Tuesday 2 April 2013

Actual Play: Pendragon of Mars, Sessions 1 & 2

After quite a hiatus of running games because of moving cities, I've recently got back in the driving seat via Google+, GMing what I've dubbed "Pendragon of Mars". It's a mashup of Pendragon and Mekton Zeta; if anybody is particularly interested in how this works mechanically I'll go into the details, but it's basically Pendragon except when the characters are in their mechs, we use Mekton Zeta. Duh.

As should be obvious: yes, Pendragon of Mars is Pendragon, but where the knights pilot mechs. We began with this initially cheesy premise in a moment of enthusiasm while puzzling over why Japanese mech-based manga is so boring; the setting sort of spiralled from there. My idea was as follows: it's Mars in the far, far future. In the ancient past - so many aeons ago it is now forgotten - the planet was terraformed by an Earth-based civilisation. The current inhabitants are unaware of this, and indeed do not really know anything beyond Mars itself - to them, Earth is just another shiny object in the sky. They have forgotten much of the ancient technology they once knew, and have regressed to a feudal state without the knowledge of how to operate the crumbling technological remains that still dot the Martian landscape. Just about the only technology of elder days which they still have available to them are their mechs - sad remnants of former times which are handed down from generation to generation of noble families like heirlooms. The knights (the only ones who are allowed to pilot or possess mechs) do not know how to make them, and do not comprehend their technology beyond making simple repairs. Other than the mechs, people live as they did in the Dark Ages on Earth.

(Conceptually, the whole thing is a bastardized mixture of The Once and Future King, Viriconium, Dune and the Dying Earth, but with mechs.)

Sessions 1 and 2 have followed the traditional Pendragon opening. I had the players create Pendragon quires in the normal way (they will be called Sir Xyre, Sir Elias, Sir Wiglaf, and Sir Owain once they are knighted) and four mechs each - a charger, two rouncies, and a sumpter. I then had them begin in an area of Mars called Salisbury, which is more-or-less a Martian version of that in the Pendragon 5th edition book.

In the first session play began with training in the region of Vagon, with each player in one of their rouncies. Sir Elad, the Castellan of Vagon and Marshall of Earl Roderick's forces, suggested they have a race, with the winner taking the position of their leader for the course of the day. Since Xyre had the faster rouncy, he modestly suggested they make the race more interesting by holding it on hilly terrain, which they did - running up and down hills in a chaotic fashion, having several falls and crashes, before Elias emerged victorious.

After the race, they returned to Vagon, and heard news that the people of the nearby village of Imber were reporting the existence of Geteit Chemosit in the area. The Geteit Chemosit are large automata made of a strange green-black stone, who attack people seemingly at random, slicing the top of their skulls off and stealing their brains - for reasons unknown - before disappearing into the wilderness. They are said to be creations of the Elders - the ancient civilisation of Mars.

The squires immediately volunteered to go off and destroy these Geteit Chemosit, which they did in a fierce melee after tracking the things for a day. But Wiglaf's mech lost the use of its left leg, and Xyre's the use of its right (and only) arm, in the fight. They therefore decided to head to the nearby city of Warminster after taking some ceramic swords and ceramic eyes from the Geteit.

In Warminster they sought refuge with the Bishop of Salisbury, at Warminster Cathedral. This is a triangular structure made out of wood, which surrounds a large hall made of pale stone, rumoured to be a creation of the Elders. While there they talked with Brother Roger, a deacon at the cathedral, who told them that there are rumours that the Elders did not die off or disappear, but buried themselves deep underground - where they remain still, in endless slumber. Because the Elders are so artful, where they hid themselves and where they are is a mystery that nobody alive could know.

They also tangled with Sir Belias and Sir Guy, two knights who form the Earl's garrison at Warminster. These two powerful knights bachelor were rather different characters - the former friendly, the other arrogant and dismissive of weakling squires. They told the squires that they had destroyed a group of Saxon raiders a week previously, and the Saxon mechs might be salvageable for parts to perform the necessary repairs on Wigla's mech's leg and Xyre's mech's arm. The next day the squires duly went to the site of the battle, where they found usable scrap but also the corpse of a Saxon mech pilot, decorated with silver and bronze and clearly a man of some repute. They decided to take him back to Sir Elad the next day. Back at Warminster Xyre and Sir Guy had an unpleasant conversation and Xyre seemed to have made himself an enemy. Asking around, he discovered that Sir Guy had an unrequited love for Lady Gwion, the attractive handmaid of Lady Ellen, the Earl's wife.

The squires returned to Sarum the following day and then went with Sir Elad to Sarum, the mighty fortress of Earl Roderick, built into a network of fortified craters. After being announced to the Earl, they told him what they had seen and done in the preceding days and were congratulated on their triumph in combat and their discovery of the Saxon. The Earl recognised the man as being a prince, the son of King Cnut of the East Saxons. He surmised that this prince and his raiders were the remnants of the Saxon horde who had been destroyed in battle two years ago at the Battle of Savernage. He ordered the squires to tell Sir Guy and Sir Belias as soon as they were able that they had achieved a great feat in killing this enemy prince.

The Earl then implied that the squires would be knighted after the evening meal. During this meal they attempted to socialise with the ladyfolk of Sarum. Xyre, mainly as a way of getting back at Sir Guy, decided he would try to seduce Lady Gwion, and invited her to go falconing with him the next day through one of her maids. Wiglaf, meanwhile, invited Lady Elaine - a beautiful adultress shunned by the rest of the court - to dance, and Elias attempted to make the most beautiful woman in the county, Lady Adwen, jealous by dancing with Lady Indeg, a 40-year old three-times widow who is always on the look out for handsome young knights. Thanks to the intervention of Xyre, who composed a ditty for the minstrels, both Wiglaf and Elias were able to dance most impressively. Later that night they are sure to be told by the Earl they will be knighted, whereupon they may be able to press their advantage with the ladyfolk further.


  1. Smash enough old tropes together and you get a beautiful Frankenstein monster.

    You should do wine and cheese pairings next.

  2. So looking forward to joining you for Session 3. This is really interesting stuff!

  3. That was the greatest thing I've read recently. I have just started playing Pendragon and love it. I eagerly wait for more.

  4. I had thought for a while about trying to achieve this from the other direction by taking Mechwarrior and trying to make it deliver the feudal social situations the fluff text had promised in Battletech boxes of yore. I never thought of just dropping Mech rules into a game which is already set up for noble drama. Sounds fun.

  5. This sounds awesome. Just wondering how you're working it in terms of mechanics. Do the characters have two profiles, one for Pendragon and one for MZ?