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Ironworker

Legendary Arthurian Role Playing

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Through the nearly 20 years I've been a gamer I have tried a few times to capture the feel of the Legends of King Arthur in various role playing campaigns. I have always failed utterly. It didn't matter if I went fort the historic Arthur or the romanticized Arthur. I never really felt like I pulled it off. It's just a hard setting to pin down.

 

This is really a problem with any legendary setting. They are hard to adapt. They are great stories but they are so often unclear about specifics like locations of events and chronology. These things are needed to create the setting for a game but not as much for a legend. If you go fully historic you can sometimes find the information to satisfy these problems but then you loose all the legend.

 

Again I'm thinking about starting up an Arthurian campaign. Probably using the D20 system since I can't get my group to do anything else. I'm definitely using a legendary model with this one. Late 13th – early 14th century visual styling. The blending of the native Celtic culture with Roman Christianity. (in a non M. Z. Bradly way) The Saxon enemy. Human ideals and human failings. The 'Knights in Shining Armour' Arthur.

 

The setting will be called “Shadows of Avalon” and will be set sometime after Arthur's death likely during the reign of Constantine III. Arthur's kingdom will have fragmented again and the goal will be to re-unite the Britons to fight against the Saxons. Chief opponents will be the Saxons, Mordred's sons and former allies, greedy nobles looking to carve out their own kingdoms, and the general problems that plague the land.

 

I'll probably be using Chretien de Troyes' Ywain, Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur, and Gwain and the Green Knight as my primary literary sources. These seem to have the best balance of things I'm looking for. I feel this will also keep me from getting in over my head. If I tried to include everything Arthurian I'm pretty sure I would end up with a mess. I'm also going to add some historic influence, some early 14th century cultural influence, and some Celtic fairytale influence. These influences however will be secondary to the three primary literary influences.

 

Even with limited sources I'm already starting to feel overwhelmed with the amount of research involved. I don't have time to do a doctoral thesis on Legendary Arthur, or even do a full game setting. I'm trying to keep it workable but I'm not sure where to start.

 

Any suggestions as to existing material would be appreciated so long as it comes close to the setting I'm proposing.

 

I may be keeping this thread up or starting a web page or something with the ideas I'm developing.

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The only thing I can suggest is getting a map detailing settlements etc in the time period you want, then using that as the historic backbone to your "romantic" (in a non mills-and-boone way) version. Faeries could be associated with ancient sites, stones and settlements, or just with crossroads and other transitions.

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Even with limited sources I'm already starting to feel overwhelmed with the amount of research involved. I don't have time to do a doctoral thesis on Legendary Arthur, or even do a full game setting. I'm trying to keep it workable but I'm not sure where to start.

 

Any suggestions as to existing material would be appreciated so long as it comes close to the setting I'm proposing.

 

White Wolf recently released a new (5th ed.?) of Pendragon, a full color hardback. It's exactly what you're looking for.

 

I prefer the 4th ed. as it has rules for PC magicians but other than a few tweaks here & there they're identical.

 

Encourage your players to try games other than d20, if you're burnt out and working hard just to adapt the rigid d20 system to your vision, seek another engine. After all, you're supposed to have fun too, remind your players of that. :)

 

>>ReaperWolf

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It kind of sounds to me like you are seeking some adventure ideas/inspirations without spending gobs of time reading text. So a suggestion I can offer is to watch some old movies that fit into the genre you are interested in recreating. Ivanhoe is set after the period you describe but making the Normans the bad guys and the Saxons the good guys isnt too much of a leap, and you get the mounted armored knights period at its greatist. Another slightly more obscure flick is Sword of the Valiant. Again this can be a wonderful scource for adventure ideas during the general period you are describing. I'm guessing you have watched Excalibur dozens of times all ready but ill mention it just in case.

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It kind of sounds to me like you are seeking some adventure ideas/inspirations without spending gobs of time reading text.

 

Excaliber was, and still is, great inspiration for my own Arthurian inspired sagas. If you're open to a little reading I cannot recommend highly enough the Arthurian Comanion:

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/192899913...5Fencoding=UTF8

 

There's a Second Edition with errata and clarifications, great stuff.

 

The adventures and sourcebooks for Pendragon are very good particulary the Saxons and Pagan Shores and Lordly Domains books. Since Pendragon 5th Edition has been released you should be able to acquire the Green Knight material through conventional channels.

 

Best!

 

>>ReaperWolf

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Pendragon is an old favorite of mine. I played older rules where everyone was a knight and no wizards were allowed! I kind of like that feel actually... The game is built for it. Can't go wrong with Pendragon!

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Thanks for the suggestions guys. Oddly enough I've never liked Excalibur. No one should try to do Le Morte' D'Arthur in one movie. That would be like doing the entire Lord of the Rings as one film instead of three.

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Pendragon is an old favorite of mine. I played older rules where everyone was a knight and no wizards were allowed! I kind of like that feel actually... The game is built for it. Can't go wrong with Pendragon!

 

Point well taken however the magicians of Pendragon were wedded to the land and they paid a steep price for the power they wielded. Sure they could lob curses, conjure glamours, and change the weather on a whim but they were a far cray from potent Archmages of conventional Tolkienesque fantasy. To counter their powers Pendragon magicians had to sleep off the fatigue caused by working magic, which means after letting fly with a few spells the magician would have to retreat to a secure location to sleep for days, weeks, and in some cases months or years to restore their vitaility.

 

In the first two editions magicians weren't available as PCs but as the game matured apace with the pen and paper game industry Chaosium, and later Green Knight Publishing, compromised their knight's only vision of Pendragon to appeal to a larger demographic. I support this choice as it gives my players more PC choices without opening up the D&D class/prestige class floodgates, i.e. Paladins, Rangers, Monks, ad nauseum.

 

This design principle isn't new, look at Ars Magica. In AM the focus is on the Magus and their companions. Shared between the Magi and companions was a turb of grogs, thick necked fighters and rogue-types who were more or less owned by the Magus' covenant.

 

You can probably find old copies of Pendragon gathering dust at local hobby shops. Alternatively check eBay, here's what I found after only 1 minute of searching:

 

http://cgi.ebay.com/Pendragon-Rpg-5th-Edit...1QQcmdZViewItem

 

Enjoy your time in Arthur's Britain!

 

>>ReaperWolf

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I understand trying to reach a broader demographic... But, isn't there enough of that honestly? Seems like everything tries to dumb itself down to the lowest common denominator all too often. I'm not saying that Pendragon with wizards is dumbed down! I've never tried it... But one thing I really loved about everyone having to be a knight (and human at that!) is that it really stressed the role-playing. I find that in a lot of games people really rely on there character to provide the personality. If they're a dwarven rogue or a gnomish fighter who really needs to explore their character anymore? The stats say it all! But with Pendragon I found that people really had to work to make their characters unique and interesting. If nothing else it was a brilliant teaching tool with the personality profile that Pendragon uses. Most people had to pick a personality trait key to their character and if they were at all interested in role-playing they could really ham it up and ended up thinking about that one trait during every situation that would arise. I loved it! A couple of my favorite characters that I ever played were Pendragon knights. I remember having one knight who was "Suspicious". I didn't have to say anything and could get across the point that he was suspicious just with his actions and my own looks and scowls. It was brilliant fun!

 

Anyway, to each their own. Ultimately a good game-master will be able to pick and choose the elements of the game they like and dislike. To that end options are never bad... But every now and again I like to see games take those risks and just say this is how the game is played and that's all there is to it!

 

Pendragon is still one of my favorite games of all time...

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Well, I really disagree that if you're a dwarven rogue or gnomish fighter, there's no need to explore the character anymore. I think that's a gross generalization, that perhaps applies to no one I've RPed with. Just about every character in our group has been more than just the stats, and really, everyone playing Human knights would fall into the same sort of meme anyway: why explore the character anymore when he can be either a noble crusader, or a snooty stuck up aristocrat? No, I think it has more to do with the group, whether RPing is stressed or not, IMHO.

 

Damon.

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For a look at a Dark Ages Arthur, check out "Dragon Lord" by David Drake. It's a Howard pastiche, but a very good one. I used it as a reference for an all elves party Dark Ages campaign that I DM'ed.

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That's just it Lars, there is a mentality that is satisfied with the, "why explore the character anymore when he can be either a noble crusader, or a snooty stuck up aristocrat?" You're proving my point. When people are faced with everyone having characters that are often identified as identical to one another, it really gets people to start thinking of ways to make their characters interesting and different from one another. All I can speak to is what I experienced... And I found that Pendragon with its "knights only" game play really made people think and try new things.

 

Of course it has to do with the group as to whether or not role-playing is stressed, but that doesn't mean a system can't help...

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I usually have one or more women who never play male characters so and all knight game is pretty much out of the question.

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I usually have one or more women who never play male characters so and all knight game is pretty much out of the question.

 

Not a problem, there are options in Pendragon.

 

Play a female magician.

 

Play a female courtier.

 

Play a nun.

 

Masquerade as a male and pursue a career as a knight, priest, friar, courtier, etc. Challenging but not impossible particularly if the character is charming and influential.

 

Enjoy!

 

>>ReaperWolf

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Another system you might want to consider is "A Game of Thrones" by Guardians of Order, based upon Martin's Fire & Ice series.

 

I'm not familiar with Pendaragon, bu the AGoT system is very "gritty" and I think it would suit an Arthurian campaign.

 

Regards,

 

AJC

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