Passions in King Arthur Pendragon

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The Passions are an extension of the idea of big feelings, big actions. These are characters who MUST take action. When the chips are down (or when a player really wants to spike an action) he or she can invoke Passions for the Player Knight. Loyalty to Lord, Hatred of Saxons, Love of Wife — the whole range of Passions and passions directed at certain groups or specific people are possible. Not only do the Passion rules offer a specific mechanical benefit to Player Knight personalities, but I’ve found they really energize the Players when invoked. Invoking Passions really puts on the line “I really hate theses Saxons! I become almost superhuman when fighting them!” or “My love for my wife will make me ride all day and all knight for five days to return home and save her!” The rolls mark extremes — and again, superhuman — moments of behavior and action that lift the knights out of the mundane and into that realm that approaches Lancelot and Gawain in their deeds, making them worthy characters in a fresh cycle of tales for Arthurian Knights.

There are game mechanic limiters on Passions, just as there are for Traits. The GM and Players can make calls for Passions, making moments that say, “This matters!” and go for that mechanical advantage. If a Player Knight is very Passionate about something, and that object is at risk or a threat — or even present! — it means that the Player Knight might take strong action even if it’s not a very good idea.

Positive results mean anything from a +10 skill point bonus to the duration of the event at hand, to a doubling of the Player Knight’s skill for the duration of the event. Negative results on a Passion roll will mean a loss of a point for the Passion’s value and suffers a loss of skill value for the duration f the event and might even become maddened and flee. (The narrative context of the madness to be decided by the Players and GM: did he realize when tested his courage to protect his wife failed him? That despite his father’s teachings he couldn’t slay the son of their father’s family? And so on…)

This is all story stuff, these Traits and Passions, marking the Characters as creatures of their feelings and behaviors, not strategic choices and tactics. To fully mark these moments with description and narrative the Players must find within themselves the feelings and actions dictated by the roll of the dice. It is an invitation to feel and go toward places they often never expected to go!

This is the activity of the actor or the ritual participant acting out a part that is not them, but that moves them in new and cool ways, opening their experience in a subtle way. It’s reading a book, identifying with a character that is not you and not behaving by the choices you would make, but getting caught up in feelings or choices we often avoid in daily life (for good reason!) but experiencing them safely in the environment of play.

It’s Stafford’s view that by meeting up with these larger than life characters and behaviors we take away something very important from the myths we are interacting with. Certainly, in my experience, it’s provided a hell of a lot of fun!

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