Earlier this year I was part of an engaging online conversation about King Arthur Pendragon and what books were essential versus nice to have. The following is a really well laid out synopsis by Reddit user Bimbarian. The following is used with permission. All of the mentioned books can be purchased from DriveThruRPG.
The rulebook and GPC are the only must-buys.
If you want to buy more, this is the FIRST book you should get: Book of Knights and Ladies
It expands the character generation options massively and makes a few excellent tweaks to tables in basic rulebook (luck table and family characteristic table)
After that, it depends on what you want. If you want adventure details and setting stuff, be careful which you pick because some setting books are a compilation of stuff in the other books. Check out my setting books list below.
If you want rules-heavy stuff, like expanding battles, understanding world economy, and building manors, etc., look at my Rulesbook List below.
A quick note: look at the bundles too, since they are discounted too.
Don’t buy these unless you’re a completionist.
- Nobles Book: the first estate/manor management system, is using an economic system that was replaced in KAP 3e, so would need work to fit the current system. Look to Book of the Manor or Book of the Warlord as better options (see below).
- Lordly Domains: an updated version of the Nobles Book, but still obsolete. Also contains some stuff that was reused in GPC.
- Book of the Estate: This is a decent book, but Book of the Warlord supersedes it.
- The Boy King, 1st Edition: Everything useful in this book is also in the GPC.
- The Pendragon Campaign: this is essentially the first attempt at a GPC book and is much less grand in scope.
- KAP 1st Edition, 3rd edition and 4th edition: There’s nothing on these books for you if you are using 5th edition. (3rd actually has a magic system for player wizards, but it’s not really very good. It’s decent if you want some guidelines on how to run NPC wizards and enchantresses, but you can do with out them.)
- Knights Adventurous: This has some obsolete character design options (get books of knights and ladies instead), and a bunch of other rules that have mostly been incorporated into later supplements.
- Book of Knights: an earlier character design expansion. Not very good, and definitely superseded by Book of Knights & Ladies.
- Tales of [Spectre Kings, Chivalry & Romance, Mystic Tournaments, Magic & Miracles]: these are compilations and repackaging of stuff from earlier setting supplements. You are better off getting those earlier supplements.
- Book of Battle, 1st Edition: don’t get this, there’s a new edition.
- GPC: King Uther Expansion: this is included in the Book of Uther. Get that instead.
- Book of Records (Characters, Battles): these can be useful, but you can make your own or download PDFs that serve the same purpose for free. hard to justify buying things like these in the age of the internet.
- The Grey Knight: This is a 1st edition supplement and would need reworking of some stats and rewards to make it relevant. The Spectre King book is essentially a rewrite of it to fit 3rd edition.
These expand on the rulebook and provide extra options while running a game. None of them is essential. if you want more adventure material, look at the settings below. But they do add extra dimensions to the game.
- Book of Battle, 2nd Edition: the battle rules in the core book are perfectly serviceable and pretty fast once you know what you are doing. This book adds a new, much more detailed system, which requires a lot more from both players and GM. It’s a lot of fun, when you know what you are doing, but it will take over the session – don’t expect to get much more done than the battle itself. It does have some flaws – there’s a lot the GM needs to bring to the table to make battles interesting, the system doesn’t do that automatically. But It’s a strong addition to the game, nonetheless.
- Book of Armies: this is a supplement for the Book of Battle – it adds a lot of tables for generating opponents of different types, throughout the time period of an Arthurian campaign. It’s definitely not essential, it’s just nice to have.
- Book of the Manor: This has a very interesting set of rules for managing individual manors. It does have a problem that can lead to money inflation if players are lucky, but people often don’t mind that.
- Book of the Estate: This is a replacement for Book of the Manor, solving the problem of money inflation. It presents an alternate economic model, and scales to larger estates much more easily. That said, Book of the manor is more interesting for single manor estates, so it’s hard to recommend one over the other. If you income is limited, get Estate, since it will be compatible with newer supplements. If you have money to burn, get them both.
- Book of the Warlord: This is a companion volume to the Book of the Estate, and covers the largest estates – baronies, counties, dukedoms and even kingdoms. It lists the great nobles of Logres in the Uther/Anarchy periods too (more detail than in the Book of Uther). It also has a brilliant little system for generating random shield designs, which is handy for GMs who need to come up with heraldry details for knights way too often.
- Book of Entourage: this is a pretty slim book, but updates the rules for squires and has decent rules for hiring servants and what benefit they can give you. It’s a good add-on if you have book of the Manor or Warlord, but isn’t worth picking up before either of those.
These were written for 3rd/4th edition Pendragon, but are completely compatible with 5th edition – there are no significant rules changes. The first two are adventure books, each containing big excellent multi-session adventures, though they are meant for mid-campaign and won’t be useful at the start. The rest are setting books – each details a different area of the Britain, each with a gazetteer of places to discover and explore, as well as many adventure seeds, and a few short adventures. They are all very good source books, and most of the stuff in them can be used pretty much any time in a campaign.
- The Spectre King
- Tournament of Dreams
- Savage Mountains*
- Perilous Forest
- Pagan Shore*
- Land of Giants*
- Blood and Lust*
- beyond the Wall
- Book of Uther: This is a companion book to the Book of Warlords, and if you are starting your campaign in the Uther period, it’s definitely worth picking up. It also expands and revises some details in the GPC for this early period. It’s the only setting book that was written after the GPC, and is the only one that details Logres, the heartland of Britain.
Those with asterisks include chargen stuff for different characters that would need work updating to 5th edition. But they are mostly setting and regional source books, so that doesn’t matter too much. If you have the Book of Knights & Ladies, use that book, and just add the stuff you like from these books.
My favorite of these are Book of Uther, Blood & Lust and Perilous Forest, but they are all good.
I would recommend picking source books up in the following order
- Pendragon 5
- Book of Knights & Ladies
- Book of the Warlord
- Book of Battle
- Book of Entourage
Then whatever you want from the setting books, and/or book of armies and maybe book of manor for an alternate approach. The first setting book I’d get is the Book of Uther, because it covers in depth the area you’ll be campaigning in at the start of a campaign (though Book of Warlord does include some high-level detail on the same area – who the greatest nobles are, etc.).
A huge thanks to Bimbarian for compiling this excellent information into one consolidated statement. I hope this helps other Pendragon players; it sure helped me!