Monday, April 30, 2018

The Matter of the Marcher Lords

John Howe, Celtic Myth
The knights of the Round Table were sent out as a measure against Fort Mayne, and the choleric barons who lived by Fort Mayne took up the cudgels with the ferocity of despair. They would have written to The Times about it, if there had been such a paper. The best of them convinced themselves that Arthur was newfangled, and that his knights were degenerate from the standards of their fathers. The worst of them made up uglier names than Bolshevist even, and allowed the brutal side of their natures to dwell on imaginary enormities which they attributed to the knights.
- The Ill-Made Knight, T.H. White 

I want to run a Lamentations pick-up game with themes of The Once and Future King and The Faerie Queene. Lamentations products are centered around the weird, and although Arthurian romances aren't obliquely horrorific (horrifying, maybe) or sexual (well, never mind, yes they are), they are overwhelmingly weird

This is a set of house rules that I intend to use when I run this game, ostensibly running through the Hexcrawl of the Marcher Lords. I'll use City of Iron's Dolmenwood Hexcrawl Procedures. I intend to use the old Knights of Camelot board game rules ostensibly as an encounter table

Characters may the following Lamentations classes, each with a particular contextual skin. 

Characters are bound together by service to a feudal lord. All characters serve the same lord. Tell me which one, and what his deal is. 

...that other of gigantic frame, on his right hand, is the ever dauntless Brandabarbaran de Boliche, lord of the three Arabias, who for armour wears that serpent skin, and has for shield a gate which, according to tradition, is one of those of the temple that Samson brought to the ground when by his death he revenged himself upon his enemies. 
Don QuixoteMiguel de Cervantes

As Fighters. Knights represent the noble class. Knights are really the star of the show. Every player can play a knight if they wish. I totally wish someone would play a sweet lady knight like Britomart. 

  • Each knight is awarded the right to bear a personal set of arms. Tell me what your heraldry is. What's your motto or warcry? 
  • Each knight begins the game with a warhorse and a set of full plate in addition to his normal allotment of equipment. Beware, however. Your armor is forfeit if you lose in a tourney, and must be ransomed back. 

Henchmen (like squires) and pets (like horses) can utilize Ten Foot Polemic's excellent rules

Les Innocents
And now it is empassioned so deepe, 

For fairest Unaes sake, of whom I sing,
That my fraile eyes these lines with teares do steepe,
To thinke how she through guilefull handeling,
Though true as touch, though daughter of a king,
Though faire as ever living wight was faire,
Though nor in word nor deede ill meriting,
Is from her knight divorced in despaire,
And her due loves deriv'd to that vile witches share.
The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spencer

As Clerics. These are often ladies, but this class is called "les innocents" to be more fucking inclusive and allow for shepherds and hermits and stuff. 

  • Les innocents must pray at the beginning of each day and be in good standing with the Holy Church and the Lord Our God to perform miracles (i.e., spells). However, these miracles are not prepared. Any cleric spell of appropriate level can be cast via divine provenance at any time, as long as they have not exhausted their allotted miracles for that day. The only thing les innocent must do to evoke these miracles is pray to our Sweet Lord Jesu. 
  • Les innocents cannot use or create spell scrolls. 
  • Les innocents can create holy water. 

"Robin Wood!" 
"Aye, Robin 'ood. What else should un be, seeing as he rules 'em. They'm free pleaces, the 'oods, and fine pleaces. Let thee sleep in 'em, come summer, come winter, and hunt in 'em for thy commons lest thee starve; and smell to 'em as they brings forward their comely bright leaves, according to order, or loses of 'em by the same order back'ards: let thee stand in 'em that thou be'st not seen, and move in "em that thou be'st not heard, and warm thee with 'em as thou fall'st on sleep—ah, they'm proper fine pleaces, the 'oods, for a free man of hands and heart."
- The Sword in the Stone, T.H. White

As Specialists. These could be your bandits, ala Robin Hood, or your learned clerics, ala Friar Tuck. Heck, everybody in the Merry Men could be called a specialist. Specialists often serve as retainers, advisors, viziers, stewards, men-at-arms, or jesters serving knights. 

"She was trying a well-known piseog to amuse herself, or at any rate to pass the time while the men were away at the war. It was a method of becoming invisible. She was not a serious witch like her sister Morgan le Fay—for her head was too empty to take any great art seriously, even if it were the black one. She was doing it because the little magics ran in her blood— as they did with all the women of her race." 
Queen of Air and Darkness, T.H. White

As Magic-Users. Through infernal pact (ala Archimago) or infernal heritage (ala Merlyn) you know the arts of sorcery.
  • As sorcerers are aligned with the forces of Chaos, it's possible that they follow some old pagan religion or dead god. The Church just hates this. 
  • We'll use Wonders & Wickedness spell rules and lists.  

            The false Duessa leaving noyous Night,
Returnd to stately pallace of Dame Pride;
Where when she came, she found the Faery knight
Departed thence, albe his woundes wide
Not throughly heald, unreadie were to ride.
Good cause he had to hasten thence away;
For on a day his wary Dwarfe had spide
Where in a dongeon deepe huge numbers lay
Of caytive wretched thrals, that wayled night and day
The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spencer

As Dwarfs.  Those commoners who have been warped by infernal Faerie into stunted (if sturdy) forms. By ancient tradition, knights keep dwarfs as servants for good luck. It is often dwarfs who carry the knight's gear, gird them before battle, and keep their arms and armor in good repair. 

  • Dwarfs start with 3 in 6 Tinkering (not Architecture). All other class abilities are standard. 

Faerie Knight
As it fell out upon a day,
A-hunting I did ride;
There came a wind out of the north
And woe it did betide.
And drowsy, drowsy as I was,
The sleep upon me fell;
The Queen of Fairies she was there,
And took me to herself.

- Tam Lin, Traditional

As Elves. Knights who dally too long in Faerie gain a little magic. Unfortunately, every Halloween, they have a one in ten chance to be given to the devil as a tithe to hell. (This tithe is why fay are immortal.) 

Also, Halflings represent the fair folk, the tylwyth teg, the little people. This class is locked until the players actually form allies in the land of Faerie.  

Character Weirdness
Weird Skills: Some skills are gone (unchivalrous Sneak Attacks won't be found here!), some are changed, some are added. The skills are: Bushcraft, Climbing, Husbandry, Languages, Lore, Open Doors, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, Tinkering. 

Per normal rules, Languages benefit from Int bonus and Open Doors benefit from Str (but can't be leveled up via Specialist). 

Husbandry deals with wild animal taming as well as animal training. It lets you do things like coax your horse into a crazy stunt or tame a unicorn with your gentleness. Your Husbandry rating benefits from your Wisdom bonus. 

Lore is a broad "Hey, does my character know about this legend?"

Weird Saves: I replaced the standard saves for these (in order): Stun is movement, Doom is poison/instant death, Dragon Spume is area of attack, Geas is Law Magics, Enchantment is Chaos Magics.

Force Majeure! 
Here are some house rules for combat. 

Grit and Flesh: Borrowed from Last Gasp Grimoire, reproduced here with small amendments. 

Flesh is the measure of how much physical punishment you can take before passing out, and caps out at your full class HD, plus anything gained from a Constitution bonus. Players begin level 1 with their max HD + Con in Flesh. Grit is the rest of the HP you gain, and is a measure of ways you learn to avoid injury, plus glancing blows, exhaustion whatever.

  • Attacks reduce Grit first, and when it’s gone you start taking Flesh wounds.
  • When you're at 0 Flesh, you're defeated. This usually means you're on the ground and gasping for help, but you may be knocked out at your discretion. 
  • If an enemy specifically performs a murder stroke against you while you're at 0 Flesh, you die. This is very unchivalrous. 
  • If someone rolls a Critical hit against you it bypasses Grit and rolls double damage.
  • Being attacked from behind or by surprise also bypasses Grit. This is very unchivalrous. 
  • Spend a Turn to regain your class HD. Knights rest in tourneys between fights to keep the fights fair.

Gambit: A player can try to do anything they want: trip, push, disarm, etc. 

  • The attacker describes what they want to do, and if they successfully perform a to-hit roll, they do it. The victim can decide to take weapon damage instead
  • However, if the player attempting a gambit fails, they suffer whatever outcome they were attempting. If that doesn't make sense (e.g., they can't be disarmed if they're not wielding anything), they take weapon damage from the creature they were attacking. 

Shields Shall Be Splintered: A classic. Similarly, you may sunder your helm to reduce a critical attack to a normal attack. 

Gold is an evil. A necessary one, to be sure, but an evil. 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us that. We'll be using an alternative form of character advancement that divorces itself from silver for XP. 

You gain 1000XP when you achieve one of the following glories. Sometimes, these only work once. I got a ton of these from Into the Depths by the Retired Adventurer

  1. Win a tournament (each one)
  2. Resolve a situation scourging a town or more’s worth of people (10,000+) (each one)
  3. Slay a famous villain (e.g., dragon or wicked knight) (each one)
  4. Deliver a holy relic to the Church (each one)
  5. Depose a powerful ruler by any means (each one)
  6. Behold a miraculous event (each time)
  7. Map new lands (20+ hexes or locations) (each time)
  8. Destroy an evil organization with at least 50 members (each one)
  9. Recover 3 lost or secret books (each set of 3)
  10. Resolve 3 situations scourging the innocent without reward (each set of 3)
  11. Train at least 3 followers or apprentices until they gain a level (each set of 3)
  12. Foil the plans of a powerful villain well enough to permanently stop those plans (each time)
  13. Swear allegiance faithfully to a lady (once)
  14. Search out a wise mentor and learn their secrets (once)
  15. Establish and hold a permanent base of operations (once)
  16. Own more land than you can easily take in with a glance while employing 150+ people (once)
  17. Own a ship or other vehicle with a crew and stores sufficient to travel great distances (once)
  18. Stop a wicked social custom in a region (once) (Stop it everywhere for another)
  19. Resolve an apparently unresoluble conundrum through cleverness (once)
  20. Lead an institution with at least 30 loyal members for a year (once)
  21. Obtain an official title with real powers and responsibility from a powerful government (once)
  22. Make a lifelong enemy of a powerful foe (once)
  23. Exact revenge for a misdeed done to you by a powerful foe (once)
  24. Assemble an astounding library or trophy case (once)
  25. Survive an event that slays everyone else in the party (once)
  26. Save another PC from otherwise certain death (once)
  27. Get a curse or geas removed from yourself (once)
  28. Get initiated into a mystery cult or magical tradition (once)
  29. Make something lasting (e.g., write a book, build a castle, found a town, create a spell) (once)
  30. Become famous enough that almost everyone in a country can recognise you on sight (once)
  31. Build an elaborate and difficult-to-plunder tomb for yourself (once)
  32. Donate 100,000 SP to a charity or other good cause (once)
  33. Become the ruler of a country or kingdom. (each one)
I also have some rules coming out for jousting.