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More Prince Valiant RPGing


It's been five weeks since our last session.

This session saw the PCs take their crusade to Cyprus. (Our campaign is set rather ambigulously in the period of post-Roman Britain, and for the Byzantine empire and surrouding lands I'm using maps from a historical atlas for the mid-8th century CE. At this time the Abbasid Caliphate controls Cyprus.)

First, they sent a NPC knight - the Anatolian knight who had joined their Order, the Order of St Sigobert, in the previous session - back to Constantinople to let the Emperor know that they had taken Totilla the Hun a prisoner, and that if a fleet sailed to the southern port they would hand over this valuable prisoner.

Second, they finished their overland journey to the south coast of Anatolia, and I decided to use the scenario The Loyal Hound from the Episode Book. On their way, therefore, the PCs met a boy (or young man) with a sprained ankle, who was holding a collar for a large dog. At first the boy wouldn't talk to them, terrified that they were Huns who would kill him. The PCs are British, not Huns, but they do have 30 Huns - mounted archers - as part of their warbeand, and one of the PCs - Sir Morgath - was wearing Hunnish armour taken as a prize in battle last session. Sir Morgath was able to persaude the boy to talk, and learned that the boy's master, Sir Fregos, had been wounded in a battle and was convalescing in the company of his dog, Courage, but now Courage had been lost. The boy was looking for him but had hurt his ankle.

Sir Justin strapped the boy's ankle (successful Healing check) and helped him onto a riding horse, and they rode into the hills where Courage had gone. They found Courage drinking from a pond in a dell - but it was not a dog, but a wolf! We established (I can't remember how, now) that Sir Morgath was holding the collar and so he opted to approach the animal. He succeeded on his Presence check against the Terrify special effect and held out the collar - as per the scenario description, Courage meekly submitted and placed his head through it. But then an Arab rider came full tilt out of a gap into the dell, sword in hand. Sir Morgath's player succeeded on the Agility vs Riding test and so led himself and the dog into the water, taking the view that he could fight better under those circumstances. He is not trained in Naturalitie (the system's animal handling skill) but succeed on a Presence check with a 1D penalty to keep the wolf under control - it joined him in attacking the rider and they held him off. But then the assailant made a Dexterity check to throw his sword at Courage - Sir Morgath,though, made an Agility check to interpose himself and the blade bounced harmlessly off his Hunnish mail. And the rider rode off (spending a Special Effect to do escape).

The boy identified the rider as Wassel, the same person who had injured Sir Fregos in battle and who apparently was now trying to kill his tame wolf. The PCs returned Courage to Sir Fregos, who was glad to have his canine companion returned. SIr Justin - the Master of the PCs' Order - politely inquired whether Sir Fregos could sponsor the PCs' assault on Cyprus, but the best he could offer was to guarantee their safe passage through the port town, provided they kept their entourage in order. Sir Gerren - the third PC, Justin's father and Marshall of the order - was able to do so (successful Oratory check to impress upon the warband the importance of good behaviour).

Not long after the PCs' arrival in the port town, a fleet from Constantinople arrived, to take the prisoner Totilla. Sir Justin persuaded them to carry the PCs and warband to Cyprus in return (a series of Courtesie checks which were not all successful - eg no rights of conquest or even entitlement to payment - were acknowledged). While waiting for provisioning to be completed, Sir Morgath saw a small boat sail out of the harbour with a cloaked figure on board - when the wind blew back the hood of the cloak he could see that it was Wassel. He tried to find a boat to pursue and intercept, but his Presence check failed - his reputation as a Hun, or as one who consorts with Huns, made the locals reluctant to deal with him.

The players decided they did not want to attempt an amphibious assault and rather wanted to land on a deserted beach. But the beach where they landed turned out to be a trap (by dint of GM scene-framing fiat) - there were soldiers waiting behind bluffs and dune who came onto the beach as the small boats started landing the PCs' forces, and they even were able to raise their low fence concealed under the sand. This was a brutal mass combat, 280 NPCs under a commander with Battle 4 against the 100 memberf of the PCs' warband having to struggle through the water but under the command of Sir Justin with Battle 5. The PCs side had a 2 dice penalty for being outnumbered and another -1 die for the water, though with +1D for being verterans. They couldn't take the beach, though, and so after three rounds of mass combat (with Sir Gerren rousing the second wave with his Oratory and Sir Morgath guiding the Huns in unleashing the odd volley) the PCs' forces fell back to their vessels and retreated. Some ad hoc dice rolls resulted in the loss of half-a-dozen or so men-at-arms and over a dozen footmen.

They had the ships take them to a cove that was deserted. As they sailed along the coast they saw a small castle. Conjecturing that it was probably where the beach force had come from, they decided to assault it straight away before it could be reinforced - so the mounted forces rode off equipped with ropes and grappels and with the footmen following behind.. With successful checks the PCs' scouts found a path that brought them up to the castle and cutting off the path from the beach. They decided to fight the the returning force, having the advantage of the slope and being mounted against footmen, before turning to the castle. This was a successful mass combat for the PCs, but then I shifted us to one-on-one combat vs the NPC leader and his bodyguard. Sir Justin beat one of the bodyguards in an opposed check and I allowed that this was enough to get past him to the leader himself. Sir Morgath also beat a bodyguard - as his player said, "The first time I've won a fight without spending a Storyteller Certificate!" But Sir Justin, despite having more dice to start with, was not able to beat the leader who fought his way back into his castle. Sir Gerren, meanwhile, recruited 20-odd Cypriot patriots from the defeated forces to join with the PCs.

So then a third mass combat ensued, as the players decided the PCs and their force would assault the castle immediately while the momentum was still running their way (I allowd a +1D morale bonus). I had already decided there were 40 soldiers still in the castle, so now the PCs had the numerical advantage but their horses no longer helped them, their +1D for being veterans was cancelled out by a fatigue penalty, and they had the -3 penalty for assaulting a fortified position. At first their numbers were 81 (3 PCs, 2 scouts, 30 Huns, 25 men-at-arms, 21 patriots) to 41 (the 40 in the castile plus their leader) - not quite enough for a 2:1 numerical advantage which is worth 2 dice rather than the 1 dice for a 3:2 advantage). But the scout who is in Sir Morgath's service - Algol the Bloodthirsty, a hunter from northern Britain - succeeded on a Stealth check to get a bonus die and then an Archery check to shoot a defender from the parapet, signalling the beginning of the PCs' assault and also dropping the defenders to 40, sufficient to give the 2:1 advantage.

This battle started with 6 command dice for Sir Justin (Presence 3 + Battle 5 + 1 for morale -3 for fortifications) and 5 dice for the NPC commander (Presence 3 + Batlle 4 -2 for number), but it took many rounds of opposed checks for the PCs to take the castle. Each round of mass combat is notionally an hour, and so at a certain point I imposed an additional -1 penalty to the PCs's side for darkness as night fell. At an appropriate point I also narrated that the PCs had taken the walls as the defenders were falling back to the keep.

At one point it seemed that the defenders might rally (2D vs 4D but in a system where max success grants a bonus success and with my dice on fire) - and Sir Morgath was taken out by Greek Fire (a couple of failed battle survival checks) but in the end the NPCs didn't quite make it, and the PCs' forces prevailed. This time I framed Sir Gerren into the pursuit of the NPC commander up the stairs of the keep. Despite a 1D penalty for fighting up the stairs he still had the bigger pool, but again it looked like the NPC might succeed as he had the lead in dice at one point. But it was Sir Gerren who triumphed in the end, taking the NPC prisoner.

The PCs ran up the flag of St Sigobert and a successful Presence check meant that the Byzantine vessels saw it from their position off the coast.

The PCs established a rapport with the Greek steward of the castle, Grigorias, and also collected intelligence about the situation on Cyprus. There are three other castles they need to take. They decided to head off for the Castle on the Crags, and inland castle with a Greek commander who - at least as they were informed by Grigorias - had led his forces into battle against the Arab rulers when news of the PCs sailing for Cyprus had arrived.

The session ended with the three PCs heading off with a guard of 12 men-at-arms, riding under a white flag of truce.

In the course of the session both Justin and Morgath crossed two thresholds for skill gain - taking Healing and Battle in the first case, and Riding (so he can keep up with the Huns) and Lore in the second case - while Sir Gerran crossed one threshold and also took Battle. Sir Justin an Sir Gerran both now have Battle 6, the first skills to reach the system maximum. So the success of their warband seems likely to continue.

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Small God of the Dozens
That could be a product of Amazon's algorithm, IDK. I'm not excited enough to pay more than a hundred bucks Canadian for it though, no. :) If I were really motivated I'm sure I could source used copy but that's more work than I think I want to put in for a game I'm far more likely to read than play right now. I do have Pendragon, which scratches a somewhat similar itch.

Myrdin Potter

I backed the kickstarter. Even the PDF are not for sale on Drivethrough. I wonder if this is a function of Chaosium getting the rights back and just not wanting to do anything about it. Which surprises me as it cannot be hard to make the files available for sale and make them POD as well.


Agreed! One really gets a sense of system architecture and GM decision making here.
Thanks - that's the goal!

An re system architecture: when I first read the rules - which are pretty straightforward - I glossed over the mass combat rules, as (i) they are the most complex subsystem by quite a margin (next most complex is archery), and (ii) I didn't think they would be very relevant as I wasn't planning to run a "war" campaign.

Now it turns out that they are a go-to in just about every session. And two PCs have Battle 6 (which is the key skill for mass combat). I've never run a warband-oriented campaign before, in over 30 years of GMing.

Michael O'Brien

I backed the kickstarter. Even the PDF are not for sale on Drivethrough. I wonder if this is a function of Chaosium getting the rights back and just not wanting to do anything about it. Which surprises me as it cannot be hard to make the files available for sale and make them POD as well.
The license Nocturnal Media secured with the owner of the Prince Valiant IP has expired. We hope to be able to renew it, but in the mean time the Prince Valiant line is unavailable.
MOB - Chaosium Inc.

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