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Reviews: Tales of the Spectre Kings
 
by Joe G. Kushner


The 
Spectre King Tales of the Spectre Kings
Published by Green Knight Pubishing
$20.95
128 b & w pages

A collection of adventures for the Pendragon game, Tales of the Spectre Kings brings a good portion of the supernatural to King Arthur's age. Five of these adventures are reprints from the original Spectre King, save that "The Grand Tournament of Logres" has been replaced with "The Adventure of the White Horror." Within these pages, players will go through "The Spectre King," "The Werewolf," "The Ghost Knight," "The Helmed Knight," "The Horned Boar," and "The White Horror."

"The Spectre King" involves the characters in a straightforward manner as they happen to be in the right place at the right time. One of the virtues of playing in a knightly game is that when presented with the challenge, the players, in theory at least, will take the bait and engage the foe. In this case, a ghostly knight is haunting the lands and must be stopped. Unfortunately, mere mortal weapons aren't sufficient to defeat it and the players must do a little leg work while avoiding any bad blood between their group and the knights whose land they seek to protect. It all ties together nicely with the players riding to battle against the Spectre King with a special sword and a touch of the old Latin language to put the undead king down again.

"The Werewolf" adventure puts the players in the midst of a mystery as on a hunt, they encounter a wolf with the courtesy of a knight. With a feast at Camelot coming up, the players are prompted to bring the wolf with them where King Arthur offers up fame and glory to the one who unveils the secret of the wolf. Mostly intrigue and problem solving, the players will have to interview many people before the clues begin to click into place for some. For others, a few subtle hints here and there may automatically alert the players as to what's going on. GMs may have to fudge some of the adventure around to insure such keen minds don't ruin it for the rest of the group.

In "The Ghost Knight," the party gets to engage in a little melee, as well as a little mystery solving. The host of a small tournament has unearthed a grave menace in the form of the Ghost Knight, and as with the Spectre King, the players weapons are unable to effect them, thus they must search out a means of defeating the undead. In this case though, the party gets to meet some interesting characters like old Skinny, as well as battle a green wyrm.

"The Helmed Knight" is a little different in that it focuses on love and the struggles that the chivalrous knights go through for it. When the players come upon the Helmed Knight, they are asked to take his message of marriage to his love, because he is too shamed by his appearance to do so. As they draw near, they discover that a rogue knight has already made off with Eleri, the Helmed Knight's love, and not only must they win her back, but they must prove her chaste status.

"The Horned Boar" puts the party in search of magical horns of ancient Roman origin to battle the forces of the Angles that seek to overcome a noble family fallen on hard times. During the course of this adventure, the party will have opportunities to find romance, as well as test their mettle against their Angle enemies at more than one encounter.

The last adventure, "The White Horror," involves the players battling the undead King Horsa, the brother of King Hengist's, the enemy from the book's first adventure. Here, the players must discover why a foe slain in honorable combat has come back and discover the methods necessary to overcome him. This adventure is directly tied in with the first one, but can be run as a separate adventure for different characters if necessary.

One of the disappointing things about the book is the fact that despite being a reprint with some corrections, there are still some orphans in the text, as well as some misplaced and repeated paragraphs, such as the background of the White Horror.

One of the nice things is that it's everything that a good collection of adventures should be. It fits the genre and theme of Pendragon perfectly, and doesn't rely merely on one or two things to engage the player's interest in it. It provides enough options to the GM to insure that players can do more than merely battle nameless foes and minions, while at the same time ensure that the characters don't get bored at court and tired of endless romance.

To improve the overall quality of the book, the material could've been linked a little better between adventures. While independent adventures are nice, some more notes, like those in the introduction, on using them as a miniature campaign, would've been nice. In addition, using some d20 stat blocks would've made this item very popular with certain D&D groups who enjoy knightly combat, and would not have taken up that much space in the book.

Those minor issues aside, Tales of the Spectre Kings will insure that the GM gets the most out of his money for at least a few sessions of jousting.


 

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