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Valkyrie Magazine and RPGnet are happy to provide this review.


Lordly Domains
Pendragon Supplement
Chaosium Inc.
128pp - [sterling]

One of the most intriguing aspects of Pendragon is the "downtime". Between yearly quests there's a "winter phase" when PCs raise families and manage households. The rulebook gives a simple system, but Lordly Domains provides the full framework for noble characters in an epic Arthurian campaign.

Some of this material isn't new: the Nobles Book in 1986 introduced these rules, while portions will be familiar from the discontinued Knights Adventurous, but the whole package has been tightened up, trimmed down and is now a lean and attractive beast!

The most complicated section, Noble Lands, provides rules for managing a feudal estate. Tables help generate villages and towns within your territories, the incomes, the harvests and rules cover the complexities of taxation, investments, and noble responsibilities. The system is clean and intuitive but still involves considerable accountancy - but there's a stripped-down checklist for vassal knights managing a single manor (i.e. most starting PCs).

Grand Events provides a social calendar for the Arthurian nobility, detailed rules for running tournaments and other noble pastimes like hunting and hawking. Again, the delight of Pendragon is its seamless integration of atmospheric medieval detail with a straightforward RPG. These sections are scholarly and informative but full of story ideas and the mechanics are elegant and unobtrusive.

Fortifications & Encounters develops the core battle rules for sieges and raids, with a charming "etiquette" for medieval warfare and an eye to the economics of mounting an invasion or defending a fief.

Short chapters elaborate on Heraldry - a mind-boggling subject appropriately simplified here - and a bestiary of Hunted Beasts with all their romantic allegories and sociological relevance (you don't hunt the red deer until its sixth year, don't y'know? - it simply isn't done).

For GMs, this book is a fascinating tour-de-force exploring Pendragon's medieval setting, which is all the more exotic for being so authentic. Information on noble lifestyles, the tournament circuit and feudal economics will add to the depth and texture of any campaign. Where this book really lays down trumps is when your PCs become landowners themselves and can start interacting with the setting on this level. The scenario, Of Allies & Enemies, is exemplary: the PC knights become stewards of a widow's estates, defending her inheritance against her unscrupulous in-laws. Along the way you get all you could want of a Pendragon scenario - romance, warfare, faeries, but also a gentle easing into feudal economics, territorial warfare and the building up of a fief; various "adventure seeds" flesh out this 3-year story into the basis for a great campaign.

Overall: Look, this book is brilliant, OK? But judge for yourself: if your campaign involves foot-loose questing knights, you'll only get background colour from all this. If you introduce feudal duties, be prepared for the associated book-keeping. Lordly Domains is as good as it could possibly be, but not everybody's campaign needs this sort of detail. My feelings? Buy it!

Review by Jon Rowe

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