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Tales of Pendragon


Pendragon - Players Intro - Players Guide - Travellers Guide - Rules - Conventions  


Game Locations
The World of Tales of Pendragon is represented by a number of Locations, each of which is decorated in such a way as to suggest a set of places in the Arthurian world. These allow you to play your tale in the appropriate milieu without requiring you to keep track of specifics. Exactly where you are geographically is of minor importance – you tend to meet noblemen in the Court, travellers at a Tavern, and monsters in the woods no matter if you are in Britain, Wales, Ireland, France, or Scotland. The Locations in Tales of Pendragon include:
The Castle. This area holds the Court, a Rose Garden, a Chapel, and a Dungeon. It is the place where Noblemen live. Gentry, both Knights and Ladies, often come here to pay court to the Nobility and meet one another, and there are a number of commoners who live and work here as well, such as reeves, stewards, heralds, and fools. Entertainers often come here on special occasions.
The Village. This area contains a Market square with a Tavern where folk and travellers relax and drink. There is a Well where people gossip. It also has several market Stalls for every imaginable business, e.g. a smithy, stables, mill, apothecary/herbalist, weaver, tanner, jeweller, silversmith, and others.
The Field. This is a large open area in the countryside with stands and woods nearby. Tourneys are held here, as are hunts, falconry, weapons practice, games, battles, plays, and large public events such as fairs. A Monastery resides on a nearby hill near an old pagan chalk figure, making the place sacred to both religions. The monks make wine, and run a small hospital.
The Wilderness. This is all the wild and strange places in the world far away from civilization. Here is a circle of Standing Stones, a Cave/Lair, a Hermitage, a Faerie Forest, the Black Tower, the Island, the Holy Land, and any other forlorn, distant, or magical place. There is a Campfire here where people in the wild congregate.
Except at the Campfire, the Wilderness is impenetrable, which means that you can find someone only if you are already with them, or if they wish to be found. If you see another player and wish to speak with them, you must ask, “Who is that?” or “Is someone there?” or “Ah, is there no-one in this Godforsaken place?” or the like. If they wish to be found, they will reply, “My lady, is that you?”, or “Yes, please join us,” or “Sir, I am here”, or other such words. If they fail to reply, then perhaps you thought you heard something, but didn’t catch sight of anyone. It was the wind, or a wild beast, or perhaps even a malevolent spirit. Denizens of the wilderness, such as animals or monsters, may be able to ignore this rule.


When you begin play, you will receive a badge that gives your name and describes something about you. If you play a different character, are disguised, or change appearance somehow, you will receive another badge to use.
In all cases, someone looks like what their badge says. If you see a player with a different badge than before, then they are (or appear to be) a completely different person. If someone changes badges, then either they have just transformed before your eyes or else they have gone out of the story and come back in as someone else.


How to Play a Tale
When you get a tale character, it will tell you who you are and what you desire to do. It will also tell you what Location you start in, and provide you with a badge that tells others who you are and what you look like. If you are in disguise, your badge may simply say “White Knight” or the like, of course. When you start the tale, replace your home character badge with the Tale character badge, and you’re set to go. You may want to find a prop or bit of costuming appropriate to your new character, but it’s not necessary.
Many characters require nothing more than that – go play the character. However, some tales have a more complex structure and include directions.
Directions are notes from the writer of the tale that are important to making the tale play out properly. They are enclosed in square brackets, e.g. [This is a direction]. Some directions are very simple, e.g. [Start in the Tavern, then go to the court after a few minutes]. Others are more involved, asking you to switch characters during a tale or narrate what happens at some juncture. For example, the Guardian at the Gate of Saint Anselm might have directions like this:
[If anyone tries to pass through the Gate, challenge him with Piety. If he fails, describe to him how a blast of power drives him back from the entrance, wounding him.]
Reading this direction, you would then describe (in character, if possible) what happened to anyone trying to get through the Gate.


Free Lances
Some tales in Tales of Pendragon involve people who need help defeating something by force. Such requests are answered best by Knights, but your home character is probably not a Knight, and it may be that you are not playing a Knight when the request comes. To allow you to take a Knightly role when you need to, you may become a Free Lance. To do so, tell whoever needs help “I saw a knight nearby who might help; let me fetch him” or the like. Then go to a Bard and say, “I am in need of a Free Lance.” The Bard will give you a Knight character, which you can then play for the Tale. What sort of person he is can vary quite a bit, of course.


Game Schedule
The game is divided into episodes called Ages, as follows:
Recognition:         Friday 8 PM-12 PM
Ascendancy:         Saturday 9 AM–1 PM
Consolidation:     Saturday 2 PM-6 PM
Apogee:                Saturday 7 PM-12 PM
Resolution:          Sunday 11 AM-1 PM.
The first hour or so of each age (half-hour for Sunday) is the Day.  During this time, no Tales will be given out. Tales not finished from the Age before may be concluded; otherwise, it is for home characters to interact, and for the more mundane events of the world to work themselves out. After the Present Day, the Night will begin, when people gather in courts, taverns, and camps to hear the old stories. During this time, tales can be begun.
At the start of the game and the end of each Age, one or more events in the Arthurian Saga will be portrayed for all to see. During this time all Tales will pause, as everyone learns what has happened in the realm of King Arthur. The Bards will seek among the people to find suitable players to re-enact these momentous occurrences.
After each age, there will be an intermission. During that time, the Bards will rest, and no new tales will be given out. People are welcome to finish those tales that they have, and then should take their ease for an interval.
Saturday evening, after all have returned from their evening sojourn, there will be a Feast for everyone to take part in as their home character. Copious food and drink will be served, and all will dine together in good company.
Sunday morning at 10:00 there will be a brief play or puppet-show for any who wish to attend, but no Bards will be available. Use this time to check out of the hotel! Events will begin promptly at 11:00.


All conflict in Tales of Pendragon is resolved by a challenge. You may challenge someone to fight them, to persuade them of something, or to get them to do something.
To challenge someone, speak to them using the word “challenge” and employ the name of a virtue, e.g. “Sir, for the sake of Honour I challenge you to speak the truth”. They must respond by naming a virtue in return, e.g. “What? As I am a good and Pious man I reject your base accusation.” The winner of the challenge is whoever has the higher total of the two virtues. If both participants use the same virtue, just double it. Ties are won by the challenger.
Using a virtue in a challenge means something different for each virtue.
Courage is using force or the threat of force. If either participant uses Courage, the challenge is a combat.  
Honour is an appeal to integrity, or shaming the other person.
Piety is an appeal to the other’s charity or essential goodness.
Wisdom is persuading someone to your view by force of reason.
Love is an appeal to the heart for love, compassion, or mercy.
Winning a challenge requires the loser to perform a forfeit. The nature of the forfeit depends on which virtue the victor used in the challenge. This is true no matter whether the victor initiated the challenge or not. Forfeits are affected by two overriding rules:
The five-minute rule:  You may not challenge the same character nor be challenged by him twice within five minutes.
The ten-minute rule: No forfeit, special ability effect, or any other game circumstance lasts longer than ten minutes unless the victim wants it to. If you are imprisoned, ensorcelled, restricted by an oath, shamed, or whatever, you escape or recover after ten minutes.

Virtue Forfeits
Courage: You have the other at your mercy. You may capture, wound, kill, or flee.

Capturing someone means that they must accompany you to a place (e.g. a dungeon, a castle). If a captured person is ever left alone, they immediately escape. Again, you can always escape after 10 minutes.
Wounding someone means that he cannot initiate any challenges, and must stay away from you if possible (for 10 minutes). Some characters can remove wounds.
Killing someone removes them from play if they are a Tale character; see below.
Fleeing simply allows you to leave the area unmolested, which you must do immediately.

Note! If an unarmed character wins using Courage, he may only Flee.
Home Character Exemption: Home characters are never permanently removed play. If you are killed while playing your home character, you immediately leave any Tale you are involved in and return to a bard. Had you been in that story, you would have died! You may not play your home character for ten minutes. You may play Tale characters during this period, or take a break.
Wisdom: You prevail upon the other by good sense and force of argument. You may persuade the other, or make a fool of him.

Persuading him requires him to help you in one task. You may not ask him to do something in your place.
Making a fool of him allows you to call him Fool and ridicule him. He must go to a bard and get a Fool badge, which notifies others that he has been made an object of fun. He must wear this for five minutes, during which time others should mock him and abuse him. A fool cannot initiate challenges, but can defend himself.

Piety:  You impress the other with your superior devotion to God (or the Gods). You may call upon him for charity, or require of him a devotion.

Charity allows you to examine his boons and then make him donate one boon of your choice to you to use for a pious cause (you decide what is pious). If you do not use the boon within 5 minutes, you must give it back – no keeping charity!
Devotion requires him to perform a pious task that you designate. You may instead require him to seek out a religious person and ask them to give him a task.

Honor: You shame or impress the other with your devotion to duty and personal integrity. You may question him, or make him swear an oath.

Questioning requires him to answer one question for you to the best of his ability.
Exception: You may never ask people in disguise who they really are. A few wicked or clever people can lie to you even if they lose a challenge, so watch out!
Swearing requires him to make an oath which he must keep (for ten minutes). You may not make anyone swear to do anything despicable.

Love: You move the other to affection or sympathy for you. Love conquers all! You may ask for any of the forfeits available to Wisdom, Piety, or Honour. However, Love does not receive without also giving. You must designate one of the above virtues as your gift. The other may now select a forfeit (from that virtue) for you to do!
Other forfeits:  Forfeits can be modified for circumstances. For instance, a Priest trying to banish a spirit could challenge it with Piety and require it to flee as the “devotion”.
You decide:  If all players agree, you can use challenges for any reason at all. You could use a Love challenge to decide which maiden is more beautiful, or a Wisdom challenge to win a debate, etc. Feel free to modify the rules to fit the situation. “Let all my suitors speak of Love. I will choose whoever can recite the most verses in support of his cause.”

Multiple participants
When a challenge is announced, anyone present may announce that they are helping one side or the other. They must say so immediately (within a count of three). If you have others helping you in a challenge, you get +1 to your total for each companion, for a maximum of +2. The helpers do not choose a virtue; they simply give the main participant a bonus.


Arms and Armour
Warriors and travellers in Arthurian tales normally went about armed and armoured. So Knights and male Nobles are considered armed except where it would be inappropriate (at a feast, in bed, etc). Devout folk and commoners are armed only in the Wilderness, away from help. Old people, children, and Ladies are never armed. Ruthless people, magical creatures, animals and monsters are always armed, sometimes with hidden weapons. Tales and special abilities can, as with anything else, override these rules.
Attacking an unprepared person is reprehensible. An armed person may not use Courage against anyone who is unarmed. And gentlefolk did not fight one another unarmed, brawling like commoners! Ruthless characters and others who do not care about honour can break this rule. Unarmed characters may not initiate a Courage challenge, although they may use Courage for defence (dodging or struggling). They may only Flee if they win a courage forfeit.


Any person or group who has a standard (a staff with a pennant or flag) is being accompanied by an army, or at least a large honor guard. They may refuse any Courage challenge, as the guardsmen prevent you from even getting near. If you also have an army, you may challenge them to battle, using the battle rules.


Some tale characters are Ruthless. This means that they can ignore the conventions of honour. Characters may be Ruthless because they are evil, insane, vengeful, or merely callous. Ruthless characters are different as follows:

They may use Courage against an unarmed person. Dishonour means nothing to them.
They may ignore all non-Courage forfeits. Why should they care?
They may be challenged with Courage, even if they are apparently unarmed.
Honest folk recognize them for the threat that they are.

A Ruthless character will have a badge or other marker that says so. Some tale characters may be secretly Ruthless; they cannot be treated as such until they reveal themselves (by doing something Ruthless, of course).
Beasts (animals and monsters without intelligence) are generally all Ruthless. Their badges will indicate this. There is no reasoning with brutes, after all.


Special Abilities
Most characters have one or more talents, called Special Abilities, that are unique to them. They may involve getting a bonus to a particular kind of challenge or being able to do something entirely outside the challenge rules. Some abilities are permanent, and can be used as many times as desired; others can be used once per age, or merely once - the ability will say. Abilities, unlike boons, may only be used by the character specified on the ability card. Occasionally, you may have a Disability, a circumstance that limits what you can do or gives you a penalty. Unlike abilities, which you may use at your option, you must  follow the rules on any disabilities you have.
Special abilities and skills always take precedence over the general challenge rules. Note that an ability or disability, unlike a boon, applies only to the specific character named on the card! If you change characters, abilities/disabilities for any prior character do not apply.
If there is any ambiguity about how a Skill or Ability works in a given situation, try to resolve it among yourselves. If that fails, see a Bard. If you try to take a forfeit from a character who will not or cannot give it because of a special ability, you may choose another forfeit applicable to the virtue you used.


Boons and Rewards
When you complete a Tale (whether you played a Tale character or home character) you return to a Bard and tell your story to the Bard and any interested onlookers. The Bard may then reward you for your interesting story. The reward is based upon how involved you were in the tale, not whether you succeeded or failed at any task therein. The reward will consist of a point of virtue, which will be marked on your purse, or else a boon.
Boons are objects, knowledge, favours, land, money, or any other thing that might exist in the Arthurian world. Whatever their type, boons give some advantage when making a challenge or grant some special ability. Examples of boons might be Bran’s Axe (+2 to your courage in a challenge) or prayers from the Monks of Saint Humbert (allows you to banish one Ghost if you win a Piety challenge).
One use: Boons are always expended after a single use unless they state otherwise. Sometimes this is because they are logically used up (e.g. a healing salve). Other times, they are useful only for a moment (the location of Castle Carbonek, which changes every season). And sometimes they are just items that pass out of the story after one telling. For example, Bran’s Axe, after being used, might be given up into the care of holy women on an island shrine. You may choose to role-play this expenditure or not as you see fit, but in all cases the boon must be returned to a bard after it is used.
Traits: Boons have one or more traits, indicating who may use them. If the character you are playing does not have the traits matching one of your boons, you may not use that boon. Some examples of traits include Knight, Lady, Devout (holy folk), and the like. You may still carry and trade boons that you cannot use. Traits which are obvious to all are noted on character badges; others will be mentioned in character descriptions or special ability cards. Some traits that exist in the game include:

Commoner,  a base-born person of any sort, from beggar to wealthy merchant.
Gentle, a well-born person who may or may not have land.
Noble, a high-born person who owns considerable land. Includes royalty.
Knight, a well-born man whose trade is fighting. Knights are always Gentle at least.
Lady, a well-born woman. Ladies are always Gentle at least.
Devout, a very pious person. Includes most priests, monks, goodly hermits, druids.
Pagan, a worshipper of the Old Religion.
Magical, a spell-caster or otherworldly entity, e g. the Fay, wizards, monsters, ghosts.

Everyone is presumed to be Christian unless they have the Pagan trait (or another such as Jewish or Muslim).
Challenge Limitation: Some boons give bonuses to challenges, such as Bran’s Axe, above. You may only use one boon in a challenge unless the boon says otherwise.
The Five Boon rule: You may hold no more than five boons. If you receive a sixth, you must return one to a Bard (you may not give it away). Use those boons!

Some cards from the boon deck are not boons, but signs from God (or the Gods). A Sign deems you worthy to go on certain special Tales called Great Adventures. Behind each Bard’s table is a list of all the great Adventures in the game. Each adventure lists the signs which are required to pursue it, e.g. The Quest for the Grail requires a Cup, a Crown, and a Cross. To go on the adventure, you must have several players. Each player must have a needed sign, and together they must have all of the needed signs. So for the Grail Quest you need at least three characters, one with a Cup, one a Crown, and one a Cross.
Unlike boons, signs are not tradable from one player to another. They do not count against your allotment of five boons, and you cannot lose them or use them (except to go on a Great Adventure). If a sign is not useful to you (e.g. you have gone on all the adventures you want to) you may exchange it for another reward from the boon deck.

Tale Boons
Some tale characters have boons which they may give others; these are treated as normal boons for all purposes.
Some Boons are marked Tale Boon, which means that they exist only for the purpose of the Tale and may not be used once the Tale has completed. Always turn these in to a Bard when the Tale is over.


The Games: Tourney, Duel, Battle , and Hunt
Tales of Pendragon  has three games in it, to allow you to recreate the great sports of Arthurian times: tournaments, battles, and hunts. You may be directed to engage in any one of these by a Tale. You may also do these whenever you wish to settle a point, as a contest, or just as entertainment. Each game has materials and rules set out at an appropriate location within the world.

Tournament fighting is conducted with blunted spears and swords in order to reduce the chance of death and create a better spectacle. Of course accidents do happen, but the bloodshed from a friendly tournament is much reduced by these measures.

There are two principal tournament events, jousting and melee. In a jousting tournament, two knights charge one another on horseback with spears until one is unhorsed. The loser may concede, or may demand to fight on with swords on foot. Whoever wins remains in the tournament and fights again the next round, until there is one winner. In a melee, many knights take the field, usually divided into two groups, and come together in one big brawl until there is a clear victor.

Two knights who wish to determine who is the better and/or impress the ladies can also fight a duel, a one-on-one combat that lasts longer than a joust. The knights fight on a restricted pitch, advancing and retreating, until one can score a telling blow and is declared the victor. Duels of this sort are always to first blood. To fight a duel, go to the Duelling Pitch and follow the rules there.

Battles are large affairs involving thousands of knights and soldiers, but in the Arthurian Saga they are invariably decided by the prowess of a few key knights on either side. To fight a battle, go to the Battle Arena and follow the rules there. Battles are always two-sided affairs, but there may be as many players on either side as you like. If you are asked to join a battle, you may do so as your own character (if appropriate) or take the part of any of the knights otherwise selected for the battle.

Sometimes a tale may direct you to perform a hunt. You may also engage in a hunt as entertainments, whenever you like. To hunt, you must have one or more hunters and one player to be the beast. Go to the Hunting Woods and follow the directions there. Select a beast at random from among those given. If you get a beast you have encountered before, you may select another. The hunt ends once the hunters have caught the beast or the beast has escaped. Each beast has its own special ability that will make each hunt different. Some beasts may grant boons for their capture!

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