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Playing the Pendragon Campaign Solitaire - How many Player Characters?


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Pendragon is a game exceptionally well suited to solitaire play. Strongly flavored ruleset, as much complexity or simplicity as a player desires, enough random elements to keep everything fresh, a host of written adventures and the strongest RPG campaign ever - it even has a highly detailed personality system to determine how any character of import is likely to act in a given situation. With a gm emulator, it could basically serve as an incredibly flexible crpg.

There is one question on my mind, though; how many Player Character Knights should ?

The way I see it, there are three options, each with their own benefits and drawbacks:

1: One player knight at a time, one family. Benefits: Low amount of paperwork, strong genre emulation, strong centralized story focus. Drawbacks: High risk (either game over or roll up a new family if you run out of relatives), pigeonholing (either you minmax, play a generalist, or restrict your options to a specific specialization [Not necessarily a big drawback considering a super specialist can still eat it on a random roll]), heaviest leaning on NPCs for interaction, most adventures assume multiple party members.

2: Multiple player knights, all members of one family. Benefits: Less risk, more diverse specialties and personalities, little modification to existing adventures, in-built reason for adventuring together. Drawbacks: More paperwork, divided story focus, still a risk of wiping out the dynasty. Neutral (Could be Good or Bad): Still a singular origin point, still a significant overlap in opinions and possibly expertise due to family trait.

3: Multiple player knights, separate families for each. Benefits: Least risk, most diverse array of specialties and personalities, no modification to existing adventures. Drawbacks: Largest amount of paperwork, very divided story focus, needs a specific reason to adventure together. Neutral (Could be Good or Bad): Diverse origin points, greatest potential for interpersonal drama due to varying personalities, loyalties, and beliefs.

So folks, which do you think is the best way to do it? I understand different people will have different preferences (the ultimate answer is "whatever you find most fun," but I would like to hear your opinions and experiences.

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1 hour ago, Tizun Thane said:

For solos? One player knight at a time, coming from the same family.

I think Prometheus878 meant that if he is doing a solitaire play (i.e. using a GM emulator, with himself as the solo player), would it be better for him to run a party or just a single PK.

I have to admit that I don't find solitaire play that interesting. I need someone to bounce off from and share the fun, so my energies would be diverted more to finding someone to play with, even online, and taking turns to GM or running a GM-PC as a sidekick (either another knight, snarky Dinadan-type to Tristram, or an actual career squire like Prince Valiant, Lancelot & Tristram have).

If I were to run a solitaire play with a single PK, I would very much recommend making the PK tougher than the normal PK in group play. Like giving him extra 10 years of training without aging him, right off the bat, and tossing the 15-starting-skill cap away. I would likely also give him a career squire, who is experienced in things that the PK isn't, such as make him a Hunting 15+ expert so that the PK doesn't have to spend points there. Fortunately, a lot of the combat encounters in Pendragon adventures are already scaled with the number of PKs (such as "3 bandits per PK"), but I would certainly look over the encounters and maybe tweak them a bit to make sure that they are usable in single play, too. Giants and such are very very deadly if you are trying to solo them.

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I would hybridise 1 and 3: one main PK with 3-5 ally knights. If they're best friends, they don't really need any more reason to adventure together than a normal group of PKs do. You could streamline the ally knights to reduce paperwork, maybe something like the husband knight in Book of the Entourage (beefed up a bit to be closer to PK level).

Depending on one's emulation preferences, this approach also allows a 'get out of death' option: if the PK would die and the player isn't ready for that (e.g. the PK has no heir), one of the allies who is present can take the fatal blow instead.

(This is more or less what we're doing in the one-player-and-one-GM game I run, though obviously that isn't the same as solitaire. I like doing the paperwork, though, so I'm happy to run four pseudo-PKs. 🙂)

Here's a thread by Autumnflame over at RPGnet for an intermittent solo game that was (maybe still is?) run roughly this way with Mythic GME.

Edited by Uqbarian
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I’ve done it a couple of times, although not yet all the way through.  (Once wasn’t the GPC, but The Boy King — that one got up to 531; the other one I do intermittently now, and is in 496.)

Both times what I did was start with one knight and his squire and take it from there, with the squire becoming a second knight if he lived to be knighted, with two new squires, and so on.  In principle, that’s an exponential progression, but survival in Pendragon being what it is, it’s turned out both times that it seemed to stabilize at about 2-3 knights at any one time.  That might change if I were to get past the period with a lot of battles, though.

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It depends on what I am trying to accomplish.  If fun, one knight.  I see/feel his struggles, his anguish, his triumphs and such.  But, as many have already pointed out, could end quickly.

If trying to emulate game play, then a family.  See how high I can take them before things go awry.

But, I am like Morien, I like to bounce things off someone else. Some might consider 1 player & 1 GM as solo, but to me that is 1 person only.  With the two, it allows the story to develop more.

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I've run ten years or so solo. I'm on the third or so knight. Never did it before, so no experience. For the combat centred adventure in the beginning of the GPC I should have added more knights. In battles it doesn't help to have more knights, as it's a series of solo engagements.

I've done a large family tree to ensure there's someone to take over.

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9 hours ago, Hzark10 said:

But, I am like Morien, I like to bounce things off someone else. Some might consider 1 player & 1 GM as solo, but to me that is 1 person only.  With the two, it allows the story to develop more.

For me, those are very different.  When you’re playing really solo, at least the way I do it, the system is the GM as much as possible.  One leans very heavily on random tables (and very possibly uses something like Mythic or Ironsworn as well).  What makes Pendragon especially suitable is, as Prometheus878 points out above, that Traits and Passions mean that you can do this for the player side as well.  In some ways, you are neither player nor GM, nor a combination of the two, but something a little different from both, observing the story develop from the outside.  I find that I regard  the main characters as something more like characters in a novel than as “my” characters.

Whereas 1 GM + 1 player is a variant on the standard RP experience.  Which I also prefer — it’s creative in a way that solo play just isn’t, plus, of course, there’s the social aspect of it.  I’ve essentially done the solo stuff mostly when I wasn’t playing with a group, which is why my current one is intermittent.  But solo play does have its own special quality.  There’s something about the randomness of it all, the way that strong and distinct characters emerge that you weren’t expecting to emerge.

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

But solo play does have its own special quality.  There’s something about the randomness of it all, the way that strong and distinct characters emerge that you weren’t expecting to emerge.

There is that.  And the randomness does have its own unique take because if forces one to think of what else can happen.  One reason why I like Pendragon so much, is even though we usually all start at the same place, every game has its own unique flavor. Given how much we talk on this forum, I am still hearing of novel ways various groups play out the events.

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