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Q&A for Pendragon

These questions are taken from the online forum and list where I regularly contribute, or from personal letters. Feel free to send your questions!

Battle Questions

Battle Round

During any given battle round, I will roll a random type of foe for the players' unit to combat. Check. Each player is then paired off with an identical bad guy. Check. They then roll an opposed weapon skill to determine who gets damaged. Check.

Answer: All perfect so far.

Does the battle round end at this point, after just one melee round of opposed weapon skill rolls,

Answer: Yes.

Duration of Battle

Under the "Determine Duration" section, page 209, it mentions that each commander should secretly write down his side’s determination to fight to the finish. Is there any way to determine this that I've probably missed, or is it simply up to the commanders to mostly say "uhh, yeah, they're all zealous fanatics to me and will fight for 12 rounds"?

Answer: Darren Hill replied CORRECTLY when he said:
Each commander makes a decision as to how zealous he is. Use the guideline on page 207 (Acceptable Duration). Note also, that a commander choosing a low number gets to withdraw from the field when that time is up, without being forced into a messy retreat or rout, which might happen if he fights a long time and his troops aren't up to it. If you choose to fight for 12 rounds, you're committed and if things start going badly wrong, there's no way out (unless the enemy commander picked a lower number).

Prisoners in Battle

Are prisoners captured only when a critical is scored on the Follower’s Fate table?

Answer: Prisoners can also be gained in the special fight section, when the focus goes close up and player knights are involved in a special melee.

First charge

What happens during a First Charge or Melee Battle round when the following occurs?
A PC is knocked off of his horse. (I presume the PC will be Alone next round.)

Answer: Yes. He is probably wounded, of course, including the fall from the horse. The Unit must have a choice to re-engage next turn to rescue him.

The PC takes Major Wound and goes unconscious, or loses enough hit points to go below the Unconsciousness threshold. (I presume he gets a squire roll to be taken to the back of the battle, otherwise he is taken prisoner or killed, depending on the opponent.)

Answer: Yes.

The PC takes Major Wound and continues to fight. (I presume the PC takes 3 points of Aggravation for each further Battle round he participates in, and perhaps a -5 to -10 reflexive modifier to Battle and/or weapon skill rolls.)

Answer: This hasn’t come up for me since it is so hard to remain conscious with a MW. See p 125. Yes, aggravation sets in. However, if they are up and fighting I would probably NOT force the modifier to skills (although there is a certain logic to it!)

The PC breaks weapon. (I presume the PC takes a -5 reflexive modifier to rearm during the following battle round, assuming they have a weapon to rearm with.)

Answer: No, I wouldn’t do this. Since the Battle Round is very abstracted as far as time, I wouldn’t inflict this.

Otherwise, a successful squire roll is necessary to have the squire bring a new weapon (usually a spear or lance) on the following Battle round. If unsuccessful, a PC must pillage a corpse to gain a weapon.

Answer: Yes, which means they have to be disengaged.

The PC wounds an opponent, causing unconsciousness. I presume the PC now has a prisoner.

Answer: No. This would result in a lot of prisoners. They simply win that round of combat.

Squires in Battle

Once a squire roll is made, does the squire become available on later battle rounds? Thus having multiple squires can be important.

Answer: In general, it depends on whether or not the squire withdraws from the battle after his assistance. This IS the usual event. For instance, if he gives his weapon or horse to his knight, then he generally withdraws because he doesn’t have another one to give away. I can see where a player might insist that his squire has, for example, given his spear to the knight, but not his sword or horse and so remains in the battle. In such a case I’d have a modifier to the squire’s subsequent rolls (he is more afraid to enter the battle without his weapons. And of course, if he takes a prisoner to the Back of the Battle, then he is out of it.

Multiple Squires

Can you support more squires than the limit discussed under maintenance level? How much does this cost?

Answer: If you have the money, sure. Since it is £6 to support a knight and his squire, plus their 4 horses, I’d say that it is £2 to support another squire.

Barbaric Customs

What are the standards for taking scalps, ears, heads, etc? I believe it was a historical practice in the sixth century.

Answer: Not done by knights. These are customs practiced by the savage Cymri hill men and Irish.

Are there any Trait or Passion consequences for such behavior? (Loss of honor, Cruelty checks, etc.)

Answer: This would be very un-knightly behavior, and yes, loss of honor, and probably checks for Cruel and Arbitrary

Combat Questions

Lance Charges

Lances Charges, along with the associated movement, takes place during the resolution phase, I note.

Answer: Movement is part of the weapon resolution, just as some maneuver also takes place during the combat resolution. The separation of Movement into the last phase of the round is basically to make sure that people in combat get their melee in before other people, farther away, can move in.

Does a lance charge require that the mounted knight continue to move after he has attacked, or is his movement considered to be ended?

Answer: He’s got to keep going some distance past his target, just because of his momentum. Without that momentum, it would have been a spear attack. The rider normally continues on, far enough to mount another charge if his lance is intact. Or he can continue on a short distance to finish the round, then wheel and draw a sword or other weapon for the next round.

May a mounted knight, assuming his lance is unbroken and he has the Movement Rate necessary, continue his charge in the round after a lance charge is made, and make a new lance charge attack in the following round vs. a different opponent?

Answer: I think you are asking if a knight can make his lance charge, and the next turn, continue it on against another opponent who was behind/farther on from his first target. Yes, he can.

When lance charging opponents using a javelin, can the javelin user benefit from shield ?

Answer: Yes, if he has one.

When lance charging, I assume you cannot split your attacks between multiple opponents. Correct?

Answer: Correct.

When lace charging an opponent using any missile weapon, the missile weapon strikes first, correct?

Answer: Yes.

If the missile weapon user rolls higher that the lancer, does this mean the lancer misses? Or are these effectively two unopposed rolls?

Answer: I’d say the javelineer won the combat round, the lancer missed, and he has to try again next turn.

Does the lancer gain the ‘Cover’ benefit (-5 to attacker’s skill) during a lance charge?

Answer: No.

Questions to the Publisher

We are fortunate that Stewart Wieck, publisher of ArtHaus, sometimes responds to questions concerning publication policy.

Why is the Cover of 5th Edition, with an illustration of a warrior fighting the Troit Boar, so Dark Ages in style?

Answer: (Stewart Wieck) I thought it was appropriate to have a cover communicating the earlier start date.

Why was character generation for knights outside of Salisbury left out of Pendragon 5th edition?

Answer: (Stewart Wieck) … my central rationales for my decisions about KAP5 is that I felt it 1) needed to address and develop the core of the game and 2) needed to provide an entry point for new players. Of course, there can be discussion about whether the content decisions achieve either of these ends, but regardless, I got my two core wishes: 1) a facelift for Pendragon so it matches the best quality of rpg books and 2) Greg's involvement.

Family characteristic

I'm struggling to understand how the Family Characteristic works.

Just add it right in.

I would assume it is the former, but it seems a little unfair on new characters since the rolling of the family characteristic comes towards the end of the process. As an example we've just started to roll characters, one person rolled 'Never forgets a face' but hadn't developed his Recognize so ended up with a 13 skill, good but not remarkable.

Considering that everyone else probably has 3, it is remarkable!

But another player was rolling up a character with a previous family, he knew his characteristic was 'Natural Speaker' and will now be starting the game with a 25 skill in Orate!

That's one of the features of having a family! The skill has been learned through extraordinary experience. For instance, a lot of people have no clue what their particular talent is. We go through life thinking everyone can play musical instruments, or add numbers in their head, or whatever, until one day we bring it up and voila! We recognize our talent. And then afterwards we steer our kids towards music, or math, or whatever.

I can foresee this creating some friction in the group.

If the players are that sensitive about it just tell them to discover it first, then do the rest of Character generation.


Using passions

Let’s say a character has Love(family)-18 – the main thing driving him to excel at knighthood is to protect his family – and Saxons have invaded the general area but are not yet near his manor. Would he still be allowed to roll for Inspiration if he role plays accordingly (e.g. “No going to the back of the battle to get First Aid, we’ve got to stop them HERE! As the song says, “Fight until we die or drop!”)?
Probably so, if it appears that his home will be threatened. For instance, at Badon the passion can be used even if the knight's home is not near to the site.

Also, I believe that each Passion roll counts for one Battle round or single combat – correct?

Finally, would he indeed only be able to make the Passion roll for one round in that Battle, representing an exhausting “now give it your all” effort that should be saved for the truly decisive moment, or could he try each time?
Yes. I suggest saving it for a decisive moment. This might be when the unit finds itself against a superior foe and the knight wants to live ("A unit of berserkers!) or, a favorite, when extraordinary opportunity presents itself ("There's their king!").
Note, too, that each Passion may be used just once per battle (or once per day, in cases like Badon), but that multiple Passions can be used ("The count is down!" and later, "Oh my dear children, my beloved wife, I hold you too dear to retreat now," and yet later, "My Great God, help me now!")

Personality Traits

Regarding Personality Traits, when the Game Master wants to call for a roll on a single trait, I don't understand which of the dual traits is appropriate to roll.
E.g. A knight in the woods meets a beautiful fairy damsel which is only scantly dressed and obviously provocative.
Should the GM demand a lust roll or a chaste roll?

Answer: Whichever the player knight wishes to exercise. Although, often, if there is a clear intent on the NPC part, AND it is a notable trait (ie-16 or more), then there may not be a roll needed from the player. “Oh, she is clearly trying to seduce you, and you are willing? Go for it!” That’s what the notable traits are about: action.
But say the character has 10/10 on his traits and he sees she is trying to seduce him. I would still require the roll. “
“So, you want to bed down with her? OK, make a Lustful roll. He’s not the kind of guy who just jumps into bed with anyone, even a gorgeous, desirable female who obviously wants him. ‘
“So, you want to resist? Try a Chaste roll.”
AND THEN if he succeeds, then he does what he rolled.
BUT IF he fails, then he has to attempt to make the opposite roll. If he succeeds at that, then it’s what he does. If he fails at both, then the character does whatever the player wants.

Regarding the rules for wakening from melancholia, on page 74 of the rulebook, the rules states that "once the healer succeeds at a trait role, he provokes and opposed roll from the victim on the opposite trait" and "If the melancholic character wins the resolution, he attacks, but if he losses, he calms down.”
The problem is, that in the example given in the same page below, the victim of the melancholic state wins an opposed resolution against the healer, and as a result he calms down, rather than attacking as expressed by the rules above.

Answer: As I read it, the example is consistent with the rule. It is because Yvane succeeds at being Merciful.

Rules Lawyers and Playing the Game

My players want to use their Honor Passion all the time. One said, “It’ll be dishonorable if that lion defeat me!” What can I do?

First, tell them, “Don’t mistake Honor for Pride. Honor is your personal Trustworthiness. It is whether you have personal integrity. This isn’t a place for weasel words and cleverness. Honor is not lost for losing a fight. Honor is lost for saying you’ll do something, and then not doing it. So if your knight said he’d fight that lion, and he doesn’t, then he’ll lose honor. Personal honor is not lost by losing a fight.


This is an interesting example. But before addressing it in particular, I need to make a different kind of observation.
This looks more like a question of whether these opportunities are being used to play in the Arthurian genre, or to exploit the game system.
Every game has its points where the rules can be exploited. Some games thrive on this. Indeed, some seem to have been created specifically to play this way (the entire D&D tradition, for instance). For this kind of game the point of the player’s engagement is to be clever by exploiting the literal rules. It’s a legitimate way to play for many game systems. Fine and good.
I recognize this urge—it’s a very American and very modern way to do things. It is legalistic and literal and perhaps the only way that some people know how to play—look at the protest when a GM says “That’s not playing the game correctly,” and the player whines, “But the rules say I can do it.”
But it’s not the only way to play an RPG, and some rules systems are not designed for that kind of literal play. The rules are offered as guidelines into a roleplaying experience. They require some knowledge of the genre or, perhaps, some insight and willingness to learn, or failing that, guidelines from the GM. They also require some maturity and agreement to working “within the system.”
Obviously, Pendragon is the latter kind. I’m the first to admit it’s not for everyone. It was never designed to be such and I have no problem with telling players, “This isn’t the kind of game for you.”
So when players start exploiting the rules in a literal sense, especially when they don’t have an understanding of genre conventions like what Honor or Loyalty to a Lord is about, I am happy to tell them, “You have to go by the conventions or else not play in my game.”
Of course, perhaps because I am High Muckymuck of Pendragon, charter member of the Secret Masters of Gaming, and a certified Old Fart I can do this where many other GMs can not.
There always has to be a balance between what the GM wants and what the players want. Myself, I wouldn’t find much pleasure in playing Pendragon outside of its genre conventions. I have no interest in seeing what fireballs could do there, or if a thief could steal the Holy Grail or how a few simple muskets might have changed the story (I loath Mark Twain’s “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” even though I am a proud Connecticut Yankee myself and otherwise love the author’s work and attitudes.)
So, when it comes to the players minimaxing like that, I first try to see how they perceive these to be legitimate uses of the Passions, and if it’s just an attempt to exploit the rule system, I try to instruct.
How? First I’d offer a simple, “That’s not a correct use of the Passion,” and hope that they’ll understand and will keep trying to find the proper parameters. If they ask questions, I’d do my best to explain why it’s not right. If their counter questions are hostile and challenging via the game system I’d conclude they are exploiting the system, not interested in the genre. If I wanted to play the genre and had a limited player pool and couldn’t just kick them out, well, the GM has to minimax back. There are some suggestions below about how to use the system with such players. But such sounds like it wouldn’t be much fun for the GM, and if the GM isn’t having fun, why is he even bothering to put himself out to do the kind of work needed to play?
But let’s be optimistic, and presume he’s having fun even with players that I might find difficult.

end Aside

So, If I understand... If a knight fought a lion, and the lion swatted him and made him fall on his butt, causing a lady watching him to laugh at his fumble, he could THEN, arouse the passion for defending his honor.

NO. That is Pride, not Honor. He might be embarrassed or ashamed or insulted, this wouldn’t normally affect his honor.

He insists. He points to page and says he rules say he can do it.
Then you have to insist on using the rule all the time, especially if the character has a notable Honor passion (above 15). BUT only after explaining to him that you (the GM) will require him to act this way *every time* that such a petty provocation occurs. And I don’t know about your game, but in mine petty provocations occur all the time. Visiting a hostile lord, for instance, a local knight will often make some disparaging remark about the visitors or their lord. In which case I’d make the player roll his Honor to see if he was insulted, and if so, then make a Hospitality roll to see which emotion “wins,” and then if his Honor wins, have him make a suitable retort (by definition one that would defend his honor and be more provocative than the petty insult) and subsequently take a loss to his Hospitality stat. Maybe even lose Honor for abusing Hospitality. Maybe even violating hospitality, and losing Honor!
And afterwards, the consequences: Insulting a lord in his home likely results in a fight for having insulted the lord’s hospitality, either right then and there or, more likely, the next day after they leave the hall. And it wouldn’t be any fair fight either—his Honor was insulted by this beach of Hospitality, so he would send his whole household against the violator. Alternately, the lord may just refuse to allow the offending knight to leave until he apologizes. Heck, if the lord’s an SOB he might wait until the knight is drunk or asleep and then throw him into a locked cell for the insult, and hold him for ransom, or indefinitely.

If a spectator made a comment about 'that's how [lord's] knights fight, is it?' then he could arouse passion for Lord?

Answer: No, I wouldn’t allow it for that either, under normal circumstances. Although, once again, if he was noted for it then maybe so. But with the similar consequences as above.
If they are going to be petty for advantage, then they have to be petty when it is disadvantageous too.
And I think a character who is so extremely touchy about his honor and plays it through all the time could be a fabulously entertaining and challenging character!
As long as everyone remembers: consequences, consequences, consequences.

Changes from Previous Editions

No Group Modifier

I noticed that there no longer seems to be a Group modifier, and there is no longer a random amount of opponents that appear on the new battle tables. Does this mean that each participant in a Melee (and First Charge) Battle round fights one opponent a round? Is the unit event table, with its positive and negative modifiers, now a reflection of how outnumbered or overpowering the player knights are?

Answer: Yes.