Arthurian Freeform – 1

This is a quick freeform game I started using just an oracle when I was on vacation and had only a handful of dice and my Mythic tables but no game rules or ability to use character sheets. I have been reading Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, so this is heavily influenced by Arthurian legend.

Since I began it in a journal, I attempt to make heavy use of the oracle to drive the action, with relatively little exposition in between (makes it faster and easier to write). As such, I think this “moves” more quickly than my other stories. I actually like it, and hope to do more like this in the future.

Setup

Character creation was simple. I created two characters with four stats: body (physical strength), skill (dexterity and general competence), mind (learning and willpower), and charisma. Other than those few stats, I left the pair as a relatively blank slate to be developed as I played.

Sir Ermis, knight: Body+2, Skill+1, Mind-1, Cha+0

Calandra, sage: Body-1, Skill+1, Mind+2, Cha+0

As mentioned earlier, I knew that this would take place in a (loose) Arthurian world, so Sir Ermis is a knight of Arthur’s court and Calandra a sage in the Merlin-y sorcerer’s tradition.

357px-Idylls_of_the_King_9

The Game

I’m setting out without any idea of what I will be playing or doing. I’ll allow the oracle to develop almost everything for me.

-Mission: celebrate/outside (find an old ruin)

-Where are we? control/expectations (court where we’re being told what to do)

-Do we have a patron? +1: yes, and… they’re powerful

-Who? judge/exterior (a foreign king)

Sir Ermis and Calandra the sage stand before King Arthur and the swarthy, northern king in the court of Camelot. “So,” the dark king says, surveying the pair before him, “these are the two who might find the ruins?”

+NPCs: Arthur, dark king

Arthur nods. “Sir Ermis and the sage, Calandra, have proven themselves wise and fair in all dealings. They will be so in yours, I am certain.”

-Any idea where to look? +0: yes

-The place is: violently/ancient

“I seek the way to the lost city of Orleand, where the good Lord poured out his wrath upon mine ancestors,” the dark king says. [Why is he looking? gratify/pleasures] “Though those men had fallen far from God, they spent their days surrounded by art and beauty of earlier, more Godly men, and some of my people’s greatest works of art were lost in that city’s fall. I would have them back.”

neutral – petition – power
“This boon I ask of you is not an easy one, good king,” the man says to Arthur. “Will these two have strength of arms eno’? The road is long and evil men are drawn to that which God has cursed.”

Sir Ermis steps forward and kneels before his king. “My lord,” he says, “my love for you is second only to my trust in the King Eternal, and if you ask me to do this thing I will do it, even if it costs my life.”

Arthur nods, and the Quest is given.

-Anything else of import before they leave? +0: yes, but…unrelated to Quest

-Introduce NPC – punish/dispute

The captain of the guard approaches as the pair prepare to leave Camelot. [helpful – assessment – parents] “Sir Ermis–I have heard our good king has sent you forth. Go with Godspeed, and know that not all in Camelot begrudge you your low birth. Our king, God-blessed, saw fit to raise you up. Who are we to question his wisdom?”

+NPC: Captain of the Guard

Sir Ermis graciously accepts the guard’s statement before the pair ride out through the streets of Camelot and into the rolling hills of Arthur’s domain.

-Does Calandra know the way to Orleand? +2: Yes, and…she even knows a secret route. They cut across a field and onto a small and twisting way.

-Is the road long? +2: Yes, but…the road is easy for the first many miles. They make good time as their horses find their way along the sure path.

-Does Sir Ermis know anything of Orleand? -1: no + event

-Does Calandra? +2: [Yes, break/legal matters]

-Event: Remote event — fight/fears

Sir Ermis holds himself upright, but Calandra can tell that something is bothering the young knight. Eventually, she asks him.

“King Arthur’s tournament falls on this day next week. There is little chance of our successful return by then. I know I do the king a service, but my heart longs to prove myself in battle during the joust and melee.”

“Worry not, knight,” Calandra replies. “You may see conflict enough to test your courage along this road. Orleand’s fall is told of in the circles of the wise. They have broken from God and his Law, and cruelty rather than mercy reigned there while men still lived.”

The road continues further until the come across a [crazily/strong] walled fortress set in a gap between hills. “The edge of our good king’s realm,” Sir Ermis states. “Your route was good, magician–I would have thought we were several hours’ long ride away still.”

-Is Sir Ermis recognized? +0: yes

-Is he admitted? +2: Yes, but…grudgingly. The master of the fortress invites the pair to dine with him for the evening. They are welcome to stay the night and rest themselves, but they must move on quickly.

“We had little wish to tarry, regardless,” Sir Ermis responds, “but for what reason must we hurry?

forthcoming-resentment-recent scene
“You must move on by first light,” the commander repeats. “Beasts and beast-like Men of the north assault our gates without warning or mercy. While you southern knights dance and tourney at court, we stand guard against the Godless hordes that would assault our good king’s realm. You are welcome to rest yourself here for the king’s sake, but we cannot spare the beds nor food to keep you longer.”

-Can Sir Ermis make peace? (CH) -1: No. Sir Ermis is angered by the commander’s words, but he accepts the help offered and vows to move on as soon as there is light by which to navigate.

-Any events over night? -1: no

They rise the next morning and set out. The terrain beyond Arthur’s realm is [frighteningly/drab] a land of cold, dark hills capped by mist and hiding swift, gray rivers in its low places.

-Any encounters today? +0: No, but…there are signs of activity. [Ambush/Hope] The muddy track wends past a copse of twisted trees, revealing the bodies of several priests, violently slain.

-All dead? +0: Yes, and…desecrated. Each has been stripped bare and laid out beside the others in a line. Cruel signs have been carved into their bloody flesh.

366px-Idylls_of_the_King_19

-What does Calandra know about the sign carved into the priests? cruelty/good

“I know this mark!” Calandra whispers, leaning close to the bodies to survey the discomforting wounds. “They’re the sign of a false sect of north-men who say that pain releases souls to the Lord’s care, and aids the Lord’s work by sending his saints home.”

“A foul heresy,” Ermis opines.

-Anything else of interest around the camp? -1: no, but…

They head down the road and soon see something else.

-Signs of the heretics? +0: yes

-Are they here? +0: no, and…

Someone has caught up to the heretics before Sir Ermis and Calandra. Red-robed cultists lay strewn about the road, many missing limbs or showing grievous wounds.

“God in Heaven,” Sir Ermis prays as he draws his sword and unlimbers his shield. Calandra stands silently, but places her hand on the dagger on her belt.

-Is this an ambush? -1: yes

-Describe the attacker: awkwardly/quaint

An old woman comes hobbling out of a nearby patch of woods. Both wonder how they could have missed her standing there. Sir Ermis advances to meet the woman, calling out, “Ho, freewoman. My name is Sir Ermis, in the service of good King Ar–” but he is unable to finish. The woman’s body suddenly wrenches upward from the ground, twisting violently as it shakes and transforms.

Calandra shouts a warning as she draws her blade, and Ermis throws up his shield.

-What does the beast look like? extravagance/travel

Great wings spread from the crone’s back, and her arms and legs grow wiry and long. Her skin turns mottled grey and her jaw cracks into a wide, leering grin.

# # #

Gargoyle: Body+2, Skill+0, Mind-1, Cha-1

Initiative: Ermis 6, Calandra 4, Gargoyle 2

Note: I will be running combat by rolling a number of dice equal to 1 plus the character’s BODY score, then taking the highest of those rolls. For negative scores, like Calandra has, I will be rolling 1 plus the same number of her negative score and taking the lowest roll. This functions similarly to the oracle, except without the yes/no/and/but result. MIND attacks will provide special effects rather than direct damage.

-Ermis v Gargoyle BODY check: 4 vs 4, tie

Undaunted by his unholy foe, Sir Ermis hefts his sword and charges at the beast, swinging with all his might. The beast matches him blow-for-blow, and his strikes are deflected.

-Calandra v Gargoyle MIND check: 6 vs 1, powerful success

The difference between two attack scores will be used as an oracle question to see whether the target is impacted. Beating their score by 1 will be a -2 question, beating it by 2 will be a -1 question, and beating it by 4 would be a +1 question, for example.

Whatever the attack result die indicates, the successful attacker will always turn out better than the defender. In this way, a -2 minor success won’t become a “no, and…” counter attack that hurts the player.

-Does she know a weakness? +2: yes, but… it’s minor

“It’s a gargoyle!” the sage cries out. “Its skin is hard as stone–but its wings are thin! Strike there!” [Sir Ermis will get +1 to hit next round]

-Ermis v Gargoyle BODY check: 3 vs 4, glancing blow

-Does it stop Ermis? -2: no

Heeding Calandra’s advice, Ermis lunges forward toward the beast’s wing, but it moves too quickly for him. Its wing buffets downward and strikes a sharp rap against his armored helm. The knight stumbles backward, but is okay.

-Calandra v Gargoyle MIND check: 5 vs 3, minor success

-Does she distract the Gargoyle? -1: no, and… it turns on her

Calandra begins chanting a prayer against evil, but the Gargoyle is not held. Instead, roaring, it breaks away from the knight and flies toward her. (It already engaged in melee with Ermis on his init this round, but it will attack her next round.)

-Ermis v Gargoyle BODY check: 5 vs 4, minor hit

-Does he stop it? yes, but… he is wounded, too

Sprinting after the monster, Ermis leaps upon its back and swings his sword with both hands, severing first one wing and then the other. The beast roars and thrashes, finally throwing the knight hard onto the ground as it topples backward. Dark blood pools on damp earth.

# # #

365px-Idylls_of_the_King_7

-[SKILL] Can Calandra bind Ermis’s wounds? +1: yes, and… they’re not serious

Calandra helps Ermis from his armor. She wipes clean his blood-soaked face, only to find that he is not badly wounded. A forehead cut, fiercely bleeding, is responsible for most of it. She winds a cloth ’round his head and the wound soon clots.

-How is the rest of the day’s travel? neatly/abnormal

They soon ride on through a twisted landscape, over gently sloping hills bottomed by rivulets and stunted trees. A thin trail shows them the way, rarely varying by more than a few degrees east or west.

-Do they find any towns? -1: no + event

-Event: ambiguous – dispute/extravagance

Evening falls without the pair chancing across a village, though they do see the burnt husk of a great house, now long given over to nature. The roof is gone and vines and roots have begun to work on the stone. They pass without either proposing that they use it for a camp.

-Does night pass without event? +1: no

-Event: PC Negative (Calandra) – carry/illusions

That night, Calandra’s dreams are filled with dark shadows and cruel thoughts. They plague her until the sun rises, and even then haunt her memories as the pair break camp and continue on their road. “This is a dark country,” she thinks, “bad for soul and mind.”

skull and temple

-Do they reach Orleand today? -1: no, and… they make little headway at all.

They wake to a morning damp with mist, and the horizon is dark with streaking rain falling in the distance. The break camp, but soon enough realize that they will make no progress today. The gullies between hills are sodden, and the streams are full to overflowing.

-Any encounters today? -1: no, and… everyone else is inside as well. The day and night pass quietly.

-Do they reach Orleand the next day? -1: no, and… event

-Event: Remote Event – Intolerance/Lies

The next day sees the rain clear up and the rivers settle, so the pair move quickly to make up lost time. They come to a crossroad where hand the bodies of thieves and traitors, hung and crow-eaten. Calandra averts her eyes from their nakedness.

-Do they find a town today? +0: yes, but… barely a thorp

-How are they welcomed? dangerously/warlike (oops)

The high moors finally sink down into a plain and they pass a few scattered farms. A cluster of a half-dozen houses rises from the fields. They press forward, eager for a rough overhead even if a warm bed be too much to hope for in such a small settlement.

Even that small comfort is not to be. As they near the houses, a barrage of rocks comes flying out from behind the houses.

-Are they injured? -2: no, and… they find cover.

They ride through the hail of stones beneath Sir Ermis’s shield and soon take cover in the lee of one of the houses. Ermis shouts, “I am a knight of good king Arthur’s court! Hold your anger and your stones!”

(hostile) sociable – examination – fame

“A knight of Arthur, are you?” a voice calls from behind another home. A hail of stones clatters against the ground around them. “You think that title gives you credence here? What name are you, then? List your deeds done to aid this hard country.”

-Can Ermis calm them? CH+0: yes, but… only enough to halt their attack.

“We have slain a gargoyle haunting a copse not more than a hard day’s ride from here, and avenged a procession of fallen pilgrims. We have patrolled your roads to keep your travelers safe.”

cautious – destruction – family
There is a brief pause as the attackers consider this. “We know the demon of which you speak, sir knight–it has caused us all much sorrow. If she is indeed slain, we are in your debt. But we’ve no way of knowing if you are in league with the demon or truly its vanquisher, and so you must be away from here. Only one of great good or great evil could know of the beast, and we’ve no way of divining which.”

“You faithless lot, who seeing does not see and hearing does not hear, we leave you then to your fate!” Calandra curses them, and the pair ride on for another hard night.

-Do they camp without issue? +1: yes, and… it’s a restful night

-Do they reach Orleand the next day? +0: no

They shelter beneath a sturdy tree and sleep soundly through the nigh, and the next day ride hard for the north.

Do they have any encounters? -1: no, and… the night passes uneventfully as well.

Now several days on the road and still beyond the bounds of the forsaken country of ruined Orleand, even Sir Ermis begins to doubt–not his Quest, but his own skill. “Woe be upon us if we’ve turned astray!” he cries. “To fight back ‘gainst devil and doubter alike, only to fail mine king because of a long and twisting road–the shame is more than a knight might bear.”

-[MIND] Does Calandra know the road? +2: no, but… she has heard rumors

Calandra comforts him, saying, “Though this road might be untraveled, legends tell that dead Orleand lies on distant shore. If this our land were thus so small, a petty kingdom it might make. We’ve a day or more of travel yet, and hard riding still besides.”

Thus comforted, Sir Ermis breaks camp and mounts his horse, and they ride off into the morn.

-Do they reach Orleand today? +0: yes, and… it’s closer than they thought

-Is it a ruin? +2: yes, daintily/graceful

They ride off, but soon enough a dark and jagged silhouette emerges from the mist. Fine towers, spindle-thin, reach heaven-ward from heath.

359px-Idylls_of_the_King_20

-Any sign of occupation? -2: no, but… it is well-kept

“Could this be Orleand?” Sir Ermis wonders, having resigned himself almost to find it not. “It is a strange and wonderful city, though long-forgotten it would seem. This haunting mist and late-morn dusk reveal it to be dead, for not a torch nor candle can be seen!”

“And yet the streets are fair and wide,” Calandra muses, “and the cobbles straight and clean.”

Considering this, they move cautiously into the old city, seeking out the old castle, where they suppose the relics might be kept.

-What happens along the way? NPC Action – Imprison/Randomness

-Which of them is captured? d2: Calandra, because she was [failure/tension] incautious after several hours among the quiet ruins. She paused a moment too long, and let the knight slip out of sight around a bend.

-[SKILL] Does Sir Ermis notice her being taken? +1: yes, and… her shout alerts him and he reaches her location in time to try to stop the [threateningly/lavish] foes. Grasping wraiths have taken hold of her–men and women long dead, dressed in tattered finery and thick chains of gold. She screams and quakes, but their dead fingers impart the chill of the grave, and she cannot go for her dagger.

# # #

Wraith (3): Body+1, Skill+0, Mind+2, Cha-1

Combat round 1.

-Ermis v Wraith 1 BODY attack: 6 v 2, success!

-Can Ermis shatter the one holding Calandra? +1: No! His sword cracks hard against its bony arm, but the wraith shrugs off his cold steel and retreats with the sage in tow.

-Wraith 2 v Ermis BODY attack: 6 v 5, success

-Is Ermis seriously wounded by his foe? -2: no, and… he is able to slip past its feeble attack and chase the struggling sage, drawing close enough to attack it again!

-Wraith 3 v Ermis BODY attack: 5 v 6, failure

-Calandra v Wraith 1 MIND attack: 6 v 6, tie. Focusing her will, Calandra manages to fight off the grave fear of the beast, but she lacks the faith to force it to let her go.

-Does anything change between combat rounds? -2: No, the battle echoes against the still stone, but no noises rise to meet them.

Combat round 2.

-Ermis v Wraith 1 BODY attack: 6 v 6, blocked!

-Wraith 2 v Ermis BODY attack: 5 v 6, failure!

-Does Ermis strike a good counter-blow? -2: yes! He twists round the wraith’s clumsy attack and lops its head from its shoulders, and the demon tumbles to a pile of bone.

-Wraith 3 v Ermis MIND attack: 6 v 1, success.

-Does the wraith shake Ermis’s resolve? +2: yes, and… he’s rattled by the skeletons’ resistance to his steel. “My God, my God!” he cries, “Turn your face to this forsaken place!”

-[MIND] Can Calandra fortify him? +2: no, but… her words break him free from his malaise, and he will fight with just a -1 penalty next round.

-Anything happen between rounds? -2: no

Combat round 3.

-Ermis (-1) v Wraith 1 BODY attack: 6 v 2, major success

-Does Ermis slay the wraith? +1: yes, his sword cleaves through its bony arms before sweeping back to decapitate it. Calandra brushes the clawed hands from her shoulders and turns to face the remaining wraith.

-Calandra v Wraith 3 MIND attack: 6 v 4, success

-Does her magic force it to flee? -1: no, but… her waves of raw anger at the beasts’ effrontery to God’s laws cause it to shudder and slow (-2 to combat next round).

Combat round 4.

-Ermis v Wraith (-2) BODY attack: 5 vs 4, minor success

-Does he kill it? -2: no, and… it shakes off Calandra’s magic and sweeps back at the knight, nearly causing him to lose his shield.

-Calandra v Wraith MIND attack: 2 vs 3

-Does its hatred stun her? -2: no

Combat round 5.

-Ermis v Wraith BODY attack: 2 vs 3

-Does its counter attack hurt him? -2: no, and… he’s able to move into a flanking position, positioning it between him and Calandra.

-Calandra (+1) v Wraith BODY attack: 4 v 6, fail

-Does it counter attack well? -1: no, Calandra’s dagger-thrust is awkward, but she ducks back fast enough to avoid the wraith’s distracted counter-slash.

-Does anything happen between rounds? -1: no, and… the ruined city of Orleand grows hauntingly quiet. Their swords and shouts echo menacingly off the bare stone walls. Both suspect that they ought to move on soon.

Combat round 6.

-Calandra v Wraith MIND attack: 6 v 6, tie

-Ermis v Wraith BODY attack: 5 v 2, success

-Does he slay the thing? +0: yes!

Calandra recites a powerful prayer, but the red light of the beast’s eyes glows brighter as it laughs in the face of a distant God. Evil’s hubris is ill-placed, however, for in its denial of God’s majesty it forgets that God acts through steel as well as prayer. Sir Ermis’s sword cleaves down through its rib cage, shattering bone and sending links from its golden necklace flying out onto the stone.

# # #

Panting, the pair survey the battlefield. [Does anything move? -1: no] All is, finally, quiet.

-Can they see the castle from here? +0: yes, but… it rises from the far side of the city, illuminated by faint light trickling down through the clouds. They gather themselves and make their way toward the castle.

-Do they make the castle without any more interruptions? +1: yes, and… the way is smooth and easy. The ruined houses line a large boulevard that was once quite beautiful. Bone-white trees rise from the center of the street, bare limbs stretching toward the sky like grasping hands.

-What does the castle look like? joyfully/amusing: “My brothers, count it all joy…” Calandra reads from an inscription atop the castle gates. She snorts. “They certainly fell into diverse temptations.”

Sir Ermis frowns. “They fell far from Saint James’ dear advice.” He glances up at the dark tower. “It appears the Lord punished them for it.” His hand drops to the hilt of his sword. “Let us recover this ancient work for our king and return to Camelot. It makes me uneasy.”

So saying, they step through the castle’s gates.

-Is the courtyard empty? +1: Yes, and…a pall of silence hangs over the yard. It has been long years since the castle’s quiet was disturbed.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I hope to continue this later, but I’m coming to realize the importance of Mythic’s scenes to create opportunities to move the story along. It’s hard to introduce heavy scene shifts or surprise events without chaos checks between sections.

Mythic Stuff

Sir Ermis, knight: Body+2, Skill+1, Mind-1, Cha+0

Calandra, sage: Body-1, Skill+1, Mind+2, Cha+0

NPCs: Arthur, dark king, captain of the guard

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