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The Green Knight RPG

May 28, 2022

I picked up The Green Knight game, which is based off the recent movie, which, in turn, is based off the Arthurian legend and appears to be part of the wider folk lore of “decapitation challenge” tales. Most of the time, I feel very few RPGs do a good job of capturing the source material (“Is this story really about 5 foot steps and attacks of opportunity? Hmmm.”)

In this case, I think The Green Knight is an excellent game and a good “teaching game” for people who haven’t done roleplaying or GM’d a game. It’s worth knowing that the game is basically designed to play out over 1, maybe 2 sessions, with a linear set of encounters, as each of the party members is seeking out the Green Knight to fulfill the vow to let him strike at them after a year. There’s 5 characters to choose from, and a little bit of customization to each of them.

It is very helpful to have some familiarity with the tale and/or the movie, but if someone can pick up on the old European folk tale + mysterious fae beings vibe, they could probably go without direclty knowing either.

Neat System Stuff

This is a simple, clean, and focused game system.

This is a game about honor. However, what we track on the character sheet is Dishonor. It goes from 1 to 20. Whenever you attempt something honorable, you have to roll over it. Whenever you attempt something dishonorable, you have to roll under it. The score fluctuates up and down but it’s clearly easier to gain Dishonor than to lose it. And when it hits 20, your character either dies or leaves the quest (there is no death mechanics or injury rules outside of this).

Every encounter and every round in the encounter, everyone gains 1 Dishonor (because it is delaying them from finding the Green Knight, per the vow. So, you realize that over the course of play, everyone is slowly being pushed towards further and further dishonorable actions as they become more likely to succeed.

Of course, there are some skills and stat choices that allow you to modify rolls, and many characters have a few abilities to negate Dishonor gain or remove Dishonor under the right conditions.

Also, another neat mechanic is the initiative system; every player is randomly rolling to see who goes first, but more importantly, the person who rolled the best is “the Leader” for this encounter. And what the Leader gets to do is after the first round, decide if the party is going to keep trying to resolve the situation or just leave. This neatly skips the problem that often shows up in D&D about party conflict, at least mechanically.

A Teaching Game

While the rules literally tell you how the game works, the actual written encounters give you step by step reminders of the process (“Give everyone 1 point of Dishonor to start this encounter. Here’s how to roll initiative”) and then goes into likely player actions and skills that apply to the situations and what outcomes make sense.

Now, I’m definitely the number one person to stand against railroading and Illusionism, I think this game makes it work by virtue of a) being open that the encounters/situations are linear, b) being designed for a very short game (1-2 sessions), and c) being a teaching game that can give people the most rudimentary ideas of how to run RPGs. It’s the same way I look at Candyland as a boardgame – it’s literally all chance and linear, HOWEVER, it teaches you how to take turns and basics of boardgames. (Also, it helped kids who were suffering polio, so… there’s that too.)

Overall

I think if you want a good teaching game or something you can break out and play without prep, The Green Knight is a solid game. If you design games, this is a pretty great example of a focused game that manages to do a lot without getting burdened the way most traditional games do. It does only give 5 character sheets, each of which IS the particular character class – so you’ll definitely want to photocopy these rather than use them up.

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