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Excalibur: Arthurian Adventures
This is an exclusive sample of Excalibur: Arthurian Adventures from RPGObjects Links to RPGObject’s web pages about their new fantasy series can be found at the bottom of this preview.
And down a streetway hung with folds of pure
White samite, and by fountains of running wine,
Where children sat in white with cups of gold,
Moved to the lists, and there with slow sad steps
Ascending, fill’d his double-dragon’d chair.
He glanced and saw the stately galleries,
Dame, damsel, each thro’ worship of their Queen
White-robed in honor of the stainless child,
And some with scattered jewels, like a bank
Of maiden snow mingled with sparks of fire.
Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King
Welcome to GameWyrd’s exclusive sneak preview of Excalibur: Arthurian Adventures! Although providing these exclusive sneak peaks to the Wyrdlings is nothing new for us here at RPGObjects, almost everything else about this book is brand new. First, this is RPGObjects’ debut foray into the fantasy genre, and we have chosen the legends of Arthur and the Round Table, a topic never taken on by a role playing game to do it. And the Wyrd gets the first look! We hope you enjoy this look at our upcoming game as much as we have enjoyed bringing it to you.
In place of race, Excalibur uses bloodline and nationality to represent a character’s background prior to first level. To illustrate how this works, let’s use the Royalty bloodline.
The elite of any medieval society, these characters are well off even by the standards of the peerage.
Personality: Royals are used to being obeyed, and can back up that assumption through the force of the law. From an early age, these elder sons of the nobility are taught to negotiate and obfuscate, maintaining the interests of their family through guile and deception.
Physical Description: Most characters will dress in keeping with their station. Nobles, along with merchants of the middle class, tend to dress a little better than they can afford, to present the proper “image”. Nobles will also tend to wear purple, an expensive fabric usually restricted to members of noble bloodlines.
Relations: Nobles are either very aware that good relations makes getting their way easier, or they are insufferably arrogant. Either way, other bloodlines tend to view the nobility with some suspicion.
Lands: The smallest percentage of the population, the nobility owns the vast majority of the lands in any feudal society.
Religion: Nobles tend to be very skeptical of religious institutions, seeing them as a rival to the power of the nobility. Too often has piety caused a noble to fall under the sway of a powerful church, and many nobles prefer their own judgment to that of some distant god.
Adventurers: Noble adventures are very common in Arthurian legend. Kings and princes abound in the tales, often fighting to win back their kingdom or defend it from rebels. Sometimes, however, as in the case of King Pellinore, being a king is a side job, while adventuring is the noble’s true calling.
Royalty Lineage Traits
Leadership: Royals gain this feat for free as soon as they reach 6th level.
Landed: Royals receive a +2 bonus to their charisma modifier for determining starting wealth
Voice of command: Royals are used to being obeyed, receiving a +2 bloodline bonus to Intimidate skill checks.
Noblesse Oblige: Royals are expected to act in a certain fashion whether they are members of the noble class or not. All royals gain this ability at 1st level.
Nobility: Royalty starting nobility is 51-60 +2 Charisma, -2 Strength: you are trained from a young age in the arts of leadership and manipulation. However, you rarely perform any real work.
Favored Class: Noble
After you pick a bloodline, you can pick a nationality, although this is optional. Nationality adds some extra class skills to your character, and in a few cases an extra favored class.
British (includes Wales and Cornwall): British characters add Yeoman to their list of favored classes.
French (includes Gaul and Benwick): French characters add Diplomacy and Gather Information to their list of class skills.
Holy Roman Empire: Roman characters add Knowledge (Religion) and Diplomacy to their list of class skills.
Irish: Irish characters add Sense Motive and Spot to their permanent list of class skills.
Saracen: Saracen characters add Handle Animal and Ride to their list of class skills.
Saxon (includes Angols and Jutes): Saxon characters add Intimidate and Survival to their list of class skills. All Saxon characters are illiterate regardless of bloodline and must spend 2 skill points in order to be able to read and write. Saxon characters add barbarian to their list of favored classes.
Scottish (includes Lothian and Orkney): Scottish characters add Bluff and Hide to their permanent list of class skills.
Spanish (includes Castile): Spanish characters add Appraise and Listen to their list of class skills.
Now that you’ve decided on your character’s background, it’s time to pick a class. Although Excalibur uses some of the standard classes, such as Barbarian, Druid, Bard, and Rogue, many of the classes are brand new, tailored to fit the game’s lack of alignment and spell point magic system. Yes I’m teasing you on purpose by dropping those nuggets in now, but hey, this is a preview!
New classes you will see in Excalibur include the Hedge Mage, Hermit, Knight, Noble, Priest, Robber Baron, and Yeoman. Let’s take a look at the first ten levels of two classes sure to be central to any Excalibur campaign, the Knight and Noble.
Good deeds are not only in armament, but manhood and worship is hid within man’s person, and many a worshipful knight is not known unto all people…
Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur
The Knight is the tank of the medieval battlefield, combining power with mobility. Although in the minds of many the knight was a symbol of national power, he was never the unquestioned king of the battlefield, often being felled by the bow and the polearm. In the literature of the time, the knight was also the symbol of the heroic code of Chivalry, embodied in the oath of the Round Table described below by Sir Thomas Malory.
Adventures: Knight adventures fall into two broad categories: military and questing. Many of a knight’s adventuring opportunities will be military in nature. Arthurian England is a tumultuous realm wracked with civil war and barbarian incursions. The lack of cohesive government, particularly of a king has also allowed monsters and dangerous animals to multiply unchecked. Quests are the more fantastic adventures, involving the pursuit of magical beasts, slaying giants, or the pursuit of powerful items of power such as the legendary Holy Grail or the Lance of Longinus.
Characteristics: The knight is the ultimate mounted warrior. While the fighter is an excellent all around combatant, the knight has special abilities that set him apart from any other class in the saddle.
Religion: Some knights are worldly, serving nothing more celestial than the lord they have sworn fealty to. However, many knights have a strong religious view, either for the One God, or the Old Faith. Often, these religious institutions are the source of the knight’s quests, and many knights are passionately devout, nearing the paladin in religious zeal.
Background: Knights typically come from the lesser nobility, or the peerage, and are trained from a young age to use their superior weaponry and skill at horsemanship to be the backbone of the medieval army. For characters of less noble birth, knighthood is often a goal all its own, and many Arthurian tales revolve around the commoner taking a job in the kitchens of Camelot, watching the knights and dreaming of the day he can join their ranks.
Other Classes: Knights are most like crusaders, and the two professions are often seen side by side. In fact many knights desire to be crusaders, but have never been able to rise to quite so holy a calling. Clerics and druids are respected, and are often sought out both for healing, and to advise the knight on his more esoteric quests. Nobles and knights have a symbiotic relationship, with the knight protecting the noble’s lands, and the noble providing the knight with direction and leadership. Knights do not care for barbarians, since many of his battles have been against them, and Robber Barons are particularly despised.
Role: Outdoors the knight is the best combatant a party could want, providing speed, mobility, and raw power. Indoors his role is much like that of a fighter, providing protection for weaker party members and an extra frontline fighter.
Game Rule Information
Knights have the following game statistics.
Abilities: Dexterity and Wisdom are important to the knight because his defining skills, Ride and Handle Animal are based on them. Strength and Constitution are important to the knight because of the amount of time he spends in combat.
Nobility: A knight must have a minimum nobility of 41 for entry into the knight class. Lesser Nobility and Royal Bloodlines qualify immediately; other classes must raise their nobility through adventuring, or otherwise earn the favor of a Noble with the Divine Right class ability.
Once a knight qualifies for this class, he must be aware that his deeds reflect on the noble or knight who ordained him (see below, and the noble class for more information). If the knight becomes enough of an embarrassment to the person who dubbed him, or if his nobility ever falls below 20, he will be stripped of his knighthood, and no longer able to gain levels in the knight class.
Hit Die: d12.
The knight’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (nobility and royalty) (Int), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), and Swim (Str).
Skill Points at 1st Level: (2 + Int. modifier) x4.
Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int. modifier
|Table X-X: The Knight|
|Level||Base Attack Bonus||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Special|
|1st||+1||+2||+0||+0||Mounted Combat; Code of Chivalry; +1 mounted combat; Aura of Knighthood|
|2nd||+2||+3||+0||+0||Armor Tolerance +1; Knight’s Warhorse|
|4th||+4||+4||+1||+1||Armor Tolerance +2; +2 mounted combat; Dispense Justice|
|6th||+6/+1||+5||+2||+2||Armor Tolerance +3|
|8th||+8/+3||+6||+2||+2||Armor Tolerance +4; +3 mounted combat|
|10th||+10/+5||+7||+3||+3||Armor Tolerance +5|
On New Year’s Day we saw him in his estate, which was the royalest that ever we saw, for he was served at his table with nine kings, and the noblest fellowship of other princes, lords, and knights that be in the world, and every knight approved and like a lord, and holdeth Table Round: and in his person the most manly man that liveth, and is like to conquer all the world…
Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur
Nobles are at the top of the feudal system of interweaving responsibilities and obligations. Skilled at diplomacy and leadership, they carry a small spark of the divine that binds them to the land and their subjects. Their power is thus both temporal and divine.
Most members of the nobility will not have levels in this class, but rather will be members of the Aristocrat NPC class. Consider Aristocrats as the warrior to this class’ fighter.
Adventures: Noble adventures will tend to revolve around politics, plotting, and dynastic rivalries. In Arthurian legend, the nobles must choose between Arthur’s divinely ordained rule, and the lesser nobles who oppose him.
Characteristics: Nobles are an embodiment of the feudal system, representing the ideal mix of military might, wealth, and divine influence. As such they are supported by fellow members of that system, such as the knighthood, but are often made the target of those who dislike the current way things are handled, such as the lowborn.
Religion: Although nobles rule in the name of a deity, and indeed carry a spark of his power, they are the rivals of the clergy, with each group seeing themselves as the designated representative of God on Earth. Although the clergy and nobility recognize their need for one another, frequent clashes erupt between them over ultimate control. When they work together, they are an irresistible force, but they must put aside their own petty rivalries to do so.
Background: Most nobles were born into luxury, trained from birth to lead men and deal with backstabbers who would steal the heritage of their family line. A rare few earn their way into the nobility, having risen from common blood through great deeds for a king or other high-ranking noble.
Other Classes: Nobles have a close relationship with knights, ordaining them, giving them quests, and leading them into battle. Although divine magic is much sought after, and a priest is an ideal advisor for a noble, he is always wary of the adversarial nature of the institutions of the nobility and the clergy.
Role: The noble is a leader, both in times of peace and times of war. In battle, he serves to inspire others, but is a highly capable combatant in his own right.
Game Rule Information
Nobles have the following game statistics.
Abilities: Charisma is the most important ability, followed by Intelligence. Since military service is an important way to gain fame and standing among your peers, Strength and Constitution are also important.
Nobility: To qualify for the Noble class a character must have a nobility of 51. Characters of Royal Bloodlines qualify for this class immediately, other characters must raise their nobility to 51 to qualify for this class. Once a character has qualified and gained their 1st level in the Noble class, only a king may strip him of the right to gain levels in the Noble class.
Hit Die: d8
The Noble’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Bluff (Cha), Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (history, nobility and royalty) (Int), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), and Sense Motive (Wis)
Skill Points at 1st Level: (4 + Int. modifier) x4.
Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 4 + Int. modifier.
|Table X-X: The Noble|
|Level||Base Attack Bonus||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Special|
|1st||+0||+0||+0||+2||Dispense Justice; Aura of Nobility; Noblesse Oblige|
|4th||+3||+1||+1||+4||Aura of Courage|
|5th||+3||+1||+1||+4||Divine Wrath 1/day|
|8th||+6/+1||+2||+2||+6||Divine Right (Aura of Majesty)|
|10th||+7/+2||+3||+3||+7||Divine Wrath 2/day|
New Prestige Classes
As you know, all books wishing to carry the d20 license must include prestige classes. We hate to do it, but hey, we’re required to! Wait, I’ve just been informed by my publisher that we really aren’t; he’s just been telling me that all this time. Ah well, prestige classes are fun! And the kids, with their cell phones and PDA’s just love ‘em. Excalibur includes an assortment of prestige classes tailor made to bring the thrill of honorable combat and clashing swords to your gaming table, including the Crusader, Enchantress, Lady of the Lake, Quest Knight, and the Spectral Knights, 5 classes that allow you to take the role of a Black, Blue, Green, Red, or White Knight.
For our preview of the prestige classes, let’s take a look at the Red Knight, a shadowy, honorless figure that uses magic as well as steel to solve his problems.
The red knight uses sorcery to supplement his combat abilities, usually for disreputable ends. Since no self-respecting knight would do this, red knights tend to keep their abilities secret until needed, or operate alone.
Hit Die: d8.
To qualify to become a Red Knight, a character must fulfill the following criteria.
Base Attack Bonus: 5+
Skills: Hide 5 ranks, Bluff 5 ranks, Ride 5 ranks
Class Abilities: Sneak attack +2d6
The Red Knight’s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Appraise (Int), Bluff (Cha), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Disguise (Cha), Forgery (Int), Gather Information (Cha), Handle Animal (Cha), Hide (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge (nobility and royalty), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), and Sleight of Hand (Dex). Skill Points at Each Level: 4 + Int. Modifier
|Table X-X: The Red Knight|
|Level||Base Attack Bonus||Fort Save||Ref Save||Will Save||Special|
|1st||+0||+0||+2||+0||Mounted Combat +1|
|2nd||+1||+0||+3||+0||Sneak Attack +1d6|
|3rd||+2||+1||+3||+1||Hedge Mage spells|
|4th||+3||+1||+4||+1||Sneak Attack +2d6|
|5th||+3||+1||+4||+1||Mounted Combat +2|
|6th||+4||+2||+5||+2||Sneak Attack +3d6|
|7th||+5||+2||+5||+2||Bonus Feat; Red Armor|
|8th||+6||+2||+6||+2||Sneak Attack +4d6|
|10th||+7||+3||+7||+3||Mounted Combat +3; Sneak Attack +5d6|
All of the following are features of the Red Knight prestige class.
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: A red knight is proficient in all simple and martial weapons and with all armor (heavy, medium, and light) and shields (excluding tower shields).
Mounted Combat: At 1st the red knight gains this feat for free, provided he meets the prerequisites. A red knight who has the mounted combat feat gains bonuses to attack rolls, ride checks, and handle animal (horse) checks, as listed on the red knight’s class table. If a red knight directs his mount to attack, his mount also gains this bonus, as long as the red knight is in the saddle when the mount attacks.
Sneak Attack: At 2nd level, the red knight gains the sneak attack ability. This ability functions as described in the robber baron class description. This damage stacks with any sneak attack damage the red knight has from another class (robber baron or rogue).
Hedge mage spells: At 3rd level the red knight can cast spells as a hedge mage with a caster level equal to his red knight level minus two. The red knight casts spells off the hedge mage list and recovers spell points exactly like a hedge mage.
Red Armor (Ex): At 7th level a red knight may use red armor (information about this type of magic armor may be found in the GM’s guide).
Bonus feats: At 7th and 9th levels the red knight gains a bonus feat from the robber baron list.
Then the king stablished all his knights… and charged them never to do outrageousity nor murder, and always to flee treason; also, by no means to be cruel, but to give mercy unto him that asketh mercy, upon pain of forfeiture of their worship and lordship of King Arthur for evermore; and always to do ladies, damosels, and gentlewomen succour, upon pain of death. Also, that no man take no battles in a wrongful quarrel for no law, nor for no world’s goods. Unto this were all the knights sworn of the Table Round, both old and young. And every year were they sworn at the high feast of Pentecost.
Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur, Book III, Chapter XV
In place of alignment, Excalibur gives you nobility. Some characters will care little for how their deeds affect their soul or their honor, but many classes in Excalibur, such as the Knight, the Noble, and the Priest will gain power from a stainless spirit, and many of the prestige classes, such as the Quest Knight, are available to only the purest of heart. Unfortunately, not all men and women are noble, and many classes also represent the abilities of the black hearted, such as the Robber Baron and the Black Knight, that will serve as the most dangerous opponents to Arthur and His knights.
|1-10||Basest of the Base (an Assassin)|
|31-40||Middle Class Lineage|
|41-50||Lesser Nobility Lineage; Minimum Nobility for entry to Knight class|
|51-60||Royal Lineage; Minimum Nobility for Noble class|
|61-70||Minimum Nobility for Crusader class|
|71-80||Minimum Nobility for Quest Knight class|
|81-90||Knights of Renown (King Pellinore, Sir Gawaine, Sir Lancelot)|
|91-100||Noblest of the Noble (Sir Galahad, Sir Percival)|
Fate and Destiny
Although a character’s honor is in his hands alone, there are forces that no man can tame, and Excalibur brings these forces into the game through fate and destiny. A character may choose a fate for his character, gaining fate points as he rises in level to ensure that his fate will come true. But every character with a fate has a secret destiny, and the more fate points the character spends to gain fame and glory, the more points the DM gains to shape events toward the character’s destiny.
Can a man avoid his destiny? Possibly. Certainly consulting the hedge mage or the hermit, two classes with the ability of prophecy, and who may (at higher levels) be able to tell a character his destiny will help.
Ye shall not need, said the knight, for I shall give you such an horse as shall please you… And on the morn he heard a mass and dined; and then was brought him a fair bay courser, and King Pellinore’s saddle set upon him.
Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur
A horse is a knight’s best friend, as much a key to his success as his armor and his lance. Excalibur brings a set of simple, yet powerful rules to make each horse unique, and along with the Knight’s Warhorse class ability, a character’s mount can be shaped into a powerful cohort to accompany him on his adventures through Arthurian Britain.
Excalibur is not just a tale of mounted knights, however. Merlin and Morgan le Fey have their place in the tales as well. Excalibur provides the GM with rules designed to bring the power and mystery of that magic to his game, with spontaneous cast magic, spell points to replace spell slots, and sources of power.
Each magic using class in the game has its own source of power. For hedge mages the ley lines that course through the land of Britain, for druids the henges that link them together. Priests need the great halls of worship devoted to the One God, such as Canterbury Cathedral, or the bones of a long-dead saint, the Relics, from which to tap power. Finally, there are the hermits, who seek the One God in solitude, and draw their power from mystical vows of denial, such as chastity and silence, and from the wilderness itself. A character’s prestige class can modify his source of power as well, so a Crusader gains power when occupying the Holy Land, wrested with blood and steel from the hands of the infidel, while the Lady of the Lake draws her power from the secluded, fog-shrouded lakes where her sister make their home.
A Player’s Guide to Arthurian Legend
The player’s guide, and our preview, end with an extended look at the legends of Arthur from a player’s point of view, from the age of antiquity where Britain was ruled by the giants spawned by Poseidon, through the days of Roman rule and withdrawal, Saxon invasion, and finally the brief, shining moment of Arthur’s reign. Included in this section is a “who’s who”, letting player’s know the important personages of Arthurian Legend.
And we’re not stopping here! Soon after the release of the player’s guide will come a book dedicated to game mastering Excalibur, including dozens of sample quests to ease a GM through a short series of adventures, and complete campaign backdrops, providing a road map (including important NPC statblocks needed for the campaign) for countless evenings of enjoyment.