Tales of New Camelot

The Fist Unclenches

And a King is Revealed

RATIONALE/CONTEXT: The long-awaited (by me, anyway) Season One Finale. The objective here is to have a jolly tough fight that will stretch players’ abilities, get the hell out of the Forgotten Factories, resolve the Troll Thing and find out the identity of the Troll King. We have no Ray/Bors, but we have Luke, who knows WoD systems so well he can easily stand in. And for this event we have a battle map and coloured counters representing all the characters. Lights, camera… ACTION!

Voltage Trod is a huge hangar with vault doors at either end. A broad platform spans the length of the chamber like a bridge, with a dizzying drop below. To left and right are wind tunnels ending in huge fans. When the fans turn, the elemental energy arcs across the bridge, forming an access point into the Trod. Sir Gawaine releases one of the two giant levers, having helped Thora Drake escape from the Forgotten Factories. The nearby vault doors reverberate under cannon fire. Gawaine retreats to the centre of the bridge and takes up a defensive position. To his Bedlam-crazed sight, the walls seem to run with blood.

A group of light infantry cog soldiers break through the door and advance down the bridge with a Fafnir Unit flame caster fanning sheets of fire before them. Gawaine starts a Bunk, chanting his deeds and the deeds of his lineage, in preparation for a Torque cantrip. Suddenly the fans turn and the Trod sparks into life, dropping Sherwood Shaftsbury the werewolf and Fergus Ironsides directly in the path of the flamecaster. Shaft roars to Gawaine that he’s come for his name back, but Fergus yells a warning that the Fafnir unit is opening fire. The flame fans out, catching Fergus directly in its path while the werewolf leaps to one side. The cog soldiers advance, skewering Fergus with their bayonets and keeping the werewolf at bay with musket fire.

Barely noticed, Sir Lancelot enters the chamber and uses Hopscotch to launch himself clear across the bridge to attack Gawaine. His new cybernetic, a steam-launched spear caster slams the spear Ron into Gawaine, damaging the troll’s armour and bruising him; Gawaine responds by stoking the Dragon’s Ire and a mighty blow with Galatyne smashes through Lancelot’s armour and hurts the Sidhe. But now the elongated spear holds the troll pinned at a distance. Moreover, the vault door behind Gawaine opens and more light infantry scouts enter.

Lancelot uses the Quicksilver cantrip to unleash a flurry of blows on Gawaine, who botches a parry and is disarmed. The honourable Lancelot lets him retrieve his sword, smashing one of the cog soldier’s muskets when it has the temerity to open fire on the unarmed troll.

Meanwhile, Shaft has leapt on the back of the Fafnir unit and seized control of its brain stem. He uses it to pour fire onto the cog soldiers harassing Fergus. The badly mauled Sluagh squirms into the bridge’s girders to escape, but ends up stuck there. Shaft directs the Fafnir back towards the big switch to open the Trod again. At the other end, near Gawaine, heavy infantry R-Thor cog soldiers enter the chamber.

The Trod bursts into life again, dropping Sir Dodinel the Savage onto the bridge. Seeing Gawaine menaced on all sides, he quicksilvers himself and rains a blizzard of deadly arrows down upon the heavy cog soldiers.

Gawaine and Lancelot take up their weapons again and set to it. Gawaine draws on the Dragon’s Ire but Lancelot steps into the Fe-Fiada battle fog and uses Ron to keep the Troll at bay. They batter each other furiously but neither is seriously wounded.

Stuck in the girders, Fergus uses Foul Is Fair to hex the great machinery itself, coaxing the Trod back into life. In a burst of light, Bors of Ganis appears on the bridge. Bors rushes to engage the remaining cog soldiers while Dodinel hopscotches to the great lever. Shaft toasts a remaining cog soldier and reaches the other lever. They pull the levers.

As the Trod crackles into life again, Gawaine and Lancelot circle each other cautiously. Gawaine can rely on the protective power of his shield, but cannot lay a decisive blow on the Sidhe; Lancelot is wary of Gawaine’s sun-bright sword that burns his fomorian blood. Each calls on the other to lay down arms honourably rather than fight to the death.

“You were not meant to serve Darkness,” Gawaine pleads, “but Arthur, your king.”

“That did not end well,” growls Lancelot, “and Arthur is no more.”

Stuck in the girders, Fergus uses Foul Is Fair to hex Gawaine’s words.

“That’s not true,” Gawaine declares, “Arthur is returned – look!”

The Trod is permanently active now, with both switches flipped. From its brightness three figures emerge: the metal woman Malegea rushes to Bors’ side, the repaired cog soldier Tickertape salvages a musket and Thora Drake arrives, to all appearances a college girl but Fergus’ hex lets Lancelot see her as she really is.

Lancelot breaks off from combat and stumbles backward, overcome. More cog soldiers start to enter.

Shaft abandons the Fafnir and makes a break for the Trod, peppered with musket shot. Dodinel hopscotches into the Trod, blasting the cog soldiers with his archery. Bors and Malegea take each other’s hand and step back into the Trod, along with Swami who takes one look at the mayhem and escapes.

Gawaine offers a hand to Lancelot who shakes his head, calls for reinforcement and steps towards the great switch.

“The time is not yet come,” he cries, then disengages the switch. The Trod starts to flicker. Lancelot holds it open just long enough for Gawaine and Thora to escape.

Crawling out of the girders, Fergus attempts one last augury, to peek into Lancelot’s Dán (fate). But the knight sees him and calls out the Dragon’s Challenge. Fergus cannot resist and instead of escaping into the Trod he is compelled to crawl to the dark Sidhe’s feet as Prince Gallehault arrives with reinforcements.

COMMENTARY: Always the same with RPGs: fights take FOREVER. This was a good one with PCs fairly matched by heavy infantry cog soldiers and Lancelot and Gawaine locked into one of those stressful dice rolling sudden-deaths where the first person to fail or botch is annihilated by the other one. Fergus captured by Lancelot provides a nice bit of continuity for Season Two, as do the mysterious contents of his Augury.

The Trod takes the form of a mine shaft laid with rails. At the Surluse end it is lit with flashing neon and flickering tesla coils but as it merges into Bedegraine these are replaced with lanterns of fire beetles and braziers of glowing coals. Time passes strangely on a Trod, so long as no one is tempted off into the echoing side passages. There’s no sign of pursuit.

The Trod emerges in the tube of a great vent on a mountain peak above the cloudline bathed in sunset, high up in Bedegraine. A group of startled dwarfs guarding the Trod admit that the werewolf entered it a week ago, a clue to the temporal dilation at work. The travelers descend through the clouds to Lot’s Grotto of Garloth.

Within Garloth there are signs of revelry and voices raised in song. The Troll Thing is in full session, presided over by King Lot. The travelers wait until, one by one, the dignitaries all fall silent. Enraged, Lot demands to know where they’ve been – the druid’s scanner lost track of Gawaine and Bors back when the Great Cog started to move. That was weeks ago. Now Troll Thing is concluding and a King is about to be acclaimed.

Gawaine and Bors tell their Saga to the astonished crowd. Gawaine talks of the Great Cog stopping on his command, of the battles against the Darkness and his duel with Lancelot; Bors talks of Merlin Aurelianus, the ruin of Camelot and the lost regiment of the White Ellyon. The acclaim for the sagas is overwhelming and when cynics ask for proof the cog-soldier Tickertape steps forward.

But what about Wassails? Hengist Jute points out that the Troll Thing was to conclude with gift-giving as each contender found a Dreamer to wassail a gift to show their mastery of dreams. The other competitors have done this. Gawaine nominates Thora as his Dreamer and takes her to the Ettinthrone. She takes out her sketches of it and imagines the stone fist unclenching. In her mind she draws the Jotunaxe set free. Gawaine performs his Warspite wassail and Thora lays her hands on the Axe. The floor trembles. The fist unclenches. The girl draws the Axe nearly twice her height and raises it overhead.

There’s an uproar. Some think the King is revealed, others that Gawaine has cheated. King Carados of Escoce demands that Thora hand over the Axe to him. She does, but he cannot lift it and it crashes to the floor, embedding its blade in the stone. Enraged, Carados challenges Gawaine directly, through one of his bombs at his head. Gawaine is more than glad to duel the ogre again.

Sir Dodinel leaps to intervene, but is blocked by Cei Hir. The other trolls are strangely still, almost certainly because this confrontation is prearranged. Even Bors has agreed to stand aside in a secret deal with King Lot. Dodinel hopscotches away from Cei while Gawaine subdues Carados with a deft swordplay. However, the ‘king of the Wasteland’ has three more of his bombs and detonates them all at once. Selflessly, Gawaine leaps on him and uses his magic shield to absorb the blast. Carados is completely incapacitated but Cei Hir advances on Gawaine, unleashing a cannonade of vicious blows. Although protected by his shield, Gawaine is reeling and on the verge of slipping into deeper Bedlam. Even the outsider Swami will not stand for this and Bors also breaks ranks to rush to Gawaine’s aid, but it appears they will have to fight Lot to do so.

There is a whoosh and Cei Hir is suddenly headless. His chimerical head sails across the cavern and rolls to Swami’s feet; his body slumps to the ground and reverts to his mortal form, comatose. Thora Drake has wielded the Jotunaxe, unassisted by any wassail, and now raises it overhead.

“The Troll Thing ends,” she calls out to the assembly, “because I am here to end it. A king there shall be, but by my will, not yours. Gawaine is rightful king of the trolls, so long as he does swear fealty to me.”

Gawaine steps forward and kneels and Thora places the Axe in his hands.

Lots starts forward in a rage but Queen Morgause stops him. She approaches Thora and kneels. Her sons do likewise until, one by one, all the trolls kneel. Hengist kneels. Breathless, Thora stares round the echoing cavern as the trolls acclaim with one voice:

“Gawaine, king of the Trolls! The Troll King and the Pendragon!”

COMMENTARY: A cinematic end to Season One. We left it open who Thora would nominate as Troll King. Bors was also a contender, but Ray’s absence and Bors’ compromising deal with Lot made it less satisfactory to go that way. Dodinel would have been a nice choice, since he had become Thora’s closest friend, but he wasn’t a troll and had not established a reputation in Bedegraine. A left-field candidate would have been Swami – something I like to think the first Arthur would have done, to bring enemies into his circle and wrongfoot his opponents, creating a troll king entirely dependent on his patronage for support (at least at first) and a lieutenant with influence in hostile Surluse. Nonetheless, this has been Gawaine/Nick’s storyline and the crown feels well earned.

EVALUATION: This is really an evaluation of Season One as a whole. It’s been characterised by three features, one elected, one unfortunate, one an adaptation to circumstances. The elective feature was the focus on Thora, making the chronicle the story of a NPC protagonist rising from baffled college kid to heroic leader. There’s a risk here that the PCs end up feeling sidelined, that all the best bits go to the NPC. I hope I avoided that for the most part, but the players must tell me otherwise. The up-side was telling a story with a clear arc and a tight theme: I very much wanted to avoid the sprawling ‘sandbox’ game where players can go anywhere and everywhere but, perhaps, lose focus. No doubt the Thora-storyline would have been more compelling had the pace been brisker. This is the second characteristic, the unfortunate one. Despite Season One only really involving about a dozen story sessions (with a few Tuesday excursions on the side), a chronicle that ought to be told in full in three months, it took well over six months to tell the tale. It’s nobody’s fault, of course, just grown-ups with busy lives. Nonetheless, when we start Season Two I need to take that into account and think of a way of compensating for unavoidable player absences. The adaptive feature is the way the game setting and mechanics have evolved. In all our games we end up evolving the rules machine somewhat, but Changeling has truly blossomed from a game that was borderline-broken to a rules-set that feels (though I say it myself) pretty epic. The Dragon, Wassails and new Arts have all been a big feature and Season Two will bring in the Hallows and new Kith; the Dreaming Realms of London feel vivid and distinctive and the NPC cast are pretty memorable, with some of the best (Queen Morgan La Fey, Queen Guinevere Pendragon, Nimue, Mered Reith) still waiting offstage. It’s been a lot of work, but I think there’s a product here we can keep coming back to if we wish.



I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.