Category: Pendragon


My absolute favorite aspect of the Pendragon rules is its use of traits and passions to flesh out characters, define their motivations, and, at times, compel them to take actions that are in keeping with those traits and passion.

With WotC’s Unearthed Arcana variant alignment system in mind, I thought I’d see if I could effectively shoehorn my favorite bit from Pendragon into my new favorite RPG.



Roll 3d6 to determine each of the 13 traits listed in the left-hand column below.  These traits are also called virtues.

Add any cultural and racial modifiers to the relevant traits, to a maximum of 20 and minimum of 1. No starting trait may exceed 20, even after initial modifiers.  If no virtues are notable (14 or higher), you may raise one virtue of your choice to 14.

  • Values of 8-13 indicate no strong leanings with regards to that trait.
  • Values of 7 or lower show that you exhibit the vice listed in the column to the immediate right of the listed trait.
  • Values of 14 or higher show that you are virtuous, and strongly exhibit the virtue listed in the far right column.
Traits 7 or lower 14 or higher
Chastity Lustful Chaste
Diligence Slothful Energetic
Equity Arbitrary Just
Forgiveness Vengeful Forgiving
Generosity Selfish Generous
Honesty Deceitful Honest
Mercy Cruel Merciful
Modesty Proud Modest
Piety Worldly Pious
Prudence Reckless Prudent
Temperance Indulgent Temperate
Trust Suspicious Trusting
Valor Cowardly Valorous


These should be left to individual DMs and be heavily dependent on the campaign world and tone that they are aiming for.  I’ve provided some quick examples that I’d use in my classic Greyhawk campaign.

Dwarf, Mountain or Hill:  +2 to Equity, Diligence, and Valor/-2 to Generosity, Forgiveness, and Trust

Elf, High or Grey: +2 to Diligence, Mercy, and Temperance/-2 to Equity, Modesty, and Trust

Elf, Valley, Wood, or Wild:  +2 to Diligence, Temperance, and Valor/-2 to Equity, Forgiveness, and Trust*

* Wild elves suffer a -4 penalty to Trust

Gnomes, Deep:  +2 to Equity, Diligence, and Prudence/-2 to Generosity,  Forgiveness, and Trust

Gnomes, Surface:  +2 to Diligence and Prudence/-2 to Forgiveness and Temperance

Halflings, All:  +2 to Generosity, Forgiveness, and Mercy/-2 to Diligence, Temperance, and Valor

Half-Orc:  +2 to Diligence and Valor/-2 to Forgiveness, Mercy, and Trust

Humans: While cultural modifiers could be used, I’d simply allow humans to add 2 to up to three traits and subtract 3 from an equal number of traits.



When making a trait  test (which will be explained in an upcoming post) to resist giving into a particular trait’s, the trait score assigns a modifier which works just like ability score modifiers.

Score             Modifier

1                       -5

2-3                    -4

4-5                    -3

6-7                   -2

8-9                   -1

10-11                +0

12-13                 +1

14-15                 +2

16-17                +3

18-19                +4

20-21                +5

22-23                +6

24-25                +7

26-27                +8

28-29                +9

30                    +10


Law/Chaos Axis


Lawful:  Trait modifiers for these traits total +8 or more.

Neutral:  Trait modifiers for these traits total -7 through +7.

Chaotic:  Traits modifiers total -8 or less.

Good/Evil Axis


Good:  Trait modifiers for these traits total +18 or more.

Neutral: Trait modifiers for these traits total -17 through +17.

Evil:  Traits modifiers total -18 or less.

dragon with hoard

Historical Maps for Pendragon

As I noted previously, I prefer to start Pendragon games in the late 5th century… either during Aurelius Ambrosius’s campaign to unseat Vortigern or during the reign of Uther.  In doing so I like to use older maps of Britain, particularly those that show the Roman settlements and roads, along with the tribal divisions of the island.

The reason I focus on the Roman and tribal elements is that the native Britons would have strong ties to their tribes, and would primarily identify as members of those tribal groups.  In fact, a recent study shows that Britons still live roughly in the same areas they did in the 6th century!  At the same time, the Romans occupied Britain to some extent from 43 AD until 410 AD.  During that time, their roads, settlements, fortifications, trade arrangements, and tribal relations surely made a huge impact upon the people and landscape of Britain.

The Votadini tribe, for example, lived under the direct rule of Rome between Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall from 138-162 AD. When the Romans withdrew behind Hadrian’s Wall in 164 AD, they left the Votadini as a client kingdom, a buffer zone against the Picts in the north. They maintained client status until the Romans pulled out of Britain in 410 AD. Through a series of linguistic changes, the Votadini became known as the Gododdin, and maintained a kingdom until their defeat by the Angles c.600 AD.

Here are some of those maps:




Stealing from 5th Edition D&D for 5th Edition Pendragon

One of my pet peeves with Pendragon is its use of reflexive modifiers on opposed checks.

If a mounted lance-wielder attacked a dagger-armed man on foot, the mounted man would receive a +5 modifier to his Lance skill for being mounted, while the man on foot would suffer a –5 modifier to his Dagger skill for the disadvantage of such a tiny weapon against a lance in this situation.

Rather than applying such modifiers (which stack things heavily in favor of one combatant) I’d like to use a modified form of 5th Edition D&D’s advantage rules:

Sometimes circumstances dictate that you are at an advantage when making a d20 check. When that happens, you roll a second d20 when you make the roll and use the more advantageous die roll.  Examples of circumstances that grant advantage include:

  • Hunting with hunting dogs
  • Finding one’s way in local woodlands
  • Attacking a foot soldier from horseback
  • Attacking an unaware foe
  • Sneaking up on a distracted guard
  • Making a trait check when circumstances favor that trait heavily

Advantage can apply to both opposed and unopposed checks and, in instances where multiple variables are at play, consider if the overall circumstances are clearly favorable to the individual making the d20 check. 

Inspired characters gain advantage on their chosen d20 check.  In instances where both parties have some form of advantage (i.e. inspired Saxon berserker attacking a mounted knight), the advantages cancel each other out so that both parties make normal d20 rolls.  

A combatant using the “uncontrolled attack” option (which used to be called “berserker attack” in older editions of Pendragon) gains advantage on their d20 weapon skill roll.  Likewise, a combatant using the “defense” option gains advantage on their d20 weapon skill roll but cannot deal damage.  As such, the advantage gained through an “uncontrolled attack” would be negated by an opponent choosing “defense”. 


Disadvantage only applies to unopposed d20 checks when you are clearly at a disadvantage.  In such situations, roll a second d20 when you make the roll and use the less advantageous die roll.  Examples of circumstances that grant disadvantage include:

  • Finding ones’ way in a mist-shrouded forest
  • Attacking a heavily concealed foe with a ranged weapon
  • Climbing a wall in chain or plate armor

Disadvantage does not apply to opposed checks because, in such instances that favored one individual over another, the favored individual would gain advantage on their d20 roll.  

Examples:  A bear being hunted by a drunken knight would have advantage on its avoidance roll against the knight’s hunting roll.  Also, an alert guard would have advantage on his awareness skill check when rolling against a fully armored knight sneaking towards him.  If that guard were distracted, however, neither roll would have the advantage.

Skills by Culture (Pendragon 5th Edition)

I’ll get back to posting about other games (D&D 5th Edition in particular) but, first, I’d like to get back to my added options for creating 5th Edition Pendragon characters.




If your character has all the attributes listed below, he qualifies for that class. Check with the gamemaster for female player characters.

Skills: First Aid 6, Battle 1, Horsemanship 6, one other skill (normally Sword) at 5
Traits & Passions: Valorous 8, Loyalty (Lord) 10

Skills: Great Spear 10, Other Weapon 5
Traits & Passions: Valorous 10, Loyalty (Lord) 10

Skills: Lance 10, Spear 5, Other Weapon 10, Horsemanship 10
Traits & Passions: Valorous 10, Loyalty (Lord) 10
The character must own a healthy combat-trained horse (rouncy, charger, etc.) with all tack, weapons, and a suit of armor.

Skills: Primary cultural weapon 10, First Aid 6

Traits & Passions: Valorous 12, Loyalty (Lord) 10, Honor 8

The character must possess the traditional weapons and equipment for the culture.

Mercenary Knight or Knight Errant
Skills: First Aid 6, Sword or other weapon 10, Lance 10, Spear 5, Horsemanship 10
Traits & Passions: Valorous 12, Honor 5, Loyalty (Lord) 15
The character must own a healthy combat-trained horse (rouncy, charger, etc.) with all tack, weapons, and a suit of armor. — The character must be knighted by a lord for favors done or heroic acts performed during play, most commonly on the battlefield. Squires, warriors, and sergeants are all occasionally knighted for their actions, and if the lord performing the ceremony cannot support them, they must live as mercenaries or errant knights until another lord is found.
Sometimes during a campaign the son of a heroic player character will be knighted by the heroic character’s lord, as a favor for past services. This must be determined during play. As on the battlefield, if the lord cannot support more household knights, the new knight becomes a mercenary or errant knight.

Bachelor (Household) Knight
Skills: First Aid 10, Battle 10, Lance 10, Horsemanship 10, Sword 10, Any other 2 non-combat skills 10
Traits & Passions: Valorous 15, Honor 5, Loyalty (lord ) 15
The character must own a healthy combat-trained horse (rouncy, charger, etc.) with all tack, weapons, and a suit of metal armor. Normally a household knight must be the son of a knight and age 21. Thus continuity is preserved. Some exceptions to these qualifications exist. Specifically, eldest sons may turn out not to qualify according to these standards, but may be knighted anyway if they can make a fair showing at knightly skills, especially if they are heirs to the title and their father is dead. Thus there are a fair number of rich, powerful, spoiled, unqualified adolescents riding around as knights.

Vassal Knight, Banneret, Lord
Not available at the start of play using this book. All bachelor knight requirements are needed. In addition, the character must have hereditary rights to the position, or be granted it through play. See Pendragon and the “Noble Ambitions” chapter for more information.
Lucky player knights who are also eldest sons of a lord who has died may immediately take an oath of homage and fealty to their liege lord to obtain their rightful office. However, this may depend upon game play, since many lords insist that new knights first prove themselves worthy of their inheritance. The gamemaster controls the situation.


Expanded Cultural Options for 5th Edition Pendragon (Modifiers to Statistics, Traits, and Passions)


I’ll be using the following modified statistic modifiers for the various cultures in my game because I think that they’re ample without being too drastic.  I don’t want all Saxons being hulking, clumsy, brutes and all Picts to be tiny and unattractive gymnasts.  These new modifiers all for meaningful statistic differences between cultures without making them into caricatures.

Cultural Modifiers to Statistics:

Cymric or Irish:  +2 CON

Frankish or Frisian:  +1 STR, +1 CON

Aquitanian:  +1 DEX, +1 CON

Pictish:  +2 DEX, +1 CON, -1 SIZ, -1 APP

Roman:  +1 DEX, +1 APP

Saxon:  +2 SIZ, +1 STR, -1 DEX


Roll 3d6 for each trait in the left-hand column, also called virtues.  The right-hand column traits, also called vices, are determined by subtracting the corresponding virtue from 20.  Add any cultural, religious or familial modifiers to the relevant traits, to a maximum of 19 and minimum of 1.

Add “3” to any religious trait.  No starting trait may exceed 18, even after religious modifiers.  If no virtues are notable (16 or higher), you may raise one virtue of your choice to 16.

Virtues Vices
Chaste Lustful
Energetic* Lazy
Forgiving Vengeful
Generous* Selfish
Honest Deceitful
Just* Arbitrary
Merciful* Cruel
Modest* Proud
Prudent Reckless
Temperate Indulgent
Trusting Suspicious
Valorous* Cowardly


Cultural Trait & Passion Modifiers:

Frankish Aquitanian
Traits: Proud +2, Reckless +2, Valorous +2 Traits: Vengeful +2, Indulgent +2, Proud +2, Worldly +2
Directed Trait: Indulgent (wine) Directed Trait: Suspicious (religious fanatics)
Passions: Loyalty (lord) +1d6, Honor +1 Passions: Loyalty (lord) -2, Honor +1
Irish           Roman
Traits: Vengeful +2, Indulgent +2, Reckless +1   Traits: Deceitful +2, Worldly +2, Proud +2
Directed Trait: None   Directed Trait: Suspicious (non-Romans)
Passions: Loyalty (lord) -1d6, Love (family) +1d6, Honor -1   Passions: Loyalty (City) or (Emperor) 3d6
Pict Saxon
Traits: Pious +2, Suspicious +2, Cruel +1 Traits: Arbitrary +2, Cruel +1, Honest +2, Energetic +1, Valorous +1
Directed Trait: None Directed Trait: None
Passions: Love (family) +2, Hospitality +1, Honor -2 Passions: Loyalty (Lord) +1d6, Honor -1


Regional Trait & Passion Modifiers:

Britanny Ireland
Traits: Energetic +1, Modest +2, Prudent +2, Valorous +1 Traits: Lustful +1, Energetic +1, Honest +2, Indulgent +2
Cambria   Logres
Traits: Arbitrary +2, Suspicious +2, Prudent +1, Temperate +1   Traits: Energetic +1, Forgiving +1, Honest +1, Just +1, Trusting +1, Valorous +1
Cumbria The North
Traits: Pious +2, Honest +1 Traits: Prudent +2, Selfish +2, Pious +1, Temperate +1
Directed Trait: Loyalty (Cumbrian lord): +1d6, Loyalty (non-Cumbrian lord): -1d6 Passions: Love (family) +1d3
Traits: Arbitrary +2, Suspicious +2, Prudent +2  

Regional Directed Traits:  +1d6 to the listed trait

Bedegraine (Logres): Suspicious of Lindsey (all time periods)

Benoic (The North): Suspicious Cymri (Uther & Anarchy), Suspicious of pagans (all time periods)

Benoit (Aquitaine): Suspicious Franks (Uther & Anarchy)

Brun (Logres): Suspicious of Hertford (Uther & Anarchy), Suspicious of faeries (Boy King & later)

Cambenet (Cumbria): Trusting of Logres knights (Romance & later)

Caercolun (Logres): Vengeful of Saxons (Uther & Anarchy)

Carhaix (Brittany): Suspicious of all Bretons (all time periods)

Colchester (Logres): Vengeful of Saxons (Uther & Anarchy)

Dal Riada (Ireland): Proud of Dal Riada (all time periods)

Dorset (Logres):  Suspicious of non-Romans (Uther, Anarchy & Boy King)

Dumnonie (Brittany): Suspicious of Vannetais (Boy King & later)

Escavalon Cambria): Suspicious of Estregales (Uther & Anarchy), Proud of Escavalon (all time periods)

Essex (Logres): Indulgent of alcohol (all time periods)

Estregales (Cambria): Suspicious of Gomeret (Boy King & later)

Ganis (Aquitaine): Suspicious of Franks (all time periods)

Gomeret (Cambria): Suspicious of Pendragon (Boy King & later)

Gorre (North): Trusting of pagans (all time periods), Trusting of witches (Romance & later)

Hampshire (Logres): Merciful of Saxons (Romance & later)

Hertford (Logres):  Selfish with food (all time periods)

Huntington (Logres): Suspicious Saxons (Uther & Anarchy)

Isle of Wight: Prudent at sea (all time periods), Valorous at sea (all time periods)

Jagent (Logres): Suspicious of Cornwall (Boy King & later)

Lambor (Logres):  Suspicious of Lindsey (all time periods except Tournament, Grail Quest & Twilight)

Leicester (Logres): Suspicious of of Cymri (all time periods)

Leon (Brittany): Trusting of paying customers (all time periods)

Lindsey (Logres): Suspicious of Pendragon (all time periods)

Lonazep (Logres): Cowardly with marsh monsters (all time periods)

London (Logres): Suspicious of Saxons (Boy King, Conquest & Romance)

Long Isles (North): Suspicious of Cymri (all time periods)

Lothian (North): Suspicious of Pendragon (all time periods except Tournament, Grail Quest & Twilight)

Malahaut (Cumbria): Suspicious of Pendragon (all time periods except Tournament, Grail Quest & Twilight)

Munster (Ireland): Trusting of Estregales (all time periods)

Nohaut (Cumbria): Suspicious of Malahaut (all time periods)

Oriel (Ireland): Suspicious of Pendragon (Romance & later)

Pomitain (Ireland): Valorous at sea (all time periods)

Rydychan (Logres): Suspicious of Cambrians (all time periods except Tournament, Grail Quest & Twilight)

Salisbury (Logres): Suspicious of Silchester (all time periods except Tournament, Grail Quest & Twilight)

Somerset (Logres):  Cowardly of faeries (all time periods)

Sugales (Cambria): Trusting of druids (all time periods)

Surluse (North): Proud of Irish ways (all time periods)

Sussex (Logres): Indulgent of alcohol (all time periods)

Thamesmouth: Suspicious of Saxons (Boy King, Conquest & Romance)

Tintagel (Cornwall): Trusting of Morgan le Fay (Boy King & later)

Tribuit (Logres): Cowardly of Faeries (Boy King & later), Indulgent of fine clothes (Conquest & later)

Winchester (Logres): Proud of Belgae (Uther & Anarchy)

Wuerensis (Logres): Suspicious of religious fanatics (all time periods)


Starred (*) virtues must equal or exceed 80.  Bonus is +3 to natural armor.


Differs by religion.  All religious traits must exceed 15.  See below for the benefits of each faith’s religious bonus.

Christian, British

Traits: Chaste, Energetic, Generous, Modest, Temperate

Religious Bonus: +3 Hit Points, +1d3 to Damage

Christian, Roman

Traits: Chaste, Forgiving, Merciful, Modest, Temperate

Religious Bonus: +6 Hit Points


Traits: Vengeful, Honest, Proud, Arbitrary, Worldly

Religious Bonus: +2 Movement, +1 Healing


Traits: Chaste, Energetic, Just, Prudent, Temperate

Religious Bonus: +3 Hit Points, +1 Healing

Pagan, British

Traits: Lustful, Energetic, Generous, Honest, Proud

Religious Bonus: +1 Movement, +2 Healing

Pagan, Germanic

Traits: Generous, Proud, Worldly, Reckless, Indulgent

Religious Bonus: +1d6 Damage


Fear:                               replaced w/ directed trait (cowardly)

Hate:                              3d6

Honor:                            3d6

Hospitality:                     3d6

Love:                              3d6*

Loyalty (any):                3d6

*When generating Love (family), the eldest son and all daughters roll 3d6 and use the result.  Each subsequent son subtracts one from the 3d6 roll (i.e. the third born son subtracts 2 from his roll while the 6th born subtracts 5 from his roll).

In families that provide equally for all male heirs (gavelkind inheritance), the roll is not modified for later-born sons.  Saxon, Irish, and Cambrian lords often practice gavelkind inheritance, known among the Cymri as cyfran.

Regional Passions:  Roll 3d6 to determine the regional Passion score:

Ailech (Ireland): Hate Orielmen (all time periods)

Bedegraine (Logres): Hate Norgales knights (Romance & later)

Caercolun (Logres): Hate Angles (Uther, Anarchy & Boy King)

Cambenet (Cumbria): Hate Irish (Uther & Anarchy)

Cameliard (Cambria): Hate Norgales knights (Uther & Anarchy), Amor (Guenever) (Romance & later)

Clarence (Logres):  Hate Gloucestermen (all time periods except Tournament, Grail Quest & Twilight)

Connacht (Ireland): Love Hunting

Cornouailles (Brittany): Loyalty to the King of Cornwall (all time periods)

Devon (Cornwall):  Hate Irish (all time periods)

Dumnonie (Brittany): Hate Vannetais (Uther & Anarchy)

Escoce (North): Hate Irish (all time periods)

Garloth (North): Hate Danes (Uther & Anarchy), Hate Saracens (Romance & later)

Gorre (North): Hate Irish (Uther & Anarchy)

Gloucester (Cambria): Hate Clarence (all time periods except Tournament, Grail Quest & Twilight)

Hampshire (Logres): Hate Saxons (Uther & Anarchy)

Hertford (Logres): Hate Saxons (Uther & Anarchy)

Huntington (Logres): Hate Saxons (Uther & Anarchy)

Jagent (Logres): Hate Cornishmen (Uther & Anarchy)

Kent (Logres): Hate Danes (all time periods)

Leinster (Ireland): Hate Irish Pagans (Boy King & later)

London: Hate Saxons (Uther & Anarchy)

Lothian (North): Hate Pendragon (Tournament & later)

Lyonesse (Cornwall): Hate Irish (all time periods except Tournament, Grail Quest & Twilight)

Malahaut (Cumbria): Hate Angles (Uther & Anarchy)

Maris (Logres): Hate Angles (Uther & Anarchy), Hate trolls (all time periods)

Meath (Ireland): Hate Pagans (all time periods)

Nohaut (North): Hate Malahaut (Uther, Anarchy, Boy King & Conquest)

Salisbury (Logres): Hate Saxons (Uther, Anarchy & Boy King)

Silchester (Logres): Hate Saxons (Anarchy & later)

Somerset (Logres): Hate Irish (Uther & Anarchy)

Strangorre (North):  Hate Irish (all time periods)

Surrey (Logres): Hate (Other) Saxons (Uther, Anarchy & Boy King)

Thamesmouth: Hate Saxons (Uther & Anarchy)

Tintagel (Cornwall): Hate Irish (Uther & Anarchy)

Totnes (Cornwall): Hate Giants (all time periods), Hate Irish (Uther & Anarchy)

Vannetais (Brittany): Hate Franks (all time periods), Hate Brittany (Tournament & Twilight)

Wuerensis (Logres): Hate Cambrians (Uther & Anarchy)

Generating Pendragon Character Statistics (Revised)

Before getting into the modifiers to statistics associated with each culture, I wanted to (briefly) show how character’s statistics are generated in my game.


Size: 2d6+6 (2d6+3 for female characters)

Strength: 3d6 (2d6+3 for female characters)

Dexterity: 3d6

Constitution:  3d6

In place of rolling these statistics, the character can assign 48 points to them and then apply cultural modifiers.

Appearance:   3d6 (4d6 for female characters)

Appearance is rolled separately for all characters.

Minimum and Maximum Starting Scores:  The maximum starting statistic score is 18, plus or minus cultural modifiers.  The minimum starting statistic score is 5.  Scores below 5 are raised to 5.

Distinctive Features: Distinctive features are based upon the Appearance statistic (see above). Characters with an average appearance (10-12) have 1 distinctive feature.  Those that are particularly handsome or unattractive have more than 1 distinctive feature, as detailed below.

Value Distinctive Features
Up to 6 3
7-9 2
10-12 1
13-16 2
17+ 3

Expanded Cultural Options for 5th Edition Pendragon (Background Information)

Background Information

5th edition Pendragon starts all player character knights as Cymric Christians from Logres for a simple, and sensible, reason:  Britain, in 485, is being assaulted by raiders from the north (Picts), west (Irish), and east (Saxons).  Meanwhile Britain’s indigenous people, the Cymri, struggle to hold their lands following Rome’s conquest and recent desertion of the island.  As such, it makes perfect sense that starting characters be Britons from Britain’s heartland striving to keep their lands from falling into barbarism and out from under the yoke of foreign occupation.

That said, I don’t see why Cymric pagans and Roman characters aren’t available as player knights.  At this point in history the Franks are still pagans and it is easy to imagine that paganism is still practiced among the Cymri… particularly those belonging to the hill tribes of Cambria and in the northern reaches of Cumbria.  Even in places where Christianity holds sway, I’d imagine that a good deal of the locals still hold to their pagan beliefs and practices, incorporating their ancestral folk lore into their Christian faith.

While the Roman legions and governors were withdrawn from Britannia in 410 AD, there’d certainly have been Roman and Romano-Cymric families that chose to remain behind.

Adding Cymric Bretons, Frankish, Aquitanian, and Romano-Celtic Gallic knights is also feasible as warfare on the continent, particularly between the Franks and Roman Gaul, could easily account for exiled and displaced nobles journeying north the Britain.  In fact, by 486, Gaul ceased to be a Roman province after the Frankish victory at the Battle of Soissons (Novidunum) in what is now northeastern France.  Also both Uther and Aurelius Ambrosius spent their years in exile in Brittany in the court of their cousin, Budic I of Britanny. There is little doubt that nobles and knights from the region, particularly Gauls and Aquitanians (Romano-Goths) displaced by the conquering Franks, would have joined the cause of the exiled princes and sailed with them to retake beleaguered Britain.

In an early campaign, justifying Saxon, Pictish, and Irish characters is a tough feat.  At this point, these people are the enemies of the Cymri in Cornwall, Logres, Cambria, and Cumbria.

Angus McBride: Saxon Warriors

Saxons, along with Angles, Frisians and Jutes, invaded and migrated to the island around the time of the collapse of Roman authority in the west. Saxon raiders had been harassing the eastern and southern shores of Britannia for centuries before, prompting the construction of a string of coastal forts called the Saxon Shore. Before the end of Roman rule in Britain, many Saxons and other folk had been permitted to settle in these areas as farmers.

Under the rule of Vortigern, Saxon mercenaries were employed to defend Britain against the Picts and Irish, and to aid him in uniting Britain under his banner.  Over time these Saxons were granted lands, particularly in Kent.  The Saxon warlords Hengist and Horsa manipulated Vortigern into granting more land and allowing for more settlers to come in, paving the way for the Saxon settlement of Britain and Vortigern’s downfall.

One way to incorporate Saxon characters would be to have them be British-born Saxons whose forebears served as mercenaries for the Romans, or Vortigern, and settled lands under Cymric rule.  Coming from established families, British-born Saxons would still face prejudice but, as sworn servants of Cymric lords, fall under the protection of those lords.  Their position, in the face of relentless Saxon invasions, would be tenuous and roleplaying such a character could be challenging… to say the least!  Based on the location of Saxon settlements in relation to Cymric lands,  some likely locales for such characters would be:

  • Eboracum and it outlying lands
  • Essex, particularly Ipswitch and Colchester (before they fall to the Angles)
  • London and its outlying lands,
  • The Southports region

Irish knights, in an early campaign, could be from Estregales and, until 495, Escavalon.  These lands have been held by Irish tribesmen for generations and are currently held by King Canan I.  While Estregales wars with its Cambrian neighbors in Gomeret, it has diplomatic relations with other British lords.  As such fosterage, a practice common to Wales and Ireland, could allow the sons of Irish lords to serve in Cymric courts as honored guests and wards.  Cultural tensions, diplomatic concerns, and opportunities for espionage could all make for great roleplaying sessions.

Angus McBride

Integrating Pictish characters, particularly knights, is a challenge in light of their insular nature and hostility towards their southern neighbors.   It is possible that some lowland clans could have tribesmen serving Cymric lords as mercenaries, such as scouts or as infantry, while Christian Picts (St. Ninnius converted the Picts of Benoic in 390 AD) might serve either the church or a Christian lord in the name of their faith.

Coming soon… Expanded Cultural Options, Pt.2

Pendragon: Where to Begin?

When running a Pendragon game, I prefer to start the action as early as possible.  While 4th edition Pendragon assumes that campaigns will begin well into the reign of Arthur (531 AD), 5th edition starts things up during the reign of Uther (485 AD)… which I much prefer.  The Wiki excerpt below clearly illustrates some of the reasons for this preference:

Uther Pendragon (from Wikipedia):

Uther is best known from Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae (1136) where he is the youngest son of King of Britannia Constantine II. His eldest brother Constans succeeds to the throne on their father’s death, but is murdered at the instigation of his adviser Vortigern, who seizes the throne. Uther and his other brother Aurelius Ambrosius, still children, flee to Brittany. After Vortigern’s alliance with the Saxons under Hengist goes disastrously wrong, Aurelius and Uther, now adults, return. Aurelius burns Vortigern in his castle and becomes king.

With Aurelius on the throne, Uther leads his brother in arms to Ireland to help Merlin bring the stones of Stonehenge from there to Britain. Later, while Aurelius is ill, Uther leads his army against Vortigern’s son Paschent and his Saxon allies. On the way to the battle, he sees a comet in the shape of a dragon, which Merlin interprets as presaging Aurelius’s death and Uther’s glorious future. Uther wins the battle and takes the epithet “Pendragon”, and returns to find that Aurelius has been poisoned by an assassin. He becomes king and orders the construction of two gold dragons, one of which he uses as his standard. He secures Britain’s frontiers and quells Saxon uprisings with the aids of his retainers, one of whom is Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall. At a banquet celebrating their victories Uther becomes obsessively enamoured of Gorlois’ wife, Igerna (Igraine), and a war ensues between Uther and his vassal. Gorlois sends Igerna to the impregnable castle of Tintagel for protection while he himself is besieged by Uther in another town. Uther consults with Merlin who uses his magic to transform the king into the likeness of Gorlois and thus gain access to Igerna at Tintagel. He spends the night with her and they conceive a son, Arthur, but the next morning it is discovered that Gorlois had been killed. Uther marries Igerna and they have another child, a daughter called Anna (in later romances she is called Morgause and is usually Igerna’s daughter by her previous marriage). Morgause later marries King Lot and becomes the mother of Gawain and Mordred.

Uther later falls ill, but when the wars against the Saxons go badly he insists on leading his army himself, propped up on his horse. He defeats Hengist’s son Octa at Verulamium (St Albans), despite the Saxons calling him the “Half-Dead King.” However, the Saxons soon contrive his death by poisoning a spring he drinks from near Verulamium.[8]

Uther’s family is based on some historical figures; Constantine on the historical usurper Constantine III, a claimant to the Roman throne from 407–411, and Constans on his son. Aurelius Ambrosius is Ambrosius Aurelianus, mentioned by Gildas, though his connection to Constantine and Constans is unrecorded.

There is just so much going during this period of time.  During Uther’s reign Britain is fractured, its rulers fighting among themselves while Irish, Pictish, and Saxon raiders threaten the very survival of the Romano-Cymric people.  Chivalry, courtly romance, and tournaments with knights in shining plate armor are cast aside; replaced with xenophobia, desperate battles, internal strife, and a tone that more closely resembles the Dark Ages than the Late Middle Ages.

Whenever I’ve played or ran Pendragon, it was this time period and its trappings that most appealed to me and my players.  As such, I’ll keep 485 as the starting period when adding new cultures and religions.


Coming soon… Starting Player Cultures for Pendragon

Pendragon… updating a classic game

I’m in the process of overhauling the Pendragon RPG in the hope that I’ll, one day, run it again.

Angus McBride’s Romano-British cavalry with scouts.

As much as think 5th edition is tighter, much better organized, game than 4th edition I do miss some of the options that 4th edition Pendragon made available.  While I never used 4th edition’s magic system, as magic is something best left as a plot device, I do miss the rules that allowed characters other than vassal knights (i.e. squires, warriors, footsoldiers, sergeants, mercenary knights, knights errant, and bachelor knights) at the start of play.  4th edition also included rules for characters from multiple cultures (i.e. Cymric, Roman, Saxon, Occitanian, French, Irish, and Pict) and faiths (i.e. pagan, heathen, Christian, Jewish, and Wotanic).  In order to achieve this in 5th edition, you’d need to purchase the Book of Knights and Ladies.

The first part of overhauling the most current incarnation of the rules (Pendragon 5.1) will be porting those cultures back into the game.  I’ll leave that for another post…

Please feel free to comment on what your experiences with the game and on any ideas you have to improve upon it (even if you love it as is and think I shouldn’t muck about with it).  😉

Coming soon… Pendragon:  Where to Begin?