480/1: A Lady's Wish

January 23, 2017
Pendragon Actual Play Roll20 PF

Our campaign of King Arthur Pendragon recently moved from the play-by-post format to Roll20 and Discord. We have also switched from the 1st edition of Pendragon to the more recent edition 5.2, redid the characters, and restarted the game in the year 480. Here is our first session of online play.

The Cast

The player knights tonight were Sir Gwair, a poor Cymric knight from Lindsey who is well known for his generosity, mercy, modesty and valor, and Sir Uren, another Cymric knight and son of a castellan of Lindsey. He is mostly known for his giantlike size, his mercy and his valor.

Player's view of the campaign's landing page in Roll20

They are joined by Sir Quintus, a young Roman knight from a wealthy family. He is known to be energetic, vengeful and honest. Then there is Sir Mallarm, the castellan of Lear’s Castle and officer of the young household knights of Lindsey. He is well known for his generousity, and his just but suspicious nature.

They will also meet the ladies Ellen and Airen, two of the young and elegible ladies in the county. Lady Ellen is the only child and heiress of one of Lindsey’s banneret knights. She is well known for her beautiful appearance, but also for her proud and selfish ways. Lady Airen, on the other hand, will only get a modest dowry from her father. She is much more shy than her companion, but she likes to ride and hunt.

Later in the story the knights also met Lorna, a young priestess of Epona, who serves the goddess at a holy grove not far from Lear’s Castle.

An overview over the first session of play, set 480 a.D. in and North of Lear’s castle from the point of view of Sir Gwair:

Befitting a first foray into new domains, the session can best be described as a series of well-meant but ultimately failed attempts.

When tasked by the departing castellan to watch over (and entertain) two visiting ladies, the three young knights tried just that. And (while probably neither lady was entertained) at least only one of the two was injured in the castellan’s absence.

The first idea of the knights to divert the Ladies Ellen and Airen was to demonstrate martial prowess by mock melee with wooden swords. Sadly it failed to impress when the tools of the trade all to quickly shattered.

A small quip by Sir Quintus as to the superiority of his Roman ancestors then led to an argument between he and the Cymric knights Sir Uren and Sir Gwair, which could neither entertain anyone nor easily be resolved. When called upon to judge the argument, Lady Ellen, the better prospect of both ladies, asked for a special flower to be picked and brought back from a short ride North. Whomever returned first with such a gift for her surely had to be descendand of the greater ancestors.

So the three knights rode forth, one for one: Sir Quintus, up on his fine steed in the blink of an eye, disappeared galloping towards the flower. Sir Gwair followed suit as quickly as his pony allowed while Sir Uren went looking for his animal. The distance between Sir Quintus and Sir Gwair grew quickly over time, while Sir Uren left the castle after Lady Aileen, who intended to watch. Sir Uren in turn decided to watch her and keep pace until Lady Aileen misjudged a jump and was thrown. Sir Uren in turn misjudged the injury and continued after the two other knights.

Meanwhile, Sir Quintus had been stopped by a log and was thrown off his horse just like Lady Aileen before, giving Sir Gwair the chance to lead the bumbling knights for a short while. His progress was quickly halted, though, by a strong stream they all had to cross. Eying a small boat, he tied his horse to a tree and, while getting onto the vessel, waited for his Cymric brother in arms. When Sir Uren managed to pass Sir Quintus and also get onto the boat, they discussed which of them could boat better. Only after Sir Quintus had passed them they decided that using the boat, in armour, wasn’t such a great idea. So they disembarked, got their horses, and trailed Sir Quintus once again.

Sir Quintus had found a shallow ford to cross the water and was easy for the others to follow, especially when screams could be heard from the presumed direction of the flower. The knight there was battling an ogre which had appeared near the prize, and both Sir Gwair and Uren joined in. When the Ogre was struck by Sir Uren it fell and transformed into a priestess - or some form of glamour the priestess had woven was dispelled.

The girl implored the knights to leave the flower alone as it was blessed in the eyes of a pagan goddess. The knights squabbled (especially Sir Quintus, wanting to take it anyway) but finally agreed to leave it alone and abandon their task.

Upon returning to the castle, Sir Uren noticed that Lady Airen had indeed been more gravely hurt in her fall than it had appeared. Lady Ellen took the news of the story of the unplucked flower in stride, saying she had expected as much. Sir Uren then promised to find another flower (the most beautiful in the land) as a substitute - and ask Lady Airen for directions. Both Sir Gwair and Sir Quintus didn’t commit to such a chase - yet. Though, with these three valiant knights, whatever could possibly go wrong?

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The prepared scenario fit almost perfectly in our two hour timeslot. Everyone was on time and we could start at 8:00. We wrapped up the session around 10:30. Preparation of the VTT was minimal and took me about an hour earlier that day: I have found pictures for the main NPCs in old movies and designed coats-of-arms with the Coat of Arms Design Studio. For the next session I will need to include a more detailed map of the surrounding region, though. The Map of Arthur’s Britain is not detailed enough and also barely legible to be of much use in game.

Discord’s audio quality was ok. We had a few troubles with the mic of one player (the mic of his webcam), but tweaking his voice recognition’s sensitivity settings mostly solved those. The option to set a separate output volume for every member in the chatroom helped a lot as well.

One of the main troubles I have had while playing online so far is the problem of two (or more) people speaking at the same time. Sometimes when one of us paused for a few seconds someone thought he was done talking and stepped in - resulting in them both talking at the same time. The same sometimes happened when one actually was done talking and the other two started at the same time. We want to try adding webcam video next time. Maybe seeing each other will help us find a better judgement of when someone is actually done talking or just pausing.

The combination of Roll20 and Firefox worked well for everybody. I on the other hand started the session with chrome and Roll20 and for some reason my browser crashed two or three times. The last time I was not able to restart chrome and had to force a reboot (this time into my fedora linux). Afterwards I could continue the session without any further troubles, running Roll20 in Firefox. I have never had troubles like this with Roll20 before and I am suspicious that the root of the problems lies in the use of the 3D dice (and chrome), which I had enabled for the first time.

Combat and other game mechanics went ok, but I definitely need to go through the rules of Pendragon 5.2 again, especially the combat options. A lot has changed here since the first edition that I was using before.

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