“There was a time when my heart was in a different place, a pure place. My tutor opened my shuttered eyes and now I see through the veil on the world. My blood burns with the strength of the ancients; now and forever I shall lay claim to the throne that was wrested from my forefathers.” – from the Empty Grave of Mordred.
One of Many Possible Backgrounds
Prince Mordred of Gododdin was born on May Day the son of Queen Anna Morgause and King Lot of Gododdin in Northern Britain. He was, by many accounts, the rightful heir to the throne held by Arthur since his mother Anna was the only legitimate child of Uther Pendragon. This point consumed Mordred’s life, and he stopped at nothing to unseat the High King through treachery, deceit, and outright war.
There was a legend that a Child of May Day would bring the downfall of Arthur’s reign. So, to protect his son, Lot sent Mordred to an island kingdom ruled by Duke Nabur to be raised in secrecy. While there, Mordred spent time learning the ways of warfare, the chivalrous code, and the holy sacraments of The Church. Annual visits from father and mother reminded him of his roots and his destiny to retake the throne from Arthur.
During this time, he also became a student of the Tutors of Alexandria – a secret society from Egypt that professed that the true world was hidden behind a ancient veil. He learned that hidden from view was a fantastic world where legends were true, myths were real, and magic was something you could hold in your hands. Once he reached the age of men, The Tutors gave him a gift: The Blood of the Ancients, which coursed through his veins and brought on an unearthly transformation. Mordred Gododdin, son of Lott, had become a living vampire.
While his newly discovered form was hidden from view by The Veil, he received word from his father that he to go to Camlann and seek admittance to King Arthur’s court at the son of Duke Nabur and Paragon of the Church. He accepted this task eagerly, as Mordred’s brother Gawain was already a knight in Arthur’s court. Through Gawain’s vote of confidence, he was quickly accepted into Knights of Round. Mordred immediately set to work on disrupting the control Arthur had on his realm.
Over time, he became the trusted companion of Lancelot by keeping knowledge of the affair with Queen Guinevere a secret. He campaigned with Arthur as far as Burgundia, and defended Camlann from many advances by the Saxons and Angles. No one suspected his true nature, save for perhaps the Bede or Merlin, but their discovery came too late. Eventually, as Arthur prepared an army to finally defeat Emperor Lucius of Rome, Mordred was made Regent of Britain and left to rule in Arthur’s absence as the most trusted of all the Knight of Camlann. Unfortunately for Arthur, this was the beginning of his kingdom’s undoing.
While Arthur was away campaigning in Europe, Mordred recalled the Tutors of Alexandria. He announced the death of Arthur and revealed himself as Prince Mordred of Gododdin, rightful heir to the throne of Pendragon. Messengers were sent to all the Saxon kings that Arthur was dead and he expelled everyone from the court at Camlann save for his trusted cabal. Word of Mordred’s treachery reached Arthur, who immediately turned his army back towards Britain. Eventually, Mordred was driven out of Camlann and his company of Tutors burned at the stake as heretics. Mordred was later thought to have been slain by Arthur himself at the Battle of Cad Camlan, but in so doing Arthur received the mortal wound that would eventually send him to Avalon. Mordred, however, was not dead. It is rumored that Mordred’s body was recovered by the few Tutors that remained and, having undergone the final transformation of the Ancients, he now waits for the day when he has the power to drive out the bastard dynasty of Arthur from Britain and reseat his own clan on the throne in Camlann.
Motivation & Goals
Sir Mordred is primarily motivated by his deep sense of heritage and pride in his father’s clan, The Gododdin. Having fathered two sons himself during his time among the living with his wife Cwyllog, Mordred is driven to push his heirs to greater status as potential kings of Britain. Thus, his goals are largely
- Driving out the descendants of Arthur from Camlann; first and foremost Arthur’s son Constantine III, and placing his oldest son Melehan of Gododdin in his place.
- Gathering a new cabal of Tutors into his dark court and pulling back The Veil for anyone willing to join him.
- Supporting his son’s military campaigns and other endeavors through the dark arts.
- Destroying The Veil, so that Mordred and others like him might bring to bear the full force of their abilities on the Living.
The Cult of the Ancients
Mordred currently holds court at The Crypt of Dagda; a secret labyrinth of caves found in Orkney Isles, the homeland of his father King Lott. From these caves, he has gathered a new Cult of the Ancients and has already “trained” a fresh host of Tutors (vampires) to serve him. The Tutors of Orkney serve to bring new members to the cult and to train the most promising members in the secret ways of the Tutors. Those who they find are unsuitable for training are either ritualistically cannibalized or serve as spies, mercenaries, or servants for The Cult.
Obviously, Mordred can be included into campaigns set in the Dark Ages with little to no adjustments. However, Mordred could also be adapted into any existing medieval fantasy campaign with ease. The possibilities are endless, but here are three hooks that might fit a typical “bog fantasy” campaign setting in 4th Edition D&D;
- The Empty Church (HEROIC TIER) - The adventurers are called upon to investigate the disappearance of an entire congregation from a church on the frontier. When the party arrives in the frontier town, they discover a plot by a local lord to remove the church leaders and their flock. The lord, hearing that the party is heading to his fort, welcomes them as guests. An ambush follows, and the PCs discover the lord is a member of some sort of cult. Further investigation reveals that the “cult” is actually a coven of vampires calling themselves The Tutors of Orkney (or some other locale). These Tutors have imprisoned the entire congregation, and have been feeding on them while they wait for their master to arrive. A final battle ends the adventure where the PCs free the congregants and defeat the cultists. The master, Mordred, appears briefly only to be outnumbered and driven away to reappear later in the campaign.
- The Court of the Damned (PARAGON TIER) – After defeating The Tutors several times, the PCs decide to take the fight to their own fortress. Scouring the seedier sides of several towns and villages, the PCs eventually find the location of their lair by capturing one of their servants – a ship captain in charge of delivering supplies to The Crypt of Dagda. The PCs manage to reach the isle by use of the captains boat. Once there, they find a dungeon crawling with cultists, vampires, demons, and other horrors of underworld. Mordred, not one to wait it out, meets the PCs head on. If defeated, Mordred retreats to his hidden crypt where, if found, the PCs must fight again along with the risen earth golem Dagda.
- Revenge is Sweet (EPIC TIER) – The Sons of Mordred, having finally given in to their father’s tutoring, have gathered forces together and are marching the forces of the underworld towards the homelands of the PCs. Their main goal is to find and cut down the mythical Lifeblood Tree, whose sap is rumored to have the power to breath life back into the dead. Once they have the sap in hand, they begin a multi-day ritual in the hills over [the city] that ends in the reincarnation of their father Mordred. Meanwhile, the PCs must fight off legions of undead and other unnatural enemies while searching for the Lifeblood Tree themselves. If they fail to find before the Sons of Mordred do, then they must find the cultists in the hills and stop their dark ritual.
4E D&D; Statblock
Looking for more Villains? Check out these new villains, all with exclusive, original artwork, at the following blogs:
- Portrait of a Villain: Tyrant King, from Mad Brew Labs
- The Song of Flame: Savis Rayn, from At-Will
- Villain Spotlight: Zora Aldebar, from Exchange of Realities
- Also, each of these blogs and The Core Mechanic will be posting a new Villain every week for the next month!
Leave a comment, let me know what you think! A ton of work went into this post so, hopefully, I’ll get some critical feedback.