Now It Can Be Told! (Or, “Hear Ye! Hear Ye!”)

As announced at the Pendragon Round Table panel at Gen Con on Sunday, I have been named the new line editor for the King Arthur Pendragon RPG and related titles.

Needless to say, I am deeply honored that Greg Stafford and Steve Wieck have brought me on board in this capacity. As Greg said during the panel, the eventual goal is for me to take up the baton as Greg transitions into a well-earned semi-retirement, which means I will eventually be helming the line and carrying on Pendragon’s legacy into the future.

I’m brimming with excitement for all the cool stuff we’ll be rolling out in the coming years. With me taking care of the line editor side of things, Greg is free to concentrate on writing and creating for as long as he wishes, and we’ve got a truly fantastic lineup of products already in th hopper, ready to roll to out into the world at large.

Some highlights from the panel:

  • For those of you wondering, no, Pendragon is not returning to Chaosium. It’s still a Nocturnal Media game and will remain so. However, Chaosium has brokered a deal with Nocturnal to distribute Pendragon through their established channels and sell the game line through the Chaosium web store, greatly increasing the game’s availability and exposure.
  • We talked a bit about my Book of Feasts. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I encourage you to do so, as it elevates feasting (always an important part of Arthurian lore) to the same status and importance in the game as tournaments and battles. I can say from years of personal experience that the Feast Deck is a magical plot device generator.
  • Next up in the release queue is Robert Schroeder’s Book of Sires, a massive tome 10 years in the making that allows you to generate detailed family histories for knights from any part of Arthur’s Britain (Logres and surrounding lands), starting anywhere between 485 to 510. Not only is this a great resource for players, it also effectively serves as a deep dive into decades of the Pendragon setting’s history on a region-by-region basis, effectively allowing Gamemasters to easily set their campaigns outside the default Salisbury region. The book is going through final layout, and we’re hoping to have it out by the end of the year. I saw a pre-publication copy at the panel, and this thing is a beast!
  • Steve announced that the new art for Paladin is in, and we’re looking at getting the updated PDF out to Kickstarter backers in just a few weeks, perhaps by the end of the month. We’ll let our eagle-eyed readers have a couple weeks to spot any typos that were missed, and then the files are off to the printers!
  • Nick Tolimieri’s Book of Castles is next in the pipeline. Another heavily-researched tome years in the making, this book features expanded rules on siege warfare and fortifications, as well as details on many of the castles of Arthur’s Britain.
  • After Sires and Castles, next in the pipeline is David Zeeman’s Book of Magic. This brings magician characters into the 5th edition fold, and does it in a way that integrates them seamlessly with player-knights in a really clever way that is faithful to the literature. The book also contains extensive details on every magical item mentioned in the medieval sources, lists of pagan gods and faerie creatures (and the magical effects of encountering them...), rules for “Wondrous Trials,” and much more. Like Sires, this is a supplement 10 years in the making; I’m really excited for this one.
  • We also talked about the next Nocturnal Kickstarter project, Myrmidon. Like Paladin, this game takes the King Arthur Pendragon engine into another mythic period—in this case, the ancient Bronze Age. Look for that some time after we get Paladin all finished up. And a bit further off in the future is my own Samurai, developed in cooperation Japanese game designer Nobuaki “Tak” Takerube, set in the quasi-mythical days of 10th-century Japan.

I recorded the panel and will post it once I’m back from Gen Con (today’s my travel day); it’s likely that I’m forgetting some details, but those are the broad strokes at least.

One more thing: we’re quite keen on seeing new scenarios put out for the KAP game line. Pendragon has a deep back catalog of legendary adventures, but that’s no reason not to start bringing in fresh material!

Among my duties as line editor is recruiting new writing talent, and scenario submissions are a great way to get my attention and show me your chops. As Greg said during the panel, the difference between a scenario you write for your group to play and one that’s publication-ready is a mere two months.

We’ll be putting out contact information and submission guidelines shortly, but in the meantime, those of you who wish to can start sharpening your virtual pencils and working on submissions!

[Letters from Heian-kyo] The Ushi no Koku Mairi Ritual

This is the first entry in what will be an irregular series of posts on myth and folk lore from classical Japan. Any game mechanics referenced in the post are for a modified version of the King Arthur Pendragon RPG I've been working on for Nocturnal (publishing date still TBD), but the details should be easily adapted to any system of your choice.

During the reign of Emperor Saga, a scorned wife journeyed to the Kibune Shrine on the northern outskirts of the great capital of Heian-kyo. There, during the Hour of the Ox (1:00-3:00 AM) when the boundary between the material and spirit worlds is thinnest, she prayed to the gods of the shrine, beseeching them for vengeance upon the man who had left her. She returned at the same time every night, seven nights in total.

The gods heard her prayer and directed her to don lit candles upon her head, cover herself in poisonous cinnabar, and lay down in the Uji River. The woman did as instructed, and after 21 days she became something more than human, a vengeful spirit called Hashihime ("Maiden of the Bridge").

Despite the fact that Hashihime was ultimately foiled in her attempts to kill her husband thanks to the intercession of the great wizard Abe no Seimei, her legend inspired scores of other jilted lovers to follow her lead.

The Ushi no Koku Mairi Ritual

This is perhaps Nihon's most notorious black magic ritual. To enact the ritual, gather a bundle of straw and shape it into a roughly humanoid form. Don a white kimono, cover your face with white paint or powder, then hang a mirror around your neck. Wash your hair and place the tri-pronged stand of a gotuku (iron brazier) atop your head. Stick a candle on each prong and light the wicks. Slip on a pair of geta (wooden sandals). Clench a comb in your mouth.

Taking a mallet and some iron nails with you, run from your residence to the nearest shrine that accepts curses. (In Heian-kyo, this is usually the Kifune or Jishu-jinja Shrine.) Find a tree on the property of the shrine and wait until the Hour of the Ox. Nail the straw doll to the tree while uttering salty curses against the target of your ire.

Repeat this ritual for six more nights. By the final night, the doll will have seven nails in it. Placement of the nails will determine what sort of ailments the target will develop: nails in the arm might indicate a broken humerus bone, a sprained wrist, a burn in that location, and so forth. A nail driven into the head of the doll will cause death!

If anyone sees you enacting the ritual and lives to tell the tale, the curse will rebound onto you, so make sure your nighttime visits go undetected, or else be prepared to use that dagger you thoughtfully tucked up into the sleeve of your kimono…

In order to undertake this ritual, you must possess a Kirai (Hate) passion directed at the target of the ritual. At the end of the seven-day period, roll against Kirai. With a critical success, your intended injuries affect the target. The most minor injury will occur 1D6 days after the ritual concludes; each successive injury occurs 1D6 days after the preceding wound. Wounds should cause a progressive amount of damage: 1D6 Hit Points for the first, all the way up to 7D6 for the final.

Characters may be driven to try this ritual due to madness caused by a fumbled passion roll. More usually, of course, player characters will find themselves targets of the Ushi no Koku Mairi ritual! At the Gamemaster's discretion, it may be possible to halt the progression of injuries caused by the ritual by consulting a powerful yamabushi or tengu and beseeching them to lift the curse before it is too late.