Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Prince Valiant: Mapping New Ground

I'm not planning on playing the Prince Michael game until August but I figure that it won't hurt to start working on the scenario before I get to painting for it, especially since day time temperatures exceeding 32 degrees have made my painting desk, tucked under not yet insulated attic and eaves, uninviting .

From the archives, Prince Michael's first battle.

The main drive is partly to play a different sort of tabletop miniature game and partly to do an homage to the Prince Valiant comic strips. (As an aside, comic strip seems like an inappropriate term since the stories were not comic in nature but to re-label them as something else now smacks of revisionism and of confusing labels with substance.)  This game will bring three things to the table which are not usually seen there; skirmish gaming, magic and non-human figures, centaurs actually.

I did play a little D&D back around 1976 and did once have a few conventional wargame units (sic) of elves, dwarves, orcs and so on but its probably been more than 30 years since such a thing has appeared on my table. Skirmish games have not been as rare, I doubt if I've ever gone more than 5 years in between playing or staging one, but they aren't a main stay of my gaming despite trying to talk myself into it several times as the best way to do multiple periods.

The skirmish game is a natural for a Prince Valiant setting being at least if not more common than battles but I admit that the centaurs are just out of place. There were episodes with monsters such as giant reptiles but I don't recall ever seeing mythical creatures. Still, since I now have them, (they came bundled with other figures) I figure I may as well use them and I won't promise not to field goblins or dwarves or dragons at some future date, after all, these are Prince Michael's adventures. Magic is a little different. There was magic in Prince Valiant but it tends to leave you unsure as to whether it was real or smoke, potions and wisdom with perhaps a bit of "the second sight". I'll try to keep this in mind when drawing up rules.

Characters in waiting, all by Merten. left to right, front to back: mother and son, name unknown as yet, unknown lady, servant perhaps?, enchantress, Lady Lila with hawk, Princess Inara mounted and on foot (when priming the mounted princess could not be found until just after I'd finished which is a good guide to her character.) Back row, centaurs with one of the Dukes knights for comparison, the human half of these centaurs is big!!

A quest or task is often central to traditional adventures so the game will be based on such a task with the adventures being just things that happen along the way. The premise so far is Prince Michael and his companions have been tasked by Duke Stephen to proceed to Belmont Castle and then escort Princess Inara to the hunting lodge at Poplar Grove. Rather than take the long road around, he decides to take a short cut through the Perilous Forest.This is where we will begin.

 One of the reasons the forest is called Perilous is that it is criss crossed with paths that seem to change every time you go in. My idea at this point is to start with a table top forest with no paths. Each turn I will dice to see if there is 1,2,3 or 0 paths ahead and will then select one to follow for that turn. Once laid out, I will leave them on the table but I won't map them so they will be gone by the next day/game so when the Princess insists that Michael take her back through the forest to the hunting lodge rather than going around, it will be just as dangerous.

While travelling through the forest there will of course be encounters. Some dangerous, some benign, possibly even some helpful. I'm currently working on whether I want to roll for an encounter and then pick one of say a dozen pre-prepared ones or if I want to randomly place markers on the table and have Michael stumble on one if the path comes close. I'm not much on roll playing but luckily Prince Valiant was more about 3rd party narrative so I won't subject myself to role playing encounters and dicing for reactions, I'll just dice to see if the encounter is friendly, neutral or hostile and then resolve it, for example, an encounter with a witch might put the party to sleep with consequent loss of time and you sure don't want to be in the forest at night!

So far the following encounters are envisaged.
1) A party of Centaurs who may be hostile to trespassers
2) A witch/A beautiful enchantress
3) A large bear
4) A giant crocodile
5) A marauding band of Saxon raiders
6) A marauding band of Picts lying in ambush
7) A woman in distress and needing to be escorted to safety
8) A knight errant seeking fame and adventure

Any other suggestions?


  1. Maybe a woodsman who can guide the party for a little ways?

    1. Ah woodcutter, huntsmen and charcoal burners, and their daughters, classic story characters. Of course while they are usually of a good nature and helpful, some are under the influence/control of the evil witch queen and thus liable to mislead until set free.

      Good idea.

  2. I did something like this once using variations on The Forest is Vast and The Ruins are Endless. You might find something interesting in them? They basically divide the table into squares and have a table to see what's going on when you enter one. I prefer some things from Forest and some from Ruins, but they're pretty easy to mix in.

    Things you might want to add to your list: rare, valuable plants or herbs to gather, a small settlement, animals worth hunting for a turn, an area of unexpectedly dense terrain or a river or something that modifies the next area? You seem to have the aggressive encounters down, although your list is missing an owlbear. Owlbears are always appropriate.

    I hope you post a follow-up or three on this game!

    1. My encounters are based on what miniatures I have to hand. Owlbears! There's a term I've not heard in a long time! I see in wiki that it was based on a plastic toy that Gygax found. My kind of inspiration! The hunting diversion is good, hunting appears in Prince Val and some Arthurian tales start with a white stag causing a chase, often with the initial party getting split.

      The grid idea is good, I've been pondering one anyway. I'll think on it.

      Thanks for the links, I didn't realize Trevor's old Colonial page was still up and didn't remember the rules anyway. I've had a quick look and will revisit them.

      There will be more posts!

  3. Lost children who decide it is time to play hide-and-seek.
    A party of lost pilgrims on a pilgrimage -- who plead for help.
    Owls, Ravens or other symbols-of-death.
    Freshly killed (and looted) people -- with the track of the culprits leading off in the wrong direction.

    -- Jeff

    1. Some good thoughts there Jeff. Interesting challenge to sculpt some 40mm birds, but they are a classic elements in tales, esp when they talk.

  4. Hi Ross,
    Grand idea for a mini-campaign. Why not draw out the outline of the territory that Val will pass through and roll a die each campaign turn to see which danger he meets? These could be added onto the map and the territory drawn in as Val's party proceeds.
    Additional threats might be:
    1. The descendants of Romans who had mysteriously disappeared a millenium ago;
    2. Angry xeno-phobic villagers;
    3. Raiders from Ireland;
    4. Vikings;
    5. A succubus queen and her horific minions;
    6. Saurian mutants.
    While I do not particularly favor things like numbers five and six considering that Val's sword has a somewhat magical quality, they are not totally out of place. They also would fit into the landscape of a dark land which is dangerous, mysterious and un-mapped until it is drawn in by the gamemaster. Good gaming.
    A/K/A The Celtic Curmudgeon

    1. Huh, I could have sworn I replied to this a couple of days ago. Anyway, things have to be either available or easily made from what's in th cupboard but there are some good ideas there.

      The combination of descendants and unfriendly villagers made me think of the little folk in Rosemary Sutcliffe's Arthur novel Swords at Sunset. I think my old 25mm Picts might be too small though. The clunky 25mm triceritops with lizardman crew might however be a possibility, the dinosaur would only be about the size of a rhino. Maybe.

      The older form of succubus might work, the sort that lay with men while they slept. It would be one of those encounters where its hard to say if it was a matter of potions and dreams or something more sinister. Perhaps an evil off spring to appear at later date or perhaps just some lost hours and strength.

      thanks for the ideas Jerry.



    Are you coming to Historicon? Are you running a game?

    Hopefully yours,


    1. Unfortunately I won't be there. I had hoped to make. Fall In but that is out to, possibly next year.

  6. Hi Ross,
    The lady in distress adds a short-term goal (escorting her to safety), but she or another encounter -- either human or supernatural -- could also provide a long-range goal, such as a military task or a quest, even if it's not a grail-shaped beacon.

  7. Good point. When I mentioned in the post that there might be a follow on game, I was thinking in terms of a rescue mission but there could be more to it than that. Hints of a treasure, a village/castle/kingdom to be freed from a tyrant, I'll have to look at possibilities. Thanks John.