A Matter of Britain
The Holy Grail and Grail Christianity
The Holy Grail is the most precious and sacred object in Britain. It played a central role in the most important events of the death of Jesus Christ.
Shortly before His death, Jesus taught his disciples the ritual of Holy Communion, a rite wherein the worshipers participate in the Last Supper of Jesus. In that rite, He used a vessel to hold the wine of the ceremony. That vessel was the Grail. Shortly afterward, He was crucified and died, and shed his blood for the redemption of humanity. Joseph of Arimathea used the vessel to catch the dripping blood of Jesus as He died upon the cross. Thus it became the vessel wherein the grace and power of Christ’s sacrifice was first held, and through which salvation was materialized.
As such, the Grail has many miraculous powers, first manifested when its keeper, Joseph of Arimathea, was imprisoned. Though kept entirely without food, the Grail fed and sustained him for years. No wonder that he kept it with him when he, with friends, family, and followers, fled to Britain.
The Holy Grail is noted for four particular powers: healing, providing sustenance, moving about at need, and changing its external form. At the Grail Castle, it feeds all present with their favorite dishes daily, just as it does when it appears at Camelot before the assembled Round Table. Sometimes it looks like a goblet, at other times a plate, and yet others as a gleaming jewel. All these things are reflections of its inner majesty and mystery.
The Holy Grail is kept at Castle Carbonek, tended by the Grail Kings and their pious court. From there they teach the secrets of Grail Christianity, which seeks the mystical understanding found in the balance of masculine power of the transcendent God and his Son and the immanent Goddess and her Daughter. It teaches the union of the lance and the cup. In fact, all of the successive Grail Kings have been affected by a particular curse: Each in turn was wounded by the sacred lance and healed by the sacred cup. The transformative mysteries of the Holy Grail were thus practiced and passed down through the centuries.
A great part of the literary tension of the Grail legend stems from the conflict between the material and spiritual—between the actual and the ideal. Thus, when the Round Table has achieved its objective in the material world and brought about peace and plenty, its knights are challenged again from different heights.
The Holy Grail is a fundamental and inseparable part of the Arthurian legend. Still, in a Pendragon campaign, each Gamemaster must make of it what he or she will. It may be the greatest device for spiritual contact in the world, or merely an illusion. Like the questing knights, each of us must decide for himself.
Grail Christianity is henotheistic, which means it accepts that other religions may be true revelations in a different form. For this reason, Grail Christians tend to be more tolerant of others’ beliefs than other forms of Christianity are.
At the heart of Grail Christianity is Compassion. In game terms, a Compassionate Character has a minimum of 15 in the following five traits:
Forgiving, for all who are compassionate must forgive the anger of those in distress.
Generous, for all who care for others must have a generous spirit.
Just, for caring for others requires you to be concerned with treating others fairly.
Merciful, for compassion requires you to act to assist those in need.
Valorous, for sympathy without action is pity, not compassion.
These traits do not supersede the Christian traits nor does having a 15 or above confer a religious bonus to knights. Knights figures earn 50 Glory annually for being Compassionate.
It is important to remember that Compassion extends to all classes. This may lead to knights acting in unknightly ways—performing an act of manual labor to aid a peasant family in distress, for example. This may lead to a loss of Honor or some other penalty. However, knights known for their Compassion are less likely to suffer social penalties for their actions, much in the way Arthurian society tends to accept a certain amount of strange behavior from Romantic knights.
Practitioners of Grail Christianity will also develop a Love (Grail) passion—in addition to or in place of their Love (God) passion. Whether or not you require player characters to develop both—as a representation of their general Christian faith and their specific faith in the power of the Grail on Earth—is up to your particular style of game.
There is a potential drawback to an exceptionally high Love (Grail) score. Once a knight’s passion exceeds 25, he will feel increasingly separated from the world and only desire to be one with the Grail and with God. During each Winter Phase, the knight must make an opposed roll between his Love (Grail) score and his Worldly Trait. On a Critically successful Love (Grail) test and a Fumbled Worldly roll, the knight dies and goes to heaven. If one or the other occurs, the knight withdraws from the world to live a life of contemplation. On a successful Worldly test, the player knight loses a point from his Love (Grail) passion. At the gamemaster’s option, player knights may choose not to increase their Love (Grail) passion beyond 20.
The Love (Grail) passion is rolled on a 3d6 (or 2d6+6 if the passion is developed at the Pentecost appearance of the Grail at Camelot), and is modified as follows:
+1 If you are a Grail Christian.
+1 If your patron saint is Joseph of Arimethea
+1 If you witness the result of the power of the Grail.
+2 If you were healed by the Grail.
+2 If you have directly witnessed the power of the Grail.
+1d3 If you witness an appearance of the Grail. (This modifier is added to preexisting Passions with each sighting of the Grail.)
+5 If you participate in a High Mass of the Holy Grail.
+10 If you heal the Fisher King and the Wasteland.