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Paul_Va

King Arthur Pendragon System

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I'm curious, does anyone know why Greg Stafford didn't use the BRP system for King Arthur Pendragon? I know he was associated with Chaosium early on.

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Greg was actually the founder of Chaosium. KAP is considered a variant of BRP, although the differences are remarkable, and I think Greg himself considers it "BRP how he would have developed it by himself, without Steve and Ray". It is certainly "BRP with a lot of room for roleplaying and less for swordplaying" but it is still recognizably BRP.

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No... Pendragon is a d20 based system. d6 ARE used for damage... most damage being based upon the strength and size of the Knight rather than the particular weapon.

Pendragon itself can be seen as something of an offshoot from RQ2 or early versions of BRP. In those versions, most skill advancement was in 5% increments. If you going to use such a coarse advancement system, why use d100? So resolution was changed to d20. Roll system in Pendragon is d20 blackjack.

SDLeary

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I see. I own the book, but I've never taken the time to study because I'm always working on something else. Someday I'll get around to giving it a try; I've always read good things about it. :)

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It certainly stands as a similar system to BRP, despite the core mechanic being D20 rather than D100%. I really wish it had been brought out with BRP mechanics, but many people prefer Pendragon as written. Unless you have a troupe that is willing to change both setting and systems at a drop of a hat then I'ld use BRP mechanics and port Pendragon into BRP, its a very easy system to do that. Pendragon has heaps of great setting info, and I think Greg Stafford did a brilliant job bringing an Arthurian setting to the hobby, it certainly stands up there as a classic roleplaying game.

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Some parts of the Pendragon system are fairly brilliant:

  • Removing INT and (except for 4th edition magicians) POW, on the premise that skills and a player's own intelligence replace mental stats.
  • Replacing "weapon damage + Damage Modifier" with basic sword Damage and adjustments for type of weapon (e.g. axes and maces do 1 die less damage, daggers are half damage).
  • As noted above, reducing the skill granularity from d100 to d20 to make experience and criticals/fumbles simpler.
  • Passions and (to a lesser extent) personality traits, both as goads to action and occasional sources of benefits.

Granted, some of these elements work best in a game of knights who always follow their hearts/guts/other organs below the neck. However, I've seen some of these mechanics in subsequent games: GURPS (base damage), d20 (skill granularity and unifying mechanic), RQ6 (passions), HeroQuest (d20 skills and passions), ... the list goes on. Except in some really old and obscure games I've yet to see mental characteristics removed, but if I ever design my own heartbreaker that will be a central feature.

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Some parts of the Pendragon system are fairly brilliant:

  • Removing INT and (except for 4th edition magicians) POW, on the premise that skills and a player's own intelligence replace mental stats.
  • Replacing "weapon damage + Damage Modifier" with basic sword Damage and adjustments for type of weapon (e.g. axes and maces do 1 die less damage, daggers are half damage).
  • As noted above, reducing the skill granularity from d100 to d20 to make experience and criticals/fumbles simpler.
  • Passions and (to a lesser extent) personality traits, both as goads to action and occasional sources of benefits.

Granted, some of these elements work best in a game of knights who always follow their hearts/guts/other organs below the neck. However, I've seen some of these mechanics in subsequent games: GURPS (base damage), d20 (skill granularity and unifying mechanic), RQ6 (passions), HeroQuest (d20 skills and passions), ... the list goes on. Except in some really old and obscure games I've yet to see mental characteristics removed, but if I ever design my own heartbreaker that will be a central feature.

Boot Hill had no Intelligence-type attributes.

As for the "below the neck" comment, if I remember (haven't played KAP in years), you were not required to play based on your traits. They are there to roll against if you want to or are indecisive about what your PC might do, but if you actively play against them they will change accordingly. You may gain or lose benefits based on those changes, and your in-game reputation may be altered. But there was nothing I can recall that made them a straitjacket.

I always thought they were a great device for roleplaying..."Hmm, Sir Roderick is lusty, what would he do here?"

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Removing INT and (except for 4th edition magicians) POW, on the premise that skills and a player's own intelligence replace mental stats.

I see this as a major mistake in rpg design. Sometimes I might want to play Stephen Hawking, and other times Mister Bean (or their 5th century counterparts).

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Removing INT and (except for 4th edition magicians) POW, on the premise that skills and a player's own intelligence replace mental stats.

I see this as a major mistake in rpg design. Sometimes I might want to play Stephen Hawking, and other times Mister Bean (or their 5th century counterparts).

Except that "intelligence" isn't a single number in real life, as social scientists belatedly discovered. Book-learning is just as easily represented as a set of skills ... as are animal-handling, social influence, artistic ability, and any other arena in which some people excel and others fumble around.

The real difference between Mr. Bean and Dr. Hawking is common sense. Dr. Hawking knows you can't paint a room by attaching dynamite to a paint can; Mr. Bean doesn't but lives in a world where that somehow works. If you want to be rewarded for doing stupid things ... well, there's always FATE (and PDQ# and Mutants & Masterminds 3).

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Except that "intelligence" isn't a single number in real life, as social scientists belatedly discovered.

Of course, but that is true of other stats, too (if you're resistant to fatigue you also don't suffer from allergies and are immune to poisons etc.).

Book-learning is just as easily represented as a set of skills ... as are animal-handling, social influence, artistic ability, and any other arena in which some people excel and others fumble around.

Perhaps the main point of getting higher education (in scientific faculties a large part of the information you receive during college is out-of-date by the time you get a degree) is training to wrap your head around new things and be an efficient self-learner. Now, you could have an "Understanding/Learning" meta-skill, but I think the Intellingence stat (with the Idea roll) works just fine for that purpose. And if what bothers you is that stats are typically (and lazily) described as mere "inborn traits", simply reinterpret them as dependent in part on your genetic pool and in part on your environment/upbringing, as I expect a biologist/geneticist that is not a supporter of genetic determinism would do.

Edited by MatteoN

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" If you want to be rewarded for doing stupid things ... well, there's always ..."

Risus! Simple mechanics, originally intended for light, humorous play (although an awful lot of folks have used it to do Cthulhu campaigns). As written, it's a game where you could battle a monster with your pastry chef or charismatic hairdresser skill (the goofier, the better) and win. ;D

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Regarding Intelligence stats:

Of course, but that is true of other stats, too (if you're resistant to fatigue you also don't suffer from allergies and are immune to poisons etc.).

Note, however, there are four physical stats in BRP, five if you count APP, but only two mental ones, INT and POW.

STR, CON, DEX, and SIZ represent lifting ability, resistance to infection/fatigue/injury/etc., physical coordination (hand-eye AND agility), and height/weight/bulk. All of these are related somewhat -- exercise can increase stamina, strength, and coordination, depending on the type of exercise -- but they're separate stats in the system.

Contrast that to INT, POW, and (sometimes) EDU. POW, arguably, is a "mystical" or "spiritual" stat, except that it also measures mundane willpower under the theory that one imposes one's will on the universe. EDU distinguishes general knowledge from "mental flexibility" or however one interprets INT, but in ancient and medieval societies only a select few have any degree of general education (and some of that is flat out wrong). In such societies it's even more important to distinguish the book-learning of a scholar, the observational skills of a "ranger", the perceptiveness and improvisation of a thief or con-man, etc.

My main stumbling block is that "intelligence" is a vague and overly broad name. The most recent Doctor Who RPG gives us Ingenuity and Awareness (plus Presence and Resolve), appropriate enough for a series where the title character out-thinks his enemies. WEG's Star Wars RPG used Knowledge, Mechanical, Technical, and Perception; tossing out the two science-related attributes we still distinguish knowing things from making mental connections. (Perception was the basis for the skills "bargain", "con", and "persuasion", among others.)

In action-oriented genres, especially in sword-and-sandal or Arthurian legends, "thinky stuff" takes a back seat. While there are a few heroes like Odysseus who depend heavily on their wits, most characters will have a few specialized fields of expertise represented more effectively by skills. A not-so-clever player trying to play somebody smarter needs prompting from the GM and fellow players to be "the smart one", which can be unsatisfying for everyone else. ("I think of a solution!" *roll* *roll* "OK, you see ...") A clever player playing a thick-as-two-planks character is either frustrating or insulting to the mentally challenged community. ("Here's an idea! Why don't we --" "Wait!" *roll* *roll* "Nope, sorry, you didn't think of that.")

As you said in a part of the post I cut, "Intelligence" works fine mechanically in BRP. But it's neither necessary nor, depending on genre and setting, sufficient.

(BTW, I'm not the only one; at least one blogger things that analogous D&D stats are over-broad. Said post renames "Intelligence" to "Acuity" to reflect attention to detail and adaptability without the baggage of "smart"/"dumb".)

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There's been a little of this going on in house rules for GURPS as well - one of the line editors divorces Will and Perception, normally figured from IQ, and gives them a base score of 10 (average) from which you can buy them up or down to suit your character design. Keeps the natural order - otherwise geniuses all wind up having iron will and would be the ones fleecing the jocks of their lunch money.

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There's been a little of this going on in house rules for GURPS as well - one of the line editors divorces Will and Perception, normally figured from IQ, and gives them a base score of 10 (average) from which you can buy them up or down to suit your character design.

After seeing so many systems' attempts at "base characteristics", I'm increasingly convinced that they're more trouble than they're worth. My heartbreaker would either follow FATE / Castle Falkenstein / GUMSHOE / et al. to place "Might" and "Stamina" on the same level as "Investigation" and "Driving", or take the free-form attribute approach of HeroQuest, PDQ, the Over the Edge system (WaRP), and others whereby players and GM define their own abilities.

The BRP family still uses STR, DEX, INT, and the rest, and that's fine. The Mongoose lineage has largely eliminated characteristic tests -- Might replaces STR tests, Resilience/Stamina replaces CON tests, etc. -- but we still need STR, CON, SIZ and the rest to calculate hit points, damage bonuses, magic points, skill defaults, and so forth. Someday I might design a version of BRP that depends only on skills ... probably the same day I redesign GURPS to replace ST/DX/IQ/HT with Talents and advantages, and right after I write a new version of D&D.

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fmitchell, it seems that we're totally on the same page as far as our preferences are concerned: I too think that the stat/skill distinction generally is arbitrary and unconvincing. If I wanted to modify BRP, I probably would do without the characteristics and use just skill categories and skills; damage bonus, hit points and magic points would have to be determined directly, not derived from other characteristics.

However, I like the INT and EDU characteristics, because I see them respectively as:

- a trait describing a character's capacity to acquire new knowledge either directly through sense perception or indirectly through reasoning. While it's obviously true that one can have keen senses and be slow-witted, or viceversa, I think with the INT characteristic and the sense related skills it's possible to represent a large variety of characters.

- a trait describing how much general knowledge the character has already acquired. I conceive it differently from how it's (unconsideredly imho) presented in BRP games: I don't interpret its rating with reference to today's state of the natural sciences, seen as a fixed, eternal standard! Rather I interpret it in reference to the body of beliefs and knowledge accepted by the historical culture to which the character belongs. So a shaman might be a learned member of a tribe of nomadic herders, just like a MIT professor is a learned member of the population of Boston. The fact that the latter holds a larger number of true beliefs than the former in my experience is often irrelevant in rpgs, where most of the times the question is whether a character knows (or believes) something that other characters know (or believe), and not whether he knows the truth about a given matter. When it's dubious if a character is aware of something, the player makes a Know roll whose multiplier depends on how likely it is that that a member of their culture is aware of that thing. That is, I don't consider Edu as an optional characteristic.

Edited by MatteoN

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