Monday, 8 June 2009

Tavern Knights of Legend

This is the third ePBM game in the series of the Knights of Legend. The first two involved the saving of the Kingdom of Neame from the Orc Lord Kahlua. Both games involved Knights of the Realm charging around on their destriers rescuing maidens and ridding Neame of Kahlua's monstrous hordes. This, the third version, involves the lowly adventurers of the land taking up arms to defend the realm.

It was a dark and stormy night…

Laird Dram of Glenfiddich sighed. From beneath his white, knotted brows he cast his eyes towards the roof-beams of his great hall to where the shadows danced beyond the reach of the flickering braziers and spluttering bracket-torches.
“Someone stop that infernal singing!”
Bright steel blades scraped free of ironbound scabbards and glowed crimson in the firelight.
“No!” he cried rising to his feet, “Not like that! For pity’s sake!”
The blades slid noisily back to safety.
“Has my vocal quality offended you my Laird?” asked a weak, reedy voice.
The Laird turned to the musician seated beyond his reach, Dram’s benevolent smile lost on the blind bard, his sightless eyes bound in rude, homespun cloth.
“No Pulteney my old friend.”
“Have I not struck the right notes on my lyre?”
“No Old Pulteney, I cannot fault your skill, your accuracy or the feeling you lace your words.”
Laird Dram’s men slowly edged forward, perplexed.
A resigned sadness crossed the Laird’s face “It is the songs you sing bard.”
The hall was silent save for the low crackling of the flames.
“Does not the tales of Sir Riccard and his defeat of the Orc King Kahlua fill you with pride? Shall I sing instead of Sir Rhosis or Sir Occo, both heroes of great mettle?”
The Laird of Glenfiddich sighed and sat down once more. “They should fill me with pride for as a man of Neame I share their blood, but alas their songs fill my heart with nothing but shame. They recall a kingdom lost, a spirit that has died and having departed leaves but a barren moor where brave banners should fly in the stirring wind.”
“How so my Laird did not the deeds of those great chevaliers bring a better age?”
“Aye, an age of apathy where men are no stronger than maids, nay weaker for can our maids not carry milk-pails across their shoulders? Aye, I sent my sons to the Royal city of Kir to be knights and how did they return? Effete and ineffectual, that’s how! Oh yes, they learned how to eat with forks and how to dance and to hang politely on the words of an empty-headed damsel. They even learned how to wear shiny tin armour and to hold a lance so the pennon elegantly catches the breeze, but what use is that in battle?
His sons delicately smiled for they agreed and could see no reason why not to, for they had indeed become knights of the court and were proud of their refinements.
“Even now’” continued the Laird, “the forces of darkness are gathering beyond the palisade, milk is souring, wild animals prowl the forests and mountainsides and strange scraping sounds are to be heard coming deep from beneath the earth. Who stirs? And what do we have to counter them? We have no heroes, we have no true knights in this kingdom any more, we do not even have horses that can face the screech of a night owl without shying and throwing its rider. If those forces rise as they are poised to do, our kingdom, our bloodline and our memory will be forever lost!”
Everyone shrugged, for things were surely not as bad as their ageing Laird claimed. It was true his words only echoed the stories that were brought in by the farmers and crofters of the hills, but what can be done even if their tales were true?”
“We have no heroes,” muttered the Laird.
“But my Laird…” Motley the jester stepped forward, “you are being too harsh on your people.” Even the Laird smiled, as even now he was willing to laugh.
“Your halls may not brim with knights,” continued Motley, “but the perfumed fops of your hall are not the only blood of the kingdom, for come with me to the tavern, for there beneath lower, soot-blackened beams are the heroes of your land, brave and resolute, facing the hardships that are the coarse bread of their station in life, rising to any challenge, willing to fight at the merest perceived slight. They may not ride but their bellies are full of fire and at your command they will doubtless venture into the night and bring back the trophies of their exploits!”
The hall echoed with peals of hearty laughter.
“Silence!” ordered the Laird, standing once more. “Your jest Motley has given me an idea. Guards, go to the tavern and announce that all who would be heroes must now come to my hall for I shall place the future of our kingdom in their hands!”
The Laird turned to Old Pulteney, “In nights to come you will be singing of a new hero of Neame for I feel it in my blood that their courage will inspire you to song!”

Tavern Knights of Legend (T-KoL or Tavern Knights) is a variant of Knights of Legend (KoL). I hesitate to call it a development as that implies a claim that it is a step in the right direction. Tavern Knights is based less on the heroic romances of the high middle ages and the reworking of that genre and more on the work of E Gary Gygax and his popular fantasy game, Dungeons & Dragons. That stated T-KoL does not attempt to be a PBM version of D&D or even a KoL version of D&D, only a version of KoL that uses D&D style adventurer character classes of fighter, mage, cleric, dwarf, thief, ranger and barbarian rather than only heroic knights errant. Unlike KoL, T-KoL is more a game of swagger and opposed treasure hunting. It isn’t so much about bashing the monsters as about getting their treasure, which does admittedly mostly involve bashing them, but most of all it is about squandering ill gotten gold and bragging about it in the bar about how it was come by.

Heroes take on monsters, rescue maidens and recover lost treasures, gaining glory, charisma and fame. If a hero’s fame rises so high that the blind bard, Old Pulteney is inspired to immortalise them in song, that hero so feted, wins the game.