A hack of Under my Skin by Emily Care Boss
Part of the Romance Trilogy Hacks & Mods publication.
A semi-live game for 4 to 7 players (a mix of tabletop and live action play)
Time: approx. 4 to 6 hours
Guinevere, Gwenevere, Gwenhwyfar, Guanhumara, Guennuuar, Wenneuereia, Gwynnever. Many names, Many forms, many tales.
This is one telling of the tragic events of the court of Arthur, the knights and ladies there. Of magic, battles won, loves lost and kingdoms torn apart.
Play this game by acting out scenes from the stories of love and war, and by telling tales of the quests. Characters are provided based on the figures from story and poetry. The base game includes four roles: Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and Morgaen. With more players add additional roles: Mordred, Merlin, Nimue.
Have one player take the role of Director, to keep track of scenes, to suggest meta-techniques and to close scenes. Or players may work together to take care of these tasks, and take the role of Director when not in a scene.
What is Camlann?
The tragic battlefield where Arthur slew his (sometimes) son Mordred and took a mortal wound.
Which version of the Arthurian legend is this based on?
The events of the tale are most related to those found in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain written in the 12th century. The feel of the love and betrayals are inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Idylls of the King poetry cycle of the 19th century. The feats and quests of the knights and ladies of Camelot are inspired by early folklore from the 7th century. Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon provide inspiration for the empowered state of women. John Boorman’s Excaliber lends flavor as well.
How do roles of women differ here from in the legends?
Women are included in leadership and combat here. In the legends, women hold positions of power, wield magic and courtly status, but are often subject to the choices made by men in their lives. Agency is added to influence in this rendition.
Structure of play:
Add scenes and quests to the Outline
Begin play with the funeral of Arthur
Play out scenes
Ask questions for Quests
End play by sending Arthur to Avalon
Arthur — Foretold High King of England. Formed his round table of knights and ladies. Fought invading armies, monsters and seeking the Holy Grail. Taught by Merlin.
Arthur is a loving husband, and generous king. He has a blind spot for those he loves most and will do anything for them.
Arthur is married to Guinevere of the Golden Hair, the most beautiful and talented woman in England. They have no children. Arthur was raised by a foster father, Sir Ector with his foster brother Kai, a strong but mean knight.
Arthur is son of Ygraine by Uther Pendragon who took the place of her rightful husband through means of the magic of Merlin. His true identity was hidden by Merlin until revealed when he took the sword from the stone and became the King of England.
· What shows Arthur’s jealousy of Guinevere?
· What passion does Arthur show when he speaks of the Grail? Ambition, piety, fear, despair?
Guinevere of the Golden Hair — most beautiful and talented lady in all of England. Daughter of King Leodegrace, King before Arthur. She and Arthur meet and marry after he takes the sword from the stone. She leads the court of Camelot in chivalry and the noble arts of love and war.
Guinevere is a woman with a torn heart. In love with her husband, the most noble warrior Arthur, but drawn to his greatest knight and best friend, Lancelot of the Lake. Though she longs to have children for Arthur, she bears none.
Guinevere is moved by her passions and her love for the land. It is the greatest irony that her divided love also divides the country.
· What art of war is Guinevere most skilled at?
· What token does she bear reminder of her oath to be true to both men she loves?
Lancelot of the Lake — Shining knight from Avalon, Arthur’s right hand man, Guinevere’s public champion and private beloved.
Lancelot joins Arthur’s round table late, but becomes the most celebrated of its members. His love for Guinevere is a secret, and long unconsummated. At jousts and on journeys he takes no token from any lady, holding himself simply as the Queen’s champion. Arthur’s absolute trust of him allows him time with her, as her personal guard on pilgrimages and quests, but provides the opportunity for their betrayal.
After nearly dying, Lancelot pledges his love to Elaine of Astalot, who heals and rescues him. He wears her favor, but can never truly give her his heart. He abandons her and she dies.
· What near-mortal wound did Guinevere take that broke down Lancelot’s resolve to keep his love for her pure?
· What does Lancelot most fear Arthur will do if he finds out?
Morgaen le Fay — master of magics and brilliant tactician, Morgaen is half-sister to Arthur and mother to his son, Mordred. Raised by the Lady of the Lake, Vivien, in Avalon, she was foster-sister to Lancelot. She is drawn to Merlin whom she sees as an equal.
Morgaen is a woman of strength and strong passions, making the best of the life that has been given to her. She and Arthur loved one another before while his paternity was yet hidden by Merlin. She honed her skills to protect her son and to win Arthur’s love by proving her worth to him.
Morgaen is a powerful support to the armies of England. She and her son serve in the Round Table and fight for Arthur. But when she reveals that Mordred is Arthur’s son he rejects them both. She turns to Merlin who also spurns her. These rejections turn her energy toward placing her son on the throne and destroying Arthur.
· What spell did Morgaen use to turn the tide of battle against the invading Saxon army?
· What did Arthur do that made Morgaen finally believe in her heart that he could never accept her love?
Mordred — the son of Arthur by his half-sister Morgaen, a talented knight of the Round Table, and eventual pretender to the throne of England. Mordred was raised by his mother Morgaen and spent part of his childhood on the isle of Avalon. He knows some small magics, but is most powerful in the arts of war and manipulation of minds. A member of the Round Table he initially respected Arthur and held great admiration for Queen Guinevere of the Golden Hair.
Brought to the court of Camelot, he looked up to Arthur. That ended when Arthur repudiated his mother when she revealed him as Mordred’s real father. Mordred has channeled his hunger for love into a quest for power.
Mordred feels great passion for Guinevere, and disdains Lancelot for his cowardice. He leads them into a trap which reveals their betrayal of Arthur. Then takes opportunity for seizing the crown, and Guinevere, for himself.
· How did Arthur save him from goring by the great boar Trwth?
· What word did Guinevere give Mordred that makes him believe he might accept him as husband if he can oust Arthur?
Merlin the Wise — master of mystic powers, Merlin is an esteemed member of the Round Table, advising Arthur and lending aid on quest and in battle. He loves Arthur deeply and one-sidedly.
Merlin’s conspiracies have placed Arthur on the throne, but also have caused much of the grief he bears. Merlin used magic to allow Arthur’s father Uther access to lie with Lady Ygraine. She was the wife of Gorlois, the King of Cornwall whom Uther overthrew and slew. Ygraine had Arthur by Uther, and then died. Their other child, Morgaen le Fay was sent by Merlin to be raised by Vivien, the Lady of the Lake.
Merlin has a fateful vision about Nimue, but falls in love with her and takes her as a student despite it.
Merlin’s Vision: Merlin loves Nimue and teaches her. She learns from him and takes his powers away. When she has learned all his magic, she imprisons him in a crystal cave.
Merlin sees the Morgaen looks to him for love, but is repulsed by her sin of incest and rejects her.
· What makes Merlin accept his vision and work to fulfill it?
· When did Merlin realize he loved the man that Arthur had grown to be?
Nimue — born the daughter of a peasant, she rejects her place in the world. She goes to Camelot disguised as the knight Pellias. Becomes the squire of Merlin the Wise, and learns the skills of warcraft and wizardry from him despite his Vison. His student Morgaen is her dear friend and confidant. She befriends Mordred, and grieves that he makes war on Arthur.
Merlin’s Vision: Merlin will come to love Nimue deeply and teaches her. She learns from him and takes his powers away. When she has learned all his magic, she imprisons him in a crystal cave.
Nimue as Sir Pellias seeks the love of the lady Ettare who rejects her and marries the knight Gawain instead. Merlin’s love turns into an obsession with Nimue. In the end, she fulfills the prophetic dream.
· What was the golden token Nimue gained on a quest for the lady Ettare?
· What powers of Merlin are most tempting to Nimue to learn?
Vivien, Lady of the Lake — mistress of the island of Avalon, gave Excaliber to Arthur
Sir Ector — Arthur’s foster father
Kai — Arthur’s foster brother, a bully
Elaine of Astolat — loves Lancelot who abandons her, sets herself in boat and dies as she reaches Camelot
Lady Ettare — a beautiful, wealthy and cunning lady of the kingdom
Gawain — son of Morgaen le Fay and King Lot
Bedivere — one of earliest knights, sole survivor of Camlann, lost hand to Giant of Mt Saint-Michel
Galahad — son of Lancelot and Elaine, greatest knight ever, most noble
Tristan — great archer, second only to Lancelot
Lamorak — third strongest knight, fought off 30 knights
Read aloud the description of the scene.
The character indicated gives an internal monologue to set the tone.
Players with characters in the scene act out the initial situation and build on that.
End the Scene at the story mark noted in the description, or when it feels dramatically right.
Opening (ritual) — Death of Mordred, Arthur is mortally wounded — the knights find Mordred and Arthur on the battlefield of Camlann.
Marriage of Arthur and Guinevere — a joyous day in Camelot, all the knights are with them, Arthur names Lancelot the protector of Guinevere
Lancelot and Guinevere become lovers — after rescuing Guinevere from near death on a quest, Lancelot confesses his love
Arthur rejects Morgaen and Mordred — Morgaen reveals the identity of Arthur’s son, offers him an heir. Arthur brutally rejects them both and exiles them from his court.
Arthur imprisons Guinevere in a Tower for her betrayal — Arthur learns of Guinevere’s affair with Lancelot and imprisons her, Lancelot’s army enters to besiege the tower and rescue Guinevere at end of scene
Error at the Parley of Camlann — Talks are called during war between Mordred and Arthur’s armies, peace almost breaks out until a knight takes out sword to kill an asp on the field, ending all hope of ending the war
Ending (ritual) — Arthur taken to Avalon, Sword given back to Lady of the Lake Playing Scenes
Additional Scenes for 5 or more players:
Training of Morgaen and Arthur by Merlin — Morgaen and Arthur as youths learning together and falling in love
Knighting of Sir Pellias (Nimue) and appointment as advisor and protector of Arthur — Nimue enters the service of king Arthur and is offered training by the smitten Merlin
Trap set for Lancelot and Guinevere by Mordred and Arthur — Mordred brings Arthur to a cottage where Lancelot and Guinevere have a tryst
Nimue saves Arthur from Morgaen’s gift of poisonous raiments — Nimue intercepts a deadly gift from the exiled Morgaen
Choose a quest to embark on in between scenes. These are flashbacks to the glory days of Camelot. Choose up to three characters to be on the quest. Some quests mention specific characters who should be involved.
The other players ask hot seat questions of those on the quest. (See Meta-Techniques) With four players, each player asks two questions. With five or more, each player asks one question each.
Seeking the cauldron of Cerridwen — A magical vessel that gives great powers to the first to taste its contents after being tended for a year and a day. Said to be the source of Merlin’s power and guarded by blacksmith with armor that cannot be pierced.
Palamedes kills the Questing Beast — A ravenous, barking monster that stalked the woodlands and killed many. Born of a princess who fell in love with her brother and was tricked into having sex with a demon. Killed by the Good Knight, the Saracen Palamedes with the help of other knights of the Round Table.
Hunting great boar Twrch Trwyth — A knight needs a wedding present to marry the giantess Olwen. Only the razor-like tusks of Twrch Trwyth (a prince transformed into this beast with poisonous bristles) can cut her hair. The knights are called in to bring Arthur’s great dog Cavall to hunt it.
Giant of Mt Saint-Michel — A giant steals the child of a local lord on the coast of Brittany. Arthur and Sir Kay fight and kill the giant by blinding it with its own blood.
Lancelot and the Copper Knight — Twenty knights guard the Dolorous Guard (Castle of Sadness) and the Copper Knight who challenges Lancelot. After beating them all, the Copper Knight disappears, leaving a copper plaque declaring the castle Joyous Guard, property of Lancelot.
Ritual — Opening and closing scene. These are near-wordless scenes. Lay out the dead and dying Arthur and Mordred as if on a battlefield or boat. May play music if desired.
Internal Monologue — Used in scenes. The thoughts and feelings of the character are spoken out loud for a brief period. They are given as an aside during a pause in play, so are not heard by the other characters.
Hot Seat — Used in quests. Players with characters in the Quest sit facing the others who ask them questions about what their character experienced. The purpose of questions is to 1) establish the power and talents of the characters 2) put them in situations of failure or loss, or 3) give them hard choices to make. Questions state something about what occurred, and ask for the player to embellish on them. For example:
Establish talents: “When the Copper Knight ambushed Lancelot on the green road how did Lancelot overpower him?”
Failure or Loss: “What did Guinevere do to make the guardian of the Cauldron curse Guinevere to never know a child’s love?”