Sunday, October 7, 2012

[Actual Play] Prelude

We played the actual "first session" tonight. But, before I recap that, I'll talk about what happened in the "prelude" session that went down maybe a month ago.

We had three players. Only one of those could make it tonight, Brother Charles. I can't recall the names of the other PCs now.

In any case, here's the setup.

It's AD 597. 

Pope Gregory the Great (Gregory I) has gotten it into his head to send a mission to England to evangelize the place
Pope Gregory the Great
He sends out 30 of his hand-chosen monks, from the abbey in Rome that was his own stomping grounds when he was a wee tyke. Benedictine monks wear black. Rad.
Turns out the Christianity instilled there a while ago got mostly wiped out among the Britons when the Anglo-Saxons invaded. The Roman Empire is out of there, and the place is a postapocalyptic wasteland. People are dirt poor, and the old Roman tech is being consumed by plants and weather. Think Beowulf. Then make people poorer and not as cool.
Cribs. Anglo-Saxon style. 
Here's what Canterbury (the home base town) looked like in AD 300:

Canterbury c. AD 300
Here's the same area now (AD 597):

Canterbury c. AD 600
This is a period known as the Heptarchy. There are seven petty kings, with eorls and thegns and such below them. Tons of slaves. Freemen working for chump change, sharing huts with animals. Bad scene. Here's the geopolitical landscape:

Our boys are in Kent (extreme southeast in map above), ruled by the pagan Aethelbehrt and his Frankish Christian wife Bertha. At first, they had to stay on the island of Thanet because King Aethelberht (pronounced, apparently, A-thel-bersht, with an "a" like "apple") was afraid the Christians would put a spell on him.

But then they caught a break, I guess. This weird fog rolled in. England is already foggy, of course, but this fog was serious and didn't let up. Augustine figured it might facilitate trust if the monks went out into the fog to quiet down the populace, show them there's nothing to be afraid of. Because the Saxons, man, they are freaking out about this junk. The king won't even come out of his mead hall. He's drunk all the time. Bertha is concerned.

There are some internal shenanigans in the monastic community. We learn that the monks have come to know a few people on the island. There's a love triangle; there's doctrinal disagreement; there's conflict between Augustine, the abbot, and Laurentius, Augustine's second in command and one of the two priests sent along for the trip. (And note: only a priest can perform the Mass; so that's really important.) Augustine takes a soft line toward the pagans. He advocates a touchy-feely-persuady approach. Laurentius has made it clear he wouldn't mind killing a few bodies if it means saving a few souls.


So Augustine sends out a small group of monks to investigate the fog. He figures they'll walk-pray for a while, head back to Canterbury, and show the pagans how their god gives them courage, etc. Problem: they run into a group of hardcore pagans, led by a druid who has had just about enough of these foreign, god-eating cannibals, thank you. There's some talk-talk, but it goes south, and they fight.
Some armor they scavenged off the dead
In the aftermath, the party rescues some Celtic slaves (the Saxons make a killing raiding west and selling the slaves to the Franks). They accompany them out of gratitude and, I suppose, because they don't want to be meandering about the supernatural fog all alone.


The fog seems to lead them southwest, where they hit upon a peat bog. And there are peat bog zombies.
Yikes. Poor Augustine! He dies! We are now firmly in alternative history. But the party, mostly unscathed, takes out the former human sacrifices (some with nooses still around their necks, per the pic above) and heads farther into the fog.


The fog is originating from an irminsul, some kind of pagan religion-pole-thing. And you know what? There's a dragon flying around it. This is, after all, called Dungeons & Dragons.

They slay it! I mean, it was the wussiest dragon I could scrounge up, but what do you expect?

So then the fog dissipates somewhat (as we'll see, it never quite goes away), and the party returns to Canterbury with the skull of the dragon and various other trophies.

Aethelberht, on the strength of this testimony, finally gives into his wife's pleading and allows the (now) Abbot Laurentius to baptize him in the Church of Saint Martin (on which church much more later).
The baptism of Cyng Aethelberht
And that's where we end it.

This was just a prologue. It set things up. Things get real next time—which is to say, they got real tonight.

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