This post introduces the Avalon Lost campaign setting, which will be fleshed out a bit in the next week's worth of posts. In it I've tried to mix in a bit of the post-apocalyptic feel of a Dying Earth type genre, while still keeping it tied to a quasi-historical (albeit high-mythical) version of our own Earth.
The idea is that it is now several decades after le Morte d'Arthur. The exalted age of Camelot is still remembered by many people, but after the fall of the High King, the land is in chaos. A quarter century of rising brutality, slavery, and petty kings have caused the good people of Britain to lose hope. Can a new generation of adventurers revive the lost ideals of chivalry?
It's assumed the PCs meet up with one another in a little backwater town called Londinium, circa 561 AD. King Arthur's last stand was in 536 (25 years ago), and it coincided with a mysterious climatic event that caused the Isle of Avalon to disappear beneath the waves.
Ah! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have been not since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world,
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds.
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King
FYI, one may see some similarities with Greg Stafford's monumental RPG Pendragon. That's certainly your go-to place for the heights of Arthurian glory -- but this ain't that! :-) There also may be some similarities with Jeff's Wessex campaign. However, Avalon Lost aims to be less focused on one small region, and even less "fauxthentic" in its historical accuracy. After all, once you step into the pool of Arthuriana, you're treading in the same waters as Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee, Boorman's Excalibur, and Monty Python's Holy Grail! Even a relative straight-man like T. H. White had guns and communists for Arthur to fight!
It's a grim place, but there are rumors that the candle-flame of knightly chivalry still exists... somewhere (see future post!). Most of humanity is not aware that there are things such as magic-users, or clerics that can summon miracles almost on command. There's also antipathy between these two casting classes, since most Christian clerics believe that King Arthur was cursed by his association with that devil-worshiper Merlin (who's gained similar notoriety as this guy). The few remaining secretive magic-users see things differently!
I'm assuming an absence of prevalent Tolkienish demi-humans and Gygaxian humanoids, so the choices of "race" for starting PCs are probably limited to just, well, Briton, Angle, Saxon, or Jute. There are likely to be ogres or giants in far-away remote areas (see future post!), and maybe Teutonic dwarfs over in Germany or Scandanavia. Of course, Britain is home to the Fair Folk (see future post!) and other nature spirits.
DMs should probably go with a silver standard for coins, and find a nice hexmap of Britain -- which I thought Google would provide aplenty, but I could only find one even remotely serviceable. If any one's search-fu is better than mine, please let me know. Or we can just wait for Alexis' largess to extend northwestward! Stafford has some great non-hexed period maps. Mapping out the Roman roads is good for scoping out the skeleton of (crumbling) civilization, too.
Some other tidbits for this setting include:
- The starting adventure I posted (SoSA #1) was written with this setting's Londinium in mind.
- Despite the lack of visible knights galloping around, the PCs will hear rumors that, far away, there are still places where true knighthood still flowers.
- The sinking of the Isle of Avalon wasn't the end of life in that place. It's now a thriving underwater city of mer-people. They still faithfully maintain Arthur's tomb. If the PCs ever venture in there, they'll find it EMPTY.
- Castle Camelot itself has been razed, the Round Table broken up for kindling, the earth salted, and so on. To such a degree that many nearby people don't even realize where it stood anymore. Might there be a megadungeon underneath??
- Some parts of Britain are under occupation by invaders. Saxons are in Kent, and Danes/Vikings are in the northeast. Rumors of huge slave camps abound.