Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Knight redux

After about seven or eight hours of work I have got my first AL! adventure in pretty good shape. It still needs another editorial pass, but overall I am pretty happy with it. I really want to take a look at Gumshoe, however. Laws and Hite are said to have come up with some pretty original mechanics for crime-solving roleplay, and I want to see them.

The AL! manuscript is currently at 145 pages. I can't post "The Best Knight in the World" until my players are done going through it, but if anyone out there does want to see it, let me know and I'll send you a copy. I'd be glad for the feedback.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"The Best Knight in the World"

I've moved on to re-tooling the first adventure in the AL! saga. I ran this adventure years ago under the d20 Modern system. We did not finish the adventure, on account of the fact that it was far too lethal. Everyone nearly died at the first major climax. I had not realized then -- as I do now -- that d20 Modern was not actually intended for 1st level PCs. Player characters should be 5th level or so. Otherwise, they are simply far too fragile and typical foes far too lethal.

Of course, I cannot post this adventure since my players need to be kept in the dark. What I did today was re-make all the antagonists and NPCs using True20. In all cases, the new version was lower level and simpler. I also got some good ideas on how to make the encounters less lethal. Also: I note that True20 had Minions long before 4E. So there.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Final Chronology

I had not intended to go into this much detail but, you know, it's done and it's not as long as all that. Besides, players of Gawaine, Gaheris, Pellinore, Tor, and Balin will be plenty happy for that detail.

The last year of the chronology for the core AL! release is 413 AD. It covers the final battles with Ryons and Lot, the marriage of Arthur, and the Quest of the White Hart.

Chronology: Three Feet High and Risin'

The tough part about figuring out an Arthurian chronology is getting Merlin's prophecies to work out right. When Merlin convinces Arthur to let Lot and the other rebels escape in the first year of his reign, he does so by convincing Arthur that Lot will not threaten the realm again for three years. He's very specific. If Arthur's reign can be dated to 410 based on internal evidence, that means Lot is not finally defeated until 413. But it seems to happen in mid-412.

One more big year to go and then I will not worry about any more chronology for this manuscript.

Read 411 AD here and 412 AD over here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Arthur Chronology

My current Arthur Lives! project is a history of Arthur's early reign, focusing on his first three or four years. The first chapter is drafted. You can read it here.

Subsequent chapters will introduce Guenevere and Morgause, Excalibur and Pellinore, the Dolorous Stroke, Arthur's wedding, and the Round Table.

It feels really good to be doing this at last, although to others it probably looks like thankless drudge work. It really helps me get a full understanding of the medieval sources, and I start to see connections I never did before. For example, in the Battle of Bedegraine, one of the few casualties of note is the King of North Wales. But his death suddenly gives more depth to King Ryons, who subsequently becomes one of Arthur's immediate enemies. Because Ryons was also King of North Wales, so Arthur must have killed his father or brother.

But, predictably, it is slow and long work.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Today I wrote a summary of the story of Avenable, which is found in the Prose Merlin. It's about a woman who masquerades as a squire and rises to become Seneschal of the Emperor of Rome, being knighted along the way. She is specifically described as skilled at arms, as well as strong, tall, and beautiful. I <3 her.
She totally deserves a novel.

Read her at the bottom of this page.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Festivus for the Restofus!

We will begin with the Airing of Grievances.

Brian Michael Bendis: I have got a lot of problems with you. You managed to ruin many of my favorite characters. Strangely, these were also some of your favorite characters! You're shittin' in your own den! You should stick to your own original stuff. You do less damage that way.

The Economy: I understand your need to crash, but dammit, I went on the academic market in the very months you decided to bend over and start sucking. Couldn't you have waited one more year, until my salary was protected?

Barack Obama: Oh, don't think just because you're the President that you're immune. You're the busiest man in the world and you still find time to work out three times a week. A paparazzi catches you shirtless on the beach and Adrianna Huffington's drool endangers New Orleans.  Do you know what this means? It means I have to start going to a gym, that's what this means! Presidents are supposed to be guys who are older and fatter than me! And IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT!

We will resume later this evening with Feats of Strength. The Rock is going to use a sledgehammer on Dick Cheney's head. Bring a plastic sheet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Character Formatting

True20 already has a particular way that character traits are listed. I've listed that format, with a sample character, on the Allies and Adversaries page.

From the General to the Specific

I completed my working version of the Arthur Lives! secret history. This whole project has been an expansion of an original draft which tried to answer the "What the heck is happening?" question and which I wrote many years ago. This new version adds considerably more illuminated high wierdness and, by being far more specific in many points, festoons the whole project with myriad plot hooks.

The last two chapters are Black Castle, which focuses pretty closely on Himmler, the Holy Vehm, Otto Rahn, Weweslburg, and the Spear of Destiny, and Arthur's Return, which just summarizes the starting point for player characters and tries, perhaps futilely, to explain multiple reincarnations of Arthurian characters in a way that doesn't sound like me pulling story out of my ass.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

High Wierdness

I'm not sure if Arthur Lives! yet qualifies as "High Wierdness," since while it does now have the Bavarian Illuminati, the Freemasons, Sir Francis Bacon, Rosicrucians, John Dee, the School of Night, Cecil Rhodes, Lewis & Clark, the Blackfoot Indians, Assassins, Charles Babbage, te Gnomes of Zurich, more Templars, and William Ashbless (!), it does not yet have carp falling from the sky. But one cannot have everything.

A minor revision to the Secret History added the Cauldron of Annwn as the Templar Treasure. Major additions include the Rise of the Freemasons (Secret History from Elizabeth I to the American Revolution) and the New Grail Quest (Secret History from President Jefferson to Cecil Rhodes).

Friday, December 19, 2008

"But of course."

Did you know that the Ming Emperor hired Dracula to kill King Arthur? Neither did I. Until last night. It did take me a while to figure out exactly how that happened, of course, and I admit I was a little nervous. I couldn't bring myself to actually type the D-word. But there it is.

Also, I did a biography of the Fisher King for one of my playtesters.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Last night I came to the realization that when the Lady of the Lake, Morgan, and the Queens of Norgales and the Waste Lands took Arthur to Avalon by boat, and could not heal his wounds, they put his body in the Cauldron of Annwn. I had been wondering what vessel was worth holding it.

Edward III knew about the plan for Arthur's return, but the plan had not yet progressed far enough for an actual reincarnation to occur, so his hope of a new Round Table was thwarted and he founded the Knights of the Garter instead. But by the end of the War of the Roses the breeding program to create a new Arthur had matured, and Henry VII named his firstborn son Arthur in full knowledge that the boy was the King returned.

Unfortunately, someone then murdered the Prince of Wales, probably through magic though poison is not impossible. I'm not sure who. Likely suspects include the Assassins, the King of France, Savonarola, or Dracula, who was dead about 50 years at this time and may have been a vampire mercenary working for the Vatican.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

AL Update: Secret History

I have begun work on the Secret History behind Arthur Lives! I have an old draft of this, but it needs to be greatly expanded and improved upon. So far, I have been able to come up with a pretty good way to explain the magical Arthurian age itself, as compared to the historical Arthur. That is, there's an explanation for why we have plate armor and jousting in 6th century Britain. Some of this began as a riff on Greg Stafford's Pendragon game, but Stafford himself was working off a kernel in Malory and the Lancelot-Grail, so I consider it parallel development rather than outright theft.

Now I realize I have a hole in my history, between Arthur's escape to Avalon in the 6th century and the rise of John Dee and his Occult Imperialism in the 16th. The logical place to play here is the 12th century, which saw not only the work of Chretien and said Vulgate Cycle but also the founding of the Templars. Every conspiracy ultimately rests on the Templars; you don't need Eco to tell you that. But I'm not sure what to do with that time period. I'm confident something will come to me. It's just waiting for me to look the other way first.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

AL! Update: Kings.

Since one of my playtesters has a concept for an incarnation of the Fisher King, I decided to create a Path for Kings. I have long considered this anyway, but had left it out mostly for reasons of time and space. However, it really does fill in a gap and if players want it, I would be remiss not to include it.

This also required making a very slight modification to the Knight path, which had previously been designed to represent kings as well. I took out "Estate" and replaced it with "Fearless." Otherwise, just some wording changed.

Welcome to Arthur Lives! fans.

My current creative project is Arthur Lives!, a roleplaying game based on reincarnations of Arthurian characters. It's inspired by some of the Arthurian comics I have read and written on over the years, including both Mage and Camelot 3000.

The draft of the manuscript is online as a wiki which can be found here.

Today I set up a character page for one of my playtesters, who is making a riff on Sir Marrok, the werewolf knight. It turns out back in 1902 someone wrote a whole novel on Marrok, which is giving her plenty to work with. I've also added a few paragraphs to the character creation page emphasizing the freedom players have to manipulate these famous characters to new ends. Many players immediately recoil from playing famous people like Arthur, Guinevere, or Lancelot because of all the personal and romantic baggage which those characters bring with them, but in AL! you really have considerable freedom to jettison such baggage if you don't want to deal with it anymore.