Solo GPC

Ah, Paris

A short session this time, but a fun one.

To Be A Queen's Knight

At the great mound of Carn Brea in Cornwall, a giant with cascading waterfalls for eyebrows shook itself from its winter slumber and stood. Stretching, it loosed a great rumbling yawn that sent a flock of nesting sparrows flying from its tangled beard. Absent-mindedly scratching its bottom, it ambled off in search of sustenance. Far to the east, a young knight also rose, looking out on the snow-covered streets of Camelot…

Yes, kids, it’s time again. Time to delve back into the tale of the Broughton clan, in particular of Sir Loholt of Camelot, son of the High King and Romantic Knight par excellance. What strange and glorious adventures lie in wait for our intrepid young knight this year? Read on and find out…

Two Weddings and a Tournament

The arms of Sir Loholt

And so the Romance Period begins. This year, 531, used to be the default starting time for a “by the book” Pendragon campaign. Although I didn’t start playing Pendragon in earnest until shortly after 5th edition came out (with its default starting year of 485), the majority of my campaigns, both as GM and player, have ended up centering around this time. So Des and I are in familiar waters.

It’s easy to see why 531 used to be the default starting year. If you’re going to start out during Arthur’s reign, it’s a good time to start. This is when chivalry enters its full flower, when tournaments replace battles as the venue to demonstrate a knight’s courage, when heraldry and pennants and trappers turn those tournament fields into a riot of colors. Fortresses finally start to look like what we think of when we hear the word “castle.” The land is at peace, Adventure and Quest rule the day, and things haven’t started to go down the toilet yet. Soon enough. In the meantime, it is morning in Britain again and our hero is a young knight out to fill the shoes of his father and win the heart of his true love. To Adventure, then!

Adventures on the Emerald Isle

When we last left off, our hero Loholt – at the tender age of 18 – had been made a knight. More than that, he had been recognized as one of two potential heirs to the throne of the kingdom, bastard though he may be. So did the newly-minted Sir Loholt’s first full year as a knight live up to expectations? Read on…

Coming to a Head

Oh dear, another intolerably long gap between updates. Blame my starting up a regular tabletop campaign for my group; that sort of thing does tend to eat up one’s spare time…

When we last left off, plans were afoot for Loholt, after several notable adventures around the environs of the Vale of the White Horse, to finally receive his knighthood. Sir Malcolum, Baron of the Vale and recently returned from the Roman War, had decided to take Loholt and Ieuan (Malcolum’s other squire) to London to have them knighted by the High King himself at the Pentecostal Tournament.

In the Service of Lancelot

At the conclusion of this year’s adventure, Des told me she’s really been enjoying these short squire adventures. By necessity, they can’t be very epic or terribly deadly due to Loholt’s below-average stats (although they’re quickly catching up to normal levels). I agreed; they’ve been a nice break. I also mentioned that shit’s going to get real soon enough, to which she replied, “Oh, I know!” with a wicked gleam in her eye. But we’re definitely enjoying this slight change of pace before we get back into proper full-on knight action. And so once again we join Loholt at Uffington Manor. What will another year in the life bring to our plucky young squire?

White Horse Vales

Here’s an adventure I’ve been looking forward to running not just since the inception of the GPC but basically since I first bought the Pendragon 4th Edition rulebook. Included in that tome (oddly in two versions, one short and one long) is a scenario called the “Adventure of the White Horse”. Ever since it became evident that we’d most likely be starting with Loholt as a squire or very young knight, I’ve been planning on running this adventure for him. Truth be told, it’s the whole reason I had him squired at Uffington (the fact it made narrative sense for him to be sent to study under the father of Countess Katherine was only icing on the cake).

So after all those years of anticipation, how did it measure up? Read on…

A Squire's Life

For this first installment in the new phase of the campaign, I decided to cheat a little bit. There’s a little introductory scenario that comes in the back of the Pendragon core rulebook; I think everyone who’s played Pendragon is familiar with it. I’ve run it before (although not for Des) and she’s run it for me (twice, in fact!). Yet, because the GPC starts out (way back in 485) with a different intro scenario, the adventure had so far not featured in this particular campaign. I felt this was a shame, as it’s such an iconic Pendragon experience. I asked Des if she’d mind playing through the adventure since she’d only experienced it from a GM’s perspective. She had no problem with this, and so we faded in on the Vale of the White Horse on a breezy early summer morn…

The arms of Baron Uffington

A Winter Interlude

Photo by Antony Spencer

This is an account of what turned out to be Meleri’s last session as a full-time PC. I had an adventure prepared for this year as usual, but what turned out happening was an all-roleplaying session that took the form of a conversation between Meleri and Morgan over the winter of 525-26. If you recall, we left off with Meleri journeying to the castle of Morgan le Fay as the rest of the country prepared to go to war with the Roman Empire. Morgan had made an intriguing offer, luring Meleri away from Sarum where she was to spend the duration of the war in the company of her rival, Countess Katherine.

“I can offer you all you desire,” said Morgan, a twinkle in her eye. “Lamorak can at last be yours, wholly and unreservedly.”

“How?” Meleri asked, uncertain.

“I shall make you Queen of Norgales,” said Morgan. "Pellinore is dead. His land has no ruler. As Queen you will rule over Lamorak and he will serve you. You cannot rely on your beauty alone to keep him; it will not hold forever. Even now I see lines gather like crow’s feet about your eyes.

“You will never be old in the eyes of those who love you. And if they refuse to love you, I can teach you the subtle arts of persuasion that will make them your slaves. Come with me to my hall; you are better than the provincial dolts who people this court. Spend the winter as my guest and think over the offer.”

And so the pros and cons were weighed. Morgan had dangled Lamorak before Meleri (how Morgan knew of their affair, Meleri did not know – but she was not surprised at the knowledge). Regardless, Meleri was skeptical that her being made queen would bring Lamorak to her. In fact, if she knew the chivalrous knight at all, she felt that he would see her differently once she became his liege lord.

On the other hand, there was the promise of power, and that was considerable. The power of a queen. The power of an enchantress. The power to never age, to never lose her looks or her influence.

What of Ontzlake? What of him? He was down in Portchester, preparing to embark for the Continent, not knowing when he’d return – or if. He had been a good husband to her, but she had never felt any particularly strong ties to him…

And so it was decided. Meleri would take up Morgan’s offer and become Queen of Norgales and learn the sorcerous arts.

And with that, Meleri entered the realm of NPCs. There are no canonical rules for magic in Fifth Edition, and with good reason. I’ve run Pendragon with magician characters before, and it really does change the tone, tenor, and focus of the game before. On top of that, once a character achieves a certain level of temporal power (and ruling a country would certainly qualify in this regard), the rules recommend retirement. Again, I’ve run campaigns with characters at the level of Earls and Duchesses, and I much prefer lower power scales.

So we’re going really low for our next chapter in the unfolding saga. The year 526 just happens to be the year that Meleri’s eldest son Loholt, who has been serving as a page at the court of the Baron of Uffington, becomes a squire. And so we’re shifting back to the world of knights and starting at the earliest possible age. The next full update will be the first installment in the life of Loholt the Squire and his teenage misadventures in a land emptied of knights gone off to war. It should be fun to see how he fares, and as with Meleri’s adventures it gives us an opportunity to explore another of the less-ventured corners of the setting.

As for Meleri, she will make cameo appearances from time to time, I’m sure. There might even be occasion for Des to run her once or twice. The price she owes to Morgan for her boon will also become apparent over time. But for now the focus shifts onto a young squire in the Vale of the White Horse…

The Goblin Market; or, "Puck you!"

Ever since reading a Dragon magazine article (“Organization Is Everything!”) during my formative GM years, my process with running any long-term campaign (GPC included) is to draft a rough outline of where I’d like to see the campaign go over the course of the next half-dozen adventures or so (anything beyond that being almost guaranteed to crumble due to players taking things in unexpected directions). These aren’t hard and fast guidelines; I happily amend my plans on the fly if something comes up in play to justify it. But if I don’t have something “penciled in,” no matter how vague or open-ended, I tend to feel a little lost. Plus knowing what’s in the pipeline allows me to drop a bit of foreshadowing into current adventures.

Prior to my break, my outline for the next few years of the GPC was full of lots of question marks and vague statements. I just wasn’t sure what to do with Meleri’s storyline that would be exciting and different. Coming back from the break, I have a definite plan and can’t wait to see how things will play out. It all hinged on this year and the adventure I had lined up. It’s one of the few full-length adventures in the GPC, found in an Appendix in the back and meant to be dropped in at pretty much any point. And the best part? The adventure intro noted that the scenario was “easily adapted” to running for a lady character!

And so 525 would find Lady Meleri paying a visit to the Goblin Market…

Art by Charles Vess


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