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Prince Valiant actual play


Lockdown has played havoc with my group's play schedule, but yesterday we played a session of our Prince Valiant campaign.

The PCs are on their way to the Holy Land via Constantinople, intending to fight a crusade. They are leading their warband, the Order of St Sigobert. In the previous session the PCs had converted a number of Huns and brought them into their Order, and had lifted a curse in a Dacian forest.

In yesterday's session we had three PCs, all kinghts. Two are father (Sir Gerran) and son (Sir Justin), respectively the Marshall and Master of the Knights of St Sigobert. The third is their friend (Sir Morgath) who has ended up travelling with them, accompanied by his wife who is the daughter of the Duke of York.

The session started with a series of checks to determine how had it was for them to make their way across present-day Romania to arrive at the Black Sea coast. Sir Gerran led them, claiming a bonus die for his trained falcon (who know doubt can not only take down small birds but can also help guide its owner to Constantinople!). As a result of that check and then invididual checks for travel, they arrived at the coast in various degrees of exhaustion and dishevellment: Sir Gerran was in good health, Sir Morgath was tired (-1D to both Brawn and Presence) and Sir Justin, who had been badly wounded in the forest, was utterly spent (reduced to 1D in each of Brawn and Presence).

At the border of the Empire they made a good impression on the guards, who welcomed them to Rome (Sir Gerran made a successful Oratory check - he has the best Oratory of the group, and it's partly for that reason that he is Marshall of their Order). They were therefore able to board boats to take them to Constantinople. I described the vessels as galleys with "relatively low sides" - which the players correctly took to be an ominous sign - and then called for Brawn checks when some sort of creature emerged from beneath the PCs' vessel and attempted to overturn it. Sir Morgath and Sir Justin ended up in the water.

The attacking creature was a "dragon" (a giant crocodile, found in the episode "A Dragon" in the core rulebook). It had Brawn 15, and a successful Presence check by Sir Gerren revealed that it had the equivalent of heavy armour (+3 combat dice, for 18 overall) which would make bowfire from the Hunnish bowmen they had recruited largely ineffectual. Sir Justin, in the water, was trying to use his silvered dagger to reflect sunlight into the eyes of the dragon to dazzle it (he was in no condition to fight it) but was not able to succeed on a check, except to avoid drowning, which he did. Sir Gerren, using his boar spear from the heaving deck of the ship, tried to strike the dragon but failed - it tried to grab the spear away from him but he kept hold despite the physical srain required (mechanically, when the dragon beat Sir Gerren in their opposed combat checks I gave the player the option of losing his spear rather than taking damage, but he declined).

Sir Morgath, meanwhile, used his Agility skill to stay afloat in the water while he drew the greatsword he had taken (in the previous session) from the Bone Laird in Dacia. The player wanted to use his Storyteler Certificate to Kill a Foe in Combat, but wasn't sure whether he satisfied the requirement that "the benefitted character . . . is not in a disadvantageous situation (surrounded by enemies, injured, back turned to the enemy, etc)". As he tried to avoid the thrashing tail of the dragon (losing some dice but not enough to reduce his Brawn) he saw that it had a soft underbelly, and I ruled that if he was able to swim beneath the dragon and stab it there, he could use his certificate as he wanted to.

The Agility check was made, and hence the dragon was slain by Sir Morgath. An Oratory check by Sir Gerran enabled him to maintain control over the soldiers still on the boat and that had fallen into the water, so only two Huns of the PCs' entourage were lost. The bones of one was recovered so that they could be placed in the reliquary for martyrs of the Order; and Sir Gerran (with successful Hunting + Brawn) was able to harpoon the dragon so that its body could be carried to Constantinople.

These events earned quite a degree of Fame, particularly for Sir Morgath, and he crossed the 9,000 mark which earned a skill rank - his player opted to take another rank in Agility.

When the PCs and their retinue arrived in Constantinople they were welcomed as dragon-slayers. Luxurious pavilions had been established outside the walls of the city, and taxidermists were waiting to prepare the body of the dragon. The players abandoned their plan to turn the hide into armour and instead gifted the body to the Emperor: a troop of their soldiers carried the body up to the gate of the city, where they handed it over to Varangians to carry it to the Emperor. The PCs also entered the city unarmed and unarmoured (wearing their fine clothes, and with Sir Justin being borne on a litter as he was still on Brawn of 2 ie 2 down from his normal 4) and did homage to the Emperor in one of his palaces. He presented them with gifts, which I asked the players to narrate: Sir Morgath and his wife Elizabeth were gifted fine robes, which provided the standard +1 prestige bonus in the East but would provide a +2 bonus when worn in the West; Sir Gerran was gifted a jewelled and damascened sword of Syrian make (+1 prestige when worn); and Sir Justin was gifted a mace which had once been wielded by the Gothic holy man St Cuthbert, and so seemed a fitting gift for a Western knight who had come to the East to fight a holy war (the mace of St Cuthbert grants +1D when fighting heathens).

The PCs then prayed in Hagia Sophia. I can't now remember whether or not there was a check associated with this, but Sir Justin had a vision of St Sophia and St Sigobert side-by-side, with the host of martyrs behind them, who assured him that his crusade would not fail so long as the reliquary of the Martyrs of St Sigobert was not despoiled. As a result he healed, going from -2 to -1 Brawn. I also gave his player a Storyteller Certificate.

In due course, the Emperor arranged for the PCs and their warband to be ferried across the straits to Anatolia. Their warband had been augmented by 17 more mounted men-at-arms who joined them during their stay at Constantinople. (This was determined by having Sir Gerran's player roll his Presence + Oratory dice and add them up.)

Sir Morgath's wife Elizabeth of York was invited to stay behind in the entourage of the Empress. At first Sir Morgath inclined to think this was a good idea, but then he got anxious that he couldn't trust himself (he is in fact in love with another woman, although she is currently in Toulouse) and perhaps not his wife either: so he tried to persuade her to travel with him. She was relcutant, as she is gullible about knights and noblemen and hence was quite keen to spend time in the retinue of the Empress. This was therefore resolved as an opposed check of his Presence + Fellowship against her Presence + Glamourie. Sir Morgath succeeded, and so Elizabeth agreed to continue travelling with him.

The PCs decided to head along the coast (hence initially more-or-less south-west) with the goal of eventually reaching the coast north of Cyprus. But they ended up heading inland when they heard news of an incursion by Huns. They met Count Aethelred (of the scenario War Debts in the Episode Book) who I described as a Gothic count of Byazntine Anatolia. He was leading his obviuosly under-equipped and under-prepared force out to confront the invaders. He asked the PCs if they would help, and they agreed to. They travelled a little further and them made camp in a village with they anticipated the Huns would attack the next day, with a successful check from Sir Justin's player (I think it was) meaning that the camp followers under his direction were able to hastily erect some pallisades. The plan was to have the PCs' footmen take the defence behind the pallisades, and then, once the Huns had swept in, to have the PCs' cavalry hit them from behind.

But things went a bit awry when the count (descriptors proud but not haughty, honest, merciful, trusting), who joined them in their tent in the evening, insisted on leading the charge against the Huns on the morrow. The PCs didn't want this. Knowing that they were outnumbered more than 2:1 by the Huns, the PCs (and their players) wanted to be in command themselves, so as to bring their superior command skills to bear (both Marshall and Master of the Order have quite high Battle skill ratings). So an argument ensued between the count and SIr Justin - Presence + Courtesie on both side, though with Sir Justin taking a penalty because he was not being fully courteous given that (as the count pointed out) it was the count's land and the count's cause that was at issue. Sir Justin lost the argument and so agreed to let the count lead the charge on the morrow. Sir Gerran was very unhappy with this outcome, suggeting that in that case the Order was not participating in the fight.

While the count and the PC commanders were arguing in the tent about who would lead the charge, the third PC heard a commotion outside among the levies and camp followers. He went out to see what was going on. A middle-aged camp-follower (descriptors independent, melancholic, relentless in holding the count responsible for the state of his levies) was denouncing the count as hopeless, unable to pay his debts and too impecunious to properly provision and equip his levies - hence, she predicted, they would lose on the morrow. The PC atttempted to bully her into silence by insulting her, and this was resolved as a competition of his Presence vs her Presence + Oratory. (The PC has no Oratory skill.) The camp follower won this debate, and so the PC returned to the command tent where he reported that the count's forces had very poor morale and so couldn't be relied upon to contribute to the battle.

The PCs therefore decided to circumvent the whole arrangement with the count by taking their forces out on a night raid against the Huns, thereby obviating the need for a charge on the morrow (I called for some Presence checks as the PCs rode out - the upshot was that one of the count's knights joined them on their raid). This ended up working spectactularly well.

At first their scout (Algol the bloodthirsty, a hunter in service to Sir Morgath) struggled to find the Huns, so it was close to dawn when eventually they came upon the Huns revelling in a village they had assailed. The PCs had a -1D penalty for having wandered through the hilss all night. I described the situation - the PCs had crested a hill with the red glow of dawn just visible on their right, and below them to the north a village and a stream - and the players came up with their plan of assault (splitting their forces into 3 units - foot, heavy cavary and light cavalry - to be commanded by the 3 PCs). I've attached the map that I sketched.

The PCs' plan worked - they rolled well on their various Battle checks, routed the Huns (who had a -1 moral penalty) and took their leader (Totilla the Hun - I was using the third of the Hun episodes) captive, although that did require two PCs: at first Sir Gerran gave chase (suffering a -1D penalty for pushing himself and his horse so hard) but Totilla jumped from his own horse to Sir Gerran's and dragged them both to the ground, where he had and continued to gain the advantage. But with a successful Riding check Sir Justin was able to catch them up, and Totilla could not take on both knights and failed in his attempt to escape on horseback. As well as their captive, the PCs also took possession of Totilla's fine arms, armour and warhorses (though only two of the latter - Sir Gerran killed the third as part of the thwarting of Totilla's escape attempt).

When the count arrived at the village later in the morning he saw that his work had been done. His knight who had joined with the PCs on their night-time raid sought, and received, release from his service to join their Order.

Upon returning to the count's camp it became clear that somehow the camp-follower who was hostile to him had acquired his debts, so that she was one of his principal creditors. The PCs decided to buy the debts from her, so as to have the count beholden to them. Elizabeth of York - being the only person in the PCs' entourage with Money Handling skill - negotiated the purchase of the debts and Sir Morgath's player rolled well. So Elizabeth managed to get them a good deal of one-and-half pennies in the shilling (ie they paid 2 gp for the right to be paid 16 gp). The count asked for another 1 gp of loans, and so the PCs ended up 3 gp down but with the right to be paid 17 gp by an impoverished Anatolian count.

The fame from the victory over the Huns, and establishing their (de facto) authority over the count, lifted Sir Gerran and Sir Justin above 10,000 fame and each player opted to lift Battle skill from 4 to 5 (the system max rating is 6).

The next time we play this game I think they will try and reach Cyprus.

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Oops - didn't attach the map. Here it is (K is for knights = heavy cavalry):

Battle of Manzurt.png

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