FATE Pendragon

a FATE conversion in the spirit of the King Arthur Pendragon RPG

What is FATE Pendragon?

FATE, a roleplaying system based on FUDGE, is well-suited to an epic, character-driven, emotionally-charged genre like Arthurian roleplaying.

King Arthur Pendragon is the classic RPG in this genre. While it's a great RPG, it would also benefit from the ability to run games in the spirit of Pendragon, without having to use the exact Pendragon rules.

FATE Pendragon is not a one-to-one translation between Pendragon and FATE, unlike, for instance, Andrew Martin's FUDGE Pendragon, which tries to translate Pendragon directly into FUDGE terms. Rather, FATE Pendragon presents a system in the spirit of Pendragon -- trying to accomplish the same overall goals, but through a different set of mechanics.

There are two ways to use FATE Pendragon. One of them is to use it as a framework for running Arthurian-spirit games in general. The other is to use it to run Pendragon without actually using the regular Pendragon mechanics. Either way, having a copy of the fourth edition of King Arthur Pendragon (or third edition plus Knights Adventurous) will be extremely useful.

A Quick Pendragon Primer

King Arthur Pendragon is loosely based upon the Chaosium Basic Roleplaying System (Chaosium BRP).

There are five Attributes in Pendragon: Size, Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, and Appearance.

There are a large number of Skills in Pendragon:

	Awareness		Battle			Boating
	Chirurgery		Compose			Courtesy
	Dancing			Faerie Lore		Falconry
	First Aid		Flirting		Folk Lore
	Gaming			Heraldry		Horsemanship
	Hunting			Industry		Intrigue
	Orate			Play (instrument)	Read (language)
	Recognize		Religion		Romance
	Singing			Stewardship		Swimming
There is also a Skill for each major weapon, such as Sword, Lance, Dagger, and Spear.

However, what makes Pendragon unique are its Personality Traits and Passions. Pendragon emphasizes that characters are tugged by their passions and their desires, and usually act in ways consistent with their nature as people, regardless of whether or not this is the most logically beneficial way to act. In 1985, when Pendragon was first published and wargaming-style roleplaying was commonplace, this was a new and unique idea.

There are twenty Personality Traits, grouped into ten pairs of opposite traits. These traits are:

	Chaste / Lustful	Energetic / Lazy	Forgiving / Vengeful
	Generous / Selfish	Honest / Deceitful	Just / Arbitrary
	Merciful / Cruel	Modest / Proud		Pious / Worldly
	Prudent / Reckless	Temperate / Indulgent	Trusting / Suspicious
	Valorous / Cowardly
These Traits come into play directly, in circumstances where a character is likely to act in accordance with the general nature of his personality.

There are also Passions, which represent a character's strongest emotions, the things that he feels deep-down and isn't likely to be rational about. Passions include things such as Love, Loyalty, Hate, Amor (representing courtly love), Honor, and Hospitality. Many of these are specifially directed -- for instance, Love: Family, Amor: Guinevere, Hate: Saxons, and Loyalty: King Arthur. Passions, when inspired, allow characters to perform extraordinary feats -- or, if thwarted, may plummet characters into extraordinary depression, even madness.

Pendragon in FATE

FATE's aspect rules can subsume Pendragon's Attributes, Personality Traits, and Passions. Skills remain skills, and the same skill list is used.

Rather than representing significantly high or low Attributes as a number, FATE Pendragon represents them as aspects. Examples follow.

Unusual Size: Huge, Small, Tall, Broad, Domineering, Dwarf, etc.

Unusual Strength: Strong, Weak. Also possible are aspects representing variable strength, such as Strength at Dawn.

Unusual Dexterity: Agile, Clumsy, Graceful, Quick, etc.

Unusual Constitution: Enduring, Sickly, Hardy, Frail, etc.

Unusual Appearance: Handsome, Ugly, Beautiful, Striking, Scarred, etc.

Personality Traits
The twenty Personality Traits can be purchased as aspects. You can buy opposing traits, but you should have a good reason to do so. For instance, if your character has led a charmed, pampered, everyone-loves-me life up until the age of eighteen, he might have Trusting (Great), but if he is thereafter horribly betrayed by his brother, he might also pick up Suspicious (Fair). On the other hand, that could also be represented as Trusting (Great), plus a regular aspect, Betrayed (Fair). It's a matter of taste which to choose.

Pendragon provides a Chivalric bonus if all traits related to chivalry sum to a sufficiently high number. No such bonus exists in FATE Pendragon. Instead, a character who values chivalry should take Chivalric as an aspect. (Chivalric is an ordinary aspect, not a Passion.) It is up to the GM to determine how he wishes this to be used; he may rule that it's useful for soaking up extra damage (as is true in the Pendragon game), or he may ignore the way Pendragon utilizes the chivalry bonus and just treat it like any other aspect.

Passions are purchased as aspects. However, the voluntary invocation of a Passion carries some inherent risk, because a character is reaching deep into his most primal emotions.

When a player voluntarily invokes a Passion, he must roll 4dF. If four plusses come up, in addition to the regular reroll for the aspect, he also gains a +1 to every roll he makes for the entire scene. If, however, four minuses come up, a GM-determined bad emotional event happens, symbolizing the character's overreaching emotionally; this is how one gets, for instance, Lancelot running naked mad through the woods. If four minuses come up, the character also does not get the benefit of the aspect invocation.

Because Passions are such emotional invocations, failure to accomplish the task related to the scene during which the Passion was invoked will cause a character to fall into doldrums. He's failed his family honor, allowed another man to sweep off his lady, failed in his vengeance, shamed his honor, etc. -- this should be cause for the character to feel really bad about himself. Passions should not be lightly invoked.

Aspect Sub-Types

For the purposes of character-generation terminology, here are some new aspect sub-types.

Family Aspects
All characters have at least one family-related Passion aspect. This is typically something such as Love: Family, Loyalty: Clan, or Obligation: Eldest Son.

Religion Aspects
Pendragon awards a Religious bonus if all Personality Traits valued by the character's religion are high enough. No such bonus exists in FATE Pendragon. Religiously-inspired or divinely-blessed characters should take Religion: Whatever (Christian, Wotanic, Pagan, etc.) as an aspect.

Religion aspects are considered Passions. These aspects may be invoked in a manner consistent with what they represent. For instance, a player would be justified in invoking Religion: Wotanic in order to perform a feat of strength.

Note that Religion represents something different from the Pious Personality Trait. Religion represents supernatural favor, or the ability to draw upon religious fervor to perform unusual feats. Pious represents faith, piety, adherence to religious worship and tenets, and the like. A character can be divinely favored without being pious, and vice versa.

Allegiance Aspects
Most characters will have at least one allegiance-related Passion aspect. This is typically a Loyalty, though it might also be a Membership or something along those lines.

Characters can be loyal to people, places, or institutions. For instance, Loyalty (liege lord) represents loyalty to one's liege, regardless of who is actually holding the position. Conversely, Loyalty (King Arthur) is specifically directed towards Arthur, and holds no implications for loyalty towards whoever might succeed Arthur on the throne. A place loyalty might be appropriate to the city of one's birth, such as Loyalty: City of London. Institutional loyalties, such as Loyalty: Church, are also appropriate.

Membership is specifically membership in an organization. For instance, a Knight of the Round Table would have Membership: Round Table. Note that someone affiliated with the Round Table but not actually a member of it, but who nonetheless feels strongly about it, would have a Loyalty instead. For instance, a knight aspiring to a seat at that table might try to live by its ideals and act in accordance with its goals, and thus have Loyalty: Round Table.

Reputation Aspects
Reputation aspects represent what others think of a character, which may be positive, negative, or somewhere in-between. Reputation, in its most generic form, can be represented by the Glory and Infamy aspects. However, reputations may also be more specific, such as Reputation: Cowardly, or Reputation: Cunning. Reputations may also be related to specific events, such as Reputation: Camlann Survivor.

Note that characters can accumulate contradictory reputations. For instance, a character may have obtained Reputation: Brave for his courageous stand against a great wyrm, but later obtained Reputation: Cowardly for his craven behavior in a battle.

Moreover, reputations can actually be untrue. A character may manage to develop a reputation -- or have one foisted on him -- that reflects varying degrees of falsehood, from slight exaggerations to outright untruths.

Note that the GM should be careful to prevent players from abusing invocations of reputation aspects. They are almost always applicable only in social situations, and not directly in combat.

Character Generation

The character generation process is identical to the basic FATE character generation process, with the addition of some "free" aspects every phase. Free aspects do not generate skill points.

With the exception of the specified restrictions, players may buy whatever aspect they choose, in each phase. This may be a standard FATE aspect, or it may be a Personality Trait or Passion or other Pendragon-specific item. The skills purchased in the phase must be related, however. For instance, someone who chooses to purchase Valorous as his aspect for the phase, could justify buying fighting skills during that phase.

PHASE 1: Early Childhood (before age 7)

PHASE 2: Late Childhood (age 7 to 12)

PHASE 3: Early Adolescence (age 13 to 15)

PHASE 4: Late Adolescence (age 16 to 18)

PHASE 5: Young Adulthood (age 19 to 21)

At the age of 21, squires become knights. This is the normal start to the game -- a young, inexperienced knight. A five-phase character with a min-maxed pyramid has one Great, two Goods, three Fairs, and four Averages. (Those who desire weaker characters should simply have Phase 3 represent the entirety of squire training, leaving the PC with a min-maxed pyramid of one Good, two Fairs, five Averages.)

You may wish to mandate that characters end character generation with certain minimums. The nature of your campaign will determine what these might be. For instance, if your campaign centers around religious quests, you might require that all PCs take a Religion Passion, or at least have a Pious Personality Trait. In many campaigns, it might also be desirable to require that all knights take an Honor Passion.

Knight characters can turn out to be very similar to one another in terms of their skills. This is why it's particularly important to distinguish them based on their aspects. The GM should forbid the taking of particularly generic aspects such as "Knight" and "Lady".

FATE Pendragon characters have a lot more aspects than standard FATE characters. However, many FATE Pendragon aspects are not broadly applicable. Also, Arthurian campaigns are epic, heroic campaigns, with a strong emphasis upon the emotional content of the story. This promotes the generation of lots of Fudge points, as well as the expenditure of lots of Fudge points, and plenty of voluntary as well as involuntary invocation of aspects.

More Experienced Characters

If you want characters who are more experienced than the 21-year-old wet-behind-the-ears knight, award additional Phases of development. These phases can also be used to represent the Winter Development advancement in Pendragon. Further phases work as follows:

PHASE X: Knightly Development

For development purposes, the length of a phase is up to the GM. Phases might represent single years, or they might represent multiple years. Shorter phases are also possible, but they are likely to result in characters who are more competent than their Pendragon counterparts of the same age.

The Typical Young Knight

This is a character generation example, creating a generic Cymric Christian knight. This also provides an easy template for customization for typical NPCs.

PHASE 1: Early childhood

PHASE 2: Late Childhood (Page)

PHASE 3: Early Adolescence (Squire)

PHASE 4: Late Adolescence (Squire)

PHASE 5: Young Adulthood (Squire)

The end-of-phase statistics look like this:

This produces a knight character who looks something like this:

Aspects at Fair:
Culture: Cymric, Love: Family, Loyalty: King Arthur, Honor, Helpful, Steadfast, Generous, Merciful, Energetic, Valorous
Sword (Great), Horsemanship (Good), Lance (Good), Awareness (Fair), Courtesy (Fair), First Aid (Fair), Heraldry (Average), Recognize (Average), Tourney (Average), Romance (Average)

In-Depth Example

Here's another example FATE Pendragon character generation. This is an experienced knight, thirty years old. It's based on a character of the author's, from a campaign she played in about ten years ago. This is a character that's very difficult to simulate using the traditional Pendragon character generation mechanics -- the cross-dressing female, raised as a female but then trained in battle. This is easy to do in FATE, though. For comparison purposes, the original character, in Pendragon terms, can be found in the archive for the Turn to Stone campaign.

PHASE 1: Early Childhood (before age 7)

Darius and Dara are born, twins, eldest children of a vassal knight, Quintus, in the year 535. Quintus is often absent from home, campaigning for King Arthur, but he returns to tell his children stories, of his own battles as well as those of their ancestors. They have warred against the Saxons and Cumbrians for three generations.

PHASE 2: Late childhood (age 7 to 12)

Both Dara and Darius remain home; Darius becomes a page in the household, and Quintus decides that he wants his daughter tutored in the courtly arts. Dara demonstrates a gift with animals (in the Pendragon original, this was her Woman's Gift).

PHASE 3: Early adolescence (age 13 to 15) Darius is squired to his father, while Dara continues her education at home. She participates in the running of the household, and begins to develop a strong sense of justice. Her mother, a gifted healer, begins instructing her in these arts.

PHASE 4: Late adolescence (age 16 to 18)

Quintus dies of the Yellow Plague at the beginning of this phase. Darius leaves home to take up arms in Arthur's service. The family learns, eventually, that while at Arthur's court, he learned of the Grail Quest, and decided that he, too, would seek this holy relic. Meanwhile, Dara and her mother try to run the household in the absence of the menfolk. Dara becomes increasingly pious, turning to God in this time of turmoil.

PHASE 5: Young adulthood, knight-in-training (age 19 to 21)

Darius has disappeared, and the family must presume him dead. But without male relatives, the family lands revert to the Crown. Dara resorts to a desperate measure -- impersonating Darius. A conspiracy is formed. The family will claim that Darius has returned from the Grail Quest driven near-mad by some unknown horror, and that Dara is tending to him full-time. This provides a good excuse for neither of them to be seen for some time. The secret is entrusted to Quintus's most trusted old retainer, who becomes responsible for training Dara in the knightly arts.

PHASE 6: Recovery

Over time, "Darius" re-emerges as he "returns to health", and word is put out that the hardship of it all has driven Dara to retire to an obscure convent. "He" begins to more openly govern the family estates, while "training to regain his strength".

PHASE 7: Sir Darius

Dara settles down into her Darius role, managing the estate and continuing to hone her knightly skills. She also becomes more involved in the affairs of the city near the estate (Lincoln). An increasing amount of her time is also allotted to her devotions, as if in apology to God for the deceit in the rest of her life and for trying to rise above the station that she was born into.

PHASE 8: Blooded

When the realm is thrown into chaos by Mordred's treachery, Dara joins the armies of the Crown. For the next several years, she fights in the war against Lancelot, surviving the battles of Joyous Gard and Benoic, as well as the Frankish rebellion.

PHASE 9: Rebellion Dara continues to fight for Arthur, as Mordred raises a rebellion. She survives the battles of Kent, Barham Down, and, finally, Camlann.

In the end, Dara looks as follows:


In Pendragon, combat rolls can represent many things -- single blow-by-blow exchanges, a window of time in a duel, or a full day's jousting, for instance. FATE's Combat chapter explains combat in similar terms -- turn based, exchange based, and scene based. Most FATE Pendragon fights will be exchange based, where a set of combat rolls represents an exchange of several blows or manuevers.

FATE's "simple weapons and armor" works well for Pendragon. Fists have a rating of 0. Small weapons, such as knives, have a rating of 1. Standard weapons, such as maces and swords, have a rating of 2. For each additional 1d6 of damage that a special weapon does, add 1 to its rating. Thus, a 2d6 two-handed axe has a rating of 3.

8-point leather armor has an armor rating of 1. 10-point Norman chain and 12-point reinforced chain have an armor rating of 2. Plate armor has an armor rating of 3, except for Gothic plate, which has an armor rating of 4. These values assume use of a shield. Remember to apply armor rating penalties to manuevers requiring full mobility.

Pendragon's bias towards swords is reflected in a +1 bonus to the attack roll of a character who is using a sword, if his opponent is not using a sword.

Use FATE's rules for superior position, flanking, etc. Otherwise, in general, if a character would get a 1d6 bonus in Pendragon, he gets a +1 bonus to his roll in FATE.

There are no special combat manuevers, unlike regular Pendragon. Instead, the player describes what he wants to do, and invokes Aspects if so desired. Aspects can be used to represent the special properties of these sorts of manuevers.


Pendragon's various knightly tasks fall easily into FATE's mechanic for Challenges, both static and dynamic. While tests can be used to resolve something, just as with a single roll in Pendragon, the GM may also wish to have a mechanic for handling character tasks of longer duration.

FATE's challenge ladders are used to resolve tasks that take a long time and which require multiple rolls to succeed. The task performed need not be continuous. This is appropriate for such tasks as staying up all night for a vigil, cleaning out mythical dung-filled stables, remaining chaste for a month, or competing in a tournament. If a character ultimately fails to complete a challenge, the position on the ladder can be used to reflect how far he managed to get -- staying up until the middle of the night but not making it through the dawn, for instance.


Advancement should generally be handled through the Winter Phase, similar to the way it's done in Pendragon. The GM should grant a phase of development to the characters; they choose an Aspect and the skills to go with it at their discretion.

The GM may also choose, at his discretion, to award one or more free Aspects, especially those based on character actions in the previous story, or on actions taken during the Winter Phase. For instance, a character who has experienced the birth of a child may be granted a free Aspect representing that child. Entire groups of characters may get the same free Aspect; for instance, a party of knights who performed a particularly notable deed may gain a suitable Reputation. These free Aspects do not grant any skill ranks.


Authored by Lydia Leong.
This document is a draft. First version 02.19.03. Last updated 08.23.04.