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DESIGNER NOTES
Separate Weapon Skills

Why So Many Weapons?

combat

Comment is often made concerning the separate weapon skills in KAP. It is not, everyone agrees, very realistic. I agree.

I've no weapon melee experience so I cannot vouch for authenticity with any authority of experience. But I am a game designer, and I want to share some of my thoughts on the process whereby I arrived at the game design I chose.

Realism versus game play is an old unsettled discussion, revealing an essential fracture of options for RPG. In KAP, design had the upper hand. Its normal play encompasses far too many “theaters of play” to sanely consider that. (what is crunch for a courtly scene? For a Romance?)

Another game design issue is called lumping and splitting. It’s a philosopher’s debate—i.e. it has several different answers that are true.

Courtesy lumps together a lot of activities (how to bow, how to discipline a servant) and attitudes (loyalty, obedience) and things to know (pick your nose with the right hand or left when women are present?)

Pendragon has a lot of lumping.

But the essence of KAP is "What Kind of Knight Are You?" Each of these “theaters of play” focuses on extracting answers to that question through play.

Every character is a knight (or lady). The entire game is based on that premise. Everyone else is out of focus to concentrate entirely on knighthood and what it means to your character. Any other character type requires modifying the rules—the virtues are selected for nobles, knightly skills are emphasized, but most importantly only knights (and their class) get Glory.

All knights share so much in common. They are all upper class elites, all warriors, all not quite sure what they can actually do, and all licensed to kill. It thus becomes essential to define the answers to the “What kind…” question. The game design must supply methods and answers. One way to do this is through defining categories. Chivalrous Knight, Romantic Knight, Religious Knight (divided into types) do this.

But a knights’ #1 duty is to fight. Combat is central, or at least half the game.

Specific weapon use is one of those ways to differentiate knights. By dividing the weapons into types, as is done in KAP, it creates differences. I chose that as more important than the realism. To have made it more “realistic,” by making skills of One-handed Weapon and Pole Weapons (one suggestion) would have reduced these differences. Now, if your guy is the knight with the mace, it marks him out.

Such is my theory, design and execution.

Jan 10 2010

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