Sometime ago I participated in a Bundle of Holding drive concerning Cubicle 7’s translated game products. I went in for the first tier alone, because the majority of the Bonus Collection contained the entirety of the Yggdrasill line which I already owned. I was interested in Keltia: The Chronicles of Arthur Pendraeg, however, because of an idea I had to run Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as a game. What I missed out on by avoiding the Bonus Collection was the only existing English-language supplement to Keltia, Avalon. For some reason, it wasn’t till recently when I sat down with Keltia and read it in its entirety.
Of immediate use to Yggdrasill gamers is what Keltia has to say about its relation to its progenitor. Keltia shares the Yggdrasill game system, with some modifications that it details in an appendix. But I sense that there might be even more changes than what are specified therein. The Yggdrasill player benefits from a close reading of the entire text, including the rules section. Perhaps because of the fresh format, rules seem clarified. And I believe that there are some additions (a bonus to damage from a head butt as given in the weapons chart, for example, or weather modifications on movement).
This might be an error, but I noticed there still are some copies for sale on Amazon. I’m testing the waters and fishing for one: I ordered a copy, just to have a second physical rules manual at the table. And it of course would be more thematically appropriate to have available to the group if I ever were to run that Gawain game. But it has been a few days now and the book has not shipped. I suspect that Amazon will learn that they need to update their files, that they might no longer have the authority to sell such a thing.
The campaign material is a pleasure to read, in tone and content reminding me very much of Stephen R. Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle. As with the “nations” of Yggdrasill, the well-known knights and nobles of legend have been rearranged and occluded so that GMs and players should feel empowered to explore and create their own Arthurian canons. Granted, I would have found most of this entirely unnecessary if I hadn’t recently experienced myself using the campaign materials in Yggdrasill as background for even my Beowulf campaign! One would think Beowulf would provide all that is required. I guess it does, but I appreciated what the backdrop of Halfdan, Frodi and jarl Regin did as far as deepening the story–at least for campaign play.
As I might have mentioned in a previous post, my Yggdrasill players are interested in exploring the official campaign, and I’m willing to run this for them. However, as was pointed out in my favorite review, large portions of at least the introductory adventure seem really boring, particularly the second movement, which appears to be entirely subsumed in investigation and politicking that is unlikely to interest any player. A new experience for me will be the experience of adapting this material for use at my particular table.
If I anticipate the need to revise this Yggdrasill material, I expect it will be downright essential were I ever to run the introductory “adventure” as presented in Keltia. I imagine that the game designers test out their material on someone, and if the Keltia play test was well received, I would value the opportunity to get a sense of the culture of that gaming group. The reason is because the adventure appears to ignore many pieces of advice or guidelines that GMs have received over the years.
The pieces of advice that most prominently spring to mind are three: players tend to enjoy physical conflicts, ideally in the form of combats; players aren’t very good at internalizing or comprehending a large amount of information; and players need to be the heroes — or the main point — of the story or adventure. The problems with the Keltia scenario are 1. There are only two conflicts, maybe just one. There are some bandits that need to be chased away from a princess at the beginning of the adventure. And there are some guards or spies that perhaps must be engaged at the end of the adventure (ideally, though, the PCs and the one whom they have in their charge at that time should sneak by these people. 2. There is a lot of information in this adventure, and it’s difficult to determine how any of it really is relevant. The heart of the adventure is a council in which Arthur is proclaimed the new High King of Ynys Prydein. The adventure goes to great length to explain just where a multitude of noble characters are seated, who they are, to whom they are related, what their interests are, and just what their seating says about their power and positions. Exhausting! I’m not sure what player can comprehend it all — especially after getting through the already formidable obstacle of the Gaelic/Welsh names — much less care! To add to this, the adventure provides a chart of Perception STs and what PCs will recognize about the NPCs based on NPC reactions to a number of things that are said at the council. And this brings up a tangential and foregone objection: this scene is very much railroaded. The PCs aren’t at the council to do anything. They are there as spectators only. Arthur is going to be proclaimed High King, and some nobles are going to be angry about it. That’s it. 3. This third point has already been begun. The PCs are not the point of the adventure: Arthur is. The PCs have no further role other than to witness Arthur’s ascension to High King and then to protect him and smuggle him out of the Caer and away from his enemies. The adventure is open about how this is a “railroad” and that players must either “buy in” or be tricked into this scenario or that there is no adventure; the campaign is already over. This is at odds with the only way I know how to run a game: set up the scenario, the environment, the factors, the powers at play, and see what happens. Because, as many GMs other than me have said, you never can predict what a player will do.
So, even though I’m not going to be running this official Keltia adventure anytime soon, I am encountering similar formulations in the proposed Yggdrasill material. The experiment for me will be to adapt the “adventures” into “starting scenarios” and “see what happens.” Anyone familiar with the Yggdrasill official campaign might be interested in what I discover.