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Pendragon Design Journal #5: Honor and Glory


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By David Larkins, Pendragon line editor.

A new edition of the Pendragon RPG is coming! The intention of this series of design journals by Pendragon line editor David Larkins is to trace the path of development, starting in the early 1980s and culminating with the forthcoming new edition of the Pendragon RPG, which will be first to be wholly published by Chaosium in a quarter-century.

Happy Winter Phase! For this, the final Pendragon Design Journal of 2021, we are taking a quick look at how the new edition handles two of the game’s most definitive Statistics: Honor and Glory.

Honor

For existing players coming into the new edition, Honor carries the most revisions and changes of the two. This isn’t to say Honor is greatly changed. It may still be invoked as a Passion, though it exists outside of the Passion Courts system discussed in Design Journal #4. Honor may only be decreased through a knight’s own action or inaction, as always, but it is here that we find Greg putting in a lot of work on defining the nuances of Honor and how knights and ladies may lose or gain it.

As with much of Sixth Edition, these are extrapolations from elements already found in the game, given increased weight and additional applications.

For example, we are introduced to the concept of Public versus Private Honor. Honorable or dishonorable acts do not fully affect a knight’s Honor value unless they are witnessed or talked about. A perfidious Player-knight who slays their brother, for example, would normally lose 10 points of Honor for fratricide. However, if the murder were committed in total secrecy (say in the middle of a wild moor or dark forest) with no witnesses (or at least none who were suffered to live…), our murderous knight’s Honor would remain unchanged in the view of the public, allowing the Player-knight to go on living a lie.

It is impossible to hide from ourselves, however, and so our fratricidal Player-knight would make a note on their character sheet that their true Honor value is actually 10 points lower, and all rolls are made against that value.

If and when the truth of the murder comes to light, the Player-knight then adjusts their Honor to the true value it has been all along; if this is enough to drop the number below the minimum threshold for knighthood, they would experience their degradation in status at that point in addition to any other in-game consequences coming their way.

In a similar vein, Sixth Edition provides details on losing Honor through inaction (when confronted with dishonorable acts and failing to do anything about it), through accusation (whisper campaigns can be hazardous to one’s social standing!), through the shame of failing to live up to an oath, and through conflicts with one’s Traits and Passions.

As always, it is harder to gain Honor than it is to lose it, but rules are provided for increasing the value by acting in accordance with honorable Traits and Passions, by defending one’s good name and disproving scurrilous rumors, and by holding true to vows and oaths.

Glory

Glory remains largely unchanged in its design and application, as befits such a simple and elegant system. The old “bonus point” gained from crossing a 1,000-point threshold is now called a Prestige Reward, as it can be applied in ways other than modifying your character’s Statistics. Most notably, a Prestige Reward may be used to ensure healthy childbirth and guarantee the birth of an heir!

Veteran Gamemasters will be pleased to see that the guidelines for Glory awards are the most comprehensive ever published, including clearly defined Glory from Standard of Living, conspicuous consumption, and social events such as feasts.

Lastly, by way of a tantalizing preview of a future Design Journal, certain Glory award benchmarks have been revised, perhaps nowhere more notably than in the new Battle system. Battles are still a great source of potential Glory, but how your knights earn that Glory differs notably from older versions of the Battle rules.

2022 - The Year of Pendragon

Before I wrap up this month’s Journal, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has expressed their excitement for the forthcoming edition over the course of the year, and for your patience as you await its rollout. We have taken our time in making sure that Sixth Edition does justice to Greg’s vision and memory, and I cannot wait to share with you all the greatness he has left us. As we move through the production cycle towards completion, rest assured that as soon as we can be positive of a release date, you will hear about it almost in the same instant!

Regardless, I am looking forward to making 2022 “The Year of Pendragon”!

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ART - "ROUND TABLE" BY ANDREY FETISOV
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1 hour ago, Sir Pom-Pom said:

Lack of racial diversity, too.

Not surprising for 6th century Britain. Granted Morien or Palomides could have been in the picture but I hope art direction will not fall into the trap of thinking that diversity and inclusion means that every pictures needs to include 50% female and 50% non-white*

* Just to be clear, I want inclusion of female, moorish and black characters. I just don't want it to be dogmatic. 

To be honest, I like Andrei's art but from what we have seen so far, I am more put off by the bland, generic "medieval England" style chosen. Hopefully, diversity of style will all make it blend beautifully.

Edited by DreadDomain
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A question. When I look at the art this seems to be much more of a 13th century medieval time than the dark ages 6th century. I know that many movie adaptions of Arthur uses color and armor from the 13th to 14th centuries. But when you read the best books they are much more dark, gritty and "dark ageish".

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1 hour ago, Soccercalle said:

A question. When I look at the art this seems to be much more of a 13th century medieval time than the dark ages 6th century. I know that many movie adaptions of Arthur uses color and armor from the 13th to 14th centuries. But when you read the best books they are much more dark, gritty and "dark ageish".

The primary source for all versions of the game is Mallory's Le Morte D'Arthur, with Chretien de Troyes' poems running a close second. The 13th-century anachronisms laid over the "historical" Arthur are quite intentional.

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34 minutes ago, Sir Pom-Pom said:

Once you are going to rewrite history so that no one can feel unwelcome based on their identity, why stop at women? What about people of other races or sexual orientations who can feel displaced by the sexist, racist and homophobic society of that time shown in the game? Including women is right, but not African Americans? It seems odd.

 

What are the criteria?

I mean, women existed in Britain at the time. African American’s (and, in the wider world, America) didn’t. 
 

If a “dude” rocks up from 6th century Africa I’m pretty sure everyone around here would give him/her/them the thumbs up for a knighthood into the round table. And if one of the artists were ever to portray that I think it’d be fully appreciated by this community. You are making issues out of thin air. 


 

 

Edited by Starcarr
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4 hours ago, Sir Pom-Pom said:

Once you are going to rewrite history so that no one can feel unwelcome based on their identity, why stop at women? What about people of other races or sexual orientations who can feel displaced by the sexist, racist and homophobic society of that time shown in the game? Including women is right, but not African Americans? It seems odd.

 

What are the criteria?

Your reply to my post seems to imply I  am against including black characters. The part of my post you did not quote clearly states the opposite.

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11 hours ago, Sir Pom-Pom said:

Once you are going to rewrite history so that no one can feel unwelcome based on their identity, why stop at women? What about people of other races or sexual orientations who can feel displaced by the sexist, racist and homophobic society of that time shown in the game? Including women is right, but not African Americans? It seems odd.

 

What are the criteria?

As was pointed out elsewhere, there was female knights in medieval literature (and in real middle ages too... kinda). But as for africans, there was just one or two (half-)black knights. It make sense, closest to Britain part of Africa doesn't have large black population.

P.s. many researchers claim that chivalric romances this game based on was, in fact, highly feminist. By the standards of that era feminism at least.

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23 hours ago, Starcarr said:

I mean, women existed in Britain at the time. African American’s (and, in the wider world, America) didn’t. 
 

If a “dude” rocks up from 6th century Africa I’m pretty sure everyone around here would give him/her/them the thumbs up for a knighthood into the round table. And if one of the artists were ever to portray that I think it’d be fully appreciated by this community. You are making issues out of thin air. 

There were no African Americans in 6th century Britain, but Black folk certainly existed in Roman Britain. Legionaries from all over the world came to Britain, including from Roman Africa. 

https://www.history.co.uk/article/the-history-of-black-britain-roman-africans

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On 12/30/2021 at 7:15 AM, MOB said:

In a similar vein, Sixth Edition provides details on losing Honor through inaction (when confronted with dishonorable acts and failing to do anything about it)

Had this thorny problem come up in a game recently. One temporary PK (player's usual character had gone mad) did a cold-blooded murder or two.

Player's an optimiser, so the chances were that if any of the other PKs attempted to stop this character by fighting, they'd just be dead, and he would get away with it anyway.

My initial ruling was as above - loss of Honor for not putting themselves in harm's way, though less that the 10 point loss that Sir MurderHobo took. But then overnight I reconsidered - you don't lose Honor through not going up against a Large Giant or other beastie that will likely-as-not kill you instantly; so why should you have to take an Honor loss when the monster is a person?

Given that, I'm a bit leery of losing Honor through inaction rather than through action.

(If they'd assisted in the murders, or covered for Sir MurderHobo if asked what was going on by their Liege Lord, then that would be an act of commission rather than omission, and I'd be cool with an Honor loss in those circumstances.)

Edited by piersb
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39 minutes ago, piersb said:

Given that, I'm a bit leery of losing Honor through inaction rather than through action.

I see where you are coming from, but I can easily come up with situations where inaction is a dishonorable choice.

The easiest things to point to are: a family member, the liege lord or the host is attacked. Sure, you can just stand there and do nothing. But that would be dishonorable since by the rules of the society, you need to act even though it might be suicidal. Perhaps especially if it is suicidal. Throwing yourself at the dragon as a suicidal diversion so that your liege lord survives is the epitome of Homage [liege].

Furthermore, your oath of knighthood (at least if you get to the Round Table) might include clauses about protecting women (or at least noblewomen) and clergy, so sitting idly by would mean betraying your oath. Sure, YOU are not personally doing anything, but since you gave your word that you would protect them, you are in violation of your oath.

I guess we will see how KAP 6 will handle these issues, but the above ones would be the ones where I could ding Honor for inaction without even thinking twice.

Now the example you gave... It would depend a lot who were murdered, IMHO. If they were nobles (or peasants under the PKs' or the liege's or the King's protection), I could see the other PKs denouncing the murderer to their liege, if it was too late to do anything in the heat of the moment and too dangerous to oppose the guy (he must be EXTREMELY optimised if he can stand up to even a pair of normal PKs; outnumbering in KAP is deadly). Staying silent about it when they should reveal the murder could impact their Honor, IMHO. If the victims were Saxons (without safe conduct) or bandits, who cares?

Cowardice is one of those touchy things, but I think the general rule of thumb is that if the beastie gives valorous penalties, it is a monster and the knights are allowed to exercise prudence (with the exceptions mentioned earlier). Same thing if they are outnumbered. But if they are outnumbering the murderer, then it is a somewhat different thing. That being said, keeping the campaign from PvP and TPK tends to be a good idea. KAP is a more robust system against TPK thanks to the families and the expectation of your character dying at some point over the course of the campaign, but it tends to be a bit of a speed bump and a mood killer anyway.

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2 hours ago, Sir Pom-Pom said:

Again: once you stretch historical reality, in this case to accommodate a certain number of players not feeling bad, you can make anything up.

This is Chaosium's challenge. I trust they will strike the right balance between credibly stretching diversity and inclusion without attempting to erase the ugliness of the subject matter. Women masquerading as man, men masquerading as woman, women rising into knighthood and position of authority, characters with secret (or not so secret) same sex lovers, characters from far away lands... They are all fairly common tropes in the story and I see no issues (on the contrary, they enrich the stories) including and enabling such elements to the game. I fully support it. 

The ugliness of the era remains though, slavery, inequities, second-class citizens, the poor abused by the rich, the stranger being feared by the community. They are also all part of the stories but that challenge is not for Chaosium to manage (well aside from not publishing scenarios that are not blalantly pushing these buttons). These topics are managed at the table to ensure people will have fun with the game and the stories shared.

I'd be very surprised if Chaosium would depict the era as an egalitarian, equal opportunity society where every one is vying to strike a gender balance in their workforce and ensure everyone from every nationalities, orientation and creed are included in every strate of the society.

I would be flabbergasted if Chaosium would be so inclusive to add African-American, Québécois, Aztecs and Mandolarians into the game, nor would Arthur be Japanese and Guenever of Brazilian origin. The subject matter is anachronistic but I am pretty sure they will stick with nationalities featured in the story and others that would make sense for the era.

I might be wrong but I trust they will manage it well.

 

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On 1/4/2022 at 10:58 PM, David 2 said:

Legionaries from all over the world came to Britain, including from Roman Africa. 

True. Yet, this african people mostly was men, and most of them arrived without families. Rome had break contact with Britain around 70 years before earliest starting date. That's generations of mixed marriages. So, black PK is much more likely to be foreigner than locally born.

7 hours ago, Sir Pom-Pom said:

Again: once you stretch historical reality

As i said before, no, they didn't. Female knights are within historical reality.

8 hours ago, Sir Pom-Pom said:

in this case to accommodate a certain number of players not feeling bad, you can make anything up.

I never could understand this concept. In video gaming, at least, it's pretty common to play characters of opposite gender. Same with race. As long as story is good it doesn't matter. KAP, with it's multigenerational (and relatively deadly) gameplay, lend itself to similar approach, when PKs is less player avatar, and more characters whose story players explore...

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7 hours ago, Sir Pom-Pom said:

I can't agree with that.

And yet, reading the first part of your post, you seem to be in agreement with the first two paragraphs of my post. Unless I misunderstand, what you state aligns with what I said. The ugliness of the era remains. How it's managed at the table (maybe that's the part that wasn't clear in my post) in not for Chaosium to manage.

Where I believe we disagree is how we trust Chaosium to manage the issue (my third paragraph). You seem to believe they are going "egalitarian-no-ugliness" full bore and I still trust they will navigate the balance between being more inclusive and stay true to the subject matter. Or course, people will have various levels of tolerance towards how much "inclusion and diversity" can be injected before it breaks suspension of disbelief. 

I also agree with your last sentence. Will they acheive their goal in a subtle way or will they be too obvious about it. I trust they will get the balance right but it seems they might have gone too far for you already (and there is nothing wrong with that stance if it is yours). 

I guess my confidence resides in the fact that nothing is rubbing me the wrong way in RQ or CoC and it doesn't feel like a political or social agenda is being pushed on me.

Time will tell.

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I’ve no problem with female knights, especially if this is in line with an inclusive policy moving forward. There are a lot more female gamers in the hobby than there use to be, so while authenticity is important to the genre, Arthurian myth has always reflected the times it was written in and progression needs to be made. As with The Green Knight recently, where some people complained about casting Dev Patel as Gawain, the truth is that the myth is archetypal not historical. 

That said, my basic problem is that the art direction looks too modern anyway. I think it needs a more classical style to capture the authenticity. 

 

Edited by TrippyHippy
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19 hours ago, TrippyHippy said:

That said, my basic problem is that the art direction looks too modern anyway. I think it needs a more classical style to capture the authenticity. 

I am not sure if this is what you mean by too modern but I personally find it too clean, too bland. 5.2 was too high medieval for my taste but it had style and character. What we have seen so far is beautiful pieces but too... generic?

Edited by DreadDomain
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19 minutes ago, DreadDomain said:

I am not sure if this is what you mean by too modern by I Personally find it too clean, too bland. 5.2 was too high medieval for my taste but it had style and character. What we have seen so far are beautiful pieces but too... generic?

Yep, I think we have the same sense of it, just using different words. I’d like the art, and even the logo to look more medieval and stylized.

 

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On 1/8/2022 at 6:25 PM, Sir Pom-Pom said:

They are already doing it. They do it, for instance, by presenting female knights, who at the time and in literary models are anecdotal at best, as something normal and widespread.

🤨 as far as i remember they isn't planning any major changes in this regard in comparison to 5th edition. In which there was just option for female knights, and one female knightly order, which may or may not exist depending on playing group whims.As i pointed out in relevant thread, there was medieval precedents for both. In fact, in KAP games, as far as i can see, typically there like 1-4 female knights around, while literature give example of 12-strong group...

On 1/8/2022 at 6:25 PM, Sir Pom-Pom said:

The power of the rich over the poor, and of the strong over the weak of feudal society

Just like in modern society ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

On 1/8/2022 at 6:25 PM, Sir Pom-Pom said:

and the sexism of patriarchal society

in middle ages at least 3 woman was elected queen (or female king, depending on the local tradition) in elective monarchies. And at least two came to power by leading military coups, with wide support of aristocracy. Don't extrapolate victorian era prejudices on all of human history.

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Regarding the art: I don't have a problem with what has been revealed so far. I'm sure there will be a variety of styles. One artist I hope they include is Eric Hotz. He's done a lot of RPG work over the years (Ars Magica for instance), and can draw like a medieval artist who happens to live in the 21st century! Here is an example. Check the rest of his site for many other excellent pieces.

EDIT: Actually, Eric Hotz did multiple illustrations for 5th edition. I guess I didn't need to point him out to anyone here! He is a great artist though.

Edited by Dagonet
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  • 2 weeks later...

Look, the fact is, the past is a foreign country and their values are not our values. 

If you want an authentic historical experience then you will need to jettison political correctness.

If you want inclusiveness then you will have to jettison historical accuracy.

Personally when I GM I prefer to include the prejudice towards characters who don't fit with the standards of the time, but not unremittingly so.  People with unusual backgrounds will need to work a bit harder for the same recognition, as they need to overcome societal mistrust, but on the plus side, once they have it, there are many honorable souls who will take to their defense in the face of injustices.  Yes, there may be chauvanistic NPCs who seemingly will never accept the characters, but that simply makes winning them over or defeating them a greater victory for the player.

The way I see it, to pretend there is no prejudice is to silence the struggles and injustices of the past, when these are heroic roleplaying opportunities that can be handled responsibly by a GM.  Let them know that being a hero is about facing bad odds and beating them, and that this can be that kind of story.

Edited by Darius West
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14 hours ago, Darius West said:

Personally when I GM I prefer to include the prejudice towards characters who don't fit with the standards of the time, but not unremittingly so.  People with unusual backgrounds will need to work a bit harder for the same recognition, as they need to overcome societal mistrust, but on the plus side, once they have it, there are many honorable souls who will take to their defense in the face of injustices.  Yes, there may be chauvanistic NPCs who seemingly will never accept the characters, but that simply makes winning them over or defeating them a greater victory for the player.

That tends to be my default GMing position as well. That being said:

14 hours ago, Darius West said:

The way I see it, to pretend there is no prejudice is to silence the struggles and injustices of the past, when these are heroic roleplaying opportunities that can be handled responsibly by a GM.  Let them know that being a hero is about facing bad odds and beating them, and that this can be that kind of story.

However, if that is explicitly not the kind of story that the Player wishes to tackle, my historicity scruples would make way for the Player's enjoyment. For example, I can very easily imagine a situation where the Player carries some emotional baggage from their own real-world experiences with prejudice and such, and would just like to relax and have some fun playing a roleplaying game. Sure, we could play something else than Pendragon, but if my choices are GMing D&D or KAP with the rougher edges filed off, I know what I am going to choose! *

In short, while my personal preference is for a more 'authentic medieval' setting, it is not a strong enough preference to trump the Player enjoyment. Let's say, for example, that the Player wishes to play an openly gay character who can legally marry another guy, and adopt children as their heirs. Sure, it won't be historic medieval, but I am already allowing female knights with minimal fuss in our KAP campaigns, so I am pretty much over that bridge already. The legalized adoption does mean that the childless NPKs and PKs would be adopting heirs, but that might pave way for other story hooks, instead. And many PKs think they are immortal until they suddenly are not. 😛 Anyway, the inclusion of the gay acceptance and gay weddings and yes, even the legalized adoption will actually not matter one jot as far as playing the campaign and the adventures are concerned, but they are just window dressing for the setting.

Now all that being said, another GM might feel much more strongly about the historicity aspect. Changing that in their campaign would diminish their enjoyment, and the GMs need to enjoy their game too, or they will stop GMing it (either by choice or by burnout). Or there could be other players who want to have the struggle and the more authentically medieval setting. So it becomes the session 0 negotiation at the gaming table, to see if it is a campaign that everyone will enjoy playing. And at sometimes, one may have to recognize that this particular campaign is not for them.

* In our first KAP campaign, I did have one player (and a good friend of mine), who was adamant that she would not play a Christian nor a male character. Those were her non-negotiable requirements for the campaign. As it happened, KAP already has as a default the (Celtic) Pagans, who are very much ahistorical given the rest of the medieval societal tapestry that Pendragon world seems based on. And there was already a discussion about female knights, so it was easy enough for me to accommodate her and I certainly did not regret having her as a player in the campaign. Actually, she switched to a lady character for like the last half of the campaign, and accommodating a lady character in the adventures designed for knights caused me way more headaches than a female knight would have!

Edited by Morien
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On 1/20/2022 at 12:46 AM, Morien said:

In short, while my personal preference is for a more 'authentic medieval' setting, it is not a strong enough preference to trump the Player enjoyment.

Why are you bringing Trump into this? 😬

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On 1/20/2022 at 12:46 AM, Morien said:

Now all that being said, another GM might feel much more strongly about the historicity aspect.

 I try to encourage my players not to "13th Warrior" themselves.  For example, if the RPG is based on the works of Jane Austen, you don't want someone trying to roleplay as the Incredible Hulk, even if they are currently in the midst of binge-watching Marvel movies at the time irl.  It is a cardinal sin of players not to play something setting-appropriate that doesn't jarringly break the immersion of other players and potentially wreck the game for everyone else.

On 1/20/2022 at 12:46 AM, Morien said:

* In our first KAP campaign, I did have one player (and a good friend of mine), who was adamant that she would not play a Christian nor a male character. Those were her non-negotiable requirements for the campaign. As it happened, KAP already has as a default the (Celtic) Pagans, who are very much ahistorical given the rest of the medieval societal tapestry that Pendragon world seems based on. 

Saxon Wotanic Shield Maidens are another good potential fit.  While Saxons are generally presented as an enemy culture in Pendragon, that Strength/Size bonus can produce a very effective female warrior who is entirely setting appropriate.

On 1/20/2022 at 12:46 AM, Morien said:

For example, I can very easily imagine a situation where the Player carries some emotional baggage from their own real-world experiences with prejudice and such, and would just like to relax and have some fun playing a roleplaying game.

Whereas my LGBT players would be offended if I tried to ignore historical accuracy in favor of "creating a safe space" for them, but then again, I generally play Call of C'thulhu with them and they are horror fans and if I tried to go easy on the graphic and awful content or eased up on the ghastly social attitudes of 1920s USA they would take me to task as a GM/Keeper.  I think they often try to see if they can bait me into being offended or shocked.  So far only one has succeeded (ydwtk).☺️

Edited by Darius West
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