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Morien

Helpful Suggestions/Advice for New Players/GMs (what books, etc)

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This is a bit of a compilation thread to offer some advice for people who are new to Pendragon. Feel free to post your own if you feel like it, but here are some of the main things I'd tell new people:

 

0. Have Fun!

When it is all said and done, the main thing is to have fun. If you misread a rule but had fun playing, it is all good. If you made sure that the rule was correct but the game was miserable, was it really worth it? That being said, since the rules are the 'physics engine' of the game, it is necessary for the GM to strive to be consistent in their rulings. It is better to be upfront about it with the players, too, if you made a mistake or need to change a rule. But even better if you have thought about all the rules you might want to tweak before the game begins (see my point 7. about my own house rules).

 

1. What books are required and which order should you buy them?

My full answer is in this thread: https://basicroleplaying.org/topic/9244-prioritizing-the-5th-edition-supplements/

In short: KAP 5.2 (with some fixes) and GPC is all you NEED. Now, I am very fond of Entourage, especially the marriage tables within and rules to make the NPC wives a bit more interesting (alas, you still need to come up with the personalities on your own), but you don't absolutely NEED it. I also think that KAP 5.2 + GPC Expansion 480 - 484 + The Marriage of Count Roderick (which is free, see below) would make for a decent starter pack to test the game out, with GPC left for later, although it needs to be noted that GPC Expansion was not written to be newbie-friendly.

Also, don't forget the free stuff:

The Marriage of Count Roderick: https://www.chaosium.com/content/FreePDFs/Pendragon/NM14 - Marriage of Count Roderick.pdf

Quest of The Red Blade: https://www.chaosium.com/we-are-all-us-free-adventures/

The Dragons of Britain #1 - #4: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/121452/The-Dragons-of-Britain-1

Oh, also note that there are BIG changes between KAP 5.2 and Book of Knights & Ladies chargen (especially cultural speciality skills and the Luck Tables, which are much much more generous than in KAP 5.2, both of which I personally dislike). So the GM will need to sit down and make up their mind which book and chargen method to use, since having some players use one and others use another is a bad idea.

 

 

2. You should fix Childbirth and Child Survival in KAP 5.2, ASAP.

The first and the most important thing to fix in KAP 5.2, IMHO, is Childbirth and Child Survival in Winter Phase. The full thread and reasoning, as well as some quick fixes, is here: https://basicroleplaying.org/topic/10315-childbirth-and-child-survival-moriens-recommended-quick-fix/. Also, check with the players how realistic you wish to play these things, as these are potential trigger issues. It might be that they prefer to not deal with death in childbirth & child survival, in which case, just roll 11+ on 1d20 and congrats, your wife gave birth to a child, who will survive to adulthood. Skip next year and then continue rolling again from 2nd year onwards.

 

3. Quick explanation of the manor and income of a vassal knight

The standard (average) manor is valued at £10. The knight sees £7 of this: £6 to support himself, his horses, his squire, his wife* and children**, and £1 per year to spend as he wishes. The rest of the money goes to pay for a chaplain, a lady's maid for the wife, and three foot soldiers. Any additional manor adds 1 household knight, 3 foot soldiers, +£1 to maintenance of the family and +£1 to spending money. That is all you need to know. Anything else, you want Book of the Estate.

* If he is unmarried (or a widower), he will need a steward to look after the manor. Cost is £1 per year, so no savings for not having a wife.

** However, if he is childless as well, he can add an extra £1 to his spending money per year (so £2 per year).

 

4. And the next thing we do, is revise the Heiresses

One of the VERY common 'mistake' I see new GMs doing is using the Heiresses in the KAP 5.2 book as the default wife candidates. They are not that (see my rant in the following link, omitted here for brevity). Also, the manors they have in KAP 5.2 reflects the older, much common abundance of vassal knight manors than the newer* BotW & BotE. Hence, Greg was revising them here: http://kapresources.wpengine.com/Pendragon%20Forum%20Archive/index.php/t-2091.html

* KAP5.2 is actually newer than BotW & BotE, but it was mainly a layout improvement, with quite limited 'fixes' otherwise. This, amongst some others, were not corrected.

 

5. Speaking of Inheritance (of land) and Widow's Portion

Each manor follows the bloodline of the family. The eldest son gets everything. In the case of heiresses, it is THEIR eldest son, not the husband's, who inherits HER manor. If the eldest son is dead, his children (if he had any) would still inherit before other brothers/siblings. If he was childless, then it is the 2nd eldest brother who gets it all (or his children if he is already dead). If there are no brothers nor their children, then it is the sisters' turn, and they share equally. Any children of already predeceased sister would inherit their mother's share, as per normal.

Widow's Portion is is 1/3rd of the husband's lands (if he was landed), gifted to the widow for life to help to support her and her children in proper style. The Liege Lord appoints a guardian (default: himself) and it is he who collects the income from the Widow's Portion, and ensures that the Widow and the children are maintained properly. If the Widow remarries, the husband collects the Widow's portion. For simplicity, assume that the Widow's portion is £3.5 of the £10 manor, of which £1.5 go to maintaining the 3 foot soldiers for the army, and remaining £2 goes to supporting the Widow and her children. This leaves £6.5 to whoever inherits the manor, which is not ideal. It is just enough to support a knight (with squire & family) and a Lady's Maid for the wife, but those 3 foot soldiers are already paid from the Widow's portion, so there is that.

 

6. Chivalry Bonus ought to be 96, not 80

Word of Greg himself: http://kapresources.wpengine.com/Pendragon Forum Archive/index.php/t-1306.html

Personally, I like the tiered system (see my house rules, link below).

 

7. Here are my house rules. Have fun.

Here is a link to my house rules: https://basicroleplaying.org/topic/10356-moriens-house-rules/?tab=comments#comment-153611. They work for us in our campaigns. Maybe they'll work for you too.

 

EDIT: Since there were also a couple of 8A. and 8B. suggestions, I am numbering this as 9.

9. Starting a campaign (specifically at 480 instead of 485, but valid for all starting times, actually)

Here is a link to an advice I wrote in the old Nocturnal Forums on starting a campaign in 480 instead of 485. However, there are some other points there as well, such as why it might be a good idea to keep the PKs' fathers around for a bit longer rather than kill them off before the start, and also, why it is a very good idea to tweak the PK's family trees to give them a couple of younger brothers.

http://kapresources.wpengine.com/Pendragon%20Forum%20Archive/index.php/t-2552.html

 

EDIT2: Here are a couple of links to the old Nocturnal Forum archives, where I wrote a quick Pendragon Primer and some chargen advice for my players:

Pendragon Primer: https://greathall.chaosium.com/Pendragon Forum Archive/index.php/t-2161.html

Advice for chargen: https://greathall.chaosium.com/Pendragon Forum Archive/index.php/t-2162.html

 

Edited by Morien
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+1, especially the bit about the heiresses.

I will only add

8. You can begin your campaign any time. In 485, in 480 (like in the Book of Uther), but you are not obliged. Uther's reign is a brutal one, and the Anarchy is worst. I love it, but if you want to play a more classical Pendragon, the year 510 is a good idea to follow the rise of Arthur, or 531 (like the 3e ed.) to play a classical "adventurous knight".

When the PK think Pendragon, they think Arthur: tournaments, castles (of stone), virtuous damsels, and knights in shining armors, not the mud and blood of Uther's times.

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On 12/13/2019 at 4:01 AM, Tizun Thane said:

+1, especially the bit about the heiresses.

I will only add

8. You can begin your campaign any time. In 485, in 480 (like in the Book of Uther), but you are not obliged. Uther's reign is a brutal one, and the Anarchy is worst. I love it, but if you want to play a more classical Pendragon, the year 510 is a good idea to follow the rise of Arthur, or 531 (like the 3e ed.) to play a classical "adventurous knight".

When the PK think Pendragon, they think Arthur: tournaments, castles (of stone), virtuous damsels, and knights in shining armors, not the mud and blood of Uther's times.

I'll add 8B. Namely that if someone it might still be a good idea to start a  couple of years before any big event year, such as 510 so that the  players can get a session or two under their belts and become familiar with the setting and mechanics before getting dropped into any major events. So a GM  might want to run something like the default adventure in 508 or 509 and see how well the players pick up on the game system and playing knights before running the Sword in the Stone. 

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19 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

So a GM  might want to run something like the default adventure in 508 or 509 and see how well the players pick up on the game system and playing knights before running the Sword in the Stone. 

Yep. My recommendation would be to start at 508, and hammer home a bit the pressure from the Saxons. This makes the eventual defeat of the Saxons by Arthur all the sweeter, too. I'd probably also make the Southern Saxons more active in 510-517, as in raiding Logres (not full scale invasions until Badon), since then the internecine fighting looks even more frustrating, and making the PKs more eager to bring the fight to the Saxons, instead.

Also, I added a point 9. to the original post.

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I'd also add somewhere, for those buying more of the books, that different parts of the game were written at different times, with different philosophies. This is especially true for that late period where Greg decided to rename most of the counties and towns (to my own ongoing frustration). The GM should be prepared to pick and choose what they like, and understand that some grey areas will need to be filled in.

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I'll also toss in that a GM should pick up some version of the King Arthur story. Preferably a version of Mallory's Le Mort D'Arthur, but anything based off it is, and thus true to the central storylines is good enough. Other books, such as the HRB are nice, and due to the age of the sources much of it is in Public Domain, and obtainable as an ebook or PDF.  Reading that will help the GM understand what the game is supposed to be about.

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I'll second @Atgxtg advice. Though I'm not sure I'd recommend Mallory. Mallory is excellent as a resource and of interest, and I enjoy describing strikes as "a blow to his brain pan". But, it's somewhat of a chore to read in my opinion. I think TH White is good as a retelling. Or Tennyson which is my favorite as a whole retelling and incorporates the biggest tales. The BBC's production of Tennyson makes for great bard's tales and songs if you run it through a sound editor and reformat it as clips to be played on demand. I used their wedding song at Arthur's wedding.

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On 12/13/2019 at 4:01 AM, Tizun Thane said:

8. You can begin your campaign any time. In 485, in 480 (like in the Book of Uther), but you are not obliged. Uther's reign is a brutal one, and the Anarchy is worst. I love it, but if you want to play a more classical Pendragon, the year 510 is a good idea to follow the rise of Arthur, or 531 (like the 3e ed.) to play a classical "adventurous knight".

Double post, sorry. I agree it works at any time, but I think the game works best if you experience the Anarchy for a few sessions. The depressing soul crushing defeats. The being repeatedly beat down and assaulted on all sides really primes the ground for Arthur's rise. If you haven't experienced that, then you may not "feel" the joyous return of a king. It was rough watching the players suffer through the Anarchy. But man, they were so excited when Arthur smacked down all comers in their first few years.

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3 minutes ago, Username said:

I'll second @Atgxtg advice. Though I'm not sure I'd recommend Mallory. Mallory is excellent as a resource and of interest, and I enjoy describing strikes as "a blow to his brain pan". But, it's somewhat of a chore to read in my opinion.

Mallory, can be difficult for modern reader to follow, but it is what that Greg used as his primary source for the game, so a Pendragon GM should get it. These days there is no doubt a free PDF version of it in the public domain. There are also counter modern simplfications of the tale that were based offof  Mallory, such as Howard Pyle's The Story of King Arthur and His Knights and Steven Corbourn's King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, which are fairly true to Mallory, and can help to explain things in a more easy to read way.

 

 

3 minutes ago, Username said:

I think TH White is good as a retelling. Or Tennyson which is my favorite as a whole retelling and incorporates the biggest tales. The BBC's production of Tennyson makes for great bard's tales and songs if you run it through a sound editor and reformat it as clips to be played on demand. I used their wedding song at Arthur's wedding.

I think that White re imagines a lot of things in a way that is counter to the spirit of the game. For instance his view of the round table as something of a sign of equality. Basically it's Arthur idealized in a 20th century democratic leader as opposed to being King Arthur. The play and film Camelot is probably the most extreme version of this with Arthur becoming a sort of social worker who blames armor as the cause of war (knights have it so they don't get hurt in battle, while commoners don not have  it and so die), and who wants to essentially replace feudalism with a modern court stems where everyone is viewed equally under the law. The whole burning of Guinevere at the Stake situation is morphed into a conflict between Arthur's ideals versus his love for his wife. He has more in common with Hamlet or Perry Mason than with King Arthur. The whole Arthur being forced to burn his wife at the stake to preserve his ideals is nonsense. Even today heads of State can and do issue pardons without bringing down the whole justice system.

OVerall while White is readable, I think going with him as a primary source is a mistake. He's best taken like a dietary supplment, rather than as the diet.

 

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51 minutes ago, Username said:

Double post, sorry. I agree it works at any time, but I think the game works best if you experience the Anarchy for a few sessions. The depressing soul crushing defeats. The being repeatedly beat down and assaulted on all sides really primes the ground for Arthur's rise. If you haven't experienced that, then you may not "feel" the joyous return of a king. It was rough watching the players suffer through the Anarchy. But man, they were so excited when Arthur smacked down all comers in their first few years.

Oh yeah! I agree. Anarchy especially is awesome, and the best part of the GPC. But.

But. I saw so many promising campaigns when players lost interest during the Anarchy (after Uther's reign), without seeing Arthur. It's so sad. If you want to play knights in shining armor, you can begin with Arthur, not Uther.

I saw in recent posts some people trying to insert moderns (progressives) ideals into their KAP game under Uther's reign, because they were respecting the timeline. If you want to do that (which I found a bit strange, but hey, it's your game!), do it with Arthur, not Uther.

 

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12 minutes ago, Tizun Thane said:

I saw in recent posts some people trying to insert moderns (progressives) ideals into their KAP game under Uther's reign, because they were respecting the timeline. If you want to do that (which I found a bit strange, but hey, it's your game!), do it with Arthur, not Uther.

I agree with this. I think Uther should be played more true to the time period culturally and everything. Uther should be a good ruler of his time. Whereas I think Arthur should be an idealized rule of all times. And, to do that, it should be based upon the values of the people around the playing table. I think that makes it work best and encourages the player to have the attachment to it that is played out in the many treatments of Arthur through all times. The players need to see Arthur not as the best of terrible options, but something special, I think. Something so far removed from what is normal that his rule should attract them to throw down their lives.

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One of the qualities I love about using Le More D'Arthur as a reference is that not only the language but the style of the telling bring me into a different frame of mind. It really helps me see how all the piece of the KAP rules fit together and how I want to GM this specific and, in many ways, unique and strange RPG. Yes, it can be hard to read -- especially at the start. But I find once I get going with it brings to me to the strange land of dreamlike nostalgia for a time and place that never existed -- and thus very much the style I want for my King Arthur Pendragon.

As a side not: Malory has one "l", not two. (A mistake I make as well from time to time.)

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3 hours ago, creativehum said:

One of the qualities I love about using Le More D'Arthur as a reference is that not only the language but the style of the telling bring me into a different frame of mind. It really helps me see how all the piece of the KAP rules fit together and how I want to GM this specific and, in many ways, unique and strange RPG. Yes, it can be hard to read -- especially at the start. But I find once I get going with it brings to me to the strange land of dreamlike nostalgia for a time and place that never existed -- and thus very much the style I want for my King Arthur Pendragon.

Yeah, it even extends into the psedo Shaskpearian speech that players sometimes adopt. Something along the lines of "Hold Knave, and submit to the King's Justice, or suffer my wrath!" has a mucch diffent feel to it that "Stop Thief, and wait for the cops, or I'll kick your butt!"

3 hours ago, creativehum said:

As a side not: Malory has one "l", not two. (A mistake I make as well from time to time.)

I wound't read much into that. For starters spelling hadn't been finalized at that time, and the version we get now has been modernized to confirm with more modern spellings. We don't even know exactly who "Thomas Malory" was, and the leading candidate for authorship of Le Mort, Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel, is named as THOMAS MALLERE on his tomb. 

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