Friday, June 13, 2014

Updated Pendragon Character Creation

First, a rant. It's pretty annoying that King Arthur Pendragon is such an appealing game with so many good ideas, buried under a lot of cruft that makes it hard to play the game. It's got all the excesses of the overlong, overdescriptive, metaplot manuals of 90s games like White Wolf. Pages - pages about aspects of Arthurian chivalry, inheritence, exactly what happened in any given year of Arthur's reign with events the players are specifically excluded from influencing. Now this can be "fixed" by removing plot protection and letting players change events, removing NPCs from taking center stage, but what's frustrating is: Why can't the Pendragon game books make all this medieval and Arthurian lore into random event tables and adventure seeds? Gosh guys, I can buy a book on medieval life or read Mallory without your game- Can I get some non-railroady adventures? Could you set up an area of Britain with adventure sites? The Grand Pendragon Campaign, and several of the supplements like the Book of the Estate, gets soooo close to this, but then just half-asses it. Of course, it's probably because it was so exhausting to get all the metaplot and historical detail "just right."

Then don't even get me started on how the solution to every problem for how something should play out in game is an excessively complex subsystem that mostly consists of random rolls and adding new skills. Ugh.

That said, the whole idea of virtues/traits and compelling passions is such a great core idea (I also like the roll-off but under a skill mechanic, genius!), and there are so many charming parts that emerged from the cruft that I keep imagining a great game. I just get frustrated by how much investment I'd have to have to really get a game going.I also got the Book of the Estate which has a much better system for dealing with being a landowning knight-it's really hands off, but has some simple ways for dealing with interesting plot-centric events like raiding and building improvement with your extra cash. This is a hopeful sign, and removes the problems we had in the past with too much estate paperwork.

An example of the problem is character creation: Pendragon veers between the cookie-cutter knight character who starts with the exact same stats as all other knights with like 2 choices at creation and any type of knight, from Britons to Saxons to Byzantines with a variety of choices with minor stat differences. And not a lot of the differences are meaningful (see complaint above adding complications...). To get players through character creation, I've tried different ways to simplify/streamline this to make interesting characters out the gate, but none have really worked out.

Anyway, here's my current ideas for simply character creation for the next time we play Pendragon (if I can ever convince my players again). This is to go with starting the campaign at the beginning of Arthur's reign so the 'magic' of the game can come out with chivalry, faeries, and fighting other knights (rather than just Saxons):

Pendragon Character Creation [updated]
 (You'll need Book of Knights & Ladies for the details; pages 40, 42, 51-58, 62-65; briton only 40, 42, 51, 58, 62)
1. Roll son number: 1d6-1, with 0 or 1 = first born/heir.

2. Pick Culture & Religion (default Briton Christian, common others: Pagan, Roman, Aquitaine, Saxon); can roll on Boy King region chart if don't have preference.

3. Roll father's class, Feudal 2, BK&L 40 (unless outsider culture)

4. Roll family wealth BK&L 42; receive Boy-King Era equipment

5. Determine traits based on culture/religion, pick 1 notable trait at 16 (unless don't want to).

6. Roll Passions 3d6+4 for Loyalty, Love (Family), Hospitality, Honor; roll 3d6+4 for Hate if have backstory reason (work with GM).

7. Decide whether random attributes (better deal: 3d6+4 SIZ, 3d6+1 others; women 3d6+5 APP instead of size; reroll all 1s) or spread 60 points. Modify by culture (Briton +3 CON). BK&L 51.

8. Skills: (1) pick main weapon, make skill 15; (2) pick 3 noncombat skills, raise each to 10; (3) make 4 increases to either attributes by 1 pt per increase or (combat) skills by 5 pts per increase; (4) add 10 discretionary pts to noncombat skills; (5) any remaining skills start at default values for culture (BK&L 52-57).

9. Roll family characteristic (BK&L 58); roll Luck item (BK&L 62-65)

10. Based on creation rolls and choices, determine whether inherited son, family status, and other background. The knights will be knights errant at the beginning of the adventure, although they will still owe 40 days service to their liege. Important details: whether father alive, connection to family and status, who the knight squired with, whether knight has squire (must be wealthy/important enough).

11. Start knighted before important tourney: 1150 starting Glory. Go forth ye flower of chivalry!

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