Pendragon is back and back with a bang!
Sometimes my mind boggles at the way our GM, Nigel, manages to take the massive complicated morass of 'stuff' that has been shoe-horned into this campaign and consistently come up with a game that proves engaging, dramatic and most of all escapes being engulfed by the tome it is drawn from. There has been some critique on 'Story Games' regarding TGPC and whether it is too restrictive regarding the actions of the players. I think this session was a perfect example of how this is simply not the case at all!
Lets recap where we are. It's the winter of 504 and Britain is in turmoil. Saxons, Cornish and Irish are ravaging the country and there is still no real sign of a High King. Nanteleod, a welsh king, has been pushing through Wales and the north, but has not yet tackled the burgeoning Saxon problem. In response to this, we, the ruling knights of Salisbury, have been on a little expansionist push of our own, effectively annexxing Marlborough and casting glances at Oxford and the rest of Rhydychan (or however you spell it!). Our cause is helped by the Countess Rhyd-whatever being an ally and begging our Countess to help out.
Thats the metaplot - what about the actual game?
The main central piece of this game was the love triangle between Sir Aeryn the Younger, the half-fey manipulator Rhiannon and the scheming Sir Merrin. Aeryn loves Rhiannon. Rhiannon loves Aeryn. Merrin has a pact with her father, the King of the Forest Sauvage, to have her hand in marriage. She has no choice but to enter this loveless union. It's magnificent and totally Arthurian! If you want to get even deeper it's almost the antithesis of the themes that have been running through the storyline of my character, Brion - family, fidelity, children, love and faithfulness.
The marriage itself wasn't the centrepiece - it was the scenes around it. The initial rebuff of Aeryn as she broke the news, the cold, almost staged nature of Rhiannon's acceptance of the proposal, Aeryns conspicuous absence from the wedding, his night before the wedding final attempt to win her heart and Merrin's automatically controlling changes to her lifestyle - moving her to his castle, annexing the Tower of Babel and seeking to use his power as Chancellor to legitimise Aeryn's bastard son as his own ward.
You would think that he wanted to die a slow and painful death at the end of Aeryn's sword!
However, thats not all! The spring festival was attacked by British mercenaries hired by the Saxons to confuse us. All very bizarre. However, the battle was again just a ruse behind which a smorgasbord of personal issues played out. Merrin's desperate attempts to protect his bride-to-be at the cost of his own body. Aeryn's son rushing to Merrin's aid and being firmly put in his place. Aeryn himself single handedly taking the gatehouse and the archers, because he IS the best swordsman in the land. Guillame protecting his churchmen and his Countess - a theme that seems to be rising in prominence with him. And Brion? Him and Cullwch tearing through the courtyard back-to-back ('the Irish wrecking machine') and then him rallying the troops and driving the usurpers to their doom. All great stuff, especially as the 'no armour' situation added to the danger and suspense.
And that is just the first part of the year!
I still haven't written about the machinations of the politics that we have to get up to in order to keep our borders even passingly safe or the building programmes that have been undertaken. It doesn't take into account the plotting of battles or the balancing of troop movements or the consideration of treaties. Why? Because in the end thats window dressing to some of the great character displays that are being had in the game.
Character centred, character driven stories with a great deep background and something for everyone? I don't care whether it's labelled 'story' or not - it's a damned fine game!