Pendragon (1985)

This is the first edition Pendragon box set from 1985. Pendragon is an elegant, near perfect game for what it is: a recreation of the Arthurian romances in an interactive form, with a focus on simulating knighthood as it developed through Arthur’s fictional reign. I know of no other game that so precisely and effortlessly encapsulates its subject matter through mechanics and design. If you’ve ever wondered why there isn’t more King Arthur material in the RPG market, Pendragon is your answer: Greg Stafford’s game is definitive and no one has ever seriously tried to rival.

That said, it certainly isn’t for everyone. If you’ve no interest in the legends of Arthur or the romance of knighthood, this game’ll probably bore you to tears. Much of it is caught up in politics, military campaigns and family affairs. The latter is perhaps the most interesting mechanic. Since you’re expected to play several generations of characters from the same family (something of particular interest to me as an expectant father), as much of your attention is spent on siring heirs and tending your estate as it is on questing and warfare.

The campaign world is one of a magical golden age, with technological and philosophical advancement of the next several centuries happening rapidly within the confines of Britain over a handful of decades. This makes for stark differences between the generations of characters, as chivalry and civility take hold, dominate, then finally give way to decadence. A set of opposing character traits help track the virtues and flaws of character knights (modest vs proud, for example), allowing players to have some insight into how to push their characters toward the heroic glories and tragic ends they desire.

Pendragon is another game like Call of Cthulhu that I played young and, therefore, played it like it was D&D. That is, entirely wrong. It is also the next game I intend to run once Masks of Nyarlathotep wraps up. I can’t wait.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *