On Saturday 22nd April, I took part in Pennine Megagame’s Game of Thrones themed game, Everybody Dies Harder. The first and most important thing is for me to take a second to thank Becky Ladley who wrote and ran a FANTASTIC game. The second thing is that this is an account of the events of the day from my perspective, while I’d love to tell you all the stories I heard after the game at the pub, they aren’t my story to tell!
My story is that of the honourable lord bannerman Yohn Royce, Knight of the Vale and Lord of Runestone, and how he became known as the Rock of the East loyal to the Lord Paramount, Jon Arryn.
My goal for the day was to seek dominance over Ulmer Shett of Gulltown, who Yohn saw as someone incompetent and not worthy of this position. My plan for this going into the game was to allow Ulmer to mess up, then take advantage of this, by using bards, player characters who can go anywhere telling stories of which you can pay too spread your stories, to spread word of this in as worse a way as possible, so that Jon Arryn would have no choice but to give me dominance of Gulltown. While I was waiting for that I planned to serve the Vale as best as I could.
At the start of the day word of a tournament being held in the Riverlands was announced, being an experienced honourable knight-like-person, I felt it was best for me to attend. Having nothing vital to do until the start of the tournament, I decided to head down to the Riverlands ahead of time in order to make friends with other lords who were to attend the tournament. During this time, I managed to betroth a couple of my children to a couple of Lords and made friendly with a few different lords, as well as I paid a bard to let people know that Ulmer Shett and Gulltown is terrible, more so just to test out the bards than anything! I also met Rickard Stark Lord Paramount of Winterfell and Warden of the North who reminded me his houses words. “The Season that comes after Autumn is fast approaching.” I recommended that he should speak to a bard about making that line a little punchier.
The time of the tournament had arrived, due to it being the first tournament of the day and most of the lords in the land attending, it had been decided there would be a practice round of jousting before the main tournament began. Rather than actually force players to joust due to time and budget constraints, as well as health and safety, we used the next closest thing to fighting for honour and glory - Rock, Paper, Scissors. During the practice, I lost in the first round, which I insisted was me throwing the practice match to as I’m Yohn Royce, Knight of the Vale and practices are for amateurs. During the actual tournament, I faired much better, beating Prince Rhaegar Targaryen himself in the first round, impressing Jaime Lannister who advised me that I should inform the bards. I ended up coming in the top 6 of the tournament and was fairly happy with this.
Immediately after I returned to the Vale in order to discuss strategy with the other lords, deciding that Yohn Royce should travel to the Reach in order to follow up rumours of interest in trading our marble for their ships, as well as a betrothal interest to one of my children. Most of this time was not really interesting, as it turned out these rumours were just that.
The two important things though were - Whilst in the Riverlands, I’d paid a bard to make sure people were aware that I beat Rhaegar during the first round, to then be told by one of the lords that Rhaegar’s wife had just passed, he was very upset and was visiting the Riverlands… So I avoided Rhaegar whilst I was there! I was worried he’d hear the bards bragging about my victory and seek vengeance. Luckily he didn’t hear them and my time in the Riverlands was spent needlessly worrying.
I’d also heard word on the way back that Rhaegar has taken Lyanna Stark and Robert Baratheon was not pleased about this. I rushed back to the Vale in order to make sure we were getting ready for the shit that was about to go down, only to find out some of our armies were raised and that it wasn’t to get involved in that but to help fight off the Greyjoys in the Riverlands. Jon Arryn then tasked me to keep my armies back and help defend things at the Vale.
During this time, things were a little boring for me, as not a lot was happening at the Vale. I mean, there were things happening but nothing of major interest, I basically raised armies once or twice, only to be told to keep my forces back or the battles ending before I could get my armies ready.
Whilst trying to figure out what I was going to do in this time, I overheard Ulmer Shett and Lance Corbray (another lord of the Vale) discussing uniting to develop the Trade Guild of the Vale. Seeing the chances of Ulmer messing up when they were playing so well slipping away from me, and my chances for glory as well with my armies not doing much, I started a full-scale war the only way I could and keep my honour… By paying the bards off. Ulmer and Lance were going to ally, by holding a wedding between their children, in which they invited a bard to announce to everyone, including that they would invite Rhaegar himself to the wedding and that he would be attending.
As soon as the bard left to spread the word, I approached the same bard and paid him well to instead spread that Ulmer Shett and Lance Corbray were lying about the prince, particularly Ulmer and it was all rubbish. I paid a second bard a little less money to further spread their lies and suggest that maybe a nickname is awarded to Ulmer. Nicknames are something bards can award players and by the rules of the game, once they are stuck on to you, you’re not allowed to remove them. I was delighted to see that the bards succeeded in this and presented Ulmer with the nickname ‘Ulmer the Fork Tongued.’
We then received news that Kings Landing was under siege and Lance was going to send boats to go rescue Rhaegar (who at this point had been named the King after Aerys mysteriously had died). I paid bards to spread that Lance was going to get the King. This was the one rumour spread that backfired, as before the rumours could start spreading, Lance had already saved the King and so the rumours were received positively.
After once again been denied a chance to get involved in combat, I grew fed up of Jon Arryn’s leadership and decided to do something about it. I researched with control how I could be named Lord Paramount of The Vale, finding out I’d need the King to name me as such. This was a problem as I couldn’t just approach the King and ask his favour, he was the King after all. But the bards seemed to be doing a good job for me so far, so continued paying bards to spread my stories.
‘Jon Arryn is rubbish, Yohn Royce is amazing, and all Lords of the Vale were just fed up of Jon Arryn’. I paid bards well to spread these rumours, and after they started spreading, one by one, the various Lords of the Vale approached me to inform that they were fed up of Jon Arryn. It was almost like they heard the rumours and decided they were true. I continued spreading rumours via the bards to keep tensions high. Jon Arryn had been away for so long trying to get married that the lords had plenty of time to stew without hearing anything from him. I even tipped off Ulmer to rumours that she was worried that Lance Corbray would betray him which would lead to both of them being convinced that Jon Arryn was out to get them himself.
I was approached by these two lords with an idea, lead a coup against Jon Arryn and I would be named Lord Paramount of the Vale, with the backing of the King. Fantastic! This is what I was aiming for and I didn’t even have to directly suggest it to them! I would have what I wanted, being Lord Paramount would mean I’d have dominance over Gulltown. Even better, I already had my armies raised in The Eyrie already, I was about to set off North to help the Night's Watch fend off against Wildlings that had managed to get south of The Wall, so I was all the more prepared! However, we heard that Jon Arryn had made it back to The Eyrie, so we had to act fast.
We presented ourselves to Jon Arryn, gave him the orders we had, told him we had an army raised with the orders of arresting him. Jon however, didn’t back down from his position. Due to the tense situation with no clear way of going forward, we went to grab control to take care of things, presented the situation to them. The issue was that we set these plans into motion while we had already been in The Eyrie and Jon wasn’t, with the idea that as he gets back we stop him from entering, however, Jon was on the understanding that he’d already made it back. Control decided that Jon had made it back, got in, but our armies were surrounding him there, with only his house guard to defend him. Jon decreed two things - 1) If Yohn Royce was to stand down against these rebellious lords, he’d decree me Lord of Gulltown. 2) If Lance has written orders, he will stand down. Lance didn’t have the orders and with me having the only forces here, I had to decide on my actions… I told Lance that he should head to see the King, I’ll keep Jon Arryn here and my men will keep the peace until he returns and Jon also sent a raven out to the King to get orders.
The moment Lance left the room, due to matters we’d later find out were entirely unrelated, control informed us that Lance Corbray was assassinated the moment he leaves the siege. Great, now the only one on the coup against Jon with a direct ear to the King was dead… Then the raven from the King comes back that states the King's orders are for the rebellious lords to stand down.
With two choices on how to proceed I could either besiege Jon Arryn, who’d be unable to raise his troops and against with his house guard as he’s only defence I’d stand a good chance against him, also Ulmer was yet to raise his forces, however, it would be pointless if the King didn’t name me Lord Paramount, which if he’d told our forces to stand down… Probably wouldn’t happen.
Left with lot choice, I had to do as honour dictated and stay loyal to the King’s orders, stand my forces down and take Jon up on his offer. There were some details to be worked out but the deal went ahead, Ulmer Shett was presented the options of taking the Black or death for turning against Jon Arryn, on which he took the Black. I was to continue on my march North to assist the Night’s Watch with the forces raised from Runestone, not to raise the forces from Gulltown. Other than that I was now the lord of Gulltown and completed my objective, all it took was creating a coup against Jon Ayyrn and then betraying that coup.
After these events, Jon Arynn was presented with the nickname Jon Arynn the Indecisive and I was presented with the name The Rock of the East. For as the bards put it, the waves of the rebellion crashed on the rock of the East. I paid the bards well for a job well done and of course, if the other lords could hear this, all the better.
On my March to the Wall, I received multiple Ravens who brought me the Valyrian steel blade Dawn after the maester’s heard I was off to help out at the wall. I also heard from my bard friends that the King’s orders were different from what the raven had said. The King had said that if there were troubles in the east, he knew Yohn Royce and Lance Corbray were his friends. So, after arriving at the wall prepared to fight against the wildlings, I paid the bards to start spreading that Jon Arryn and Maester Coleman, whose raven’s had delivered the King’s orders, had faked orders from the King directly.
This is where the game came to an end. Afterwards, I’d hear many interesting stories that I was completely unaware of the events of, which is probably my favourite thing about these games, that while you’re having one game completely to yourself, there’s a dozen completely other separate games going on. Many people on the day who attended will not have had any clue about what was going on with The Rock of the East. The only story I heard afterwards that’s worth telling here is that Maester Coleman’s orders from the King never came from the King. You see, when you send a raven to the King, the King isn’t the one who see’s them, Grand Maester Pycelle does. Grand Maester Pycelle quite like’s Jon Arryn so he sent the King’s orders back. The King would have supported me should I had taken down Jon Arryn and since Lance would have been killed, he wouldn’t have been considered.
However, in megagames like this, you have to act with the information you had at the time and I stand by my choices at that time. I do wish I could have seen how things had gone differently. If the game had gone on longer or if I had to predict the further adventures of The Rock of the East, Yohn would have fought some wildlings at the wall, helped to repel those forces, while also doing everything I could have to undermine Jon Arryn’s position, hoping the King would see my heroic efforts and with the people singing out that The Warden of the East was betraying his own King… well… who knows?
I'd just like to take one more chance to thank all the control teams for running everything, Becky again for creating a fantastic game and a special thank you Paul Howarth for letting me use your photos from the day!