sir Dougherty recognized 'his' accent as Irish and heavy and, since he is Irish himself, decided to talk to 'him' one-on-one.

Long story short, Dougherty felt it proper for him to do something for a kinsmen and hired the young 'fellow' as a guide familiar with the area. The mercenary youth said his named was 'Aiden' (Andaste's father's name).

Andaste/Aiden is a Irish Pagan. She is running from an overbearing father and a forced decree of marriage. Imagine Meredith from Brave is she were able to escape after meeting all the other clans and started a new life as a sword for hire. Yeah, like that!

Malecai The Magnificent (Marcus)

(Ah Marcus. *Shakes head* What am I going to do with you. Marcus, ladies and gentlemen, is not what you would call a team player. As a matter of fact, he is nearly the antithesis. The idea of joining anything larger than a two-man operation gives him hives. The larger, more organized and especially more authoritative the group, the less he wants to be a part of it.

Here in Pendragon, that meant that he did not want to be a Knight. No job where you are the vassal of another or owe fealty to some higher power is going to sit well with Marcus. Instead, Marcus chose the following character...)

Little is known about the dark skinned, white robed stranger found washing himself and his things in the river not far from the Wirral in Northwestern Cambria. Perhaps nothing would be known if it weren't for Sir Basil's knowledge of the lands beyond Britain and Malecai's own propensity to talk about himself when he wishes to.

Malecai is a Moor (a Pagan to the peoples of Arthurian England) who hails from a land near that which serves as home to the Saracens. While not exactly a sage or a priest, Malecai is a little of both of these things and perhaps something more. He claims to be capable of 'Magnificant Feats' and it was said feats that earned him his title.

Intrigued by this stranger and believing their meeting could not be mere chance ("Tis either the way of Merlin or the Will of God. Either way, someone has it in for us to have a grand adventure."), Sir Henry asked Malecai to accompany the group and Sir Edwen reluctantly agreed.

(Malecai is a Magician, more specifically, a Brujo (male witch or warlock of Brujeria, a witchcraft tradition of southern Spain). I have combined the magic folklore of the Northern African 'Moors' with that of the 'Moors' of Arabian heritage and added them to the base of Brujeria to create the magical tradition Malecai uses).


There were a lot of great lines of dialogue in the game, but among the best ones came just after Freydis first saw Malecai and assumed the Knights, who she had already been speaking to, had caught the devil.

As the Knights and Aiden tried to explain that Malecai was not (as far as they knew) the devil, Freydis pointed a burning stick in Malecai's direction as her sister heated the tip of an iron headed harpoon. Freydis warned the Knights that the devil was unbound, he was free and might 'away'.

That turned into laughs, clarifications and the Knights and Malecai arguing over what to do. Malecai tried to say, "You do not know me. How can you call me the devil?". Unfortunately, Freydis' grasp of English is not perfect and it sounded like, "You can not guess/know my name?", something a devil would surely say.

Finally we stopped laughing, teasing each other and somehow got into a round about conversation regarding why we were there in the first place and why Arthur would even care about the young Danish woman, even though it turned out she did indeed slay a fairly large Sea Monster single-handedly. When all had quieted down there was a pause and then Freydis turned calmly to Sir Edwen and Sir Basil and asked, "Explain to me how he's not the devil."

I lost it. I almost sprayed soda.

This is not traditional Arthurian fare of that I can assure you but it is much closer to what I have been trying to pull off in Fantasy for some time now. I am really excited to continue.

Now that introductions are over I will get to an actual play report in an upcoming post.

For now, I am weary and must away,

Barking Alien

I should note: Freydis and Aiden are not yet Knighted and in truth, do not have their Coats of Arms yet. The images above are what the two Players hope to some day achieve for their respective characters.


  1. Looks like a fascinating group. Good luck!

  2. "If you say your going to run Circle: The RPG, where everyone plays some kind of Circle in Circular World, my players will ask if there are options to play squares and trapezoids. They will be very discouraged if the answer is no, even to the point of losing enthusiasm and interest in the game."

    I share this pain. Also:

    "Can we use the Complete Book of Trapezoids?"
    "I want to play a half-square/half-circle"
    "I want to play Red"

    On guys RPing Girls - I have never seen this work out well for any extended period of time, whether at home or at cons. Sure someone will be all serious about it - for about an hour in my experience, then it devolves into Monty Python voices and forced sexual situations. Hopefully your players are a cut above that.

    Looking forward to reading about this one - Pendragon is right at the top of my "Never Played But Need To" list so I am interested.

    1. It's one of a the very few gaming pains I have these days, though the wounds I bare run deep.

      Did that sound sufficiently Arthurian?

      Of the Male Players I've known who've played Female Characters, exactly none of them have been good up til now. Hans is pretty good and getting better all the time. Will is excellent, though his Female characters are somewhat atypical.

      To be honest, his portrayal of Belarus Hosta, his character in our Traveller campaign is uncannily reminiscent of two women I have known in my real life. The portrayal is practically scary good.

  3. It's a shame when players refuse to acknowledge the setting and have to make the settin adapt to their whims. Sounds like you arr having fun, though I personally would have vetoed the silliness of a magician PC Moor and two women disguised as men. Maybe would have allowed ONE of the latter.

  4. Well, one of them is disguised as a man (Aiden/Andaste), the other is not disguised at all.

    Freydis is a somewhat statuesque (though average looking in appearance), nordic woman of 20 years of age who lives in a peasant, fishing village often raided by Saxons hiding in the nearby woods and mountains. They seems to come riding out of a bramble laiden wilderness of wholly inhospitable land known as The Wirral (part of a forest in present day England).

    The story begins as the troupe of Knights rides into the region to find 'a young lady who, tales be told, single-handedly felled a sea serpent with but a single thrown spear', on the order of King Arthur and Merlin.

    The two female characters are quite different in appearance, style, theme and story. It is for this reason that I said yes to them.

    Then again, I tend to say yes with rare exception. I would rather you play the character you want to play as long as it isn't an outright violation of the setting.