Let’s Read an RPG: Pendragon by Greg Stafford – Chapter 3: Family and Fatherland
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?
The chapter starts with an alternate to creating a lineage for your characters that results in a history starting with your great-grandfather and ending with your character being knighted. Overall, the family history creator covers the years between 439 and 485 and includes some 28 events over the course of the decades. Of course, your ancestors may have died before living through all of those events and – even if your ancestors went through the exam same events as someone else’s – it is unlikely that you’d ever have the same historical events as someone else since most of the events have a d20 table that determines to what happens to your ancestor during that event. This is awesome. It’s a good way to both tie the player characters to the world and to let the actual players know something about the world without asking them to, you know, read or invest in it since, in my experience, that is basically impossible. You can also roll to determine how all of your related knights (created during regular character creation) are related to you. As, according to the book, you might just be losing PCs left-and-right it is probably a good idea to have a better fleshed-out family so you have a good idea of who might step in for your current PC at any given moment. The rest of the chapter provides you with some more geographical context for Arthur’s world. It includes a couple of nice maps (including a particularly awesome one that shows how many days horse ride all the different cities in Logres are from each other) and gives you a few sentences about each of the major locations (and a few of the major people) on the map as well as some general idea of the types of cities that existed so that you didn’t go imagining the castles of Arthur as the massive stone monstrosities that would come later in history.
So, let’s make a family history, shall we?
So, it turns out my great-grandfather was quite an honorable fellow. He starts with 2,800 Glory, no mean amount of honor for a knight. He may not have been famous, but he wasn’t a slacker, either. He passes 1/10 of that down to is son (my character’s grandfather), so my grandfather starts with 1,308 when he is knighted. Not bad as he enters the year 439, the year my character’s father is born. During that year, my grandfather fought in the Battle of Carlion which he survives without incident and with very little additional Glory, with a running total of only 1,338. But he’s still alive, so that’s not nothing. Next, Grandfather serves garrison duty a couple of times and gains 30 Glory over the ensuing years. Sadly, Grandfather dies in the Year 443 while fighting raiders during garrison duty. This brings his grand total to 1,388 Honor. Well, he certainly failed to live up to the bar set by his father, that’s for sure.
But maybe my character’s father can turn things around. We skip ahead to his knighting in the Year 460, where my character’s father (who starts with 1,139 Honor of his own) serves in garrison duty but does not see any actual fighting during the first year of his knighthood. He does little over the next few years, but does marry my character’s mother and gains 100 Glory from the marriage (So 1,239 Glory). Caulas, the character I created, who have been born in 465 and, over the next few years, survives both the Siege of Carlion and the Battle of Snowdon, although he gains no Glory in the process. Caulas’ father’s career takes a suddne upturn, however, when he gains 200 Glory on raids into enemy territories under the future king Uther (1,439 Honor, better than his father, but still nowhere near his grandfather). Caulas’ father dies in battle shortly thereafter in a battle under King Ambrosius against the Saxons. The Saxons take the victory but, more important to my character, my character’s father falls in the battles, leaving my family with Hate (Saxons) passion of 16, which is notable. My character starts his career with 144 Honor (instead of the random roll on the table, although he actually ‘loses’ Honor in this process since I rolled very well, ending up with 178 Honor in the default character creation), a much richer backstory (although neither of his ancestors made it all the way through the various charts) and he inherits a much stronger hatred of Saxons (his default was only 9). I roll and find out the other two knights in Caulas’ family are my sister’s husband and my maternal first cousin.
It isn’t enough that you know what your direct ancestors did. No, you also find out the number of aunts, uncles and siblings you have and if each of them are living or dead. I also learn that Caulas’ father had six siblings, five sisters (two alive and married, two alive and unmarried and one dead and previously married) and a brother (dead and never married). Caulas’ mother has two siblings – a brother (dead and previously married) and a sister (alive and married). I also determine that Caulas himself has four sisters and two brothers. It is certainly a large family. Caulas’ mother is alive and has remarried. So, it looks like Caulas’ family may have previously had more middle-aged knights, they have all just passed away. There’s a chart to determine how all of those family members died, but I’ve not used it here just for the sake of brevity.
What’s up next?
Having pretty thoroughly covered both character creation and the Arthurian world that the characters will be inhabiting, we head into the Stats and Skills before Game Mechanics and then Combat. So, it looks like things get pretty crunchy in the next few chapters although I would certainly not be surprised if there is a fair amount more Arthurian history in the remainder of Pendragon. You can see all of the columns in my ‘Let’s Read Pendragon’ series by checking out this page.