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Manifestopheles

Batavian Campaign -- Pendragon or Paladin?

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Good day gents,

I'm new to the forum but I've been planning on running a Pendragon campaign for a long time now, assuming I could ever get a hold of a group of players willing to play with me. Either way, due to my own research into my ancestry (I'm half Dutch with some alleged aristocratic roots dating back to the Middle Ages), I've been thinking of running a campaign specifically set in the Low Countries. It would probably begin at a somewhat later date than the traditional Pendragon campaigns (around 11th century AD, just before the start of the First Crusade), and would be less focused around Arthurian mythology and more around the politics of the the time in that region. So basically my main question is, what ruleset would be better suited to run the campaign with? My instinct says to go with Pendragon and leave Paladin (which I do not yet own) aside, since Pendragon allows for more generic character creation, with universal skills and passions, while Paladin is more specialized and focused around the Charlemagne arc. On the other hand, the landed nobility of the region are largely Frankish nobles as well, especially in the southern regions around Brabant and Flanders. Then again, you also have the Book of Knights and Ladies (which unfortunately does not include any information on Batavian character origins (other than the Frisians, but those are a different story entirely), let alone on the different provinces of the region, which were, and still are, very different from each other in many respects, but I'm sure I could make something up.

What do you think. Do you have any other pointers on what I should be looking for?

Edited by Manifestopheles

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If you already have Pendragon and not Paladin, then I would go with Pendragon. As you say, the core system works well enough. Paladin does offer some neat things, and it is much more faithfully Christian in its outlook, which makes it more suitable for more historical Middle Ages, including patron saints and all that. On the other hand, as you said already, it is also somewhat tied to Charlemagne. Which is great if you are playing Charlemagne, somewhat less if you are not.

In short, I think it is probably as easy to hack Pendragon to your liking, and since you already have it, might just as well use it. Given that the Pendragon base is basically a medieval society backprojected through time with a veneer of Migration Era Britain on top, you can pretty much use it almost straight out of the box. I would pretty much just use the Cymric template for everything and not worry about cultural differences: the upper classes in the Middle Ages had more in common with one another than with their own peasants. But it sounds that you want to add some regional differences, in which case, go right ahead! You probably know your own local history much better anyway, and you can tweak things to your liking. :)

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That's true... ideally I think I might combine the two as well, but just use the Pendragon ruleset and character sheets with regards to skills and passions and stuff. I do want to take advantage of some of the extra features from Paladin, honestly...

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1 hour ago, David Scott said:

We actually have the Paladin author on the forum @Ruben. I suspect he's from the Low Countries, and could weigh in here.

 

Yeah I figured he might be, probably Flemish judging by the name, although I might be wrong. Just another reason I decided to get the book after all ^_^

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My feeling on this is that one can sort of divide the differences between Pendragon and Paladin into two categories for the question of whether you take them over for something like this.  

There are the differences, like the Christianity mechanics to which Morien refers, that are very specifically aimed at the source material.  Those have relatively little application outside of what they are designed to do.   (And personally I might find some of them, ah, problematic if one were to rip them out of their literary context and try to apply them to the actuality of the First Crusade.)

Then there are the differences that read, essentially, like someone’s well-thought out and well-tested house rules for Pendragon, and aren’t really specific to the setting.  Those are another matter, but it’s a question of exactly what you want to achieve.  Some of them I might not use even when playing Paladin itself, but might use in a different setting.

E.g. I like the flavour of the Pendragon rule that knights can take several wounds below their Major Wound threshold without it being a problem until they pass the Unconsciousness threshold, and might not use the Paladin rules there even in Paladin.  But I might well think about adopting those rules in a setting like the one that you describe, where I was trying to stick closer to gritty historical reality, so that, no, you can’t be stabbed five or six times and ignore it.

As far as character creation goes, though, I’d agree that you could just use Cymri as your base and tweak it for the regional differences that you want.  It might simplify matters to say that every region gets one combat skill and one non-combat skill that they’re particularly good at, but is otherwise similar.  In Pendragon, Cymri are explicitly designed to be better than everyone else, and the same appears to be true of Franks in Paladin.  Unless that’s something you want for similar setting reasons, I’d say that making everyone “Cymri with a twist” might not only be easier, but more desirable.

Edited by Voord 99
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There are the differences, like the Christianity mechanics to which Morien refers, that are very specifically aimed at the source material.  Those have relatively little application outside of what they are designed to do.   (And personally I might find some of them, ah, problematic if one were to rip them out of their literary context and try to apply them to the actuality of the First Crusade.)

I wonder what those would entail though and why you think they wouldn't fit. I do think a healthy dose of Christian features would make sense given their prevalence in the Middle Ages, and since this is not going to be Arthurian in that regard I may have to supplant certain features in Pendragon regardless. I personally do like the idea of patron saints for example, at least conceptually.

Quote

E.g. I like the flavour of the Pendragon rule that knights can take several wounds below their Major Wound threshold without it being a problem until they pass the Unconsciousness threshold, and might not use the Paladin rules there even in Paladin.  But I might well think about adopting those rules in a setting like the one that you describe, where I was trying to stick closer to gritty historical reality, so that, no, you can’t be stabbed five or six times and ignore it.

I can get behind that, making the combat more gritty would definitely be something to look into.

Quote

In Pendragon, Cymri are explicitly designed to be better than everyone else, and the same appears to be true of Franks in Paladin.  Unless that’s something you want for similar setting reasons, I’d say that making everyone “Cymri with a twist” might not only be easier, but more desirable.

I suspected the Cymri and Franks in their respective settings might be better since that's probably how they viewed themselves at the time. You might be right about using a default origin with a twist. Personally I think I might go the route of other RPGs with regards to custom races and the like where they're all supposed to be balanced out, most likely by way of a bonus to their physical attributes. I don't know if that's what you mean by a "twist".

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11 hours ago, Voord 99 said:

E.g. I like the flavour of the Pendragon rule that knights can take several wounds below their Major Wound threshold without it being a problem until they pass the Unconsciousness threshold, and might not use the Paladin rules there even in Paladin.  But I might well think about adopting those rules in a setting like the one that you describe, where I was trying to stick closer to gritty historical reality, so that, no, you can’t be stabbed five or six times and ignore it.

Dunno, adrenaline is pretty powerful stuff. Also, some of the hit point damage can be construed to be shock and later blood loss (hence why you get hit points back quickly with First Aid). Also, people have been known to continue fighting even when mortally wounded, until finally their mortality catches up with them.

It would be interesting to hear from people who have used this rule from Paladin, how it has worked in their games. Personally, I am worried that:

1. It would cause a 'death spiral': whichever combatant is hit first will get the penalty and hence will more likely to get hit again, losing the combat. Which admittedly can be realistic, but not necessarily all that heroic.

2. It would mean more bookkeeping for me as the GM. Now it is enough for me to know if any of the X number of opponents are already unconscious. With this rule, I'd have to track two other limits and apply modifiers on their skills because of it.

3. It would make the PKs seem less heroic.

I could also see using a watered down version of that rule, and just apply -5 at HP/2. That might work, and HP/2 is already used as a threshold between Healthy and Unhealthy (if you needed Chirurgery), so that would make sense to me.

Anyway, if someone has used the rule of penalties due to current HPs from Paladin, I would be interested in hearing if my conjectures are close to the reality!

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9 hours ago, Manifestopheles said:

I wonder what those would entail though and why you think they wouldn't fit. I do think a healthy dose of Christian features would make sense given their prevalence in the Middle Ages, and since this is not going to be Arthurian in that regard I may have to supplant certain features in Pendragon regardless. I personally do like the idea of patron saints for example, at least conceptually.

YMMV, but I think it’s one thing to adopt Paladin’s perspective that Christianity is objectively correct and you should convert non-Christians, by force if necessary, if you adopt the portrayal of Saracens and Persians as pagans who worship Apollo and Jupiter   It’s another if they are actual real-world Muslims.    I would not personally be comfortable playing through a version of the First Crusade in which the system represents it as objectively the case that the Crusaders are the good guys and it is a metaphysical fact that slaughtering Muslims en masse is absolutely and unequivocally good and moral action, backed up by the observable fact that God answers Christian prayers very visibly.

All that’s OK with me if you keep it a little distanced by making it a representation of the viewpoint of the literature.  Although even then I was a bit surprised that there was very little discussion of these issues in the introduction to Paladin and explanation of the choices made.  But I personally would not be OK with projecting it onto real history.

 

6 hours ago, Morien said:

Dunno, adrenaline is pretty powerful stuff. Also, some of the hit point damage can be construed to be shock and later blood loss (hence why you get hit points back quickly with First Aid). Also, people have been known to continue fighting even when mortally wounded, until finally their mortality catches up with them.

True enough, although the thing about Pendragon is that you’re still fine hours later when the adrenaline rush should have faded.  But I prefer it that way, for pretty much exactly the reasons you stated.

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10 hours ago, Manifestopheles said:

I don't know if that's what you mean by a "twist".

Forgot to say this.  Nothing interesting - I just meant that everyone might be given Cymri stats with a couple of added things that are specific to regional stereotypes.  What those would be for the Low Countries in the Middle Ages, you would know better than I.  Or what they are nowadays... :)

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7 hours ago, Voord 99 said:

YMMV, but I think it’s one thing to adopt Paladin’s perspective that Christianity is objectively correct and you should convert non-Christians, by force if necessary, if you adopt the portrayal of Saracens and Persians as pagans who worship Apollo and Jupiter   It’s another if they are actual real-world Muslims.    I would not personally be comfortable playing through a version of the First Crusade in which the system represents it as objectively the case that the Crusaders are the good guys and it is a metaphysical fact that slaughtering Muslims en masse is absolutely and unequivocally good and moral action, backed up by the observable fact that God answers Christian prayers very visibly.

Yeah I see what you mean. Again though, given the timeframe of what I'm thinking of, Christianity has already become the norm in Europe and there are no pagans left to convert. The crusades are a different story, of course, but I'm not necessarily planning on involving them in my campaign at all. The fact remains however that, in the perception of people at the time, Christianity was not just objectively correct, but a simple, indisputable fact of life, so it goes without saying that characters in such a setting would be exclusively restricted to Christian Personality Traits and Passions. Now it remains to be seen which of the two rulesets actually represents that outlook better with regards to what I'm looking for, although as far as I can tell Pendragon should already be more than sufficient as is.

Now if I were to run a campaign about the Crusades that would open up another can of worms entirely. That would definitely be a way to put the PKs' chivalric values to the test.

Edited by Manifestopheles
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I think it would be a good idea to know which region you are planning to play in. Most of what is now Holland (the province) and Zeeland were not that heavily populated, and there were few, if any, nobles/knights there. Part of why the power of nobles in those provinces was never very great, and West-Friesland was not even subjugated by the Counts of Holland until 1300, although that could make it an exelent frontier setting. Flanders and Gelderland had more nobles, and Brabant in particular. Friesland did only reluctantly acknowledge the Holy Roman Emperor (titular ruler of Friesland\Frisia) most of the time, And Utrecht\Sticht, with the Oversticht (Overijssel), was a Bischopric, which gives some other wrinkles.

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4 hours ago, Clydwich said:

I think it would be a good idea to know which region you are planning to play in. Most of what is now Holland (the province) and Zeeland were not that heavily populated, and there were few, if any, nobles/knights there. Part of why the power of nobles in those provinces was never very great, and West-Friesland was not even subjugated by the Counts of Holland until 1300, although that could make it an exelent frontier setting. Flanders and Gelderland had more nobles, and Brabant in particular. Friesland did only reluctantly acknowledge the Holy Roman Emperor (titular ruler of Friesland\Frisia) most of the time, And Utrecht\Sticht, with the Oversticht (Overijssel), was a Bischopric, which gives some other wrinkles.

I'm aware of all these regions and factors. I am planning on basing the campaign mostly in Brabant, since that's where my alleged ancestors, the Counts of Cuijk, hailed from. Not to mention the Cuijk dynasty also had dealings with Sticht Utrecht as well as representatives in the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. Basically however I would like to run a campaign around the history of their feuds with the Counts of Holland (with the death of Floris V as centerpiece), and their involvement in the war between England and France.

Edited by Manifestopheles

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18 hours ago, Manifestopheles said:

The fact remains however that, in the perception of people at the time, Christianity was not just objectively correct, but a simple, indisputable fact of life, so it goes without saying that characters in such a setting would be exclusively restricted to Christian Personality Traits and Passions. 

Agreed.  I didn’t mean that all of the added Paladin Christianity rules would be troubling, just the ones that are oriented towards those themes.

That being said, the setup of my (I hope) upcoming Pendragon campaign is pretty much as you describe, so that we’re eliminating pagan knights.  The way I’m handling that is to eliminate religious Trait bonuses entirely.  The reasoning is that, if Christianity is the universal norm, then Christians aren’t unusually chaste, modest, etc. — they define what it is to be typical.  A 10 in a Trait means “about average for a knight in this medieval Christian society.”

(Instead, I’m going to let players (of which there may be only one) choose the Traits to add +3 to as their family Traits.)

Edited by Voord 99
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1 hour ago, Voord 99 said:

That being said, the setup of my (I hope) upcoming Pendragon campaign is pretty much as you describe, so that we’re eliminating pagan knights.  The way I’m handling that is to eliminate religious Trait bonuses entirely.  The reasoning is that, if Christianity is the universal norm, then Christians aren’t unusually chaste, modest, etc. — they define what it is to be typical.  A 10 in a Trait means “about average for a knight in this medieval Christian society.”

That's a good idea, actually. That would allow for another layer of gray morality. I will keep that in mind for my campaign as well.

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