Reset: In Prince Valiant: TSG you play knights of derring do in the “time of King Arthur.” My wife, Deanna, plays Lady Elyse Dulane, “permanently” in disguise as her murdered twin brother, Envil. My son, Xander, plays Sir Gareth Jewelwing, a knight virtuous and bold. In her guise as Envil, Elyse is Gareth’s squire. Gareth knows Elyse’s secret, and has pledged to help her.
Elyse has recently discovered that her uncle, the louche Viscount Dulane, is almost certainly behind the presumed murder of her brother. (Presumed, because the body was never found; she has reason to believe Envil was pushed into the Rushing River during the spring thaw.) She’s pursued by a mysterious Black Knight who has sworn to kill Envil/Elyse once and for all.
In the last session, Elyse (as Envil) participated in Viscount Dulane’s season-opening tournament. Elyse did well for her first time out impersonating a squire, and Sir Gareth surprised everyone by winning the joust.
I had some nice woo-woo planned for this session, spooky Arthurian stuff. Somehow, even after years of GMing, I didn’t take the will of my players into account. It didn’t occur to me that if I sent them to a new location, especially one of their homes, that there would be loads of exploratory role-playing! Sometimes the first few scenes just turn into the whole dang session. And that’s fine. The game is for the players, and if they’re happy… I’m happy!
We picked up after the Melee in our last session…
Medieval tournaments inevitably had a huge feast afterwards. When I discovered during my research that this also functioned as an awards banquet, I knew we had to see that at the table! Sir Gareth had won the joust fair and square, but how would Viscount Dulane treat him? After all the Viscount’s own Bastard, Gorgas, had fallen to Gareth. Would there be shenanigans or recriminations… who could say?
Instead of going after Gareth, the Viscount uses the occasion to humiliate Gorgas. He heaps dripping praise on Gareth, and forces Gorgas to give him his trophy. (Now Gorgas hates our heroes even more.)
During the festivities, Elyse notices the young lady who truly believes she’s Envil, as she pretends to be. (As revealed last session, this lady was clearly in a relationship with Envil!) Elyse still doesn’t know the lady’s name, but she sees her with her father, Lord Usgaroth. With a reputation for stern piety, Usgaroth has never been seen to smile in public.
The next morning Gareth and Elyse get up bright and early to head back to Elyse’s home, Winterguard. The road from Castle Dulane to Winterguard isn’t a long one, but it is dark and winding. At one point the path narrows down to an old stone bridge. It’s there that Gareth and Elyse find the Black Knight waiting for them, an evil apparition mounted on a destrier, motionless in the gloom. (This was a nice moment… both of my players almost shuddered at his appearance.)
The Knight pauses long enough to point to Elyse (who’s of course armed and armored like a squire) with a gesture that obviously means “submit to your fate.” Gareth is having none of that. He spurs his horse Arbez, who springs forward like a shot; the Knight follows suit, and races toward the bridge.
The ringing collision over the center span of the bridge is inconclusive. (A result of a tie on the coin pool throw.) As the opponents round for another pass, a nearby hunting horn breaks the tension. The Black Knight, who clearly wants to conduct his crimes in private, rides off.
A bit shaken, but relieved, the two continue their journey… with a wary eye on the trail behind them.
Castle Winterguard sits astride a pass that leads into the trackless wastes beyond the kingdom. Reputedly it can never fall while a Dulane sits the throne. Supposedly an ice dragon slumbers deep in the hills above.
Elyse is in high spirits, despite the Black Knight’s reappearance; she’s proven to herself that she can be Envil, at least for now… at least long enough to bring his killer to justice. She’s anxious to talk with her mother, who’s part of the deception. Elyse is disappointed, though. Lady Dulane is at prayers with the sisters from the local nunnery.
Instead she goes to her father, the ailing (and unknowing!) Baron Dulane. The Baron tells “Envil” that he should grow up and start taking on his family responsibilities. Baron Dulane is trying to prepare his heir for the realities of leadership. He does everything but say, “You know… I’m not going to be around much longer.” The Baron wants to see his son establish a family, and soon.
(I love this. I love leaning into questioning how far this deception can possibly go! Will Elyse actually arrange a marriage of convenience with someone? Perhaps with the lady that’s so smitten with her as Envil? And then where does that lead?)
In some ways the Baron seems to have a warmer relationship with Gareth… or at least it’s freer and easier. Dulane’s favorite hunting hawk takes a shine to Gareth, and the Baron appears most pleased.
In any case, it was an exciting scene, because it feels like Elyse could end up going down a lot of possible roads from here.
Later, as Elyse searches Envil’s room (her room now!) for some clue abut Envil’s “lover,” her eyes wander outside the tower window. She notices an old man, dressed like a bedraggled monk, limp across the grounds. When he feels her gaze, he looks up at her with milky cataract-covered eyes that are obviously blind. If that’s not uncanny enough, she hears a loud thud behind her; she turns to find a bundle of correspondence on the floor. It’s a packet of letters from Envil’s paramour, Lady Jocelyn Usgaroth.
And that’s the mini-cliffhanger we left it on…
Post Game Thoughts
This was one of those sessions where I could have gone for another hour, but Xander has his limits. At this age he’s good for maybe 90 minutes unless there’s a pitched battle. But, hell, I’m not complaining. At his age, I’d never heard of role-playing games!
I like where this game is going, even if it’s somewhat sporadic. Xander is very much the star of our Mecha Hack game, so I’m loving that this gives Deanna a chance to shine. She’s created an amazing role for herself, and she’s playing it to the hilt.
School starts up again soon. (It’s going to be remote only where we live.) I’m hoping to get one session of Valiant and one session of Mecha Hack in before things crank back up. We’ll see. In any case, in the tradition of Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant comic…
The return of an overseas relation… Pausius the Hermit… Under the Falls.
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For those of you interested in getting your own copy of The Prince Valiant: Storytelling Game, I don’t have great news. The publisher that did the lovely reprint that I own isn’t active right now. Apparently Chaosium owns the copyright to the rules, but doesn’t have the rights to produce it. So, the property is in limbo. I found my copy at a game store last year, so I suspect they’re still floating around in distribution, but they won’t be easy to track down. As of this writing, there’s no legal way to get the pdf.
But you can still explore the Prince Valiant comic in the deluxe reprints by Fantagraphics.
All Prince Valiant copyright Hal Foster
Clancy Brown (as Brother Justin) copyright HBO