Sunday, November 16, 2014

Welsh Legends in The Future King

Art by John Totleben

Among other interests, Tom Moldvay evidently had a fondness for Welsh history and legends.  We see this in Priddo, a Lords of Creation setting – a parallel world where Cymric culture flourished.  “Priddo,” Moldvay tells us, “is Welsh for earth or terra.”  Google Translate does not contradict this, but suggests that 'Daearoedd' may be more appropriate (and more difficult to pronounce).

In The Future King, Moldvay makes extensive use of Welsh legends, especially as they intersect with Arthurian legend.  The premise of the adventure, of course, is to rouse King Arthur from his profound slumber.  The first character the party encounters is Taliessin, who acts as a sort of expository vehicle for the Game Master.  If The Future King is a railroad, then Taliessin is the conductor.

Among the possible random encounters in The Future King, there are:
Gwyllion – “The Gwyllion is a hideous old hag with incredible strength.  She will try to drag a victim down into her dark, other-worldly dwelling...After the Gwyllion succeeds in grabbing a victim, the heroes have only one turn to defeat her before she disappears.”
Twrch Trwyth – This is a giant, intelligent boar.  (“It has the power of speech.”)  There is a 58% chance it will attack the party; otherwise it will flee.  It has an impressive 220 Survival points, an attack success chance of approximately 92%, and a damage bonus greater than that of Corvus Andromeda's blaster.  It also has poison bristles, meaning that the victim of the attack must succeed with a Luck roll or die.
Cyhyraeth – “The Cyhyraeth is an invisible bodiless voice.  It is basically an omen for good or bad luck.”  There is an equal chance of either good or bad luck.  Bad luck means the characters have a -1 Luck modifier while good luck means the characters have a +1 Luck modifier.  Either condition lasts only until the end of the next combat.
Llamhigyn Y Dwr – Otherwise known as a 'water leaper', this giant toad automatically attacks the party.  It has 160 Survival points, an attack success chance of approximately 78%, and a damage bonus greater than a shot from a pistol but less than a two-handed axe.  It possesses 'magical armor' and its 'bloody saliva' induces hallucinations in any victim that fails his Luck roll.  This means the victim will be easier to hit in combat.
Ellylldan – This is a Will o' the Wisp.  In game terms, if a character fails his Luck roll twice, “the hero follows the Ellylldan to his death.”

Standard encounters (i.e., non-random) include a fight with the Addanc, “a monster that looks like a giant cross between a crocodile and a beaver.”  Every turn it has a bite attack and two claw attacks.  It has 140 Survival points and moderate 'armor'.  At one point in the adventure, the characters are subject to the pranks of the Coranieid Folk, “a sort of Welsh variation of dwarves with special magical powers.”  If the characters ignore the pranks, nothing happens.  If the characters somehow “join in on the spirit of the pranks,” each character is rewarded with a stone that grants magical protection (but is not cumulative with other protection).  If violence erupts between the Coranieid and the characters, a total of eight Coranieid will confront the party.  They will use their 'apportation' power to cause small rocks to fall on the characters, causing an automatic 2-12 points of damage.  After one turn of combat, the Coranieid will 'teleport' away.  The Coranieid also possess 'telepathy' and magic stones of protection.  The Coranieid have only thirty Survival points each and – in the unlikely event they enter mêlée – they wield hammers with an approximate attack success chance of 56%.

During the course of the adventure, the party encounters a variety of personalities.  Their first opponent is the giant Ysbaddaden who perhaps has the best soliloquy in The Future King.  It begins with “You cursed savage manlings...”  Iddawg (“The Embroiler of Britain”) helps the characters cross a river.  Bran the Blessed treats them to a feast.  Merlin makes a cameo appearance after the heroes defeat Vivian, thus canceling her spell.  The party finds Bedivere and retrieves Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake.  “The heroes will find they cannot actually use Excalibur in combat,” Moldvay indicates, “only Arthur can wield the sword...”  Regardless, anyone carrying Excalibur gains positive modifiers to Luck, attack, and damage.

If the players are unable to solve enough of the riddles posed to them, they may fight Morgan le Fay, who has considerable magical protection and more Survival points than a giant boar.  Not only can she cast illusions, she can use 'fascination' to cause one or more characters to fight on her behalf.  The party's final opponent is Mordred.  With only one hundred Survival points and less protection than Morgan le Fay, such an opponent may seem anticlimactic.  However, Mordred is armed with two poisoned javelins that cause death unless a Luck roll is successful.  After using the javelins, Mordred resorts to using a magic spear (75% attack success) that causes double damage.  When using the spear, Mordred cannot be disarmed.

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