Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pendragon by W. Barnard Faraday


I love me some Arthurian fiction. It can take a wide variety of shapes and styles. It can be written in a deep dark gritty style or as a take on modern events. This version tends to feel more historical in nature and brings some differences to the table.

I'll be laying into the spoilers fairly quickly here and note, I haven't finished reading it, so there may be some more random thoughts shot out on another post soon.

King Arthur is replaced here by Artorius. His lady love is now Gwendaello, and we have a druid bard known as Merddin. The little changes in name give it a more archaic feel, more ancient, more fitting perhaps to some of the themes within.

One of the interesting things is that here, Gwendaello is not some princess to be rescued. She meets Artorius, who is a general at this point, after she has escaped capture by killing those who sought to despoil her. Artorius is a bit unsure of her, perhaps because she's already tried to kill him at this point!

She's brash and bold and has a love for the Island of the Mighty and sees in Artorius, someone who will do all he can to save the people of that island, even if they themselves are not going to do all they can. She is a battle queen here, and it's a role that fits her well.

Another interesting bit was reading on what were accepted common courtesies of the time. For example, when stopping at someones home. The thing that struck me was the author mentioning that people were welcome in such instances not only because of manners, but because there were hungry for gossip, for news, for things outside of the norm. This was their chance for entertainment.

In an era where there are no phones and no Internet, human interaction and communication becomes vital. The going door to door, as the bards do here, to raise spirits and showcase confidence, are of great importance as well as providing that touch of entertainment that people long for.

While there is no G4 network, there is still paper.  Artorius is written to by Princess Gwendaello and she wishes him luck in his efforts to preserve the Isle of the Mighty even as she explains to him that forces she herself will be leading. Letters are an excellent way to do some 'Blue Booking'.

Pendragon has a lot of historical richness in its veins and that material can come through in any setting should the GM focus on it. For example, when looking at the spot where two rivers meet, Artorius notes that people will always go to such locations regardless of how many times they are destroyed or occupied because of the utility of such a boon. Towns build on rivers or bodies of water are a staple of fantasy games because they are all over the place in history. Survival becomes much more achievable when water ways become involved not only for trade and transportation, but food and well, water.

If you're looking for a Pendragon with a bit more weight in its heft, Pendragon by W. Barnard Faraday is for you.