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
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
Review by Jon Rowe