Thirty Years of King Arthur Pendragon: Interview with Kenneth Hite

I was interviewed in a GenCon panel in 2014 by the inestimable Kenneth Hite. This interview covers some of the same ground as the Origins page, but also includes the Q&A section from the panel.


Kenneth: King Arthur Pendragon is 30 years old technically next year but, as us game designers know, the process of turning it into a gameits at least 30 years old this year

Greg: Id actually say its 58 years old today.

Kenneth: 58 years old today. Excellent. As with so many Arthurian things, the dating is difficult to pin down. Pendragon, for those of you who are not immediately familiar with it, or do not comprehend the majesty of what you are familiar with, one of the absolutely pathbreaking, groundbreaking game designs of its time, circa 1984 or 85, and is still ahead of its time because there are still gamesthere are practically no games that have mechanics for creating and unleashing character passions, for driving characters into their fates caused by their own decisions, caused by their belief systems, to myths, to ideologies. It is still one of the only games that gives you a larger investment in the future than how many gold pieces did I get off of that body. Its a game about family and continuity, about the land and the future, what kind of society you are building. Its a game of unparalleled depth and scope, made more unparalleled by the equally unparalleled The Great Pendragon Campaign which I have compared elsewhere to the Nibelungenlied or The Idylls of the King. Its our art form’s greatest single narrative work. For that and so many other reasons, I basically snuck this panel into the list and made Greg agree to do it and then I got to do this. Im going to start by asking Greg a couple of questions and he will dazzle and amaze us. Then, if you guys have any other questions, well be happy to take those. 

Greg: Thanks for not giving me anything difficult to live up to. 

Kenneth: You want to just set up the process of creating Pendragon from 58 years ago today or circa 1983

Greg: I would say this game actually started when I was about seven years old. I remember very clearly looking through a large book of photographs and looking at the pictures of castles and wondering, How come these people lived in places with no roofs? How come all of their rooms were 40tall?I just had no idea of what a ruin was at the time. But, I remember thinking, Im going to learn more about this.As a child, I started reading about it. I remember one of the first books I read about it was Otto of the Silver Hand”…just started consuming everything I could find about it, whether it was literature or history or even more literature. Ive loved it all my life. Its really been a passion of mine. I loved Prince Valiant comics. Again, I remember reading a page of it when I was young and saying, I like this. I think Ill read this every week, which I did up until they stopped running it in my newspaper. But thats OK because it wasnt as good then as when I was a kid. 

I started Chaosium in 1975 with the publication of a board game based on Glorantha. Ever since I started that, I had in the back of my mind the idea of publishing a game about King Arthur. When I had a break in my publishing and writing schedule I decided to undertake it. I spent a fair amount of time considering it beforehand, including all the time Id been making professional games. 

Some of the features that are in it that are important were the Traits. Traits is everybody familiar with it? The traits are the way of quantifying the behavior of your character. It really, really, really always bugged me when a character in a game acted out of character. An example is the character who takes every opportunity to get drunk and fill himself with alcoholits his way of life all the way up until the princess gives him a cup of wine and says, Enjoy itand he says, No. Im not going to.I dont know how many alcoholics you know, but, I know a few. An alcoholic never refuses a drink. If he does, its a difficult process. So, I made up the trait system to prevent that sort of thing and allow people to remember what their character is like. I know if I play sporadically, I forget. Is this the guy who likes women or the guy who likes booze? Its that. Defining your character through his behavior. 

The Passions came about because everybody in Arthurian literature is passionate. Theyre passionate about different things. So I put that in there and realized that they become better at what they do when theyre impassioned and that was another of the mechanics that I put in. Another one was the dynastic section. In King Arthurhis reign is pretty long and you do, in the literature, see characters who are there and then their children are there and the characters get olderits an important part of the whole saga. One of the things that happens in Arthurian literature when you look at it is, almost every single male character in all of the stories is fatherless. I thought, lets see how that works out in here as well.Its also because of game escalation. People start collecting magic swords—”Ive got a magic horse. Ive got a magic shield”— then their character is put out of action and they have these things and they would like to use them, plus their new character knows everything that their old character did. Thats where I got the idea of dynastic succession. Its your son. Thats why he has all of your stuff and thats why he knows everything that you know. 

The skill system is from everything that we had ever published beforehand, but I used a d20 instead of a d100 just because it was easier. I wanted a nice simple system that worked for everything. I worked hard to come up withwhat is the one item that everything in Arthurian legend works towards and realized thats Glory. One of the keys in the system is that everything that you do relates to the Glory that you get for it. That is the coinage of the game. You want Glory. 

One of the other things that is very important in Arthurian literature is that its about choices and consequences. I wanted to make this game like that and it works very well as far as Im concerned. There are always choices that you need to make and sometimes theres just no good choice. Thats just the way it is. And characters fail because they made the wrong choice or because theyre not up to snuff or because they fail in their traits. They have consequences of failure and have to keep going. Thats another key of the game. The choices and consequences. 

Another major one is that its of conflict. Everything in Pendragon is about the conflict between the way you behave, your choices, between consequences, and especially between the idealism and the realism. Arthurian characters try to be as chivalrous as possible. They try to live up to these goals to do these things that are preferred actions for the time. Thats really hard. They almost all fail, even Lancelot fails. Thats an important part and the conflict therein lies between the ideals and the reality. The reality, of course, is the actual life in the middle ages, which was pretty scuzzy. It was pretty dismal, but very practical and successful. When the knight has to be offered his choice of helping his brother or helping the woman, which way is he going to go? The practical thing is to go help his brother, but he goes and helps the woman because thats the chivalrous choice. He makes his brother an enemy. The conflict between reality and idealism is an important part of the game. Thats why the Traits are important. What choices are you going to make? It was in large part just through my experience with role playing that I made it sowhen you get the manor, when you start to progress they affect your character choices. The things you build give you a die role in something. So, if you start an apiary, you get busy as a beechecks. When you start a rabbitry, you get a check to your Lustfullike the rabbits. That was a unique thing that happened in the game. Theres a reason to do everything within the game. Someone said in a panel yesterday, If you write a game about something, it better be in there.If you write a game about love, there better be love in there or else its not about that. 

All of these thingsromance, love, war, idealism, chivalry, christianityare all part of the game and all work towards giving you glory and all generate conflicts in your character that you will pass on or overcome so that your son has a better way of life, if you have a son. One of the great tragedies, of course, is that Arthur has no legitimate heir. One of my great moments of game-mastery was when my son was playing. I was playing with my son and his friends and every couple of years the characters would go to Camelot and see the king and go off on adventures and come back and see the king. Every time I would describe it, I would say, Theres Arthur sitting there with his queen, and theres an empty chair where his heir is going to sit. Theyd come back time and again. These young men had been working to get their heir so that they could pass everything on. At one point, one of them…”theres the king, queen, and empty chair”…he said, Aw, Jesus. That poor bastard. Now I understand. Thats a big deal in this story and it was wonderful as a gamemaster and a father to see this young man understand what it was about. 

Kenneth: I have sort of a design aesthetic question. When youre talking about making the unified system that feeds into everything, how everything feeds into the same sort of cycle. It drives its own conflicts, its own elementseverything is off of the d20 roll. Is there an aspect where you were designing that, because the medieval world picture aims for that kind of unified field explanation that everything goes into that notion that theres a great wheel of life. That everything is in its place. Is that part of the design aesthetic? Why you dont have a lot of secondary systems and things like that or was that just where you wanted to be back in 1983, watching RuneQuest spiraling around and D&D out of control. 

Greg: The ideal of one God, one King, one Table is an integral part of it and I did like that as an ideal to work towards, but the main thing I wanted to do was make the game system so it didnt get in the way. After your first game, you dont have to ask anybody what dice to roll. No d4, no d8just the d20 and the d6 when you roll for damage. My main drive was just to get everything under the d20 system. Thats where it was from. 

Kenneth: One of the many great things about Pendragon is how you take so many versions of the Arthur myth and you put them all, not just into a connected narrative in a sense that Arthur begins back in crummy archeological Arthur with Anglo-Saxons and Beowulf and nonsense like that, then he moves forward and at the end of Camelot he’s all the way up at Malory. You’re moving through the whole arc fictionally as well as historically. When you were putting that together, were there bits of the lore that you said, “gosh, it’s a shame I have to leave this out”? How much did you have to massage the corpus of Arthur in literature to get the beautiful Pendragon continuity? Are there roads you wish you’d gone down at the time? 

Greg: I don’t have regrets about having left anything out in particular. It was a big deal to try to decide which Arthur I’m portraying and then to have the breakthrough of saying, “Wow — I can portray the whole thing”. I don’t know if you’re aware, but in The Great Pendragon Campaign each 15 years of campaign is approximately 100 years of medieval history. It starts with the Dark Ages around the Normans, when might makes right. One of the things I did leave out on purpose was that there’s no round table for King Uther. He has excalibur, but there’s no round table for Uther. I could pick out the best things from Sutcliffe’s “Crystal Cave” which was set in a medieval setting, kind of pseudo historical and put it into that section and have it change over time so that the armor changes, the castles change, so that it all ends up in Malory, which I consider to be one of the two most definitive works of Arthurian literature…I’ll say the definitive work about Arthurian literature because Malory is the king of writers. Most of the literary cycle in the game follows Mallory. I love Wolfram’s edition. I stick that in there. I wanted to use as much original material as possible and, fortunately, I had read most everything. I could pick and choose. I loved the movie Excalibur. There are quotes from Excalibur through the whole thing and I based some of the adventures on the Excalibur version of Arthurian legend as well. I don’t have any regrets about leaving anything out, though, and there’s always room for putting things in. I’m glad I had the choice of leaving some things out. I think the story of the duplicate Guinevere is terrible. 

One of the things about Arthurian literature is that when you read the works, it’s the greatest works that have survived. So, we can read Wolfram’s Parzival and Malory’s books…and they’re really good books. One of the things I used to wonder is “where are all of the crappy books people wrote”. We have a lot of them, but you can’t really find them anywhere. There are alternate versions. There’s a book where King Arthur goes on the Grail Quest and Lancelot’s on the Grail Quest at the same time when Guinevere dies. It is a strange version. I drew a lot of my adventures from that cycle because no one has ever read it and these will be a surprise. There’s one that’s a comedy. King Arthur, the Knight of the Parrot. It’s kind of a parody of Arthurian things. Instead of going to the tournament and winning a hawk — the symbol of love and conquest — he wins a parrot, with a dwarf that the parrot owns carrying the cage around. Whenever Arthur is doing something, the parrot urges him on. Something happens and they turn on the parrot. Everything in it is a parody of the regular Arthurian thing, even unto the fact that Arthur chooses a woman to be his paramour, his inspiration, She tells him, “If you’re going to do anything I want, I want you to go out there and be the worst knight possible.” So, he goes out and loses every fight and gets battered and beaten. They go back to the tent at the end of the tournament. She tells him, “You did a good job at being the worst knight.” He says, “You don’t understand what being the worst knight is about. I’m not done yet.” Then he slaps her silly. 

He beats her up and says, I just want you to understand everything that youre saying here.She says, Im not going to ask you to be a bad knight tomorrow. I promise.You dont see that in Malory, but in these other books you do. 

So, no regrets about leaving things out. It was difficult to pick and choose, but it was just fun to put them all together. 

Kenneth: Is there a piece of the Arthurian mythos that still tantalizes you as a mystery or a thing to explore at some point on? 

Greg: Not exactly, but the Grail Quest is fascinating forever. I’ve read so many books about the Grail Quest…I’m very familiar with it. I love the way it crosses over and the choices that the other authors have had to make. Wofram’s Parzival is, I think, the best version of the Grail Quest that there is. As a medieval poem, it’s the only one that I’ve ever found that respects women and foreigners. That’s quite remarkable. I think Malory’s version which, if I ever write out a complete Grail Quest will probably be the one I follow, is great literature because the three heroes that achieve the grail, plus Lancelot, who almost does, are very cool because they show the choices that people have to make. One’s a very personal choice. One’s a very spiritual choice. Bors has to follow a very intellectual and intentional path, where Percival follows the “can you see God if you’re innocent” path. Galahad is the really boring path…

Kenneth: The GM’s boyfriend path…

Greg: Yeah. They’re different and they’re each great little things and they couldn’t succeed on each of those paths. Bors couldn’t make it through the same obstacles that Percival just sails through. When you read Galahad’s story, you know it was written by monks. 

Kenneth: Sort of along those lines, one of the things that Pendragon did that was unconventional…one of the only things that other designers have dared to pick up on is that you very carefully restrict character choice at the beginning. You’re playing knights. Not knights and thieves and rogues and clerics. I think the later versions got a little more open. You can play a girl knight. But, there’s a general constraint that is true to the source material and it produces powerful, interesting play because you have to differentiate your character from all the other knights. You wanna talk about those sorts of choices in terms of game play and fidelity of the sources?

Greg: The sources are all about knights. Knights and ladies. They’re not about clerics. They don’t really give a squat. When you read the Grail Quest and Malory, which came out of the…his predecessors, there’s an awful lot of monks in it who are influential in the path and pretty boring. The issue was genre vs. generic. When you look at a game like D&D or RuneQuest that has this huge choice of options for you to play, that’s the generic one. It doesn’t focus on anything. You can get your choice of anything at all that you want to play. But, since the literature is genre oriented, my intention was to create a game based on the genre, so it’s knights only. But, that did develop important parts of the game because then the question is, “what kind of a knight are you?”. Are you a chivalrous knight, a practical knight, a heroic knight, a religious knight. All of the subtle differences, and they’re not that subtle in Pendragon right up front, but the subtle differences you can have in a single character class is an important part of it. That was kind of fun to do. Having different types of Christianity. Paganism, different kinds of Paganism. I have a friend…my wife was trying to convince her to play Pendragon. She was a role player, but she said, “I’m not going to unless I can play a lesbian Jewish knight.” My wife said, “Ok. Come Thursday.” It was fun to look at all the different historical differences of knights in different countries and to take their stories and fit them into Arthurian…into my character generation. You can generate a character from any country that we have Arthurian literature from. You can be Italian, German, Danish…not quite Russian, but almost. You have your choices of being a knight from that setting. If you come from France you can be a knight who owns his own land and has no king. If you come from Italy you can be a merchant knight, which everybody else will think is quite strange. I didn’t have to throw them out. They still fitted within the genre which was my intention.  A lot of people don’t like that. “I don’t want to be a knight. I want to be a cleric.” The D&D game is over there…

Kenneth: One of the things that was a bold statement at the time, and I think would still be a bold statement for someone designing a game today is the decision to restrict magic. Magic is something that non-player characters have and do to you. I think if anyone else besides you was going to design the King Arthur role playing game in any year, someone is going to say, “how do you play Merlin?” because I know, when we designed the Lord of the Rings game, no one ever said, “you can’t play Gandalf”. That’s ridiculous, even though it’s the right answer. Did you feel yourself taking a leap of faith there when you said “no magic”? 

Greg: It was difficult. Everybody loves magicians. It was a deliberate choice just because it wouldn’t fit the genre. Merlin is in there, but he’s a game master character. No player character Merlins. No player character Lady of the Lake. The choice to limit it to knights was part of that. A gentleman that was in one of my campaigns has, however, written a magic system that passes my approval. The whole point of it is that, in Arthurian literature, magicians are side characters. It comes out every three-to-five games, you’ll qualify to be able to do something. And it’s not to win the game. It’s to help out the knights, which I think is a very cool thing. That will be coming up sometime…hopefully in the next ten or fifteen years. 

Kenneth: Speaking of things coming out, do you have stuff coming out for Pendragon that you want to plug? 

Greg: The next thing we’re going to do is the Book of the Warlord. Malcolm, who is sitting over here, is the genius who has been putting these things together, keeping me in line, and has been putting his genius into the layout, which is just beautiful. I’ve been on an historical click for awhile because people want some background. They want the names of the warlords, how to run an estate and so on. So, we’ve been concentrating on that for awhile. This is the last one of those that I’m going to do for awhile. I miss the fantasy. I miss the adventure. We have a number of things that are in the chute in addition to Warlord. One of them is the Book of Salisbury. People always want to know more details than I would ever consider using in my own campaign. The Book of Salisbury gets down to every piece of land in the county of Salisbury. Who holds it, who it’s warlord is…it serves as an example of how things worked in the Middle Ages, which is not like most people expect. 

The Book of Magic is in the works. The Book of Uther. I’ve finished that. I just have a few more names to stick into it. It’s a more detailed example of the royal household. Knights spend a fair amount of time visiting the king. This is an example of how to do that. A big part of it is understanding the arbitrariness of the king and why it’s OK for him. In the Pendragon line we have a Charlemagne game that we accepted. It’s being edited and laid out, and also a game that uses the same system for Greek mythology. Those are within the next two to three years. 

That’s the short term. Since I know everyone loves KickStarters, watch for ours coming up in the next few years. That will be for a sixth edition and a new edition of GPC. 

If you don’t know where to get these things, DriveThroughRPG is the place to go. They’re great people. You get the PDF version or, for a lot of these, the print version as well. 

Kenneth: OK. If anyone has any questions about Pendragon this is the time to ask them. 

Q: As far as quantifying human behavior, it’s amazing to me that you were able to condense that. How did you make the decision about what Traits to keep in and what traits to keep out? 

Greg: I started with the Christian virtues. They’re pretty evident in the Religious Knight category.  Then I sat down and looked at what a chivalrous knight is supposed to do. I added those to the list and I simplified the virtues and vices fro Christianity and added some in the way that a chivalrous knight is supposed to act and pared it down so it was simpler. Of course, they automatically generate their opposite. So, those two things crammed together and whittled down appropriately is where the list came from. It’s also why it doesn’t work for a lot of other genres. 

Q: For your other great creation, Glorantha, you have a spectrum of things. Sort of, RuneQuest on one side which is a more realistic system and then we have Hero Quest on the other side which is a more abstract narrative. Pendragon is somewhere in between, maybe leaning a little more towards RuneQuest. I was curious if you’ve ever felt a need to lean Pendragon more towards that abstract Hero Quest side, or do you feel that the more realistic bits like managing your manor and stuff like that have a really important role to play in the way you want this game to work? 

Greg: I’m pretty content with the way it is. I like the crunchy bits that are in it. For the other end of the spectrum, for a complete storytelling game I did Prince Valiant. That’s my one-page role playing game. Different game. Different play…my storytelling Arthurian game. 

Q: Could Roland beat Lancelot in a fight? 

Greg: No. 

Kenneth: We know Roland loses a fights. He’s beaten by no-name Basque. 

Q: You mentioned the GPC KickStarter. What kinds of changes are in store (inaudible)…

Greg: This game has been out since 1985. Everything that anyone has ever published on it is still compatible with the first and with the latest edition and it will continue to be so. The changes for GPC are mainly cosmetic. I want to take…I originally squeezed Arthur’s seven famous battles into the Boy King period. After playing this several times, I can see a better way to organize these. It will change the genre a little bit. It will break it down so there’s Arthur fighting the King of Logres, and then separately fighting the King of Britain. Mainly things like that. What I will want to have is two price lists for every period just to emphasize the progression in the Middle Ages of how things got more expensive and how it became more difficult to be a knight. I expect all player characters will continue to be knights. That just puts them in a more rarified level of society which is an important part of the story. Just stuff like that. I’ll redo the Savage Forest scenario to be a much more exciting and fun game for the gamemaster. 

Kenneth: The Connecticut Yankee is going to have a much bigger role in this one. Kind of like a Tony Stark character. 

Q: I’ve got the game. I’ve read the game, but I’ve not played the game. Do you have any (inaudible) gamemaster advice…

Greg: Start simple. One of the things I’ve tried to do in the campaign was…most of the Uther period is learning to game master the game and learning to play. The scenarios are basically organized to bring in a different part of the game. You don’t need the traits for the squire scenario. But, there is a section where the traits become important. You don’t leave the county of Salisbury to start. You learn through the scenarios at the end of the chapter things knights do, so in the future you can just say…you’re visiting the king and you know what this is about because you’ve done it once. Try to follow that. Look at the scenarios and do it. I would actually recommend not starting with the battle, like GPC does. Sometimes it’s a bit much for the players to leap into the whole battle routine. I would also say use the Book of Battle instead of the book’s version of battle. It’s much more fun. One of my great pleasures was making the Book of Battle where it’s not you as a commander, it’s you as the grunt in the front of the army surrounded by men who are trying to kill you and you don’t really know what’s going on elsewhere, but you can win the battle. Book of Battle looks complex, but it’s not as hard as it looks. 

Q: (inaudible) is the Magic system…passions and how powerful they are. Players would just be invoking them constantly except that you’ve got that risk…you roll a 1 and you go crazy and think you’re a bear for a day. We were playing with that and nobody wanted to use Passions in battles because battles are so long. I saw something on a forum where you said, “if someone rolls Madness in the beginning of a battle, you can wait and have them go crazy at the end rather than skip out on the whole thing.  I thought that was a really great idea. I was wondering if there were other unspoken assumptions about the design that people ask you about a lot, or you sit at someone else's table and you notice that they work a little differently than how they do in your head. 

Greg: Usually, the rules are there and they’re flexible to be OK. I would say the main thing is, if it messes up the story put it off until later. This is a piece of advice Roderick gave me a long time ago and it’s in Hero Quest. When the player asks you something, “can I do this?”, the answer is always “yes…but”. Come up with something. You don’t always have to have an answer. Say, “yes, but there will be consequences later”. Maybe something will come up in a battle that will be an appropriate trigger or something to haunt the character for the rest of his life that will be fun…a fun manifestation of the madness. You want to be a little flexible. One of the things is killing player characters. When we start a campaign, I always make it clear to everyone that their character will die. Every single one of them is going to die. The question is how is he going to die. There’s really not much more thrilling for me than being the guy holding the pass while the party escapes. It’s a great role. It gives meaning to your life to die in such a manner. If I’ve got a player who doesn’t care, I’ll kill his characters off one after another if he’s doing it thoughtlessly, but only after I’ve explained to him, “you understand that this is stupid and you’re going to die because of it?”. But, sometimes things happen accidentally. If it’s a casual roll, say horsemanship and you fell in the water. You roll your DX to stand up and you fumble…it’s just a meaningless death. I will often let it slide. Just say, “you’re finally on your feet, you’ll be at half hit points for awhile”…just because it’s a crappy story. I do flex things to allow people to survive under such circumstances. 

One of the things that happens often in my campaigns is that people love to have the character fall in love with the fairy women. Because of the way that things work out, I have to say, “he’s out of the game”. He’s going to live forever in the land of fairies. But, later in the campaign people visit it on the Grail Quest. You can’t help it. You slide into it without knowing it. I’ll suddenly pull out the character sheet and say, “by the way, this guy’s here”. He’s still got his stats from 512. Hasn’t aged a bit. So, that kind of stuff…because it’s fun for the story. That’s the main thing. 

Q: (inaudible) how do you get to the nitty-gritty, the real life of the Medieval world when there’s not that much source material around (inaudible)?

Greg: It’s from forty years of reading so many books that I’ve forgotten the titles. I can’t recommend a starting book anymore, other than Malory. It’s, like I said, whatever the story needs. It’s fitting it in along with the story. I have a great question that is unsettled at the moment. It’s how much do I want to impose that economic aspect on it, but I do want it to become more difficult. Malory was an idealist who lived in the Wars of the Roses. When he was a squire, the English were victorious in France. When he was in prison in London, Joan of Arc had kicked the English out. His stories are full of things that are full of nostalgia. The good old days aren’t like it is now. Men were loyal to the king. He’s fighting in the Wars of the Roses when the whole kingdom is in crisis because of not believing in one king. Every time there’s a battle, they say, “Go get that guy out of jail who burns the abbeys. He’s a good guy for us”. They do it and then he goes back into prison. The nostalgia he has is similar to the nostalgia we have.  I wanted it built in the game. It is a deliberate thing. People are a little alarmed and say, “the son of my original character doesn’t have the Glory that his father had”. That’s a feature, not a bug. By the time your grandson of that first character is brought in, he’s really hungering for that Glory and there’s this guy who is the same way and he wants everybody to get more Glory. They say he’s the son of the king and you can follow him. He’s a great guy, Sir Mordred is. Part of this is the expense of being a knight. When the yellow plague his Britain, you take all your NPCs - not your heir and your character - your family will be this huge list of people that you’re tired of trying to keep track of. Half of them will die. Roll a d-anything for every NPC and he or she is dead on an odd number, alive on an even number. When that happens, all the prices jump up because of the economic factors in the Middle Ages that have nothing to do with Arthurian literature, but your knights suddenly have to spend much more money. Something is wrong. And it is. Everybody will die in the campaign, except one character. Things were better in the old days. You’ll hear players saying that. It’s built into the system. It’s the story. 

Q. Prince Valiant is a great game. Is there any chance that it will see print in some Pendragon Jr. form or something? 

Greg: That’s a really good idea. The chances of it happening just got better than they were when I sat down here. Really. Pendragon Jr. Fantastic idea. Thank you. I mean it. What’s your name? 

Dan Carlson

Greg: Thank you. 

Q. Greg, do you want to tell us about your character or a favorite moment in your campaigns? 

Greg: I mentioned the campaign where the young man “got it” about King Arthur being heirless. His character was great because every time there was something that you weren’t supposed to do, the foolish thing to do, he would do it. He had his knight throw himself off of a cliff for being such a failure. One thing that happens in my campaigns is that there’s always one character that lives from Uther to Camlann. He’ll be a hundred-and-something years old. There’s always one that does that. He’s generating just enough Glory each year to get a Hero point to reinforce his stat up to five, so he’s not going to die. There’s always one of those. A couple of things that have thrilled me the most were when players did what’s in the books without ever having read the books. When Guinevere is being burnt at the stake and Arthur says that we know Lancelot is going to come and rescue her, I want all the knights out there armed to resist him. In each campaign there was somebody not familiar with the story who says, “I’ll do it, but I’m not going to wear my armor in protest.” I always kill them off. 

The other things that’s been a wonderful experience is that at the Battle of Camlann, there’s always one guy I can’t kill. So, that character gets to be the one that Arthur asks to throw away the sword. More times than not, the player has not read the canon and they say, “This is Excalibur. I’m going to hide it in the bushes.” It’s just so cool, because then I can pull out the book and quote it. Those moments are the most exciting game moments for me. Since that’s about the Battle of Camlann, the end of King Arthur, the logical end of conflict between idealism and reality…that idealism cannot succeed. It is always rotten from within by somebody who doesn’t understand the ideals. The Battle of Camlann is the end of that and we’re done with this seminar.