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Pendragon Design Journal #11: Writing the Starter Set, plus download 'The Adventure of the Sword Tournament' Pendragon Quick-Start


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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.


For a game with a simple premise (everyone plays knights trying to acquire Glory), Pendragon may intimidate prospective players more often than one might think.

No doubt this is due in part to the vast corpus of Arthurian lore, both “in the wild” and in the form of Greg Stafford’s magnum opus, The Great Pendragon Campaign. Over time, the perception has taken hold that in order to “properly” play Pendragon, one must commit to the entirety of that mighty campaign.

With 6th edition, we’re doing our level best to present Pendragon gameplay from a variety of approaches. The GPC is still there for folks who want to run it—heck, eventually you’ll be able to run a campaign that stretches over 130 game years! But the new edition also facilitates one-shots or short campaigns with knights errant going out on quests, or mid-length campaigns that span a couple decades, or some variation between these various points on the spectrum of possibilities.

Another entry point—one we hope lots of folks will avail themselves of, newcomers and veterans alike—is the forthcoming Pendragon Starter Set.

So far in this Design Journal series, we’ve been taking a look at various aspects of the new edition as a whole. Everything we’ve discussed so far is present in the Starter box as well, to some extent or another. Over the next few months, therefore, we’ll be talking less about the game’s mechanics in general and instead be taking a look at what went into putting together the first-ever Starter Set for Pendragon.

The core Pendragon books are all fundamentally the finished versions of the draft manuscripts left us by Greg at his passing in 2018. The Pendragon Starter Set, on the other hand, was assembled from scratch. What we had from Greg was a short prospectus of a a way to do “Quick-Start Pendragon” and a half-completed series of thematically-linked scenarios he called “The Sword Campaign”.

There are three books included in the Pendragon Starter Set: Book I is a tutorial solo adventure, similar to what you find in the RuneQuest Starter Set and Call of Cthulhu Starter Set boxes, for those of you familiar with those products. Book II is a condensed version of the core rulebook. Book III is The Sword Campaign, an introductory set of adventures developed from the most complete portion of Greg’s manuscript. 

'The Adventure of the Sword' Pendragon Quick-Start

We'll talk more about those adventures in our next Design Journal. Meanwhile, please take a look our special Pendragon Starter Set Preview, launched at Gen Con earlier this month, and available now as a free download. 

This new version of the 6th edition Pendragon Quick-Start rules features the first act of the first scenario from The Sword Campaign, easily playable in a single session, along with five of the eight pre-generated characters from the Pendragon Starter Set. With a copy in hand, you’ll be playing Pendragon in no time!

Download The Adventure of the Sword Pendragon Quick-Start

Pendragon Quick-Start Download

Art – upper: Mark Smylie; lower: Sam Carr

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I'm comparing this to some of the material in The Great Hunt - and there have been some tweaks:

  • More unified ways Passions work, regardless of value (I did like that lower values were at least semi-viable)
  • The idea of a Passion Crisis, that replaces was called "shock" in earlier editions
  • Melancholy going away if the person takes 1 point of damage (I think this may be easy to exploit)

There might be others buried in there as well.

EDIT: I did notice one other. If a knight receives a Major Wound, they are immediately unconscious, with no other roll.

Edited by SaxBasilisk
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23 hours ago, SaxBasilisk said:

EDIT: I did notice one other. If a knight receives a Major Wound, they are immediately unconscious, with no other roll.

That’s one that I probably won’t be taking over into my houserules, although I’ll have to see what my players think.  I really like the flavor of the current Major Wound rules, especially the Valorous roll.  At a minimum, I’d be inclined to allow a PK to stay conscious in extraordinary circumstances if they make an appropriate Passion roll.

Edited by Voord 99
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