Well, the Bundle of Holding for Pendragon may be over but I’m not through reading it quite yet. Plus, it’s still totally available from DriveThruRPG, among other places I’m sure. So, after leraning about the long, proud lineage of our knights (or short and brutal depending on how you rolled) as well as getting some more information about the world our knight lives in, we move on to Chapter Four of the Pendragon RPG: States and Skills.
So what’s in this Chapter?
Well, the Bundle of Holding for Pendragon may be over but I’m not through reading it quite yet. Plus, it’s still totally available from DriveThruRPG, among other places I’m sure. So, after creating a character, we move on to Chapter Three of version 5.1 of the Pendragon RPG: Family and Fatherland.
So what’s in this Chapter?
I used to get so excited every year when E3 came around. That was the time that you would learn what games that publishers had planned for the remainder of the year and, at least for me, a time to start to get excited about those games. Of course, this year there have already been some big announcements: Information about Dragon Age: Inquisition has started to come out (the trailer looks promising, but I’m hoping for more RPG this time), there’s apparently a huge Halo compilation (with more graphics!) on the way, yet another Batman game and – surprise – there’s another Assassin’s Creed. I really don’t want this post to just be a screed about some sort of hatred of sequels. I don’t hate sequels. They are – for the most part – what makes all entertainment industries go. They are often high reward, low risk endeavors that – hopefully – let publishers take on more exciting projects.
So, you didn’t care about the stuff at E3? Like, all of it?
That’s not quite fair, either, it’s just that I think a lot of the stuff making big news is hardly news at all.
Until what looks like sometime in the morning of June 9, 2014, Pendragon, the Arthurian RPG from Greg Stafford is part of the Bundle of Holding. If you are reading that after that time, I hope you still enjoy this write up, but – for the time being – you can get Pendragon, 5.1 Edition, the Book of Knights & Ladies and the Book of Records Volume 1 – Knights for $9.95 and you can get The Great Pendragon Campaign, Book of Battle (Second Edition), Book of Armies and the Grey Knight (all supplements for Pendragon) if you pay at least $21.72. Having made such a purchase, I continue my write-up on my read-through (HYPHENS!) on Pendragon by Greg Stafford.
After Part 1 of my Pendragon ‘Let’s Read an RPG’, which primarily covered the Introduction, it’s time to get into the meat of the game. I’m always excited to get into character creation because it is usual your first chance to start to see how the rules work and how they mesh together. It’s one thing to see a list of skills and things on a character sheet, but there is an intrinsic joy to starting to fill those boxes in and see how they mesh together and how they make a unique person that wasn’t there before.
Let’s Read an RPG: Pendragon by Greg Stafford Part 1 – Introduction and Chapter 1 (The Pendragon Realm)
Until what looks like sometime in the morning of June 9, 2014, Pendragon, the Arthurian RPG from Greg Stafford is part of the Bundle of Holding. If you are reading that after that time, I hope you still enjoy this write up, but – for the time being – you can get Pendragon, 5.1 Edition, the Book of Knights & Ladies and the Book of Records Volume 1 – Knights for $9.95 and you can get The Great Pendragon Campaign, Book of Battle (Second Edition), Book of Armies and the Grey Knight (all supplements for Pendragon) if you pay at least $21.72. I did the latter option, mostly on how awesome The Great Pendragon Campaign sounded. But this isn’t about that. Instead, this is a series of articles going through chapter-by-chapter of my impressions as I read through Pendragon.
Well, the PDF isn’t overlong, at least. I’ve become somewhat adverse to RPGs that badly gild the lily and can’t get out of their own way. The main RPG for Pendragon, 5.1 Edition, (Just Pendragon from here on, I promise) weighs in at 238 pages, so that seems doable. The table of contents looks pretty thorough, so that’s heartening. Apparently, the first edition of Pendragon was released back in 1981, so I guess 30+ years of refinement will do that for you. Also, almost a full quarter of the book appears to be appendices, which is pretty impressive. I want to read the appendix of tournaments so freakin’ bad, but I’m going to read it in order since that’s kind of the point of this column.
Stafford does a nice job of laying out the tone of the game. This isn’t high fantasy. I begin to get worried, though, because my knowledge of Arthur is basically limited to reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight when I was in undergrad, watching Disney’s The Sword and the Stone, like, so many times, and playing (probably renting it from the local Movie Hut) an SNES game called King Arthur & the Knights of Justice, which I just had to Google like five times before I could find. I’m sure that it gave me a solid and well-rounded understanding of Arthurian lore.
Okay, so I know nothing about Arthur. I mean, I know there’s Arthur, and Lancelot and Guinevere and Merlin and a Round Table, but that’s really about all I have. But this thing looks to be serious business. It makes a point of saying that the game is meant to cover huge swaths of time, with your character’s heir taking over as your player character afterwards. That’s pretty amazing. I love the idea of scope in RPGs, but most of them really leave it to you to add, but here there are apparently going to be rules and such for technology advancing over time, which is just about the raddest thing I’ve heard today. So I’m feeling pretty psyched about that. There’s a nice little one-page primer of Arthurian history here, which was helpful to me in seeing some of the differences in how Arthur was treated over time by different writers. There is a brief bit at the end about how the game actual plays (although only barely). It looks like you might need some basic Algebra to play Pendragon, which has certainly gone out of vogue in game design over the last several years. Stats look to be roughly on the classic D&D scale, although those with more Glory can apparently surpass regular human limitations on their Attributes. There’s also a mention of ‘experience checks’ and I wonder if this is a similar system to the checks system used in Burning Wheel/Mouse Guard/Torchbearer. It sounds like it may be, but then I’m only going on like a paragraph for now. There’s a brief glossary (and a conversion table from metric to standard measurements for people from most places in the world to figure out how big or heavy things are) and then we wrap up the Intro.
Chapter 1: The Pendragon Realm
I’ve often wondered if it is better to go ahead and get into the worldbuilding stuff first or if you should go ahead and talk about the gameplay and then worry about the fluff later. Still, I get why Stafford went with the setting-first approach. You can tell that this thing means business regarding its Arthur-stuff, so it makes sense that it would lead with the setting. Chapter 1 is entirely about the setting, and weighs in at about 15 pages. It gives you a little about some of the important people in the world (including stat blocks on Uther and Merlin) but mostly focuses on letting the players know what the conventions and expectations are in this world. Customs and social structure are very important, or so I surmise, and failing to understand those things would likely undermine a game of Pendragon from achieving what it sets out to do – emulate the world of Arthur (or at least, an Arthur, given the number of interpretations). We learn about the geography of the world (i.e. Britain), social systems, knight ranks, social norms, justice and a bunch of other things. It’s a dense 15 pages but I certainly feel more confident about my abilities as a GM to capture the feel of what Stafford is going for after reading it. That said, I also get the distinct feeling that everyone that plays in a game of Pendragon should either have read this whole section or at least been given a one page primer on much of the information found therein. There are some RPGs (The One Ring jumps to mind, as well) that really seem to demand a lot of the participants in buying into the mood and world that it is set in so that the game is successful. I feel like that would be the case with Pendragon. That said, I’ve really enjoyed reading it. It made me think that most RPGs might get a little too far down into the nitty gritty details instead of giving you a good 15 or 20 pages of really meaty setting stuff of how the world works, not just what is in it. I feel like the Pendragon world feels alive in a way that some other settings don’t. Of course, I could be speaking too soon and points could be thoroughly belabored later. We’ll see, but for now I feel like this section gave me a really good overview of the culture of the world of Pendragon without telling me about every mountain range or the sigil of each powerful house. I will say, as I read this, that if you enjoy Game of Thrones, which I hear the kids like these days, you will probably like the vibe set up in Pendragon.
If you can imagine, Chapter Two: Character Creation is next. I assume that will be a chapter on creating characters, but my expectations have been subverted before. Family and Fatherland follows that and then Stats and Skills before we get into the crunchy stuff. You can see all of the columns (which as of right now is just this one) by checking out this page. In the meantime, Pendragon is available as part the Bundle of Holding until June 9, 2014. After that time, the PDF is available through DriveThruRPG.
After making a recent post about BattleCON: War of Indines (a card game from Level 99 Games that emulates the feel of arcade-style fighting games), I got the itch to play a real fighting game. Of course, I also mentioned in that same post that I am, by-and-large, also pretty awful at these things. Still, Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition was on sale on Steam (I’d link to it, but the sale is off now, so whatev) to celebrate SSIV moving from Games for Windows Live to Steam (thank goodness for that). ‘Well, that’s a happy turn of events, isn’t it?’ I thought to myself, not realizing that I had just spent $11 or so on pure, bottled rage.
When I was a kid/teenager and arcades were still a thing that a person might happen to go to every now and then, there were no games that spoke to me like fighting games. I mean, what wasn’t to love? They were certainly the most Darwinistic of the arcade games. Most of the games were built to take your money as quickly as possible and, as a kid, I was not exactly flush with cash. But if you got good at a fighting game. I mean really good you could play forever. At least against human competition, most of them had (and still have) unfair rule breaking bosses meant to stop your progress dead in a fit of ‘I’ve nearly beat it!’ frustration (I’m looking at you Onslaught).
Still, playing fighting games at home has never held quite the same appeal to me. I mean, I’ve gotten pretty into a couple (Street Fighter IV, Virtua Fighter 4 and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to name a few), but I was never good at any of them. And, in any case, I’ve found for my fighting game nostalgia fix, there is nothing that scratches that itch quite like BattleCON.
In case you aren’t familiar, BattleCON (from Level 99 Games) is a card game meant to call back to those glory days of arcade fighters. And it is wonderful. I have a copy of BattleCON: War of Indines from back in the first printing. I also have a copy of Battle: Devastation of Indines which provides more content in its box than perhaps any other game I own. Both games provide you with a huge roster of fighters (something like 18 in the original War and 30 in Devastation, I think) and – while they can be played in other variants (include boss battles, two-on-two fights and even an RPG mode in Devastation) I mostly enjoy it as a two-player game for fighting game supremacy with each player maneuvering around the seven space board and trying to guess what the other player will do while managing their distance, stun and priority. So, needless to say, I really find it to be quite lovely. Sadly, the original War of Indines has now all-but-sold-out. Happily, the game is now on Kickstarter. You can read more about the crowdfunding effort after the jump.
Continue Reading →
After hiatus, and with few representations of the frequency or quality of my updates, I feel like writing here on Futile Position. If you still check occasionally or just stumbled here, well, thanks, either way. In any case, I grabbed Sir, You Are Being Hunted off of Steam since it was on sale for $9.99 (half off) and I had been curious about the game since I frequent Rock, Paper, Shotgun and the team behind the game (Big Robot) includes one of the RPS staffers. In any case, my impressions, thus far, are overwhelmingly positive. I’ve not spent a ton of time with the game, but I get the gist: You are hunting a series of five randomly-generated islands for pieces of some whutzit that you need to get home. Problem: You are being hunted by gentleman robots. You can only save when you are in very limited locations. So, I was feeling pretty good and thinking, “Well, this seems pretty easy.” Until I started getting hungry. And then I was carrying two pieces of my whutzit (not the official name) and it seemed like – suddenly – the world was alive with robots. It was a tense crawl back to the standing stones, which was being watched by a hot air balloon with a spotlight. Luckily I managed to drop off the pieces I was carrying and save the game. And breathe again. I didn’t realize until I quit that I had forgot to do that. Which is promising, for sure. I’m looking forward to exploring the game more than my very brief go with it. I don’t think I would regret my purchase even if I had grabbed Sir, You Are Being Hunted for full price so I am doubly pleased with myself right now.
Primeval Thule from Sasquatch Game Studio is a new swords-and-sorcery setting for 4e, 13th Age, and Pathfinder
I’m always interested in interesting-sounding roleplaying game settings. While I have a tendency to make settings my own in play, it’s always great to see a fully-fleshed-out setting that can serve as an inspiration for your games that might lead you to make some story or world-building decisions you might not otherwise make, or provide a basis for your adventures in itself. Sasquatch Game Studio is currently Kickstarting an intriguing RPG setting called Primeval Thule, a barbaric, swords and sorcery world.
Hollow Earth Expedition, the roleplaying game from Exile Game Studio using the Ubiquity ruleset, will soon be expanding its brand of pulp into space with Hollow Earth: Revelations of Mars, the new sourcebook which is currently funding on Kickstarter. As of this writing, it has already surpassed its $15,000 goal by $5,000 with 26 days to go.
So, what is it all about, anyway?