Pendragon Basics

Basic Concepts

  • Pendragon is a game about Knights. Not Wizards. Not Thieves. Not Faeries or Giants. Knights.
  • Pendragon is based largely in a real Dark Ages Britain. While drawing on fantastical elements it is absolutely a “low fantasy” setting and even in it’s most fantastic moments is grounded in a more real world millieu.
  • Pendragon draws on all Arthurian sources. It is as much Geoffery of Monmouth as it is Le Morte d’Arthur.
  • While realistic, Pendragon takes liberties with time and technology. The way it does this is by dividing the time from Uther to Arthur’s death into periods of around 10 years apiece. Each of these periods has leaps in technology and mindset corresponding to roughly 100 years. So in the Uther Period, we have 10th century technology. In the Interregnum, we have 11th century technology. After the death of Arthur and the fading of the Enchantment of Britain, time reverts back to a Dark Ages tech.
  • Players will play not just one knight but a knight and his successors. From Uther to the end is roughly 85 years meaning that you will play at least two knights, if not more. Thus, the game is as much about the passage of times as it is about adventuring. Securing an heir and land for him matters. Marrying well matters. Passing on a legend to be spoken of years in the future matters.
  • Knights are ruled by their passions. That is the engine of the entire ruleset. Read the old Arthurian tales: knights will fall down weeping for weeks at a time, Arthur’s kingdom is undone by lust, rage and revenge… these are the key elements of the story. The rules represent this and players should never feel that they are being too over the top during play if their passions rule the day.
  • The GM will not hesitate to kill your characters. Unlike many other games, where death signals the end of subplots and a reshuffling of the deck, Pendragon is actually aided by character death. Due to the long time frame and the expectatons of having a successor in the wings the long view story adds extra weight as the body count rises. Which isn’t to mean that the GM should aim to be a bastard but rather that what would be a fudged die roll to keep the story going/avoid death in another game will be a grisly demise in Pendragon.
  • To go along with this, combat is deadly. Fighting while wounded is especially deadly. Again, read the source material: there are numerous examples of valorous knights, beyond reproach, sitting out whole hosts of quests and tournaments due to their wounds.
  • Glory is the most important stat. It is a measure of how well known you are and is gained by feats of arms, in court, hunting or any other knightly activity.

Rules Overview

  • Skills are on a 1-20+ scale. When a test is called for, a d20 is rolled. If it is lower than your skill, it is a success. Higher, a failure. If it hits your skill exactly, a critical success. A 20, a fumble.
  • Skills over 20 add the amount over 20 to your roll and you can no longer fumble. eg Sir Knight has a sword skill of 24. He rolls a d20 and adds 4 to his roll. Anything over 20 is a crit. Note that he cannot actually fail his roll. This is intended. Conversely, one could subtract the amount over 20 from the amount needed to crit. eg Sir Knight with the 24 sword skill subtracts 4 from 20 to get 16. He crits on a 16 plus.
  • Opposed rolls have both character and opponent rolling against their skills. It becomes a Price is Right situation where the person rolling highest without going over wins. eg Knight and Bandit both have sword skill of 15. In melee they both roll. Knight rolls 13, Bandit rolls 11. Knight wins combat.
  • Success is always success. In the above Knight vs Bandit scenario the Bandit will still hit or get some other benefit for success, even if he did not “win”.
  • Passions are rated on a scale of 1-20. Each passion has an opposite passion. Both must add up to 20 and no more. eg Knight has Valorous of 15, Cowardly of 5. If Valorous goes up to 16, Cowardly goes down to 4.
  • Passions of 16 or above are considered very strong passions and represent something above and beyond even an average knight. They will gain you Glory annually but also may cause your character to not always be in full control when presented with the object of passion.
  • Passions may be deliberately called upon in order to inspire the character to great feats. A successful roll against passion means you get a big bonus and are inspired. A failure means despondency and a large penalty. Use it wisely.

Links

Pendragon Basics

Pendragon: Chevrefoil thebrand Brocktoon