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Other Arthurian Games by Greg

In addition to King Arthur Pendragon I’ve done an Arthurian miniatures game, a board game, and another roleplaying game.

King Arthur's Knights
Merlin
Prince Valiant

1978
King Arthur’s Knights

I began in designing board games. Since I love King Arthur, I wanted to do one based on the legend.

William Church did the gorgeous map. It’s a pretty simple quest game, and you get to choose what kind of knight you wish to play: beginning, regular or superior.

You march around the board and choose cards for the encounters at each region. The cards are opponents that remain there afterwards, roll dice to fight them. If you defeat them you take the card off. It has special places, etc., and you play until someone gets enough points to win.

The farther north you go, the tougher the opponents are. Beginning knights have to stay south. And to prevent the tough knights from mopping up the south, and depriving the beginning knights of their natural adventures, there are really powerful women there who can disable the powerful knights, but who can be ignored by beginning knights. Game balance, you know.

The flaw in the game is that you have to leave cards on the board, so that that pretty thing gets all covered with cards. This is easily solved by just putting them to the side, and shuffling the deck when you need to start over.

This one of those really “old time” games that came packaged in a plastic zip lock bag.

1980
Merlin

One day I got a call from Duke Seifreid of Heritage Miniatures to do a little miniatures game for his company. He wanted a game and told me exactly what it had to entail. The pay was great for the time—the highest I’d ever been paid for my work at the time—so I agreed. Duke gave me specific instructions on what was desired, and sent an agreeable contract. I did the game and sent it of promptly, and got paid on time. Incredible!

Then I got a call (yea, man, a phone call. There was no email, and we used to talk to each other) from the production manager telling me that it wasn’t right and I would need to do it again. I suggested that he read the contract and then read the game, and he’d see I fulfilled my obligations. If he wanted me to do it again, said I’d be happy to see do what he wanted and be paid again for doing the work. He declined, and the game was published as I originally did it.

It is basically a magical dueling game between Merlin and organ le Fay. It has a couple of figures, and the tiniest cat figure I've ever seen. Thus it’s a miniatures game.


1989
Prince Valiant, The Storytelling Game

I had been wanting to do a nice, simple RPG for quite some time. People would often ask what I did for a living, and when they asked if I could play one of my games with them I’d explain what was required and often they would change their mind. So I wanted a simple game I could play with a casual player.

I wanted the simplest RPG in the world. So I did Prince Valiant, the only RPG with just one page of rules. Yea, it is small type, but it’s still only one page.

I love the Prince Valiant comic. I’ve been reading it since I learned how to read, which was something like 1953 or so. It was in my Sunday comics, and I read everything in those days, even if I didn’t understand it. Even crap: Little Orphan Annie, Mary Worth, The Phantom, Rex Morgan MD. But I really liked Prince Valiant.

The Prince Valiant comic, by Hal Foster, is one of the longest-running comic strips in the world. It’s got a unique style, with fine art panels with the dialogue text underneath. When I was researching the rpg, I found a guy who had every original Sunday comic page and generously allowed me to sit in his study and go through them, page by plastic wrapped page. And at one point I was overwhelmed by deja vu when I saw one particular page and remembered the moment I decided, “OK, I like this.”

The comic had a greater impact on Pendragon than I had realized when I was making the game. I didn’t recognize the impact until I did this The Storytelling Game. Prince Valiant is set in 6th century Europe (more or less) but overlaid with Medieval customs for King Arthur and his men. Yow!

The Prince Valiant game has several original and unique devices. I could always tell when a reviewer had read it, but hadn’t played it. They didn’t see these things.

I chose this setting because it was dear to me, and I thought it would be familiar to everyone and dear to them as well. Alas, the setting actually put a lot of people off—they apparently didn’t want to play in a setting that their grandfather’s liked.

The book was billed as “The Storytelling Game.” This was years before a more famous and successful game came out bearing this label. Considering that I’d spent time every convention talking with Mark Rein•Hagen about RPGs, and he had often told me how much he admired my work, I do not doubt there was some influence on his more famous game from this one.

It was titled Prince Valiant, the Storytelling Game, because the entire emphasis was on the storytelling aspect. And yes, it was the first use of that “storytelling” term in the hobby game industry. Yes, I was WAY before Vampire and the other famous storytelling games. I used to sit at every GenCon and talk about this with Mark Rein•Hagen when he was barely more than a kid. Mind you, I’m not claiming credit for the genius of Vampire. Man, I wish I’d had that idea for doing LARPS the way they are in that game! But I am claiming credit for the angle of Storytelling RPG.

For more on Prince Valiant, both the game and the comic, check here. Todd Jensen has done an extensive annotation to the Prince Valiant Sunday comics (the inspiration behind Greg's Prince Valiant RPG), indicating sources and references that Foster used. These can be found here.


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