[Pendragon] It has lost part of its charm for me

Cross-posting from here.

I must admit that, while still loving Pendragon, I came to dislike its personality rules. See, the more time passed and new games coming out that tapped on similar aspects, the more I’ve come to realize Pendragon approach is kind of clunky and not as interesting to engage with as I once thought. Being more precise, I think it’s a Stick & Carrot issue where Pendragon virtues are more on the Stick side, but these days I prefer games on the Carrot’s. So I rather have incentives for tapping (or not) on my emotions/traits than having the dice dictating/imposing me on it.

Someone else with similar feelings ?

Comments

  • Just to elaborate a bit more on my feelings, between the two ways to engage the game's virtues sub-system proposed by the rules...

    a) rolling your virtues frequently to see what your char does in each situation

    vs

    b) rolling just for virtues above 15 and taking ones below as behavioural guidelines

    ...I don't feel neither approach is really that interesting, since the former is too on the "Stick" side (aka: "the rules forcibly dictating how I should act"), and the latter make the virtues mechanically inocuous, with little or no interplay or relevance to the rest of the game.

    I feel the games released since Pendragon managed to promote the kind of "what defines you" and "whats important for you" -driven gameplay better: games like Fate/Fae, Cortex+, Burning Wheel, Hillfolk, PbtA and derivates , etc. achieve similar or identical results in less obtrusive, more simple and effective ways.
  • I'd say that before deciding you hate some mechanic in a game, it's a healthy habit to distance yourself from that particular game for a while, let things rest and come back later.

    I had a similar impression of the D&D alignment rules, so in my last 5e campaign I tried leaving them out and just playing with the flaws, bonds and personality, without resorting to heavy on the Inspiration mechanic. The result was that my players went murderhobo, leaving me without anything to properly ask them to behave a little. I used consequences, but at times it was almost like punishing them to play the way they wanted.

    I still don't know what went wrong there. We still had tons of fun doing it, nobody complained (not even I, though I was surprised and a bit set aback by that). I asked before the game if they wanted to play as evil characters (as some ended up doing anyway) and they told me that they didn't and we were fine.

    But then some PC agressively extracts information from a witness, the other reduces him, ties him up, they both lock him inside his house and stole from him. And one of them was a Paladin! Things went downhill from there, including killling a town merchant and a few guards, kidnapping a baby, extorting money from townspeople in exchange of getting rid of an ogre they had sent to attack the town in the first place, etc.

    By the next session I had the opinion that what they wanted to play was Grand Theft Dragon. So I went easier on town challenges, let them get out with whatever they wanted and focused on building consequences from their actions.

    It was still fun, but come on, Dungeons and Dragons isn't anything like "Grand Theft Dragon", and Alignments, while somewhat simplistic and limiting, are quite a straightfoward tool to enforce that part of the game atmosphere, keep things civil where that have to be and saving the GM from reducing all his plot-hooks to non-living NPCs, objects or heavily custodied/untouchable patrons.

    Anyway, my point is that while some game mechanics may not be "state of the art" stuff, they definitely have their place and time, as well as groups and GMs which they work better with. And it's a lot easier to perceive them as bad, poor or obsolete when most of our latest experience with them hasn't been successful, or when our personal experience with other games and mechanics has been substantially better.
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