Monday, 29 August 2011

The Seige. Session II of the Expeditionary Campaign

 Just a short summary today. Stomach trouble. Feel crap.

Session II of the campaign saw two new players amble up to the table. Rob is playing Thot- a half-elf magic-user/cleric of Miranda. Neil arrived late due to filming commitments and played Sparious, the NPC. He'll have a character of his own for next week. So with two players from session I unable to attend, we once again had ten players: 9 present in real-life, a virtual player (via Skype) and me.

The Party:
Ailil Shadowdancer Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 1/1.  Played by Ridh
Andros Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Aimee
Boagris Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Silv
Euthalia Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric (and Priestess) of Haestia 1. Played by Caroline
Glykeria Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1 and Priestess (non-clerical) of Miranda. Played by Elle
Ki Oman Human (Foreigner) Male "Bard" (assassin) 1. Played by Ali
Peliakos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparious Human (Mycenan) Male Fighter 1. Played (temped) by Niall
Thanatos Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 1. Played by Fiona
Thot Half-Elf (Mycenean) Male Magic User/Cleric of Miranda 1/1. Played by Rob.

Players Not Present/Character "Recovering from Wounds":
Alexis Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larrraitz
Xenos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter/Magic-User 1/1. Played by Leoni  

By 3pm the party had completed the business of ferrying the wounded into the temple and disassembling their make-shift canvas shelter from the night before. Boagris had spent much of his time skinning the slain baboon and now proceeded to wear the untanned hide as a suit of armour. Meanwhile, Ki Oman and Peliakos set about cooking the flesh of the primate in a bid to provide every one with a few mouthfuls of meat.

Realising that no-one had yet collected water, Sparious grabbed a large pot and made off in the direction of the well, via the now-doorless back entry (the door having been used in one of the two barricades separating the survivors from the floor above). At the suggestion of Ki Oman, Boagris accompanied the other warrior. It was as well he did. For no sooner had they stepped out into the garden than had the large and unusual tree noted earlier by the scouts as they circled the building came alive and tried to attack them!
Heavy branches loaded with razor-sharp leaves swung down, badly mauling a terrified Sparious, who fled back to the worship hall screaming that the island had come alive and was trying to kill them. While the other warriors plus Shadowdancer and Euthalia rushed through the back door to give battle, Ki Oman and Thanatos slipped out the front door and made their way round to the garden via the back route -although it had to be said, Ki Oman was by far the speedier of the two. It was well that they did, for within moments both Andros and Boagris had gone down under the tree's relentless attacks. Peliakos, Shadowdancer and Euthalia did all they could to drag the two fallen warriors to safety. To their dismay however, the tree moved closer to the rear exit  -slithering along on a bed of roots in much the same way a centipede undulates on it's legs. Tall as it was, the tree could not follow them inside the passageway, but it's deadly branches could. Shadowdancer lit torches in the wall brackets, hoping the flames might dissuade the killer tree from continuing it's efforts but to no avail.

It was at this moment that Ki Oman intervened. Having seen the tree move and expose the six, foot tall saplings behind it's position. Ki Oman wasted no time in rushing the adult tree, leaping high up it's trunk,a bronze meat hook in each hand doubling as climbing claws.

Unable to bend it's branches sufficiently to attack the cunning assassin, the tree could do little except continue it's attempts to slay the survivors in the corridor while the assassin climbed inexorably towards the strange eye-shaped bulb atop bundles of vines at the tree's apex. The "eye" itself had already been hit by a well-aimed throw from Boagris, blinding the beast, but Ki Oman deduced that the bundle beneath must houses the creatures brain. After three rounds of successful climbing checks, and a successful assassination roll later, the creature fell to the ground, dead (fortunately away from the temple). Ki Oman leapt clear at the last minute, unfortunately crashing through the roof tiles and into the roof space of the temple. Fortunately he did not plummet onward down through the roof space into the unexplored upper floor of the temple. The triumphant Bard was soon able to climb back down into the garden. This impressive feat was witnessed by the flabbergasted Thanatos, who wasted no time telling the others what he had seen.

Meanwhile, Glykeria had been fishing on the beach with her net, albeit with little success, having caught but a single actual fish and some poisonous jelly-fish. She became aware of a figure stumbling through the surf towards her but, recognising the figure as Thot- her fellow priest of Miranda and another member of Minerva's retinue. She hailed him cheerfully. The two scavenged on the beach awhile amidst the remnants of the ship's wreckage (most of it having been washed away in the tide) and, discovering more fishing materials, proceeded to fish some more.

The two had only just begun their journey back to the Temple of Merax when the episode with the tree began. They observed the tree fall during their journey, but without understanding the significance until arriving back at the temple.

Upon rejoining the group, introductions were made. Thot very quickly made himself useful by healing the wounded warriors Andros and Boagris (both sitting on 0HP) with a pair of Cure Light Wounds spells. Fortunately, given that the warriors had been on 0HP and not into negative hit-points, they recovered immediately with no niggling pains or injuries to speak of (i.e. no negative modifiers to their dice rolls until they'd fully recovered).

While the two followers of Miranda shared out what they had scavenged from the beach, Shadowdancer decided it might be best to recover as much as possible before the next tide carried any other useful items from the ship away. So, he and Ki Oman proceeded to finish their scant meal of baboon flesh and then left the Temple. No sooner had Shadowdancer pushed open one of the bronze outer doors than he came face to face with a native: a crocodilian humanoid with an obsidian dart in one hand and a pail of fish guts in the other. The two strangers stared stupidly at one another for a moment, before the reptilian stranger dropped his bucket, which spilled it's contents messily to the ground. Pausing only to toss his javelin at Shadowdancer (missing by a hairs-breadth) the creature turned and ran, it's skin shimmering and changing colour to match the landscape as it did so.

Shaken, Shadowdancer and Ki Oman returned to the rest of the party to report the strange encounter, but therafter continued onwards to the beach anyway -albeit this time in the company of Peliakos and Boagris. They managed to recover some additional items from the beech without incident. Yet while returning to the temple (in time to meet Glykeria and Euthalia coming out to give them a hand) the party suddenly found itself surrounded by a half-dozen of the strange reptiles, who unleashed a hail of stone darts and javelins to little effect. Boagris, Andros and Euthalia very quickly brought one of the beasts down, despite an awful, gagging stench that made their stomachs heave as though to give up their contents. The rest fled, but only moments later the clear, ominous boom of war drums could be heard sounding in the distance. Leaving their fallen foe where he lay, the party (including a wounded Ki Oman) hustled back to the temple and immediately made plans to set a watch for the night.

Ki spent the remainder of the daylight hours explaining to the rest of the survivors that the stinking reptilians could only be troglodytes - a primitive race of lizardmen with a taste for human flesh, chameonic skin and a foul maismatic stench. Few of the humans slept well that night. He warned the others that the creatures were fond of traps, ambushes and poison. Yet he would forget this sound advice himself soon enough.

In the event, they had a peaceful night. Yet in the morning Shadowdancer, Thanatos and Ki Oman slipped out of the temple with the intention of looking for traces of reptilian scouts. Sure enough, traces there were -but more obvious than expected. There, outside the temple, not twenty yards from the front doors, stood a human skull, picked clean, atop a staff. Ki Oman, forgetting his own advice, reached out to touch the staff and found his hand badly numbed by the contact. Luckily, he seemed to have some resistance to the poison and was able to remain conscious and mobile, though he felt chilled to the very bone. Shadowdancer took the skull and returned it to the temple, leaving a peace offering of some fish in it's place. Continuing their inspection of the Temple grounds, the three stealthy survivors found tracks all around the perimeter, more so outside the shutter less windows on the east side. However, the tracks gave the garden a wide berth, suggesting to Ki Oman and Shadowdancer that the creatures knew the garden was dangerous - but had been unaware as to the source of the danger.

The morning was spent in frantic activity, with those party members who were able, working feverishly to improve the defences. Thot, Andros, Shadowdancer and Thanatos combined their skills in woodworking and manufacturing to make some use of the tree corpse in the Garden. While Thot carved stout staves, Andros set about fashioning them into workable spears with the addition of bronze spikes. Meanwhile, Shadowdancer and Thanatos set about crafting some spear traps and selecting where best to place them for defence.

The remainder of the party either stood watch, tended to the wounded or began work on a defensive ditch. Or, rather, due to a shortage of manpower, several deep pits, with the intention of joining these up into a proper ditch when sufficient time and proper tools became available. It was as well they took these precautions. Yet when danger came, it came not from without. At least not at first.

While Thanatos and Shadowdancer debated where in the east wing to deploy their spear traps for best effect (ie, best coverage of the shutterless windows) they heard a crashing noise from above.

The east barricade was giving way!

Quickly, the others assembled at a loud shout relayed by Glykeria (in the main worship area) to those outside. Without hesitation the party warriors rushed to the bottom of the stairs in time to see the first giant beetle, it's mandible the length and glistening sharpness of a scimitar, crash through the barricade. Meanwhile, Shadowdancer kept watch at the front, Thanatos at the back and Euthalia watched the western barricade for signs of a similar assault. Glykeria and Thot stood behind the door to the stair-corridor. In cover, but ready to provide magical support as needed.

Though the battle was a difficult one, the four fighters and Ki Oman, in concert, brought down the first beetle, but not before the arrival of a second. This one was slain by a single mighty blow from the club of the gladiator, Boagris, which pulped it's carapace and insectoid brain into jelly, splattering the walls (and his companions) with greenish ichor. The third and last beatle proved the most difficult-and deadly - foe. This beast leapt upon the warrior Andros, crushing her beneath it's bulk. Yet Boagris pulled the blacksmith free when Ki Oman leapt upon the beasts back, causing it to unfold its' wing case and attempt to crush the bard against the ceiling . However, the clever bard managed to manacle one of the creatures legs to its mandible, causing it to fall and impale itself on the upraised sword of Sparious.

And not before time. Because even as Andros fell, Shadowdancer had called out an alarm from the front doors. The Troglodytes were attacking. Even as Ki Oman and the three warriors still standing - Sparious, Boagris and Peliakos- rushed to the front gates, Shadowdancer was already forcing them closed with the assistance of Thanatos and Euthalia (both hastily summoned from their respective watches by the alarm call). Yet Glykeria and Thot stood ready. Even as the first rank of the creatures reached the slowly closing doors, they cast their spells, they were met by a salvo of potent magic. Thot's sleep spells dropped the front rank entirely, buying time for the doors to close just as Glykeria's colour spray caused the second rank to drop to the ground, hissing angrily and scratching at their eyes, blinded by an eruption of scintillating colours from the oracles outstretched hand.

Yet despite this mighty display, the beasts continued to pound at the doors even while the party moved to barricade them. Sensing an opportunity, Shadowdancer ran out into the garden, careful to avoid the sentient saplings in one corner, and cast an illusion of his own. In the sky, high above the temple, the image of a giant, antler-helmed, woad-painted figure appeared, silently pointing his bloody, serrated spear at the base of the temple doors. Having conjured a likeness of the Fae Warlord Cerunnos, Shadowdancer could easily image the consternation caused among the attacking troglodytes. Though unable to see the effects of his spell upon the attackers, he took satisfaction from the fact the pounding noise at the temple doors had suddenly stopped.

And that's where we stopped for the night.

Notes: Most of the session was spent in planning and roleplay, so there was far less "gaming" content than last time. I hadn't been anticipating on introducing the troglodytes this early in the campaign, but I generated a random encounter with  a lone trog just as Shadowdancer and Ki Oman were leaving the temple. Naturally, the trog informed his tribe and the remainder of the session (one I expected to focus on exploring the Temple's second level) concerned the groups plans and preperations for the seemingly inevitable trog attack. Finding themselves caught between the tribe outside and the beasts upstairs caused some considerable consternation amoung the players, let me tell you.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Pendragon Campaign: Year 485 part 2: The Adventure of the Chalk Horse

Sir Godrick of Baverstock, played by Silv
Sir Galen of Woodford, played by Aimee
Sir Tywin of Stapleford,  played by Caroline
Sir Valiance of Steeple Langford, the spare.

Following a full day and night of merriment and celebration, our four newly-dubbed knights collapse onto straw heaps piled in the Great Hall of Sarum Castle. Rudely awakened later the next day by the booming voice and toe-prod of Sir Leoric's filthy boots, water skins are thrown at them along with a loud intonation demanding that Tywin, Valiance and their "lazy-bastard Christian friends", get "their fat, pox-riddled arses out of bed and onto horseback before I lose the toe of me boot up them!"

Befuddled, bemused and somewhat puzzled, the four knights, forgetting for a brief moment that knights are not supposed to let anyone (even other knights) speak to them or treat them that way, very quickly assemble on horseback, in the courtyards, with all their shiny new-polished war-gear ready to go.

"Right then!" thunders the sickeningly jovial Pagan household knight, without so much as a hint of a hang-over about him. "It's time that you young pagan knights were initiated into the higher mysteries of the Cult of Epona. Just like me and old Saint," Here, he pats the aging courser beneath him, in order to make clear to whom he refers, "were about twenty winters past." Sir Leoric glances around at the two Christian knights, Godrick and Galen, as well. "Oh don't worry yourselves lads. It won't drop off or anything just because you're attending a Pagan rite. Who'd you think invented Christmas anyway? Right, the grooms are ready. And we're off!"

With that, the aged knight kicks his equally old horse forward onto the drawbridge, where the other knights are surprised to it caper about as though it were itself but a foal. With five mounted grooms leading the PC knight's coursers falling in behind (acting as temporary squires) Sir Leofric leads the knights off in the direction of Uffington.

"Uffington!" Sir Tywin loudly voices his confusion (too loudly for the suffering Valiance), "What great urgency has us riding there?"

The jovial knight is only too happy to explain. Whats there? Whats there? Why! Only the Great White Horse of Course. Tomorrow is the feast of Epona, when the goddess was foaled into the world at the site of the Great Chalk Horse carved into the Hill. At moon-set this night, you'll race round the horse as every Pagan knight of Salisbury has done on being knighted every year before you. And you'd better damn well not let these murmuring bloody lambs of Christ next to you win!"

It's a long ride to Uffington from Sarum, especially given the late hour at which the knights set off from home. Along the way they pass many signs of a coming festival. Horse hair plumes are tied to fence posts and field markers. Peasants arrayed in colourful clothes erect maypoles and tents, or else set trestles out on the village green. All under the baleful glare of the local priests. Indeed, it is long past sunset, with the moon itself about to rise, before the five weary knights, their assorted mounts and the five groomsmen come into view of the Great White Horse chalked out on Uffington Hill.

If the young knights expected any great festivities to be in progress they are sorely disappointed. The only soul to be seen is that of a tonsured Roman monk, haunched over in prayer, a white hobby-horse thrust stick first into the ground before him. Confused, the young knights look about, but note only the studied mask of indifference upon the face of their guide. Sir Leofric shrugs his shoulder nonchalantly, still mounted atop his old Courser. Alone among all the horses present, Saint does not seem the least bit put out or fatigued by the long journey from Sarum.

Finally, as the move finally comes into view above the horizon, the young priest roars a Latin invocation to banish demons before spinning about on his heels, coming face to face with the mounted party. Eyes still closed, he raises the hobby horse above his head, points it's head vaguely in the direction of the assembled knights and roars "Begone Demon, Harlot! Whore of Satan!" Keeping his eyes closed a moment longer, he finally opens one eye to peer out at the knights, as if he had expected more of a reaction than simple, confused silence.

Seeing only the small party of knights before him, sighing deeply, the young priest picks up his hobby-horse. Dejectedly, he turns his back on the heroes and begins marching back downhill. Sir Leofrics studied expression of indifference has not changed, but the other knights gaze upon one another open-mouthed. Finally, Sir Godrick shakes his head and spurs his mount forward a little. It transpires that the friar had sought to rebuke a Pagan Sorceress called the Lady of Foals, a fierce demon who, each year, organises a profane festival that features a horse race around the mighty chalk outline of the Uffington Horse. But, as no-one is here except the knights, he assume the festival will be taking place at the "other white horse" this year.

"Other white horse?" Sir Godrick asks.

"Yes," says the priest, "the one at Avesbury. I swear these Pagan witches change the location of their rite every few years just to vex me. Will that be all mi lord?"

While the young priest continued on his weary way back to the Abbey, Sir Godrick rode back to his companions. " I don't suppose you knew about the change of venue did you Sir Loeric?" Tywin asks with a narrowed gaze.

"Me?" guffaws the jovial knight. "My initiation into Epona's mysteries was twenty years ago my young friend. How was I supposed to know they'd moved it? The priest certainly didn't?"

Not buying it for a moment, the other knights ask their guide just how far it is to Avesbury from here. "Why," comes the predictable answer, "It's only thirty five miles from here. If we leave the rouncies and our armour with the grooms and ride our coursers, we might just make it."

Sir Tywin has just enough time to remark on how convenient these facts are before the five knights are ahorse once again. This time they ride their swift war-horses as opposed to their tired riding steeds and run like the wind. For what seems like hours (and may well have been) they rode, Sir Galen quickly falling behind the others after failing to duck a protruding tree branch. Eventually, the lead four find themselves in a glade wherein dozens of people feast and partake of good food and wine. Though peasant fare it tastes delicious. All the knights graciously refuse, they have business this night, but as they ride on the chance upon a glade just uphill from the feasting wherein dance scantily clad and lusty beauties, each of whom exposes even more of her flesh with each turn around the maypole. Beckoned closer by this bevy of busty beauties, Sir Godrick casts aside his reins and runs towards the maypole, where he becomes lost in the festivities and in the arms of an earthy pagan lass (failing a lustful check in the process).

Meanwhile, a laughing Sir Leoric roars cheerfully about "Christian virtues" and leads his two remaining companions ( Valiance and Tywin) onwards.

Not long after, a lone horseman and a tired horse stumble into the glade. The sight of so much food after such a long days ride becomes too much for poor Sir Galen, and he too succumbs to temptations of the flesh. Albeit temptations of a different sort than those that capture Sir Godrick.

Riding on, the three remaining knights race through the knight. Sir Valiance's horse (carrying, as it does, a much heavier load than it's cousins) soon wearies and begins to fall behind. As the moon reaches it's zenith, Sir Leoric and Sir Tywin reach a narrow bridge. "At this rate," comments Tywin, "our horses will be useless by the time we even get there." Sir Leoric simply smiles at this and says nothing. Instead, he points to the way ahead. The bridge is barred by three knights in full armour, bright pavilions arrayed behind them.

"Halt!" Demands the lead knight. "We have been tasked to allow no knight to pass who does not first joust against us!".

"Fine by me" announces Sir Twyin, "Lend me some armour and we'll joust." Sir Leoric himself easily unseats the lead knight and rides on into the darkness.
"Can't wait for you laddie. try to keep up!" 

Fuelled by his passions, Sir Tywin also unseats his opponent after the first pass. Though offered a chance to rest in the leaders pavilion, the energetic pagan knight declines and rides on. Quickly catching the older knight, Sir Tywin cannot but help but note that while his own steed is near collapsing, Sir Leorics has barely yet worked up a sweat. Not long after, Sir Valiance also arrives at the bridge and is also challenged. Though Sir Valiance looses the joust, his courage in competing without armour (for the knights had none that would fit so massive a knight as Sir Valiance) impresses them all and he is allowed to pass. He too, refuses the offer or rest and presses on.

Finally falling behind Sir Leoric, Tywin and his knackered steed finally arrive at the glade below the Avesbury horse just as the bottom of the moon is touching upon the horizon. There he is greeted by the most beautiful woman he has ever seen: the Lady of Foals (see left). Dressed in a gown of purple velvet, with long dark tresses and lavender eyes, she welcomes the young knight and examines his horse with pursed lips. "Do you intend to ride this night or allow your mount to rest?" she asks. Sir Tywin does not long pause in giving his answer. "Let her rest," he bids her, "She's done enough this night." Smiling, the Lady whispers something in the ears of Tywin's mount and then beckons him forward into the circle of dancers. There he is pushed towards the centre, where he comes face to face with a laughing Sir Leoric, who embraces him fiercely with a warm, booming, "Well done lad!".

Not long after, Sir Valiance rides into the clearing on a horse than is breathing fit to burst. He too is approached by the smiling maid and he too is asked the question: "Ride or rest?" Like Sir Tywin, he takes pity on his poor, faithful mount and resigns himself to participating in the race as a mere observer. However, there is no time for Sir Valiance to join the dancing. The last rays of the moon sink below the horizon.

"Mount up, mount up!" cries the Lady of Foals, "Yes you too, good sirs! Can you not see your mounts are rested!" And yes, the knights beheld, as if by some miracle they were. Leaping into their saddles, the two knights, spurred on by a cheering, bellowing Sir Leoric, soon outpaced the many villager lads and merchants sons on their ponies and nags until all that remained before them was the lady herself and her magnificent white charger. Laughing, she turned in the saddle to face them and called, "Follow me!" As they drew closer, the two knights suddenly found themselves on a mysterious plane, where a golden yellow sun already lit the sky as though it were noon and emerald grass sprung to one side rather than allow itself to be crushed beneath the pounding of horse's hooves. At last, when it seemed they had rode all morn, a golden hill appeared before them. Racing onwards, they pursued the Lady of Foals up the hill's gentle slopes to find themselves at a tinkling, silver water fountain besides which sat a golden chest.

Smiling, the Lady of Foals slid from the saddle, partaking of the fountain's water and allowing her horse to drink deep. Still luaghing merrily, she bid the knights to do the same. "Let your horses drink deep of the sacred water. It is all they seek. But you, before you lies a choice. Partake of the still clear waters yourself or else dip your hand into the chest and carry away what gold can sit in the palm of your hand. Both knights chose the fountain, as they drank felt strength and stone suffuse their bones (improving Con and Str by 1 point each permanently). Their horses too, had seemingly grown in stature, their coats somehow glossier. Their teeth somehow whiter and more healthy. Was this then, why Sir Leorics horse had lasted the night so well.

As a mist rose around them, the Lady informed the nights that their time here in Epona's realm was done. But as Sir Valiance faded from view, the Lady closed with Sir Tywin (with the highest appearance sta of the two at 16) and stroked his cheek softly with a perfect hand. "As for you, you may claim another prize if you wish it. Simply call my name in any wooded glade at the full moon and I will come to you." As he too, faded away into the mist, the young Pagan knight heard the Lady whisper her true name into his ear.

Once again, Sir Valiance and Sir Tywin awoke to Sir Leoric's gap-toothed grin and busy beard peering down at them. He offered them his praise and welcomed them both into the mysteries of Epona. Meanwhile, far off, Sir Godrick and Sir Galen awoke to find themselves in an empty field, with not a person nor scrap of food in sight. Amost as if the festival in the glade had never been.

Over the next few days all five drifted back towards Sarum Keep. Soon after, with winters final gasp, they returned to their own Manors. Yet they would not remain there long. Already rumours began to reach them of a massive Saxon army massing in the North. When the summons to Sarum came, they were ready. There, one morning scant days into their sixty days military service, their attention was drawn by a great clattering of hooves on the castle drawbridge. Peering through windows, they saw a young man bearing the Shield of King Uther ride through the courtyard in the company of a great many knights. Someone whispered the name "Sir Madoc!" (see left). This then was the King's famous bastard son. Realising something significant was afoot, the four knights hustled towards the main hall in time to see Prince Madoc stride across the aisle to bow before the High Seat, where sat Earl Roderick himself.

The Saxons, Prince Madoc announced, had indeed landed a Great Army in the North. Duke Lucius of caercolun has been ordered to hold the north, but the King will not be swayed from his campaign against Aelle in the South. The army of Salisbury was to marshal with the King at Silchester in three days for the Kings muster. With that, Prince Madoc made his excuses and left the castle. Earl Roderick himself gave a short speech that filled the Great Hall with the cheers of his men. But any fool could see that the Countess Ellen was grave. The army would march on the morrow.

The four knights each found their own diversions on this, perhaps their last night in the comfort of a warm castle. Sir Godrick retired to the Chapel to prey. Sir Galen found himself a comely serving wench to bed. Meanwhile Sir Valiance simply got himself roaring drunk. Sir Tywin, perhaps, made the best use of his time, attempting to flirt with the Lady's Adwen and Gwen. Alas, he made some passing comment with regards to Lady Gwens "curse"  (20 on his flirting roll) that drove the young lass from the Hall in tears, with a concerned lady Adwen close behind. Vexed, he tried to find himself a serving wench to dally with, but found that word of his disgrace had spread quickly throughout in the keep and, in an unusual display of solidarity for the much-loved Lady Gwen, found himself snubbed by every servant he approached.

Three days hence, the four knights find themselves part of the army that assembled at Silchester. Gathered around the Kings Tent one morning, they caught their first glimpse of King Uther Pendragon, an imposing, handsome man a few years younger (and considerably better looking- see left) than Sir Leoric. The King delivered a speech, informing all present that the treacherous Duke of Cornwall had refused the Kings summons. Yet still the army of Logres had men enough to face any Saxon horde, even were it to contain every Saxon in Britain. After receiving a loud cheer, the King returned to his tent. A few murmers could be heard concerning the absence of Merlin, but the army seemed confident enough. Later that night, Earl Roderick gathered his seventy knights and hundred men-at-arms together atop a small rise. There, he divided them into lances. Godrick, Galen, Tywin and Valiance were grouped under the banner of Sir Elad, the Earl's Marshal, along with Sir Leoric, Sir Brogan and six knights from the Marshal's household.

Two days later, they caught the Saxon Army at Mearcred Keep. Sir Godrick spent the eve of battle in the arms of a lusty lass named Rosie. Sir Tywin however, had other desires and instead sought out one of the fancier, youngest and cleanest of the camp whores. Not wishing to father a bastard, he sought pleasures at the back door and was much put out to find that the young lass would only embrace such a mortal sin in return for half a pound of silver. He relented, however, when faced with a simple choice. "It's too late now to find another oh my fine young knight. You must simply pay up, or risk facing your Gods on the morrow as a virgin boy!" Grumbling, he paid up.

Morning saw the two battle lines face one another, the Saxons army twice as numerous as that of Logres. Yet, to the great surprise of the four young knights, the Saxons had not a horseman to be seen. For several hours the two armies stared at one another across the small creek, until finally a single war drum began to sound. With other drums taking up the martial beat, the Saxon army began to advance until, after crossing the creek, the army of Logres rushed to meet them at the call of a silver horn.

Yet for once the canny old Marshal's battle ken deserted him. Steering his banner towards a group of Saxon huscarls (left) armed with swords and shields, he and his knights found to their horror (and at the last possible moment) that the Saxons had cunningly hidden their great spears in the long grass. In the initial pass, Sir Valiance (taking a critical hit) was knocked unconscious from his horse and his squire near-killed tryin to save him. Further on, Sir Elad rallied his scattered men around him. Though caught by surprise he had lost only one man -Sir Valiance- in the first charge and, seeing the Saxon scum attempt to drag the young knight away for ransom, spurred his command back into the fray. For an hour and a half the Earl's Banner and the saxon scum fought over the oblivious form of the young knight of Salisbury, each time managing to prevent his capture by a hairs breadth but being forced ever further and further away from his fallen form. Finally, just when the young knights capture seemed inevitable, his three friends called upon their passionate hatred of the Saxon foe and near-singlehandedly drove back the Saxon horde pawing at his unconscious form. Inspired, the rest of the lance fought with renewed vigour, until a space had been cleared around Sir Valiance's prone body.

Even now, just two hours into the battle, the wounded and less-steady men of both sides streamed away back to their respective camps. Though outnumbered, the Knights of Llogres had the advantage of fighting from horseback. Yet the fiercest fighting by this point could be found where a scant dozen knights clustered around one of their own. For another hour the Earl's Banner fought where they stood, carving out a rampart of dead saxons from which to defend themselves.

At last, horns blew on both sides and the battle lines parted. Though Sir Brogan and a household knight had perished during the desperate defence, Sir Valiance was carried back to his own lines alive. And so it was that the four knights returned to Salisbury together to lick their wounds.

A few weeks after the battle, Sir Tywin found himself standing on a wodded hilltop, beneath the full moon. Whispering the true name of the lady of Foals into the wind, he felt a breeze stir behind him. Turning, her came face to face with his raven haired beuaty. She smiled, and kissed him. If he wanted her, she promised, he could have her. But only if they agreed to marry for a period of seven years. After which she would leave him behind. Forever. The pagan knight earnestly agreed and so it was, that winter, that the first of the four PC knights was wed. Though he would not yet now it, a babe grew in Sir Tywin's wife womb. A babe that would be born, half-fae, that coming autumn. Meanwhile Sir Galen too, had a baby on the way, yet he did not know it. Back in Sarum Castle, a young maid pondered her growing belly and wondered how best to send to word to Woodford manor -or even if she should bother to do so at all. Her family were Pagan, and cared not one whit if her babe had a father or not. Perhaps, she would simply return to her cottage in the deep woods, where nan stirred her potions and mother knitted magical cloaks from the fur of faerie-wolves. Yes, she thought, it would be good to visit home once again.

Session Notes: 
I was very pleased by how this session turned out. I was very gratified to see how hard the players fought to protect a character who is, essentially, the temporary character for any player who loses a knight mid-session. The two Christian Knights failing the Quest of the White Horse was a very apt, if entirely unexpected development and now Sir Tywin has himself a fae-blooded wife. Though she brings no lands as her dowry, she does come with an appearance score of 25, a stewardship skill of 20 and the ability to brew a single potion once a year. The marriage also netted him an additional 250 glory, making his stange new wife the talk of Salisbury. As to what will happen to the children (if anything) after the seven years are up? Who knows? I haven't worked that out myself yet. I might just leave the whole issue up to a dice roll. Finally, what will become of Sir Godricks's bastard son? Will he ever meet his father? Will Sir Godrick ever learn he has a son? Of course he will! This is Pendragon we're playing. As for how I plan for them to meet, well, the players (and you readers) will have to wait and see.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Fane of Merax: The Expeditionary Campaign. Session 1. Part 2

Note: I've changed things slightly from the previous journal, both of which have been written rather hurriedly with minimal editing (and it shows). From this post forward these actual play reports will be written in the present tense, rather than past tense. For no good reason other than the fact I prefer it this way. Let me know if it causes an issue for anyone. I know present tense isn't exactly everyone's cup-of-tea

Player Characters:
Alexis Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larrraitz
Ailil Shadowdancer Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 1/1.  Played by Ridh
Andros Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Aimee
Boagris Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Silv
Euthalia Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric (and Priestess) of Haestia 1. Played by Caroline
Glykeria Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1 and Priestess (non-clerical) of Miranda. Played by Elle
Ki Oman Human (Foreigner) Male Bard 1. Played by Ali
Peliakos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Thanatos Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 1. Played by Fiona
Xenos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter/Magic-User 1/1. Played by Leoni

The words of the Goddess fill the Heroes' minds with a soothing warmth, invoking half-remembered memories of child-hood and safety.

"Be not afraid, hero's and crew of The Persephone. Only one amoung you has angered the mighty Earthshaker, my father, yet as many have before you, all must suffer His punishment. You find yourselves on the Isle of the Earthshaker, a prison and place of exile for all those who have offended my father. Yet all is not lost. Those of you who prove your worth in the Eyes' of the Gods, through courage, honour and skill-at-arms, may still win your way free.

Here, in what was once my Temple, you may find warmth and safety should you purge from it the evils that infest it's sacred corridors and hallowed grounds. But beware, far worse creatures than those within these walls lurk without. Not all those the Gods curse to exile retain their human form. Serve us well, entertain us, and perhaps some of you may escape their fate."

Suffused by a sense of acceptance and belonging, the PC's suffering from wounds or hypothermia are invigorated by the powers of the Goddess. Those battered and bruised by the wrath of Pysos feel themselves invigorated. With a fiery passion fueled by this contact from one of Mysos' most revered deities, the characters throw themselves into a passionate frenzy of cleaning. Yet shortly, cooler heads prevail and it is observed that such activities are both noisy and time intensive. Perhaps prompted by the disquieting noises coming from the floor above it is decided that wisdom lies in clearing the Temple of  it's dangers and bringing up the wounded before the real work of purifying the Temple can begin.

With four fighters in front, armed with what motley weapons could be salvaged from the wreck, the party ventures into a debris-strewn corridor. Unlike everywhere else in the temple thus far, the floors are tiled in simple fired clay rather than the polished marble seen thus far. Advancing into the first room, with Thanatos left behind to guard a set of stairs in the corridor leading upwards, the Heroes of the Persephone enter a chamber littered with the remnants of smashed furniture and wooden partitions. Leaves, cloth and wooden debris lies thick on the floor, the only light (other than that provided by the two lanterns) streaming in faintly through cracks in the two wooden shutters covering the small, high windows. Ivy grows thick on the far wall of the room, though it is weak and sickly stuff when compared to that which coats the walls outside. The fighters in the first two ranks enter the room confidently. After searching the room briefly, they call the others in. While Alexias argues that the windows should remain shuttered to limit the number of entrance points into the temple, Boagris simply proceeds to rip a pair of shutters (held closed by strong ivy vines) from the wall with brute strength. Perhaps it is the noise of this manoeuvre (or perhaps it was Shadowdancer bending down to collect some shiny valuables from a pile of debris) but it is then that five rats, each as large as a house-cat, burst from the debris.

Pandemonium ensues, with the Heroes seeming to panic and impeding one another wily-nily. Xenos manages to throw his Bolas backwards over his shoulder, causing several of his companions to duck or leap aside to avoid injury. Peliokos almost manages to stab his own foot with his trident and as for Boagris?  Well, Boagris decide to actually throw his heavy wooden burden (the shutters ripped from the wall) across the crowded room, clubbing Alexis, Shadowdancer and even Ki Oman in the process but failing to strike even a single rat. While Shadowdancer ducks outside to call Thanatos in to help the "useless imbeciles" inside the room and the others flail around uselessly with an assorted collection of spears, javelins and lumps of driftwood, Glykia hits upon an idea. Throwing some of the fish she recovered from the beech towards one particularly fat and aggressive looking example of giant-rat-kind, she finds her quick wits rewarded. Lightning fast, the mangy beast snaffles the fish up it's jaws and flees the room. Two more quickly depart in a similar fashion, a fourth is slain by a well-aimed spear-point and the last, the runt of the pack, what of it's fate?

Kicked out the now-open window by an irate Peliakos on a natural 20. Wheeeeeeeeeeee splat!

After a moment's silence, the party erupts into a cacophany of chuckles and curseing when nearly a dozen voices each began to decry the, frankly, shocking display of martial ineptitude in the initial stages of the attack. The noise that quickly dies at an urgent hiss from Shadowdancer. The source of the noises from the floor above finally reaveals itself, making an appearance at the top of the stairs warded by Thanatos.

Edging out into the corridor, the group takes up fighting positions at the bottom of the stairs (on the instructions of Alexius and Peleikos) while listening to an odd klick-klacking noise from the halls above. In due course,  a pair of long, chitinous, scythe-like mandible came into view,  beneath two red, bulging compound eyes while a fanged maw wreathed by flickering tendrils opens and shuts before the party's very eyes. While the Heroes stand below, loudly debating whether Alexius should try to drive the monster off with a sling-shot or whether Xenos should simply throw an oil flask (followed by a flaming lump of driftwood) up the stairs, a second, then a third creature appears. Each hungrily -and curiously-studies the group below. For some minutes the stand-off continues, until Ki Oman finally points out that the use of fire and oil riskes collapsing the wooden floor above . Glykeria flatly refuses to part with another of her precious oil flasks to fuel such a risky venture. "We're supposed to purify this temple you fools!" she hisses, laughter glinting in her mad, prophetic eyes, "Not burn it to the ground."

Meanwhile, Boagrius, peering intently at the ivy-wielded shutters he carries, finally realises that with two iron handles on one side large enough for anyone other than he to slip an arm through, the shutters could be fashioned into make-shift (albeit heavy and somewhat flimsy) shields. Quickly, he arms the other three fighters in the party (excepting Xenos) with these devices and, for perhaps the first time in his life, curses his own mighty thews that preclude him from employing the shutters similarly.

Finally, solidly grounded good-sense prevails and Alexius fires a stone from his sling up the stairs. Not being particularly skilled with such weapons (lacking a proficiency in slings) he misses the target completely, but the light impact of the stone rebounding from the ceiling is enough to drive it and it's companions back from the stairwell, making a strange ripping noise all the while.

Quickly, a door hanging from it's hinges is fashioned into a make-shift barricade, alongwith other, scattered bits of debris. Though it cost the party half their remaining nails and spikes to fashion, all agree the effort is worth the time and the resources required. Satisfied that the stairs are as well barricaded as can be under the circumstances (enough to give a few minutes warning of an attack, at least) the party continues onwards. Xenos remains behind to act as a sentry (the player having to leave early).

Meanwhile, the rest of the party continue to clear the first wing of the Temple, encountering no dangers, until arriving at what must have once, unmistakable, have served as the Temple kitchen. Immediately, the PC's note that this room, alone of all so far encountered, has not been ransacked or defiled. Noting a vast wealth of bronze and copper pans, pots and skillets, Andros the blacksmith happily announces that, shoud they later find a suitable furnace and forge, he can, in time, fashion bronze armour and weapons for the group. Meanwhile the others, rightly suspicious, set about lifting pot lids and examining every scrap of wall and floor space. At the same time both puzzled and alarmed by the room's mysterious cleanliness. Shadowdancer, however, is not so puzzled. With his elf-eyed vision he cautiously approaches the rooms fireplace -big enough to mount a boar on a spit and still leave room for a sizable collection of cauldrons and stew-pots- and, grabbing the spit from it's hook on the wall, quickly braces in on the ground, point upwards, before peering into the darkness of the chimney.

There, though startled by the red eyes of the hissing, four-limbed thing spread-eagled like a spider in the chimney space, the Assassin-Illusionist retains sufficient presence of mind to keep the spit angled perfectly. So it is then that the demon drops itself onto the upraised iron shaft, impaling itself through the arm. Now hunched upon the cold flagstones at the base of the chimney, illuminated by lantern light, it is revealed as the demon it is: a grey skinned, long-tongued feral humanoid abomination, claws claws and teeth as dark as night dribbling a foul, sizzling poison onto the tiles below. Though the beast flails and spat, it fails to land a blow on the agile Shadowdancer, still clutching the other end of the spit, and is quickly wounded again and again by the spear wielding Alexius and trident wielding Peleikos. Yet even as their blows strike home the demon thrashes and squirms until Andros, leaping forward, spatters it's brains all over the chimney with a well aimed (and hastily grasped) skillet.

Unwilling to take chances, the group wisely cut the head from the beast then, realising that the smoke from lighting a flame in the hearth would reveal their position to any similar beasts for miles around, forgo immolation in favour of dismemberment. This quickly proves a wise move, for when Boagrius lifted the ichor-dripping head to fling it through the high window, it hisses and bites at him. Even after Boagrius throws the head through the window,  the party places the remaining body parts into separate pots with the lids weighted by stones. Again the wisdom of this precaution is demonstrated but mere moments later, when the pots began to rattle and jump with the movement of the limbs and portions within. Meanwhile Euthalia and Glykia fill their arms with the biggest pots they can carry. When asked why by their curious companions, Euthalia casuallycomments:
"You want to carry everything in your arms or shall we simply place useful items in these pots?"

Later, finding the meat-store with it's many hanging hooks, those party members who are thus far without weapons equip themselves with bronze meat-hooks, Ki Oman (crucially) among them.

In the last room of this wing, the group stumbles across the pantry. Miraculously, two amphorae of grain remained sealed in this near pristine room. Only one other amphorae stored in the room remains. Alas, this too had once held grain, though the grain now lies scattered all across the floor, engulfed in mould. While the wiser heads in the party wonder why rats and other denizens have not chewed or burst through the door to feast upon such delights, Peliakos, his empty belly rumbling considering, breaks the wax seals on the two undamaged amphorae both contain wholesome, unspoiled grain. The fighter moves to cross the mouldy grain spilled across the ground with the intention of collecting some empty sacks from a pile near the far-wall. However, he is forestalled by a warning hiss from Shadowdancer. The uncanny elf perceives a certain, unhealthy yellow tinge about the mould. Ordering everyone out the room, he stands in the doorway and throws a stick at the mould. At first sight of the yellow spores exploding outwards, he slams the door closed and instructs everyone to move away. Pausing to explain the dangers of Yellow Mould to his companions, it slowly dawns on the elf that they seem less pleased with his warning than they should.

"Perhaps!" growls Pelekios, "next time you might first allow me to replace the seals on the untainted-grain amphorae FIRST before testing your theory". Wisely, for once, the stealthy Shadowdancer gives no reply.

Taking a moment to rest and re-fill one of the two lantern with Glykia's rapidly-dwindling stock of oil, the party ponder their next move and decide to continue clearing the ground floor of the Temple and move to the second wing. It quickly becames clear that the layout of the second wing mirrors that of the first, save that here the walls and flooring are once again of polished marble rather than fired clay tiles. Correctly, the party deduce that the previous wing had been the "working" part of the building and that they were now moving towards the living quarters.

As expected, the heroes come across a second set of stairs in the sport that mirrors those encountered in the other wing. Having come prepared (with materials for a barricade) they set about blocking the second stair-well. This entails using the last of their small supply of nails and spikes, an action unanimously deemed a sensible and worthy sacrifice on the alter of caution. Though they hear (but do not see) no sign of the insect monsters from earlier, the party are menaced by a strange thwupp-thwupp noise from time to time. Strange, flickering shadows are also visible through small holes in the barricade. Again, Xenos is left to stand guard.

Moving deeper into the wing, the group enters and searches a ruined dormitory. Like most other rooms in the complex, it has been ransacked and vandalised. Only a few items -empty perfume bottles, scraps of rotted clothing, sandals and the like- identify the room as once having been home to female occupants. Some small items of value are located within the room, but the noise of the groups rummaging attracts the attention of other denizens. Out in the hallway, Ki Oman and Thanatos call an alarm. Three, foot long scuttling beasts skittered across the floor, their many legs undulating like the waves of the sea, a deadly green ichor dripping from parted mandibles that click and clatter with a mindless hunger. Though Boagris and Thanatos both take nasty bites during the ensuing fracas, neither succumbs to the deadly poison. Yet it is a warier, wiser group that continues their explorations.

With the four fighters once again taking the lead (this time with two-spears, a trident and a spit held at the ready) Boagris flings open the door to a second dormitory but nearly heaves at the smell of shit emanating from within. Yet as severe as the gladiators revulsion is, it is matched by the stunned expression of the red-faced male baboon resting within. Utterly astonished by the intrusion into it's territory, the baboon lunges forward to drive these intruders away, only to impale itself upon not one, not two, but FOUR readied pole-arms  Remarkably, not one of the four worthies failed to hit and so the poor, bewildered baboon took 6D6 and 2D4 points of damage in a single round. The result can only be described as messy.

Though not as messy as searching through the baboons great big pile of poo, one hastens to add, which reveals some useful treasure as well as some less immediately useful items (ie: money).

The group continues searching through the private chambers of what they deduce to be the senior lay-staff of the temple, including one room that holds a king-sized bed, a pair of empty plinths and a scattering of smashed pieces of sculpted marble across the floor. Here the group finds a complete set of Stone Masons tools (which receive the biggest treasure-cheer of the night, the players having already figured out that anything mundane that can help them survive is worth a hell of a lot more to them right now than something conventionally valuable but equally useless and shiny).

Exploring the final chamber, the group, having so-far conquered all threats-before them, let their guard down a little. Rather than simply poking his spear under the ruined bed in the final room on the ground floor, Peliokos gets down on his knees to peer under the bed during his poking -and wind up with a furiously angry giant rat clinging to (and clawing at) his face! Catching sight of Ki Oman approaching with an intent look upon his face and bronze S-shaped meat-hooks in hand, the Peliakos manages to scream (through a mouthful of angry rat) "Gods no! No meat hooks! You'll kill me too!" Too which the assassin happily replies, "Then I'd better not miss!" Ali then proceeds to roll a natural 20 with each meat hook and spits the now very dead rat with uncanny precision, the points of each hook coming to rest only a rats hair away from the eyes of the very, very nervous Peliakos.

Upon investigating further, the reasons for the rats rabid assault become apparant - a litter of baby giant rats (each the size of a normal rat) bundled up in a nest made from an old fur cloak. Despite the protests of those party members who wish to breed the giant rats as a food source, the rat-hating Alexis squishes them all with a single stomp of his iron-nailed sandals. " I hate fuzzies!' He explains to his angry companions.

With the (real-time) hour now growing late, the group decides that the ground floor is now sufficiently secure to dismantle the beach shelter (recovering some nails, spikes, canvas and other useful items in the process) and bring the wounded up to rest in the Fane under the watchful eyes of the Goddess. This proceeds without a hitch. We close the session with Minerva, Glykeria and Euthalia tending to the wounded, Xenos, Thanatos and Ki Oman (the shifty ones) standing guard and the others doing what they can to tidy up and fortify the worship area. Next time, play will resume at about 3pm on the first day of the Expeditionary Campaign.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Google +: Taking the Plunge

Allright, I've finally been persuaded to adopt a google + account. Those of you who recieve a friend request on Google + over the next few days from a guy by the name of Brian Rae, should safely be able to assume that it's me.

Next part of the Expeditionary campaign session report on the way in the next few hours -oh, and be on the lookout for the next Pendragon game report over the next few days as well. We're playing again Monday night.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Shipwreck: The Expeditionary Campaign Session 1 part 1

Players and Characters:
Alexias Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1 played by Larrraitz
Ailil Shadowdancer Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 1/1 played by Ridh
Andros Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1 played by Aimee
Boagris Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1 played by Silv
Euthalia Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric of Hestia 1 played by Caroline
Glykia Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1 played by Elle
Ki Oman Human (Foreigner) Male Bard 1 played by Ali
Peliakos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1 played by Coakley
Thanatos Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 1 played by Fiona
Xenos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter/Magic-User 1/1 played by Leoni

Antipater, Human (Mycenean) Male Ships Captain
Minerva, Human (Mycenean) Female Priestess of Hestia
Spareous Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter. Spare character to replace dead PC's,

The morning sun hovered bloody over the harbour of Mysos, staining the still, placid sea. Hawkers and porters yelled across the quays, ships captains roared into the throng, arguing with shore men, sailors and port officials like. Yet through the mad cacophony of the city docks, a silence, or at least a lessening of noise, accompanied a small troupe of priestly women and bronze-clad men. Where the women passed, the noise stilled. Men bowed or doffed their wide-brimmed, straw hats while the few women present lowered their eyes. The procession made it's winding way towards the largest ship in the harbour - a fifty oared quinquireme, heavy in  the water with passengers for good and trade. Though boarding proceeded quickly, the passengers and crew took some time to settle. Stood upon the stern, by the tiller, a noble-meigned man, black beard greying with age, watched the skies and fretted. Already past dawn, the ship had far to travel this day and no sailor on the Great Green, from the eldest grey-beard to most callow youth, spent a night at sea lightly.

Time passed, the great ship slide across the waves beneath a setting sun. Fretful, the captain entered the tented shade beneath the mast, withdrawing a small, spouted clay amphora. If he noticed the wax seal sat loosely around the cork plug that sealed the vessel he gave no sign. Instead, he moved to the prow, whereupon a hush descended across the ship, the single loud thump of the oar-master's drum hardly needed to call attention to the sacrifice. All eyes upon him, the captain upended the urn with a loud prayer for the protection of the Earthshaker, pouring the red, sanctified wine onto the placid waves below.

For a moment, there is silence. A relieved sigh forms upon the lips of the ship's company, the libation has been accepted.

And then the ground heaved. And the sea fell away. In a moment, the sea all about the ship rushed away from it, spilling the ship's hull onto the sharp corals of the sea-bed below. Men and women screamed, falling from rigging or rail onto the muddy sea-bed below. Even as those who could crawled back to their feet, a strange hush descended, the cawing of seabirds all but vanished. The escorting, noisy throng of gulls that accompanied any ship on it's journey vanishing into the deepening darkness of the horizon.

Looking about them, the ship's company marvelled at the walls of water, a hundred feet high, that surrounded the ship where it lay. Moans of terror turned to screams. A strange rushing noise akin to thunder  filled the air. A look out called the companies attention to the rear, when the wall of water seemed to surge higher, higher into the air, speeding towards the tiny, fragile ship and it's frail cargo of human flesh. "Kill the captain!" Someone shouts. "It's him He wants!". The ship is hurtled upwards into the air, riding the crest of the fierce, unnatural waters that first descend upon it in a fury then carry it aloft atop a wall of the Great Green a thousand feet high.

Hurtling along at an unnatural, impossible space, they see the lights of distant lands and ships flash by, mysteriously unaffected by the raging torrent that bears their ill-fated vessel aloft. Men and women move about the deck, the priestess Minerva, servant of Hestia and daughter of the Queen, clings tightly to the shaking, creaking mast. Euthalia, her attendant, dares to creep across the deck towards her but is shaken from her feet. Sliding the length of the canted deck towards the engulfing abyss below she is saved only by the quick actions of the soldier Peliakos, who trows her a rope to which he clings with all his might. Elsewhere, ships company cling for dear life, yet Shadowdancer, the elven outcast, confident of his acrobatics and balance leaps and tumbles across the deck to save a sliding Xenos from death, only to go tumbling into the darkness himself. Yet while the slaver is rescued by another rope, thrown by the dark-garbed Thanatos, so far from the ship does Shadowdancer tumble that he must clutch hard to an oar cast out by Alexias. But at last, the wave descends. A dark shadow, an unknown island, fills the horizon, to which the Persephone hurtles ever closer. Aghast, a man tied by rope to the prow calls out that rocks lie ahead.

Screaming his effort to the skies, the captain, Antipater, crawls across the stern deck, his nails digging deep grooves in the wooden decks. With a herculean roar, the old man throws himself upon the flailing steering oar, the noise of cracking ribs rising above the roar of the water. Fiercely he stands there, a man alone defying the Gods, and so the ships veers from a rocky death a mile from shore, to crash and splinter upon the sandy shores.

Alexias, begin to drag the wounded from the water-line, to a the shadows of a dune some scant thirty feet above the water line. Euthalia staggers away from her companions, searching frantically for any sign of her mistress among the many female bodies scattered along the beech. With a strangled cry of delight, she finds her, and calling upon the power of their Goddess Hestia, casts a spell of healing that soothes the unconscious Minerva's troubled breathing, though it does not serve to wake her from her tormented slumber.

Elsewhere, Peliakos seeks out the captain, certain in the knowledge that, if they are ever to escape this place, they will need Antipater and his knowledge of sailing and trade-routes. Yet even as Peliakos finds him, so does another. Sparious. Owner of the voice that called for the captains death. Peliakos' swift arm grasps the right-wrist of Spurious, that which bears a knife meant for the the captains throat, and with his silver tongue persuades the maddened sailor that they will need Antipater and his skills if they are to survive.

Meanwhile, once the many wounded and lamed, including Minerva and the captain (i.e everybody who was not a PC) are carried from the water-line to safety, those who carried them return to the waterline to salvage what they can from the wreck while thunder still sounded over-head and heavy rain battered at their weary bodies.

[At this point, having allowed every PC to save one valuable item that they had managed to keep in their grasp throughout their ordeal, I presented the players with about twenty sheets of memo-pad paper. On each sheet I had randomly determined six items that could be salvaged from the wreck, from the obviously useful such as weapons, and iron-spikes, to the more mundane such as rope, canvas, candles and even small casks of food. The players got to pick one each, without seeing what was on the list. Here's a couple of examples that didn't get picked:

Example 1
50' Rope
Small sack of 20 bruised Oranges, [the sack was the real prize here]
Small Bronze Bowl
12 Bronze Spikes
6 Wax Candles in a small wooden box
Ball of cat-gut

Example 2
15 square feet of canvas
12 Fishing Hooks in a small pouch
Block and Tackle
hammer (tool)
Linen Armour (soaked through)
1 Javelin

As you can see, some of the items were useless or near-useless without inter-character cooperation, trade, and the pooling of resource. For example, the fishing hooks and tackle in the second bundle were useless without the cat gut in the first. And the spikes in the first bundle will be a lot more effective when combined with the hammer in the second. I basically left for a toilet break at this point and told everyone that they had until I came back to sort out who was carrying what. And when I did we had our first real drama. And what a drama it was].

Shadowdancer was angry. Stranded the Everqueen knows where, he was soaked through, weaponless, without food, shelter or potable water and this fool human before him, with it's tall, hairy body and unsightly muscles, was refusing a perfectly reasonable trade. A hatchet and a bronze dagger were no use to him. He wanted real weapons. And this fool human had plenty. The luckiest of the salvagers, it had not only woken with a spear in hand, it had found a second spear, a javelin and some actual armour on all it's own when combing the beech. What was it planning on doing, charging foes with a spear clutched in each hand and a javelin between it's teeth? How infuriating. Well Shadowdancer had just the spell for this sort of nonsense.

Alexias stared slack-jawed at the skinny black-garbed figure before it. It all seemed so obvious now. And so reasonable. After all, if the slender one said the spear was his, it was only fair to give it back. Why had he been so unreasonable before. Sleepily, he handed over the spear. And wondered why the black-garbed figure was now sprinting down the beech, fast becoming a blurry image in the heavy rain that buffeted them all.

Then he recovered his senses. The scum had enscorcelled him (Alas, Hypnotism only lands 1 round plus 1 per level). Given that the thief was moving so fast, it didn't seem likely that he could be caught.  But when you have a javelin, why bother?

Behind him (but very close) Shadowdancer heard something thunk into the sand, accompanied by the loud cry of "Thief" that sounded in a particularly tiresome moment when the thunder had decided to hold it's peace for a while. He looked behind him to check for pursuit -and ran straight into a wall of flesh.

Boagrius, seven feet of bald muscle and aggression, placed a hand on the elf's shoulder, just as Alexius and Peliakos arrived. When the truth became clear, the elf tried to break free, only to be head-butted into a stupor by the mighty Boagrius and manacled by Peliakos. Meanwhile, unnoticed in the commotion, Thanatos had claimed the hatchet and dagger Shadowdancer had placed at Alexius' feet for his own.

It was in that moment, when the lightning flashed, that Boagrius the gladiator caught sight of the man who sold him into slavery, just now emerging from the rain to investigate the commotion. Quickly, Xenos the slaver turned tail and vanished into the rain, heading back towards where Eutharia and Glykia tended the many, many wounded.

Assembling by the wounded (after following the very-angry Boagrius) the plaintive cries of Eutharia and Glykia (not to mention the reasoned words of Alexius and Peliekos) swayed the group. The wounded would die in these fierce rains, and whipping, freezing winds. Putting aside their disputes the group (with the exception of the still manacled  Shadowdancer) set about gathering up bronze spikes, hammers, canvas and driftwood to make a shelter to protect themselves and the wounded from the elements. With the help of some oil, some flint and steel and some tinder held in a canvas wrap, they managed a small fire, around which they arranged the worst of the wounded, including Antipater.

Huddled in their improvised shelter, it was the eagle-eyed Shadowdancer who first noticed a light in the distance, but held his counsel. Eventually others, too, took note and a debate ensued. Light meant warmth and shelter -and possibly danger as well. The decision made, the group elected to wait out the remainder of the night in their mean shelter and investigate the light in the morning.

They spent a miserable indeed, many drifting in and out of conscious, yet miraculously none of the wounded perished, though many (including several players characters including -I think- Xenos, Andros the Blacksmith and Thanatos the bodyguard/assassin) were suffering badly from hypothermia (-2 to all dice rolls until dried out and warmed up). There was some debate over who should stay behind to guard the wounded, with Euthalia the priestess and Glykia the Oracle of Miranda both volunteering to stay behind with the wounded. However, Minerva had woken in the night and volunteered that duty for herself, electing to keep Sparious with her as a look-out). Reluctantly, the rest of the group (the PC's, in other words) left the wounded with their scant guard and climbed the dunes.

Atop the dune that had protected their shelter from the worst of the weather, the PC's took in their first glance of the island. Inland the terrain, first flat scrub land growing to hills and then mountains, seemed spare and un-inviting. The coast, curved further inland to the east and west. Yet hope shone before them. Not a mile stood a single marble edifice of alabaster white. A temple! Though the wind and driving rain, they could not establish, at this distance, to whom this Temple was dedicated. Certain now that salvation -or at least assistance- was nearby the group hustled forward, keeping a wary eye out for danger none-the-less.

Growing closer, a few details became clearer. Two statutes of the Meerax, the Goddess of Crafts, Cities and the Forge, warded the mighty bronze double doors leading deeper into the Temple. That on the left bore a smith's tongs in one hand and a hammer in the other. The right carried the more familiar spear and shield. The doors between were carved with scenes from the life of the Goddess, the doors open just a crack, big enough for a single person to slip through at a time.

Yet the eagle-eyed PC's were wary, for their were now no signs of life where once there had been light the night afore. Cautiously, Thanatos, Ki Oman, Euthalia and Glykia circled the temple, coming upon an overgrown garden with a single doorway and a well at the rear. Most of the trees were plum trees, with the sole exception of one, far larger tree near the rear door of the temple, which was of a type none of the four could identify. Moving closer, Ki Oman cautiously peered into the well before dropping a stone which dropped for several seconds before landing into the water far below with a barely audible plop. Almost immediately he were alarmed! Did this well go deep enough to reach the outer reaches of Hell? But the Oracle and the Priestess thought not and so, when the four completed their circuit and returned to the six guarding the door, there was much in the way of rejoicing! Fresh water to be had at last.

Alas for something to put it in.

A single PC [Boagrius I believe] crept forward to peer into past the doors but could see little beyond a small strip of white marble floor littered with dead leaves, snapped twigs and other, wind-borne detritus. Beyond the small space illuminated by light leaking through the door, all was wreathed in darkness. So it was that two salvaged lantern and some salvaged oil flasks were produced and, after finally freeing the protesting Shadowdancer from his bounds (and providing him with a weapon) the bedraggled, soaking group stepped bravely into the darkness, astonished at how easily the huge, awesomely heavy doors opened, in utter silence, at the least effort. Dwarf-make, the priestesses confidently confided. And then they were inside.

The ante-chamber had been magnificent once, with walls, floor and ceiling of white marble. Yet now the carvings etched into the walls by a master sculptor had been defaced. Crude letters, glyphs and profane images had been smeared upon the walls by an unknown hand. Alerted to danger now, the heroes gripped their weapons tighter and pressed on further.

There they came to the worship hall, it's pews and tables smashed to splinters, it's tapestries and rich hangings-save for a curtain browned with age and exposure- torn down and ripped asunder long ago. The Priestesses moved beyond the curtain even as the others searched the room for something useful. Coming to a seated statue of the goddess, her welcoming hand missing it's figures, it's face smeared with excrement and missing it's nose, it's body cracked and dented from heavy blows, they fell to their knee's in worship. But it was Glykia who placed three captured fish, caught in her net during the night, into the offering bowl. And then all present felt a warm glow suffuse them, drawing away their cold, their fatigue and even their many wounds. The head of the statue turned to regard them all, with a benevolent and reassuring smile, the curtains whipped aside by a single gesture from the statue's smashed and broken hand.

Then the Goddess began to speak.......

OSRC and the Expeditionary Campaign: A Players Perspective

Real life is still doing a fine job of getting in the way of my writing. However, the first Expeditionary Campaign play report is coming. In the meantime, one of my players has posted his own thoughts and perspectives on the first  session on his blog Of Dice and Men (link) and damn, am I tickled pink. It was a fantastic session but to hear another veteran gamer like Whiskey praise it so highly is very gratifying. Even with ten players and a DM (one player attending via Skype) I don't think a single player felt left out or lacked a moment to shine (or skulk in the shadows as some of the characters would prefer). If anyone out there has concerns over running OSRIC with a group larger than the traditional six, I would urge you to reconsider. Having such a large number of players at the table provided a huge pool of creativity and generated a great deal of in-game tension and energy.

Hell, even I was on the edge of my seat - and I knew what was going to happen next.

Hopefully I'll finish that session report tonight. If any players want to add something I forgot, either post it on the actual play report (I'll enable anonymous comments) or else send me an email and I'll add your thoughts accordingly.

Cheers guys. Thanks for a great game.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Pendragon Campaign: Year 485 part 1: The Squires' Tale

Tonight, three of us got together for the beginning of the Pendragon Great campaign, a "pick-up" style game we'll be playing whenever the two couples involved happens to have an evening off at the same time. The fourth player, my dearly beloved, joined us just in time to meet the squires before being knighted. How did they earn their spurs? By playing the introductory scenario in the Pendragon Rulebook of course, read on.

Squires Galen, Godrick and Valiance, having spent the last several weeks of their training under the auspices of Salisbury's Marshal, Sir Elad (see left) at Vagon castle, awake at the cock crow to attend their daily duties. Unlike the other, younger squires within the wooden-walls and halls of the Motte-and-Bailley castle, the trio of worthies are excused the early morning tasks of seeing to the needs of their respective knights (mostly by dint of the fact that said knights are absent from the castle altogether) and assemble in the training yard immediately after breaking their fast. Not being a particularly religious knight, Sir Elad does not force any of the squires present to attend morning prayers, nor does he attend himself, and so the squires proceed quickly to the business of lancing quinnions for most of the morning.

Though all three of the doughty squires acquit themselves well against the target while it's spinning arm is disabled, Godricks first attempt at the Quiionnn with arm enabled is a disaster. So intent is he on striking the target that he entirely forgets to duck when the sword arm comes swinging round and takes so severe a blow to the head that he is knocked from his horse entirely. Young Godrick accepts the laughter of his fellow squires and the watching household with good grace however, and quickly remounts his horse to try again. Sir Elad seems impressed with the lads attitude when Godrick comments that "a squire who never falls never learns to stand up" (earning the player a little extra glory in the process).

Later, he has his revenge when Sir Elad instructs the knights to race three times around the bounds of the castle on horseback. Though Galen takes an early lead and Valiance (perhaps by dint of being built like an ox) soon lags behind, Godrick quickly takes the lead when, not one but both of his opponents fall from horseback into the muddy ditch surrounding the castle. At the exact same time.  Godrick is too good natured to make a great deal of their muddy clothes when the other two finally cross the finish line at the castle gates, but the castle many womenfolk certainly enjoy directing numerous ribald and embarrassing comments their way.

After sending the three lads away to get themselves cleaned up, Sir Elad meets the squires in the Great Hall and instructs them to perform a certain task. There is a certain bear, it seems, which has taken upon itself an unholy desire to consume the flesh of men as well as beasts and livestock. The peasants of Imber (the most distant of Sir Elad's manors) have been terrified out of the fields as a result, and Sir Elad has concerns for the viability of the manors winter crop plantings as a result. Before setting out, however, he instructs the three lads to joust for the honour of leading the expedition. Sir Valiance, ever-humble and not in any way desirous of fame and responsibility, graciously volunteers to withdraw from the contest for simplicities sake. And so, Sir Galen and Sir Goderick joust for the honour, with Galen very convincingly winning the joust on the very first pass of spears.

Galen decides that it would be best to ride forth today rather than wait overnight, confident of reaching the manor before nightfall if they push the horses hard enough, ride rouncy's rather than their coursers, and spare the warhorses for the hunt tomorrow (earning them all an energetic check in the process). All three squires retrieve their fathers' (or in the case of Valiance, his brother's) war gear before setting off, without even pausing for the mid-day meal.

Perhaps wisely, they choose to remain within the borders of the County and take the longer route rather than risk travel through lands which they neither know well nor know if they will be welcomed in. This entails a hard-ride north east from Vagon to the cross-roads near Stonehenge, where they turn North-West with nary a glance at the great pagan monument and burial site of Aurelius Ambrosius. As the sun hovers dangerously close to the horizon, they enter a pass through some low hills before turning south-west along a narrow track that eventually leads them to the benighted manor just moments after the sun sinks to it nightly rest beneath the plane of the world.

After some confusion (knocking at the door of the Manor House, which itself seems to be in a state of disrepair following the winter) the three squires are faced with a throng of peasants come to investigate the noise of fists pounding on the manor-house gates. To the dismay of Galen and Godrick, they are understandably mistaken for knights by the villagers and the crooked-backed little old priest that leads them, yet the two christian knights are quick to dissuade them (earning modesty checks in the process- though in retrospect honesty checks would probably have made more sense). The villagers seem to doubt for a moment that the three armoured men before them, each with spears and spare horses before them, could be anything but knights but eventually are satisfied with the answer that the visitors are, in fact, squires. If  any seem put out by the fact that their Lord has chosen to send mere squires (rather than full knights) to save them, they are too wise (or too fearful) to say.

Old Garr, the village priest, identifies himself as the manor's steward, village headman and the local priest, which likewise explains why the manor house (the normal abode of a village steward when the lord is away) lies empty in favour of the village church. Valiance snickers and his companions are clearly discomforted when they realise that the "housekeeper" who offers them porridge oats spiced with onions for their supper is actually Old Garr's doxie (and the mother of the two children underfoot, both of whom have something of Old Garr's look to them).

They question the old priest briefly regarding the bear before the old priests hints about the late hour and the cost of good candles finally hit home. All three squires turn in for the night on the floor of the priest's hut while Old Garr himself and his "wards of the church" sleep in the village chapel itself.

Next morning, alarmed by Old Garrs talk of men and bulls ripped apart by fearsome claws, the squires take the unusual step of armouring themselves for the hunt. All too aware that the extra metal will hinder the agility of both themselves and their steeds in the thick boughs of the forest, they nonetheless insist upon wearing it. Old Garr himself volunteers to act as a guide, apparently thinking to keep up with the squires while mounted on his donkey. The squires will have none of it however and instead persuade the old priest to mount one of their Rouncy's.

The hunt goes well at first, with hunt leader Galen very quickly picking up the beast's spoor, but (in large part due to the encumbrance of their armour) the squires have a hard time making up the distance. At one point they are almost distracted by a strange growling nearby, but at the last Galen realises that the source is merely one of the villager dogs that had been running alongside for much of the morning. Soon after, Galen and Valiance find themselves tangled up in a briar while Godrick must cut them a path out with his sword. Finally though, just as the sun begins sinking beneath the trees and the squires begin to worry that it might be time to return to Imber, they catch sight of the beast. It turns at bay, rising up on it's hind-legs to stand fully twice the height of a man. It's black claws and yellow teeth glisten with sweat and saliva and it's animal eyes blaze with bloody murder. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Old Garr turns tail and flees at the sight. Without hesitation, the young squires attack. Galen very nearly skewers it heart on the first charge ( 1 hit point away from causing a major wound) though the beasts angry reaction causes Godrick's thrown spear to fly wide. The best flails ineffectively at Galen, it's claws failing to pierce his hauberk of stout chain and serving only to give the young squire a fierce buffeting. Finally, it is Galen whose spear finds a soft point in the bear's thick hide and renders a blow sufficient to cause it's collapse. It's great chest heaving from the effort of dragging air into it's damaged lungs, Godwick slays the slumbering beast and takes a tooth as his trophy while Valiance and Galen each take a single claw. The squires show little regard for the valuable (though damaged) pelt of the beast and leave it where it lies to rot before gathering up Old Gar and making their way in the failing light back to Imber.

There the peasants greet them with great joy and a rude feast is prepared. It is poor fair by any knightly standard, but all these good people can provide so late in the winter, mild now as the days might be. The three squires depart late the next day at a leisurely pace for the sake of their spinning heads and queasy bellies but do not travel far before coming across three brigands beating a farmer they recognise from the night before. Without hesitation they charge and the rogues quickly make off on foot. Valiance has no difficulty in over-taking the lead brigand however, kicking him unconscious to the ground with a successful grapple check. His companions attempt to emulate this feat and fail. yet seeing they cannot hope to outrun three mounted men, the remaining two turn at bay and attempt to slay the riders with their hatchets. Galen's spear takes his foe in the arm-pit, nicely skewering the rogue while Godrick delivers a sword-blow that renders the last brigand unconscious yet close to death. Showing something of a merciful nature he dismounts and tends to the brigands wounds, saving his worthless life (three of the four PC squires have first aid skills at 15, which bodes well for the groups survivability to say the least).

Their travel slowed further by the burden presented by these two prisoners, it is near nightfall before the three squires return through the pass and catch sight of Tilshead, one of the county's three lesser cities. They gain admittance just before the gates close and accept the hospitality of the towns Lord, Sir Jaradans (who in this version of the Great Pendragon Campaign is a Knight Banneret and Lord of Tilshead, see the picture on the left). Sir Jaradans took the surviving brigands off their hands and promised to send a messenger to Sir Elad with news of their success in the morning. He gives the squires 2 libre in silver for their capture of the Brigands, who he assures them will be sold into serfdom far away from Salisbury, preferably somewhere close to the encroaching Saxon menace. Godrick is invited to tell the tale of their adventures thus far at dinner, but, being somewhat unused to such attention, makes a hash of it. Somewhat mortified, he spends most of the next days ride practicing his storytelling, sure in the knowledge that Sir Elad will also wish to hear the story of their adventures.

Indeed he does. After being welcomed back to the castle by the Marshal in person, the squires are instructed to wash before joining the household for dinner. There Godrick again relates their adventures, doing a much better job of it this time, and earning some glory for himself and his companions. Sir Elad nods his approval and announces that on the morrow the squires will join him when he rides forth to Sarum for Earl Roderick's final council of the long Winter.

It is another leisurely ride to Sarum. Though the squires are far from strangers here, the sight of the mighty town with its ring-work of stone, it's great cathedral, stone keep and mysterious eagle statue serve to once again steal their breath away. While Sir Elad takes his rest in the great hall with the Earl, the squires are left to the stables with instructions to tend to the horses. Eventually, as clear winters day fades into evening, they are called from their duties to wash and present themselves in the Great Hall.
Though the hall is still busy with bustling folk of both castle and town, already the servants are setting out the trestle's for that nights repast and feasting. Sir Elad and the Earl regard the young squires from the dais, but do not beckon them forward. Somewhat at a loss, the  youngsters are relieved when two older, veteran knights, approach the squires and engage them in conversation. Sir Brogan, it seems, is a dour Roman Christian and not overly fond of gossip, yet his great friend Sir Leoric (see left, standing in centre picture with Earl Roderick on the right) is as Pagan as the Green Man and as gregarious as an old nan. Sir Brogan grumpily reveals that they have just returned from chasing off brigands on the eastern borders of the County. "Trouble is brewing," observes Sir Brogan, "It is good that we have fine young squires such as yourselves to strengthen the ranks of knighthood in these difficult times." When pressed, the dour knight seems to think he has said too much already, but Sir Leoric cheerfully explains that the brigands they faced were too well organised to be common robbers, and likely were mercenaries in the employ of the Sire of Levcomagus, the castle that guards the border between Salisbury and Silchester. While Sir Brogan stomps off shaking his head about telling tales to squires, Sir Leoric explains that the Earl and the Sire hate each other over the business of wooing of Ellen, the Earl's good lady and Countess of Salisbury, many years before. "The Sire wanted her manors along the border. The Earl just wanted her, but got both regardless. The Sire of Levcomagus hates him for it."

Talk turns to women at court, and Leoric quickly explains that the pick of the rosebush are:
  • Lady Elaine, whose first husband was murdered by her base-born lover and is now a ward of the Earl ("Very rich, good looking but with no t*ts to speak off. And who would be fool enough to trust her anyway?)
  • Lady Gwen, the Countess' hand-maiden ("Sweet enough to look at, with a nice enough dowry, but she's outlived the last four men that asked to marry her and never once made it to the alter. Talk about cursed!)
  • Lady Adwen, barely more than a lass but old enough to wed ("And rich too! Her daddy got himself killed a while back and without the good sense to breed a son first! Marry her and find yourself a Banneret! But what chance have you got? Shame though, she has hips that'll squeeze out brats like lemon pips!"
  • Lady Indeg, the richest heiress in the country but with children of her own already ("Them as marries her will be rich as sin till her brats are old enough to inherit. Bit wrinkly for my tastes mind you but a still fine looking bit of flesh. Good news too if you're one who likes em with a bit of experience. Doubt she'll give you any brats now though, at her age, but you never know.")
Perhaps hurriedly seeking to change the subject, the squires ask Leoric how long ago he was knighted, and find themselves doubled over in laughter as they are treated to the tale of the deeply pagan Leoric, expected by the Earl's father, a good British Christian himself, to spend the night alone in the chapel deep in prayer. It seemed, then, that his elder brother had arranged to take the Chapel Guard duty himself that night and smuggled two buxom wenches from the towns brothel into the chapel, to keep young Leoric warm and entertained during the long night. The laughter is only stifled by the arrival of another young man, a fellow squire, whom Sir Leoric quickly introduces to the group as Tywin, his squire.

It is not long before Leoric is called away to his table by the hammering of the Herald's staff upon the flagstones. The four squires sit at the lowest table, the one furthest away from the high table and the Earl. The salt at their table is brown and dirty, but nonetheless, it is still salt and an excellent indicator that something important is afoot here. Of course, the knights know that this feast is traditionally when the Earl invests new knights. Could it be their own dubbing comes nigh?

Just as they are wondering that, the Herald bangs his staff three times and asks if any here present know of worthy young men who have committed great deeds worthy of knighthood? At this the Marshal stands and demands that Godrick relate the tale of the Adventure of the Terrible Bear, which he does, putting on a fine display (In the first person, rather than by dice roll, for the benefit of Tywins character who arrived late. A big deal for this player given that English is not his first language, which is probably why he prefers to role play his character in the third person. This extra effort netted him some additional- and well earned- glory points). When it came time to to capture of the bandits, Galen took over, a little disgusted by Godricks grand-standing and boasting, which at times stretched the truth from exaggeration to the point of outright lies (and earning him a dishonest check). Valiance, preferring (as ever) to remain in the background in social stations did not speak, but was spoken well of by both companions. Then it was the turn of Sir Tywin to tell of his exploits (which I forced the player to make up on the spot) of spotting an impending bandit attack on the camp of Sir Leofric's patrol and rousing them all to arms.

Both tales were greeted with much pounding of fists and dagger hilts on tabletops. Finally, when all the acclaim had died down, the Herald boomed:

"If any man here knows of any reason why  theses squires, prven worthy through the course of deeds and actions should not to be acclaimed and anointed knight, let him speak now!"

No disenting voice comes, and a silence settles about the hall. At this, in accordance with tradition, Sir Elad  as Marshal of Salisbury booms out the names of the four squires: Galen, Godrick, Valiance and Tywin (in Glory Order). With much ado, the four squires are then hustled from the hall by all the knights present and more or less thrown into the chapel, there to wait out the rest of the night in Holy Vigil.

Both Godrick and Galen, as British Christians, profess a desire to spend the night in vigil. Yet while Godrick passed his energetic roll with flying colours, Galen critically fumbles and falls asleep almost instantly, constantly distracting Godrick with his loud snores. Valiance and Tywin, as Pagans, simply wait until the two Christians are distracted (Godrick in his holy trance, Galen in his less-holy slumber) and then begin their own short "ceremonies". No sooner has Tywin finished dipping his fingers into the chapels water-filled silver chalice and sprinkled an offering to the four corners before pouring a libation on the stone flagstones for the Dagda than does Valiance set about rolling up an alter cloth for a pillow and trying to sleep.

All manner of trait checks followed as a result of this behaviour and-in some cases- causing it. All the more so when, shortly after midnight, a knock comes at the chapel door, waking Godrick and Valiance from their reverie but not disturbing the slumbering Galen in the least. Opening it, Godrick, Valiance and Tywin are confronted by a beaming Leoric, who unceremoniously dumps a haunch of beef and full skins of ale, wine and mead into the arms of the astonished squires. Chuckling to himself heartily, the Pagan knight closes the chapel door and returns to his "guard-post" outside the door. Godrick's piety fails him at the sight of this rich fare, and he joins the two Pagan squires in their feast.

Early next morning, after the remnants of their repast has been spirited away by a chuckling Leoric, the chapel doors are flung wide by the assembled knights of Salisbury. The squires, escorted by their honour guard of white-garbed knights and a choir of singing youths and maidens, make their way to the Cathedral. There they swear oaths of loyalty to the Earl and to the King, officially receive their armaments, swords and the steeds inherited from their fathers (brought from Vagon to Sarum in secret for this very moment) and are subject to the last blow they will ever receive without giving answer in kind.

To the amusement of all, the newly dubbed Sir Valiance, in deference to his great size, broad shoulders and mighty thews, demurrs from participating in the traditional leap from dead-halt to horseback (much to the relief of his horse). Only Tywin succeeds in this difficult test, to much applause from the crowd and various bawdy remarks from Leoric ("As well he managed to mount his horse first time, for the Gods know he's never so far managed to mount a woman!").

As the sun rose above the town walls, the four newly made knights basked in the glory of their day and the admiration (and attention of the crowd) and wondered at the adventures to come.

Final Thoughts:

I was very pleased with how the session went over all. The scenes during the chapel vigil in particular, not to mention the antics of the jovial, crass, crude and entirely bawdy Pagan knight Sir Leoric caused great hilarity, though I'm not entirely satisfied with how I handled the nave scene. Leoric was a spur of the moment character, one that I hoped to use as a contrast to the other, more serious and intensely focused Christian NPC knights. Though great fun, the lack of respect for courtesy, tradition and religion shown in the nave wasn't really appropriate for the setting. Yet I let it go purely because the players (and yes, me too) were clearly having so much fun. The various trait checks caused some surprises, such as the relatively pious Galen falling asleep almost immediately and the (also fairly pious) Godrick giving up his prayers to join the other other squires in their very pagan celebration. I would have been happier if the different religious attitudes of the four squires had caused more tension - if the rolls or players had determined that the Christians in the group had grown angry at the lack of respect shown by the pagans- but sometimes the dice surprise us and such conflict was not to be.

All in all a very enjoyable session with much fun had by all, even with the slightly jarring moments of near-slapstick humour towards the end of the session. That's one vigil-night that none of the squires -or the players- will ever forget!