Monday, March 5, 2012

Pendragon

Things have been quiet the past week at the Cleaning Service.  Some of it is because I decided to cut back my posting schedule a bit.  But the other factor is that I'm switching off from running D&D to Pendragon for a while to see how we like it.  In case you're not aware, Pendragon was written by Greg Stafford (the Runequest designer) and is based around the mythos and "history" of Arthurian Britain.

It's taken many, many hours for me to become as knowledgeable in this game as I need to be - and it's very different from D&D.  I mean - EVERYTHING is different from D&D.  In Pendragon (we'll call it KAP for King Arthur Pendragon), there is only one race to play (human) and one "class" to play (Knight).  And the game is based around many things that D&D players may not emphasize as much.  For example, there are incredibly important aspects to your PK (Player Knight) that revolve around honor, chivalry, religion (Christianity or Paganism), stewardship, loyalty, valour, love, etc.

There are "real" in-game benefits to following your Traits & Passions and it "forces" you to correctly roleplay the character as a Knight of the Arthurian times.  If you don't, you can lose XP (actually called Glory) and status in the realm.  And this is important, because in this game your reputation can help you and your entire family line.  You actually play a long-term campaign with elements such as knighthood, marriage, becoming a parent (through marriage and/or your "side wench"), fighting great battles, going on quests, and above all faithfully serving your lord and king.

Don't get me wrong, combat is still incredibly important in this game.  And it's quite lethal!  There's a pretty unforgiving combat, healing, and death dynamic to KAP.  You might run into a giant in the wilderness and he can whack you for 9d6 damage straight up!  An average starting Knight might only have 25-28 hit points so that could end it for you right quick. 

This is a low-magic setting for sure.  Magic exists of course (Excalibur, Merlin, - duh!), but it tends to be more epic in nature, more rare, and truly sought after stuff.  You might base a quest of a couple years on finding a rare magic sword, for instance.  And no player Knights can cast spells.  But there are plenty of monsters to deal with.  :)

Every Knight has a "Manor," which is basically his land holdings (yes, you start off the game wealthier than 95% of those around you).  This might consist of a property that has a Great Hall, a Town, several Villages, and many acres of livestock and farming.  You are indebted to your lord, without whom you would potentially have nothing.

Anway - maybe I'll write an actual review of the rules some time.  But that's what's keeping me busy these days.

George

12 comments:

  1. Very, very cool. I have 3 or so of the editions and a lot of the books, but haven't played a minute of it. I look forward to how you guys like it.

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  2. I've picked up several Pendragon products on clearance at my local game store. However, I do not have the core rules. I will be looking forward to your posting on the system!

    My overall impression of Pendragon is that it is what would be considered very "railroadish". And this coming from someone who really likes a story driven campaign,\; I would be hard pressed to actually use any of the adventure ideas in my world. The adventures seem to "gimmicky", with the only real solution being the one that is written in the pages of Mallory or whatever source a particular given adventure is based on.

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    1. As a long-time Pendragon GM and player, my experience of the reason the plots seem so simple and even railroadish at times when you're simply looking at the text on the page is because in Pendragon plot is really not the point.

      That is to say, it's all about the journey rather than the outcome. The adventures are simply frameworks to hang your session on; the real fun of playing the game comes through the characters' Traits and Passions and how they interact both with each other and with the game world and NPCs, which obviously can't be written into an adventure in advance. Fact is, you could (and I have) run the same "railroady" adventure for three different groups of PKs and have three wildly divergent experiences based on the mix of different personalities at the table.

      Many RPGs play differently than they read, and Pendragon is right up there at the top of the list.

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  3. I'll definitely let you guys know how it goes. It should be fun.

    Tim - no shame in that. I doubt I've used more than 20% of all my RPG books in actual game sessions. I love to pick up RPG's to read and gawk at. :)

    Nicco - honestly, I haven't read anything except for the Core Rules and the GPC (Great Pendragon Campaign), an adventure sourcebook that spans many, many decades of game time. As for it being railroadish, my impression would be:

    *Compared to early edition D&D games, it's clearly very railroadish since old D&D was uber-sandboxy for the most part.

    *As for the Pendragon products that I own, I'd say it varies year by year. Some years there is a definite laid-out plot (such as "the PC's are mustered at the Earl's castle and march off to fight at the battle of Mearcred Creek."). In cases like this, you don't have much of a choice because as a Vassal Knight you are obligated to do your lord's bidding and defend him in war. You still get to take actions in the battle, but your career is over if you refuse to go.

    *Other years are more open-ended in nature, and it's simply "ask the PC's what they want to do - and make it happen as the GM." So it can also be sand-boxy.

    *Some years are inbetween: "There is a giant terrorizing the local village; they are pleading for protection and help." Yes, it's likely that you will go help out, but if you choose not to then that's your business.

    With that being said - yes, it's clearly less of a sandbox and more plot-driven than D&D. Frankly, that's part of the appeal to me. I've been doing hack/slash/plunder for a while and I'm ready for something different.(Please don't revoke my OSR Certificate!)

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  4. This is one I've been looking at for a while with a semi-longing eye.

    It reminds me slightly of "Houses of the Blooded" with the emphasis on a whole world and way of life. And that's another long-time love I've never played.

    Looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

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    1. Amanda - I've never heard of HOTB. By the name, I'm guessing it might be vampire related? Then again, I could be wrong.

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    2. Amanda - I did a google search for HOTB and I couldn't have been more wrong. Vampires, indeed.

      :-p

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    3. I been longing to play this for ages, but it's somehow never happened. It's tempting as a G+ game possibly.

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  5. Just FYI, I devote a considerable amount of my blogging time to Pendragon, including on ongoing actual-play account of my running the Great Pendragon Campaign with my wife. All my Pendragon articles to date are archived here.

    Hope you have a blast with the game!

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    1. Sirlarkins - thanks for the responses! I will definitely head over and read up on your blog posts. Since I've never played the game, I'm sure I'll have my hands full GM'ing it. So any resources at my disposal are good. :)

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    2. One more thing. Your Pendragon Appendix N posting is awesome! That alone is worth the price of admission.

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  6. George,

    I enjoyed your review of PD, having never heard of the system before I rather like the sound of it, especially as it is low fantasy. The other plus is the absence of magic for players to wield, and the fact everyone is human. Makes me wish I had a group to GM.

    Looking forward to reading your posts on playing the system :)

    Regards,

    Mark

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