Friday, March 7, 2014

March Madness Non-D&D Blog Challenge: Day Seven

What fantasy RPG other than D&D have you enjoyed most? Why?

Could there have been any doubt as to what my answer would be?

As a kid, back before I got into D&D (or RPGs in general), I was a huge medieval geek. Castles, knights, dragons, fair maidens, Robin Hoods, Vikings. . . Other than dinosaurs and Star Wars, things medieval occupied my imaginative space the most. I loved reading books of British and Scandinavian folklore, too. Tales of Jack the Giant Killer and trolls and all that good stuff.

D&D addressed these interests, sure, but it had a lot of other stuff added to the mix, too. In fact, overtly medieval stuff (like jousting tournaments, say) always felt a bit out of place, really. Then I read a review of a supplement (The Spectre King) for a game called King Arthur Pendragon in Dragon magazine #200.

I may have heard of Pendragon prior to that, but the Spectre King review really opened my eyes to the game's tone and possibilities:
The designers seem as knowledgeable of the era as Ph.D. candidates, bringing it to life with vivid observations and rich settings. Innkeepers announce the presence of honored guests by hanging banners and shields from the windows. A manor house serves honey-glazed chicken with pine nuts for dinner. While squires parade embroidered tapestries, gold-embossed pillows, and other tournament prizes through a banquet hall, knights pound their dagger pommels on tables in approval. Marvelous stuff.
Marvelous indeed. KAP shot right to the top of my most-wanted-games list. A couple years later, I finally picked up the Fourth Edition core book, a massive softcover beast. It sat on my shelf for some time after that, one of those games I'd always wanted to play but never made the time for.

In 2006, I finally did make time. Much to my surprise, I found the game even more engaging than I'd anticipated. Not only was it dripping with evocative imagery, as cited in that Dragon review, but (far more importantly) the system drove engaging, genre-appropriate game play in a manner I'd rarely if ever experienced elsewhere. It was pretty much impossible not to have an epic experience when playing Pendragon.

The phrasing of today's question seems to indicate that I might have enjoyed Pendragon at least as much as I've enjoyed D&D. It's quite the other way around. Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty of fun with D&D, but none of the various iterations of that venerable game have ever given me as much consistent, deeply satisfying enjoyment as Pendragon.
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