This Sunday we played what was effectively the first of three 'double sessions' in the run up to CottageCon. This Sunday we teamed up our normal Pendragon game with character generation for Spirit of the Century.
SotC looks like a great game and the character generation was definitely an event. I'm a fervent advocate of group character design and that character design walking hand-in-hand with the flavour of the campaign. Not only does it build deeper, richer characters but it also welds the issues of the characters to the campaign setting and the adventure. It totally bypasses the old 'Patron meets you at an Inn (and associated variations)' stereotype and plunges fully flegded characters into their own action. SotC does this magnificently, especially with the 'guest novel' section.
Of course, muggins here had to make it a little more complicated by creating a character that is essentially a support character rather than a square jawed hero type. He (for he has no name yet, although it will no doubt be something alliterative) is a butler-par-excellence, a member of the League of Gentlemen's Gentlemen. Unflappable, immensely resourceful, contacts around the world, impeccably English with a thick streak of working class sensibility. Like The Rescuers, the LoGsG are dispatched to ensure that some irrational explorer isn't gobbled up by zombie pygmies in a creased suit during his sojourn to the depths of the Amazon.
The game threw up a definite African theme, with the main villain appearing to be the nefarious Zo Khath Ra! I'm thoroughly looking forward to serving up cucumber sandwiches and delivering stiff right hooks in defiance of the bounder.
One thing I find saddening about SotC however, and I have seen this of a number of so-called indie games, is that they do seem to have low repeat play value. I think we virtually covered every pulp base we could think of with our characters and whilst it would take many sessions to drag every thread out of that, if we were to run another game, I wonder how much variation we would see. I don't know why I feel that way - as opposed to say D&D - but its a possibility.
Then after the obligatory pizza break, we moved onto Pendragon and the climax of my feud with the Black Bear Clan. For those who haven't been keeping track, my knight Sir Brion, has been making quite the reputation for himself killing saxons since Day One of the campaign. As a result the Black Bear Clan declared a blood feud on him. Now, in the early days, this was simply an excuse for me to kill yet more saxons in exciting and bloody ways, but later they started playing things a little more canny. First, they attacked me directly in battle and *shock* went for the horse! And then they sent a raiding party to attack my homestead and killed two of my horde of children. Now, Brion is renowned for his Love (Family) so he went a bit mental, was shook out of it by Sir Aeryn the Elder and then progressed to enact a grand plan of revenge that included being blessed by Morrigan, travelling back to Ireland and invoking family law to raise his clan and enlisting the aid of his father-in-law, the King of the Forest Sauvage.
So, it came to pass that around 300 knights, bowmen, spearmen, mercenaries, swordsmen, hobgoblins, spriggans and elf-hounds met 260 Black Bear clan, Boar clan, trolls and turncoat BASTARDS from Huntingdon.
Now, we have a saying in our group - dramatically appropriate dice - and this session they were at home and having a party! Prior to the battle, Sir Aeryn the Younger (he who wants to be me) tried to lead the lifting of a siege and managed to fail around 75% of his battle rolls. The young pretender won the day, but his losses were grave and all of the enemy knights escaped intact. He still has a lot to learn about the art of war.
The old master however, warlord of the Countess' armies, lead his men to a total victory, with the mercenaries (and Aeryn the Elder) seeing off the men of Huntingdon, the main body of spear and sword (with Sir Merrin) decimating the Boar clan and myself, Aeryn, Guillame and my Irish horde laying waste to the Black Bear. It was a bloody affair - for them - with our side only suffering 9 casualties! The corn from that field will grow red with their Saxon blood for a long time.
The downside? I sometimes wish there was more room for roleplaying and showboating in the Pendragon battles. They are excellently executed representations of dark ages battle - random, visceral affairs - but in the end, my confrontation with the Black Bear Chieftain was simply a two round battle. He scratched me, I criticalled and gutted him. Maybe the denouement will come next session. Almost certainly I think that it is my responsibility to make more of it.
Next session we move from the sublime to the ridiculous, and the generation of 18th level D&D characters. I shudder to think....