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
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
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
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
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 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.
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.
The game is divided into episodes called Ages, as follows:
Recognition: Friday 8
Ascendancy: Saturday 9
Consolidation: Saturday 2 PM-6 PM
Saturday 7 PM-12 PM
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.”
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
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
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
Beasts (animals and monsters without intelligence) are generally all
Ruthless. Their badges will indicate this. There is no reasoning with
brutes, after all.
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
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
Gentle, a well-born person who may or may not have land.
Noble, a high-born person who owns considerable land. Includes
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
Devout, a very pious person. Includes most priests, monks, goodly
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.
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!