Pendragon Starter Set: A Review

The Pendragon Starter Set combines a well-researched Dark Age RPG with a more egalitarian mythic setting to bring the world of Arthur Pendragon to life (and modified as needed by each GM). The juxtaposition of authentic arms and armor, horses, and other technology with a society of higher ideals than actually existed in our own world works well to bring a myth to life in a grounded way. Chivalric knights in shining armor but facing real danger. An outstanding design.

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My thanks to Chaosium for sending me this starter set. I interviewed them about it and enjoyed the contents so much that I decided to do my own review as well. I’m going to go through what is included in the Starter Set and give my thoughts on everything inside. At its core, Pendragon is about playing a knight or in this case those about to achieve knighthood. It is related to the Basic Roleplaying family of RPGs and there is also a Pendragon Quick-Start.

Box, Pregenerated PCs, Battle Cards, and Dice

The box is sturdy cardboard, none of that flimsy stuff. Nothing printed on the inside top or bottom.

The battle cards are perforated and heavy paper Lots of information in a small space which is good design. The inclusion of cards with foes the PCs will face makes the idea of running the adventure that much easier. Rules for the large battle are also summarized on the cards.

Eight pregenerated knights are included. They range from serious chivalrous types to jokesters with a variety of fighting styles, passions, and beliefs. The sheets are deluxe with full color art and a trifold design with all the rules and background included.

The dice includes a blue d20 and six d6s in a yellowish gold. The colors are vibrant and the numbers are easy to read which I like.

Book I: The Adventure of the Sword in the Stone

All three books have maps printed on the back but I can’t figure out if they go together to form a larger map. They depict the North, Logres, and Cumbria.

Book I is a solo quest, which allows a GM or player to get used to the setting and rules. It also sets up the events of Book III which will help GMs get ready to run the adventure for players. 45 pages of adventure.

Your PC is a page and helps a country knight named Arthur take a step into a larger world of politics and warfare. For players unfamiliar with King Arthur I highly recommend having them start here before moving on to the adventure in Book III.

Book II: The Fabled Realm and Appendices

This book covers the rules and how those rules interact with the setting. The basic roll is d20 roll under a Statistic. Statistics include not just Skills but also Passions, Glory, Armor, and Shield Protection.

Knights strive to gain Honor and Glory. The object of Pendragon is for knights to obtain Glory. Honor can decrease but Glory never can. Glory can be won through combat, for obtaining a social position, witnessing great actions, and for completing a quest.

Combat is swift and deadly. Opponents roll opposed Skills against each other. Damage takes a while to heal. Rules govern mounted and ground combat as well as brawling and missile fire. Knights do not normally use bows or crossbows against each other in single combat. Armor reduces damage.

Armor and horses are well detailed and stay within the known levels of technology and medieval equine culture. How to spend wealth and treasure and what happens during the winter round out this book.

The four appendices call out rules in an easy to reference format that will have utility after the adventure in the Starter Set is run. Rules and roleplaying information cover tournaments, battle, overland movement, and visiting a foreign court.

Book III: The Sword Campaign

Arthur claims to be king, but many warlords disagree, violently. The adventure is in three parts and ranges from Londinium to the sword in the lake. PCs will get to show their valor, fight in battle, explore Londinium, and perhaps earn full-fledged knighthood. An exciting adventure indeed. However, a bit more advice for what to do if your players don't go along with the adventure as written would be helpful.

The entire adventure revolves around the PCs accepting King Arthur when he draws the sword from the stone. A GM with recalcitrant players may have to wing the rest of the adventure if the PCs decide to side with King Lot. There is also the possibility that a player really doesn’t really know what is going on and knows nothing about King Arthur so isn't sure what to do. In either case, having players run through the solo adventure first is a solid way to reduce the chance of having any problems since the players will see Arthur as a friend before starting this adventure.

Should You Get the Starter Set?

If you like fantasy with subtle magic the PCs don’t control and could see your players enjoying playing a variety of knights all skilled in battle but quite different than yes get the Pendragon Starter Set. Pendragon both gives the PCs reason to adventure together and allows everyone the ability fight and shine in a variety of situations from court intrigue to hunting to overland travel and war. Well worth reading for inspiration and ideas even if you can’t run it immediately.
 
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Charles Dunwoody

Charles Dunwoody

Michael O'Brien

Hero
Publisher
Arthur claims the British Crown at last!

Finally, some good news for British Pendragon TTRPG fans: the Pendragon Starter Set is now available to order direct from our UK Warehouse (there were customs delays getting the shipment over the Channel)



(Also available from our US, EU, and Australian warehouses)

 




Already ordered my copy of the Boxed Set and downloaded the free Quick Start and free Starter Set Pregens PDF file! 🥰 You can find the download link for the Pregens PDF file in the "Downloads for this Product" section of this page:

I was fortunate enough that my order shipped from a distribution center 3 hours from my house, so it arrived yesterday. I haven't had time to play the initial self-adventure (probably won't until next weekend), but looking through the box I like what I see so far. Having already seen how Call of Cthulhu is presented in its Starter Set, Chaosium really does a good job of introducing new players to their games through their Starter Sets.
 

I had a copy of the main rule book for an older edition (can’t say for sure, but I think it was third edition.) I never got to play the game, but the rules were so fun to read. I ordered my copy of the starter set with the intent of absolutely getting to finally play this wonderful game!
 

aramis erak

Legend
The Pendragon Starter Set combines a well-researched Dark Age RPG with a more egalitarian mythic setting to bring the world of Arthur Pendragon to life (and modified as needed by each GM). The juxtaposition of authentic arms and armor, horses, and other technology with a society of higher ideals than actually existed in our own world works well to bring a myth to life in a grounded way. Chivalric knights in shining armor but facing real danger. An outstanding design.
Chivalric knights are anachronistic to the dark ages.
Pendragon isn't historic; it's mythic, and the Arthurian mythology is the basis for it.
Most of the tech is medieval.
 


aramis erak

Legend
I believe earlier editions unlocked tech as the timeline progressed. Not sure if that is true anymore.
Phase 1 is early medieval... Phase 4 is high medieval.
I doubt they've changed that, since the phase structure is one thing they said wasn't changing ...
Boy King has a list. It notes that Phase 1 starts with tech from 1000s AD, Phase 2 is 1100s, Phase 3 is 1200s, Phase 4 is 1300's, Phase 5 is 1400s... then phase 6 is back to late 500's
 

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