Prince Valiant RPGing

pemerton

Legend
Today four of us played our fifteenth session of Prince Valiant, and the first session in two years.

Because of the gap, it took us a little while to get up to speed - making sure everyone had the most up-to-date version of the PC sheets, and recapping on past events and hence current trajectories.

The PCs had just recently landed with their warband on Cyprus (shipped from Anatolia by Byzantine vessels). Despite an initial setback, being ambushed when they landed, they had successfully taken a castle. And the previous session had ended with them riding off, with twelve men-at-arms, under a flag of truce to another castle - the Castle of the Crags - whose Greek lord, hearing news of the PCs' sailing for Cyprus, had sallied out against the Arabs.

I started the session by calling for Presence checks, which succeeded: the PCs noticed a falcon spying on them. Sir Gerren sent his trained falcon to drive it from the skies, but failed in the opposed Hunting checks, and it was his falcon which was bloodied when it returned to his glove.

The PCs sent their scouts ahead, who spotted two forces battling (successful Hunting), Greek (a leader, 17 archers, and 39 sergeants and men-at-arms) and Arab (a leader, and 84 soldiers). If the PCs continued to follow the path they were on, they would arrive at the rear of the battle on the Greek side; but their scouts found a path over the ridges which would allow them to fall upon the Arab flank (another successful Hunting check). The PCs could see dust in the distance, suggesting Arab reinforcements approaching. So they led their horses over the ridge (Sir Morgath failed a riding check, and so slightly lamed his horse, losing its +1 bonus to fight) and duly attacked.

We resolved this using the mass combat rules, with me making what I thought were appropriate adjustments, and imposing bonuses and penalties, to reflect the action in the fiction.

First, Sir Gerren and Sir Justin - at my instigation - competed to see who would lead their soldiers into the battle. Sir Gerren won this contest, and so took command; I imposed a 1 die penalty to his command check to reflect the uncertainty among the troops as to who was giving the orders. Sir Gerren nevertheless defeated the NPC commander (at Battle 6, Sir Gerren and Sir Justin are among the greatest military commanders in the world); but when it came time to check for courage and survival, Sir Morgath rolled poorly - we concluded that he faltered in the charge and ended up at the rear of the PCs' forces.

I asked Sir Justin's player whether he wished to push through to confront the NPC commander in personal combat, and he did; and his rolls for courage and survival were sufficient to succeed at this. And he had a significant dice advantage - 14D (4 Brawn, 4 Arms, 1 horse, 3 armour, 2 for his Holy Mace of St Cuthbert) vs 10D (4 Brawn, 3 Arms, 2 armour, 1 weapon). But his rolling was rather poor, and so over the next few exchanges he barely set back the NPC. And after the first two exchanges, I ruled that the NPC's guard came to his defence, granting +2D per further exchange, and with Sir Justin's poor rolls the NPC was not being set back at all.

In the meantime, I asked Sir Morgath's player whether, from his position in the rear, he wished to join the PCs' forces to their Greek allies. He said yes. But then the rolls were poor: Morgath's player failed his survival roll, and so fell unconscious (we didn't establish the details, though in my mind now he was thrown from his lame horse); and Sir Gerren's command roll was not very good either, although with a strong survival roll I allowed him to protect the unconscious Sir Morgath. And so the PCs, although having initially pushed their enemies back with the flank assault, were not able to maintain their momentum. And Sir Justin was thus isolated, fighting his duel against the NPC commander.

I asked Sir Gerren's player whether he wanted to try and recover Sir Justin, or leave him - presumably to be taken prisoner. Sir Gerren led his forces in an attempt to break through sufficiently to rescue Sir Justin, and succeeded. The PCs' warband then joined with the Greeks in their retreat. With a successful Presence check, Sir Gerren could judge that Sir Andreas had Battle 3, and hence could not command with the same effectiveness as Sir Gerren would. I asked him how he wished to take command - Oratory directed at the Greek troops, Courtesie directed at their NPC leader Sir Andreas, or physical force againt Sir Andreas. Sir Gerren politely explained to Sir Andreas, that the PCs were there to aid and relieve him, and his Courtesie was successful; so Sir Andreas accepted the relief and went to ensure the wounded were carried back in the retreat. Two successful command checks - one against the unreinforced enemy, and then a second adjusted for the reinforcements - allowed the combined PC/Greek forces to fall back to Sir Andreas's castle in good order and without suffering further losses. Sir Justin, meanwhile (who has Healing 4 - the order of St Sigobert is a healing as well as a martial order), revived Sir Morgath from his unconsciousness.

That ended the battle scene, and we cut to the castle. With the reserve garrison and the returned troops there were 22 archers, 36 men-at-arms, 18 sergeants and 3 knights, plus Sir Andreas and his castellan Sir Satyrion, and the PCs and their 12 men-at-arms: a total of 96 defenders. The penalty for being outnumbers two-to-one is -2 dice; the penalty for assaulting the castle is -4 dice; and so the players were reasonably confident they could hold the castle against assault.

And so everyone dined.

The scenario I was drawing on here is in the Prince Valiant Episode Book - The Littlest Prince - but our framing was rather different, as the castle's army had returned rather than having been routed. So I asked Sir Morgath's player to roll his Fellowship + Presence (7D) against an obstacle of 3 (I think it was), and he succeeded. I told him that he noticed that Sir Satyrion seemed rather sour. Morgath first spoke to Sir Andreas, and (with successful Courtesie) confirmed his suspicion that it was Satyrion who had suggested that they sally forth. (The conjecture was the players, and it certainly fitted with the scenario backstory.)

He then consulted with the other PCs, and decided to speak to Sir Satyrion, to try and learn his motives (eg power-hunger; loyalty to the Arab rather than the Greek cause; etc). This was Glamourie, and the player was rolling 8 dice (Presence 4, Glamourie 2, +2D for greater fame and his prestigious accoutrements). So he was quite successful. First, he learned that Satyrion was jealous of Andreas, and mocked him. When I asked Morgath's player if he likewise mocked Justin and Gerren, he replied "Not Sir Gerren". I asked Sir Justin's player to make a Presence check to see if he overheard the mockery; he did. Justin's player had Justin declare that he was finished dining, with the intention that he would go to the infirmary and tend to the injured; I called for another Presence check to see if he could really hold his pride in check despite Sir Morgath's word. This succeeded too, and he then rolled very well on his healing, further cementing his order's reputation in Cyprus.

A second Glamourie check succeeded, and Satyrion asked Morgath whether he was married. Sir Morgath started to speak of his love for his wife Elizabeth of York - I asked for a Presence check to avoid also speaking of Lorette of Lothian, who he left in Toulouse but still longs for. The check succeeded, and so Lorette didn't come up. Satyrion explained that he wished to marry Flora, Andrea's teenage daughter; although this would not make him the heir, as there was also an infant son, Theo. Satyrion also asked Morgath if his ambitions lay in the East, but Morgath responded that he hoped the crusading urges of Justin and Gerren would soon be satisfied so that they could all return to the West, and Morgath could return to his duties in York. (Morgath's player explained that Morgath isn't really a liar, and that his Glamourie is mostly just for helping resist seduction.)

I explained that this seemed to quieten Satyrion, and asked whether Morgath wanted to pump him for any more information. A third successful Glamourie check was made, and Morgath suggested that he might be able to help Satyrion with his plans with Flora. Satyrion, his guard quite lowered, asked whether Morgath was intimating that he might help with a plot against Andreas and Theo; Morgath replied that he was just referring to wooing! And so Satyrion excused himself.

I asked Sir Gerren's player what Gerren was doing. The reply was, checking the castle's defences. I said that a roll of Battle + Presence (9 dice) could strengthen the defences on 5 or more successes (ie give another die penalty to attacking forces), while two or fewer successes would mean something had gone wrong. Naturally the roll was two successes! As Sir Gerren was at a tower battlement, backlit by torches, an arrow struck him for 1 point of Brawn lost. I then said that he could see someone - a spy - who had infiltrated via the postern and was trying to open the main gate. I asked Gerren's player whether he was prepared to leap from the tower to stop the spy, as Tintin would. He was. I can't recall the difficulty I set - 4 or 5, I think - with every success short of that on Brawn + Agility being a point of Brawn lost in the landing. With Brawn 4 and no Agility skill, 2 points were lost, leaving Sir Gerren with only 1 Brawn to brawl with the spy. Their first round of brawling did not let the spy get to the gate, but nor did Sir Gerren disable him. Sir Gerren called for help, and with a success on his Presence + Oratory check guards came running and the gate remained closed. But about this same time, Flora announced in distress that Theo was missing from the nursery! Sir Morgath spoke to the servants in the castle, including the basement (Fellowship + Presence, with good successes) and they had seen nothing; Sir Gerren looked out from the battlement, and might have seen the riders leaving where Satyrion had spirited Theo out the postern, but failed his Presence check.

Down in the courtyard, Sir Gerren could see that Sir Andreas was getting ready to ride forth searching for his son. He tried to persuade him to hold off, that this was too big a risk to the defence of the castle; but failed: Sir Andreas reminded him that when his son (Sir Justin) had been in trouble, he had risked everything to rescue him (ie in the battle earlier that day). But Sir Andreas agreed that Sir Gerren, Sir Justin and their troops could ride with him. An oratory check mustered the men, although it was one success short of the difficulty I'd set and so they were at -1 for fighting due to the rapidity of the mustering (loose saddles, poorly donned armour, etc). And so Andreas rode out with 2 of his house-knights, 3 sergeants and 6 men-at-arms, as well as Sir Justin, Sir Gerren, their scout Rhan, and their 12 men-at-arms. Sir Morgath's player insisted quite forcefully that his scout retain, Algol the Bloodthirsty, was remaining with him in the castle. It was only once the posse had ridden out, to the echoes of me the GM saying "no backsies!", that the players fully computed that their two commanders with Battle 6 each had left the castle under the command of the teenager Flora and Sir Morgath with his Battle 1.

Rhan's tracking was unsuccessful (failed Hunting + Presence), and so it took them several hours of falling false trails through the hills before they saw their quarry on the plain, over a mile away and riding with a lit torch. I made riding checks for the three important NPCs - Sir Satyrion and Wassel (a NPC from the previous session, who had carried news of the PCs' pending arrival to Cyprus) fleeing and Sir Andreas in pursuit; Sir Gerren and Sir Justin's players rolled theirs. Sir Justin was easily able to catch Wassel (4 successes vs 1) and I allowed him to wheel about and tackle Wassel, with Wassel's first round of defence not being able to inflict harm on Sir Justin. As it turned out, I rolled 2 successes on Wassel's 9 dice (Brawn 3, Arms 3, +3 for armour and weapon) and Justin's 14 dice yielded 10 successes, and so Wassel was reduced to 1 die in the first exchange. I described him being knocked from his horse and unable to meaningfully fight on; Justin trussed him up.

Satyrion, on the other hand, had rolled 6 successes against Sir Gerren's 5, and so Sir Gerren wasn't able to catch him, although was keeping pace. I called for another set of opposed checks and Satyrion won again. This was enough to settle that Sir Gerren couldn't catch him before he reached the castle he was riding to, with the boy Theo. Sir Gerren therefore turned around and rejoined the others.

In the meantime, the feared night-time assault on Andreas's castle took place. The assaulting force had 1D (Battle 2 + Presence 3 - 4D for the castle) vs Morgath's 2D (Battle 1 + Presence 4 -3D for being outnumbered 3 to 1: the 155 reinforcements, less the 5 riders with Satyrion and Wassel, meant the attackers numbered 235, while Morgath had himself, Agol, 22 archers, 30 men-at-arms, 15 sergeants and a house-knight - 70 in total). I rolled a success on the NPCs die, which counts as two (because full successes rolled grants +1 success), while Morgath's player rolled only 1. So it was 1D each. And we rolled again, and 1 succeeded and Morgath's player did not. He did roll fine on his courage and survival checks, and so we agreed that Morgath had fallen back into the donjon with Agol, Elizabeth and Flora, defending them to the last. He asked Flora if there was any way out, and I consulted the scenario: Flora "shows them a secret tunnel (that she is fairly sure Sir [Satyrion] knows nothing of)" and so Morgath and friends were able to escape the fallen castle. Agol was successful (Hunting + Presence) in leading them to join up with the others on the plain between the two castles.

There was some discussion. Wassel offered to tell all that he knows in return for being traded for Theo in a prisoner exchange. Sir Justin had visions of trading Wassel for Theo and two castles, but Sir Morgath thought that might be a little optimistic. Morgath decided that, in any event, to properly interrogate Wassel they should first return to the castle on the northern coast garrisoned by the PCs' main force. The other PCs agreed, and someone (I think Sir Gerren) persuaded Andreas to come with them, there being no other meaningful option. Unfortunately, the roll for Agol (guiding them through the hills to the north) vs the NPC army's hunter (trying to track them down, with a penalty for their larger size) was tied, and so the PC's group was spotted as Morgath helped Elizabeth scramble up one of the last of the ridges. So then it was a sheer contest of speed, Brawn 3 (the weaker value for the PCs' group) vs Brawn 3 (the weaker value for the pursuing group): and the PCs lost.

We ended the session on that cliff-hanger; the next session will begin with finding out what happens to them as their pursuers close on them just outside the walls of the castle where their own soldiers are the garrison.
 

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Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Y'know, I wish I had a copy of PV, as this would probably have deeper layers of meaning for me. Stupid OOP-ness. :cautious:
 

pemerton

Legend
Y'know, I wish I had a copy of PV, as this would probably have deeper layers of meaning for me.
I don't think the layers of meaning would be deep! The system is a simple dice pool (like Torchbearer or BW at its most basic), with obstacles either being opposed, or set on a difficulty scale from Easy (1) to Normal (3) to Very Difficult (5+).

The mass combat system is the only complicated bit - there are opposed command checks between the two commanders, and then each participant has to make a check to determine their courage and their physical survival. This goes on for a number of rounds set by the GM - normally we use two or three, as that tends to give a nice sense of the initial impact, then how things unfold, then some sort of resolution. (Much as in the example in the OP.)
 

aramis erak

Legend
Y'know, I wish I had a copy of PV, as this would probably have deeper layers of meaning for me. Stupid OOP-ness. :cautious:
It was reprinted just a few years back.... so it's no longer rare as hen's teeth...


The rules are very very light - say, 1.2 to 1.5 of a 0 to 5 (5=Phoenix Command)

Technically, it's a coin-pool mechanic, in practice, everyone I know who ran it used d6's for 4-6=Heads=Successes. Stat+skill dice pools. 2 stats,
14 basic and 14 advanced game skills, plus languages (in the advanced rules).
 
Last edited:

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
It was reprinted just a few years back.... so it's no longer rare as hen's teeth...


The rules are very very light - say, 1.2 to 1.5 of a 0 to 5 (5=Phoenix Command)

Technically, it's a coin-pool mechanic, in practice, everyone I know who ran it used d6's for 4-6=Heads=Successes. Stat+skill dice pools. 2 stats,
14 basic and 14 advanced game skills, plus languages (in the advanced rules).
Hmm. I think I'd want great piles of replica gold sovereigns for in-person play.
 

pemerton

Legend
Hmm. I think I'd want great piles of replica gold sovereigns for in-person play.
Those were part of the kickstarter, but I only got the books.

We generally use d6, though some of use "evens" while others use BW/Torchbearer 4+; and sometimes my players make me shift from evens to odds if they think my dice are rolling too well!
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Those were part of the kickstarter, but I only got the books.

We generally use d6, though some of use "evens" while others use BW/Torchbearer 4+; and sometimes my players make me shift from evens to odds if they think my dice are rolling too well!
You can get replica coins on Amazon for not to much real coin. (y)
 

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