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Pendragon Design Journal #15: Writing the Starter Set, Part Four - May your knight's quest begin!

Posted by Michael O'Brien on 1st Jul 2023

By David Larkins, Pendragon line editor.

A new edition of the Pendragon RPG is coming NOW OUT IN RELEASE! The intention of this series of design journals by Pendragon line editor David Larkins is to trace the path of development, starting in the early 1980s and culminating with the forthcoming new edition of the Pendragon RPG, which will be first to be wholly published by Chaosium in a quarter-century.

Well, folks, this is it! The big day is here—the Pendragon Starter Set is released into the wild! For this final installation of our deep dive into the set and its development (see here for Parts One, Two, and Three), I want to talk about the included campaign, as well as the pre-generated characters and other goodies packed inside.

If you’ve had a chance to check out the free Quick Start scenario, The Adventure of the Sword Tournament, then you have already seen the first act of the very first adventure in The Sword Campaign, Greg Stafford’s wonderful introduction to Pendragon and the world of King Arthur.

The reason it is called The Sword Campaign is because the three scenarios are bookended by the appearance of two legendary blades. We begin with Clarent, the Sword of Peace, drawn by Squire Arthur from the stone in front of St. Paul’s. And we end, of course, with the appearance of a legendary blade, a moment your own Player-knights are present to witness!

As befits an introductory set of adventures, The Sword Campaign is an excellent primer on all things Pendragon. Players (and novice Gamemasters) learn the rules along the way, starting with the basics of the system and gradually adding in activities like battles and courtly protocol. They get to participate in the chaotic early days of the Boy King’s reign, taking his side in desperate battles and running covert missions of diplomacy on his behalf. Along the way they will encounter magic and strange beasts, be tested in their resolve and honor, and face death many times over. There is, of course, plenty of room for Player-knight agency within these stories, setting up the group for their own unique mélange of loyalties, rivalries, loves, and losses that are the hallmark of any Pendragon campaign.

The Sword Campaign is intended to serve as a launchpad to continuing campaign play. Our first adventure due for release, a revised edition of the classic The Grey Knight, will come with two new scenarios that specifically dovetail with the events of The Sword Campaign. With the aid of the forthcoming core rulebooks, or just their own imaginations, Gamemasters should be able to carry on running games for their group of Player-knights long after the nominal endpoint of the year 512.

I’ve talked in past Design Journals about one of the goals for the new edition being modularity, and that holds true here as well.

The Pendragon Starter Set comes with eight pre-generated characters, and The Sword Campaign is written with the assumption that some selections from this pool will form the group of Player-knights. However, this need not be so! Each adventure in The Sword Campaign can stand on its own, ready to drop into existing campaigns set during the Boy King Period of the Pendragon timeline. Different characters, created using the rules presented in the forthcoming Pendragon Knight’s Handbook, may venture The Sword Campaign just as easily as our pre-generated friends.

Speaking of which, we designed the Starter characters to showcase the wide variety of knights one can play in Pendragon, both in terms of their background as well as their personalities. 

Each of the eight Player-knights represents a classic Arthurian trope, from the would-be chivalrous do-gooder (Sir Clarion) to the woman-knight in disguise (Dame Lynelle). Do you like playing bruisers who can dish out lots of damage? Choose Dame Cwenhild, but don’t be surprised if the “eager young squire from modest means,” Cadwallon of Salisbury, treats you with some suspicion due to his distrust of Saxons. If you like playing characters from foreign climes, Dame Tamura and Sir Asterius should scratch that itch nicely. If there was an online quiz called “Are You a Sir Tristram or a Sir Dinadan?”, depending on the answer you might choose to play Sir Evrain or Sir Avalloc, respectively.

Why eight pre-generated characters? Well, variety of course. But also: part of learning to play Pendragon, especially for folks used to games with more complex, less excited combat systems, is finding out just how deadly the game can be…

Pendragon Starter Set Box

The Sword Campaign doesn’t pull any punches, either. The hallmark of the Boy King’s early reign is battle, and the Starter Set marks the debut of the definitive Pendragon battle system in the form of the Battles of Carlion and Bedegraine. To facilitate these epic clashes, the Starter Set comes with a complete set of Encounter and Opportunity cards. I talk in more detail about the new system in this previous Design Journal, and I’m super excited for everyone to finally get a chance to try it out.

In fact, I’m just super excited in general! I know it’s been a long time in the pipeline, but we wanted to make sure we had everything ready to go when we launched the new edition. This release marks not only the debut of Greg Stafford’s “ultimate edition” of his magnum opus, but kicks off a whole new era for, in my opinion, the greatest fantasy role-playing game ever written. (I may be a bit biased…)

The PENDRAGON STARTER SET is out now in worldwide release. (US, EU, Australia warehouses*)

*please note, the Pendragon Starter Set cannot be ordered from the UK due to a customs issue. We hope to have it available soon!



  • All maps, art, multi-sided tokens, and character sheets fully integrated and ready for the virtual tabletop - $14.99

nb this is the final Pendragon Starter Set Design Journal. We hope you found it of interest and that you enjoy the new edition.