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The Green Knight FRPG


Inspired by this thread, I ordered The Green Knight FRPG (in some broad sense inspired by the new movie).

It arrived today, and so far I've read the PC sheets, the rules, and the first encounter (which helps give a sense of how the rules work).

Each PC has 5 stats - Courage, Might, Intellect, Cunning, Charm - and each of these has 3 skills under it - Intimidation, Authority, Endurance; Melee Combat, Ranged Combat, Brawn; Folklore, Mysticism, Reason; Vigilance, Intuition, Stealth; Persuasion, Trickery, Performance.

Each PC also has a Dishonour score (which starts at 10), one Virtue and one Vice (each chosen from a list similar to the Pendragon traits), and a description which includes answers to three questions: Where were you when you met the Green Knight? Why did you strike down the Green Knight? What did you do in the year between then and now?

PC build involves choosing 2 abilities - each gives +2 to all skills under it - and choosing 4 skills - each of these gets a +2 (a stat bonus and skill bonus are cumulative); choosing a vice and virtue; writing up your description, including answers to the three questions; and choosing a class.

There are 5 classes - Noble, Knight, Hunter, Bard, Sorcerer - and each has 4 special moves. The player can choose 1 of these. Special moves mostly give buffs or rerolls, under various categories, to the PC or another character (eg the Noble can choose to be a Virtuoso, gaining +4 rather than +2 for two of her/his skills), or else manipulate the Honour rules (eg allow stepping back Dishonour, or performing a Dishonourable action with gaining a point of Dishonour).

The play of the game depends upon pre-defined Encounters which are challenges, obstacles and mysteries that occur along the way to the main goal. I've only read one so far, but it seems that these are going to fairly closely resemble Episodes/scenarios in Prince Valiant. Key to an Encounter is that the GM has established a Judgement, that is, Honourable and Dishonourable results of the encounter. (SPOILER ALERT for the following example: looting dead bandits is Dishonourable - +2 Dishonour.)

Encounters work this way:

First, each player rolls a d20 and adds her/his PC's Authority bonus: this is the Initiative order (highest to lowest), and the player who goes first is the Encounter Leader.

Second, each character accrues one point of Dishonour for the delay the Encounter causes on the journey to the Green Knight.

Then, each player takes an action (in initiative order). I'll say more about action resolution below.

Finally, we come back up to the top of the order. At this point everyone accrues another point of Dishonour. Then the Encounter Leader either decides to take another action (in which case revert to the previous paragraph) or decides to finish the Encounter. If the Encounter ends in this way, then the Judgement is announced with consequent further possible changes to Dishonour.

Action resolution is fairly straightforward:

First, the player says what his/her PC is doing, and this is mapped to a relevant skill (there is no discussion of how to do this; given other remarks in the rules I would assume that table consensus is the appropriate method to adopt).

Second, the action is identified as Honourable or Dishonourable. This is the GM's job, though the rules say to "let the players have fun making arguments as to why their actions might be interpreted as Honourable".

If an action is Honourable, it succeeds if a d20 roll + stat/skill modifier(s) is equal to or higher than current Dishonour. If it succeeds, one point of Dishonour is removed. If it fails, one point of Dishonour is accrued.

If an action is Dishonourable, it succeeds if a d20 roll minus stat/skill modifiers is equal to or less than current Dishonour. Whether it succeeds or fails, one point of Dishonour is accrued.

Once per Encounter, a player may call upon her/his PC's Virtue to reroll an Honourable action. Also once per Encounter, a player may call upon her/his PC's Vice to reorll any action, in which case it automatically becomes Dishonourable. The rules say that "Players should be encouraged to describe how their Virtue or Vice gives them an advantage on the action".

There is no discussion of how to adjudicate success and failure; the discussion of possible actions and consequences in the first Encounter makes me think that this is best done via a "fail forward"/"let it ride" approach. I don't think "say 'yes'" applies, as every action puts Dishonour at stake both directly through the resolution framework, and indirectly because of the rule about the cost of delay. But there is an analogue of "say 'yes'" built into the Encounter design, in the sense that there are certain things that happen automatically, as consequences of player-declared actions, without any further action needing to be declared.

The only other rule is Atonement: between Encounters players may accrue three Dishonour points to remove one point of Dishonour from another character. It's not clear whether the three points have to all be taken by one character, or can be spread among multiple characters. I think the second option is probably more interesting.

The adventure begins at a crossroads tavern - each of the PCs has come there on her/his journey to meet the Green Knight. "You agree to go on this quest to the Green Chapel together - some party members more begrudgingly than others". The GM notes also say that the players may "explain why the decided to embark on this quest, or the can remain mysterious. Allow them time to describe their answers to the three Green Knight questions on their character sheets, if they wish."

I am curious as to whether or how the details of the quest will feed into the final Encounter, which is the Green Chapel.

I haven't tried to analyse the maths of the system to see if it works. But it seems interesting.

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A few more rules that I forgot to note:

* If a character reaches 20 Dishonour s/he is immediately removed from the current Encounter, and may continue with the adventure only if Atonement is used to save her/him at the end of the Encounter.

* A player always knows if an action is Honourable or Dishonourable before the roll is made. (It's not clear whether take-backs are supposed to be allowed. Without actually playing I'm not clear what the better rule should be here.)

* The Judgement of an Encounter is always secret until revealed at the end. "Much of the gameplay is centred around deduction and risky decision-making, and the tensions surrounding Character's choices should reflect this. . . . Characters will need to question everything, especially if they are to avoid Dishonour."


And some things I've picked up from reading the second Encounter:

* Some outcomes can require multiple successful checks (eg one to restrain a target, and a follow-up to bind it).

* Like the example scenarios in Robin Laws's Narrator Book for HeroQuest, good Encounter design involves anticipating possible actions the players might have their characters take and noting possible consequences, both for resolution purposes and so that these can feed into the Judgement.


I've now read all the Encounters. Some final observations:

* There are some cases where fictional positioning imposes a penalty on actions;

* I think that establishing intent as part of action declarations is probably pretty important, to make sure resolution is fair - because the cost of having to go another actions is quite concrete given the rule of +1 Dishonour for each action cycle.


Reviewing the special moves, some seem a bit underpowered or overpowered as written (especially as you get only one, and it's the only thing that flows from choice of class).

The changes I'll try (assuming I get to play this game!) are:

* Knight's Charge grants +4 rather than +2 (bringing it into line with the Hunter's Stealth Strike);

* Sorcerer's Banefire grants +2 to Intimidate as well as Ranged Combat (making it not strictly worse than Noble's Virtuoso);

* Noble's Noblesse Oblige can be used 1x/Encounter (making it not strictly better than Bard's Good Conscience and Knight's Lead by Example).​

The Bard's Coax looks superficially better than the Knight's Bodyguard - as it augments any check rather than a Might, Courage or Charm-based check. But the Knight can use their ability to channel the action in a certain direction, which can be useful in addition to granting the augment.


I played this game this afternoon, with my kids.

The maths is quite brutal for two players, because of the ratio of actions to the accrual of Dishonour in Encounters. So when the second Encounter ended they had lost - one was at 17 Dishonour, the other 20, and so it wasn't feasible for them to go on.

If/when we try again, I think the solution I will adopt is two special moves for each character. A move that enables Dishonour reduction or reduces Dishonour accrual, on top of an augment-type move, will probably help.
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I played this game again today, with 3 players from my regular group.

We stuck with one special move each, but they chose some that manage Dishonour accrual: we had a Valorous but Wrathful Sorcerer with Banefire; a Wise but Wrathful Noble with Patronage (on a successful action, choose another Character to disregard the consequences for Honour/Dishonour of their next action); and a Generous but Proud Bard with a Good Conscience (on a successful Honourable Charm-based action, reduce another Character's Dishonour by 1).

They did well through the first three Encounters, picking up on fictional and trope-ish cues pretty well and managing their Dishonour so that by the time of the fourth Encounter - the Green Chapel - they were all down in single digits. I won't spoil the final Encounter, but will mention that our party experienced a split in strategy at this point, with one pursuing Dishonour while the other two were Honourable, which led to divergent outcomes for the three PCs.

Overall I enjoyed it. One of the players compared it to the Crimson Bull scenario we'd played in Prince Valiant, a comparison I'd thought of myself in reading up in preparation.

I don't know how much replay value there is - there is no system for character advancement and it seems like it would be more interesting to try different characters next time - but I've agreed to prepare one or two scenarios for down-the-track: a Grail Quest scenario, and maybe a Star Wars one (using the Dark Side in place of Dishonour).

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