Knights of the Realm
Here is a quick Pendragon Primer for you to chew on.
1. Dice and rolling
In Pendragon, you’ll need d20 and several (preferrably 6) d6’s. The basic mechanism is very simple. You roll d20 vs. your skill/stat/trait/passion, trying to roll as high as possible, but not over your skill/etc, because that is a failure. If you roll exactly the same number as your skill, that is a critical success. If you roll 20, that is a critical failure. With me so far? if your skill is 20 or more, then 20 is no longer a critical failure (Houserule 1: “If your skill is 20+, a roll of 1 is a failure and if you roll less than 11 on a new d20 roll, it is a critical failure, too.”) and in addition, you add the number of levels over 20 to your roll. For example, if your skill is 25, you roll 1d20+5. Furthermore, any result 20 or over is a critical suceess!
When two characters compete (usually the case when each tries to hit the other with a sword without getting hit in return…), both roll their skills and the results are compared. The highest successful roll wins (remember those bonuses if your skill is 20+). For example: A has skill 15 and B has skill 10. A rolls 8. B rolls 9. Since 9 > 8, B wins. This system is very quick, as there is no calculating the ‘success margins’ which are prevalent in many games. You just look at the numbers and higher wins. Now, if A rolls 1 and B rolls 11, then B has failed and A wins, because 1 is a success for A. Easy, isn’t it? For purposes of this comparison, a natural critical has a value of 20, even if the actual roll is less (for example B rolling 10 and A rolling 12. 10 is a crit so 20 > 12 and B wins.).
2. Character stats
The Statistics in Pendragon refer to the physical statistics of the character: Size, Dexterity, Strength, Constitution and Appearance. There is no Intelligence stat. If the player gets a good idea, no number on the charsheet will prevent him from saying it outloud. The stats vary from 6 to 18 (generally). A knight should have about 14 in SIZ and STR, a good CON, a medium DEX and whatever APP the dice bless him with. While stat rolls are done from time to time (especially DEX which governs the sneaking, climbing and balance (that last one very important to see if you fall down when you are hit)), they more often work indirectly, through the derived statistics (always rounded to closest whole number, so 6.5 becomes 7 etc):
Damage: (SIZ+STR)/6 is the number of d6 of damage the character does with a sword. (Other weapons have a bit of variance based on size and style.)
Movement: (DEX+STR)/10 is the movement rate fully armored (this is used when GM needs to decide how long it takes for people to rush through the courtyard to get to the tower before the door is barred etc.)
Healing Rate: (STR+CON)/10 is the number of Hit Points the char recovers in one week in bedrest… assuming that the wounds do not fester. As a rule of the thumb, the char heals three times this amount in a month, or half this in amateur care (the noble ladies are at least this good, usually better, at patching up their fathers, brothers, husbands, sons…)
Hit Points: (SIZ+CON) is the char’s hit points. When the hit points reach 0, the character is dying. But see Unconscious, below.
Unconscious: HP/4 is the threshold number of hit points at which the char falls unconscious, if he has that number or less HPs remaining.
Two other important things to know about stats:
SIZ is also the threshold amount of damage that the char can block with his shield and armor, before his balance is disturbed enough to call for a DEX roll.
CON is the threshold number for Major Wound. If the number of Damage from a single blow exceeds the char’s CON, the wound is not ‘a mere flesh wound’, but a Major Wound capable of laying the char out in one blow. The char is in no shape for prolonged, strenuous activity and needs medical attention as soon as possible. Also, even if he takes no further damage and remains alive, he probably loses a point from one of the stats: roll d6 with 6 being no loss (1 = SIZ…).
While APP doesn’t go into any of the derived stats (which are all combat related), it is the most important stat in court. See skills.
Skills start from a usually quite small number like 2 or 3. In chargen you can raise the selected skills and distribute more points in them. As the rolling mechanism uses d20, it is easy to see that a skill of 10 gives you a 50/50 chance of succeeding in a challenging task that needs rolling. For many courtly skills, a failure in roll doesn’t necessarily mean that you screw up. You simply are not so good that you’d stand out and be praised. A Singing of 10 would make you a gifted beginner, 15 would rival many travelling bards and 20 would make you possibly the best singer in armor. Note that beginning chars are limited to skill 15 in chargen. Stats have no direct influence to skills, but they do come into play occasionally. For example, a failed Horsemanship roll might call for a DEX roll to see if you fall off the horse. When singing a serenade to a beautiful lady you are courting, your APP might play a crucial role how easy it would be to charm the said strumpet with your singing (an ugly knight might have to roll a critical to make a favorable impression, while for a handsome hunk even trying to sing might be looked upon with favor).
4. Personality traits and passions
These are the moral values and passions the character has. The traits consist of Virtue-Flaw pairs, like Valorous-Cowardice, and the total value of the pair is always 20, EXCEPT when one side is over 20. For example, if the char’s Valorous is 16, his Cowardice is 4. Of course, not all Flaws are disadvantageous, such as Deceitful, which makes the character able to play swift and loose with the truth, if need be, where as a trained but honest public speaker would stammer his poorly thought out lies, embarrassed at even trying. Some Flaws are only so due to the Christian take on things. For example, (Briton) pagans revel at Lustful and are not ashamed to brag about their performance (Proud). The meek shall inherit the earth? Perhaps in coffin-sized parcels… Traits are often of importance when the knight comes to a moral problem. Does he save the enemy at his mercy or run him through with his sword? Does he try to make a pass at the host’s wife, who is giving him some sultry glances in return?
When a trait is 16+, it is strong enough to show clearly. A man with Honest 17 would not sully his mouth with a lie. The player actually needs to fail in Honest Roll if he wishes the char to even try telling a lie. The upside of this is that the char is famous for his honesty and would net an annual glory reward (more of that later).
Passions are the important things, ideas and people in the knight’s life. These are:
Loyalty (Lord): King before God, as many knights think. One of the most used passions, since the knights are often doing the tasks set to them by the Lord.
Love (family): Love thy kin. It is a bad world out there, but you can always trust your kinsmen to back you up in a pinch.
Honor: The mainstay of knightly behavior. Also comes to play often, as the knights seek to protect their honor or to fulfill their oaths.
Hospitality: The rules of hospitality should be observed. While under a man’s roof, show him courtesy and defend his house. And vice versa.
Other Passions the character is likely to acquire are:
Amor (Lady): well, perhaps not the first chars, but their descendants will learn about the Courtly Game of Fine Amor.
Love (wife): if you are lucky, not only does she have huge tracts of land, but a likeable personality, too. But the land is the important part.
Hate (Saxons): those vile barbarous creatures are trying to steal our land and women!
Passions, when invoked (roll against the passion and succeed), give +5 to one skill or trait of player’s choice. The downside is that if you fail in the roll, the knight becomes disheartened and suffers -5 to all skills. Also, if you invoke the passion and lose anyway, the knight becomes melancholy. Worst of all, if you crit fail, the knight becomes mad. Fun, isn’t it?
Combat is basically opposed skill rolling. You try to succeed on your own skill. If both contestants succeed, the one who rolled higher is the winner. In this case, the loser gets a ‘partial success’. If both fail or fumble, then no one lands a blow. Equal numbers means that they draw (and a sword breaks a non-sword weapon, too).
Critical: A great hit against the enemy! +4d6 of damage.
Success: A normal hit against the enemy.
Partial Success: You get hit, but you manage to block part of the blow with your shield. Add your shield value (usually 6) to your armor (usually 10), if you have a shield (two-handed weapons do an extra +1d6 of damage, but you can’t use a shield at the same time).
Failure: You get hit (assuming the enemy succeeded) and do not get your shield value as extra armor.
Fumble: You drop your weapon (if a sword) or break it (other weapon).
You’ll start off as land-owning knights in King Uther’s Britain, that is being threatened by the Saxon hordes arriving in longships from Germania to rape, loot and pillage. And to enslave and conquer, too. The smelly Saxons have already established a foothold in the southeast of the island, and are now trying to expand west and north, with only the bravery of the Romano-British knights of Uther standing in their way.
You are the heads of your own extended families. The head honcho of your clan. It might not be all that impressive a clan, yet, but it is much better than most. You will have your own manorial estate, which consists of a hall and a village around it, with about 100 small families of peasants (500 souls) tilling the fields. They cultivate your fields, too, and pay a part of their own fields’ produce as taxes. With this food & coin, you are able to maintain yourself (and your own wife and children) in the status befitting a knight, as well as maintain a small stable of horse (including your warhorse) and a squire to help you. Your mission in life is to gain Glory and renown in the service of your Lord, Earl Roderick of Salisbury, so that he will recognize your good service with rewards and loot. And maybe, with more lands!
Courtesy of Morien: Nocturnal Forum Post