Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Duty, Family, Honor

So I’ve been Jonesin’ to play Pendragon lately.

I’ve never actually played Pendragon. I’ve owned a copy for awhile (the 3rd edition, which, I suppose is technically a 2nd edition, seeing as how there was never a 2nd edition printed). I’ve owned it for awhile…picked it up used a couple years back…but just haven’t had the opportunity to set up a Pendragon campaign. These days it’s difficult enough to set-up a game where everyone can commit (and show up) to a regular weekly game. A generation-spanning game like Pendragon (even with 1 year per session) seems more than a little ambitious…it sounds like an f’ing pipe dream. And that’s assuming I can find some folks who are as big of King Arthur nerds as myself.

We’ll get back that in a second…perhaps a better question is: why the hell am I so weird? I mean, I AM willing to make the time to play and show up every week, despite family and friends and work and age and injury. I mean, 4 hours of sleep (which is what I get on game nights since my dogs wake me up before dawn every morning) is a small price to pay for a night of role-playing. At least for ME it’s a small price to pay. Is it so strange? I still have dinner with my fam, go on trips, walk the dogs, watch ballgames, pay taxes…but one night a week I set aside for my burning desire to escape reality. I guess I’m just a freak.

Okay, enough o that…Pendragon. Truth be told, I’d actually prefer the chance to PLAY Pendragon, but I’d settle for running the game. It really is too bad that we didn’t have this game as kids (i.e. pre-1986). I guess the first edition was published in 1985, but I certainly don’t remember it. Still it would have been a great game to have as the play appears to describe the type of campaigns we were interested in running back in the day (generational conflicts, issues of heredity and heirs and power, rather than just dungeon-delving). Instead we were left floundering with AD&D at a time when TSR was more concerned with patching together a skill system in the form of “non-weapon proficiencies” (see Oriental Adventures, the Dungeoneering Survival Guide, etc.) to fatten one character sheet.

Is it much wonder we switched to Marvel? At least we could use THAT to emulate the soap opera stories found in X-Men comics.

Why Pendragon; why now? I think I can lay the blame squarely on my new interest in Game of Thrones. Just finished watching Disc 2 last night of the first season last night. Unfortunately, I’ve reached a point where I no longer enjoy the show. See, I made the mistake of borrowing the Martin book for my recent trip to Washington D.C. and spent most of the plane ride home reading the first 400 pages or so. Although I’m (roughly) at the same point in the TV series as I am in the novel, I find I vastly prefer the book…and I find myself frustrated with the “abridged” version so necessary to make a visual weekly program. Cool as it is to see The Wall in all its HD/CGI glory, I love reading all the extra “stuff” that goes into making Martin’s world a living, breathing world.

[understand that they’re two different mediums. The TV show IS admirable, which is what brought me to the book in the first place. It’s not my fault I just prefer the book…]

And it’s that “extra stuff” in Game of Thrones that suggests Pendragon to me. There’s something very much Arthurian Saga-like about Game of Thrones. Sure, sure…there are shades of Moorcock’s Elric books (with those all-conquering dragon lords of yesteryear), but knights in their twilight, the lords and their intrigues, the One King trying to unite a nation at war with itself against a pending invasion of Dothraki/Saxons…and the impending tragedies one can see on the horizon… Yeah, it feels very Arthurian to me.

Oh…that and I totally dig on how every kingdom has its own animal sigil. I am a big fan of (simplified) heraldry.

Now, if I could REALLY have my druthers, I wouldn’t simply be playing Pendragon…I would instead be playing Pendragon in the Game of Thrones SETTING. Because THAT’s what I really want. Keep the same system, but nix all the Great Britain stuff and ‘port over all the Great Houses and personalities from Martin’s books. Instead of starting as Knights of Salisbury, players could start as sons of Bannermen to one of the Great Houses (perhaps the Starks of Winterfell since so much adventure seems to lie in the North, otherwise one out of the East). The random annual tables would have to be adjusted a bit to take into account the years-spanning seasons, but pretty much everything else, system-wise, could be uses as is. And that would be cool.

It makes me wonder…knowing that Mr. Martin at one time played Superworld (the Chaosium “superhero game”) that was used as the inspiration for the Wild Card books, is it possible that the Game of Thrones arose from a modified Pendragon game (also published by Chaosium) with a similar system?

Of course, there already IS a Game of Thrones RPG – or rather, A Song of Fire and Ice based on the series as a whole. I did have the chance to page through that book a few weeks ago but wasn’t very impressed/thrilled with the system mechanics perused. Of course, that was before I had the chance to get into the book. Now that I’ve had my interest piqued, I’m considering picking it up, or at least giving it a second glance. NOT because I think my impression of the game would change, but because of the background material it might be able to provide for a game set in Martin’s fictional world.

My family’s out-of-town for the next few days…I’m not really interested in talking about that at the moment…so I have some free time on my hands. Maybe a little Pendragon-Game of Thrones conversion could be ironed out over the course of the weekend, seeing as I have nothing else on my plate. And if I DID get something set-up perhaps I could entice some players to play a weekly, saga-style game. King Arthur might be “old hat” to these young(ish) players…but GoT is a totally hip and happening bunch o hotness.

Just something I’m thinking ‘bout.


  1. First of all, you are not a freak or an ubernerd just because you have all that real life stuff but STILL find time every week to game. It's weird that other people CAN'T do that, if you ask me. Especially if they don't have kids!!! There are some people I know who can't game for good reasons every week, and there are others I've known who seem to have no good reason. The only think I can think of is the people who seem to have no good reason really don't like to roleplay. So again, it's not you, it's them!!!

    As for roleplaying Game of Thrones, why not just go right to the official GoT RPG?!

  2. Addendum: I have a wife and kids, mortgage, a house to maintain, and other activities I like to participate in, and I find time to game every week. If I can do it so can most other people!

  3. I agree with Pendragon. More fun and the immersion is easier for people. We know more about Arthur than we do Ned. :)

  4. JB,
    You might want to check out the pendragon forums at [].

    They're moderated by Greg Stafford (the creator of Pendragon, he got the rights to the game a few years ago).

    There's some stuff in there about customizing some of the systems to emulate different epics (I think there's an Odyssey and a Yojimbo and a Baghdavita out there).

    Also check out Sir Larkins at The RPG Corner [], he's been doing a weekly solo of the Great Pendragon Campaign with his wife for the past year, and doing actual play reports pretty regularly.

  5. That's an excellent idea! Pendragon is one of my favourite games of all time. When it comes to Game of Thrones, though, I have been thinking about using AD&D 2e with the Birthright setting/rules. Food for thought, anyway.

  6. I support this idea. I support almost any use of Pendragon, which remains my favourite iteration of BRP.