I’ve been interested in Pendragon for years and have dabbled in it a little. I’d been intimidated for most of those years, with the commitment required for a decades-spanning campaign. After an attempt at RuneQuest didn’t quite work for us, we switched gears to Pendragon.
We’re playing a bi-weekly game – I’ve done the math and determined it’ll take years to complete in real-time the Great Pendragon Campaign covers several decades, from the rise of Uther to the death of Arthur. I’ve decided not to think too much about that—my goal is to tell the tale of knights in the time of King Uther. If we make it to his death, my next goal will be to make it through the anarchy period to Arthur pulling the sword from the stone—I figure if I try to focus on the whole campaign it will assuredly overwhelm me.
I’m also looking at a more modern take on the Arthurian legend. My group has four players plus myself. One player has expressed an interest in a male knight in a same-sex marriage and another is a female player who wanted to start off with a female knight—and possibly letting dice decide as to the gender of her heir. This is not in keeping with a traditional Pendragon game. But it is in keeping with what I’d like to see in such a game so I’m absolutely on board with that, while at the same time a little curious as to how we’ll work out marriages, inheritances, heirs, etc. Some of the early decisions we’ve reached include:
- Same-sex couples use the same tables for having heirs as anyone else, likely representing adoption. Two male knights married do gain glory from one another, excluding the 1000 glory for knighthood.
- No player knight will die as a result of a childbirth roll.
What you’ll find below are summaries from our first two years. After a so-so experience with RuneQuest, I’ve found this to be a bit more satisfying. The rules are fairly straightforward and between the Uther Expansion, Great Pendragon Campaign, and core book, I have tons of random tables and outlines to guide us in our adventures.
Year 480 Adventure
With that in mind, let us introduce our knights and discuss what transpired in the Year of our Lord 480.
- Adric, Lord of Steeple Langford. British Christian of Salisbury.
- Arthen ap Melfyn, Lord of Winterbourne Gunnet. British Christian of Salisbury.
- Boudica, Lady of Tisbury . Eldest surviving heir of father with no surviving brother. Taken up the sword. British Pagan of Salisbury.
- Mag o Hanlon, Lord of Winterbourne Stoke. Irish Pagan, originally from Estregales, family. Father given grant of land by High King Aurelius.
We played the introductory Pendragon adventure, though we moved it a few years back in time to the year 580. At the start of the scenario, the four PCs were all squires on the verge of knighthood being trained by Sir Elad, castellan of Vagon Castle and marshal to Earl Roderick of Salisbury.
At the castle, they practiced on quintains and engaged in a horse race – won by Mag, though everyone else fell off in the race. Elad wished them to joust to determine who would lead an investigation into the peasants’ reports of a killer bear—in the brief mini-tourney that followed, Adric unhorsed Mag and Arthen unhorsed Boudica. In the final joust, Arthen emerged triumphantly. They left promptly to the village of Imber, staying with the priest “Old Garr”. They quickly discerned the going-on-elderly priest was not quite living up to his vow of chastity but was otherwise a gracious host who put them in the right direction to find the bear. The next morning, after some exploring they found and defeated the bear—Arthen and Mag saving parts of the bear for clothing, As they began their return to Vagon Castle they came upon four bandits on foot harassing one of the Earl’s peasants. They quickly met out justice, slaying one and capturing three.
From Vagon Castle they traveled to Sarum, capital of Salisbury. It was there that, nominated by Sir Elad, the four were to be knighted by Earl Roderick. They stood holy vigil—a sacred act for the Christians Adric and Arthen, not so much for Boudica and Mag, both pagans. Boudica, not particularly caring, promptly got a good night’s sleep. Arthen had wished to stay up in vigil the whole night, but the action caught up with him and he too slept. Mag, though not a believer, stayed up with Adric. The next morning the four were knighted, beginning with Adric.
At a feast, there was much discussion. The pagans found themselves a bit below the salt of the feast while Arthen was at the Earl’s table, Adric somewhat closer. All of them caught much gossip. They learned the Earl had just returned from fighting with the High King Aurelius at the Battle of Salisbury—where the High King was killed by treachery—poisoned by his traitorous physician on behalf of the invading Saxons. Fortunately, the Saxon army was defeated. Unfortunately, while the lords of Logres proclaimed Aurelius’s brother Uther their king, the Collegium of Britain declined to name him High King. War was likely in the years to come and more knights were necessary.
The newly minted knights flirted, gossiped, and otherwise celebrated, though none were successful in finding partners of their preferred genders. With the waning of summer into autumn, they returned to their manors.
480 GM Notes
While the Uther Expansion covered the year 480, it seemed to assume some familiarity with the rules and plunged right into mass combat. I felt that was a bit much for a first session and used the introductory adventure. I think that was a good move – it taught the players the setting and rules in stages. At the ending feast, I dropped news of what had befallen King Aurelius and Uther’s ascension to the throne—but not as High King.
480-481 Winter Highlights
To be honest, I was always a little bit fuzzy as to what “year” a winter phase takes place in. By medieval calendars the new year often did not begin until the spring—i.e one day in March might be the year 480 and then the next day might be in the year 481.
All four were married that summer. Adric and Mag found wives, Nyssa and Timothea. Arthen and Boudica found husbands—sons of knights. Boudica married Sir Fegrus, Arthen Sir Wulfric ap Aethelred. No children were on the way after that winter, though all desired heirs as soon as possible.
Both Adric and Arthen lost a pair of horses that winter, though all were replaced by Earl Roderick.
Year 481 Adventure
King Uther held his Easter court in Saurum. There was much gossip as to the Collegium not naming him High King of all the Britains. Moreover, there was anger about the King of Bedegraine not paying homage to Uther, claiming it was Auerelius Ambrosius’ due to his being High King, but no such homage was owed to Uther. In anger, Uther assembled an army to march on the King of Bedegraine.
The battle was not much of a challenge for the army as a whole, but it was a challenge for our knights. Sir Mag was dispatched to see why the Duke of Cornwall was tardy and therefore joined the fighting himself midway through the battle, telling tales of the Duke being delayed by mud and rain. In the battle, Lady Boudica was badly wounded though survived without infection, fighting on longer than most would consider sane. Sir Mag was unhorsed in the fighting but continued fighting to the end as well. Sir Arthen managed to stay horsed throughout the battle.
The battle ended when the King of Bedegraine engaging King Uther in single combat, dying in the process.
After Boudica had healed from her injuries, Earl Roderick sent them to visit Sir Edaris, Duke of the March
, and his daughter, Lady Rosalyn. Earl Roderick was looking for a suitable wife—with the young Lady Ellen, whose hand was Uther’s to decide, having been visited the previous year by other knights. They found Ellen a gracious young lady , and a notably generous woman. Roderick was pleased with their work but decided, despite Sir Edaris wanting an answer immediately, to hold off committing to Lady Ellen, saying he could not so swiftly decide on such an important matter.
As plunder, they all gained 2 Librum and a rouncy as well as 45 Glory for the battle.
481 GM Notes
I found the material for the year 481 a little sparse. The actual battle worked out rather well—it was my first try using the large-scale combat rules for Pendragon. Technically 480 was designed to have a battle but I chose to use the core rules introductory adventure instead given the number of Pendragon newbies we had. I found I liked the large-scale combat rules—it seemed to capture the chaos of battle well and was fairly brutal, with Boudica taking a beating—and making a successful Valorous test when her player’s inclination was to retreat… Given the sparseness of the adventure, I took the opportunity to have them help their liege, Earl Roderick, in his search for a wife.
481-482 Winter Highlights
Lady Boudica gave birth to a daughter, Calliope. Also, one of her sisters went mysteriously missing that winter, paying a visit to the King of Summerland. Sir Arthen had a nephew born in his family. Sir Mag’s sister was involved in some scandalous romance. Alas, Mag’s wife Timothea gave birth to a son, but both mother and child died shortly thereafter. Sir Adric, while not having any heirs born, did have a niece born into his family.
~ Dan Stack
Follow Daniel on Twitter at @DStack1776
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7 Comments Add yours
Good luck my friend! I’ve been running the GPC for my weekly group for 2 years before we took a 2 year hiatus. Got into a CoC campaign that has wrapped up and now we just restarted GPC 510. I went through wikipedia by year and would often try to incorporate world events to show how even isolated Logres still got news of the pope and francia.
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Thanks. Like I said, the only way I can think of to run this is to focus on getting through the current period. If I do that, I’ll consider it a win – and hopefully be able to keep things going that way.
Glad to hear you are enjoying the game! If you are not already aware, KAP has a rather vibrant Forum community at:
So if you want to ask any GMing advice or just chat, feel free to join and give a holler, if you are not already there!
One aspect that I really recommend you houserule is the childbirth and child survival tables. As you have already noticed, the childbirth is murderous for the (non-PK) women, ensuring that most of them die in childbirth within a decade. Combined with the child survival that kills 4 out of 5 children, this means that it is very difficult to get surviving children, and since the dynastic gameplay is one of Pendragon’s primary strengths, this is a big problem, IMHO.
My own houserules are a bit too long to include here, but here are two quick suggestions:
1) Childbirth: Change the mother and child die in childbirth to a simple no pregnancy result. Then change the ‘child survives, mother dies’ into a 1d6 roll: 1-2 child dies, 3-4 both die, 5-6 mother dies. This lowers the death chance to 3.33% per year, which is still very very high, but at least gives a woman 50/50 chance of making it for 20 years of childbirth.
2) Child survival: Change the table so that 1 = death, and stop rolling once they reach 7 years of age. This gives about 70% survival rate, which is roughly historical.
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Thanks for the suggestion on the BRP forums – I’ve actually made some use of the BRP forums – you can find me there as dstack1776, though I’m an occasional poster at best.
I think you’re spot on on the child survival tables. Being quite comfortable with statistics, the fatality rates were quite brutal – the odds of making it to 10 in the rules as written, are around 35%.
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