Solo GPC

Year of the Three Battles

In the wake of Elaine’s departure, Broughton Hall was left emptier and more eerily quiet than ever. Herringdale easily secured the employ of a new steward, sending for the services of the steward of Burcombe in fact. But his youngest child, his daughter Lilo, was left without a mother and grew increasingly sad and despondent. As the snows began to fall, she grew ill. Yuletide came and went, and still Lilo languished. Countess Ellen sent her best healer trudging through the snow to Broughton, yet there was nothing to be done. Lilo had been sickly since birth, and at last the Reaper caught up with her. On a cold February night, she passed away in Herringdale’s arms.

The dice dictated more cruel fate, but I chose to defer that until game play (an advantage of running the Winter Phase first!).

The Battle of Du Plain Castle

If you’re familiar with the geography of Salisbury, the title of this year’s update should clue you in right away to the events that would unfold during our latest Pendragon session. The Anarchy Phase arrived on Sir Herringdale’s front doorstep this year…

Anarchy in the U.K.

And so we enter the Anarchy Phase.

Unlike most other phase transitions in the GPC, the Anarchy Phase doesn’t mark any major shift in technology, social mores, fashion, or much of anything, really. A note is made at the beginning of the chapter that we’ve moved into the equivalent of 11th-century history, and that the power of the Myth is starting to increasingly displace the reality of 6th-century History, but all in all it’s a pretty subtle transition.

Not so subtle, however, when looked at from the perspective of our hero, Sir Herringdale, who now finds himself Marshall of a county adrift without a leader in a troubled sea of enemies. This isn’t called the Anarchy Period for nothing folks.

The Hall of the Dead

I had wanted to get to this year before our move. I knew that, whatever might transpire, it would be a watershed year and a good point to leave things off for the time being (no fear, we have every intention of continuing the campaign once we’re settled in at our new place—we just have no idea how long that might take).

On His Majesty's Secret Service

After last year’s break from serving as Earl Roderick’s dogsbody, we were back to scripted events in the GPC. King Uther, still stricken with a wasting illness (and—according to whispered rumors—calling for Merlin in his delirium) had, during one of his more lucid moments, proclaimed that Logres should be seeking alliances with other powerful kingdoms. Earl Roderick’s embassy to Malahaut the previous year had failed. This year, the Earl selected Sir Herringdale, one of his most renowned knights, to travel as Royal Ambassador to the Kingdom of Estregales. There, it was said, King Canan had done what no other Cambrian king had managed: through political maneuvering and military might, he had forged a strong alliance between the lowland lords and the mountain chieftains.

A Terrible Gnashing of Teeth

This year proved to be a real nail-biter, both in regular play and in the Winter Phase. It was also kind of a big shift thematically, which threw Des for a bit of a loop, but I had my reasons. Permit me to explain my GMing machinations…

On paper, the year 493 in the GPC is a whole lotta nothin’. Earl Roderick goes on a diplomatic mission to Malahaut to try and drum up support for an alliance but meets only brick walls and eventually returns home all put out. No thanks. Plus—and especially after the rail-roady events of the previous year—I thought a little break was in order from all the scripted stuff. Branch out a bit, refocus things on Sir Herringdale’s personal life and struggles. As Uther’s kingdom begins to fall apart, as the High King withdraws into melancholy and illness, what goes on in the life of one of the kingdom’s most esteemed knights?

I had downloaded an adventure from RPG Archive a few weeks ago called “The Adventure of the Poisoned Lake” and was looking for a chance to use it. It features some mystical elements, but nothing too over the top for pre-Enchantment Britain. I really liked how the GPC had gotten off the ground with fighting a Giant; I wanted to get back to that a bit this year.

See, the way the time line works, you’re not going to see a bunch of crazy faeries and goblins and manticores and what-have-you running around Britain until the so-called Enchantment begins, shortly after Arthur takes the throne. Uther period adventures are much more pragmatically-based. But there are still supernatural elements lurking about the fringes—sort of the “supernatural natives,” if you will. I thought the Poisoned Lake adventure would stand up well to that litmus test.

In the course of planning things out, I started thinking about adding a little more to the year’s events. Every period in the GPC has a dozen or so short mini-scenarios listed at the back, things that the GM can just sprinkle in here and there to add little touches distinctive of the period. I chose to throw first one, then two of these mini-scenarios into the mix once Herringdale got through the Adventure of the Poisoned Lake (or rather, if he got through—as written, this is not a solo-PC-friendly adventure!).

So yes, I made some tweaks to the deadliness factor of the adventure as written. But Herringdale nearly bought it twice even then. Granted, the first time was because Des was unlucky enough to have me roll a “20” on the Enchanted Forest Encounter Table, but still…

High Treason!

I’d like to start off this session update with a quote from the GPC at the end of its description of the events of this year:

Do the knights feel railroaded? They deserve to, for they were. But Uther is the king, after all, and considering that they could have been executed for their part in this, they also ought to feel fortunate.

Oh yeah, it was that kind of year. Lots of heavily scripted action, which can sometimes be fun, and sometimes—as in this year—it’s there to set up things for later on and you just have to sort of power down, get through it, and see how well the PCs hold up to the beating. At this point, I don’t know about Des, but I’m definitely looking forward to the Anarchy Phase when things bust wide open and the PCs suddenly hold their destiny in their hands, for better or for worse. But that’s neither here nor there at the moment; we’ve got another year to chronicle. Let’s begin back at the beginning.

Siege Terrible

Moving preparations continue apace, but Des and I took a little time out yesterday to get back into some Pendragon. The year 491 would find the now-Notable Sir Herringdale moving in ever higher circles of power, just in time to see the beginning of the end. Timing is everything, as they say.

As I had done before we started playing 490, I had left off last session by telling Des she’d have a choice to mull over for the following year. This time it came down to two options, between being in a battle and winning Glory, or skipping the battle and possibly witnessing an important event that won her none. (This little bit of foreshadowing was actually suggested directly by the GPC, and I rather like it. I don’t mind dropping a couple future details in the name of player anticipation.)

490 (Session Two)
Watching the Wheels

After the high drama of last week’s session, this week was quite low-key by comparison. We finished off the year 490 with a series of ominously foreshadowing events, events which, with a couple exceptions, Herringdale was largely merely a witness to rather than an active participant.

490 (Session One)
Triumph...and Tragedy

We’re six years into the Great Pendragon Campaign and we’ve arrived at our first “multi-session” year. My 2006-2008 Pendragon campaign had a lot of these because I was still in DnD mode, thinking that every adventure/year had to have something epic to it. With Pendragon in general, but particularly with the GPC, one is allowed to stretch out a bit. Some years will be brief, as when we covered 488-489 in the span of an afternoon. But then again, some years will be epic. It’s the ebb and flow of the game.

This year is proving to be one of those epic ones.


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