Knowledge Skills

Pendragon has no INT stat. It’s hard to play a guy that is smarter or dumber than you are, and if the characters need to learn something let them learn it through one of the skills on the character sheet. (When I used to play RQ the players would often be in the dark and we’d use INTx5 as a d100 skill an “idea roll.”)

Skills I Dropped

I really wrestled with what I call Knowledge skills for Pendragon. In 1st edition I had one Lore for each feudal class (Courtesy, Religion, Folklore), Fairy Lore and the Culture Lores: Cymric, Saxon, Irish, Roman and Pict Culture. These last five were to be used whenever a knight was in foreign lands to see if he knew what was going on.

But I dropped those 1st edition skills after playing some more. The key problem was what to do when the characters didn’t make their roll to understand something—and they almost always failed! After a while I was at a loss to come up with ideas of what consequences might occur, short of murder. They were actually more of an impediment to my ability as a GM to use keep the story flowing. Furthermore, once established they were a continuous impediment to the various peoples getting together. That was contrary to my design intent.

In respect to creating problems, though, the languages were worse. Speak Cymric, Speak Saxon, Speak Irish, etc. only kept characters from communicating.

At that point I realized one of my conceptions: the historical nitty gritty (multiple peoples without knowledge and understanding of each other) is secondary to the Romantic and Epic tradition of people working together. Besides, did you recall anyone speaking a foreign language in Malory, or any other literary source?

So those skills went, and I have never missed them since.

Skills I Have Considered Using

Sometimes I do wish the player characters had some kind of knowledge resource to use in a game. Here are a couple of them I’ve considered.

Geography

I always want my players to know where their characters have been. I handed out one-page maps to everyone with character generation with stern requests to use it to chart the territory their characters know. I don’t think anyone uses them.

So I thought that a skill of Geography might help. This would be the chance that someone knew something about a place, either near or far. “Do any of you characters know about the Forest Adventurous?” or “Do you know how to get to Strangorre?” or “Does he know Neustria?”

But problems arose. What if no one knew how to get to Strangorre? If it was important to the adventure they would have to learn is some other way. So if they’re going to learn it anyway, why add a skill to the list? All it does is make something else for the knights to fail at, and in a skill that is not among those revered by knights anyway!

World Knowledge

For a while I thought that it was useful to have a general Knowledge. It needed to be big enough to include Geography, the science of the time (ha ha), plants and animals, etc. But it was too big and broad –“Do I know how to set off a rockslide?” The alternative was to make several skills but again, that’s not knightly. So, no Knowledge either.

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