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Author Topic: Any tips on running Pendragon?  (Read 963 times)

Trond

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Any tips on running Pendragon?
« on: April 27, 2022, 07:51:18 PM »
I’m thinking about getting together a new gaming group and to try out Pendragon, a game I always wanted to give a shot. Apart from the well-known Arthurian myth, what do you think makes people enthusiastic about a Pendragon campaign? One trick that I have found works in other games is to include a bit of spookiness, is this something you’ve ever done in Pendragon? Or other tips?

Trond

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2022, 09:23:10 PM »
A little bumpage, to see if anyone with Pendragon experience shows up :)

I have 1st and 4th edition. I also have "Blood and Honor" in PDF, so maybe I'll start there.

Godsmonkey

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2022, 01:36:47 PM »
Have you tried the Chaosium forums?

Trond

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2022, 02:12:55 PM »
Have you tried the Chaosium forums?

No I haven’t. These days this is my only RPG forum. Maybe it’s time branch out a bit

SHARK

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2022, 07:03:45 PM »
Greetings!

Pendragon is a cool game! On one hand, I think it has fairly broad appeal, for the mythology and history embraced through Western  European culture. On the other hand, Pendragon seems to have some limitations, in that the background knowledge of history and British, Celtic, Norse, and European mythology greatly enhances player's experiences--or subtracts, as it were, based on the degree of lack of knowledge.

Having said that, for an interested group of players, I would also emphasize Pendragon's system strengths--detailed family lineages, roleplaying, court intrigue, exploring mythological themes, whether such are mythological creatures, legends, landscapes, and adventures. Good mileage can be gained also through a heavier focus on character development, romances, and rivalries between various knights, barbarian warlords, Pagan witches, and more. I think another worthy angle is to lean into land, estate, and castle development, and all of the potential drama and trials of organizing and running a Dark Ages community, whether such is a typical noble's Manor, a coastal community, or perhaps an isolated monastery.

Penddragon certainly has action and combat--and jousting and tournaments! However, the game is also well-suited for a slower-paced style of campaign, focused on family, romance, moral tension, religious conflicts, and deeper character involvement and political intrigues.

Those are some themes and stylistic approaches that I would suggest my friend!

For DMing a Pendragon campaign, personally, I would not only devote a few weeks to thoroughly reviewing several Pendragon supplements--as well as a thorough fluency with the main rulebook--but then, or I should say before even doing that, I would make sure I read Mallory's L'Morte De Arthur, several books on the Knights of the Roundtable, Romances, Celtic Mythology, as well as a book or two on the Dark Ages in Britain, and a book or two on the Crusades. Being equipped and refreshed with such knowledge and themes makes reading and really understanding what Stafford, et. al, is all talking about in the main Pendragon rulebook and the various Pendragon supplements, as there are numerous essays, asides, and references made within the books themselves where it helps immensely to have a minimal and refreshed knowledge of the historical and mythological background as a whole.

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK
"It is the Marine Corps that will strip away the façade so easily confused with self. It is the Corps that will offer the pain needed to buy the truth. And at last, each will own the privilege of looking inside himself  to discover what truly resides there. Comfort is an illusion. A false security bred from familiar things and familiar ways. It narrows the mind. Weakens the body. And robs the soul of spirit and determination. Comfort is neither welcome nor tolerated here."

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but is doing what you have to, in spite of the fear."
"Let Death and Fire Be Their Portion!"
"Delenda Est Parthia!"

Trond

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2022, 10:17:44 PM »
Greetings!

Pendragon is a cool game! On one hand, I think it has fairly broad appeal, for the mythology and history embraced through Western  European culture. On the other hand, Pendragon seems to have some limitations, in that the background knowledge of history and British, Celtic, Norse, and European mythology greatly enhances player's experiences--or subtracts, as it were, based on the degree of lack of knowledge.

Having said that, for an interested group of players, I would also emphasize Pendragon's system strengths--detailed family lineages, roleplaying, court intrigue, exploring mythological themes, whether such are mythological creatures, legends, landscapes, and adventures. Good mileage can be gained also through a heavier focus on character development, romances, and rivalries between various knights, barbarian warlords, Pagan witches, and more. I think another worthy angle is to lean into land, estate, and castle development, and all of the potential drama and trials of organizing and running a Dark Ages community, whether such is a typical noble's Manor, a coastal community, or perhaps an isolated monastery.

Penddragon certainly has action and combat--and jousting and tournaments! However, the game is also well-suited for a slower-paced style of campaign, focused on family, romance, moral tension, religious conflicts, and deeper character involvement and political intrigues.

Those are some themes and stylistic approaches that I would suggest my friend!

For DMing a Pendragon campaign, personally, I would not only devote a few weeks to thoroughly reviewing several Pendragon supplements--as well as a thorough fluency with the main rulebook--but then, or I should say before even doing that, I would make sure I read Mallory's L'Morte De Arthur, several books on the Knights of the Roundtable, Romances, Celtic Mythology, as well as a book or two on the Dark Ages in Britain, and a book or two on the Crusades. Being equipped and refreshed with such knowledge and themes makes reading and really understanding what Stafford, et. al, is all talking about in the main Pendragon rulebook and the various Pendragon supplements, as there are numerous essays, asides, and references made within the books themselves where it helps immensely to have a minimal and refreshed knowledge of the historical and mythological background as a whole.

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK

Thanks Shark!

I guess I have to give Mallory a second try. I think I have a translation of the French stories somewhere though. Also, I have some very good books on Medieval Europe and Chivalry specifically.

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2022, 10:57:51 PM »
I guess I have to give Mallory a second try. I think I have a translation of the French stories somewhere though. Also, I have some very good books on Medieval Europe and Chivalry specifically.

You do eventually want to read Mallory.  However, for something a little more accessible that will give you the same kind of ideas, try to find a copy of "Yvain, Knight of the Lion" and probably a good version of the "Mabinogion".  "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" can be found separately, too.  The first two aren't exactly on target, but they are close enough to be useful, and much shorter. 

Trond

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2022, 12:03:58 AM »
Tolkien wrote a version of Gawain and the Green Knight. I’ll see if I can find that one.

Oh and I found Chretien de Troyes Arthurian Romances on my shelf 😊

SHARK

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2022, 12:52:00 AM »
Greetings!

Pendragon is a cool game! On one hand, I think it has fairly broad appeal, for the mythology and history embraced through Western  European culture. On the other hand, Pendragon seems to have some limitations, in that the background knowledge of history and British, Celtic, Norse, and European mythology greatly enhances player's experiences--or subtracts, as it were, based on the degree of lack of knowledge.

Having said that, for an interested group of players, I would also emphasize Pendragon's system strengths--detailed family lineages, roleplaying, court intrigue, exploring mythological themes, whether such are mythological creatures, legends, landscapes, and adventures. Good mileage can be gained also through a heavier focus on character development, romances, and rivalries between various knights, barbarian warlords, Pagan witches, and more. I think another worthy angle is to lean into land, estate, and castle development, and all of the potential drama and trials of organizing and running a Dark Ages community, whether such is a typical noble's Manor, a coastal community, or perhaps an isolated monastery.

Penddragon certainly has action and combat--and jousting and tournaments! However, the game is also well-suited for a slower-paced style of campaign, focused on family, romance, moral tension, religious conflicts, and deeper character involvement and political intrigues.

Those are some themes and stylistic approaches that I would suggest my friend!

For DMing a Pendragon campaign, personally, I would not only devote a few weeks to thoroughly reviewing several Pendragon supplements--as well as a thorough fluency with the main rulebook--but then, or I should say before even doing that, I would make sure I read Mallory's L'Morte De Arthur, several books on the Knights of the Roundtable, Romances, Celtic Mythology, as well as a book or two on the Dark Ages in Britain, and a book or two on the Crusades. Being equipped and refreshed with such knowledge and themes makes reading and really understanding what Stafford, et. al, is all talking about in the main Pendragon rulebook and the various Pendragon supplements, as there are numerous essays, asides, and references made within the books themselves where it helps immensely to have a minimal and refreshed knowledge of the historical and mythological background as a whole.

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK

Thanks Shark!

I guess I have to give Mallory a second try. I think I have a translation of the French stories somewhere though. Also, I have some very good books on Medieval Europe and Chivalry specifically.

Greetings!

You are very welcome, Trond! When I was in college I had the opportunity to read, and in some cases, *re-read* authors such as Mallory, Chretien de Troyes, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and more. As a Historian, I opted to also work on a Bachelor's Certificate in Renaissance & Medieval Studies--a fancy paper certifying that I had completed specialized academic study that was more academic units than a Minor Degree, but less than the units required for a Major Degree. I think it was 24 units. About 8 specialized classes focused intensely on Medieval Culture and Society. So, I got to do neat extra classes on Medieval Religion, Medieval English Literature, Philosophy, and Art. Within the certificate's parameters of specialized categories, I chose the Medieval Era and Arthurian Mythology, instead of Renaissance Studies. It was very interesting, as my experience in D&D gaming helped me considerably, as well as my long-standing interest in Ancient & Medieval History. Thus, I was well-equipped for the classes and course-work. As you might imagine, that academic work also circled back around and fed into my gaming, DMing, writing and so on.

All of that is my long-winded commentary on how Pendragon is definitely historically and academically-grounded, and being familiar with many of the stories, mythology, and lore, really goes a long way to avoid a "WTF is Stafford talking about here in the rulebook?" *Laughing* Being at least a bit familiar with the literature, the mythology, and the real-world history involved helps immensely, because Stafford and the other contributing authors of Pendragon supplements are academically-inclined, and have thoroughly done their homework, so to speak. Pendragon also includes fairly extensive sources and bibliographies from which they got their inspiration and so on, which I a joy to read about. It's refreshing to have some authors writing game stuff that are actual history and mythology enthusiasts, at least, if not scholars in their own right.

Reading Pendragon rulebooks and supplements you are likely to be overjoyed and sucked down cool little trails into literature, mythology, and history. How important were cauldrons in Celtic mythology? What were the Druids all about? What was Dark Ages Britain like after the Roman Legion had left Britain? Who were the Picts? Who were the Welsh? How does Welsh mythology diverge from Irish mythology? What was going on over there in Ireland during the Dark Ages? The invasion of the Saxons! The native Romano-Britons, and native Celtic tribes living in Britain that *resisted* Romanization? The early development of warlords, knights, Viking raider, Irish barbarians, Celtic Galloglasses, the coming of the Normans, the early Crusade, Romance Culture, Knightly Tournaments, Chivalry and Knighthood, Feudalism, Manorialism, the Divine Right of Kings, and Absolute Monarchs. Plus, having questions about Faeries, Sprites, Fomorians, Elves, and Dwarves! Giants are popular throughout mythology as well. All of these topics and more converge throughout Pendragon. As you can imagine, it definitely requires a bit more than light Sunday reading. *Laughing*

Good stuff, Trond! I imagine you will enjoy reviewing your own library at home, digging up once-forgotten books in your collection. Of course, as you get into Pendragon more, and preparing a campaign, you may also tart pondering taking a look at Amazon, under all f the relevant topics of interest.

DON'T! *Laughing* Just kidding. Looking through Amazon...geesus, my friend. That can easily develop into a shopping spree with a considerable price tag. I know. It's happened to me. *Laughing*

You will enjoy adding new books to your personal library, right? ;D

Semper Fidelis,

SHARK
"It is the Marine Corps that will strip away the façade so easily confused with self. It is the Corps that will offer the pain needed to buy the truth. And at last, each will own the privilege of looking inside himself  to discover what truly resides there. Comfort is an illusion. A false security bred from familiar things and familiar ways. It narrows the mind. Weakens the body. And robs the soul of spirit and determination. Comfort is neither welcome nor tolerated here."

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but is doing what you have to, in spite of the fear."
"Let Death and Fire Be Their Portion!"
"Delenda Est Parthia!"

Rhymer88

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2022, 08:01:06 AM »
I can also recommend the writings of Wolfram von Eschenbach. His Parzival, for example, is an absolute blast!

Visitor Q

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2022, 09:05:47 AM »
I have a long running ongoing Pendragon campaign, albeit set in the 1040s-1060s. (Essentially focusing on the return of Arthur).

I have also played in a more traditional Arthurian campaign starting with Uther.

The point about spookiness is spot on. I'd definitely have some adventures which are pretty 'mundane'. Fighting Saxons and whatnot.

Some adventures which are principally mundane but perhaps hint at other forces. Perhaps a Saxon pagan priest subtly alters the tide to allow a boat to come to sure; was it magic, or coincidence.

And then some adventures which outright have giants and so forth.

Mechanically do not hold back with allowing PCs to be killed, even in 'undramatic' ways. It pays dividends for players to know that a lucky strike can kill them. Conversely allow them to alter history by influencing, seducing or killing important NPCs (if their rolls are good enough).

Most importantly the game is designed around one adventure and one Winter Phase every year. Unless you have particularly significant Quests then the experience economy of the game becomes a bit messed up otherwise.

I'd suggest altering the rules a bit to allow at least the first born child to survive or have a greater chance. Childbirth is perhaps a little too lethal. On a similar vein players should probably be encouraged to marry early.

Some players get a bit weird about playing real religions but equally this is a draw to other players. It's worth having a discussion about the role religion will play in the game. Also what the Church will look like. Many of the medieval trappings of the Church hadn't been developed by the 5th and 6th century but do appear in Arthurian Legend (Benedictine Monks came to England in 595 I believe).

« Last Edit: May 07, 2022, 05:49:06 AM by Visitor Q »

Godsmonkey

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2022, 04:40:32 PM »

Trond

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2022, 05:57:50 PM »
I have a long running ongoing Pendragon campaign, albeit set in the 1040s-1060s. (Essentially focusing on the return of Arthur).

I have also played in a more traditional Arthurian campaign starting with Uther.

The point about spookiness is spot on. I'd definitely have some adventures which are pretty 'mundane'. Fighting Saxons and whatnot.

Some adventures which are principally mundane but perhaps hint at othet forces. Perhaps a Saxon pagan priest subtlety alters the tide to allow a boat to come to sure; was it magic, or coincidence.

And then some adventures which outright have giants and so forth.

Mechanically do not hold back with allowing PCs to be killed, even in 'undramatic' ways. It pays dividends for players to know that a lucky strike can kill them. Conversely allow them to alter history by influencing, seducing or killing important NPCs (if their rolls are good enough).

Most importantly the game is designed around one adventure and one Winter Phase every year. Unless you have particularly significant Quests then the experience economy of the game becomes a bit messed up otherwise.

I'd suggest altering the rules a bit to allow at least the first born child to survive or have a greater chance. Childbirth is perhaps a little too lethal. On a similar vein players should probably be encouraged to marry early.

Some players get a bit weird about playing real religions but equally this is a draw to other players. It's worth having a discussion about the role religion will play in the game. Also what the Church will look like. Many of the medieval trappings of the Church hadn't been developed by the 5th and 6th century but do appear in Arthurian Legend (Benedictine Monks came to England in 595 I believe).

Thanks for the tips! I have never played a generational game like this.
Yes, I am not bothered by historical details in this one, apart from making it "medieval" and "chivalrous" in general. To me, Arthurian myth has always been a mishmash of fairytales and some historical bits stemming from throughout the British medieval period up to the 15th century. 

Trond

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2022, 06:49:01 PM »
I just noticed something odd between 1st ed. and 4th ed: Camelot moved! :D
In the oldest edition it is fairly close to Glastonbury, but later it is close to Southampton. Any idea why?
I do remember the old Sierra game "Conquests of Camelot" where it was close to Glastonbury.

I guess it illustrates the uncertainty of the locations in these old tales (or if some of the places existed at all).

Visitor Q

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Re: Any tips on running Pendragon?
« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2022, 05:46:38 AM »
I have a long running ongoing Pendragon campaign, albeit set in the 1040s-1060s. (Essentially focusing on the return of Arthur).

I have also played in a more traditional Arthurian campaign starting with Uther.

The point about spookiness is spot on. I'd definitely have some adventures which are pretty 'mundane'. Fighting Saxons and whatnot.

Some adventures which are principally mundane but perhaps hint at othet forces. Perhaps a Saxon pagan priest subtlety alters the tide to allow a boat to come to sure; was it magic, or coincidence.

And then some adventures which outright have giants and so forth.

Mechanically do not hold back with allowing PCs to be killed, even in 'undramatic' ways. It pays dividends for players to know that a lucky strike can kill them. Conversely allow them to alter history by influencing, seducing or killing important NPCs (if their rolls are good enough).

Most importantly the game is designed around one adventure and one Winter Phase every year. Unless you have particularly significant Quests then the experience economy of the game becomes a bit messed up otherwise.

I'd suggest altering the rules a bit to allow at least the first born child to survive or have a greater chance. Childbirth is perhaps a little too lethal. On a similar vein players should probably be encouraged to marry early.

Some players get a bit weird about playing real religions but equally this is a draw to other players. It's worth having a discussion about the role religion will play in the game. Also what the Church will look like. Many of the medieval trappings of the Church hadn't been developed by the 5th and 6th century but do appear in Arthurian Legend (Benedictine Monks came to England in 595 I believe).

Thanks for the tips! I have never played a generational game like this.
Yes, I am not bothered by historical details in this one, apart from making it "medieval" and "chivalrous" in general. To me, Arthurian myth has always been a mishmash of fairytales and some historical bits stemming from throughout the British medieval period up to the 15th century.

I think this is right. Also a trick you can pull, and in fact is noted in the game is thst as the generations move and Arthur becomes more powerful the Kingdom itself shifts from 5th century technology to high medieval and fairytale land. And when Arthur dies History reasserts itself.

I'll check out about Camelot in the different editions. I know some people who might be able to answer this directly