|The original Pendragon RPG cover|
So last night marked the last session of my latest season of King Arthur Pendragon. One of the largest battles in the myths, the epic Battle of Badon Hill, took place and almost every player character was either dead or seriously injured - of the 9 knights present we had 1 dead, 5 seriously injured and 2 who were seriously injured that would have died had it not been for a house rule.
King Arthur Pendragon is an unusual role-playing game in that while most games play quite unique stories, Pendragon has a single storyline most games use: The Great Pendragon Campaign, which gives rules and and order of events from Arthur's conception when his father Uther sleeps with Ygraine to Arthur pulling the sword in the stone out to Arthur's marriage to Guenever all the way through to the battle of Camlann and the collapse of Camelot. Players create their own knights to adventure in this world, but around them they meet major charactersand are affected by major characters like Lancelot, Gawaine, Tristram or Mordred. In a manner of speaking, we all know "how it ends" - the game is more about how it ends for your characters and how their own adventures cross into the world-shaking ones.
|The cover to the current 5.1 edition of Pendragon.|
The game is split into eight phases, which correspond to eras usually around 10 to 15 years long. Each season of Pendragon we run is a Phase from start to finish which gives us a good ending point - the status quo changes and we feel a part of the story is complete, though more is still to go. So far we've had the Uther, Anarchy and Boy King. Next up is Conquest followed by Romance, Tournament, Grail Quest and finally Twilight.
|The coat of arms of King Lot, the main antagonist of Arthur for much of the Boy King phase.|
The time passage between sessions is the big difference in Pendragon - every week or two we advance a year, so that in the final abttle of 518 at the end of Boy King player knights included the sons of characters who were knights at the start of Uther way back in 485. If we continue those sons will themselves have children who can be player knights before Camelot falls - so by the time the game ends Ailsa could be playing the grandson of the first knight she ever played. That adds a certain "epic" feel to the game - the years roll by, old grudges are kindled over decades and players can see kingdoms rise and fall and rise again.
|Merlin as played by Nicol Williamson in Excalibur: the model for my game's version of the arch-druid.|
The players sometimes find the rules a bit random, arbitrarilly lethal and overly crunchy for their tastes. Pendragon has seen some minor edits from edition 1 to 5.1, but the changes are pretty minor and books between all editions are fairly compatible. This means the game has a lot of 80s RPG concepts lingering on - random tables abound, character death is quite easy with bad luck and some sub-systems like mass battle or manor control have a lot of moving parts. While Ailsa & Raj have played since the start and enjoy the game a fair bit, Molly & Matthew played then departed after a block each because it was just not gelling with them.
Its one-offs for the next few weeks, including a few people who haven't played with us before or in a while coming along. Should be a nice wee change of pace.