The Avalon Mesa is nowhere in particular, at least nowhere I care to identify specifically. It’s somewhere west of the Mississippi and north of the Rio Grande. Somewhere east of the Pacific and south of Canada. It’s really not too different from the setting of a lot of Westerns: out on the mythic frontier, a dusty place where cattlemen and farmers, rail barons and cowpokes, and a whole host of other Western staples all live, love, brawl, kill, and die.
It’s not really anywhen, either. It’s probably safe to guess that the events surrounding Arthur Britton and his companions are happening sometime after the U.S. Civil War, and sometime before the turn of the 20th century. But don’t get too much more particular, because time is fuzzy out on the range, especially in a place where big destinies come to call.
I’ve mentioned several times that I intend the Avalon Mesa to be a Weird Western, but I haven’t elaborated too much on the idea. While one of the design goals for the Avalon Mesa is of course to keep it true to John Wayne and Louis L’Amour, it also has to be true to the mythic roots in Arthurian legend, a genre filled with old magics, powerful artifacts, and curses and quests. Most of the heroes of the Avalon Mesa are carrying the weight of destiny on their shoulders, but aside from that their abilities have been relatively mundane. Sure, we’ve met hardscrabble brawlers and crack shots and expert gunfighters, but we haven’t met anyone with real magic. Until today, we hadn’t met the Avalon Mesa’s version of Merlin.
Merlin — also known as Myrddin Emrys, Merlinus, Merlin Ambrosius, and a host of other names — was actually one of the first characters developed for the Avalon Mesa. To stay true to the character, he had to be magical (or at least mystical), wise, and just a little sly. Like many of the other characters who regularly appear in the tales surrounding the Round Table, Merlin’s characterization is not completely consistent, but one thing that comes through is that — if nothing else — Merlin is a liar. Sure, he might be a liar working for a greater good, but the basic sense of dishonesty is there.
We join our Merlin — now calling himself Martin Ambrose — with some of his greater lies behind him. For example, his hand in Arthur’s dishonest conception is left conveniently a couple of decades before the game opens, but distance by no means leaves us with an honest man. Many versions of Merlin are effectively immortal, and in at least a couple of cases he’s the son of an incubus and nun who was born as an old man and lives backwards in time…because I guess that’s what happens when an incubus and a nun have feelings.
I stuck with the (effectively) immortal, but leave Martin’s parentage to your imaginations. Sickos.
(for Savage Worlds)
Attributes: Agility d6, Strength d4, Smarts d10, Spirit d8, Vigor d4
Skills: Fighting d4, Guts d8, Healing d8, Knowledge: Arcana d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d4, Riding d4, Shooting d4, Spellcasting d12
Traits: Pace 5, Parry 4, Toughness 3, Charisma 0
Hindrances: Elderly (Penalty to Pace, Strength, and Vigor), Quirk (Must hide magic), Vow (Protect Arthur and his companions so that they may fulfill their destinies)
Edges: Arcane Magic (You can cast spells), Wizard (Each raise on Spellcasting roll reduces cost by 1 power point), Hard to Kill (Ignore wounds when making Vigor rolls for incapacitation), Power Points (You get extra power points)
Spells: Burst (Cost 2; Range: cone; Agility or 2d10 damage to all in cone), Deflection (Cost 2; Range: Touch; Attacks are -2, -4 with raise, counts as armor vs. area attacks), Telekinesis (Cost 5; Range: small burst; Move single target weighing 10x Spirit die type (50x w/raise), weapons use arcane skill & Spirit, drop does Spirit+d6 damage).
Gear: Walking stick, old brass ring, stubborn mule (and cart), derringer pistol, bowie knife, broken suspenders.
All this has happened before. You hope it never has to happen again. For endless ages you’ve watched this drama play out, filled with so much unnecessary loss and suffering. But every time, you learn a little more. You get a little closer to stopping the dark power that now wears the pretty face of ravenhaired Morgan Fay. But the old power is not to be used to impress: magic has dire consequences, and must be kept from even fated mortals like Arthur and his friends. So you hide your power beneath simple tricks and tonics, letting others believe that you’re either a snake oil salesman or a doddering old fool. You are neither, but it serves your purposes to let them believe the lie.
You rescued a young Arthur Britton from agents of the dark power, but were too late — again — to save his father. You’ve stayed close to his side ever since. You know his destiny is out on the Avalon Mesa…you only pray that what you’ve taught him will prevent the same tragic end you’ve seen happen over and over again. He’s like a son to you, and you never want to lose him again.
Kay Roman is a rambunctious young lady with the heart of a warrior, a wild spirit with no sense of a woman’s proper place. You’re frequently bemused by her behavior, but never surprised. Though you were never far from Kay and Arthur during their tumultuous childhoods, you’ve never been as close to her as you are to him. Still, she could use instruction on the behavior befitting a lady of her station.
Lance Franks is a dangerous man with two paths before him. He can be Arthur’s salvation, or his doom. You can see he struggles against his darker impulses, but you can never fully trust him. You are ready to restrain him should it become necessary. Still, sometimes the situation calls for a killer, not a king. These are the moments Lance Franks was born for.
Pale Horn is a leader in his own right — once a chief among his own people — perhaps the only one of Arthur’s companions who truly understands the demands placed on him. You respect his wisdom and his savage strength. You suspect he can feel the old spirits of the otherworld, for he was once and will again be entrusted with the protection of the Grail. Consequently, he may have a sense of your true power. If so, his discretion is admirable.
Percival Kingfisher is only a child, but destiny has much in store for this young man. He will become a warrior of great renown, and no matter Arthur’s fate he will one day be called to recover the Grail. You let others teach him the ways of the gun, but you will teach him strength of spirit, wisdom, and cunning.