It could be a long one this...
I have been voraciously reading Burning Empires and wallowing in the wonderful structure of the game. One very interesting bit is the splitting and allocation of screen time into Conflicts, Building, Intersital and Colour phases. In the text, Luke Crane actually says that some experienced roleplayers may be rolling their eyes at the constructed nature of it, but it is what we do naturally anyway - just writ large. I was indeed, one of those eye-rollers.
Cut forwards to our session of Pendragon. It's 489 and nothing much was happening. Next year, 490, is a HUGE year with battles and stuff apparently. This is the lull before the storm. Bearing this in mind, I was quite interested in seeing what Nigel would come up with, especially as we are a player down. The game started as usual with the post Winter Phase, pre Winter Court activity and the perennial question 'Is there anything you want to do?'
And yes, my eyebrow raised as I thought 'Hmm...it's a potential building phase, isn't it?'. So I thought, what could I do? And then I made a decision - I would not do anything trivial. If I did something it would have to serve the story and generate some sort of conflict. So I stayed at home and looked after the babies.
At Winter Court it become apparent that Sir Jarradan has been blown off by Rhiannon and she has turned her attentions to Sir Merrick. This was quite a revelation and hammered home one of the parts of the game that sometimes gets missed. It's been over two YEARS since the scheming harridan started whispering in the ear of the aspiring household knight, and he is still an aspiring household knight. So she has cut her losses and gone elsewhere. In 'normal' games radical change like that takes months of play but in Pendragon it can be realistically done in two weeks. Thats interesting...
And then a saxon trundles up to Sarum and the game changes for me totally. The Black Bear clan have been so pissed off by my overt twatting of the Saxons that they have declared 'blood feud' on me and my family. Now THATS interesting. Naturally I accepted it with vigour but now I have reason to start really *playing*.
- I start taking a greater interest in the disposition of the Saxons with Sir Madoc and Sir Brastias (that'll be an intersital moment, I believe)
- I send a message back to my clan in the Long Isles warning them of the impending clash with the Saxons. (building and bringing my family in Ireland into play for the first time)
- I look to extend my communication with the band of mercenary Kerns that fight for Uther (more building)
And then, I authored a scene where Brion (in preperation for his imminent rise to Pagan Knight) goes to Glastonbury to receive the blessing of Morrigan. He sacrifices the sword given to him by Sir Madoc for his actions at Bayeux and accepts, voluntarily, a Geas. Now, I have no idea whether this will benefit me in the future but it HAMMERED home more about my character than anything else I have done before, in my eyes. It was a colour scene that could be used later for something greater.
Onwards and a possible moment with Rhiannon as Merrick invites me to dine with them. Epona (bless her) declines on my behalf. Now, lets look at that. I've been constantly bleating on about how proud I am about having the kids and my great wife. We appear to act as one when it comes to matters of her sister. Thats very cool whether intentional or not and acts as a sure sign that if something nasty is going to happen to my family, for dramas sake, it should happen to Epona... but after what happens next, will anyone be silly enough?
We go to war with Cornwall and after their surrender we march to reinforce Lindsey. There the three of us intercept a Saxon raiding party - six foot soldiers and a chieftain. We take their shield wall head on with a charge and smash it and I engage the Chieftain. Sir Merrick tries to intervene and I snarl him off - *my* fight. We kill them, but the Chieftain is unconscious. I wake him up and then despatch him with this rather chilling message.
"This is a message, to your Gods from mine. Kill me if you can... Survive if I let you!" and off comes his head. ECWs Taz never delievered that line in a more appropriate setting! Later we stumble on 15 saxon raiders from the Black Bear tribe. Rather than battle them (which would have been very foolish) I confront them and hurl the Chieftains head at their feet, proclaiming that this was just the first of many that would fall until they called off their feud.
And then the game ended before the Winter phase.
Maybe the catalyst for this was during the last session when Sir Brion was described as 'likeable' and 'sociable' etc. by the court. Maybe it was to ensure that Brion=Hardass Warrior archetype is not forgotten or missed again? I dunno, but a definite darker turn for the character has ensued - all fuelled by the need to protect his family (thats Love:Family 18 folks...) and suddenly he is SO MUCH MORE entertaining to play!
Great great game. Can't wait till the next session. It struck us, on the way home, that the two games in question - Pendragon and Burning Wheel - aren't actually that different in their outlook. You have to force the drama or as Ian has pointed out on fandomlife.net, it is like being in the middle of your own medieval documentary!
Later, I plan to burn Brion as a Burning Wheel character, to see whether my idea is right.